Probably the most significant decision by President Ronald Reagan was his increase in U.S. defense spending that forced the Soviet Union to increase its own to keep up. This policy soon bankrupted the USSR’s already failing socialist economy and led to the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Empire.

But Reagan made one mistake: typically Republican, he neglected to ask Congress for the necessary tax increases to cover the additional military spending.

Reagan hinted that Congress should make up the budget deficit by cutting social spending. How utterly naïve! Congress, irrespective of party, will never give up its pork spending, its very mother’s milk. Failing at this, Reagan intentionally allowed the military spending overruns to add to our already soaring budget deficit, the largest of any president since World War II. And I voted for Reagan twice?

At the end of World War II in Europe Soviet troops continued to occupy the nations of middle and eastern Europe after they had liberated them from the Germans. And they quickly began installing communist governments by subterfuge and military force, thus expanding the Soviet Communist Empire. But due to the fact we had given in to domestic political pressure and brought most of our troops home after Germany’s surrender, we were militarily powerless short of nuclear war to stop the Russian takeover. But we had an ace in the hole.

Rather than openly confront the much larger Soviet Army in far-off eastern Europe, State Department Russian specialist George F. Kennan devised a strategy of containment to thwart any future Soviet territorial ambitions. Although stopping short of open military confrontation, the U.S. vehemently resisted and contained further Soviet territorial expansion through diplomatic and economic pressure and strategic alliances. We also anticipated the Soviet Union’s inevitable collapse due to communism’s internal weaknesses, defects and contradictions. This strategy was successfully followed by every U.S. administration, Democrat or Republican, until the Soviet Empire went under in the late 1980s and the Berlin Wall came down.

Although signs of communism’s eventual collapse had long been evident, the actual event came somewhat as a surprise. We should have seen it coming, but we didn’t. This doesn’t say much for the intelligence gathering efforts of the CIA.

After the Soviet collapse President George H.W. Bush promised Americans a “peace dividend” from reduced military spending. That was 31 years ago and our military spending has increased every year since then. Wonder why? Do a little research on the military-industrial complex against which President Eisenhower warned in his 1961 farewell address. Ike originally planned to use “military-industrial-congressional complex,” but for political reasons, shortened it to “military-industrial.”

Today U.S. defense spending tops that of the next eight developed nations combined and is almost three times that of China, our nearest rival. But must we spend so lavishly to feel safe? Trump tells us we’re still behind but we actually never were. And what happened to our promised peace dividend? We need some answers and we need them before Nov. 3.

And remember, when you step up to that voting machine, no one — not your spouse, your preacher or your best friend — knows how you voted. Just you and God. Vote your conscience.

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bellsouth.net.

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