When great men shape world history, there is no better subject for reflection than President Reagan towering above his times to shape the world in ways that will be honored centuries from now.
Today it is called the Arab Spring. Not that long ago it was Solidarity challenging communism, Mandela challenging apartheid, Aquino challenging Marcos, believers in human rights challenging dictators throughout the Americas, Sadat reaching out with hope and Begin reaching back with wisdom, the Irish seeking to end religious murder and Reagan pursuing his dream of a world where nuclear Armageddon would not destroy us all.
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, please consider this: When Reagan did his greatest deeds, many considered him naïve and others considered him insincere. In the end Reagan was right. His doubters were wrong. Reagan rose above the consensus of so-called experts of his time who advised against his bold reach for arms control.
When great men make history it is useful to remember the history of our lifetimes and nations. And to think of the great women as well as great men.
One great woman was the love of President Reagan’s life, first lady Nancy Reagan, whose prodding for peace was profound. Another great woman is our secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who understands with a true sense of history that the aspirations of a generation of women and young people stand at the core of the Arab Spring.
Can we deny that in the modern history of the Middle East, too often the men have failed the women, and the old have failed the young?
The Arab Spring involves aspirations that move people around the world, across the continents and throughout the ages. Ultimately, it will prevail.
We cannot predict whether in the coming months the Arab Spring will look more like the murder at Tiananmen Square or the fall of the Berlin Wall. What happens will depend to a great extent on whether you, Mr. President, and you, Mr. Prime Minister, approach this moment with the largeness of vision and the clarity of thought that President Reagan showed during his finest hours.
Some believe the Arab Spring can be divorced from American or Israeli policy and demands timidity in proposals for peace. This view is held by descendants of those with little vision who told Reagan that he could not do what he ultimately did. They are blindly wrong.
The vast majority of those who walk the path of the Arab Spring want nothing more than hope over despair, prosperity over poverty, the freedom to express their views and seek their dreams over the tyranny of despots who abuse them and the cruelty of forces that crush them.
Most of these people would like to be friends of the United States. They need not be enemies of Israel. Isn’t the greatest guarantor of the security of Israel suggested by the greatest of moments of a nation whose leaders combined the strength of warriors and the wisdom of peacemakers, such as Ben Gurion, Meir, Dayan, Weizman, Begin and Rabin?
There is a great battle of ideas, aspirations and futures unfolding today. President Obama should be applauded for acting to prevent the massacre at Benghazi and ordering the death of bin Laden. Many American and Israeli military and intelligence officers, active-duty and retired, believe bold moves seeking peace are essential to security.
There is a titanic battle today between those who champion a true Arab Spring and envision a future that brings a better life versus those who would murder more Americans, murder more Israelis and murder more Muslims who reject endless hatred, poverty, despair, injustice, futility and death.
My hope is that Americans could rise above partisanship here, as you, Mr. President, seek, and that Israelis might consider the unity government that you, Mr. Prime Minister, once wisely proposed. May you both seize the historic moment of our times, as President Reagan did in his.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at <i>firstname.lastname@example.org</i>.