Describe the international political environment of the 1980s -- the "stage" on which these individuals were to play a critical role.
In the 1980s, the United States and Russia were still in the middle of the Cold War. President Ronald Reagan made it clear that although things had cooled some between the United States and the U.S.S.R. thanks to efforts by the Nixon administration in the early 1970s, the country was still an enemy of the United States. In January 1980, he gave a speech in which he said:
From the time of the Russian revolution until the present, Soviet leaders have reiterated their determination that their goal must be the promotion of world revolution and a one world socialist or communist state…They have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause; meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime; to lie [and] to cheat in order to obtain that (Graebner 2008,-page 13).
By concentrating the American citizens on an anti-Soviet agenda, Reagan was ensuring that the people would not become complacent and accepting of the government that was in control of that country. On the other side of the world, the U.S.S.R. was beginning to come to its (some say inevitable) end. The end of the Cold War began when Mikhail Gorbachev gained control of the U.S.S.R. He believed in reform and allowed western ideas to be discussed in an area of the world where they had been verboten. President Reagan desperately wanted the German city of Berline unified as he felt it would have widespread importance in the larger international discourse. He famously asked "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" (Allen 2000,-page 1). The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the negative feelings between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Once it was brought down the relationship between the two leaders thawed as well.
2. Could any two leaders have defeated communism without the third? In no, why. If yes, which two and why.
Initially, it could be argued that Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan could have been capable of defeating communism without the assistance of the Roman Catholic Church. Thatcher and Reagan were the leaders of strong capitalistic nations who despised communism and were bent upon the destruction of the governmental form on an international scale. This is, after all, a political issue which therefore should not necessitate the assistance of a religious faction. The United States and England were political allies with a similar goal and the same enemies. Their importance in the fall of communism internationally is obvious and irrefutable.
In some countries, communism was able to be defeated through political and military intervention. Larger nations, like the U.S.S.R., were not able to be overcome only with military action or political discourse. In response, John O'Sullivan (2006) postulates that many of the Catholics in the United States and internationally began to consider a form of Marxism or Communism to be adaptable to their religious doctrine. When elected to the position of Pope in 1978, John Paul II was able to amass a large amount of followers and turn lapsed Catholics into devout worshippers. It is believed that he was to the Catholic Church of equal importance to Reagan in the United States and Thatcher in English. Not only did he have a large amount of power over a good sized population, he also had the attitude and the personality to ensure that his actions were rarely questioned and his perceptions accepted by the large Catholic population. It was said that even Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the U.S.S.R., was impressed by John Paul II and it was to this man that most Soviets credited the end of the Cold War. When Gorbachev introduced the Pope to his wife, he said that John Paul II was "the highest moral authority on earth" (Gertz 2008). Whatever political or theological differences the two may have had, they found a common ground on which to work and to construct a solution which would end communism.
3. In your discussion, be sure to reference specific decisions made by each leader and the results for consequences.
Reagan: Ronald Reagan tried to open lines of communication between the United States and the U.S.S.R. thereby humanizing both countries and make it more difficult to take violent action against one another. The implementation of the Star Wars program also ensured that there were more defensive as well as offensive weapons which were designed to protect the United States and deter the inclination to attack.
Thatcher: To combat socialism in the United Kingdom, Thatcher oversaw the privatization of state-owned industries, reduced welfare and combated labor unions which in turn ended long lasting union strikes (Coyne 2008). She went on an anti-socialist crusade, determined to wipe out support for the government in England and consequently throughout the world. She also increased defense spending, like Reagan to deter antagonism.
Pope John Paul II: The Pope made a pilgrimage from Rome to Poland in order to discuss labor relations which the unions of the country. With Poland so near to the U.S.S.R., the country was in constant danger of falling into the hands of the Soviets and their Communist agenda. By uniting Catholics and appealing to the better natures of non-Catholics as well, Pope John Paul II curbed the potential danger in that country and throughout the rest of Europe.
4. According to various leadership experts, what characteristics, if any did they share? What important traits, positive or negative, were specific to each individual and with what results?
All three individuals were extremely intelligent, charismatic, determined, and were able to win over large numbers of the population, even those who were not initially devoted to their cause (Rees-Mogg 2011). All saw Communism as a real threat to modern society and the free world and were determined to eradicate it.
Reagan: A strong, conservative individual. Reagan was known for his wit and strength of character which made him appealing to the general American population. He also believed that the government should limit its power and to have a minimal influence on people's everyday lives (O'Sullivan 2006,-page 29). The result was a population who had high expectations and complete belief in their leader.
Thatcher: The Prime Minister of England had the "public reputation as rather a starchy schoolmarm" (O'Sullivan 2006,-page 19). She was regarded as frank and earnest, and always as honest as possible; an unusual trait in a politician. Thatcher was also regarded as a strong-minded leader, bent on economic and social reform. The result of Thatcher's personality on the voting population was innumerable and she too was extremely powerful, bolstered by the will of the people.
Pope John Paul II: This man, though not a political leader, was able to convey to a large population the ideals and hopes of the western world. An assassination attempt was made on the Pope's life, which failed increasing the people's faith and affection for the man and let them heed his words more carefully. "Faith and hope proved mightier than either the sword or the assassin's bullet" (O'Sullivan 2006,-page 82).
5. If the three were "up for the Academy Award for Best Leader," for whom would you vote and why? If the answer is "none of the above," explain who/what in your opinion, was responsible for the defeat of communism. Build your cast to support your write in candidate of your alternative theory.
I would argue that none of the above was most responsible for the fall of Communism. Rather, the fall of the U.S.S.R. was inevitable. Some experts of political discourse expressed their belief that Communist Russia would fall and the Soviet Union would break up in response. When this happened, the Cold War would end. This, of course, was exactly what transpired although the Cold War had "officially" ended in 1989 after the Malta Conference between Russian Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and United States President George H.W. Bush. Being such a large nation with so many citizens and limited economic resources, the destruction of the Soviet Union was, many said, inevitable. The question was simply about whether the U.S.S.R. would launch a nuclear weapon before their end. By December 31, 1991 the U.S.S.R. was no more and the United States was still a strong and thriving nation on the other side of the world. Although the nation came very close to nuclear war and to violent bloodshed and massive loss of life, these things never came to pass. This is likely due to the Cuban Missile Crisis wherein both nations came to the horrifying conclusion that they were both armed enough that an attack on the enemy would lead to not only a retaliatory attack, but to the literal end of the world.
6. In an addendum to your analysis, describe briefly (in two pages) the challenges (countries and leaders) Obama faces with respect to freedom. Who are our…