Nepali Times Asian Paints
Here And There
Looking back at Reagan and D-Day


History loomed large over the past week in America and Europe. The media spent much of its time looking back. Sunday, 6 June was the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northern France, an attack that forged a lasting alliance between western democracies and helped bring World War II to an end.

Wall to wall coverage plans were somewhat derailed though, by the death of former US President Reagan the day before the anniversary. He passed away at age 93, one of the most successful American politicians of modern times. His death should have been seen as the end of nine decades of a life enjoyed to the fullest. But Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's and he died unable to recognize his wife and family. A tragic note sounded after his long years of public life.

Reagan was a hugely controversial president for many Europeans and Americans on the left of the political spectrum. When he first came to power, he was often ridiculed as a cowboy and "B" movie actor reading his lines from cue cards. Much was made of his habit of not working very hard, or being unconcerned with details of policy. At one point in his first term, he was trailing badly in public opinion polls, the economy struggling and American forces locked into a bitter internecine war in Lebanon.

Ever the politician, Ronald Reagan pulled off a second term election victory that can only be described as a landslide, and for several more years he was the most popular American president in history. Then came the Iran Contra scandal and the public hearings that showed his to be a White House largely out of control and run by dangerous ideologues like Oliver North. He reached the end of his second term damaged by the scandal but still well-liked as a human being by most American people.

If the eulogies to his life are any indication, history has been very kind to Ronald Reagan. The mainstream American media has made much of his optimism and sunny personality. It has played down his sleepy approach to work, his lapses in memory and the scandals that blighted his later years in office. This is as it should be. When someone dies after a largely successful life, their down moments matter less than their achievements.

Yet many people in Latin America beg to differ. Nicaraguans or El Salvadorans remember a Reagan administration that funded violent, dirty wars in their countries. Many lost family members in the most horrendous circumstances. Left wing Europeans cling to their cowboy imagery but also resent an American government that installed nuclear missiles in NATO and US bases in England, bombed Libya, invaded Grenada and Panama. To them, Reagan's foreign policy moves seemed more like cynical adventurism than a measured approach to international crises.

But Europe was liberated from Communism on Reagan's watch. Some credit the late former president, others say Gorbachev had more to do with it. The point is this:

History wears rose-coloured glasses, or at very least, it balances points of view. Today's Nepali public figures-the king, the Maoist leadership, the politicians-may have something to look forward to, after

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)