【编者注】本周一（2月6日）是罗纳德·里根总统诞辰112周年。位于加州西米谷的罗纳德·里根总统图书馆举行了庆祝活动，以纪念这一属于美国第 40 任总统的重要时刻。前美国国务卿、99岁高龄的亨利·基辛格博士在活动中发表讲话。本文特转发演讲中英文全文以飧读者。
Henry Kissinger: What We Need Most on President Reagan’s 112th Birthday
Ronald Reagan was an extraordinary human being and a hugely successful American president. As we all know Ronald Reagan was a truthteller and for this, he received the appellation of being a great communicator but he rejected that title saying, “I wasn’t a great communicator but I communicated great things. And [they] didn’t spring fully from my brow. They came from the heart of a great nation.”
He was too modest about the first part, but he was right about the second.
Reagan crystallized much of what makes this nation great. And just as importantly, much of what makes this nation good. His core decency was irrepressible. His personality was so compelling that a deep trait of his character — compassion — went sometimes unnoticed.
On the day of the attempted assassination on him, the grievously wounded Ronald Reagan recalled the parable of the lost sheep that he, and I quote, “began to pray for the mixed up young man who had shot me and to hope that he will find his way back to the fold.”
Ronald Reagan was a fierce cold warrior and an avid and insistent peacemaker at the same time. For him, America’s international strength was not a national vanity nor an end in itself; rather it was a necessary instrument to produce flexibility and compromise by America’s adversary.
His abiding vision had a moral and strategic clarity; he refused to accept the proposition that leaders had to choose between the two. He was convinced that there is nothing which adversaries admired so much as strength and there is nothing for which they have less respect than military weakness. But he also knew that a country that demands moral perfection in its foreign policy will achieve neither perfection nor security.
President Reagan was an inveterate jestor. It was his way of making it clear that he wasn’t taking himself too seriously and to keep his adversaries off balance. One story he loved involved an American debating with a Russian in which the American says, “In my country, I can walk into the Oval Office. I can hit the desk with my fist and say, ‘President Reagan, I don’t like the way you’re running this country.”‘ The Russian replied, “I can do the same thing. I can walk into the Kremlin. Go into [the] president’s office, pound the table, and say, ‘I don’t like the way President Reagan is running his country.’”
Another story he used to tell was [how] you can always tell the Communists from the anti-Communists. The Communists read Marx and Lenin. The anti-Communists understand it.”
During the Nixon presidency, I was the liaison of President Nixon to Governor Reagan. I had many occasions to exchange ideas. There was one occasion in which I told him in the 1973 war that we wanted to send planes to Israel and we were looking for a formula to do it without bringing on an even more united Arab attack. Reagan said maybe the way to do it is to say we will replace all the planes that the Egyptians and Syrians have said that they had shot down. This was an awe-inspiring number and met every requirement that we had for replacement — and it also wasn’t exactly accurate.
Reagan came to the presidency infused by his anti-Communist convictions. While in office, these never waivered but they were tempered by his enormous sense of responsibility for avoiding catastrophic war.
I had the privilege of some seventy conversations with him and many other occasions to see him in action in groups during his presidency. There were three convictions that never waivered: first, Reagan believed that America was most secure and prosperous if it was the leader in shaping a stable world; second, he believed that this stable world could not be based on American isolationism.
Reagan knew that America needed to be powerful in substance and in mind to protect world order — by force, if necessary. He never glorified strength in its own name. Rather, he sought it as a means to peace.
Thus, his favorite phrase was ‘peace through strength.’
To this end, Reagan ordered an expansion of our nuclear capacity in the very early days of his presidency. He supplemented it with a program that was ridiculed when it was first put forward and which is now a standard part of our armory and that of our allies which was the Missile Defense Program. It is now one of the key elements. He always justified these efforts on the ground that [they] would lead to peace.
He was determined not to have a nuclear war.
He wanted to remove catastrophic weapons from the armories but he knew that it could never happen unless the United States possessed enough strength that it could overcome any military challenge. As a result of these efforts, in 1987, an entire category of nuclear weapons [was] removed from the armories. We, of course, were dealing with an adversary who was not always maintaining its commitments and so, this part of Reagan’s efforts, while substantial, has yet to be fulfilled.
He was in the strongest position of any American president that I have seen in action in his combination of commitment to defense and…to peace.
His willingness to face down challenges and his readiness to conduct negotiations on a human basis. At his first meeting with Gorbachev, he told Gorbachev a story about a 700 lb man who went on a diet and dieted himself down to 400 lbs. He could now walk from his bedroom to his living room. One of Gorbachev’s associates told me that the Russians went crazy trying to figure out what he was trying to tell them — what threat he was uttering in a polite manner. Finally, one of their intelligence people found that this was a story that Reagan had read in People magazine on the way to the meeting.
In a funny way, they found it very reassuring that in this conversation with this formidable American president was also talking to them on a human level.
On a more substantial side, when Reagan was recovering from the assassination attempt on him, he wrote a letter to Brezhnev who was then [the] Russian-Soviet leader in which he pointed out that the United States uniquely in the history of mankind was ready, had never used its power to impose its preferences on others; to the contrary, we used our power and wealth to rebuild the war-ravaged economies of the world — including the nations which had been our enemies. He said the same option existed for the Soviet Union.
As the American president, he would dedicate himself to bringing peace even while he was pushing the major rearmament of our military forces. He felt so strongly about it that he even offered to share our strategic defense capabilities if we could achieve a peaceful outcome with our enemies so that this kind of war could never happen. This attitude can be best demonstrated by his speeches about the Berlin Wall. In 1987, he made a speech at the Berlin Wall — I must say over the violent opposition of the State Department — in which he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
Five months later he made another speech in which he said he was envisioning the day when he and Gorbachev would meet in Berlin [to] start taking down the wall brick by brick and that they would chair an effort to bring peace to the world. This even led to a joint statement by him and Gorbachev in which they said nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
Of course, Gorbachev did not stay in office to be able to carry out these visions. We have to remember who brought us to the point where we could have them and where we could be strong enough to implement them.
American leaders are often criticized as belligerent when they build defenses and weak when they practice conciliation. Reagan transcended this divide. Within ten months after he left office, the wall in Berlin came down much the same way as he had hoped — not with Russian cooperation — but through an accumulation of American willingness to stand for its principles.
President Reagan assumed office after a period of internal turmoil and international withdrawal; after years of protest over the Vietnam War; after the period of hostages in Iran; and [after] a period of domestic assassinations. He overcame these challenges with wisdom and serenity. He epitomized something that I wrote in a recent book that great leaders take their societies from where they are to where they have never been by their vision and imagination.
Today we again suffer domestic division and international disorder about arguments about who we are and what we stand for. We find it difficult to muster the domestic cohesion necessary to face the challenges ahead of us.
In the Middle East, a hollowed theocracy is on the brink of developing the world’s most devastating weapons. In Asia, Chinese ambitions as the Middle Kingdom constitute a challenge to world order. Most recently, Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine shows no signs of abating. And at the same time, the evolution of artificial intelligence is transforming human consciousness itself.
Each of these pressing developments requires a combination of strength and conciliation.
In a recent book, Ronald Reagan was described as the peacemaker. As president, he understood better than anyone how to integrate the elements of power and the elements of conciliation. As he said in his Challenger speech, ‘the future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted. It belongs to the brave.’
We need his civic face. ‘We are too great a nation,’ he reminded us, ‘to limit ourselves to small dreams.’
We need his vision. In his farewell address, he described ‘the city on the hill’ as he always said of our country as ‘a beacon — a magnet — for all who must have freedom; for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness toward home.’
It is in this spirit that I feel so honored to say these words about a remarkable president. To say at this point, what we most need is another Ronald Reagan.