Who Was Fred Iklé? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Who Was Fred Iklé?

WASHINGTON — The death of Fred Iklé last week inspires me to prophesy. Thus far only the redoubtable Wall Street Journal has remarked on Fred’s passing. That he was a formidable mind during the Cold War and important to the peaceful settlement of that decades-long struggle is remembered thanks to the Journal. Yet to the rest of the media he is a minor figure, perhaps a menacing figure. We shall see what they say, but I am not holding my breath. This is the way Liberalism creates the Kultursmog, which is to say the politicized culture that surrounds us.

Now for my prediction — I can foresee the day, decades hence, when some professor of history will come down to the faculty lounge and notify his trusted colleagues of an astonishing discovery. Perhaps he will begin with this: “They weren’t all idiots and racists and dunderheads.” The prof will, of course, be speaking of the members of the conservative movement, the people who began to revive America around their leader President Ronald Reagan. He will have discovered that those conservatives who resolved the Cold War and got the economy growing again knew just what they were doing. What the professor will use for research I cannot say. There is plenty of evidence lying around contemporary America, but it is ignored in the standard commentary and history of our times.

That is how the Kultursmog works. It deletes the persona it does not approve of and renders the facts agreeable to moribund Liberals. Thus the other day on the Washington Post‘s “Style” page some Kultursmogist reported on a soirée at the Motion Picture Association of America convened to mull over how President “Reagan’s movie career affected his presidency.” Presumably the discussion was serious. In years gone by it would have been sneering and risible. But now President Reagan has become domesticated. He is presented as being almost a Liberal, defending polite society from the bad guys, people like Iklé.

No conservative known to me was present at the Motion Picture Association of America presentation, which was presided over by a Democrat, its chairman Chris Dodd. There was Mr. Dodd and Andrea Mitchell and Colin Powell and someone by the name of Jeff Bewkes. Oh, yes, and John Harris was there from Politico. He is the objective journalist who in his book, The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House, assessed the Clintons “the two most important political figures of their generation.” Ken Duberstein was also there. He accompanied President Reagan to my home for dinner in 1988, but I really would not call him a conservative. Fred Iklé was a conservative.

Fred was undersecretary for defense policy from 1981 to 1987. Born in Switzerland, he came to America in 1946, and in time joined the Reagan Revolution. He was a uniquely gifted defense strategist but also very competent across a wide area of intellectual life. With the illustrious Albert Wohlstetter he devised U.S. nuclear defense strategy during some of the most dangerous days of the Cold War. At some time in the 1970s Bob Bartley, the great editor of the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page, introduced us during a policy seminar, I believe, in Geneva. From that time on Fred always made time for me and for my writers to be briefed on threats to the free world. He sat down with us at editorial lunches and kept us apprised of strategic developments almost to the very end. In July 2010 he appeared in The American Spectator‘s pages for the last time. He was 86 years old.

In the 1970s he opposed arms-control as imprudent and shortsighted and favored a credible deterrent as a safer strategy. While at the Pentagon he was instrumental in getting the strategic defense initiative going and deploying midrange nuclear missiles in Europe, to the anger of the Soviet bloc. He was a proponent of Reagan’s arms buildup that bankrupted the Soviet Union and of sending Stinger missiles to Afghanistan where the Red Army began to doubt its invincibility.

Through all his public life he was a cheerful advocate of intellect in behalf of national security and personal liberty. Into his early 80s he was on scientific boards planning strategy and warning of threats to America. Americans owe him a lot. 

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
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R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief ofThe American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: The Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn’t Work: Social Democracy’s Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery. He makes frequent appearances on national television and is a nationally syndicated columnist, whose articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, National Review, Harper’s, Commentary, The (London) Spectator, Le Figaro (Paris), and elsewhere. He is also a contributing editor to the New York Sun.
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