- Evil empire
The phrase evil empire was applied to the
Soviet Unionby U.S. President Ronald Reaganand American conservatives, who took an aggressive, hard-line stance that favored matching and exceeding the Soviet Union's strategic and global military capabilities.
British House of Commons speech
Reagan's chief speechwriter at the time,
Anthony R. Dolan, reportedly coined the phrase for Reagan's use. [ [http://frankwarner.typepad.com/free_frank_warner/2003/12/story_of_reagan.html "The Battle of the Evil Empire," by Frank Warner, "The Morning Call," Allentown, Pa., March 5, 2000.] ] Some sources [ [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1982reagan1.html "Modern History Sourcebook", Ronald Reagan: Evil Empire Speech, June 8, 1982.] ] refer to the June 1982 speech before the British House of Commons as the "Evil Empire" speech, but while Reagan referred twice to totalitarianismin his London speech, the exact phrase "evil empire" did not appear. Rather, the phrase " ash heap of history" appeared in this speech, used by Reagan to predict what he saw as the inevitable failure and collapse of global communism. Ironically, this latter phrase was coined by Bolshevikrevolutionary Leon Trotskyin November 1917, using it against his opponents (the Mensheviks) and suggesting that communism was the future; the irony may not have been lost on Reagan. [cite web
last = Salisbury | first = Harrison E.
authorlink = | coauthors =
title = A Reagan Antecedent In Revolution
work = letter to the editor, New York Times
The New York Times
date = 1985-06-30
url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E02E7D71E39F933A05755C0A963948260
format = | doi = | accessdate = 2007-09-19 ]
First recorded use
March 8, 1983speech to the National Association of Evangelicalsin Orlando, Floridais his first recorded use of the phrase "evil empire." Reagan said:
In your discussions of the
nuclearfreeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride, the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms racea giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil. [ [http://www.presidentreagan.info/speeches/empire.cfm "President Reagan's Speech Before the National Association of Evangelicals," The Reagan Information Page, March 8, 1983.] ]
In the "evil empire" speech, which also dealt with domestic issues, Reagan made the case for deploying
NATOnuclear-tipped missiles in Western Europeas a response to the Soviets installing new nuclear-tipped missiles in Eastern Europe. Eventually, the NATO missiles were set up and used as bargaining chips in arms talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who took office in 1985. In 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to go farther than a nuclear freeze. In an atomic age first, they agreed to reduce nuclear arsenals. Intermediate- and shorter-range nuclear missiles were eliminated.
The phrase also proved useful to Western
anti-Communists in justifying a significantly more forceful defense and foreign policy stand against the Soviets. In addition to using the phrase "evil empire," Reagan described the Soviet Union as a "totalitarian" regime.
Michael Johns, writing for the
Heritage Foundation's " Policy Review" magazine, prominently defended Reagan's assertion. In "Seventy Years of Evil: Soviet Crimes from Leninto Gorbachev," Johns cited 208 acts by the Soviet Union that, he argued, demonstrated the Soviet leadership's evil inclinations. [ [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n1_v40/ai_6284431 "Report Card: Civil Rights Offenses in Soviet Union," "National Review", January 22, 1988.] ]
The Soviet Union, for its part, alleged that the United States was an imperialist superpower seeking to dominate the entire world, and that the Soviet Union was fighting against it in the name of communism. In
Moscow, the Soviet press agency Tasssaid the "evil empire" words demonstrated that the Reagan administration "can think only in terms of confrontation and bellicose, lunatic anti-Communism." [ [http://www.britannica.com/presidents/article-214232 President Ronald Reagan at Britannica.com.] ]
During his second term in office, almost three years after using the term "evil empire," Reagan visited the new reformist General Secretary of the Soviet Union,
Mikhail Gorbachev. When asked by a reporter whether he still thought the Soviet Union was an "evil empire," Reagan responded that he no longer did, and that when he used the term it was a "different era"; that is, the period before Gorbachev's perestroikaand glasnostreforms. Still, Reagan remained a critic of the Soviet regime for its absence of democratic institutions.
Recent historians, such as
Yale University's John Lewis Gaddis, have grown more favorable towards the use and influence of the phrase "evil empire" in describing the Soviet Union. In his book "The Cold War" Gaddis argues that, in their use of the phrase "evil empire," Reagan and his anti-Communist political allies were effective in breaking the détentetradition, thus laying the ground for the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.
Others, however, like
al Qaedaleader Osama bin Laden, questioned this claim, declaring in 2007 that one of the prime reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union was its defeat in the Afghanistan war by the Afghan mujahideenresistance. [ [http://counterterrorismblog.org/2007/09/obl_video_details_emerge.php 9/11 6th Anniversary: Bin Laden Video Details Emerge," "Counterterrorism Blog," September 7, 2007.] ] In his statement, however, bin Laden did not mention the significant role of the United Statesand Saudi Arabiain providing military aid to the anti-Soviet mujahideen.
Reagan and Gorbachev had their last meeting at the Reagan ranch,
Rancho del Cielo, in 1992. By this time, the Soviet Union was no more.
In popular culture
Following Reagan's use of the phrase, the phrase "evil empire" took on a nearly
iconic status in global culture and was used in these and other contexts:
Rage Against the Machinereleased a 1996 album titled "Evil Empire", which featured songs generally critical of the United States government, including " People of the Sun" and " Bulls on Parade."
*In recent years, the American professional
baseballteam, the New York Yankees, has been nicknamed the "evil empire" because of their huge team salaries and success in seemingly obtaining any player of their choice with lucrative contracts. Ironically the first usage of this term relating to the Yankees was from John Henry, part-owner of the Boston Red Sox(who have recently only been second in player payroll to the Yankees) after the Red Sox lost out to the Yankees on a trade with the Texas Rangers on Alex Rodriguez. The nickname, though derogatory towards the team, has since been embraced by Yankee fans.
2007book, "Evil Empire: 101 Ways That England Ruined the World", author Steven A. Grasse lists many alleged crimes committed by the British Empireand editorially makes the claim that the British acted in an evil fashion, particularly during their global colonial reign, but also afterwards, blaming the British solely for World War I, World War IIand the Great Depressionwithout citing any sources for his arguments. [ [http://www.evilempirebook.com The Evil Empire - 101 Ways that England Ruined the World ] ] The book was ridiculed by critics in the " Daily Mail" and several other newspapers at the time of its release, highlighting the absurdity of the book's claims. Many historians have criticized Steven's book for its lack of sources, and for its supposedly false claims. [ [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=439765&in_page_id=1770 The Empire Strikes Back | Mail Online ] ] [ [http://imperialparty.netfreehost.com/viewtopic.php?t=1050&start=0&mforum=imperialparty Criticisms of The Evil Empire on the Imperial Party forum] ]
Korean Air Lines Flight 007
Larry McDonaldsitting U.S.congressman aboard KAL 007, referred to by President Reagan in his "KAL 007 Massacre" speech
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