So-called conservatives are celebrating the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan today (Feb. 6, 2011). In the process they are spouting out a mass of unfounded claims and outright lies. Probably the most egregious lie is the claim that "Reagan won the Cold War." In fact, Richard Nixon is responsible for the change in US policy which resulted in the United States eventually winning the Cold War.
Nixon was a student of history, and was well-read on the subject. I can't be certain he read this particular quote, but it would certainly appear that he acted on it, so lets presume it was his guidance for a major change in US policy. The quote is from the 1968 book The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant (Page 66):
Here too Communism was a war economy. Perhaps it survives through continual fear of war; given a generation of peace it would probably be eroded by the nature of man.
Even as early as the end of World War II, the Soviets were certainly not ignorant of the fact that respected US generals like Patton and McArthur were calling for doing battle directly with the Communist nations of the world. Yes, the Soviets were our allies during World War II, but that was more from the old saying that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" than it was from any actual common purpose in the world. And each President of the United States, from Truman through Johnson, engaged in "hot" warfare in local conflicts in addition to the larger Cold War battle itself. The Korean War and the Vietnam War were major battles initiated by or supported by each of those Presidents.
When Nixon came into office, however, he effected a remarkable turnaround in US policy, and those who followed Nixon only served to keep the United States on the track towards the end of the Cold War and of Communism itself. And Nixon accomplished this feat by following exactly the prescription laid down by the Durants in the year before he took office as President. Nixon engaged in diplomacy which resulted in treaties with both China and the Soviet Union. And, almost exactly a generation later, we had the fall of the Berlin Wall and, ultimately, the complete collapse of the Soviet Union itself. And China has transformed itself from a model Communist state into a capitalist economy that is currently taking the USA to the cleaners.
All of these changes, which we take so much for granted in today's world, were directly caused by the "generation of peace" begun by President Richard Nixon. Sure, Reagan played his part, but he was following in the footsteps of the greatest Cold Warrior this nation ever produced: Nixon.