17 The Reagan Doctrine and the Fall of

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Published on December 23, 2007

Author: Belly

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On the Offensive: The Reagan Doctrine and the Fall of the Soviet Union:  On the Offensive: The Reagan Doctrine and the Fall of the Soviet Union PO 326: American Foreign Policy The Carter Administration:  The Carter Administration Carter’s approach to foreign policy seems, at the outset, to represent an important break from predecessors General view: Détente and SALT proved that amicable relations between US and USSR were possible; US had responsibility not to perpetuate Cold War by overtly antagonizing USSR Desires to reduce defense budget, eliminate nuclear weapons, take new diplomatic approach reflecting the diminished importance of US-Soviet rivalry In the wake of increasing interdependence, Carter sought to construct a foreign policy that took seriously the humanitarian welfare of 3rd world countries Choice of staff (Vance, Brzezinski, Young) reflects the goals of human rights protection, economic interaction and humanitarian aid, etc. Moralistic foreign policy (Wilsonian) The Carter Administration:  The Carter Administration This change in approach was problematic from the outset. In essence, Carter’s turn away from containment was complicated by indications that the traditional (containment) approach was still necessary Communist involvement in Angola, Ethiopia, elsewhere in 3rd World, reinforces longstanding notion that communism is dangerously expansionist Rise of anti-Americanism and Fundamentalist Islam, culminating in Iranian Revolution and Embassy crisis, also indicates that greater focus on 3rd World is more demanding than expected Several problems regarding Soviets Problems with Carter’s human rights stance in 3rd World Problems with continued China normalization In SALT II, initially unwilling to submit to far-ranging bilateral cuts in nuclear arsenals – compromise leads to domestic opposition The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 discredits the initial notion that Soviet aggressiveness is largely imaginary The Carter Administration:  The Carter Administration The Soviet invasion, combined with Iranian hostage crisis and domestic pressures, leads Carter to revert to a much tougher approach to the USSR and the world “Personal animus” at betrayal leads to increased defense spending, diminished economic assistance, and resumed arms race with USSR Provision of Afghan rebels with arms, establishment of rapid deployment force and naval presence in Persian Gulf, economic sanctions in retaliation to OPEC embargo In the end, despite resulting in some successes outside of the US-USSR rivalry (Camp David Accords), Carter’s overall approach to FP is seen as a dismal failure – Reagan’s overtly hard-line view of the East-West rivalry resonates The “Reagan Revolution”:  The “Reagan Revolution” From the outset, Reagan’s approach to foreign policy is reminiscent of the early Cold War Treatment of Soviets as monolithic enemy that must be defeated through increased military preparation – negotiation (including SALT) seen, as in NSC 68, as means to buy time Vast increase in defense spending – domestic ramifications “Radical conservatism,” “evangelical” approach to the rivalry Interestingly, Nathan and Oliver note that the groundwork for the “Reagan Revolution” was laid by Carter’s reversion (including Persian Gulf policy) Reagan and the Soviets:  Reagan and the Soviets Reagan sought to revive the notion that the Soviets were irresponsible at best, and that they sought only conquest and domination Questioned intentions in international negotiation (SALT) and weapons development; made severe demands and overstated actual Soviet military buildup Portrays KAL shootdown as indicative of Soviet barbarism; provides fuel for rhetoric Fostered belief that nuclear war was more likely – increased international (impact on NATO) and domestic preparations (MX, FEMA) Reagan and the Soviets:  Reagan and the Soviets Given the view that USSR was a dangerous nuclear threat and that parity had been reached, Reagan seeks to gain an advantage via SDI (Star Wars) Success highly improbable, but absorbed most of Defense’s discretionary funds and 48% of research budget Violation of ABM Treaty, destroyed stability provided by MAD In the end, Reagan’s approach solidified Soviet insecurities about US and relative capabilities; led a nearly bankrupt country to devote more resources to buildup When Gorbachev comes to power advocating glasnost, perestroika, Reagan can no longer play the “evil empire” card Soviets accept US SALT demands, and Reagan is forced to negotiate; portrays Soviet change as resulting from American pressure (psychology) Demise of USSR thus largely credited to Reagan Reagan on the Periphery: “The Enterprise”:  Reagan on the Periphery: “The Enterprise” Reagan’s old-style view of containment extended to the periphery as well, and he sought to actively defeat communist elements without reverting to large-scale intervention. However, his approach was problematic and, in some cases, illegal Communist movements in other regions (esp. Latin America) were symbolic of Soviet strength, must be countered “Decisional Autonomy”: CIA, others bolstered, given greater discretion in action – little accountability Secretive; manipulated flow of information Reagan on the Periphery: “The Enterprise”:  Reagan on the Periphery: “The Enterprise” In Nicaragua and elsewhere, Administration conducted covert conflict, waged domestic propaganda campaigns, and backed authoritarian leaders to stem communist tide CIA mining of Nicaraguan harbors; backing and bolstering of Contras (unsavory) – backing continued even after defeat certain Actions lead to destabilization of friendly governments in region (Honduras) Even after Congress cuts off funding, Administration continues effort – illegality and Iran-Contra Nearly destroys Administration, colors posterity’s view American Foreign Policy in the Cold War – A Review:  American Foreign Policy in the Cold War – A Review American foreign policy in the Cold War is seemingly consistent, but appears to be a confusing mélange of realist power politics, idealistic Wilsonianism, and overtones of traditional isolationism Beginning with Kennan and NSC 68, the necessity of countering Soviet expansionism is undoubtedly the top priority of nearly all US administrations By and large, the general foreign policy outlooks of each postwar president are very similar (strong, shared worldview); the only real variation we see is in approaches, which are determined by factors such as the level of Soviet activity, economic concerns, and domestic pressures American Foreign Policy in the Cold War – A Review:  American Foreign Policy in the Cold War – A Review However, Wilsonianism occupies an uneasy position in this outlook – the moral responsibility of American foreign policy is alternately ignored, thrust to the fore, or used for power political purposes American contestation of USSR is, from the Truman Doctrine, predicated on the threat it poses to “free peoples,” though the form of that contest is power political To confuse matters, even when humanitarianism is the stated keystone of foreign policy plans (as with Carter), its implementation is unpopular and counterproductive when it ignores or minimizes the importance of the US-USSR power rivalry – which is itself (at least theoretically) based on the ideal of safeguarding freedom American involvement in the periphery is seemingly predicated on power politics in the larger rubric of containment; but the justification for these actions derives from Wilson’s idealistic view of a world “safe for democracy” When it cannot be used as justification (e.g., when the US must back authoritarian regimes to counter Soviet expansion), Wilsonianism is left aside – ideals such as self-determination are sacrificed in the name of power politics American Foreign Policy in the Cold War – A Review:  American Foreign Policy in the Cold War – A Review When specific approaches to the rivalry prove costly – especially limited war – we see popular opposition that is largely based on a weaker version of isolationism Example of general opposition to Vietnam War is between Vietnamese, and US has no place – inherently isolationist In sum, though the US successfully defeats USSR without war, the microfoundations of USFP are muddled – this problem becomes more pronounced when the US lacks a powerful, identifiable enemy in the 1990s and beyond

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