Friday, June 11, 2004

Peace Through Strength

In addition to the mainstream media explaining the current affection for Ronald Reagan as the wish or nostalgia for a "simpler" (were the 80's simple?) time, mainstream academics (John Patrick Diggins) are trying to disjoin Reagan's foreign policy from the supposedly more aggressive variety of George W. Bush. Both of these things deny that Reagan espoused and employed a muscular foreign policy and that most Americans agreed with and still agree with that policy.

Nowhere in Diggins' silly piece today, which purports to be an assessment of the Reagan Doctrine and its relation to the current administration, is the phrase "peace through strength." Nowhere does Diggins acknowledge Reagan's belief that America has an obligation to promote liberal democracy around the world. Nowhere is there a reference to Reagan calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Nowhere is there a reference to the battle Reagan waged to deploy Pershing missiles in Europe. Nowhere is there a reference to Reagan's aggressive and controversial policies in Central America, which, thanks to his lax management style, almost brought down his presidency. Can one write about Reagan's foreign policy without mentioning these things? Apparently, you can write anything you want in the New York Times, provided you don't defend Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush simultaneously.

Basically, in order to separate Reagan from Bush and the dreaded "neocons," Diggins makes Reagan a kind of peacenick.

The problem with Diggins is that although he recognizes that Reagan genuinely wanted peace, he cannot understand that Reagan's strength secured the eventual peace by "rolling back" the Soviet Union. Most of Reagan's critics see the strength or muscle-flexing and don't understand that Reagan sought peace (though perhaps not peace at any price). So give Diggins credit for seeing something that most of Reagan's critics don't. Nevertheless, Diggins is as far off the mark in his assessment of Reagan as they are. He sees what most miss, but misses what most see.


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