“Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem. — The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and Im here to help.”
As we reflect on the life and legacy of President Ronald Reagan on his 100th birthday and pondering on our current foreign policy failure- One has to wonder, how we could have gotten so far from Reagan’s policy and purpose.
3 of Reagan’s important pillars of national security policy were (1) peace through strength; (2) trust but verify; and (3) beware of evil in the modern world.
We followed that wisdom. Communism collapsed. The Soviet Empire crumbled. Tyrants everywhere fell onto the ash heap of history. Emerging democracies and markets gave promise to the long held desire of human kind for peace and prosperity.
Now we are facing a socialistic takeover on the domestic front and an Islamic takeover on our foreign front. We refuse to support democracy and freedom in a known hostile region because of our political history with Egypt. The same Egypt who had a dictator for 30 years and enforced perilous conditions for the people of Egypt.
Egypt is now a prime example of President Reagan’s 3 pillars of defense.
The first pillar, “strength”, Reagan described was both military and economic—the two worked hand in hand. We did not apologize for our military power. It created the peace.
The second pillar, “agreements or deals”, whether with friend or foe were, only as good as our ability to ensure their implementation. While verification was most associated with the arms control agreements Reagan negotiated with the former Soviet Union, it applied to much more. The corollary was that in the absence of verifiability, we did not trust our adversaries. That is, always verify your sources before you make a decision.
The third pillar is an “axis of evil”, Reagan understood that evil stalks the modern world. And this was true, whether it was the communism of the Soviet Union, the gulag that was Vietnam and Cambodia, or the murderous regimes in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Grenada or Cuba, Russia or North Egypt or as important, their terrorist allies and accomplices.
Reagan had no illusions about Moscow’s intentions. He said as much at his very first Presidential press conference, noting that Soviet empire reserved for itself the right to lie, cheat and steal, to murder and terrorize, to achieve its goals.The audible “gasp” among the drive-by press corps at the time is well known.
At the time, the chief argument against Reagan’s view of the Soviet Union was that classifying Moscow as a terrorist sponsoring state–whether true or not– would “upset détente” and “undermine peaceful coexistence”. Reagan’s view was precisely the opposite—peace in the Soviet empire could be purchased only with its collapse, not with propping it up!
When coupled with a strong US dollar, tax rate reductions and economic policies that pushed investment, growth and job creation, America’s economy grew strong along with her military. With the decontrol of energy prices, which actually led to lower gasoline prices, the US and economies everywhere benefited. America indeed came to be seen as more and more formidable.
Yet as we got friendlier, our military got stronger.
Pacifists opposed the funding for Reagan’s strategic nuclear modernization program, especially money for the Peacekeeper missile, originally known as the MX, the INF missiles, the B2 bombers, and Trident submarines.
In the spring of 1983, many of these issues reached a climax. The Scowcroft Commission report thoroughly endorsed the Reagan modernization program, “strength”, while also artfully combining it with the President’s call for START reductions in nuclear weapons to half their current level, “peace”.
The latter half of the equation—major reductions in nuclear weapons—could be implemented because our satellites could determine the levels of Soviet deployments of such nuclear weapon platforms. This was the “verify” part of the “trust” equation.
At the same time, the President surprised many with his March 1981 announcement of a parallel US effort to build missile defenses, or the Strategic Defense Initiative.
This was related to the third pillar of Reagan’s defense and security ledger–there were indeed evil regimes in the world.
In the President’s view, even if U.S. and Russian nuclear offensive weapons were reduced, even eliminated, the US needed the insurance policy of missile defense. It would be an added plank to the existing platform of deterrence and would protect the American people from such weapons especially those in the hands of rogue regimes.
This is a point he would make repeatedly in his negotiations with Gorbachev in Reykjavik, that even should the US and the USSR eliminate their nuclear arsenals, there was still the need for missile defenses to defend against the rogue regime or evil dictator intent upon acquiring such weapons.
Eventually the USSR conceded to removing all its deployed INF nuclear weapons from Europe and Asia, exactly as Reagan had originally called for.
In early 1981, just as they had with the administration’s proposals on strategic modernization and START arms control, the drive-by media and their allies in academia, Hollywood and on Capitol Hill, immediately derided the missile defense proposals. An editorial in The Hartford, Connecticut Courant sneered at such a “Star Wars” proposal, as they called it.
This was at a time of potentially grave peril for the United States. In the span of two years, Pope John II, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and President Ronald Reagan all came into office. Nevertheless, assassins had tried to kill all three of these great leaders with bullets and bombs.
Fortunately, Reagan’s proposed US strategic modernization program was approved. The combined might of the US and its allies forced the Soviets to negotiate on our terms. Their military hold over Eastern Europe could then be challenged, first by Solidarity in Poland and then by Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union then collapsed and hundreds of millions of people were liberated as the communist evil empire ended.
Unfortunately, the US then gradually proceeded to forget these very important Reagan pillars, or “lessons of history”. The late President had specifically warned us about this problem of “civilizational forgetfulness” in his 1988 farewell address.
In “While America Sleeps”, Donald and Frederick Kagan warned that the US was deluding itself into believing military weakness would not have terrible consequences for the future.
A peace dividend was declared too rapidly, and American forces were dropped to dangerous levels.
We were told it was the end of history, in that the military strength needed to end the Cold War and defend freedom, keep the peace and promote liberty was increasingly viewed as no longer necessary.
Sound familiar? It should as the Democrats currently in power are looking for easy ways out in slashing the budget so that they can produce “feel good” numbers when in reality it hurts our long term prosperity.
Let’s be real– One of our major threats (especially now that Egypt is in turmoil) is the Muslim Brotherhood, which now seeks to seize power in Egypt. Too many are simply ignoring this danger. The vast majority of Egyptians want neither the radical totalitarianism of the Brotherhood nor the authoritarian corruption of the Mubarak regime.
But, unfortunately, US military power, represented symbolically by the current government of Egypt because of its association and alliance with us, is the enemy of many on the radical left. They are fueled almost exclusively by an antipathy to such military power.
Thus we hear the claim that whatever the outcome of a rapid transfer of power, “anything is better” than the current Mubarak regime.
Enter El Baradei, the former Director of the International Atomic Energy Administration in Vienna but has lived abroad most of his life. Swooping into Egypt when the turmoil started, seeking opportunistic advantages.
Despite public disapproval, El Baradei seems to be taken a prime leadership position within the Anti-Mubarack demonstrators.
It is a very real possibility that El Baradei is elected into a Cabinet position- if not, replaces the President in its entirety.
Thus it is important to note Reagan’s thrill pillars when judging our future policy and foreign aid in Egypt.
First, strength, both military and economic, is indispensable to liberty, freedom and peace. A strong Egypt allied with the US and Israel is necessary for future safety and prosperity.
Second, to accept the promises of a terrorist group such as the Muslim Brotherhood–”trust”– to renounce violence has enough sense as buying oceanfront property in Arizona.
Third, as for evil, just look at Iran, Syria, North Korea, parts of Russia, Northern Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the extremists groups that run amok between them.
We may not be able to direct events in Cairo, but US leadership remains indispensable to “provide for the common defense” and in order to ensure our a democracy, it is imperative that we follow President Reagan’s 3 pillar layouts closely as he was successful with the collapse of the Soviet Union and when dealing with the Islamic and Socialists regime- failure is not an option.
Copyright (c) February 6, 2011. All rights reserved.