Many Republicans want to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, but few are qualified. These Republicans are usually hawks (always seeing use of the armed forces as the solution to foreign policy crises). But Reagan was no hawk. Sure he built up the armed forces capability, and he sent an occupying force to Lebanon (disastrously), and he raided Granada, but the greatest foreign policy conflict of his presidency was won without a shot fired by the US armed forces.
Let us look at some instances. First consider “star wars”, the program Reagan championed, intended to prevent Soviet warheads from reaching our shores. The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was criticized from the beginning as being unrealistic and even unscientific. Without going into the merits of SDI and the success of some of the program (or failures), look at the rationale. Our foreign policy to prevent nuclear war had been mutually assured destruction (MAD) for many years; that is, that because both sides could destroy the other, neither the US nor the Soviet Union would dare launch a nuclear attack. I’ll bet most of us know of games of “chicken” which have gone bad. MAD was another game of “chicken” waiting to blow up. Reagan recognized this and thought there must be a better way, a defensive way while other avenues were pursued.
Reagan partnered with Saint Pope John Paul II, English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and others to bring down the Soviet Empire peacefully, through moral and economic pressure.
Reagan was patient. He wasn’t concerned about his legacy-that the Cold War would end during his presidency. He was content that the Iron Curtain would crumble someday, even on someone else’s watch.
Today’s politicians and so-called statesman should learn some lessons as we throw ourselves into more and more armed conflicts around the world which spawn even more conflicts. Just because we have the biggest and best fighting force in the world, not all the battles and wars can be won with them. (I recall what Saint Pope John Paul II said about war always being “a defeat for humanity”, and “Peace is not just the absence of war. Like a cathedral, peace must be constructed patiently and with unshakable faith.”
How many of our foreign military interventions in the past 20 years have built peace?
The anti-Federalists warned us over 200 years ago that a strong central government with a standing army was more likely to fight wars to settle disputes than any other way. Our history has borne this out repeatedly, and especially in the last 20+ years.
I am not strictly a pacifist; I believe there are times a country and a people must go to war. But I also believe fervently that often we use our armed forces simply because we have them. (I am not implying that we use them to justify large defense budgets, but perhaps the case could be made ….) It seems to me that our government (both the Administration and Congress for many years) lacks creativity in foreign policy.
As a nation and as a people, we suffer.
Oremus pro invicem!