For me George Schultz summed up Ronald Reagan. I have seen Schultz repeat it in various formulations many times. Some people run for President to be President. Ronald Reagan ran for President to do things.
It was a time of big ideas – 1980. Reagan had decided that containment of the Soviet Union had reached its limits and that detente was just as limited a doctrine. The time had come to call evil, evil. To rearm and assert that the binding glue of civilization was not collective dehumanization, but liberty.
Today we have the Republican Party, the party that gave us 4,000+ dead in Iraq based on ideological misjudgment, determined to prove that President Obama conspired in Benghazi to do … I have no idea what it is the President’s administration is covering up. But this blog has associated itself for a long time with the view that President Obama is a smart and intelligent fellow with a wonderful family who is by temperament and skills incompetent as President.
What we know about Benghazi is that the President’s administration through incompetence and bureaucratic in-fighting got four guys killed. Then through incompetence it bungled every non-political aspect of reporting on the facts. Given the President’s inability to pass any material legislation since 2010 that he is incompetent is hardly news.
When I was in Budapest in 2004, I was amazed at how many Hungarian business people, waiters, artists, and people across the capital stopped to thank me as an American for freeing them from communism. When I took a cab ride out to the airport, the driver refused to charge me and drove me around the city to see memorials, tank shell holes, and the other visible signs of the Hungarian struggle for liberty. In Warsaw that year it was the same experience.
There was a long bipartisan effort to contain communism. But it was Reagan’s decisive abandonment of Carter’s bumbling “human rights” agenda, in favor of a foreign policy based on liberty that changed the game. Reagan’s aides were concerned he was a neophyte unable to carry his own weight in foreign policy.
Instead he, almost alone, had the central analysis correct. The CIA’s estimates that the Soviets were outgrowing the US were wrong. The US could simply out muscle the Soviet economy in any arms race. It was a dangerous theory for a nuclear war strategy, but it forced the Soviets to the table. And for all the foreign policy elites scoffing, let me state the following unequivocally.
This blog values the opinion of that Hungarian cab driver more than the views of any “expert”. Under the policies of those elites I crawled in fear under my school desk. Because of Ronald Reagan my children never have.
This is what I know about Republican foreign policy today. There are two wings. One believes we should intervene militarily in every Arab or Persian crisis, while not advocating intervention in any black African, Asian, or Latin American country suffering war induced famine, rape, and genocide. It does not care that every US kinetic intervention in the Middle East with the exception of the Gulf War in 1992 has cost more lives than anticipated. Every such intervention has yielded unintended results worse than the initial problem.
The other wing believes the United Nations is a global conspiracy.
We are witnessing the passing of the baton on foreign policy competency to the Democrats. Since 1968 the Republican Party has owned national defense and foreign policy. It was the party of limited decisive intervention. This began to collapse with the 2003 Iraq invasion and the rise of Neo-Con “invade every culture we do not really understand” policies.
Now, rather than articulating a vision for how to engage in Asia on a broad economic, cultural, humanitarian, and lastly military basis, we have the Benghazi investigation. Even as a Democrat I would venture to guess that would not be President Reagan’s foreign policy agenda for 2013.