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Old 05-29-2013, 05:12 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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Default Reagan's foreign policy

Really interesting read on how Reagan's foreign policy legacy had been twisted and abused by the right over the last 25 years to fit modern day narratives and policy agendas. Here are the concluding paragraphs:

The idea that Reagan “won” the Cold War is one of the more pernicious and enduring distortions of Reagan’s real success, which involved both opposing and engaging with the Soviet Union as its system collapsed from within largely on its own. The claim of winning the Cold War greatly exaggerated the ability of the U.S. to shape events in other countries. That in turn has inspired later generations of conservatives and Republicans to imagine that they can successfully promote dramatic political change overseas in order to topple foreign regimes. As Kennan said in the same op-ed: “Nobody—no country, no party, no person—‘won’ the cold war. It was a long and costly political rivalry, fueled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and strength of the other party.”

Congratulating Reagan for winning the Cold War is one more form of widespread abuse of Reagan’s legacy that has adversely affected how conservatives think about foreign policy and the proper U.S. role in the world. This has warped how the right understands American power and U.S. relations with authoritarian and pariah states for the last two decades. It also blinds many conservatives to the fact that other nations resent and reject American interference in their political affairs. In spite of the failures of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan and the collapse of the so-called Freedom Agenda, this myth continues to make many on the right overly confident in our government’s ability to influence overseas political developments to suit American wishes.

The conservatism of the Cold War era was in large part defined by anticommunism, as this provided the common cause that united disparate groups on the right and informed their prevailing foreign-policy views. Ever since the end of the Cold War, conservatives have sought in vain to find something that might replace anticommunism, and they have tried to conjure up a new ideological foe that could fill the same role that Communism did for four decades. Many conservatives have sought to use the existence of jihadism as a justification for a new global ideological struggle, and even Senator Paul suggested something along these lines in his speech at Heritage with his comparison of “radical Islam” and the Soviet Union. Yet what is necessary for conservatives now is to stop conceiving of the U.S. as the leader of one side in a global ideological struggle, and that isn’t likely to happen so long as conservatives keep falling back on arguments about what Reagan did and what he would do today.

Conservatives certainly can and should still learn from Reagan’s successes and mistakes—as they should from those of Nixon, Eisenhower, and other past leaders. However, if there is to be a conservative foreign policy that is well-suited to advancing present-day U.S. security interests, conservatives cannot continue relying on the crutch of imitating and invoking Reagan. If conservatives are supposed to understand and cope with the world as it is, rather than how it once was or how we would like it to be, nothing would be worse than to mimic a foreign policy that was created for another era.
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