Ronald Reagan on Homeland Security
President of the U.S., 1981-1989; Republican Governor (CA)
1983: Anti-missiles replace mutually-assured destruction
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 limited defense to negligible levels. In 1983 Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), aimed at making nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete."
Even those who weren't wedded to the mutually assured destruction theology found the prospects for the success of Reagan's approach fairly dim. Reagan nevertheless pursued the initiative. But the dream of a national shield to protect the
United States from Soviet nuclear weapons died with the end of the Cold War. Reagan and Gorbachev went on to sign important arms control agreements, and the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty remained intact. The same approach--new agreements and maintenance of the treaty--remained true for George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p. 58-59
, Nov 1, 2011
Called Mandela's ANC "notorious terrorist group"
The Reagan administration came into office declaring that a centerpiece of its foreign policy would be a war on terror. That war on terror has also been expunged from historical consciousness, because the outcome cannot readily be incorporated into the
canon: among them an estimated 1.5 million in the terrorist wars sponsored in neighboring countries by Reagan's favored ally, Apartheid South Africa, which had to defend itself from Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, one of the world's "more
notorious terrorist groups," so Washington determined in 1988. In fairness, it should be added that 20 years later Congress voted to remove the
ANC from the list of terrorist organizations, so that Mandela is now at last able to enter the US without obtaining a waiver from the government. The reigning doctrine is something called "American exceptionalism." It is nothing of the sort.
Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p.267
, Jun 1, 2010
America is the abiding alternative to tyranny
At the peak of Soviet military power, Democrats had retreated into an embarrassed pacifism, cutting defense projects and reducing our troop strength. But the new Republican president unabashedly set out to make the US the strongest power in the world.
Reagan's plan for national defense was logical: to build up our military while pursuing diplomacy with the Soviet Union. Critics derided him as a warmonger, but as the violent twentieth century came to an end,
Reagan's position ultimately led to a climactic victory for freedom and peace with the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the liberation of millions from the tyranny of Communism.
Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot. "America is still the abiding alternative to tyranny," Reagan said. "That is our purpose in the world--nothing more and nothing less."
Source: Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin, p. 46-47
, Nov 17, 2009
OpEd: To grow military, had to let Dems grow social programs
In his 1981 inaugural address Reagan promised to "check and reverse the growth of government.":
"For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue
this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals. You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a
nation, we're not bound by that same limitation?"
Unfortunately, Reagan had to deal with a Democrat Congress intent on expanding domestic spending for social programs. In order to get the spending he wanted to rebuild our military and back down the
Soviets, Reagan was forced to give the Democrats the money they wanted for social programs. America's debt and dependency increased dramatically. Overall federal spending nearly doubled during the Reagan years, and federal deficits skyrocketed.
Source: Saving Freedom, by Jim DeMint, p. 37-38
, Jul 4, 2009
Heal the wounds of Vietnam so we can lead the world again
McCain writes in his biography: "No one had a more pronounced influence on my political convictions than Ronald Reagan. Most important [was] his eloquently stated belief in America's national greatness, his trust in our historical exceptionalism, the
shining city on the hill he invoked so often, in which I heard the echoes of my great political hero Teddy Roosevelt." Reagan spoke the language of restoration, of healing the wounds of Vietnam so that America could get back to the business of leading
the world by example and force. His "revolution," which was widely seen as the popular flowering of Goldwater's unpopular seeds if 1964, included healthy doses of libertarianism that McCain also endorsed at the time--"faith in the individual;
skepticism of government; free trade and vigorous capitalism." But what lit his eyes up for the beginning was not what the government SHOULDN'T do, but what Americans together COULD do.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 63-64
, Oct 9, 2007
OpEd: Given benefit of doubt on knowing Iran-Contra scheme
When it comes to telling untruths, it is far, far better to be thought a little slow on the uptake or, even better, ignorant. Case in point: Ronald Reagan.
Reagan probably got the most benefit of most doubts, pretty much from the 1980 campaign onward.
He seemed like such a genuinely nice guy, like how everyone wishes their grandfather could be, that people were willing to forgive him the minor things--like being accurate with facts.
He was so prone to say the most outlandish things--that it was never completely clear whether he was edging into the blurry fog of senility, or merely pretending to. So when his defense to the revelations that his aides had concocted a scheme to sell
arms to Iran and then illegally funnel the profits to the contras in Nicaragua was that he simply had no idea how this could have happened.you almost had to shrug. Maybe he didn't know anything about it.
Source: America's Next Bush, by S.V. Date, p.262
, Feb 15, 2007
1983: Introduced & pushed through bill to produce nerve gas
On July 13, 1983, Bush cast the Senate's tie-breaking vote to save President Reagan's plan to resume production of nerve gas. The bill was killed in the House of Representatives, but then Reagan insisted it be reintroduced. George cast a 2nd tie-breaking
vote on Nov. 8, which allowed the Senate to pass a bill (47-46) to begin producing nerve gas. George's vote retained $124 million for production of nerve-gas bombs in a defense appropriations bill. But again it was eventually defeated in the House.
Source: The Family, by Kitty Kelley, p.386-387
, Sep 14, 2004
Roll back Communism, not just containment
Truman had introduced containment in 1947 to contain the spread of Communism by aiding embattled nations along its frontiers. The Reagan Doctrine was a "rollback" strategy under which the US gave aid to anti-Communist rebels fighting Soviet vassal states
on the periphery of empire in Nicaragua, Angola, and Afghanistan.
Conservatives credit the Reagan Doctrine with playing a decisive role in America's Cold War victory. Yet Reagan never asserted a US right to launch preemptive strikes or preventive wars
on nations that had not attacked the US.
Bush's aides believe a right of preemptive attack and preventive war is inherent in the national right to self-defense. In the Cuban missile crisis, they argue, Kennedy was prepared to attack the missile sites
in Cuba rather than let them become operational. True, but the Soviet missile threat in Cuba appeared both grave and imminent. Those were nuclear missiles that could strike Washington from their Cuban bases in 20 minutes.
Source: Where the Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p. 27-28
, Aug 12, 2004
Reagan Doctrine: US aid to anti-Communist rebels
Under the Truman Doctrine, we went to war in Korea. Eisenhower extended it to the Middle East. Under it, JFK and LBJ took us to war in Vietnam. The Reagan Doctrine was a "rollback" strategy under which the US gave aid to anti-Communist rebels fighting
Soviet vassal states on the periphery of empire in Nicaragua, Angola, and Afghanistan.
Conservatives credit Reagan and the Reagan Doctrine with playing a decisive role in America's Cold War victory. Yet Reagan never asserted a US right to launch
preemptive strikes or preventive wars on nations that had not attacked the US.
Bush's aides believe a right of preemptive attack is inherent in the national right of self-defense. In the missile crisis, they argue, Kennedy was prepared to attack
the missile sites in Cuba rather than let them become operational. True, but the Soviet missile threat in Cuba appeared both grave and imminent. Those were nuclear missiles that could strike Washington from their Cuban bases in 20 minutes.
Source: Where The Right Went Wrong, by Pat Buchanan, p. 27-28
, Aug 12, 2004
Dealt with Soviets but insisted on verification with teeth
Sometimes a leader has no alternative but to deal with someone untrustworthy. The only option is to lock up every detail in the clearest possible language, ensuring that it’s all written, and that there are witnesses.
Ronald Reagan exemplified the best
way to approach such situations. His refusal to award trust that hadn’t been earned changed the nature of our country’s relationship with the Soviet Union. Over arms control, he insisted on verification; he wouldn’t take the Soviets at their word because
it would have been reckless to have done so. The Soviet Union wasn’t entitled to that civility. Reagan forced the Soviets to make concessions up front before the United States made any in return. We know we’re going to live up to any treaty.
We have laws and protocols that ensure it, and our culture demands it. That wasn’t true of the Soviet Union. Reagan insisted on inspection mechanisms with teeth, of the kind that previous administrations might have refused to pursue to completion.
Source: Leadership, autobiography by Rudolph Giuliani, p.330-331
, Oct 1, 2002
1980s: Focus of US foreign policy would be "War on Terror"
Twenty years ago, the Reagan administration came into office, announcing very loud and clear that the focus of US foreign policy would be a "War on Terror." And they focused particularly on what was called, in the words of
Secretary of State George Shultz, "the evil scourge of terrorism," a plague spread by "depraved opponents of civilization itself" in "a return to barbarism in the modern age."
Shultz, who was considered a moderate within the Reagan administration, went on to say that terrorism had to be dealt with by force and violence, not by utopian legalistic means like mediation and negotiations and so on,
which were just a sign of weakness. The Reagan administration declared that the fight would be focused on the 2 areas where this crime was most severe, namely Central American and the Middle East.
Source: Power and Terror, by Noam Chomsky, p. 48
, May 25, 2002
Build morale & increase fire power to combat Communism
I also thought the administration was a disaster in the arena of national security. While it was cutting back on our military power, we were losing ground to Communism in much of the globe.
The morale of our volunteer army was plummeting, our strategic forces were growing obsolete, and nothing was being done to reduce the threat of a nuclear Armageddon that could destroy much of the world in less than a half-hour’s time.
, Dec 25, 2000
“Star Wars” enabled historic peace with Soviets
I called a meeting of the Joint Chiefs and said: Every offensive weapon has resulted in the creation of a defense; isn’t it possible that we could invent a defensive weapon that could intercept nuclear weapons? So SDI was born, and
some named it “Star Wars.” If I had to choose the most important reason for the historic breakthrough in the quest for peace with the Soviet Union, I would say the Strategic Defense Initiative.
, Dec 25, 2000
We're armed because we mistrust each other, not vice versa
"Why don't we let our two tams start this discussion about the reduction of the weaponry and all and why don't you and I get some fresh air?" Reagan recalled telling
"Someone else has said that we mistrust each other because we're armed. I believe we're armed because we mistrust each other.
Wouldn't it be fine if we would spend just as much time trying to find out the reasons for our mistrust?"
"They kept dying on me," Reagan said of the Soviet premiers, three of whom had died before Gorbachev took over.
Reagan said he looked Gorbachev straight in the eye again and said, "The only alternative to this is we resume the arms race. That is a race you can't win. There is no way we're going to permit you to be superior to us in weaponry."
Source: Shadow, by Bob Woodward, p.163
, Jun 15, 1999
SDI averts biblical prophecy of Armageddon
Reagan was awed by the biblical prophecy of Armageddon, which he translated into a vision of nuclear hell on earth. He proposed to avert it in two ways: development of an antimissile defense through the Strategic Defense Initiative and reduction
of nuclear arsenals through negotiations with the Soviets. “A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.” It seemed logical to Reagan that all such weapons must be eliminated. As he put it in his memoirs:
My dream became a world free of nuclear weapons. Some of my advisors did not share this dream. They said a nuclear-free world was unattainable. Since I knew it would be a long and difficult task to rid the world of nuclear weapons,
I had this second dream: the creation of a defense against nuclear missiles, so we could change from a policy of assured destruction to one of assured survival.
Source: The Role of a Lifetime, by Lou Cannon, p. 741
, Jul 2, 1991
To preserve the peace, we had to become strong again
Back in 1980, when I was running for President, it was all so different. Some pundits said our programs would result in catastrophe; our views on foreign affairs would cause war.
Common sense told us that to preserve the peace, we'd have to become strong again after years of weakness and confusion. So, we rebuilt our defenses, and this New Year we toasted the new peacefulness around the globe.
Source: A Patriot's Handbook, by Caroline Kennedy, p. 70
, Jan 11, 1989
OpEd: Sought nuclear treaty as legacy toward world peace
Ronald Reagan clearly understood that he had to undertake some great initiative toward world peace in order to be sure of his place in history. With his instinct for simplification and the big story, he also understood that only one such action could
achieve the desired result: a treaty with the Russians that would dramatically reduce the number of strategic nuclear missiles deployed by the two superpowers.
Reagan's every action in foreign policy--the dramatic and very costly buildup of
US military power; the overt and covert resistance to Soviet adventurism; the public rhetoric of confrontation and the private signals of conciliation directed toward the Soviets; the dogged Geneva arms talks, and, above all, the Strategic Defense
Initiative (SDI) for deployment of a futuristic missile shield in outer space--had been carried out with the idea of one day sitting down at the negotiating table with the leader of the USSR and banning weapons of mass destruction from the planet.
Source: For the Record, by Donald Regan, p.293-296
, May 2, 1988
OpEd: Reagan no part of diverting Iran-Contra funds
On February 20, the President sent a letter to the [Iran-Contra scandal] Special Review Board in which he wrote:
"I have no personal notes or records to help my recollection in this matter. The only honest answer is to state that try as I might,
I cannot recall anything whatsoever about whether I approved an Israeli sale in advance of whether I approved replenishment of Israeli stocks around August1985. My answer therefore and the simple truth is, 'I don't remember--period.'"
The Ronald Reagan
I knew and served was no part of this plan to divert funds--in his mind or in his actions. The President's heart was another matter. As I have written, his concern for the safety of the hostages, his frustration in not being able to apply the enormous
power of the US against a weak but hidden adversary, and his firm (and in my view, correct) belief that a communist Nicaragua represents a long-term danger to democracy and peace in the western hemisphere, were genuine and visible.
Source: For the Record, by Donald Regan, p. 83-85
, May 2, 1988
Policy of openness to deal with Iran-Contra scandal
The Iran-Contra scandal started to break on November 4, 1987. The news of the diversion of funds to Nicaraguan freedom fighters from the arms sales to Iran was released to the press on
November 25 by the President himself. The Attorney General of the United States followed him to the podium and told the assembled reporters everything that the investigators had so far discovered about the affair.
This policy of total openness was the only one possible in the circumstances. If this seems obvious in retrospect, it was not so obvious at the time to some of those
who were most deeply involved, and the old pattern of leaks and secret contacts with favored journalists persisted at the margins of the situation.
Source: For the Record, by Donald Regan, p.357
, May 2, 1988
“Evil Empire” speech succeeded where nukes failed to impress
“When I called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire,’ I meant it!” The most vilified presidential utterance in modern times, the truest, and most seminal.
Those two words, which translate so unmistakably into Russian, convinced Yuri Andropov more than any number of bombs that the US was morally ready to fight the century’s ultimate war.
Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.642
, Jan 9, 1988
Trust but verify: INF cut 1000s of missiles
Monday, December 7, Gorbachev arrives to sign INF treaty. Reagan’s speech is not particularly friendly. “Our people should have been better friends by now.” After lunch, they sign INF treaty in East Room.
Dutch trots out trust-but-verify once too often for Gorbachev, who replies with an irritated smile, “You repeat that at every meeting.” Still,the treaty is an epochal event.
As Gorbachev says, “It will be inscribed in the history books.” For the first time in Cold War, US and USSR have committed to reducing their respective nuclear arsenals. 1,846 Soviet and 846
US missles to be trashed within the next three years.
December 9, Regan demands a date for Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Reagan, “SDI is essential to our goal of total nuclear disarmament.”
Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.630-631
, Dec 7, 1987
SDI: kill missiles, not people; share with Russians
The Strategic Defense Initiative was one project for which Reagan took direct responsibility, pushing it forward despite the doubts of some in his own circle. An implausible scheme in itself, it is a perfect expression of Reagan’s politics, which are at
one with his personality. “Star Wars” is a “nice” weapons system-defensive, not offensive; killing missiles, not people; finally sharable with others (even the Russians) in an act of American altruism. SDI was a “final solution” in the benign sense, the
one answer to all our problems.
Its simplicity of intent was not the least of its charms for a man who felt uncomfortable with the complexities of weapons systems-he confessed that he never understood what “this throw-weight business is all about.”
Such technical matters would never plague his rhapsodic discussion of SDI: No one understood all its multiple if sketchy projections. It was more a wish than a single project, and such wishes are the very stuff of Reagan’s leadership.
Source: Reagan’s America, by Garry Wills, p. 358
, Jul 2, 1987
Close “window of vulnerability” against Russian attack
In 1978, Reagan completed his arsenal of campaign arguments against Carter’s defense policy-the famous “window of vulnerability.” This is a catchy slogan condensing a sophisticated argument with three alternatives.
- The Soviets are achieving such
superiority in ICBMs that they can launch a ground strike taking out all our land-based missiles, after which we cannot use our submarines or cruise missiles to deliver a retaliatory blow, because the Russians would still have enough ICBMs to launch
another strike, so we would have to submit to dictated terms of surrender;
- The Russians could hit a selected target here or in Europe with nuclear weapons, and threaten the above sequence unless we short-circuited it by surrender;
- Even without
launching an attack, Russia could threaten either of the two processes above, and get the same results without any attack at all. As Reagan summarized the argument in this extreme form, “the Russians could just take us with a phone call.”
Source: Reagan’s America, by Garry Wills, p. 337
, Jul 2, 1987
Share SDI instead of MAD
The summit should focus, Reagan felt, not on arms control per se but on the madness of MAD, which led to nuclear stockpiling. Once that neurosis was taken care of, “the mountains of weapons to which you refer can shrink.”
Reagan said, “I have an argument to share with you--our anti-missile shield. We don’t know if it is possible, but we are optimistic. If we come up with a solution, let us share it, make it available to everyone.
Remove all fear of a nuclear strike.“
No idea could have seemed more addled to Soviet perceptions than a universal defense against the ultimate offense, unless the
President’s shield was the sort of defense that kills. Yet he was insisting, ”It’s not a weapon, it’s a system, a worthy dream.“
Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.562
, Nov 19, 1985
Reykjavik: refused to trade SDI for nuclear disarmament
Gorbachev had offered to scale down the Warsaw Pact’s huge conventional arms superiority over NATO. Reagan thought, we have negotiated the most massive weapons reductions in history.
Gorbachev demanded something in return, “This all depends on you
giving up SDI.” Reagan had been bracing for this. “SDI isn’t a bargaining chip. If you are willing to abolish nuclear weapons, why are you so anxious to get rid of a defense against nuclear weapons?”
Gorbachev kept smiling, while the president got
angrier. Both realized that their rush toward a zero option in Europe had been cowardly, a feint to postpone the unresolved issue. “It’s [that] or nothing,” Gorbachev said.
“The meeting is over,” Reagan said.
“Mr. President, you have missed the
unique chance of going down in history as a great president who paved the way for nuclear disarmament.”
Reagan said, “That applies to both of us.”
Gorbachev said, “I don’t know what else I could have done.”
Reagan said, “You could have said yes.”
Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.598-599
, Nov 19, 1985
SDI: intercept and destroy ballistic missiles
Let me share a vision of the future which offers hope. It is that we embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive. Let us turn to the very strengths in technology that spawned our great industrial base
and that have given us the quality of life we enjoy today.
What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant US retaliation to deter a Soviet attack--that we could intercept and destroy
strategic ballistic missiles?
Current technology has achieved a level of sophistication where it’s reasonable for us to begin this effort. My fellow Americans, tonight we’re launching an effort which holds the promise of changing the course of human
I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents no to the cause of mankind and world peace; to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.
Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.474-477
, Mar 23, 1983
No nuclear freeze due to danger from the “evil empire”
In your discussions of nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to not to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding
and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between good and evil. I ask you to resist the attempts of those who would have you withhold your support for this administration’s efforts, to keep America strong and free.
Source: Speech in Orlando Florida
, Mar 8, 1983
Defense is not a budget issue; do B-1, MX, Trident & Stealth
Reagan said, “Defense is not a budget issue. You spend what you need.” He reminded his advisor that he had campaigned on the theme of restored national security.
His election had signaled to the Soviet
Union that this these would become policy, and Congress’s approval of his first budget made it official. “There must be no perception by anyone in the world that we’re backing down one inch on the defense buildup.”
Just for a start, he announced that the US intended to rearm with 100 B-1 bombers, 100 MX multiple-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles, a second generation of Trident subs, and a new, radar-invisible, stealth warplane.
Source: Dutch, by Edmund Morris, p.450
, Oct 2, 1981
Page last updated: Jul 11, 2013