Reagan and Foreign Policy: A Very Short Introduction
The Reagan Doctrine The Reagan Doctrine was a strategy orchestrated and implemented by the United States under the Reagan Administration to oppose the global influence of the Soviet Union during the final years of the Cold War. While the doctrine lasted less than a decade, it was the centerpiece of United States foreign policy from the early 1980s until the end of the Cold War in 1991.
Under the Reagan Doctrine, the U.S. provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to "rollback" Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The doctrine was designed to serve the dual purposes of diminishing Soviet influence in these regions, while also potentially opening the door for capitalism (and sometimes liberal democracy) in nations that were largely being governed by Soviet-supported socialist governments.
Source: "Reagan Doctrine." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 2 Jan. 2011. Web. 6 Jan. 2011.
The Cold War Reagan served as president during the latter part of the Cold War, an era of political and ideological disagreement between the United States and Soviet Union. Reagan labeled the USSR an "Evil Empire" that would be consigned to the "ash heap of history"; he later predicted that communism would collapse. He reversed the policy of détente and massively built up the United States military. Through it, he ordered production of the MX "Peacekeeper" missile and implemented the B-1 bomber program that had been canceled by the Carter administration. He also monitored the deployment of the Pershing II missile in West Germany.
He proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a defense project that planned to use ground and space-based missile defense systems to protect the United States from attack. Reagan believed that this defense shield could make nuclear war impossible. Reagan was convinced that the Soviet Union could be defeated rather than simply negotiated with.
Nuclear Weapons According to several scholars and Reagan biographers, including Paul Lettow, John Lewis Gaddis, Richard Reeves, Lou Cannon, and Reagan himself in his autobiography, Ronald Reagan earnestly desired the abolition of all nuclear weapons. He proposed to Gorbachev that if a missile shield could be built, all nuclear weapons be eliminated and the missile shield technology shared, the world would be much better off.
In his autobiography, An American Life, Reagan wrote, "The Pentagon said at least 150 million American lives would be lost in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union — even if we 'won.' For Americans who survived such a war, I couldn't imagine what life would be like. The planet would be so poisoned the 'survivors' would have no place to live. Even if a nuclear war did not mean the extinction of mankind, it would certainly mean the end of civilization as we knew it. No one could 'win' a nuclear war. Yet as long as nuclear weapons were in existence, there would always be risks they would be used, and once the first nuclear weapon was unleashed, who knew where it would end? My dream, then, became a world free of nuclear weapons.... For the eight years I was president I never let my dream of a nuclear-free world fade from my mind." Reagan wrote that he believed the mutually assured destruction policy formulated by John Kennedy to be morally wrong.
Reagan and Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987 (and ratified in 1988), which was the first in Cold War history to mandate the destruction of an entire class of nuclear weapons.
Iran-Iraq Originally neutral in the Iran–Iraq War of 1979 to 1988, the Reagan administration began supporting Iraq because an Iranian victory would not serve the interests of the United States. In 1983, Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive memo, which called for heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities, measures to improve U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, directed the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take appropriate measures to respond to tensions in the area.
This source is an online publication of an article originally published by two
Harvard faculty members in 1988 as an argumentative essay in favor of ratifying
the recently signed Intermediate Range Nuclear Firearms Treaty with the Soviet
Union. The essay is valuable in that it phrases different arguments for the
adoption of the treaty, as well as some implications of its ratification. The
essay goes on then to describe how the Reagan Administration has adopted new
lessons by signing the treaty with the Soviet Union. Such lessons include the
idea that “arms control can serve US interests.” This idea was relatively new
at the time considering that up until this point the Cold War had been all
about building up massive stockpiles of nuclear weaponry. Overall the article
serves as an interesting glimpse into one frame of time in American History.
The site gains instant credibility when one observes that the publication is
through Harvard University, by Harvard faculty. The credibility is bolstered
also by the article being a publication of the time when the treaty was still
in the ratification process. The authors of the article are given, along with
their credentials which qualify them to opine on such a matter, and a telephone
number is provided should the reader have any further inquiries regarding the
article. The one short coming in using
this site as an academic resource is that it is argumentative, and therefore
somewhat based in opinion. However, the historical value and the evaluation of
the treaty provide a valuable glimpse into the INF Treaty, one of the most
historic achievements of the Reagan Administration.
This site is certainly full of useful information, touching on almost every
major event of Reagan’s career dealing with foreign policy. It contains
information on topics such as confrontations with Soviet Russia, the Reagan
Doctrine, the U.S. government’s involvement in Lebanon, Middle Eastern
terrorism, the Iran-Contra affair, and finally Reagan’s interactions with
Gorbachev. Each of these topics is covered in depth, with information taken
directly from speeches and interviews contained in the University of Virginia
Presidential speech archive. As one would expect from a document covering so
many sources, the article is a bit lengthy to read, but is certainly worth the
time as it contains a rather all-encompassing summary of Reagan’s stances on foreign
The article meets nearly all the criteria for a reliable source. The author is
a retired accredited journalist for The Washington Post, and is considered to
be one of the foremost Reagan biographers in the world. The website itself is
published academically through University of Virginia, and the essay content is
taken directly from speeches and interviews made available on the same webpage.
The website is describe as being a reference site for academic research, and
only has one real shortcoming. The essay itself has no dates contained within
it; however the website has a copyright of 2011, which would suggest that the
content is fairly recent. Overall this is certainly a very credible resource
with a vast wealth of knowledge on Reagan foreign policy.
This website provides a look back on the events of the Iran-Contra affair, one
of the lower points Reagan foreign policy, and focuses largely on the officials
involved in it. The site looks at how the individuals were impacted by, or
involved in, the Iran-Contra Affair and where they are today. Such individuals
include former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Robert
Gates. The site is also interesting in that includes links to PDF documents of
the original documents that have now been declassified under the freedom of
information act. These documents include Reagan’s authorization of CIA
activities in Nicaragua, as well as various memorandums and cables between
those involved in the event. This site provides an interesting collection of
the events which transpired which the public at the time was not privy to.
This site has a reasonable amount of credibility to it, as it is a publication
of the National Security Archive through George Washington University. The
authors of the page provide contact information for further information on the
subject, and the original documents consulted to create the page are provided
within the page. Because of all these things, the source can be considered to
be highly credible even if it was published in a few years back. The fact that
this site provides access to original government documents from the Iran-Contra
affair lends greatly to its credibility as well as its usefulness. This is
definite a reliable and valuable resource to anyone wanting to learn more about
one of the darker moments in the history of Reagan’s foreign policy.
This website is an academic compilation similar to this site, but it is
specifically dedicated to the Iran-Contra affair. The site includes sections
detailing the Iranian involvement as well as the Nicaraguan involvement
throughout the affair. The site provides a wealth of information such as
timelines, documents from the event, press releases from the time, media
footage, and profiles of the individuals involved in the Iran-Contra affair.
The site also focuses not only on the initial events, but also the trials and
hearings through the World Court and within the United States government
itself. The site also shows how the affair has impacted the global political
scene through lasting effects. The site provides a wealth of knowledge
regarding Reagan’s foreign interactions, as well as how those events have
impacted modern government.
Evaluation: The first indicator of this site being a
credible one is that it is published through Brown University, which has a well
established reputation as an academic institution. The site itself and the
content within it were created by a group of students in an ethics and public
policy class called Good Government. The site has been updated as recent as
2010, meaning that the information is updated and maintained. The site provides
several sources consulted for the page including several academic and
biographical writings, as well as some original information from the era which
is made available directly on the page itself. All in all this site is an
informative and reliable resource for the Reagan administration and their
involvement in the Iran-Contra affair.
This article is a republication of an article originally written by Peter
Robinson in 2003. The article is the story of how Reagan’s famous line of “Mr.
Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” came into existence from the very speech
writer who came up with the line. This is one of the most famous highlights of
Reagan’s foreign policy career from his speech at the Berlin Wall in 1987. The
article tells the story of how the line was almost removed on several
occasions, as it might be viewed as to offensive to the Soviet Union.
Ultimately however, it was Reagan himself who approved the line despite advice
to the contrary. This article provides an interesting firsthand account of one
of Reagan’s most famous moments in the foreign policy era of his presidency.
Although the site itself appears to be not very academic in nature due to
plenty of advertisements, the content itself is what one must focus on. The
article is a publication by Peter Robinson, the speech writer who drafted
Reagan’s famous Berlin Wall speech, and is a highly credible firsthand account.
The actual website itself is sponsored by the Weider History Group, a
distributor of eleven different history oriented magazines. So, although
initial looks may be somewhat deceiving, the source as a whole can be viewed as
very credible due to it being a first-hand account by the author of the very
speech which it discusses. The various reactions to the initial draft of the
speech provide a valuable insight into the tense relations between the United
States and The Soviet Union, as well as Reagan’s approach to those relations.
This website functions as a public source of information for historical events
in the history of the Department of State. This includes the foreign policy of
past presidential administrations, such as Reagan’s involvement in the cold
war. Key aspects of Reagan’s foreign policy found on this website including the
denouement of the Cold War, Strategic Defense Initiative, The Reagan Doctrine,
and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. Each of these key
historical points is indicative of Reagan’s stance toward not only communism,
but also nuclear weaponry. Each of these key points is presented in a one page
summary, often accompanied with historical photos from the Department of State
the site is informative and concise, briefly explaining what each event is and
how it related to the foreign policy of the Reagan administration, with one or
two pictures for each event. This source is one which could be considered
reliable due to it being a publication of the Department of State. Where this
source lost points was in its citations and the recentness of the content. The
source did not do much to list sources, but retained some credibility as it
could be considered an “original” source for this kind of information as these
are all publications of Department of State archives. There was no date given
as to the most recent update, but government websites are often regularly
maintained and updated. Despite these minor shortcomings, the source was very
informative, and very credible when learning about foreign policy in the Reagan
This article is unique in that it provides an in depth look at the Reagan
Doctrine from the perspective of one reacting to it in the time which it came
to be. The article was written in 1985 shortly after Reagan’s State of the
Union Address by a political commentator for the Washington Post. It provides
insight not only into some of the ideas of the Reagan Doctrine, but also some
of the scandal surrounding it. One of these specific controversies was the
issues regarding Nicaragua and the U.S. involvement in aiding rebels to combat.
Outside of this, the essay provides reactions of the mainstream American
culture to the events. The author deems it “slightly comical” that Nicaragua
would complain to the World Court about U.S. involvement in their country. It
is this opinion and reasoning of the time that are truly valuable in this
This essay is a credible source. In short, it comes from a reliable publication
and a reliable author. Although credentials are not given in the article, a
quick Wikipedia search reveals the author, Charles Krauthammer, to be a retired
Pulitzer Prize winning political commentator from the Washington Post. Although
not many sources are given formally, it is understood that the source of the
essay is the Reagan Doctrine itself. This does lend to some ambiguity, as the
Reagan Doctrine is not a formal document, but rather the name for the strategy
and approach to foreign relations in the Reagan Administration. One might argue
that the opinions offered in the article are not fact; however the opinions and
reasoning behind such ideas are very valuable from a historical perspective
when studying the Reagan administration and their approach to foreign policy.
This article is somewhat lengthy, but sets forth with the goal of dispelling
popular myths regarding Reagan and foreign policy. The article does a good job
of providing a factual basis as for why these beliefs may be untrue, but mixes
in some opinion from the author as to the true intentions of Reagan’s actions.
Some topics include the myth that Reagan was “tough on terror” or that he
“frightened the Soviet Union into submission.” The article is somewhat unique
compared to other sources in that it also compares Reagan’s foreign policy to
that of the Bush and Obama administrations. Despite some presence of opinion,
the article is certainly filled with historical facts which are helpful to the
reader in grasping a deeper understanding of the Reagan administration and
their approach to foreign policy.
As mentioned in the summary, this article does include some opinion, but
overall it is not damaging to the credibility of the article as the opinions
are supported as academic arguments with plenty of fact. The article also
provides decent sources, stating that the article is taken from a book
published by the author entitled The
Icarus Syndrome: a History of American Hubris. The credentials are also
well outlined at the end of the article for the author. He is both a published
journalist, but also a professor in journalism and political science from City
University of New York. Due to the academic nature of the article, and the
credentials of the author, this ends up as a well put together source.
This website is not very in depth in the information which it covers, but it is
very wide in its scope regarding various points in the history of Reagan’s
foreign policy. It provides a brief summary into many past events such as the
Iran-Contra Scandal, Nicaraguan Contra and the CIA, and U.S. support of Taiwan
and the involvement with the People’s Republic of China. Each main point is
followed by a brief summary of what happened in the event and the stance of the
Reagan administration on said event. Although brief, the information does well
in conveying the purpose of the website which is to inform readers of the
stances of different administrations on key events.
Evaluation: The site
is not very elaborate in design, which can initially lead a reader to believe
that it is less credible, but it does a good job in citing the sources each individual
paragraph, and tends to avoid opinion and stick to fact. The titles of each
paragraph do tend to lead to some bias when reading the text through titles
such as “Called USSR “Evil Empire,” but signed an anti-nuke deal”. Such titles
are suggestive that the author has already taken a stance on the issue before
the reader has had a chance to read the facts. The site is very good about
listing when information was originally posted, and the date of the most recent
update. This attention to detail lends greatly to the credibility of the source
The website focused largely on three main highlights of Reagan’s presidency in
terms of foreign affairs, these being communism, nuclear weapons, and
terrorism. The website discusses Nixon’s rigid stance against communism,
especially against Soviet Russia. This rigid stance was somewhat compromised
however, when it came to an issue which Reagan was very passionate about,
nuclear weapons. The site also discusses the issues surrounding U.S. government
funding of various militia groups attempting to fight off communism in their
native countries. All in all, the site provided a good summary of the
highlights of Reagan’s foreign interactions, one of the key aspects of this
history being Reagan’s treaties with Gorbachev regarding the limitations on
nuclear weapons in the world powers.
The site carries a lot of weight in the credibility department based largely on
the fact that it is published by PBS, an organization known for educational
television media. Because of this, the content comes across as largely
trustworthy. In terms of academia however, the site comes short in crediting
the author and citing sources. After following a few links, it is possible to
discover that the information is taken from a previous PBS television
production, and posted to the internet in the form of the article. The site
lists various speeches and interviews conducted with Reagan as sources in
another location. Unfortunately no author could be located for the article. The
material is also somewhat old, being from the early 90’s however, the
information is consistent with other sources, and does not appear to need