Obama, a disciple of Reagan’s foreign policy

An antidote to conservatives’ faux history:  “Think Again: Ronald Reagan“, Peter Beinart, Foreign Policy, July /August 2010 — “The Gipper wasn’t the warhound his conservative followers would have you think.”  I recommend reading this in full.  Some excerpts follow, sketching out the real story. 

“Ronald Reagan Was the Ultimate Hawk.”

These days, virtually every time someone on the American right bashes President Barack Obama for kowtowing to dictators or failing to shout that we’re at war, they light a votive candle to Ronald Reagan. Former presidential candidate John McCain has called his own foreign-policy views “a 21st-century policy interpretation of the Reagan Doctrine.” His running mate Sarah Palin invokes the Gipper so frequently that some now speculate that she might launch her 2012 presidential bid in his hometown. As Dick Cheney put it a few years back, speaking for his fellow conservatives, “We are all Reaganites now.”

No, actually, you’re not. Today’s conservatives have conjured a mythic Reagan who never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight. But the real Reagan did both those things, often. In fact, they were a big part of his success. …

Reagan Banished the Vietnam Syndrome.”

Yes, but not how you think. Reagan’s political genius lay in recognizing that what Americans wanted was a president who exorcised the ghost of the Vietnam War without fighting another Vietnam. Although Americans enjoyed Reagan’s thunderous denunciations of Central American communism, 75 percent of them, according to a 1985 Louis Harris survey, opposed invading Nicaragua. A 1983 ABC poll found that Americans opposed sending troops to El Salvador by almost 6-to-1, even if that meant letting the communists win.

So Reagan created Potemkin Vietnams. His biographer Lou Cannon calls him “shameless” in using Grenada to revive America’s Vietnam-wounded pride. The war resulted in more medals per soldier than any military operation in U.S. history. …

Reagan Frightened the Soviet Union into Submission.”

Hardly. … The problem with this story is that Reagan began abandoning his hard-line anti-Soviet stance in late 1983, 18 months before Gorbachev took power. … When they did meet in Geneva, in November {1985}, Reagan whispered to Gorbachev, “I bet the hard-liners in both our countries are bleeding when we shake hands.” …

“Conservatives Loved Reagan.” 

Not always. …

“Reagan Was Tough on Terror.” 

Wrong Again. George W. Bush’s administration endlessly compared its battle against jihadi terrorism to Reagan’s battle against Soviet communism. But the irony is that in Reagan’s own “war on terror,” his policies more closely resembled Obama’s than Bush’s. …

“George W. Bush Was a Reaganite.” 

Yes and no. …

“George W. Bush Was a Reaganite.” 

Yes and no. …

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