Foreign Policy of President Reagan Research Paper

  • Length: 16 pages
  • Sources: 16
  • Subject: Political Science
  • Type: Research Paper
  • Paper: #83090795

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Foreign Policy of President Reagan

Before the disastrous Vietnam War, the U.S. held an undisputed dominant position worldwide, recognized locally as well as by other nations. The nation's historic actions towards defending freedom, by restraining the fascist faction during the Second World War, followed by organizing a large free-state coalition for combating communism, were supported by profound and sweeping domestic consensus. This consensus was destroyed by America's decision to wage war on Vietnam. Despite the rationale being the protection of free peoples battling communism, the Vietnam War resulted in caustic doubt and destabilizing discord among Americans. This suspicion and discord incited and guided by people opposed to the war, rather than the enemy's weaponry and zeal, explains America's failure, above every other factor. The U.S. had to battle internal resistance more than resistance from the Vietnamese adversary, and resulted in a self-inflicted defeat (Brenes 2015; LARISON 2013). Extremely serious repercussions of defeat were witnessed, with the most damaging one being Americans' view of their own nation. In fact, in the dominant stance adopted of America's failure, one can find the main reason for the resultant decline in the nation's global position and power. A ubiquitous cynicism arose, with regard to how effective America's power is, as well as of how to exercise of that power. Furthermore, in instances where American power's effectiveness was not questioned, its legality was. The outcome of this distrust and suspicion surfaced clearly during the seventies, when America's status became more tenuous than ever, since the Second World War.

The above discussion explicitly outlines Ronald Reagan's standpoint with respect to the Vietnam War and its repercussions, prior to being elected to the post of President. Reagan's pronouncement, during his presidential in 1980 campaign reflects his perspective, that Vietnam was a "noble" cause. This denotes a faithful representation of a widely, steadily, and long held belief. One can find no cause to doubt the significance of the Vietnam War for President Reagan, in the same way, as one can find no cause to doubt his belief that the United States' position and power would continually erode until it gets over what was labeled the "Vietnam syndrome." This is because, that syndrome rendered the restitution of consensus in the American society imperative to the reaffirmation of America's power impossible (Tucker 1989). This was seemingly proven by the foreign policy enacted by the three U.S. successive governments of the seventies. All three policies represented efforts to formulate and implement a foreign policy preserving national interests, whilst simultaneously ensuring this was done within the tight limits Vietnam imposed, by some means. The above attempts borne out of necessity led largely to failure.

Consequently, the foremost issue to tackle was that pertaining to the U.S. public view. When he assumed the presidential role, Ronald Reagan gave precedence to the necessity of renewed faith in, and a revamped vision of America and the role it played in world politics and peace, above every other priority, even that of rearming. There was an urgent need for restoration of America and its citizens' confidence and pride, an impossible goal to attain as long as citizens' consciousness was dominated by the prevalent view of the disaster at Vietnam. Beyond this, the nation had to achieve a revival of the economy, which derived strength from rededicating to free market principles (Podhoretx 1985). Lastly, the crucial activity of rearming would have to be carried out on this kind of refurbished economic foundation. The lofty foreign policy goals for whose attainment the nation sought a reconstructed domestic foundation appeared sufficiently clear. The Reagan government's foreign policy was geared towards checking and even reversing the deterioration of USA's status and role in the world; restoring American power's credibility and the legitimacy of exercising this power abroad; curbing the steady growth of the Soviet Union's influence which was apparent during the 70s, and, if possible, with time, even putting the Soviet government on the defensive.

Did this mean the U.S. government was aiming to revert to the foreign policy implemented in the years prior to the Vietnam "disaster," which had resulted in the intervention? The 40th President of the United States did not provide any explicit answer to the above question. Nevertheless, in many ways, the global containment rationale seemed to be that of Reagan's position too. The support of a reviving United States that was devoted to opposing the Soviet growth as well as the overall dominance of communist powers indicated a position impossible to tell apart from a global containment stance. Initially, however, Reagan could leave the subject in abeyance. President Reagan began the restoration on a domestic level. With the benefit of hindsight, the world is now able to recognize the fact that, beyond the aforementioned general goals, there was another, greater objective inherent in the ideas Ronald Reagan brought to the presidential office. This objective was nothing but a transformation of the key conditions that describe America's security during the era after the war (Gelb and Lake 1985; Smith 1988). A condition among the abovementioned key conditions sprang from the Soviet acquisition of strategic nuclear missile power, which could strike down America. Another condition ensued from the Soviet's increased capacity of global intervention.

The U.S. government responded to the former condition through mutual deterrence. Officially sanctioned in the course of the strategic U.S.-Soviet arms agreements of 1972, mutual deterrence implied that America was, as of this moment, literally a captive of Soviet intentions and power, in the same way as the latter was a captive of the former's intentions and power. No event since the Second World War II was as significant as the above development. The phenomenon of mutual deterrence signified a drastic transformation in America's security. It represented a fresh and important limitation on the extent of America's earlier freedom to act. It also tied the U.S.'s fate to that of its biggest rival, in an unprecedented way. Lastly, it appreciably exacerbated the nation's strategic standing, which was largely reliant on the reliability of the security it offered to its chief allies (Smith 1988).

Reagan voiced his opposition to the concept of mutual deterrence on several occasions during the seventies. His perspective was largely comparable to those commonly considered as right-wing politicians. For several years, right-wing politicians have voiced doubts with regard to mutual deterrence, disagreeing with it for strategic, political, and moral reasons. This opposition was only reinforced with intervening developments and time. At the time of Reagan's Presidential campaign victory, these political, technological, and strategic developments seemed to make the criticism much stronger. Technological developments played a particularly significant role in this regard (Anderson 1990). Right from the beginning, Reagan's government hinted that it would, in no way, surrender itself to a mutual-deterrence-associated fate. However, there was no clear indication on how the government would fight this predicament.

Also, it was also not clear how Reagan's government would endeavor to tackle the second condition defining U.S. security. The development of Russian international intervention capacity was considered by several parties as a major counter to the initial promise of the containment policy. The right-wing, of course, believed the policy never really showed any promise. It was, at its best, perceived to be overly defensive and incapable of holding out the firm prospect of satisfactorily ending the major conflict. At its worst, the policy was perceived to be merely defeatist. President Reagan repeatedly raised both arguments, especially of a containment policy that, when applied, would be anything short of global (Armstrong and Grier 1986).

The record of Reagan's coercive diplomacy

It is imperative to commence reading this section bearing two considerations in mind. Firstly, case synopses put forward in this section simply summarize the facts and should not be regarded by readers as detailed analyses -- comparative case studies are characterized by an inevitable trade-off between generality and detail. Secondly, the evaluations of failure and success are performed with knowledge of the issues of net assessment as well as attribution. An attempt has been made to consider the societal, economic, and political costs incurred, irrespective of whether policy goals have been accomplished. That American policy can never be the sole force operating in any given scenario, and hence, must not be over-accused for failure or over-lauded for success, has also been taken into account (Smith 1988).


The Afghan case may be cited as the ideal example of coercive diplomacy's success in restraining foreign policy. Indeed, from a historical standpoint, the Soviet's concessions during the Geneva Accords of April 1988 were an unparalleled policy reversal and not a mere foreign policy check. For the first time in history, the Russian National Military Forces retraced its steps and pulled out of a nation it had occupied. Furthermore, this was done on barely favorable terms. The troop withdrawal duration was front-loaded as well as shortened. The Russians forfeited symmetry to America, enabling U.S. troops to help the mujahidin, so long as the Soviets continued aiding the Kabul government. Further, they did not accrue any guarantees with…

Sources Used in Document:


Anderson, Martin. 1990. Revolution: The Reagan Legacy, Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Armstrong, Scott and Peter Grier. 1986. Strategic Defense Initiative: Splendid Defense or Pipe Dream, New York: Foreign Policy Association.

Arquilla, John. 2006. The Reagan Imprint: Ideas in American Foreign Policy from the Collapse of Communism to the War on Terror, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee.

Baucom, Donald R. 1992. The Origins of SDI, 1944-1983, Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas.

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