Ronnie Turns One Hundred

February 4, 2011 Topic: The Presidency

Ronnie Turns One Hundred

A distorted Reagan legacy is all the vogue these days.  But the Gipper was never a neocon. 

Realists were correct to respect the enduring role of power in creating the conditions for American safety. During the 1980s, they did yeoman’s work. They ensured that the NATO alliance gained greater cohesion, deepened the American relationship with a Soviet-wary China, ensured that the Middle East was free from hostile domination, and rebuilt America’s global military capabilities. They also supported anti-communist insurgencies to keep Moscow off balance. Surely it was easier to trust the Soviet Union at the negotiation table when one felt safer. Reagan hinted at as much when he walked away from a strategic arms reduction deal at Reykjavik that would have hobbled his vision for enhanced safety—the Strategic Defense Initiative. Even so, it was Reagan’s focus on freedom that gave purpose to the practical aspects of power politics.

Reagan could not have achieved what he did without the application of both precepts. But it is time that the balance between the two is righted. Today, the United States is embroiled in conflicts across the Eurasian continent. It must grapple with militant Islamic groups around the world. It must deal with a rising China—vacillating between peaceful and irredentist—as well as the growing prominence of India and Brazil, while Russia with its nuclear arsenal remains ever present. The challenges are formidable and America needs to regain its footing. But as Reagan would no doubt agree, no situation is beyond rescue in a free society. It will be morning again.


[1] Ronald Reagan, Address to the British Parliament, London, June 8, 1982.