Throughout this DIM narrative, my primary focus has been on the major foreign policy statements or “doctrines” of the presidents, which in my judgment are representative of their mode of foreign policy thinking and essential to their coordinate impact on the history of American foreign relations.
This study — if it can be called a “study,” since it is not nearly as penetrating as the research for a book on the subject would be — is limited further in its significance by the fact that it is entirely “longitudinal,” if I may introduce yet another neologism into the thesis. In other words, it is a highly delimited “length-wise” cut through the history of a single aspect of government (foreign policy). It does not propose to analyze the mode of any particular president as such. That kind of broad analysis across the breadth of a particular individual’s coordinates in history (which for a president, as a coordinate actor would include social policy and economic regulation, constitutional stance and relationship to the supreme court, conduct during elections and while in office, cabinet member selection and integration thereof, etc.) would be “latitudinal,” if you get my meaning. I do believe that the mode I’ve uncovered for each of the presidents’ foreign policy doctrines is actually representative of their personal mode, which the exception of the fact that based on everything I know about them, I would guess that the Ms — Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, and Johnson — are probably M and D mixtures (as suggested recently by “Steve D” in the blog comments) though not M-D mixed mode thinkers, as discussed in my last post on the subject.
(The concept of a “mixture” is very important, because it indicates the primacy of “D” in the thinker in question. Only a D can “mix,” without integrating. In a sense, this virtually guarantees that all the presidents in question are D1 thinkers overall.)
Reagan is the same way. Unlike Nixon and Kissinger and probably Ford (who are the exception up to this point as being strongly D, without significant M admixture) Reagan was a genuinely idealistic and ideological figure that appealed to Americans on that basis, not merely because of his charisma and charm, but because he expressed a version of Americanism that resonated with their own and invited them to implement it in a new way.
Reagan appealed to the capitalist or free market element of Americanism with his “Reaganomics,” and to the conservatism of his Republican faction with his “War on Drugs,” and to the Truman-Doctrine M thinkers in foreign policy, with his declaration of the Soviet Union being an “evil empire.” This is probably a mixture of M and D, with D dominating overall.
With regard to foreign policy, Reagan is remembered for re-escalating the Cold War. After it was initiated by Truman and set up as an M conflict between “good” and “evil,” it was dis-integrated somewhat by Nixinger, who turned it into a board game and activated China and Latin America as moving pieces. A widely admired feature of this dis-integration was the essentially meaningless arms limitation treaties of the “détente” period, which D appeasement can be linked to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was met by more (this time M2) appeasement by Carter. By 1980, Americans had had enough of this anti-American conduct. They wanted a president who would proudly stand up for America. Reagan was the best option on offer.
Reagan’s re-escalation of the Cold War, called the “Reagan Doctrine,” was designed to provide overt and covert aid to anti-communists world-wide, essentially: to re-misintegrate the Cold War!
So here we are moving along the M-D axis of thought.
Bush had his “axis of evil.” This one is mine.
I know many people view Reagan highly. I do not.
Reagan is a strange case, because, in relation to what I discussed last time, his coordinate impact is quite high. Compared to Jimmy Carter, he is a significantly superior president. Thus, relative to the alternatives at the time, he represents a decent “rear guard” president, in defense of Americanism. Despite my positive assessment of him in this sense, I do not rate Reagan highly in absolute terms as a president. What can you do? There isn’t one that I do rate highly in that sense after Lincoln.
All one should need to falsify any positive view of Reagan in foreign policy terms is the following picture of ragheads in the most sacred chamber in the history of world governance.
This is sacrilege–if the word has any meaning
The Japanese have an interesting notion about “spiritual pollution” that applies to this sort of gathering. If Reagan had understood just how awful what he was doing was, he would have committed seppuku or shaved his head and lived out his days in a Buddhist monastery.
In light of the events of 9-11 and the subsequent “war on terror,” and the profound degradation of freedom that has come as a result, the essential roots of which are to be found in the Reagan Oval Office, Reagan comes close to being an unforgivably awful president.
(If I was more of a masochist, I would run a “worst picture in American foreign policy” contest. We would line up Kissinger and Mao shaking hands, FDR and the Saudi kind laughing it up, Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, and a few others…but I don’t think any of them can beat this one.)
Reagan’s naivete about the Afghans verges on the non-modal, it is so pitiful. “To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom,” he said. In what universe?! The world of the forms, I can only suppose, where Afghan “freedom fighters” are nominally grouped under the higher logical “form” of “freedom fighters” in general, thus completing an ineluctable Platonic connection of no actual worldly reference.
The people seated with Reagan in the Oval Office has no understanding whatsoever of freedom. They viewed America as evil–and Reagan as a “devil.” They only wanted American weapons to murder Soviets. By empowering them, Reagan re-booted the M Cold War, but proactively using a Nixon style “Afghanization,” having “learned” from Vietnam. He thereby significantly contributed to the rise of America’s next great enemy.
Because of his D-M mixture (or possibly mixed-mode) he couldn’t see it.
“We must not break faith with those who are risking their lives…on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua… to defy Soviet aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth. Support for freedom fighters is self-defense.”
This is a classic M1 mis-integration. The basis of Reagan’s support for the Afghans was the common denominator of “anti-communism” and a link to this-worldly “self-defense.” While this might be a valid basis for a alliance (a foreign policy integration) with a country like Britain, it was not with Afghanistan, a hole in the ground if there ever was one, where no fundamental American interest could ever be supposed to exist–especially while the situation with Iran remained unresolved, which as a culturally dominant anti-American neighbor, would exercise great influence over the Afghan outcome.
Just a little understanding of the history of Afghanistan should have been sufficient to see this. Dubbed the “highway of conquest” by one historian, Afghanistan has been nothing but a graveyard for aggressive empires for its entire thousands-year-long history. Soviet resources were being drained and their morale significantly undermined by their attempt to control it. In light of this it might have been proper to send the Afghans weapons. But it was never proper to claim that they were “freedom fighters” or that the basis for supplying them with weapons was any commensurability with Americans’ love of freedom. This mis-integration is what has led to American soldiers lives being egregiously wasted there. While Islam and tribalism dominate Afghan culture–which America has now assured will be the case for still longer–Afghanistan will continue to be among the most anti-human wastelands in all the world.
Reagan’s coordinate good fortune was to be president when the Soviet Union was collapsing under the weight of its impossible attempt to keep up with the US, and when Gorbachev happened to be in the coordinate role of communist dis-integrator. This luck is not Reagan’s virtue. If anything, Bill Gates deserves the credit. The guns or butter problem became impossible for the Russians, once the computer revolution took hold. Thank you, Bill.
To my mind, Reagan is a good example of how Republicans have almost always been more damaging overall to America than Democrats.
When M2 or M-D dictatorship comes to America, it will almost certainly be at the hands of the Republicans, or some faction within the Republican M-D axis of thought.
[I’ll be traveling and sorting out a lot of personal and business challenges over the next couple weeks, with the the start of the new HistoryAtOurHouse school year, and the launch of the inaugural LiteratureAtOurHouse program, joining Music and Science in the LearningAtOurHouse suite of products. So this will be my last post on this theme for a while. I’ll be back.]