The American Search for Mideast Peace

By Dan Tschirgi | Go to book overview
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4
ABANDONMENT OF AN OBJECTIVE: RONALD REAGAN, 1981-1988

This is America's moment in the Middle East. Alexander Haig

Ronald Reagan's election to the presidency in November 1980 came packaged as a resounding victory. Allowing Carter to carry only six states, Reagan won 489 Electoral College votes to the incumbent's 49. By the time it was over, Reagan outdistanced Carter in the popular vote by a margin of over eight million votes. Carter conceded even before the polls closed on the West Coast.

On entering the White House, Reagan gave priority to reviving the U.S. economy. He did not, however, neglect international affairs. Arguing that Soviet expansionism posed an increasing threat in the global arena, the new president promised to contest and defeat the Soviet Union for international influence.

The formula made for exciting rhetoric. But to many who had closely followed Reagan's campaign statements in the months before the election, his approach to international affairs failed to delineate clear policy guidelines for dealing with myriad specific issues. Some saw this as particularly true in regard to the Middle East. New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis put it this way:

A large unknown in the foreign policy outlook of President-elect Reagan is his view of the Middle East. Except for a few campaign simplicities, he has said little about how he would approach the Arab-Israeli conflict or handle . . . the area. 1

Lewis was wrong. Candidate Reagan had made known his foreign policy outlook on the Middle East. Those who thought otherwise did so

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