The Reagan Doctrine: Sources of American Conduct in the Cold War's Last Chapter

The Reagan Doctrine: Sources of American Conduct in the Cold War's Last Chapter

The Reagan Doctrine: Sources of American Conduct in the Cold War's Last Chapter

The Reagan Doctrine: Sources of American Conduct in the Cold War's Last Chapter

Synopsis

Doctrines have been a prevalent form of foreign policy in U.S. history. This study seeks to explain their origins by examining the Reagan Doctrine, pledging aid to anticommunist guerillas in the Third World. Based on original research and interviews with numerous individuals in the Reagan administration, the author applies two alternative explanations: "realist" theory, focusing on the international level of analysis, and "elite beliefs" theory, focusing on individual political leaders and their beliefs. What he finds is that while each perspective is necessary to explain the Reagan Doctrine, neither is sufficient by itself.

Excerpt

The Reagan Doctrine refers to the broad policy adopted by the Reagan Administration for dealing with regional conflicts involving the Soviet Union in the Third World. In particular, the administration announced a policy of supporting guerrilla movements in Third World countries governed by Soviet-sponsored regimes. Assistance to the anti-communist resistance forces would serve to destabilize pro-Soviet regimes in the process of consolidating totalitarian control over their societies. Dubbed the "Reagan Doctrine" by administration outsiders such as publicist Charles Krauthammer, and insiders such as U. N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, the policy was implemented in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, and Cambodia under varying circumstances. The policy was a revision of the containment doctrine, both extending it and scaling it back. It proposed more than containment by fixing upon nations that had recently become Soviet clients in the bipolar world, with the purpose of making these allies costly assets to the USSR. It proposed less than containment in proscribing direct placement of American troops in these regional conflicts, relying instead on indigenous proxies to "do the dirty work."

The Reagan Doctrine was a moralistic declaratory statement of policy for a group of similar situations, a foreign-aid doctrine based on values and institutions the American state sought to promote abroad, and a strategy for a new phase and dimension of the Cold War competition with the other superpower. Although possibly not the central international program of the administration, like SDI, the Reagan Doctrine was one of the signature policies of the Reagan foreign policy.

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