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St. Ronald the Magnificent and Diplomacy

I’ve written many times about how Republicans have invented a fictional Ronald Reagan, St. Ronald the Magnificent, and projected upon him every view they currently hold. Peter Beinart offers another example of how the real Reagan differs from St. Ronald and relates it to the current criticism of Obama for negotiating with Iran and Syria.

If Obama cuts a deal with Iran that requires any American compromise at all, “Reaganites” will label him an appeaser hoodwinked by an Iranian regime that hasn’t really changed at all. As usual, Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the way, having already called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

But the same “Reaganites” who will bash Obama for compromising with Rouhani once bashed Reagan for compromising with Gorbachev. As late as December 1987, Charles Krauthammer was writing that “the fundamental misconception about Gorbachev is that he has somehow broken the ideological mold.” Until virtually the day the Soviet empire collapsed, Rep. Dick Cheney was calling glasnost a fraud. In 1988 George Will accused Reagan of having “accelerated the moral disarmament of the West … by elevating wishful thinking [about Gorbachev] to the status of public policy.” When Reagan brought the intermediate missiles deal to Congress for ratification, a right-wing group called the Anti-Appeasement Alliance took out newspaper ads comparing Reagan to Neville Chamberlain.

Yes, those political struggles were easier for Reagan because he hailed from the political right. But that wasn’t the only reason he triumphed over the “Reaganites” who now take his name in vain. He triumphed because he had the moral imagination to envisage a relationship beyond confrontation and war. Musing in late 1987 about the opponents of his nuclear deal, Reagan declared that “some of the people who are objecting the most … whether they realize it or not, those people basically down in their deepest thoughts have accepted that war is inevitable.” Because Reagan refused to accept what others considered inevitable, he achieved one of the greatest successes in the history of American foreign policy. Now it’s Obama’s turn to imagine a future that his critics cannot and to have the guts to make it real.

When it comes to foreign policy, the neo-conservatives (as opposed to paleo-conservatives, who tend to be isolationist — not all conservatives think alike) are almost like young gang members who think that the only possible pose one can take is to be hard and tough and always on the verge of violence. Any attempt at diplomacy whatsoever is viewed as weakness or appeasement. Intelligence and thoughtfulness are anathema; only belligerence and “resolve” matter. There is no room for pragmatism or for understanding what kind of domestic pressures an opponent may be under. The enemy is not a human being, for all practical purposes, they are an abstract evil thing that can only be vanquished, not reasoned with. That is their pose, now and forever. And that pose is very attractive to simple-minded hyper-patriots, which is largely what their base is made up of — mostly men who suffer from an excess of pseudo-machismo who think that acting like a tough guy is a rational foreign policy.

Comments

  1. says

    Trebuchet “Reagan, of course, also illegally provided weapons to Iran.”
    Sure, but sometimes you have to go around Congress to make the mistakes that normally Congress does of its own volition. So there!
    Besides, how else are you gonna fund the Contras? Raising taxes? Pah! Typical Democrat!

  2. abb3w says

    @0, Ed Brayton:

    the neo-conservatives (as opposed to paleo-conservatives, who tend to be isolationist — not all conservatives think alike)

    I find the terms “Jingocon” and “Xenocon” more evocative.

    @0, Ed Brayton:

    And that pose is very attractive to simple-minded hyper-patriots, which is largely what their base is made up of — mostly men who suffer from an excess of pseudo-machismo who think that acting like a tough guy is a rational foreign policy.

    Jingocons seem to tend to exhbit behaviors I’d expect to come from the highest of the high-RWA/highSDO types.

    Cue another pointer to the research of Altemeyer and Sidanius….

  3. karmacat says

    These neocons are also short-sighted. They don’t think about what happends after they have attacked a country. The military is often reluctant to bomb countries because they know all the complications that come after.

  4. colnago80 says

    As usual, Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the way, having already called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

    As usual, Beinart the JINO ignores the fact that it makes not a jot or a tittle of difference whether Rouhani is sincere or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s just a figurehead who has no authority to agree to anything. It’s the Ayatollah Khamenei who calls the shots and who makes the decisions.

  5. Michael Heath says

    Trebuchet writes:

    Reagan, of course, also illegally provided weapons to Iran.

    A red herring to get the tribe to avoid dealing with the president so many zealous liberals are incapable of conceding enjoyed some big success.

    What’s particularly lame about this one is how trivial this issue was relative to the importance of the Cold War.

  6. Michael Heath says

    I regret my prior post. I not only misread what Trebuchet meant to convey, but also revealed by own zeal in taking down liberals who can’t concede the historical facts regarding the Reagan Administration led to a major reading comprehension fail of Trebuchet’s post, who makes a solid worthy point. So in this case, zeal that’s defectively over-eager.

  7. colnago80 says

    Re Trebuchet @ #1

    And Ronnie the rat also used the proceeds from the sale of missiles to Iran to illegally fund the Contras in Nicaragua, for which he should have gone to the slammer.

  8. Michael Heath says

    colnago80 writes:

    And Ronnie the rat also used the proceeds from the sale of missiles to Iran to illegally fund the Contras in Nicaragua, for which he should have gone to the slammer.

    There’s zero evidence, let alone any compelling evidence, that President Reagan was aware of the indictable aspects of the Iran-Contra scandal. In addition, we can easily find indictable actions by nearly all presidents where we do have convincing evidence, and they get off scot free. E.g., President Obama’s refusal to prosecute Bush’s administration of torture, which is in direct violation to international law treaties President Reagan signed.

    So if you’re going to argue someone should be jail, at least make the case with evidence while also apply the very same standards consistently to those inside your own tribe. Otherwise your making arguments equivalent to Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck.

  9. colnago80 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #11

    Ah, the same old excuse, Ronnie the rat didn’t know what Ollie North was doing. If MH really believes that, I have a nice bridge over the Potomac I’d like to sell him. What naivete.

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