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Tuesday, March 18, 2014


The Eighties Called: Do We Want Their Foreign Policy Back?

What did Reagan do?

Putin is reviving the Brezhnev Doctrine, in which the Soviet Union declared that it could invade any country that tried to escape its domination. The Brezhnev Doctrine was summed up as “once you go Communist, you never go back.” Putin’s version is a bit cruder. The Putin Doctrine is: once you become a kleptocratic dictatorship subservient to Moscow, you never go back.

So what do we do? How can we roll back Soviet—er, Russian—aggression?

The 1980s are calling. They want to know if we want their foreign policy back.

Why should we look to the 1980s? Because that was the decade when we broke the Brezhnev Doctrine. By the end of the 80s, as Eastern European countries began to throw off the Communist yoke, the Brezhnev Doctrine yielded to the Sinatra Doctrine: Russia would let the countries of Eastern Europe do it their way.

What lessons can we learn for a new age of Russian imperialism?

First, when the aggression comes, it’s too late. President Reagan was mortified, when the Soviets demanded a crackdown on the Solidarity movement in 1981, that there was so little America could do about it, given the decline of our military power in the backlash against the Vietnam War. Barack Obama finds himself in in the same situation, given the decline of American military power that he has presided over in the backlash against the Iraq War.

But Reagan found plenty to do in Poland without using our military power. We imposed sanctions against the Polish regime and the Soviet Union, and throughout the 80s we gave Solidarity everything from moral support, to money, equipment, and training.

What's Obama doing? Cutting the defense budget and the army to pre-World War 2 levels.

Robert Tracinski notes that Reagan took a number of steps, none of them having to do with community organizing.

Please note, as a lesson to anti-interventionists on both the left and the right, that all of these actions were indirect and comparatively small in scale. This is the real truth of “peace through strength”: the stronger and more vigorous our policy, the less we actually have to do.

In fact, the biggest direct military intervention of the Reagan era was a US invasion of the tiny island of Grenada. This action was small but important, putting a quick end to Cuba’s attempt to militarize the Caribbean.

If we don't act fast, the 1970s will be calling.

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