The problem with Mike Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article, as some have pointed out, is fourfold: the timing was terrible, since Iraq is quieting down, Europe is growing closer to the U.S., and the Bush administration is now as multilateral as they come; two, like it or not, the critique came right out of the left-wing playbook, the code word “arrogant” giving away the game;three, while the triangulation may be of some value with independents in the general election, in the primary such rhetoric only alienates a base that so far is not all that unhappy with current Bush U.S. foreign policy; four, recent allied efforts remind us of problems, not solutions.
Britain’s pull out of Basra, or its past handing over territory to the Taliban and warlords in Afghanistan, or its caving-in to Iran on the hostage sailors were no model. Nor is the undermanned Nato participation in Afghanistan, much less the U.N. in general.
A final point. It is very tiring to hear of Ronald Reagan as deity, especially in foreign policy. Pat Buchanan was doing that again this weekend, praising Reagan’s reaching out and dialogue even with adversaries in comparison to the supposed arrogance of the current administration. Reagan as godhead / Bush as unmentionable is a tired staple of the campaign and does no service to the memory of Reagan.
He was a flesh and bone real leader with real controversies surrounding his often “unilateral” decisions. Reagan unilaterally invaded Grenada, to the chagrin of Margaret Thatcher and the embarrassment of her FM Howe who had been assured we weren’t going in; Reagan’s advisors initially tried to triangulate on the Falklands in deference to a dictatorship in Argentina; we went in and out of Lebanon in embarrassing fashion; shelling a few villages in the Bekka Valley and on/off again planned air strikes only emboldened Hezbollah; that administration often used unilateral, tough rhetoric, whether with “the evil empire” line (the godfather of the “axis of evil”) or the quip “We start bombing in five minutes,” or the famous and necessary “Tear down this wall” or the “ash heap of history.” Our allies were furious with Reagan’s unilateral preemptive bombing of Libya. The selling of arms for hostages with a criminal Iran, and its cover-up, were a lasting disgrace. And so on.
I, like many, think the Reagan foreign policy was an astounding success and deserves credit for much of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it does his memory no service to airbrush his gaffes and crises in the fabrication of some golden age that never was.