Last week, after Barack Obama announced that he would reduce, not eliminate, George W. Bush’s non-functional missile defense system in eastern Europe, Senator James Inhofe stood up to express his outrage. He quoted Ronald Reagan, saying,
“Since the dawn of the Atomic Age, we have sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. Deterrence: Making sure the adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won’t attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.”
Is it still the Atomic Age, and if so, is that something we’re proud of?
Ronald Reagan’s reasoning presumes that the Soviet Union was actually planning to attack the United States. Some in the Soviet Union may have drawn up such plans, but we now know that the Soviets were never capable of going toe to toe against the United States militarily. They were too weak, right from the start, and the Soviets ran their nation into the ground because they couldn’t let go of their military bluster.
The Soviets became weaker, and weaker, because they accepted Reagan’s idea, and presumed that the United States would attack unless the Soviet Union appeared to be strong. Saddam Hussein made the same mistake, creating a show of dangerous military power in the thought that such a display would protect him from attack. This strategy didn’t work for them. Why would it work for us here in the United States?
Of course, the Soviets did have nuclear weapons, and that made them dangerous. They only had those weapons, however, because the United States of America had invented nuclear weapons in the first place. The Soviets stole the technology from us.
We’re still paying down the huge debts that Ronald Reagan created with his unprecedented military spending – all for a conflict that the Soviets never could have won anyway. Reagan’s reasoning, that a show of restraint is never permissible, led to the first Gulf War and American bases in Saudi Arabia, which in turn provoked Al Quaeda to attack on September 11, 2001.
The American show of strength didn’t stop an attack. Instead, it seems to have encouraged it. Am I wrong? Does Ronald Reagan’s idea that antagonizing those around you with displays of aggression makes you safer? Is that how you act with the people in your neighborhood?