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date: 17 January 2019

US Foreign Policy in the Reagan Presidency

Summary and Keywords

Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy legacy remains hotly contested, and as new archival sources come to light, those debates are more likely to intensify than to recede into the background. In dealings with the Soviet Union, the Reagan administration set the superpowers on a course for the (largely) peaceful end of the Cold War. Reagan began his outreach to Soviet leaders almost immediately after taking office and enjoyed some success, even if the dominant theme of the period remains fears of Reagan as a “button-pusher” in the public’s perception. Mikhail Gorbachev’s election to the post of General Secretary proved the turning point. Reagan, now confident in US strength, and Gorbachev, keen to reduce the financial burden of the arms race, ushered in a new, cooperative phase of the Cold War. Elsewhere, in particular Latin America, the administration’s focus on fighting communism led it to support human rights–abusing regimes at the same time as it lambasted Moscow’s transgressions in that regard. But even so, over the course of the 1980s, the United States began pushing for democratization around the world, even where Reagan and his advisors had initially resisted it, fearing a communist takeover. In part, this was a result of public pressure, but the White House recognized and came to support the rising tide of democratization. When Reagan left office, a great many countries that had been authoritarian were no longer, often at least in part because of US policy. US–Soviet relations had improved to such an extent that Reagan’s successor, Vice President George H. W. Bush, worried that they had gone too far in working with Gorbachev and been hoodwinked.

Keywords: Reagan, Gorbachev, Soviet Union, Latin America, détente, authoritarianism, human rights, nuclear weapons

Making Foreign Policy

Ronald Reagan associated himself with optimism and renewal for the United States of the 1980s; under his presidency it was, as his famous 1984 campaign television advertisement put it, “morning in America again.” The preceding decade, by implication, had been a dark one. The 1970s had been a turbulent decade for the United States, during which the country was beset by what Reagan’s predecessor, Jimmy Carter, termed “a crisis of confidence . . . that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.”1

At home, the poor performance of the US economy led to a profound sense of insecurity. The post–World War II boom had ended. Productivity and wages declined while unemployment and inflation skyrocketed. Richard Nixon’s decision to float the US dollar, abandoning the Bretton Woods system, caused its value to plummet. An oil embargo by the Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries exacerbated these problems, driving up the price of oil some 1,000 percent and along with it wait times for gas at stations across the country, in what became one of the quintessential images of life in the 1970s.2 The perceived Pax Americana of earlier decades gave way to a new, disordered world.3 The policy of détente, which promised a safer phase of competition between the superpowers, seemed to have only emboldened the Soviet Union. In Angola, Cuban and Soviet troops joined the postcolonial civil war on the side of the communist Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola, critics alleged that the 1975 Helsinki Final Act officially recognized the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and Moscow invaded Afghanistan in late 1979.4 Under Carter, US–Soviet relations ended up on a more confrontational course, with, for example, the White House heavily sanctioning the Soviet Union in retaliation for the war in Afghanistan.5 Indeed, to many Soviet foreign policymakers, Reagan appeared much more interested in negotiation and compromise with the Soviet Union than his predecessor.6

Reagan had become a firm anti-communist as a Hollywood actor and union leader. For him, the efforts of communists at home to take over unions such as the Screen Actors Guild (of which Reagan had served as president) mirrored the march of global communism. Both had to be resisted.7 “For too long,” Reagan told an audience at the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the United States had “lived with the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’,” cowed into an unwillingness to engage with the world (especially militarily) by guilt and doubt after the Vietnam War.8 He promised that a Reagan presidency would be the cure, and, against a turbulent international backdrop, with US foreign policy seemingly adrift, voters chose Reagan to lead the United States into the 1980s.

US allies did not universally welcome the election of a president who seemed such a hard-liner, even if they largely agreed that détente had lost some of its luster. In Canada, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s stance best summed up the Western position writ large: he did not doubt that Reagan had a point about the dangers of Soviet adventurism, but he did doubt whether Reagan was intellectually up to the task of rebuffing it without imperiling international security.9 Across Europe, leaders in Paris, Bonn, and elsewhere came to the conclusion that they could provide for their own security through arms control negotiations with the Kremlin better than the new, bombastic president could.10 Margaret Thatcher was a prominent outlier. To her, following Reagan’s election, “the whole tone of international affairs began to change, and for the better.”11 But even if US allies in the West occasionally proved vexing, they also proved ultimately reliable. US Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF), for example, eventually deployed to Western European countries in spite of significant opposition in the corridors of power and the streets of their capitals.12

During the 1980 election, Reagan had been an outspoken critic not only of the Carter administration’s foreign policy but also of its policymaking process. He pledged to “restore leadership to U.S. foreign policy by organizing it in a more coherent way” under the National Security Council (NSC) and his own presidential leadership.13 Reagan’s leadership style coalesced during his tenure as governor of California from 1967 to 1975, his first experience in government, and continued to the presidency. As his preeminent biographer put it, “Reagan was concerned with outcomes but bored with detailed discussion of issues that did not interest him . . . He focused on a few issues that he believed were determinative or had symbolic value.”14 But foreign policy would not be the administration’s main priority in the early years. During the campaign, his aides arranged meetings between Reagan and prominent strategic thinkers such as Henry Kissinger; they bored the candidate and left his interlocutors unimpressed.15 After his electoral victory, Reagan played only a minimal role in personnel selection, instead delegating that responsibility to his closest collaborators, “The Troika,” the triumvirate of future Chief of Staff James Baker, his deputy Michael Deaver, and Counselor to the President Edwin Meese.16

The strong National Security Council of which Reagan spoke and to which he would delegate a great deal of the lower-order (but still extremely consequential) issues of foreign policy was hamstrung from the get-go. Richard Allen, a campaign foreign policy aide, advised Reagan to downgrade the position of National Security Advisor from a cabinet-level post coequal with the secretaries of State and Defense to a lower-level staff member. The president agreed, hoping it would prevent a repeat of the legendary disputes between previous occupants and cabinet secretaries, such as between Zbigniew Brzezinski and Cyrus Vance during the Carter administration. Allen was rewarded for his innovative thinking by being appointed to the newly diminished position and then saddled with a Secretary of State in Alexander Haig who was determined to continue the negative trend in the NSC’s importance, Haig preferring to have his State Department control foreign policy. The NSC under Allen was disorganized and Allen himself lacked a meaningful relationship with the president, severely limiting his access and influence.17 Allen envisioned an NSC that would be entirely reactive to world events, focused on tactics rather than strategy.18 And Reagan, for his part, wanted little to do with foreign policy at the outset his presidency, as the White House focused almost exclusively on domestic economic issues.19 When the president did turn his attention to foreign policy, he often left the details to the NSC, leading to “ambiguity about many of the issues,” according to one senior NSC official.20 (Issues such as US–Soviet relations were the exception, not the rule.) This was exacerbated by the fact that Reagan’s foreign policy team consisted of advisors regularly at odds with one another.21 The president’s unwillingness to declare winners and losers in policy disputes—preferring a lack of clarity to intervening, which led all parties to leave feeling that they had won the day—all too often led to outcomes that did not accurately reflect the president’s views.22

Allen did not last long at the helm of the NSC, nor would any of his successors: William P. Clark, a close Reagan confidante with little foreign policy experience; Robert C. McFarlane, Clark’s former deputy; and John Poindexter, McFarlane’s former deputy. None of them managed to impose order on the foreign policymaking process and received little support from the president to do so, with disastrous results, as when McFarlane embarked on a program of secret negotiations with the Iranian regime and support for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. “The Iran–Contra Scandal,” as two historians of the NSC put it succinctly, “was the logical, though not inevitable, culmination of a sloppy, unfocused process in which four successive [National Security Advisors] were at once too weak to bring order to the process, yet sufficiently unconstrained to perpetrate a landmark cause of power.”23

The Soviet Challenge

Reagan took an active interest in relations with the Soviet Union. He had a firm idea of how best to deal with the Kremlin: a dual-track approach clustered around two themes, what he termed “quiet diplomacy” and “peace through strength.”24 On the one hand, “peace through strength” assumed that US national security begat international security, and that a weak United States would lead to international instability caused chiefly by Soviet adventurism. “Quiet diplomacy,” on the other, referred to the Reagan administration’s overtures to the Soviet Union early in his tenure, long before the storied Reagan–Gorbachev relationship. This “quiet diplomacy” served to extract information from Moscow about how the United States might more effectively prosecute the Cold War, as a safety valve during times of tension to maintain international stability, and to achieve specific objectives on the part of policymakers in Washington (as well as in Moscow), such as human rights concessions and arms control. Diplomacy was, first and foremost, a means of advancing US national interests. Reagan’s basic concept of the Cold War with the Soviet Union remained “we win, they lose.”25

During his first term, Reagan focused on rebuilding US capabilities. The administration judged Carter’s proposed defense budget to be inadequate and asked for an additional $32.6 billion, which Congress approved. These funds would help modernize the US nuclear arsenal and launch new procurement programs across the services.26 The best-known aspect of Reagan’s defense buildup, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), caused particular anxiety east of the Iron Curtain after the president unveiled it on March 23, 1983.27 SDI, a missile defense shield seemingly straight from the pages of science fiction (hence its “Star Wars” moniker), took the world by surprise. It also came as a surprise to some of his closest advisors. Both Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, for example, learned of it as a fait accompli and had almost no opportunity to advise on this key element of Reagan’s Soviet strategy.28 To the Kremlin, SDI would give the United States unquestioned military superiority and the ability to launch a nuclear first strike on the East with impunity. The new weapons under development as part of the defense buildup would mostly disarm the Soviet Union, with SDI downing any remaining missiles and effectively eliminating the Soviet retaliatory capability.29

Reagan made no secret of the fact that these seemingly anti-Soviet measures did in fact reflect an outlook that was fundamentally hostile to the Soviet Union and viewed its leaders as essentially pernicious actors. In a press conference on January 29, 1981, he explained to reporters that, as far as he was concerned, “the only morality [Soviet leaders] recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”30 Then, on June 8, 1982, in an address to the British Parliament, Reagan declared that “freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history.”31 Finally, in perhaps the most-cited speech of his presidency, Reagan dubbed the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” That line, inserted at the last minute, transformed a minor speech to a group of core constituents into a major foreign policy pronouncement, ironically overshadowing Reagan’s startling admission just minutes earlier that he sought “real and verifiable reductions in the world’s nuclear arsenals and one day . . . their total elimination.”32

Thus, on the surface and in the popular consciousness, US–Soviet relations appeared to be going from bad to worse. The television film The Day After, which aired to a record-setting audience on November 20, 1983, depicted the graphic consequences of a Soviet nuclear attack on Lawrence, Kansas.33 Reagan confided to his diary that the film “left [him] greatly depressed.”34 West German pop group Nena’s 1983 hit song “Neunundneunzig Luftballons” told the story of errant balloons being mistaken for a surprise attack, triggering a nuclear war.35 But while tensions certainly did rise, we now know that they did not nearly lead to a nuclear conflagration during NATO’s November 1983 “Able Archer” command post exercise, as many have claimed.36 The episode in fact never came to the attention of the key Soviet policymakers who would have had to be sufficiently alarmed to initiate the preemptive nuclear strike of which contemporary scholars write.37 “We can rule out that there was real fear of a nuclear attack,” concluded Anatoliĭ Cherniaev, at the time a senior analyst in the International Department of the Central Committee (before becoming Mikhail Gorbachev’s foreign policy advisor).38

When pressed on the lack of progress during the 1984 election cycle, Reagan could simply explain that “they keep dying on me.”39 But all the while, the two superpowers were in fact trying to improve relations, be it at the leadership level or through ongoing arms control talks. US–Soviet relations were not all bluster and bombast.40 The two superpowers reached an agreement in early 1983, for example, to allow the emigration of a group of Pentecostalists taking refuge in the basement of the US embassy in Moscow. If the Kremlin would allow their emigration, the White House would not exploit the concession. The episode convinced Reagan and his advisors that “quiet diplomacy” worked. The frequent political turnover in the Soviet Union made converting tactical successes into a strategy of cooperation difficult, though not for lack of trying.41 Lying in his hospital bed recovering from an attempt on his life, Reagan wrote to Brezhnev asking if the superpowers “have permitted ideology, political and economic philosophies, and governmental policies to keep us from considering the very real, everyday problems of peoples?” The time had come, he continued, to create “the circumstances which will lead to the meaningful and constructive dialogue which will assist us in fulfilling our joint obligation to find lasting peace.” Brezhnev’s “icy” reply disappointed the president, but he persisted, maintaining an exchange with Brezhnev, as well as Iuriĭ Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko after him.42 Even the well-known National Security Decision Directive 75, which laid out the administration’s approach to the Soviet Union, represented a compromise between hard-liners keen to build up US strength and more dovish administration officials who saw the value of negotiating with the Kremlin. In this sense, it reflected Reagan’s own thinking.43

The rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev introduced stability to the uppermost leadership of the Soviet Union, a permissive context for Reagan’s ongoing efforts at outreach. It also brought in a Soviet leader with whom Reagan could, as his close friend British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher put it, “do business.”44 Thatcher’s counsel mattered, but even more importantly, Reagan had concluded beforehand, and advertised, in a January 1984 speech, that the US economy and military had recovered from the lows of the beginning of the decade, and he publicly declared himself ready to forge a constructive relationship with his Soviet counterpart.45 Reagan and Gorbachev’s relationship was an “extraordinary coincidence of two extraordinary men.”46

Indeed, the two did do business, through a spate of superpower summits that ensued, one in each year of Reagan’s second term. The first, at Geneva in November 1985, produced little of concrete substance (they agreed on a vague commitment to cut nuclear stockpiles in half) but convinced the two leaders that talking could be of real value. The next year, in Reykjavík, the two came close to an agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons completely by 2000. But SDI scuttled progress when the president refused Gorbachev’s demand to effectively abandon the program.47 SDI remained a sticking point, but the two continued to work toward an agreement on nuclear weapons in Europe. Reagan and Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty at a summit in Washington in 1987, with Moscow giving up nearly twice the quantity of missiles as the United States. Reagan continued to pressure the Soviet Union on key issues, calling on Gorbachev, for example, to “open this gate [and] tear down this wall” in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.48 At the same time, Gorbachev faced considerable resistance at home as well as a deteriorating economy that severely restricted the General Secretary’s freedom of action in foreign policy.49 When Reagan strode across Red Square with Gorbachev in the spring of 1988, US–Soviet relations appeared to have been completely normalized. The “evil empire” of 1983, Reagan told the press, had given way to a partner in making a safer world.50 The groundwork had been laid for a peaceful conclusion to the decades-long Cold War.

The Reagan Doctrine and Latin America

Had relations with the Soviet Union been the sum total of US foreign policy during the Reagan years, his presidency would likely be remembered in an entirely different light. It was US actions in the rest of the world, largely seen, from the perspective of the White House, in the context of the struggle with communism, which have rightly cast a shadow over the administration. Reagan pledged to “not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.”51 The neoconservative commentator Charles Krauthammer later dubbed this the “Reagan Doctrine.”52 No longer content to contain communism, accepting extant communist regimes while preventing the development of new ones, the administration committed itself to undermining its ideological enemies wherever possible.53

Underwriting this approach was a willingness to distinguish between left- and right-wing brutality. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s first UN Ambassador, made the case for supporting autocratic right-wing regimes while undermining left-wing leaders. “Although there is no instance of a . . . Communist society being democratized, right-wing autocracies do sometimes evolve into democracies.” Weakening the authority of these autocrats would not catalyze democracy, she argued in a 1979 essay, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” but instead facilitate the rise of an irredeemable left-wing government. Autocrats might enact policies unpalatable to the US public, but “they are bearable to ordinary people who, growing up in the society, learn to cope.” Their left-wing counterparts, on the other hand, “claim jurisdiction over the whole life of the society.” Not only was supporting the right-wing autocrat best for US foreign policy, according to Kirkpatrick, it was also best for the local population.54 This thinking shaped, for example, the US policy of “constructive engagement” toward South Africa and its racist apartheid regime. When the South African government brutally cracked down on dissidents, the administration said nothing; the Pretoria government was far preferable to the African National Congress, which Washington continued to dismiss as a communist front even as opinion at home turned against the administration’s policy toward South Africa.55

However, the Reagan Doctrine is best known in connection with US policy in Latin America, where Carter’s human rights-centric foreign policy, to which Kirkpatrick objected, had weakened the hold on power of US-allied, right-wing autocrats. Moscow (and Havana) appeared to be on the march. But there was no Soviet master plan for dominating Washington’s backyard. Such myths rob Latin Americans, with their own ideas about political and economic organization, of crucial agency and reduce them to nothing more than pawns in the superpowers’ global game.56

In Grenada, this line of thinking encouraged the administration to launch a “rescue operation” on October 22, 1983, to evacuate roughly 1,000 US medical students. The White House worried about increased Cuban influence after a communist-led coup had ousted Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, resulting eventually in Bishop’s murder. But for all the talk of rescuing students, Grenada’s significance was primarily symbolic: It showed that the United States had overcome “Vietnam Syndrome.” Washington was prepared to project power not only with technologically advanced armaments but also with US boots on the ground. As columnist George F. Will wrote in Newsweek, it proved that Washington “has recovered the will to use the weapon on which its security rests: the man with a rifle.”57 Of course, that willingness had clear limits. A brief invasion of a country with a mere six hundred troops at its disposal scarcely qualified as a repudiation of the post-Vietnam hesitancy to use military force abroad, much to the chagrin of Reagan’s neoconservative allies.

Earlier, Haig thought he had found an easy test case for the Reagan Doctrine in El Salvador. Support for the government against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, a coalition of left-wing guerrilla organizations, could be an early, major victory for Reagan’s anti-communist policies. In practice, the US support enabled Salvadorian military death squads which perpetrated, among others, the now-famous massacre at El Mozote, in which nearly a thousand civilians perished on December 11, 1981.58 The massacre did not give the administration pause, and US military aid steadily increased over the early 1980s, to little effect in the struggle against the Front as egregious human rights abuses further alienated the population. Far from being a quick victory for the United States in Latin America, El Salvador’s bloody civil war outlasted the Reagan administration.

In Nicaragua, the Somoza regime which had ruled Nicaragua since the 1930s had at last fallen to a left-wing guerrilla coalition, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional. The Reagan administration responded by training the “contrarrevolución” movement (counter-revolutionaries, or Contras) in neighboring Honduras to undermine and ultimately overthrow the Sandinista government. Beginning with a small coterie of Anastasio Somoza’s most loyal lieutenants, the administration quickly created an army of roughly ten thousand Contras. Their main activity was terrorizing the country’s peasantry, not presenting a viable alternative to the left-wing government in Managua. Nevertheless, Reagan held them up as “the moral equal of our Founding Fathers . . . We cannot turn away from them,” he went on, “for the struggle here is not right versus left; it is right versus wrong.”59 Few Americans shared Reagan’s view, and as early as late 1982 Congress prohibited the use of US funds to overthrow the Sandinistas, and two years later cut off all funding to the Contras. Reagan called on his national security team to “do whatever you have to do to help these people keep body and soul together.”60

Vague directions and the NSC’s dysfunction led, in this case, to the Iran–Contra scandal. Frustrated by their inability to secure the release of several US citizens taken hostage in Lebanon by the paramilitary group Hezbollah, the NSC devised an ingenious, if illegal, solution. Iran hoped to purchase weapons from the United States for its war effort against Iraq, but an embargo following the Khomeini revolution prohibited this. The NSC arranged for Israel to sell the Iranians these arms, in return for which Tehran would intervene on behalf of the hostages, securing their release. In response to the president’s appeal, Oliver North, a Marine Corps officer detailed to the NSC, arranged a modification to the arms-for-hostages scheme. A significant portion of the price Iran paid for the weapons would now go not into government coffers but into a complex network of shell corporations that led, eventually, to the Contras, augmented by contributions from friendly governments and private individuals.

Lebanese journalists first broke the story of Washington’s bizarre scheme on November 3, 1986. After denying it for a week, the White House conceded that the sales had been made in an effort to build links with moderate elements in the Iranian regime, insisting that there was no trading of arms for hostages.61 Meanwhile, officials throughout the NSC began a program of document destruction.62 Reagan’s popularity took a considerable hit, but the president managed to avoid impeachment proceedings because it could not be proven that he had ordered the illegal actions, so much as fostered a laissez-faire culture in which they could occur.

Afghanistan and the Middle East

To many, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 represents the final death of US–Soviet détente. Moscow’s intervention prompted a stern response from the Carter administration, which began providing assistance to the mujahideen fighters resisting Soviet occupation. Virtually from the outset, Moscow got more than it bargained for in Afghanistan. Soviet troops met seemingly intractable resistance, and those troops became rapidly disillusioned with the war effort, turning to drink, drugs, and lawlessness. Not long after the decision to enter the country, Soviet policymakers began looking for a means of getting out.

The Reagan administration was more than happy to incentivize a Soviet withdrawal, though policymakers worried that going too far would have the opposite effect. In fact, the primary push for increased aid came from Congress (such as the now-famous Charlie Wilson) and civil society groups. This is not to say that the administration needed much convincing. Far from it. Officials such as William Casey, the CIA Director and a former OSS officer, were eager to do harm to the Soviets in one of the few areas presenting an opportunity to do so. Millions of dollars were sent to the mujahideen in the CIA’s “Operation Cyclone,” along with logistical and intelligence support from the CIA, most of it via Pakistani intelligence. By 1986 lethal aid in the form of FIM-92 “Stinger” man-portable air defense weapons also began to flow. The Stingers brought early victories for the mujahideen, undoubtedly a boost to morale, but by this point Gorbachev had already decided to withdraw from the Afghan conflict, even if it took a further four years.63 A great many of those same Stingers wound up in other conflicts, sometimes being employed against US allies, just as a great many of the US-backed mujahideen leaders, such as a Saudi-born fighter named Osama bin Laden, ended up turning on their former sponsors in Washington.64

Muammar Gaddafi of Libya had long been a thorn in the administration’s side as a sponsor of terrorism, including the April 1986 bombing of a West Berlin nightclub popular with US troops, making him the public’s bugbear for the 1980s. A massive bombing campaign against Tripoli and Benghazi ensued just over a week later, doing considerable damage and killing some thirty civilians, but failing to eliminate the Libyan dictator. The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 on board and a further eleven on the ground (struck by falling debris), showed that Gaddafi remained a problem for which the Reagan administration had no appetite for a military solution beyond punitive air strikes. The Libyan strongman remained in power until late 2011.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, US policy fared much worse. Washington viewed the region almost exclusively through the prism of superpower competition, with sometimes disastrous consequences. Early plans to sell airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft to Saudi Arabia incurred the wrath of the powerful Israel lobby in the United States. Washington later studiously avoided a repeat. The Camp David process was abandoned because of Carter’s alleged sympathies for the Arab side over Israel. The Israeli Air Force’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, which was still under construction, was not an unwelcome development in and of itself, but many worried about the Israelis’ complete lack of consultation. Only Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights finally precipitated a downturn and the end of US military aid and a return to the Camp David Accords.

Meanwhile, the Israelis invaded neighboring Lebanon to oust the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and install a friendly government. As is so often the case, an invasion meant to be a quick, decisive victory over an inferior opponent became a quagmire fight with a motivated, effective guerrilla force. Washington had not endorsed the operation, nor had US policymakers been too vocal in their opposition, and when it occurred regardless, the White House “more or less adopted Israel’s goals as its own,” seeing an opportunity to remove the Soviet-backed Syrians from Lebanon.65 To that end, they sent some eight hundred US Marines to join a multinational peacekeeping force (with no clear objective) in Beirut. A lack of progress led that number to rise to 1,400 Marines who could do little from their barracks to pacify the country but presented an irresistible target to the various forces fighting the Israelis. On October 23, 1983, a massive truck bomb detonated outside their barracks, killing 241 military personnel while they slept. The Pentagon, which had never been supportive of the operation, removed the surviving force amid mounting pressure in the United States to do so. The United States, in the words of Colin Powell, then Weinberger’s senior military aide and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then Reagan’s last National Security Advisor, had stuck “its hand into a thousand-year-old hornet’s nest with the expectation that our mere presence might pacify the hornets” with disastrous consequences.66 At home, the debacle gave rise to the so-called Weinberger Doctrine in the summer of 1984, which dictated that US troops only be used as a last resort and in service of a clear national interest.67


Reagan’s policy in Asia posed a further challenge to depictions of the president as a mindless anti-communist. Not only did the United States and the Soviet Union have productive relations long before the majority of the historiography acknowledges, but Washington also cultivated a fruitful relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Many predicted that Reagan would use the presidency to undo the rapprochement with Beijing begun by Nixon, whose détente policy had been such a focus of Reagan’s ire. In practice, however, the opposite occurred. Even during the election, Reagan sent Bush (who had represented the United States in the PRC between September 1974 and December 1975) to Beijing to cultivate ties with Chinese leaders. Reagan publicly pledged to develop and strengthen US relations with the PRC, much to the Kremlin’s chagrin.

“The development of ties between the United States and China, a significant global event of the last dozen years,” Reagan explained to the UN General Assembly on September 24, 1984, “shows our willingness to improve relations with countries ideologically very different from ours.”68 The president’s loyalty to Taiwan meant that the relationship would never go as far as, for example, Haig, ever the Kissinger protege, hoped: a more formal alliance to block Soviet expansion in the region. Taiwan caused considerable turbulence, as arms sales presaged reinvigorated US involvement in what Beijing saw as an internal dispute. But economics won out, and the two powers continued to increase cooperation in spite of sharp foreign policy differences. In August 1982 Washington and Beijing issued a joint communiqué pledging to strengthen economic and cultural ties and reaffirmed the One China Policy, an acknowledgment but not an endorsement of Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over Taiwan, and the Reagan administration pledged to decrease its arms sales to the latter. Almost immediately thereafter, the administration publicly reassured both the government in Taipei and Congress that this progress in relations would not come at the expense of support for the Republic of China, the so-called Six Assurances that Washington would not cease arms sales, attempt to mediate between Beijing and Taipei, or encourage any such negotiations. On April 26, 1984, Reagan arrived in Beijing for a state visit, the first visit by a president since Nixon’s groundbreaking trip in 1972. The six-day trip was primarily an economic mission—indeed, it led to no diplomatic breakthroughs, and a minor spat over a speech by Reagan sharply critical of communism—which set the stage for further economic integration between the two countries.

For many in the United States, however, their greatest Asian rival during the 1980s was not the PRC and its communist ideology, but Japan and its apparently superior capitalist system. Although Japan had once been a defeated US enemy occupied by US troops, by 1981 the New York Times was publishing op-eds titled, with tongue firmly in cheek, “Please, Japan, Return the Favor: Occupy Us.”69 As Washington’s trade deficit with Tokyo grew, so too did fears that US global economic leadership would be supplanted by a country allegedly not playing by the rules of international trade by excluding US imports and with considerable state intervention in the economy. As a result, more and more Americans purchased Japanese products, from televisions to automobiles. Japanese investors, for their part, bought more and more of the US national debt. It was the allegedly totalitarian “Japan, Inc.” against the free-market individualist United States.70 To many, this was not merely an economic struggle, but one over Washington’s role in the world. One of the surprise bestsellers of the 1980s, historian Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, warned that “imperial overstretch” would cause US decline, as it had in the Spanish, Dutch, British, and Habsburg empires before it.71 The cover of the first edition made it clear who would take up the US mantle if these anxieties became reality, with its over image of Uncle Sam about to be overtaken by, in Kennedy’s words, “an Oriental-looking gentleman bearing the flag of the rising sun.”72


After Bush’s victory in the 1988 election, the Reagans returned to California, splitting their time between Los Angeles and Reagan’s beloved ranch in Santa Barbara. Reagan remained a vocal supporter of the Republican Party, speaking at its 1992 convention in Houston in support of Bush’s ultimately unsuccessful re-election effort. Two years later, in August 1994, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, informing the country in an open letter that he had begun “the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”73 Reagan died ten years later, with Thatcher delivering the first eulogy at his funeral, and was buried on the grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Reagan left behind a complicated foreign policy legacy. In his management of superpower relations, his legacy is a successful one, though Reagan did not singlehandedly “win” the Cold War. Power and personalities mattered, with Gorbachev coming to the bargaining table both because he believed Reagan to be an honest interlocutor and because he recognized the need to reduce Cold War tensions and, with them, Soviet defense expenditures. Moreover, the Cold War’s end did not depend only on top-level policymakers such as Reagan and Gorbachev. The crowds who bravely marched on the gates in the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, and Eastern Europeans who demanded the Soviet Union and their own leaders honor their international human rights commitments made all the difference. But even on the question of US–Soviet relations, the wisdom of Reagan’s foreign policy was not self-evident to all, including his successor and former vice president, George H. W. Bush. The new president put US–Soviet relations on hold for the better part of a year while his administration conducted a full review, with many in the newly constituted NSC worried that Reagan had in fact been far too friendly with Gorbachev.74 This is a stark contrast with the Reagan administration’s foreign policy legacy in the Third World. In Latin America in particular, dictators remained in place and civil wars continued, supported, and fueled in many cases by the United States. For the people of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and elsewhere, Reagan’s foreign policy was calamitous, even as the Reagan administration aided in transitions from autocracy to democracy, which did improve local circumstances, for example, in Argentina in 1982 and in the Philippines in 1986. All of this came at a considerable cost. Reagan promised to shrink the administrative state, but over the course of his two terms, federal spending ballooned by $1.9 trillion, underwritten by loans from abroad, but far more of that went into the coffers of American corporations, especially the military-industrial complex, than the American people themselves.75 At home as well as around the world, the benefits of Reagan’s administration were far from evenly distributed.

Discussion of the Literature

Lou Cannon’s President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime has remained, since its publication in 1991, the gold standard for insight into the president by the journalist who covered his presidency for the Washington Post.76 Cannon’s more recent Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power offers telling insights into Reagan’s first experience with political office and its consequences for his presidency.77 He remains the undisputed dean of Reagan biographers, and his works are an important starting point in assessing Reagan’s foreign policy.

Much of the early historiography remains vital to understanding the Reagan administration’s foreign policy. Beth Fischer’s The Reagan Reversal makes impressive use of a wide range of primarily press sources to understand the shift in Reagan’s public approach to the Soviet Union from confrontation to cooperation.78 Paul Lettow’s Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons delves into SDI and illuminates a side to Reagan’s thinking about war that squares with neither the left- nor right-wing tropes of the president.79 Raymond L. Garthoff’s The Great Transition, a quasi-sequel to the author’s work on the 1970s, was among the first to incorporate archival documents from both sides of the Iron Curtain in its research and remains a valuable source.80 The sections on Reagan in major synthetic works such as Campbell Craig and Fredrik Logevall’s America’s Cold War, John Lewis Gaddis’s Strategies of Containment, Melvyn P. Leffler’s For the Soul of Mankind, and most recently Odd Arne Westad’s The Cold War are thorough, fair, and key resources.81

Expanding access to archives has been a boon to scholars of the Reagan administration’s foreign policy, and much of this new literature focuses on US–Soviet relations. James Graham Wilson’s The Triumph of Improvisation illuminates in particular the roles of individuals in shaping policy, pushing back on the notion that Reagan (or either his Soviet counterpart or his successor) had a “master plan” for ending the Cold War.82 James Mann’s The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan also focuses on the key role of individual agency.83 Hal Brands’ Making the Unipolar Moment, on the other hand, highlights the impact of structural forces on US foreign policy and its outcomes.84 Doug Rossinow’s The Reagan Era takes a welcome broader look, incorporating social and economic issues alongside politics and foreign policy to give the reader an idea of the context in which Reagan operated.85 Finally, Reagan and the World, a volume edited by Bradley Lynn Coleman and Kyle Longley, offers in-depth assessments of US foreign policy worldwide under Reagan, and it is hoped portends more scholarship on the administration’s approach to not just the Soviet Union.86 Even broader is A Companion to Ronald Reagan, edited by Andrew L. Johns.87

Several sources also warrant mention for the light they shed on specific issues in the history of US foreign relations. Sarah Snyder’s Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War tells the essential story of the human rights movement and its members who resisted Soviet authority from within.88 Steven F. Hayward’s two-part The Age of Reagan situates Reagan within an evolving conservative intellectual movement in the United States (to which the author is clearly sympathetic) and illuminates some of the machinery of policymaking in his White House.89 The Euromissile Crisis and the End of the Cold War, edited by Leopoldo Nuti, Frédéric Bozo, Marie-Pierre Rey, and Bernd Rother, makes important but complex questions of nuclear strategy manageable for scholars not steeped in that field.90 Gail E. S. Yoshitani’s Reagan on War explains the administration’s complex and evolving attitude toward the use of military force overseas.91 Regionally, the relevant portions of works such as Hal Brands’ Latin America’s Cold War, Douglas Little’s American Orientalism, and Michael Schaller’s Altered States, to name a few, are valuable starting points.92 As more archival materials become available, these areas and more will become fertile ground for the growing number of scholars studying the Reagan administration.

Primary Sources

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California, is the main repository of documents on US foreign policy during his presidency. There, the Executive Secretariat–National Security Council files contain foreign policy papers organized by country and subject and should be any researcher’s first destination. Also essential are the files of key advisors, which will often have the best materials on their areas of expertise, such as Jack Matlock on US–Soviet relations or Sven Kraemer on arms control. With its exceedingly helpful staff of archivists, the Reagan Library is a natural place to begin research.

Elsewhere, the Library of Congress’s Manuscript Division, in Washington, DC, holds the papers of key Reagan cabinet members such as his first Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Paul Nitze, Reagan’s chief arms control negotiator, and Donald Regan, Secretary of the Treasury and, briefly, White House Chief of Staff. The Hoover Institution Archives, in Stanford, California, complement these repositories with the papers of William Casey, who managed Reagan’s 1980 campaign and then served as Director of the CIA until 1987, Richard Allen, the first National Security Advisor, and others. The National Archives and Records Administration’s main facility in College Park, Maryland, has little to offer in the Department of State files (Record Group 59) as of yet, but several collections with the Central Intelligence Agency filed (Record Group 263) containing National Intelligence Estimates from the period are open and accessible. George H. W. Bush’s papers as Vice President are housed at his presidential library in College Station, Texas, but are as yet only partially declassified.

Many documents pertaining to the Reagan administration’s foreign policy have been published, making them a useful starting point before any archival travel. Doulas Brinkley’s two-volume unabridged compilation (along with the shorter, single-volume edition), The Reagan Diaries, is an important source of insight into the president’s thinking on foreign policy issues around the world, as they happened.93 The editorial team of Kiron Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson has produced severable valuable collections of documents, including Reagan: A Life in Letters.94 Crucial to understanding Reagan’s relations with the Soviet Union, The Last Superpower Summits: Reagan, Gorbachev and Bush at the End of the Cold War, edited by Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive, contains the transcripts of each of Reagan’s meetings with Gorbachev, as well as preparatory materials from both sides. Still more valuable sources are available online.95

The policymakers of the 1980s left behind a wealth of memoirs, albeit of varying quality. Reagan’s own, An American Life is disappointingly anodyne but offers some insight into how the president viewed events (mostly drawn from his diaries).96 Nancy Reagan’s My Turn sheds candid light on Reagan and his administration.97 George Shultz’s Turmoil and Triumph and Caspar Weinberger’s Fighting for Peace retell foreign policymaking as two of the main protagonists (themselves frequently antagonists) remember it.98 The memoir Vixi by Richard Pipes, the first NSC Director of East European and Soviet Affairs, presents the hard-liners’ take on events.99 Anatoliĭ Dobrynin’s memoirs, In Confidence, cover two-thirds of Reagan’s term as seen by Moscow’s long-serving ambassador in Washington (who returned to Moscow in early 1986 to head the International Department of the Central Committee), shedding valuable light on Soviet perceptions—and misperceptions—during these pivotal years.100 Another ambassador, Canada’s Allan Gotleib, spent nearly the entire Reagan administration in his post, and his Washington Diaries are a fascinating (and entertaining) look into Washington society and policymaking under Reagan.101 Finally, two especially noteworthy memoirs combine the author’s firsthand recollections with careful study conducted later on, making them critical resources: Jack Matlock’s Reagan and Gorbachev and Louis Sell’s From Washington to Moscow.102

Further Reading

Brands, Hal. Making the Unipolar Moment: US Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Brinkley, Douglas, ed. The Reagan Diaries. 2 vols. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.Find this resource:

Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.Find this resource:

Caryl, Christian. Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books, 2014.Find this resource:

Craig, Campbell and Fredrik Logevall. America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

FitzGerald, Frances. Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.Find this resource:

Gaddis, John Lewis. Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Garthoff, Raymond L. The Great Transition: American–Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Kunz, Diane B. Butter and Guns: America’s Cold War Economic Diplomacy. New York: Free Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Leffler, Melvyn P. For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War. New York: Hill and Wang, 2007.Find this resource:

Matlock, Jack F. Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended. New York: Random House, 2004.Find this resource:

Reagan, Ronald. An American Life: The Autobiography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.Find this resource:

Scott, James M. Deciding to Intervene: The Reagan Doctrine and American Foreign Policy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Shultz, George P. Turmoil and Triumph: Diplomacy, Power, and the Victory of the American Ideal. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993.Find this resource:

Westad, Odd Arne. The Cold War: A World History. New York: Basic Books, 2017.Find this resource:

Wilson, James Graham. The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev’s Adaptability, Reagan’s Engagement, and the End of the Cold War. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) Jimmy Carter, “Address to the Nation on Energy and National Goals,” July 15, 1979.

(2.) Thomas Borstelmann, The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic Inequality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 46–52.

(3.) Daniel J. Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 37.

(4.) Sarah B. Snyder, “‘Jerry, Don’t Go’: Domestic Opposition to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act,” Journal of American Studies 44.1 (2010): 72.

(5.) Thomas M. Nichols, “Carter and the Soviets: The Origins of the US Return to a Strategy of Confrontation,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 13.2 (2002): 21–22.

(6.) Anatoliĭ Dobrynin, Sugubo doveritel’no: Posol v Vashingtone pri shesti prezidentakh SShA, 1962–1986 gg. (Moscow: Avtor, 1996), 481–483.

(7.) Paul Lettow, Ronald Reagan and his Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (New York: Random House, 2005), 10–18.

(8.) Ronald Reagan, “Peace: Restoring the Margin of Safety,” August 18, 1980.

(9.) Ivan L. Head and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, The Canadian Way: Shaping Canada’s Foreign Policy, 1964–1984 (Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 1995), 159.

(10.) Ronald Reagan, An American Life: The Autobiography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 270.

(11.) Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 88.

(12.) David Holloway, “The Dynamics of the Euromissile Crisis, 1977–1983,” in The Euromissile Crisis and the End of the Cold War, ed. Leopoldo Nuti, Frédéric Bozo, Marie-Pierre Rey, and Bernd Rother (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2015), 11–28.

(13.) Ronald Reagan, “A Strategy for Peace in the ‘80s,” October 19, 1980.

(14.) Lou Cannon, Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power (New York: Public Affairs, 2003), 187.

(15.) Frances FitzGerald, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), 175.

(16.) Carl M. Brauer, Presidential Transitions: Eisenhower Through Reagan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 227.

(17.) William Inboden, “Grand Strategy and Petty Squabbles: The Paradox and Lessons of the Reagan NSC,” in The Power of the Past: History and Statecraft, ed. Hal Brands and Jeremi Suri (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2016), 157–166.

(18.) Robert C. McFarlane, Special Trust, with Sofia Smardz (New York: Cadell and Davis, 1994), 173.

(19.) Reagan, An American Life, 230.

(20.) Jack F. Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended (New York: Random House, 2004), 62.

(21.) Reagan, An American Life, 605.

(22.) Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 183.

(23.) Ivo H. Daalder and I. M. Destler, In the Shadow of the Oval Office: Profiles of the National Security Advisors and the Presidents they Served—From JFK to George W. Bush (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009), 128–129.

(24.) Ronald Reagan to Liuba Vaschenko, October 11, 1984, in Reagan: A Life in Letters, ed. Kiron Skinner, Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson (New York: Free Press, 2003), 380; and Ronald Reagan, “A Strategy for Peace in the 80s,” October 19, 1980.

(25.) Thomas C. Reed, At the Abyss: An Insider’s History of the Cold War (New York: Presidio Press, 2004), 234–235.

(26.) Caspar Weinberger, Fighting for Peace: Seven Critical Years in the Pentagon (New York: Warner Books, 1990), 39–79.

(27.) Ronald Reagan, “Address to the Nation on Defense and National Security,” March 23, 1983.

(28.) Inboden, “Grand Strategy and Petty Squabbles,” 171–172.

(29.) Dobrynin, Sugubo doveritel’no, 554.

(31.) Ronald Reagan, “Address to Members of the British Parliament,” June 8, 1982.

(32.) Ronald Reagan, “Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida,” March 8, 1983; and George P. Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph: Diplomacy, Power, and the Victory of the American Ideal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993), 266–267.

(33.) Adrian Hänni, “A Chance for a Propaganda Coup? The Reagan Administration and The Day After,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television 36.3 (2016): 116.

(34.) Ronald Reagan, Diary Entry, October 10, 1983, in The Reagan Diaries, ed. Douglas Brinkley (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), Vol. 1, 273.

(35.) Ulrich Franke, and Kaspar Schiltz, “They Don’t Really Care About Us! On Political Worldviews in Popular Music,” International Studies Perspectives 14.1 (2013): 117.

(36.) See, for example: Gordon Brook-Shepherd, The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988), 269–270; and Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of its Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1990), 502–503. For more recent treatments, see: David E. Hoffman, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy (New York: Anchor Books, 2009), 94–100; and Nate Jones, ed., Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War (New York: The New Press, 2016), 1–59.

(37.) Gordon Barrass, “Able Archer 83: What Were the Soviets Thinking?,” Survival 58.6 (2016): 7–30; and Mark Kramer, “Die Nicht-Krise um ‘Able Archer 1983’: Fürchtete die sowjetische Führung tatsächlich einen atomaren Großangriff im Herbst 1983?,” in Wege zur Wiedervereinigung: Die beiden deutschen Staaten in ihren Bündnissen 1970 bis 1990, ed. Oliver Bange and Bernd Lemke (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2013), 129–150.

(38.) William Wohlforth, ed., Witnesses to the End of the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 72–73.

(39.) Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev, 36.

(40.) Maynard W. Glitman, The Last Battle of the Cold War: An Inside Account of Negotiating the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 58–60.

(41.) Sarah B. Snyder, “‘No Crowing’: Reagan, Trust, and Human Rights,” in Trust but Verify: The Politics of Uncertainty and the Transformation of the Cold War Order, 1969–1991, ed. Martin Klimke, Reinhild Kreis, and Christian F. Ostermann (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2016), 43–46.

(42.) Reagan, An American Life, 272–273.

(43.) National Security Decision Directive 75, “US Relations with the USSR,” January 17, 1983.

(44.) Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, 459–463.

(46.) Martin Walker, The Cold War: A History (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1993), 291.

(47.) Lettow, Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, 219–226.

(49.) William Taubman, Gorbachev: His Life and Times (New York: W. W. Norton, 2017), 342–346.

(50.) Jack F. Matlock, Jr., Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended (New York: Random House, 2004), 302–303.

(52.) Charles Krauthammer, “The Reagan Doctrine,” Time, April 1, 1985.

(53.) James M. Scott, Deciding to Intervene: The Reagan Doctrine and American Foreign Policy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 2.

(54.) Jeanne Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” Commentary, November 1, 1979.

(55.) Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 260–263.

(56.) Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 115–136.

(57.) Quoted in Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph, 345.

(58.) Mark Danner, “The Truth of El Mozote,” The New Yorker, December 6, 1993.

(60.) McFarlane, Special Trust, 68.

(62.) Malcom Byrne, Iran–Contra: Reagan’s Scandal and the Unchecked Abuse of Presidential Power (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2014), 141–143.

(63.) Artemy M. Kalinovsky, The Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 74.

(64.) John Prados, “Notes on the CIA’s Secret War in Afghanistan,” Journal of American History 89.2 (2002): 466–471.

(65.) George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations Since 1776 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 872.

(66.) Colin Powell, My American Journey (New York: Random House, 1995), 291.

(67.) Gail E. S. Yoshitani, Reagan on War: A Reappraisal of the Weinberger Doctrine, 1980–1984 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011), 113–142.

(68.) Ronald Reagan, “Address to the 39th Session of the United Nations General Assembly,” September 24, 1984.

(69.) John Perry, “Please, Japan, Return the Favor: Occupy Us,” New York Times, March 4, 1981, A1.

(70.) Michael Schaller, Altered States: The United States and Japan Since the Occupation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 232.

(71.) Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987), xvi.

(72.) Jeffrey A. Engel, When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), 60.

(73.) Ronald Reagan, Open Letter, November 5, 1994.

(74.) Engel, When the World Seemed New, 86–99.

(75.) Cannon, President Reagan, 829–830.

(76.) Cannon, President Reagan.

(77.) Cannon, Governor Reagan.

(78.) Beth A. Fischer, The Reagan Reversal: Foreign Policy and the End of the Cold War (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997).

(79.) Lettow, Ronald Reagan and His Quest to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

(80.) Raymond L. Garthoff, The Great Transition: American–Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1994).

(81.) Campbell Craig and Fredrik Logevall, America’s Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010); John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Melvyn P. Leffler, For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007); and Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History (New York: Basic Books, 2017).

(82.) James Graham Wilson, The Triumph of Improvisation: Gorbachev’s Adaptability, Reagan’s Engagement, and the End of the Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014).

(83.) James Mann, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War (New York: Viking, 2009).

(84.) Hal Brands, Making the Unipolar Moment: US Foreign Policy and the Rise of the Post-Cold War Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).

(85.) Doug Rossinow, The Reagan Era: A History of the 1980s (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).

(86.) Bradley Lynn Coleman, and Kyle Longley, eds., Reagan and the World: Leadership and National Security, 1981–1989 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2017).

(87.) Andrew L. Johns, ed., A Companion to Ronald Reagan (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2014).

(88.) Sarah B. Snyder, Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

(89.) Stephen F. Hayward, The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964–1980 (Roseville: Forum, 2001); and Stephen F. Hayward, The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980–1989 (New York: Crown Forum, 2009).

(90.) Nuti, Bozo, Rey, and Rother, eds., The Euromissile Crisis and the End of the Cold War.

(91.) Yoshitani, Reagan on War.

(92.) Hal Brands, Latin America’s Cold War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, 3rd ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008); and Schaller, Altered States.

(93.) Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, 2 vols.

(94.) Skinner et al., eds., Reagan: A Life in Letters.

(95.) Svetlana Savranskaya, and Thomas Blanton, eds., The Last Superpower Summits: Reagan, Gorbachev and Bush at the End of the Cold War (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2016).

(96.) Reagan, An American Life.

(97.) Nancy Reagan, My Turn: The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan (New York: Random House, 1989).

(98.) Shultz, Turmoil and Triumph; and Weinberger, Fighting for Peace.

(99.) Richard Pipes, Vixi: The Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003).

(100.) Anatoliĭ Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to America’s Six Cold War Presidents (New York: Times Books, 1995). For the original Russian version, see Dobrynin, Sugubo doveritel’no.

(101.) Allan Gotlieb, The Washington Diaries, 1981–1989 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2006).

(102.) Matlock, Reagan and Gorbachev; and Louis Sell, From Washington to Moscow: US–Soviet Relations and the Collapse of the USSR (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).