Reagan

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On Friday October 16, 1981, President Ronald Reagan wrote in his personal diary, “Central America is really the world’s next hotspot. Nicaragua is an armed camp supplied by Cuba and threatening a communist takeover of all of Central America.” (The Reagan Diaries, 2007) For the next eight years as Commander-in-Chief, this mindset would shape his perspective on the small Third World country about the size of North Carolina. The Administration’s policies, actions, and attitudes toward Nicaragua and other perceived hostile nations became known as “Reagan Doctrine.” The defeat of the Nicaraguan Revolution became the “cornerstone of the Reagan Central American policy and the test case of Reagan Doctrine.” (U.S. Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era, 1992) Reagan Doctrine was not a label coined by President Reagan or his administration. It was a term used later by his critics to define his foreign policy strategy for countries around the world. The Reagan Doctrine was a strategy to aid anti-communist, or more specifically, anti-Soviet insurgencies in the Third World during Reagan’s two terms as president from 1981-1989. The primary goal was to overthrow Marxist regimes and/or prevent Marxist regimes from becoming established. Reagan wasted no time getting started in the implementation of his foreign policy. The Administration’s first comprehensive “U.S. National Security Strategy,” which was a document approved by the President in May of 1982, stated the objective to “contain and reverse the expansion of Soviet control and military presence throughout the world, and to increase the costs of Soviet support and use of proxy, terrorist and subversive forces.” (Presidential Studies, 2006) Reagan made staunch calls for public support in his efforts. In the State of the Union Address in 1985, for example, he stated that the U.S. must “not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression.” One year later he boldly remarked that “America will support with moral and material assistance your right not just to fight and die for freedom, but to fight and win freedom…in Afghanistan, in Angola, in Cambodia, and in Nicaragua.” (Political Science Quarterly, 2007) In most of these nations, the aggressive policies and actions of Reagan caused severe damage. In Nicaragua for example, the economy was decimated by U.S. sanctions and manipulation of its banking institutions. The Administration, supported by Congress, funded a war against the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or FSLN). It was a war fought by various Nicaraguan rebel groups, labeled the Contras, which sought to overthrow the Sandinistas, who came to power after the revolution in 1979. “The development of Contra forces began in 1981 when Reagan authorized $19.5 million in funding for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to construct a paramilitary force of 500 Nicaraguan exiles from deposed President Anastasio Somoza’s National Guard.” (International Security, 1990) Along with congressionally funded aid, members of the Reagan Administration attained additional funds through the illicit sales of arms to Iran. Funds from these sales were funneled to the Contras. When this illegal activity was revealed in the “Iran-Contra Affair” in November of 1986, it led to the indictment and conviction of many of Reagan’s staff. Reagan policy in Nicaragua was failure in many respects. The Contra war was ill-conceived and did not enjoy support of the people of Nicaragua. The rebel forces never legitimately threatened the Sandinista government and military. The U.S. failed to gain international support for the war or its political and economic actions. In fact, Reagan was largely condemned by the international community. Domestic support and popular opinion was low as well. Reagan’s policies pushed communist nations...
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