Refusal to engage the radical moral evils to be countered and to drop illusions about detachment, with- drawal, accommodations, and military operations lacking any special operations “boots on the ground” only encourage the extremists’ sense of infallibility, invincibility and imperial momentum. Especially in an age of weapons of mass terror and destruction, it is essential to comprehensively assess, expose, push back, and greatly raise the costs to the extremists and those (like Iran, Syria, Russia, Pakistan, and others) who too often support them. It is necessary instead to support those with the understanding and courage to resist extremists, includ- ing open-minded moderate voices within the varied communities and cultures of the global religion of Islam. The history of principled Cold War policies offers yet another lesson for today’s debates about how to meet the extremist terrorist threat.
Presidential Leadership in Developing a New National Security Strategy. In facing up to the Cold War’s basic moral and strategic realities, Reagan set an unparalled example applicable for today’s leaders. As a Cold War president and commander-in-chief determined to deal with rising global threats from a totalitarian faith and empire, he ended weak and confused U.S.-Western responses. From the beginning of his first term, Reagan organized his cabinet and the NSC-coordinated interdepartmental system to assure thoroughgoing discussions, assessments and briefings; arrange extensive consultations with Congress and Allies; prepare policy options and directives; and rebuild neglected core instruments of U.S. power and statecraft, notably including in public information and public diplomacy. Most important was to assure the early development of a compre- hensive long-term Cold War national security strategy whose core elements were principled, realistic, effective, and mutually reinforcing. Reagan established new criteria and priorities as he assessed, rejected, and replaced the illusory U.S. Cold War balance assumptions and strategies with a proactive new Cold War strategy: a unique model for how a president and his team can reshape realities from a losing to a winning course.
New Diplomatic and Defense Strategies. Reagan’s new approach for dealing with extremist ideologies and forces transformed U.S. diplomacy and defense policies and programs across the board away from morally neutral, isolationist, or withdrawal choices, from unilateral arms control and from MAD nuclear doctrines. Reagan’s approaches, and those reviewed in the next paragraph, can provide foundational starting points for the strategic rethinking needed to address today’s rising extremist Islamist movements, Iranian imperialism, Russian revanchism, and expanded Chinese territorial claims and military buildups. Reagan’s diplomacy reaf- firmed America’s freedom principles by establishing close U.S. policy “linkage” to Soviet domestic and interna- tional behavior, gained strong global support for his innovative defense, arms control and regional proposals, and ended predominant self-defeating U.S. diplomatic taboos against publicly exposing the brutal facts of Soviet ideology, repression, violations, “active measures,” and outright aggression. In U.S. defenses Reagan assured across-the-board funding and modernization of neglected capabilities that had been radically cut or postponed, including for conventional force projection, and for essential future nuclear weapons development and nuclear testing some had sought to abolish. Especially critical was Reagan’s innovative national Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) as an indispensable moral and strategic imperative to protect the American people, Allies and others; to move from questionable either/or U.S. nuclear response choices based on MAD; and to provide essential insurance against Soviet arms treaty break-outs and global proliferation.
New Arms Control, International Economics, Public Diplomacy, Intelligence, and Support of An- ti-Communist Resistance Strategies. In arms control, Reagan replaced predominant U.S. and Soviet “caps” and “freeze” proposals with militarily meaningful deep arms reductions in the most destabilizing systems in Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF), Strategic Arms Reductions (START), and Conventional and Chemical/ Biological Forces (CBW), while he also diplomatically challenged and publicly exposed Soviet treaty viola- tions, and proposed high-confidence effective U.S. data and verification including through on-site inspections. Reagan’s U.S. international economics strategy replaced lax financial bailouts and U.S. technology transfers with tough new restrictions in which the Defense Department shared a major role and added sanctions linked to Soviet human rights suppression and international aggression in cases like Poland and Afghanistan. Reagan’s