Chapter 8 – Setting the New Cold War Strategy: The First Term - Statements and Decisions

3. The Consistency in Reagan’s Classified and Public Strategy Documents

As readers review Reagan’s declassified secret Cold War strategy documents and his public speeches, reports, and public diplomacy documents, they will discover that the two groups of statements are remarkably explicit, congruent, and realistic in the objectives, principles, and facts they state as well as in how consistently throughout his two terms he (and the Reaganauts on his team) pressed his revolutionary Cold War goal to defeat an evil totalitarian Soviet ideology and empire while reducing weapons and risks of war. His First Presidential News Conference, on January 29, 1981, reviewed in Chapter 20 spoke to the threat. And like Winston Churchill, he saw decisive historical leverage from speaking “truth to power” on the priciple that “the truth shall make you free.”

National Security Council Documents. After a review of Reagan’s political vision as expressed in his inaugural address, this chapter provides an overview of Reagan’s secret Cold War strategy as set forth in originally classified National Security Council (NSC) documents signed by Reagan, which were much later declassified and redacted by the U.S. National Archives. Such documents include National Security Decision Directives (NSDDs) and National Security Study Directives (NSSDs).

Reagan’s Public Speeches. Reagan’s speeches involving defense and foreign policy focused on the battle for freedom and are marked by inspiring language and locations that had a major role in challenging Soviet imperial legitimacy and momentum. These speeches are reviewed in Chapter 16 on Reagan’s Freedom Strategy and contain some of the most illuminating public texts of Reagan’s Cold War strategy. The speeches reviewed include his inaugural addresses and those to organizations like the British Parliament, United Nations, American Legion, Evangelicals, and the European Parliament as well as at significant locations like Glassboro, Venice, the Berlin Wall, and Moscow. Other collections of Reagan’s speeches are reviewed in Chapter 7 on Reagan’s 1980 campaign and in Chapter 9 on Reagan’s visit to Moscow and elsewhere during his last months in office. Numerous Reagan speeches, topical statements, and excerpts as well as an unprecedented number of his administration’s most detailed, internationally-circulated public diplomacy reports are reviewed in this narrative’s individual topical chapters of Part III on the Reagan Revolution in Defense and Arms Control and Part IV on taking on Soviet Imperialism and Soviet “Active Measures” Intelligence Operations.

4. The National Security Council (NSC) Process

The National Security Council (NSC) Reagan inherited was formally established by the National Security Act of 1947 to assure modern U.S. presidents the means to direct and coordinate the content and process of the assessments, options, decisions, and implementation of U.S. National Security policy in an increasingly complex world. The NSC’s core policy areas traditionally include foreign policy, defense, intelligence, international economic affairs, Congressional relations, media relations, crisis management, and others. The NSC is headed by the President, who convenes cabinet-level meetings including the secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and other department and agency heads (e.g., Treasury, Energy), ambassadors, etc. as appropriate. The NSC traditionally meets in the Cabinet Room of the White House in close proximity to the president’s Oval Office, or, on occasion, in the Situation Room.

The NSC Process. The president’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (popularly known as the National Security Advisor) has an office in the White House with easy and frequent direct access to the president. The advisor directs a NSC staff ranging from fewer than a hundred to several hundred, most on temporary assignment from other departments and agencies. In the Reagan presidency, the National Security Advisors generally maintained a low profile, beginning with Richard Allen (1981) and Judge William Clark, (January 1982 to October 1983). Allen and Clark, often working with Edwin Meese, proved vital in firmly establishing Reagan’s “let Reagan be Reagan” policies at the heart of his winning Cold War strategy. Other advisors were Robert McFarlane (October 1983 to December 1985), Vice Admiral John Poindexter (December 1985 to November 1987), Frank Carlucci (November 1987 to Fall 1988), and Colin Powell (Fall 1988 to January 1989). (Two deputies also briefly held interim National Security Advisor position.)

The Interagency System. The NSC staff is located in the White House and in the Old (now the Eisenhower) Executive Office Building in the White House complex. It is well-known for administering the Situation Room, featured in U.S. media and movies, as a meeting place for senior officials and a communications center in a crisis. Less well-known, but critical to any president and his cabinet, is the NSC role in administering, scheduling, and coordinating an extensive interdepartmental NSC system ranging from cabinet-level

[Book pg. 173]