Chapter 10 - Reagan Combines U.S. Defense and Arms Control Strategies

2. Reagan’s 1980 Platform: Policy Foundation for Defense and Arms Control

Reagan’s July Republican Platform—1980 and major campaign speeches (see Chapter 7), authoritatively summarize the core principles of his Cold War strategy in critiquing existing U.S. policies and outlining his sharply contrasting perspectives drawn from the historical context reviewed in Chapter 1-6. The Platform drafting team, consisting of Senator John Tower’s (R-TX) staff (including the author), closely coordinated the Platform’s “Peace and Freedom” strategy text with senior Reagan advisors. Although Platform highlights are cited in Chapter 7, more detailed defense and arms control-related texts are cited here. The entire “Peace and Freedom” section is provided in the book’s Internet Document Library.

Platform—Defense: The Existential Threat, Soviet Military Buildup, and Carter’s Defense Cuts. The prologue to the “Peace and Freedom” section opens with words on the unprecedented existential threat from the Soviet Union, seriously compounded by President Carter’s defense cuts and policy confusion:

     [U.S. Survival, Love of Freedom] At the start of the 1980s, the United States faces the most serious challenge to its survival in the two centuries of its existence. . . .

For three and one-half years, the Carter Administration has been without a coherent strategic concept to guide foreign policy, oblivious to the scope and magnitude of the threat posed to our security, and devoid of competence to provide leadership and direction to the free world . . . and led our most dangerous adversaries to miscalculate the willingness of the American people to resist aggression. . . .

[Soviet Military Buildup and Threat] The Administration’s neglect of America’s defense posture in the face of overwhelming evidence of a threatening military buildup is without parallel since the 1930s. The scope and magnitude of the growth of Soviet military power threatens American interests at every level, from the nuclear threat to our survival, to our ability to protect the lives and property of American citizens abroad.

Despite clear danger signals indicating that Soviet nuclear power would overtake that of the United States by the early 1980s, threatening the survival of the United States and making possible, for the first time in post war history, political coercion and defeat, the Administration reduced the size and capability of our nuclear forces.

[Soviet Imperialism, Carter Failures] Despite clear dangers signals indicating that the Soviet Union was using Cuban, East German, and now Nicaraguan, as well as its own, military forces to extend its power to Africa, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere, the Administration often undermined the very governments under attack. . . .

Despite clear danger signals indicating that the Soviet Union was augmenting its military threat to the nations of Western Europe, American defense programs such as the enhanced radiation warhead and cruise missiles, which could have offset that buildup, were canceled or delayed—to the dismay of allies who depend upon American military power for their security.

The evidence of the Soviet threat to American security has never been more stark and unambiguous, nor has any President ever been more oblivious to this threat and its potential consequences. . . .

[Carter’s Defense Budget and Program Cuts, Soviet Military Superiority] . . . Candidate Carter ran on a promise of massive cuts in U.S. defense spending. . . . The four chiefs of the armed services have each characterized the Carter defense program as “inadequate” to meet the military threat. . . . Mr. Carter cut back, canceled, or delayed every strategic initiative proposed by President Ford . . . [including] production of the Minuteman missile and the B–1 bomber. He delayed all cruise missiles, the MX missile, the Trident submarine and the Trident II missile. . . . Mr. Carter postponed production and deployment of enhanced radiation (neutron) warheads . . . [and] cut President Ford’s proposed shipbuilding plan in half. He vetoed a nuclear aircraft carrier . . . [and] opposed efforts to correct the terribly inadequate pay rates for our military personnel. . . . The Soviet Union is now devoting over $50 billion more to defense annually than the United States, achieving military superiority as a result. . . .

[Reagan Seeks U.S. Military Superiority] . . . We will build toward a sustained defense expenditure sufficient to close the gap with the Soviets, and ultimately reach the position of military superiority that the American people demand. (headings added)1

“Peace Through Strength” The complete text of Congressional Resolution #306 on “Peace through Strength” was incorporated, with Reagan’s approval, into the Republican Platform at the Republican Convention (See Chapter 7). The resolution’s defense and arms control excerpts follow:

[Book pg. 220]