For The Reagan Doctrine
An interview with Senator Richard Lugar
NPQ - Forty years after the end of World War II, isn't it time to rethink free trade internationalism and the containment of communism - the main pillars upon which our post-war strategy was based?
RL - The two assumptions, if they were really the basis of our foreign policy - and some would argue that they were certainly principal among the things that we were about still pertain.
Containment of the Soviet Union, in one form or another, is still our policy. It has worked reasonably well over a forty year period of time except for Vietnam. Clearly we still desire free trade. We are of several minds, but the consensus among those proposing protectionist legislation is to open up other countries' markets as opposed to closing our own to imports. And we will continue to push for a second round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.
Although I would not for a moment downplay the economic situation, the Soviet relationship remains the most important. There is only one power that has the ability within a very short period of time to annihilate much of our military command structure, much of our retaliatory ability and large segments of our people. That country is the Soviet Union, and that is the unique thing about our relationship with them.
Although containment theory doesn't precisely address the strategic balance or mutually assured destruction, it does represent the fact that we see the Soviet Union as a power alien to our ideals. It reflects our belief that in order for us to be in a safer, saner world, there needs to be the maximum number of nations that share democratic ideals.
We try to contain Soviet military power or ideological influence because we believe the Soviets will damage our potential relationships and narrow the world in which we want to live and trade.
In these past forty years, we have tried to figure out how the tensions inherent in that relationship with the Soviets could be lessened. This is what detente is about.
However, maintaining detente was difficult in this country. We would genuinely like to have a relaxation, not only from the tension of an awesome first strike, but also from the relentless Soviet push into other continents and other territories. We would like to have thought detente meant a non-aggression pact of sorts. We simply did not understand what the Soviets meant by detente.
It is one thing to have a certain relaxation of tension in the most cosmic sense, but not for a moment were the Soviets about to foreswear movement wherever there were apples on the table to be swept off. They have continued to move. They have sympathized with indigenous groups that reflect their world view.
That has bothered us a great deal, so we debate whether it's possible to even have arms control agreements or other strategic arrangements with a world power that remains aggressive.
The one change that is significant in the Reagan years - some have called this a "Reagan doctrine" - is that we have decided there is no particular reason why we should simply observe Soviet aggression and lament it. It is clear to us that wherever the Soviets have become aggressors, there are people who desire freedom and we ought to help them.
So, we have now constructed several arrangements with so-called "freedom fighters." We work with them in Afghanistan, with certain anti-communists in Cambodia, with the Contras in Nicaragua and with Jonas Zavimbi in Angola.
We're now not only pushing Soviet-linked expansion back, but suggesting that, in fact, our freedom fighters might win. This is a new twist to the relationship, but a very important one. It is a much more aggressive posture on our part that is pro-freedom and pro-democracy. The Soviets must contend with us in a way they really had not contemplated before.
NPQ - Let's return to the notion of strategy. The containment strategy was developed largely after the war because there were limited resources - we couldn't go out and fight the Soviet Union because we were exhausted from the war and the economy had to be put in shape.
While the economy and military security are two different realms, they do compete with each other because our country's economy only generates a certain amount of resources and only those resources can be applied to whatever interests we decide to promote or defend. We are a debtor nation for the first time since 1914. We have a $200 billion fiscal deficit. We carry the Latin debt, the farm debt and a huge consumer debt. Certainly there is a consensus that the Soviets are a threat, but there are also constraints on our resources because we need to compete effectively in the international economy.
We have to reconcile these two competing demands on our resources. That means we have to define what our interests are. What's a vital interest? What's a peripheral interest? We have to differentiate.
RL - I believe that containment is successful and our general economic position is successful because we've had success with the NATO Alliance. This has meant that a whole group of countries has become prosperous along with us. We share a common ethic and they are prepared to help defend themselves and work with us to contain the Soviets. This is also true in our alliance with Japan and our friends in Australia and the ASEAN group, although in some ways this sharing is not as vigorous as it is with the NATO pact.
We have a similar situation with Israel as our focal point in the Middle East. It's a democracy. We have very strong ties. We also have very strong feelings from the Monroe Doctrine about our own hemisphere. These are interests that are generally understood.
I suppose the value of summit conferences or even visits between the Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union is that we keep trying to review with each other what our vital interests are. If there are things beginning to fall through the cracks, they are discussed.
Today, we have a lot going for us in South America. We have this incredible period of rising democracies. If we are thoughtful and intelligent, we will be able to develop democracy and resolve the debt and trade problems together. As a result, these countries will feel a stronger kinship with us.
The turnabout in Argentina with the election of Alfonsin is a remarkable one in a very short period of time. He shares our point of view. We've worked on trade issues together, even in very difficult times.
Without that movement toward democracy, toward understanding and working through the debt problem, we could have a group of leaders in Latin America who don't care a great deal about what happens to hemispheric security. It's not that they are Soviet-oriented, though Cuba and Nicaragua may be bad apples. They just presume we'll take care of ourselves, and somehow we'll provide a shield for them.
That could be the case with the European nations, too. Or with New Zealand. Somehow, they think we're going to look after ourselves, and everybody may, therefore, have an umbrella without a great deal of sacrifice or cooperation. The tricky problems will come in trying to identify not only our vital interests, but how vital they are to all the nations with whom we believe we have a stake.
To the extent that our influence is growing, the Soviets have got problems because more and more of the world seems to be interested in democracy as another brand of idealism. Their system hasn't really worked and the world knows it. The Soviets hang on simply by repression and intimidation.
NPQ - The Soviet model has little appeal in Latin America today. Their economic development strategy clearly doesn't work. The only thing the Soviets offer is arms.
RL - That's true. But Soviet arms still have appeal. Take the case of young blacks in the townships of South Africa. There is not a great philosophical battle going on, but a number of young blacks will somehow get outside the country and try to pick up a few arms. Then they say, "We're Communists. That's the way we want to head."
That's a tough situation. Where there are very sharp dissident situations, even if no one is arguing political philosophy, the arms make a difference.
NPQ - Let's take South Africa. So what if Soviet arms are used to make South Africa a black majority government if it doesn't mean an alliance with the Soviet Union?
RL - One never knows. It is clear that the Soviets and their Cuban and East German surrogates have been in Angola a long time, and they show no signs of yielding.
However, occasionally, there are odd cases like Mozambique. Although it's a Marxist state, for various reasons they got tired of the Soviets and are trying to shake them off That's tough to do.
How this example would fit with South Africa is unclear. With the arms often come advisers and indigenous persons who ally with the arms. They make a difference as to who is in charge for a while. So, there needs to be at least a counterforce or some other source of supply.
NPQ - Can we separate our relationship with the USSR from U.S.-Soviet competition in the Third World? Can we say that the Soviet strategic nuclear relationship is the most important to us because it means our survival, and that it shouldn't break down over Afghanistan on their side, or over Nicaragua on ours?
RL - I doubt it. People who make that argument get into all sorts of problems excusing this or that, saying that a particular situation, such as Angola, is not really very important to the overall picture. But each of these things are a part of the Soviet relationship. They are all on the table.
Angola was important, and Afghanistan even more so because it shows what really goes on in the councils of the Kremlin. It's hard to tell without overt manifestations. Their view of the world spurts out when they behave aggressively. It's a dangerous view as we see it.
NPQ - Is what happened in Afghanistan really a threat to our vital interests? In what sense does it constitute a threat to the security of this country.?
RL - By demonstrating a willingness to send 100,000 troops across somebody else's border, we know we are dealing with a nation-state that is dangerous. It has a political will and an ability to extend its forces to take over somebody else's government. That is a problem. One gets the feeling that if there were the will for one invasion, there might be the will and the ability to do something more.
This is the perceived danger. Most of us have come to the conclusion that war is unthinkable, that aggression among nation-states is passe. Yet, here are the Soviets using all their intimidation and strategic might, saying "we have a lot of latitude to do some smaller things because no one is going to stop us. The thought of stopping us is too awesome."
NPQ - What then should out strategy be?
RL - Our central focus has to be defending and promoting ideals that we cherish. Our people cherish political, religious and economic freedom, as well as a view of persons as sacred. Since others find these ideals appealing, we ought to make it possible for everybody to enjoy them.
On occasion, this may mean that we will sponsor and support groups who share our ideals and are trying to change the governmental philosophy, or even the governments of clearly totalitarian or authoritarian states. This stance puts us on the side of human freedom and human development.
Our problems come when we get on the side of a ruler who represses human development. From time to time, we have had to rationalize some of those arrangements because we felt they were a better option than something worse.
How refreshing it is to be able to say that Alfonsin in Argentina is a good man. He was elected by the people and he is someone with whom we like to do business. This is far better than having to say that, "even though it is an authoritarian government, still it's not as bad as those totalitarians." The best option is clearly to support out-and-out democracy.
However, while we are dealing country-by-country and region-by-region in promoting free trade, free politics and free thought, another component of our strategy must be to deploy the Strategic Defense Initiative. We've said that the competition in which we want to engage them over the next few decades is one of perfecting our defensive strategic weapons. And we trust that they probably will too. As a result, the world will be safer.
The game of going further and further into offensive weapons, and religiously adhering to arms control in order to save us from our ingenuity is a non-starter. It won't work. Although much of the intellectual establishment is caught up in hoping that cuts will bring us from 15,000 to 10,000 or from 10,000 to 5,000 - it really won't make it in terms of our safety. The defensive technology, by contrast, is really very promising.
It also illustrates our freedom. In our laboratories, we are free to think and interchange ideas without compartmentalization. Unlike the Soviets, we're not afraid of Xerox machines. We are not afraid of ideas getting out.
It also fits our sense of entrepreneurship and initiative to a tee. We would like to engage other nations, our allies and others in this breakthrough. It may be of help to us commercially as well as strategically.
It seems to me that the nitty-gritty of fighting out block-by-block who will win freedom, and an umbrella provided by the Strategic Defense Initiative are important teammates.
NPQ - You're very optimistic that history is moving in our direction, and that it's our role as a country to move it along?
RL - That's right. And it's difficult because it causes substantial dislocations in terms of jobs, the economy and in people's thinking.
The argument in our country over SDI exemplifies this. Two years ago, people were lamenting mutually-assured destruction. There was the nuclear freeze movement. There were a lot of people out in the streets trying to point out how bad the nuclear situation was.
Two years later, one finds some of the same people embracing the bomb and saying, "well, at least we know what this one is about. SDI is dangerously destabilizing." That's an incredible reversal of form.
There's also a nervousness about our approach to a new strategy the same way there is to free trade, or support of the Afghan rebels or over what we're going to do in Angola. Only recently has Congress made a significant turn on the foreign assistance legislation. It's not just the President's leadership. There really is a more bipartisan, two-house situation.
NPQ - What caused this new consensus?
RL - The logic of the situation was persuasive. It was the President's leadership in part, or his stubbornness as some people who don't like him would say. In the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, we reviewed the forty-year period since the end of World War II, and we all thought together for a few months before we began to act. As a result, we had a foreign aid bill for the first time in four years. It got 75 votes in the Senate. The State Department authorization had the Contras in it, and it got 80 votes. We've had very strong bipartisan support for South African sanctions, which was very difficult.
There's been a desire on the part of a lot of people for less polarization of attitudes. It's worked. People liked the idea and it's made for more meaningful Congressional relations with the President.
NPQ - Again, the economic question. A lot of what you say sounds almost like Kennedy's "pay any price, bear any burden." Do you believe we have the resources to finance this boundlessly optimistic foreign policy?
RL - I think we do. I don't think it's a given, and there has to be pretty strong economic growth or we can't pay our bills.
The President's strategy fits with his new taxation policy, through a change in economic incentives. It was important for the country to have a leap of new growth and to create a lot of new jobs.
So, we have had growth. We have been the engine that pulled along the rest of the world. Our market has been big enough to encompass the dislocations in Central America and South America, and to cope with the trade problems.
This economic state is not a foregone conclusion, however. That is why we really have to take domestic economic issues very seriously. I'm as worried as anyone else about the size of the deficit. I have no doubt there is a correlation between the deficit, high real interest rates, the high dollar and the huge trade gap.
We have also decided we want a large safety net. In fact, we want a larger one. You've made the case that we cannot have all of that, plus SDI, plus democracy everywhere. You might be right. There may have to be some choices. But if you're asking me, "are the resources there?", they are if there is the political will to use them that way.