The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow tells readers that President Reagan “would be angry at the attempt to use his legacy to justify a failed foreign policy. When Ronald Reagan left office, the United States truly stood tall. George W. Bush more than any of Reagan’s other successors squandered the Reagan legacy. And the former did so with a recklessly aggressive policy that ran counter to Ronald Reagan’s far more nuanced approach in a far more difficult time. In contrast to Reagan, most of today’s leading Republicans appear to want strength, but not peace.”
It’s presumptuous to claim to know what Reagan would think today. But the world is a lot different than when he was in office. He undoubtedly would recognize that the end of the Cold War terminated the most serious threat against the United States. He likely would have been horrified at the self-delusion that went into the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. He probably wouldn’t be happy with how Washington’s defense policy has kept rich allies as welfare dependents more than a quarter century after he left office. An opponent of social engineering at home, it’s hard to imagine him wasting American lives and money for more than a dozen years attempting to turn Afghanistan into a liberal democracy. An advocate of aid to insurgents fighting outside oppressors, he likely would have recognized the risk that local insurgents would take up arms against American occupiers. He certainly would have worried about Washington’s lost credibility, but likely would have recognized that the answer was to make fewer foolish promises in the future, rather than to make good on dumb ones in the past, such as to bomb Syria over its apparent use of chemical weapons.