Notable & Quotable: Ronald Reagan
‘We find ourselves increasingly in a position of dangerous isolation.’
WSJ, Oct. 6, 2014
From Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan ’s address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Chicago, Aug. 18, 1980:
Soviet leaders talk arrogantly of a so-called “correlation of forces” that has moved in their favor, opening up opportunities for them to extend their influence. The response from the administration in Washington has been one of weakness, inconsistency, vacillation and bluff. A Soviet combat brigade is discovered in Cuba; the Carter Administration declares its presence 90 miles off our shore as “unacceptable.” The brigade is still there. Soviet troops mass on the border of Afghanistan. The President issues a stern warning against any move by those troops to cross the border. They cross the border, execute the puppet President they themselves installed in 1978, and carry out a savage attack on the people of Afghanistan. Our credibility in the world slumps further. The President proclaims we’ll protect the Middle East by force of arms and two weeks later admits we don’t have the force.
Is it only Jimmy Carter’s lack of coherent policy that is the source of our difficulty? Is it his vacillation and indecision? Or is there another, more frightening possibility—the possibility that this administration is being very consistent, that it is still guided by that same old doctrine that we have nothing to fear from the Soviets—if we just don’t provoke them.
Well, World War II came about without provocation. It came because nations were weak, not strong, in the face of aggression. Those same lessons of the past surely apply today. Firmness based on a strong defense capability is not provocative. But weakness can be provocative simply because it is tempting to a nation whose imperialist ambitions are virtually unlimited.
We find ourselves increasingly in a position of dangerous isolation. Our allies are losing confidence in us, and our adversaries no longer respect us.