Since we have reached the end of the academic year, I would sure like to use the time remaining to address some of the concerns that others have expressed about American foreign policy in the 1980s.
Under the Reagan Doctrine, U.S. assistance was given to pro-democracy forces in countries that were being threatened by Marxist-Leninist takeovers. There is no better example than in Nicaragua and El Salvador. We did not support the establishment of Soviet-backed dictatorships so close to our borders.
The leadership in El Salvador was willing to work with Vice President George Bush to respect human rights. Conditions were not perfect, but El Salvador was on the right path – presidential candidate Jose Napoleon Duarte, a Christian Democrat, was elected with 54 percent of the vote in a certifiably free election held in 1984 and supported investigating the murder of U.S. citizens in San Salvador.
In Nicaragua, under the leadership of Daniel Ortega, an avowed Marxist, the Sandinistas aborted their pledge for democracy by seizing control of communications and heavily censoring La Prensa, disparaging the Roman Catholic Church in an overwhelmingly Catholic nation.
This prohibited free elections by making the ground rules such that opposition leaders could not wage a campaign, abandoning any plans for improving human rights, persecuting the Indian populations on the Caribbean coast, taking possession of private property for collectivized farming, and using the schools for Marxist-Leninist indoctrination. Were they trying to promote democracy or fight for freedom? I suggest not.
Three out of every four dollars we sent to Nicaragua went for economic aid, and the rest was used for military purposes.
I’ll be the first to admit it – we did not want Nicaragua to serve as a channel for supplies coming in from Cuba and the Soviet Bloc with the intention of destabilizing neighboring governments.
We were right in mining the harbors of Nicaragua to stop our enemies from turning the country into a weapons distribution center. We wanted to see the trend toward democracy continue, but we would not have been successful if we had allowed Soviet-backed governments to proliferate in Central America, which would have spread to South America and eventually North America.
American foreign policy under the Carter Administration harmed our standing in the world by providing aid to the newly-installed Sandinista government, surrendering the Panama Canal to an enemy dictatorship, disregarding the Communist takeover of Grenada and Cuba’s unrestrained military buildup.
This included moving to destabilize the anticommunist government of Guatemala, and taking other actions that undermined our ability to control Soviet expansionism.
Whether we were dealing with Marxist-Leninist insurgencies, international terrorism or radical Islam, sometimes it took silent action to support a friend. If we had eliminated all covert action, that would have had serious consequences.
During the 1984 elections, reporters would constantly ask voters, “Why are so many of you voting for the Reagan-Bush ticket?” With such an outstanding record on foreign policy, including the fact that several dozen nations either established democratic governments or began moving in the democratic direction, their reelection was difficult to dispute. Western liberal democracy swept the world during that time, particularly in the Pacific Rim and South America.
To conclude the year, I would like to wish the graduates of our university well in their career decisions. It has been a pleasure to write for The Signal and I thank everyone for their interest in my columns.
I look forward to working with The Signal staff next semester. To all those returning next year, enjoy your summer vacation. And, of course, good luck with your final exams.