On October 19, stung by President Jimmy Carter’s charges that he might involve the United States in a nuclear war if elected President, Ronald Reagan made a television address in which he defended his “peace through strength” doctrine and spoke of himself as a man who has a “deep and abiding hope for peace.” But in his public statements over the years, Reagan has projected a consistent bellicosity that casts doubt on the authenticity of the “new Reagan” who emerged in the last days of the campaign.
The importance attached to the “moderate” Reagan is nowhere more evident than in the resistance the Reagan-Bush Committee offers to the reporter seeking the transcripts of the five-minute radio broadcasts Reagan has made since 1975, during the times he was not an active Presidential candidate. I have obtained a set of these transcripts covering the years 1975, 1978 and 1979, and they are a rich and revealing source of the candidate’s views, for in these talks the real Reagan is speaking privately to “his people” rather than to the electorate. Other reporters have quoted from some transcripts, but I have sought here to assemble in one place the more pertinent views on foreign policy and national security issues contained in them, along with other public pronouncements Reagan has made. As Reagan has said, “I was on radio so many years with those five-day-a-week commentaries. I had a twice-a-week column in more than 100 newspapers throughout the country. How could I change my positions?” His question is his own to answer, in his own words. Revealed is a man who has reacted viscerally to a variety of foreign challenges. These reactions provide the best prognosis of how President Reagan would perform in the Oval Office.
Turning first to the Middle East, would Reagan send the United States to war for oil? He certainly advocates a U.S. military presence in the region. He has said he wants American aircraft and troops stationed in Pakistan, and the planes perhaps also in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Last January, he suggested that the planes be manned by U.S. pilots and serviced by U.S. ground personnel. “I think this might be a very, very good time for the United States to show a presence in the Middle East…with the consent of, say, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia to have a presence there,” he said.
Would Reagan meet Soviet aggression in the Middle East with military force? The truth, he replies, “is that we don’t have the force…. Now, that is a shame because the Persian Gulf is valuable to us. We can survive without it, but it is absolutely essential to our allies in Western Europe and Japan.” The paramount U.S. interest in the Middle East, Reagan says, is to prevent the region from falling under Soviet domination. He sees Saudi Arabia as menaced by the U.S.S.R. and advocates using military force to prevent the country’s ruling sheiks from being overthrown by an uprising from within, as well as by aggression from the outside. As he told the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last May, the United States should send the Russians a “signal”: “We should let them know that we are not going to let Saudi Arabia fall, either from trouble within or from aggression without.” In June, he expanded on this “doctrine”: “We should follow a course of action that would lead [the Russians] to believe that if they…decided to go in there, they would be running into the possibility–the probability–of a confrontation with us. I question whether an uprising in Saudi Arabia would be totally free of Soviet influence. I think their hand would be in there stirring the pot and they would be ready to heed a call to bring order.”