A new conservative group, the Coalition for Peace Through Strength, is reviving the stern wisdom of the ancients: If you want peace, prepare for war.
More recently, that same wisdom guided Ronald Reagan, who, as president in the 1980s, ordered a major defense buildup, as part of an overall strategy for subduing the Soviet Union. As commander in chief, Reagan prepared for war so well, in fact, that he won a great victory over the Soviets without firing a shot.
We need that sort of vision today, and while the Gipper himself is gone, we are seeing the same wisdom in the work of some old Reagan hands. But first, a little history.
In the mid-70s, two well-meaning presidents, Republican Gerald Ford and then Democrat Jimmy Carter, were both optimistic that the Cold War with the Soviet Union could be managed into something like permanent co-existence.
As Carter said in a 1977 commencement speech at Notre Dame University, “We are now free of that inordinate fear of communism.” And so he set about preparing for peace, while the Soviets not only prepared for war, but made war--in Angola, in Ethiopia, and, most notably, in Afghanistan, which the Red Army invaded in 1979.
The result of this Soviet aggression was a political revolt in America. If Carter couldn’t deal with the Russians--and with new threats, such as Iran--Americans would find someone who could: Reagan.
The 40th President didn’t fear communism--he hated communism. He had seen it up close in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s, when, as president of the Screen Actors Guild, he dealt with communist-front labor unions.
All through the Cold War, Reagan was a consistent advocate of “peace through strength,” supporting presidents of both parties who were willing to stand strong.
When he reached the White House in 1981, Reagan didn’t hesitate to describe the Soviet Union for what it was: “the focus of evil in the modern world.” He zeroed in on those who claimed to see moral equivalence between the free world and the Soviet bloc, jibing at “the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”
That was Reagan--calling ‘em as he saw ‘em. But of course, he did much more than that. Behind the scenes, he was working closely with fellow anti-communists around the world, from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Pope John Paul II to a shipyard worker in Gdansk, Poland, by the name of Lech Walesa.
The result of this peace through strength policy can be summed up in one word: victory. In 1987, Reagan spoke in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, standing in the shadow of Soviet concrete and barbed wire, declaring, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And two years later, that’s what happened. Two years after that, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.
Peace through strength works. It requires patience and fortitude, but peace is better than war, and strength is better than weakness.
Today, one of the great leaders of the Reagan-era, Edwin Meese III, who loyally served Reagan for more than two decades--in California as a gubernatorial aide, then in Washington as White House Counsellor and as Attorney General--is now spearheading an effort to revive those powerful Reaganite words: “peace through strength.”
Meese is the lead signatory on the Peace Through Strength Platform, along with many others, including such Reagan defense officials as Frank Gaffney, of the Center for Security Policy, and Elaine Donnelly, of the Center for Military Readiness. Even more encouragingly, a growing number of incumbent politicians and political candidates, too, have signed on to the Peace Through Strength Platform.
Here’s the 10-point manifesto:
1. Renewed adherence to the national security philosophy of President Ronald Reagan: “Peace Through Strength.”American security is most reliably assured by having military forces that are fully trained, equipped and ready to deter or defeat the nation’s adversaries.
2. A robust defense posture including: A safe, reliable effective nuclear deterrent, which requires its modernization and testing; the deployment of comprehensive defenses against missile attack; and national protection against unconventional forms of warfare – including biological, electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber attacks.
3. Preservation of U.S. sovereignty against international treaties, judicial rulings and other measures that would have the effect of supplanting or otherwise diminishing the U.S. Constitution and the representative, accountable form of government it guarantees.
4. A nation free of Shariah, the brutally repressive and anti-Constitutional totalitarian program that governs in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Islamic states and that terrorists are fighting to impose worldwide.
5. Protection from unlawful enemy combatants. Enemies who refuse to wear uniforms, use civilians as shields and employ terrorism as weapons are not entitled to U.S. constitutional rights or trials in our civilian courts. Those captured overseas should be incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, which should remain open, or in other prisons outside the United States.
6. Energy security, realized by exploiting to the fullest the natural resources and technologies available in this country. We Americans must reduce our dependence for energy upon – and transfers of national wealth to – enemies of this country.
7. Borders secure against penetration by terrorists, narco-traffickers or others seeking to enter the United States illegally. Aliens who have violated immigration laws should not be rewarded with the privileges of citizenship.
8. High standards that protect the military culture essential to the All-Volunteer Force. The Pentagon should implement sound priorities, policies and laws that strengthen recruiting, retention, and readiness.
9. A foreign policy that supports our allies and opposes our adversaries. It should be clearly preferable to be a friend of the United States, not its enemy.
10. Judicial and educational institutions that uphold the constitutional responsibility of elected officials to make policy for our military and convey to future generations accurate portrayals of American history, including the necessity of defending freedom.
That’s an expansive agenda, covering much more than ships and missiles, important as military hardware might be. And while the Platform is a strong rebuke to President Obama--whose Carter-ish administration acts as if it agrees only vaguely, at best, with these ten points--the document could raise hackles on the right, too.
Border security, for example, is not welcomed by every libertarian. Similarly, energy independence is also controversial in some free-market circles, because the goal of energy independence presupposes government activism to achieve that end.
However, it seems clear that if America is at war, then we must take prudent steps to defend ourselves: We need to police the frontier of our homeland, and we should pull back from funding our enemies through oil and gas imports.
Moreover, the Peace Through Strength Platform is also notable for its omissions: The document makes no mention of the “liberty century” that President George W. Bush declared in his 2005 inaugural address, when the 43rd president emphasized the importance of internationalizing freedom and democracy.
Similarly, the words “Islam is peace,” spoken by Bush just days after 9/11, do not appear. Instead, the document focuses on Muslim extremism and jihadism, labeling such “isms,” quite rightly, as a mortal threat to America and its allies.
The critical issue facing America is not whether we can make friends with Muslims and bring them around to our democratic values; the issue, instead, is the survival of freedom for Americans and for their allies. One is reminded of the motto of the U.S. Army: “This we’ll defend.”
And that’s what the Peace Through Strength Platform does: It calls for the energetic and comprehensive defense of America, which Ronald Reagan described as “the last best hope for mankind.” That should be a cause to rally all Americans--although we will need an election or two before we get back on the right track.
James P. Pinkerton is a writer, Fox News contributor and the editor/founder of SeriousMedicineStrategy.
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James P. Pinkerton is a Fox News contributor. He is a former White House domestic policy adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.