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What Will History Say About Reagan?

September 10, 1988

The headline over The Times' story about the Reagan legacy on foreign policy (Tues., Aug. 30) proclaims that his "Hard Line with Soviets Led to Better Relations." The truth is the opposite. It was the softening of his hard line that made better relations possible. The biggest thing Ronald Reagan did in foreign policy was to turn himself around.

The idea that his hard line brought the better relations with the Soviets is similar to the claim that his Administration brought a wave of democracies in Latin American when the facts are that it supported and praised military dictatorships from Argentina to Guatemala, and that in general democracies were established in spite of, instead of because of, U.S. influence or help.

As for the rest of the world, the U.S. role in Cambodia in support of the party of the Khmer Rouge follows in the shameful path of Richard Nixon's secret bombing of that country. How can it be said that our country caused the Iran-Iraq conflict to end when the well-known policy of our Administration for many years was to keep it going? After the exposure of the dealing for arms with Iran, sending the fleet to the Persian Gulf in a million-dollar-a-day operation looked like a face-saving move. Now the United States gratefully supports a U.N. peacemaking role though Reagan and his party previously had shown nothing but contempt for the United Nations.

As for the Middle East, the Administration that made so much noise about terrorism didn't bother to condemn Israel's attack on Lebanon with weapons supposedly for defense only supplied by the United States, that went through U.N. peacekeeping lines like they weren't there and killed 11,000 civilians. Reagan

Reagan can claim as his legacy the covert, undiscussed worldwide use of U.S. money and power in clandestine efforts against any regime it names "communist." But it is not to be assumed that the electorate subscribes to this policy unless and until it is openly debated. The moral and legal aspects of this legacy will remain to be evaluated after Reagan.

LOIS VINCENT

Panorama City

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