Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

John Lewis Gaddis on Ronald Reagan

Back in April John Lewis Gaddis gave a lecture at George Washington University which is to be incorporated as a concluding chapter in the forthcoming revised edition of his classic 1982 work Strategies of Containment. To the dismay of his academic audience, his assessment of Reagan’s foreign policy is almost entirely favorable.

Gaddis began by noting that he ended the original edition of Strategies of Containment on a pessimistic note. Containment, he wrote at the time, "appeared to have reached a point of crisis, if not a dead end." But that was in 1981, before anyone had a clear sense of what the Reagan foreign policy would be. Over twenty years later, the author now claims that:

Ronald Reagan – not his advisers, but Reagan himself – deserves to be ranked alongside Kennan, Nitze, Eisenhower, Dulles, Rostow, Nixon and Kissinger as a serious strategist of containment. Indeed, I will go beyond that to argue that Reagan succeeded, where they all failed, to achieve a workable synthesis of symmetrical and asymmetrical containment – drawing upon the strengths of each approach while avoiding their weaknesses – and that it was that accomplishment, together with the accession to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, that brought the Cold War to an end.

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