Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Ford’s "Realism"

Here Christopher Hitchens goes after President Ford’s record on foreign policy. It’s not true that this evidence is sufficent to label Ford’s administration a mercifully short national nightmare, but it does show that his rather glaring weakness was deferring too readily and coldly to established power. Hitchens’ point is that the man who first abandoned the Kurds and East Timor and snubbed Solzhenitsyn may not be the most reliable guide for our policy in the Middle East today. He was a Ford, not a Lincoln or a Reagan.

Discussions - 10 Comments

The idea that those who ran American foreign policy in the 1970s would be reliable guides for our current predicaments seems silly on its face. (That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to them, just that they aren’t Delphic moral guides). Reagan’s 1980 election victory was in part a ratification of his rejection of the accommodationism (let’s not call it realism - that seems an insult to reality) of the 1970s.

That realism is what the experts still call realism now. But, MS, you’re basically right.

The refusal to meet with Solzhenitsyn is a terrible black mark against Ford - an infamous episode.

As I recall the mocking remark about Ford was that he had played football too long without a helmet.

Of course, if we want to see a really great man in action, just tune in to Book TV on C-SPAN2 and watch Dan Mahoney talking about the Solzhenitsyn Reader. The schedule says the show airs tomorrow (Sunday) at 4:05 p.m. Solzhenitsyn’s sons will be there, too, as an added bonus.

In Ford’s defense, it’s worth recalling that he had to deal with what was perhaps the most left-wing Congress in U.S. history. That doesn’t excuse the snub of Solzhenitsyn, of course, but it does suggest that his options (both on foreign and domestic policy) were rather limited.

Oh, how happy I am to find criticism of Gerald Ford! He was a most regrettable president. I was just realizing back then that I could not remain a Democrat. I badly wanted to be able to vote for a Republican, but Ford and family were appalling. Ford made it very difficult to be a Republican, not only for the things cited in the Hitchens article, but all sots of other things, too, like the chaos of the fall of Saigon, signing the Helsinki Accords (which made the Soviet Union sound like it must just be another nation.) In the next election, I voted for Jimmy Carter and within months was kicking myself for the bad choice. Neither was a desirable choice for the office. Of course, eventually we could go to work for Ronald Reagan. If Ford had been reelected, that probably would not have happened. But that’s like thanking Gorbachev for the fall of the USSR.

I do not remember Ford being inoculated against media criticism as Goldberg characterizes the era in a link suggested on the blog the other day. I remember brutal jokes about Ford’s competence. I remember WISHING those jokes were pointless. If he had been the great moderate, able to deal with Republican and Democrat, alike, as he is now being characterized, then why was everything such a mess? Why would working with the highly partisan Democratic Congress be impossible for such a man, if he had had something solid to offer? The man seemed to have no principles, beyond his own honesty, and honesty in the service of nothing is just pointless.


I like that last part..."honesty in the service of nothing just pointless." Is that your own?

"Wandering without aim" describes the United States’ foreign policy. Angola is a case in point. We gave just enough support to one side to encourage it to fight and die, but too little to give them a chance of winning. And while we’re disliked by the winner, distrusted by the loser, and viewed by the world as weak and unsure. If détente were the two-way street it’s supposed to be, we could have told the Soviet Union to stop its trouble-making and leave Angola to the Angolans. But it didn’t work out that way.

Now, we are told Washington is dropping the word "détente," but keeping the policy. But whatever it’s called, the policy is what’s at fault. What is our policy? Mr. Ford’s new Ambassador to the United Nations attacks our longtime ally, Israel. In Asia, our new relationship with mainland China can have practical benefits for both sides. But that doesn’t mean it should include yielding to demands by them, as the administration has, to reduce our military presence on Taiwan where we have a longtime friend and ally, the Republic of China.

And, it’s also revealed now that we seek to establish friendly relations with Hanoi. To make it more palatable, we’re told that this might help us learn the fate of the men still listed as Missing in Action. Well, there’s no doubt our government has an obligation to end the agony of parents, wives and children who’ve lived so long with uncertainty. But, this should have been one of our first demands of Hanoi’s patron saint, the Soviet Union, if détente had any meaning at all. To present it now as a reason for friendship with those who have already violated their promise to provide such information is hypocrisy.

In the last few days, Mr. Ford and Dr. Kissinger have taken us from hinting at invasion of Cuba, to laughing it off as a ridiculous idea. Except, that it was their ridiculous idea. No one else suggested it. Once again— what is their policy? During this last year, they carried on a campaign to befriend Castro. They persuaded the Organization of American States to lift its trade embargo, lifted some of the U.S. trade restrictions. They engaged in cultural exchanges. And then, on the eve of the Florida primary election, Mr. Ford went to Florida, called Castro an outlaw and said he’d never recognize him. But he hasn’t asked our Latin American neighbors to reimpose a single sanction, nor has he taken any action himself. Meanwhile, Castro continues to export revolution to Puerto Rico, to Angola, and who knows where else?

As I talk to you tonight, negotiations with another dictator go forward— negotiations aimed at giving up our ownership of the Panama Canal Zone. Apparently, everyone knows about this except the rightful owners of the Canal Zone—you, the people of the United States. General Omar Torrijos, the dictator of Panama, seized power eight years ago by ousting the duly-elected government. There have been no elections since. No civil liberties. The press is censored. Torrijos is a friend and ally of Castro and, like him, is pro-Communist. He threatens sabotage and guerrilla attacks on our installations if we don’t yield to his demands. His foreign minister openly claims that we have already agreed in principle to giving up the Canal Zone.

Well, the Canal Zone is not a colonial possession. It is not a long-term lease. It is sovereign United States Territory every bit the same as Alaska and all the states that were carved from the Louisiana Purchase. We should end those negotiations and tell the General: We bought it, we paid for it, we built it, and we intend to keep it.

Mr. Ford says détente will be replaced by "peace through strength." Well now, that slogan has a—a nice ring to it, but neither Mr. Ford nor his new Secretary of Defense will say that our strength is superior to all others. In one of the dark hours of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "It is time to speak the truth frankly and boldly." Well, I believe former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger was trying to speak the truth frankly and boldly to his fellow citizens. And that’s why he is no longer Secretary of Defense.

The Soviet Army outnumbers ours more than two-to-one and in reserves four-to-one. They out-spend us on weapons by 50 percent. Their Navy outnumbers ours in surface ships and submarines two-to-one. We’re outgunned in artillery three-to-one and their tanks outnumber ours four-to-one. Their strategic nuclear missiles are larger, more powerful and more numerous than ours. The evidence mounts that we are Number Two in a world where it’s dangerous, if not fatal, to be second best. Is this why Mr. Ford refused to invite Alexander Solzhenitsyn to the White House? Or, why Mr. Ford traveled halfway ’round the world to sign the Helsinki Pact, putting our stamp of approval on Russia’s enslavement of the captive nations? We gave away the freedom of millions of people— freedom that was not ours to give.

Now we must ask if someone is giving away our own freedom. Dr. Kissinger is quoted as saying that he thinks of the United States as Athens and the Soviet Union as Sparta. "The day of the U.S. is past and today is the day of the Soviet Union." And he added, ". . . My job as Secretary of State is to negotiate the most acceptable second-best position available." Well, I believe in the peace of which Mr. Ford spoke—as much as any man. But peace does not come from weakness or from retreat. It comes from the restoration of American military superiority.

Ask the people of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary—all the others: East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania—ask them what it’s like to live in a world where the Soviet Union is Number One. I don’t want to live in that kind of world; and I don’t think you do either. Now we learn that another high official of the State Department, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, whom Dr. Kissinger refers to as his "Kissinger," has expressed the belief that, in effect, the captive nations should give up any claim of national sovereignty and simply become a part of the Soviet Union. He says, "their desire to break out of the Soviet straightjacket" threatens us with World War III. In other words, slaves should accept their fate.

Well, I don’t believe the people I’ve met in almost every State of this Union are ready to consign this, the last island of freedom, to the dust bin of history, along with the bones of dead civilizations of the past. Call it mysticism, if you will, but I believe God had a divine purpose in placing this land between the two great oceans to be found by those who had a special love of freedom and the courage to leave the countries of their birth. From our forefathers to our modern-day immigrants, we’ve come from every corner of the earth, from every race and every ethnic background, and we’ve become a new breed in the world. We’re Americans and we have a rendezvous with destiny.

Fred, If it IS good, it’s probably someone else’s dandy bauble: my magpie mind might have caught it anywhere.

To whoever did that: Thanks for the Reagan speech. Wasn’t he just right and grand?

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