Reagan's tough talk
Last month, in Chicago, Ronald Reagan gave a major speech on foreign policy. The world might ponder it for he may well be America's next president. It is too early for him to give final details and it would be unfair to ask full particulars. But his challenge is unmistakable and positive. As an adversary he naturally attacks President Carter. In general he asks for a "strong" foreign policy -- an America respected abroad not merely for its political views but for its economic and military might.
Mr. Reagan says that "the Soviet Union surpasses us in virtually every category of military strength." He demands a change to stronger action, and a program resting on three foundations, a policy of "firm convictions," a strong economy, and "the unquestioned capability to preserve world peace and our national security." America must show the world, and particularly the third world, he says, the superiority of capitalism to "Marxism and socialism." And it is essential to promote free enterprise at home, he says, where we are "overregulated and overtaxed." As an example, he says, "today only about 79 million Americans work and earn in the productive private sector. About 82 million get a portion of their income from government."
Mr. Reagan asks resolutely for stronger defence: "The Carter administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress have neglected our military strength and have cut back our defence programs." Arms control agreements are no good, he says, "as long as we let the Soviet move ahead of us in every category of armaments."
Mr. Reagan wants "a superior navy . . .which will enable the United States to command the oceans for decades to come." He wants "an active ready reserve force" which, he thinks, can be obtained on a voluntary basis, and it would be better to give more pay, he says, than to "hire hundreds of bureaucrats to compile a gigantic roster of young men and women for a possible future draft."
Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R) of California inserts that Reagan Chicago speech in the Congressional Record (March 24) along with a friendly newspaper column. Mr. Reagan wants a "North American accord" with Canada and Mexico "to bind the three great nations of his continent closer together." In the Middle East he wants the alignment with Israel continued. He is anxious about unrest in the Caribbean; he complains that at the United Nations "we pay the lion's share of a bloated budget"; he refers to setbacks in Iran and Afghanistan and summarizes: "These humiliations and symbols of weakness all add up. . . We apologize, economize, withdraw and retreat; we fall silent when insulted and pay ransom when we are victimized."
The former California governor thinks his positions on foreign and defense policy are "generally closer to the majority view in Congress" than are those of Mr. Carter. In many respects, he asserts, "Congress is far ahead of the Carter administrtion." He cites congressional opposition to the administration's cancellation of B-1 bomber, lapse of the defense treaty with Taiwan, rejection of the neutron warhead, and the plea for draft registration. He strongly opposed treaties giving up US control of Panama Canal; "we built it, we paid for it, it's ours and we're going to keept it," he told audiences.He was asked recently in Oklahoma City if he would abrogate the treaty if elected. He replied "if they step over the line just once, we'll step in." On detente with Russia he calls it largely an "illusion."
At a news conference in Milwaukee he demanded "extreme pressure" from President Carter to release American hostages in Tehran. It was administration failure to take strong action in the first few hours, he argues, that precipitated the deadlock in the first place. Today, Mr. Reagan says, he would not use direct military action -- "jingo-thinking, or pushing the war button." What he does affirm in all his utterances, whether impromptu answers or formal statements, is that a "stronger" approach by the American government would end the "vacillation, appeasement and aimlessness of our present policy."