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The Conservative Caucus in 1988: “Reagan is Chamberlain.”

September 3, 2010

Mitt Romney has likened President Obama’s foreign policy to an “apology tour.”  Former half-term governor Sarah Palin has stated that the Obama Doctrine is akin to “coddling enemies and alienating [our] allies.”  Radio and television personality Sean Hannity has broadcasted that Obama is “the Neville Chamberlain of out time.”

The President shouldn’t be surprised.  In 1988, the far right used similar smears against (the now sacrosanct) Ronald Reagan.  See for yourself.

Was H.W. Bush Joe Kennedy?

Today’s hot doc is an ad from the 25 January 1988 edition of The Washington Times. It compared President Reagan to the World-War-Two-era British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and implied that Reagan’s leadership in eliminating intermediate nuclear weapons was akin to letting the Nazi’s invade Czechoslovakia.

Some people, you just can’t appease please.

More than twenty years later, most serious observers (even from the far right) laud the INF treaty as one of President Reagan’s greatest and smartest accomplishments.  The treaty effectively eliminated an entire class of nuclear missile (The USSR destroyed 1,846 missiles, the US: 846).  Likewise, history has taught us that Reagan’s negotiating partner, Mikhail Gorbachev, was -contrary to this ad’s assertions- certainly no Hitler.  He was responsible for injecting democracy into the Eastern Bloc and allowing the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The “Appeasement Ad” was funded by the Conservative Caucus, a conservative public policy and lobbying group.  Currently, the Conservative Caucus is struggling to “repeal Obamacare,” “save the manned space program,” and “stop the Obama socialist revolution.”  The Conservative Caucus opposes United States membership in the United Nations, Panamanian control of the Panama Canal, and Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization.  Howard Phillips, the Caucus’s Chairman in 1988, has run for president three times.

Without commenting on the current positions of the Conservative Caucus, history has proven its 1988 ad dead wrong.  Its central thesis, that because of the INF treaty, “Moscow [had] an increased ability to intimidate and dominate Western Europe,”  –with the benefit of hindsight– is now laughable.  The Soviet Unions no longer exists; all of the Warsaw Pact nations save Russia have joined the European Union; many former Soviet republics are now firmly in the Western bloc (three have even joined the NATO); and most importantly, fewer nuclear weapons now exist to be acquired by terrorists, or launched by miscalculation.  The INF treaty was certainly not “a bad deal for America.”

As the Senate considers ratification of the NEW START treaty.  It’s important to remember the historical context of the debate over the INF treaty (as well the SALT and START Treaties). Despite the (sufficiently debunked) claims of Mr. Romney and others, fewer –not more– nuclear weapons make the world a safer place.  Don’t let pictures of Hitler and Chamberlain, or mistaken allegories to Munich convince you otherwise.

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