Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Heilbrunn gets Republicans (young and old) all wrong

The last time I checked, George Shultz and Jim Baker were both Reagan Republicans. And they certainly were not shy about their views at the White House meetings I attended in those days. For his part, Henry Kissinger led a special commission for Reagan, working closely with my former boss, the "Reaganaut" Fred Ikle. George ...

TONY AVELAR/AFP/Getty Images
TONY AVELAR/AFP/Getty Images
TONY AVELAR/AFP/Getty Images

The last time I checked, George Shultz and Jim Baker were both Reagan Republicans. And they certainly were not shy about their views at the White House meetings I attended in those days. For his part, Henry Kissinger led a special commission for Reagan, working closely with my former boss, the "Reaganaut" Fred Ikle. George Shultz was also an early, and strong, supporter of George W. Bush. And both Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft advised the Governor of Texas as he was on the road to winning the Presidency (I write as an eyewitness on that score). Moreover, many of the people about whom Jacob Heilbrunn waxes nostalgic, the Joe Alsop crowd, would have had little time for Kissinger in particular -- something about his background perhaps, or, just maybe, the accent.

And, what, exactly, was wrong with Reagan's muscular approach to foreign policy? Did it not convince Gorbachev that the Cold War was futile? Did it not deter Muammar Qaddafi after the Gulf of Sidra operation? Did it not convince the Ayatollahs to remain quiescent? Reagan was no neo-con; he may have had Richard Perle on his team, but Baker, and Shultz were both far more senior. And on certain key issues -- including relations with the Soviets, Reagan sided consistently with the pragmatists.

As it happens, quite a few moderate Republicans have problems with the START Treaty -- in particular, its not-too-muffled hints about a potential end to the American missile defense program. The Russians, notably Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have unilaterally stated that this is the case, and while the administration refutes their assertion -- the Treaty would not otherwise have a hope of winning Senate approval -- it only does so sotto voce.

The last time I checked, George Shultz and Jim Baker were both Reagan Republicans. And they certainly were not shy about their views at the White House meetings I attended in those days. For his part, Henry Kissinger led a special commission for Reagan, working closely with my former boss, the "Reaganaut" Fred Ikle. George Shultz was also an early, and strong, supporter of George W. Bush. And both Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft advised the Governor of Texas as he was on the road to winning the Presidency (I write as an eyewitness on that score). Moreover, many of the people about whom Jacob Heilbrunn waxes nostalgic, the Joe Alsop crowd, would have had little time for Kissinger in particular — something about his background perhaps, or, just maybe, the accent.

And, what, exactly, was wrong with Reagan’s muscular approach to foreign policy? Did it not convince Gorbachev that the Cold War was futile? Did it not deter Muammar Qaddafi after the Gulf of Sidra operation? Did it not convince the Ayatollahs to remain quiescent? Reagan was no neo-con; he may have had Richard Perle on his team, but Baker, and Shultz were both far more senior. And on certain key issues — including relations with the Soviets, Reagan sided consistently with the pragmatists.

As it happens, quite a few moderate Republicans have problems with the START Treaty — in particular, its not-too-muffled hints about a potential end to the American missile defense program. The Russians, notably Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have unilaterally stated that this is the case, and while the administration refutes their assertion — the Treaty would not otherwise have a hope of winning Senate approval — it only does so sotto voce.

Oh, and one more item for Mr. Heilbrunn to consider: if he were to bother to look around on Capitol Hill in particular, he would find many young Republicans, twenty- and thirty- somethings, who are not at all committed to the kind of international noblesse oblige that Woodrow Wilson shared with Rudyard Kipling, and instead simply feel strongly about what they perceive as the erosion of our national security posture. Were I their age, I would certainly count myself among them.

Dov Zakheim is the former Under Secretary of Defense.

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