[Column] Reagan Doctrine: Peace Through Strength
Ronald Reagan, one of the true great presidents in our nation’s history, approached foreign policy through the prism of dialogue and diplomacy anchored in the might of [U.S.] American military force, particularly in the case of the former Soviet Union, as the Cold War drew to an end in the mid-1980s.
Long regarded as the “Great Communicator,” the former president spoke in plain terms, one capable of being understood by both the farmer in the heartland and the financier on Wall Street. His rhetoric was devoid of artifice or pomposity. It was grounded in a firmness of character and resolve that is so needed today, specifically in two key countries within the Caribbean region: Cuba and Venezuela.
After eight years of a presidency so deeply embedded in a charming style, rather than concrete results—perhaps more dramatically in the case of these two countries—the Trump administration in a matter of months has abandoned gratuitous concessions in the case of the former, and masked appeasement in the case of the latter. Cuba and Venezuela will have to play by a new set of rules. Plain and simple.
In the case of our neighbor in the Greater Antilles, I was pleased to attend our president’s speech in Miami to hear about the federal government’s new policy toward the island. Growing up in Puerto Rico, Cuba was that part of the world where time stood still and liberty—the concept of true liberty emblazoned in our Declaration of Independence—was in the hands of a few members of the military elite.
Very little changed from the mid-to-late 1960s of my childhood to the time the Obama White House reversed a policy that, much more than an economic stance, was a moral approach of solidarity to the millions of imprisoned citizens in Cuba.
Opting for a pragmatic method, President Trump has announced that the U.S. Embassy will remain open, sending a strategic message that Cubans are not alone in this fight and that the United States will be very vigilant to the new economic playing field announced by Washington, which seeks to benefit the people of Cuba rather than a corrupt and abusive military regime.
Likewise, as part of the recently held Organization of American States’ Cancún summit, organized by one of today’s leaders of democratic institutions and the rule of law, Secretary-General Luis Almagro, I was pleased to read U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan’s testimony regarding the situation in Venezuela. Deputy Secretary Sullivan made it very clear that in the case of this new failed state of the Americas, “nonintervention cannot be used to justify inaction or avoid responsibility.”
Sullivan called for the release of political prisoners and celebration of free elections. He went so far as to support the establishment of an “action-oriented contact group of governments” to aid in resolving the humanitarian crisis in which our neighbor to the south has been entrenched for way too long now.
Likewise, just a few days ago, President Trump made it clear that harsh sanctions and concrete responses will follow if the Maduro regime follows through with its plan to convene a new National Assembly in a process that, just like his oppressive regime, lacks coherence, vision and, worse of all, is completely divorced from the rule of law and the constitution enacted by his mentor, Hugo Chávez, in the late 1990s.
Puerto Rico, coincidentally, is located between these two countries. As a U.S. jurisdiction in the region, we are ready to support the federal government’s efforts in promoting the democratic ideals that are so deeply rooted in a way of life that we cherish, and in a way are accustomed to, but which seem so foreign and remote to the citizens of Cuba and Venezuela.
Fortunately, President Trump and his Cabinet are making sure Reagan’s words and legacy remain as current as ever when, in 1983, the 40th president expressed: “We know that peace is the condition under which mankind was meant to flourish. Yet peace does not exist of its own will. It depends on us, on our courage to build it and guard it and pass it on to future generations.
George Washington’s words may seem hard and cold today, but history has proven him right again and again. ‘To be prepared for war,’ he said, ‘is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.’” And President Trump is making sure to stand on the right side of history as it pertains to Cuba and Venezuela.