Viewing Enemy Regimes as They Are, Not as We Wish They Were

During his first press conference after taking office in January 1981, US President Ronald Reagan called détente a “one-way street that the Soviet Union has used to pursue its own aims.” Echoing this remark while addressing reporters later the same day, Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that the Soviets were the source of much support for international terrorism, especially in Latin and Central America.

The following day, both Reagan and Haig were criticized for their remarks, with members of the media describing the president’s words as “reminiscent of the chilliest days of the Cold War,” and appalled that the administration’s top diplomat was accusing the Russians of backing terrorist activities.

Nearly four decades later, in spite of the successful defeat of the Soviet empire, the White House is still frowned upon when it adopts a tough stance towards America’s enemies. Today’s outrage is directed at President Donald Trump’s warnings about — and to — North Korea and Iran. The Washington Post called his recent “fire and fury” threats to Pyongyang a “rhetorical grenade,” for example, echoing top Democrats’ attacks on his remarks for being “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

Critics of Trump’s attitude towards Tehran go equally far, describing his opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear deal with Iran — as “rushing headlong into war.”

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