04/01/2015 09:36 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ronald Reagan Would Not Have Allowed 47 Senators or Netanyahu to Influence Nuclear Negotiations with Gorbachev


In January, I wrote a Jerusalem Post article titled Why Bombing Iran would be a strategic mistake for Israel and America. When Leon Panetta, Robert Gates, Admiral Michael Mullen and other top officials all agree that bombing Iran would only set its nuclear program back three years, it's obvious that war hawks are playing checkers rather than chess. Any military option that needs to be repeated every three years isn't an option correlating to anything but futility. The U.S. is still fighting wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, so a third war in the Middle East makes little sense for America. Furthermore, even the Mossad's Tamir Pardo doesn't think Iran is an existential threat (in fact, Pardo stated the term is "too freely used"), so not everyone in Israel agrees with Netanyahu on this topic.

In reality, neither the U.S. nor Israel has the money at the moment to fund a major war against Iran and to think that Iran wouldn't retaliate with proxy armies in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere is naive. Ultimately, the same people who told you weapons of mass destruction were hidden within Saddam's regime are now telling you that we must not only fight ISIS, but also bomb Iran, send weapons to Ukraine, prepare against a future war with China, and save the world from terror. Just read the GOP's platform on "American Exceptionalism" to see why America's might should be flexed at all times, even at the risk of another conflict similar to Vietnam or Iraq. My recent article in The Roanoke Times explains the folly of yet another counterinsurgency war against ISIS, especially since such conflicts are inherently losing propositions. When insurgents wearing tennis shoes and hiding behind apartment buildings are ambushing our soldiers, planting $30 IED's, and blending in with the local population, even the greatest military in the world becomes stuck in a quagmire.

However, there's an issue that the 47 new pen pals of the Iranian regime have circumvented for too long. Would Ronald Reagan have feared the wrath of a Congressman like Tom Cotton during nuclear negotiations with the USSR? Did Reagan ever consult then Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir about the true existential threat of Soviet missiles pointed at America?

What if Tip O'Neil and other top Democrats wrote a letter to Gorbachev explaining that Congress could veto any agreement made by Reagan?

No, Ronald Reagan would never have stood for such "mutinous" behavior, as described by Major General Paul D. Eaton. According to The Reagan Library, President Reagan met with Gorbachev on a number of occasions (without the condemnation of Democrats in Congress) with the intent of fostering trust and providing a framework that limited each side's nuclear arsenals:

He believed that if the mistrust was eliminated, then so, too, could the dangerous, destabilizing weapons. President Reagan was confident that if he could just get his Soviet counterpart in a room and tell him face‐to‐face that America had no hostile intent, the mistrust would begin to evaporate. Instinctively he knew that could not be accomplished through the traditional diplomacy of a bureaucratic State Department.

... The first of their five meetings was on "neutral turf." It took place in Geneva, Switzerland in November 1985

... Almost a year later, the two leaders got together again, this time in Reykjavik, Iceland.

... Just as he expected, in December, 1987, President and Mrs. Reagan welcomed the Gorbachevs to Washington for the third Summit.

... In the Spring of 1988 the Reagans traveled to Moscow for Summit #4.

... The final Summit during the Reagan Presidency was in December, 1988.

The unlikely pairing of a devoted anti‐Communist advocate of capitalism with a dyed‐in‐the‐wool Marxist resulted not only in the most significant arms reduction treaty in history, but in a permanent change in U.S.‐Soviet relations. Neither country, nor the world, would ever be the same again. Somehow, against all odds, "Ron and Mikhail," as they eventually came to call each other, had found a way to make the planet safer after all.

Just imagine what Fox News would do to "Obama and Mikhail" if the Republican media machine existed in the 1980s. While Reagan believed "face-to-face" meetings (and eliminating mistrust) could help forge peace with the Soviets, Obama can't do anything right according to the current GOP leadership.

Imagine what Tom Cotton would have done if he were in Congress during the 1980s and think of Reagan's legacy. Could Reagan have "won" the Cold War with naysayers like today's GOP constantly questioning his every move?

Also, let's not forget that Reagan sold weapons to Iran; the same regime deemed an "existential" threat to the world. According to PBS, the Iran-Contra Scandal exemplified Tom Cotton's worst nightmare:

In 1985, while Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran made a secret request to buy weapons from the United States. McFarlane sought Reagan's approval, in spite of the embargo against selling arms to Iran.

... While shipping arms to Iran violated the embargo, dealing with terrorists violated Reagan's campaign promise never to do so. Reagan had always been admired for his honesty.

... By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped to Iran. Three hostages had been released, only to be replaced with three more, in what Secretary of State George Shultz called "a hostage bazaar."

... While probing the question of the arms-for-hostages deal, Attorney General Edwin Meese discovered that only $12 million of the $30 million the Iranians reportedly paid had reached government coffers. Then-unknown Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council explained the discrepancy: he had been diverting funds from the arms sales to the Contras, with the full knowledge of National Security Adviser Admiral John Poindexter and with the unspoken blessing, he assumed, of President Reagan.

Despite an arms embargo against Iran and despite Congress being unaware of funds diverted to the Contras (another illegal act), the Iran-Contra Scandal took place under the GOP's most beloved president. President Obama can't even sit down and negotiate with the Iranians without histrionics from Congressional Republicans, so just imagine how Fox and the GOP would react if he sold them weapons, or used the proceeds to fund a rebel group without Congressional approval.

Finally, let's look at the selective memory of Netanyahu, the Republican Congress, and conservatives who wish nothing more than a show of force to a regime that has vocalized its wish to destroy America and Israel. In 1965, Egypt's President Nasser vowed, "We aim at the destruction of the State of Israel." Fourteen years later in 1979, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat shook hands and made peace. Similarly, Khrushchev stated "We will bury you" and the Soviets aimed nuclear missiles at the U.S. for close to fifty years. According to Margaret Thatcher, Reagan ended the Cold War "not only without firing a shot, but also by inviting enemies out of their fortress and turning them into friends."

Therefore, it's safe to say that "The Gipper" wouldn't stand for the Tom Cottons and Netanyahus of the world, if they were around during his tenure as president. He wouldn't have allowed anyone to get in the way of negotiations with the Soviets and President Obama should emulate his Republican counterpart. Like Reagan, Obama should focus on "inviting enemies out of their fortress" and negotiations. If Reagan did it with the Soviets, Obama can do it with the Iranians, regardless of the noise made by politicians who have only their own interests in mind.