Reagan Doctrine Debate, Round III
Your debate on the Reagan Doctrine (June) was timely and well handled by the participants. Much invites comment, but for the sake of brevity I would like to deal with three points made by Ted Carpenter.
First, let us look at his analogy between the "back yard" status of Nicaragua vis-à-vis the United States and Afghanistan vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. In April 1978 the Soviet Union sponsored a revolution that replaced their sympathizer, Prince Daoud, with their puppet, Taraki. If they sought only a nonhostile nation on their southern Wakhan corridor, they had that under Daoud. Their subsequent annexation of the Wakhan, their de facto annexation of the Afghan provinces that border the Soviet Union, their genocide with respect to the provincial population, and their agitation of Pushtun and Baluchistan tribesmen indicate that their long-term goal is a corridor to the Persian Gulf and an opportunity to flank Iran.
Second, Mr. Carpenter claims that the president is eroding the constitutional process by his conduct of foreign policy. The Constitution gives the president the sole right to conduct foreign policy. This has been true for the past 200 years. Congress, through the Senate, can deny confirmation of the secretary of state and ambassadors, but that is not the power to conduct foreign policy; it is the power to obstruct. The Senate can also refuse to ratify treaties, but treaties do not determine foreign policy, they are derivative of it.
Finally, Mr. Carpenter asserts that for the executive to pursue a foreign policy initiative will cause him to be undercut at some point by the American people. Has Mr. Carpenter forgotten that the American people on two occasions soundly endorsed Mr. Reagan's foreign policy objectives by giving him victories of landslide proportions? During each election campaign Mr. Reagan clearly articulated an activist anticommunist foreign policy that was a well-defined contrast to his two opponents. The media were solidly aligned against him. His overwhelming success at the polls is his endorsement by the people. Those in Congress who would obstruct him are the self-appointed elite who have cast aside the will of the people and, in doing so, have effectively disenfranchised them.
Gloria M. Stewart
Thousand Oaks, CA
There is a false conception floating around the liberal foreign policy establishment, regurgitated again by Christopher Layne in your roundtable on the Reagan Doctrine, that says that Congress should be the embodiment of public opinion. "If it cannot command public opinion," Layne said, "it cannot command congressional support, then the American government has no business doing it behind the American people's back."
We all know what molds public opinion—the media. If Layne's statement were true, that would make the American media the real government of America.
Congressmen and senators were never meant to be robots of public opinion. Public opinion is too fickle, too shallow (especially in foreign policy matters), and too ill-informed. We pay our representatives to study the facts and make the wisest decisions based on the best long-term interests of our country and the world. Whether or not those decisions are in line with American public opinion doesn't matter one whit. What matters is the rightness or wrongness of the decision.
If the decision is right, you can be certain that public opinion will eventually fall in line with it. Such is the case with the invasion of Grenada and aid to the Nicaraguan resistance. If the decision is wrong, and the people unforgiving, the Constitution provides for elections to vote incompetents out of office, or if circumstances warrant, orderly procedures to boot them out before they have a chance to do more damage.
While our elected representatives are still in office, they have the duty to exercise their constitutional powers to the best of their ability, according to their own personal convictions as to what constitutes the best interests of our nation, without unlawful encroachment by other branches of government, and certainly with no obligation to toe the line so often articulated in the pompous goody two-shoes opinions of the liberal establishment and its mainstream media mouthpieces.
Steven S. Showers
Newbury Park, CA
All's Not Fair in Trade and War
I was surprised to learn in the editorial "Fair Trade Frenzy" (July) how goods made by Japan-based affiliates of U.S. companies are counted and that by 1985 their sales exceeded the 1985 trade deficit. I found myself asking, How are the goods of U.S.-based affiliates of Japanese companies counted? What dollar amounts are involved in that sector? I was surprised that the editorial never addressed this question, even though the weak dollar has resulted in Japanese purchases of everything in sight. (I hear there are no more American hotels in Hawaii—Japan finally figured out how to fight the war!)
Accountants are often weird but consistent. If the dollar amounts balance, then the weird accounting is irrelevant. If the missing dollar amounts are larger than the ones you chose to use, the "deficit" imbalance is magnified.
Ms. Zupan replies: Space precluded a fuller discussion, but the amounts do not cancel out. U.S. affiliates in Japan sell far more goods in-country than their Japanese counterparts based in the United States. In 1984, for example, U.S. affiliates sold the Japanese $43.9 billion worth of goods, while Japanese affiliates sold Americans $12.8 billion worth. If these figures are added to respective imports and exports for that year, we find that the Japanese bought $69.5 billion in U.S. goods—versus $69.6 billion in Japanese goods bought by Americans. Some "trade deficit"! The failure of the standard deficit figures to count those locally made foreign goods is important precisely because of the considerable marketing success of U.S. companies, compared to Japanese. (These figures, as well as those in the original editorial, are from Kenichi Ohmae, managing director of McKinsey & Co. in Japan.)
"Fair Trade Frenzy" is fine as far as it goes, but it fails to discuss the various arguments advanced in favor of protectionism. For example, some countries sell subsidized steel to U.S. firms. A firm that enjoys no such subsidies will be at a disadvantage vis-à-vis one that does. That is unfair trade. However much one might dismiss the economic importance of this point, people will respond to its moral force and favor protectionism.
There is also the more serious charge that opening markets to subsidized goods is a kind of dealing in stolen products. After all, the goods would cost more if it were not for the fact that some people's wealth was forcibly transferred to others who can now afford to sell for less. We don't accept trade in stolen goods as part of a free market, so why should we in international markets?
Tibor R. Machan
Reagan's Record Revisited
I have had a great respect for Milton Friedman and read all his books. I was excited to see the June Reason because of him ("Where Are We on the Road to Liberty?").
The article was logical until I read the paragraph that said, referring to Reagan, "We have had a president who, though you may disagree with some of his particular positions, is clearly committed to reducing the size and scope and role of government and who has been willing to stick to his principles."
Reagan said he would abolish the departments of Energy and Education. Both are bigger today than when he started. He said he would reduce taxes and yet he put in the largest tax increase ever, in the Social Security tax. He stated he was for a free market, yet he proposed taxes on imported motorcycles high enough to keep Harley-Davidson alive. He proposed a gas tax to provide jobs, ignoring the fact that taxes cost jobs in the private sector.
Can Mr. Friedman explain what Mr. Reagan's principles are?
Laguna Beach, CA
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".