Nelson Mandela and the Cheap Caricature of Ronald Reagan

 

It started in the recent movie The Butler, in which President Reagan is portrayed as opposing sanctions against South Africa because–well, the movie leaves the audience to suppose he simply had a heart of stone–and now, in the coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela, Reagan is being mentioned—at least on NPR, to which I listened this morning—as if he were some kind of racist throwback.

A handful of facts:

1.  Reagan opposed apartheid and said so, often and publicly. From his 1986 speech on South Africa:

The root cause of South Africa’s disorder is apartheid, that rigid system of racial segregation wherein black people have been treated as third-class citizens in a nation they helped to build. America’s view of apartheid has been, and remains, clear: apartheid is morally wrong and politically unacceptable. The United States cannot maintain cordial relations with a government whose power rests upon the denial of rights to a majority of its people, based on race.

If South Africa wishes to belong to the family of Western nations, an end to apartheid is a precondition.

2.  Far from playing cozy with the Afrikaans government, as, for example, Bill Keller of the New York Times seemed to suggest on NPR this morning, Reagan himself imposed sanctions against the South African government, issuing an executive order that curtailed military and official relations between the U.S. and Pretoria. I repeat: Reagan himself imposed sanctions against South Africa.

3.  Did Reagan oppose economic sanctions against South Africa? He did indeed. Because he had a heart of stone? Nonsense. “The primary victims of an economic boycott of South Africa,” the President explained, “would be the very people we seek to help.” Again, from his 1986 speech on the matter:

Most of the workers who would lose jobs because of sanctions would be black workers. We do not believe the way to help the people of South Africa is to cripple the economy upon which they and their families depend for survival.ODhhNzAzOTQ3OCMvZEUxWEEtcjlVTkQtLURUZFp1dy0wNzI5OVVVPS84NDB4NTMwL3NtYXJ0L2ZpbHRlcnM6cXVhbGl0eSg3NSk6c3RyaXBfaWNjKDEpL2h0dHAlM0ElMkYlMkZzMy5hbWF6b25h.jpg

Alan Paton, South Africa’s great writer, for years the conscience of his country, has declared himself emphatically: ”I am totally opposed to disinvestment,” he says. ”It is primarily for a moral reason. Those who will pay most grievously for disinvestment will be the black workers of South Africa. I take very seriously the teachings of the Gospels, in particular the parables about giving drink to the thirsty and the food to the hungry. I will not help to cause any such suffering to any black person.” Nor will we.

Looking at a map, southern Africa is a single economic unit tied together by rails and roads. Zaire and its southern mining region depends upon South Africa for three-fourths of her food and petroleum. More than half the electric power that drives the capital of Mozambique comes from South Africa. Over one-third of the exports from Zambia and 65 percent of the exports of Zimbabwe leave the [continent through South Africa.  Mines in South Africa employ] 13,000 workers from Swaziland, 19,000 from Botswana, 50,000 from Mozambique and 110,000 from the tiny landlocked country of Lesotho. Shut down these productive mines with sanctions and you have forced black mine workers out of their jobs and forced their families back in their home countries into destitution….

Reasonable people can certainly differ about Reagan’s assertion that economic sanctions would do more harm than good. What is clear—what is a matter of public record so obvious that only the mainstream media could ignore it—is that his motives were high. Reagan had an argument.  A humane one.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Neolibertarian
    James Of England

    I agree with the great bulk of what you write; much of it is stuff that I frequently find myself saying, but do not frequently hear from others, so I am doubly pleased.

    That said, the “much more accurate” version was still hackery committed by a dedicated partisan. Even if the numbers were true (which I don’t believe they were), as the link says and you imply, the increase in mortality was entirely in areas where Saddam was committing genocide.

    Agreed. The original “500,000” came largely from Saddam’s own Ministry of Health numbers. He was cynically attempting to garner sympathy.

    But the fact of the matter is, he achieved this sympathy. By 1998, there were three resignations in as many months by the UN officers in charge of managing the sanctions regime. They quit because they refused “to participate in the genocide.”

    The turning in world opinion polls about America can be dated from the close of 1990s. Libs would assign this growing condemnation to the Cowboy Bush’s heavy handed “them or us” foreign policy.”

    It seems more likely due to the erroneous UN FAO report that Leslie Stahl quoted from.

    • #61
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Neolibertarian

    “More than 600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression [the US-led United Nations sanctions] imposed on Iraq and its nation. The children of Iraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children. Due to all of that, what ever treaty you have with our country is now null and void.” 

  

                              —Fatwa issued by Osama bin Laden, (1996)

                                  Declaration of War Against the United States 

    Saddam’s responsibilities for the suffering are underscored by the analysis I linked to at Reason. The autonomous Kurdish region, for instance, suffered far, far less under the sanctions.

    Hussein’s guilt in the resulting suffering can’t be ignored.

    James Of England

    As such, I think Albright should have contested the numbers, and should also have contested responsibility, but her policy would have been right even if the numbers were true and if the responsibility America’s.

    I would agree up to the end of 1994.

    America had a decision to make in 1995. Bill Clinton was not responsible enough, nor committed enough.

    • #62
  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Neolibertarian

    And blaming Clinton is hardly satisfactory for me.

    The problem with sanctions is there’s no plan B.

    It wasn’t just Clinton but America too was more than willing to let the sanctions linger on far past a time they might have achieved any good.

    Conservatives have better instincts than Liberals, always.

    What was the liberal response to the mounting of OIF? Why, “we need to give the sanctions a chance to work,” that’s what! “Saddam Hussein is contained. There’s no reason to attack him. There’s no need for war.”

    SaddamMur-1_lightbox.jpg

    • #63
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Franciscus

    James of England @#47I’m sorry but I just don’t agree. India turned to the Soviet Union in the mid-late 60’s, thus economic isolation began.

    Their first nuclear weapon didn’t detonate until 1974. This is irrefutable.

    India’s economy was stagnant and unsustaninable until they cast of the yoke of inefficient communist style central planning in 1990.

    • #64
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Franciscus
    Black Prince

    Franciscus: Black Prince @#39Sorry, you are wrong; embargo on Cuba still remains, as it did then.

    .. If Reagan truly believed that economic sanctions did more harm then good, then at the very least he could have left things as they were after he took office without any political blow-back from the likes of Ted Kennedy. · 11 hours ago

    Edited 7 hours ago

    First, Ford was president in 75, and Teddy softened his attitude on the embargo.  The 77/79 acts of Carter were partial contributors to the whipping he took in 1980, hence my comment.

    Second, the circumstances with Cuba in 1980’s was more dire.  President Reagan wanted Cuba to cease operations in Africa and Cental/South America.  Choking out the Cuban government of funds, despite it not always reaching the long term goals, was a decision the president made to reach the short term goal.

     Teddy?  His policy changed with the wind, and was all for the increased embargo by the mid/late 80’s.  Oh, after trying to challenge Carter in a primary in 1980.

    • #65
  6. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    Franciscus: James of England @#47I’m sorry but I just don’t agree. India turned to the Soviet Union in the mid-late 60’s, thus economic isolation began.

    Their first nuclear weapon didn’t detonate until 1974. This is irrefutable.

    India’s economy was stagnant and unsustaninable until they cast of the yoke of inefficient communist style central planning in 1990. · 45 minutes ago

    Sorry, I thought you meant actual sanctions (the 1998 sanctions). If you just meant that India was able to develop nuclear weapons while being mostly on the Communist side of the Cold War, then, well, sure, but that was partly because the US and Canada didn’t stop nuclear cooperation until they set the bomb off. There’s a very large gap indeed between Iran-scale sanctions and still helping develop nuclear technology.

    • #66
  7. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BlackPrince
    Franciscus: Black Prince @#39Sorry, you are wrong; embargo on Cuba still remains, as it did then.

    It was during the Carter administration when parts of the ban (actually a series of bans established between 1960 and 1964 during the Kennedy administration with some overlapping of the Eisenhower and Johnson administrations) were lifted by allowing foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do business in Cuba (1975), then allowing U.S. citizens to travel and spend money in Cuba (1977), and then allowing Cuban Americans to visit their families in Cuba (1979)—this challenges your assertion that “Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wanted to be the first President to change the precedent set by JFK back then”.  So, in a sense, it was Jimmy Carter who actually changed (or at least modified) the JFK precedent and it was Ronald Reagan who reestablished the JFK precedent by reinstating the full trade and travel embargo in 1981/1982.  If Reagan truly believed that economic sanctions did more harm then good, then at the very least he could have left things as they were after he took office without any political blow-back from the likes of Ted Kennedy.

    • #67
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Sanctions do not work as I was brought up in a country under sanctions – Rhodesia and did live in South Africa in the nineties after sanctions were lifted. It is amazing how many oil tankers sank off the coast of South Africa – but all suddenly went well after the removal of sanctions.

    A point that Thatcher knew was that Africa was being fought over by Russia and China. In Zimbabwe, Zambia China won and have access to rare minerals needed to make cell phones. The populations in those countries are minima, their economies a joke. When I left Zimbabwe, we got two US dollars for one Zim dollar. Hard to believe.

    As for leaders. De Klerk’s wife was murdered in her home by thieves – the similar fate for not just hundreds but thousands of people. The politics of South Africa are very complex. What is sad is that Mandela’s dream never happened. Rainbow nation is now governed by the Zulus. Imagine a rapper with 6 wives who also rapes his niece and is charming and throws great parties. When you dig gold out of the ground, you do not need your people to be smart.

    Opposite of Reagan.

    • #68
  9. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Franciscus

    I think it is an agreement that sanction and restrictions in trade are a waste of time.

    It does not however mean you won’t take a warhead on the forehead if you are being particularly nasty.

    Punish the guilty, not the innocent.

    • #69
  10. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    Neolibertarian

    America had a decision to make in 1995. Bill Clinton was not responsible enough, nor committed enough.

    He was responsible enough, and committed enough, to leave Bush in a position where he could deal with it. I agree that it would have been better to have taken Iraq earlier, when more of its society and economy was intact, before genocide created the later levels of religious tension, but if Clinton wasn’t going to do the right thing, he did the next best thing.

    Conservatives have better instincts than Liberals, always.

    What was the liberal response to the mounting of OIF? Why, “we need to give the sanctions a chance to work,” that’s what! “Saddam Hussein is contained. There’s no reason to attack him. There’s no need for war.”

    I’m sure you appreciate the degree to which you’re preaching to the converted.

    • #70
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Kigyossy

    Well stated Mr. Robinson!  

    There’s nothing better than facts to destroy the fallacy of the fiction of the left.

    If only we had The Gipper today.

    • #71
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