Permalink to Nelson Mandela and the Cheap Caricature of Ronald Reagan

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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Members have made 71 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Dr Steve Member

    A few–too few, in my opinion–of the commentators are noting that there was a Cold War, and decisions made by the US (and the UK) can’t be divorced from that fact. Yet, no one that I have heard all day (and we have a snow day at the college, so I can listen and surf to my heart’s content) seems to remember another factor: South Africa was among the nations working on its own Bomb and its own intermediate missile system. Talking them out of that course, Cold War or not, was also a factor in our policy-making in the times. The content of Pres. Reagan’s character matters, but so does the context of his contemplations. 

    • #1
    • December 7, 2013 at 1:17 am
  2. Profile photo of Songwriter Member

    Tommy – @ #7 : Your opponents’ response is typical Leftism. Never allow facts to get in the way of their feelings of superiority.

    • #2
    • December 7, 2013 at 1:18 am
  3. Profile photo of Carsten Koenig Member

    There is no doubt that Ronald Reagan was freedom-loving both in economic and political terms. As a general notion freedom is the innate core of human society.

    There are interconnections between trade and an internal liberal constitution. But an external political force can not unilaterally impose a shift toward a liberal constitution. And – it seems to me – Reagan knew this. His approach was more gradualist. To accept these rules does not mean that the ideas are diminished. Economic preasure could have the antipodal effect of deep-freezing all forces in Pretoria. Politics are not a pure mechanical process since there are interacting forces. In 1986 nobody could anticipate the coming collapse of the Soviet Union. Standing clearly on your political ideas, that was possible realpolitik but committed to ideas. 

    That is to say: In order to judge the measure taken by Ronald Reagan one must take into account the global situation at that time. 

    • #3
    • December 7, 2013 at 1:19 am
  4. Profile photo of flownover Inactive

    And never let a crisis …….

    Evidently The Butler is still in some theaters, so NPR and Keller are selling tickets. 

    I bet Obama will tiptoe around this issue as Reagan is occasionally one of his avatars.

    Maybe we’ll see him as Drake McHugh, screaming “where’s the rest of me !” when a legion of sadistic ,wealthy doctors and insurance companies derail this trainwreck we are watching in slomo.

    Now who was wasting their time on NPR ?

    • #4
    • December 7, 2013 at 1:23 am
  5. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Songwriter: Tommy – @ #7 : Your opponents’ response is typical Leftism. Never allow facts to get in the way of their feelings of superiority. · 5 minutes ago

    It was a very frustrating moment. If I weren’t already a conservative thinker it may have made me one.

    • #5
    • December 7, 2013 at 1:25 am
  6. Profile photo of Hartmann von Aue Member

    There’s a major typo in the second paragraph of the first Reagan quote (South America). Correct it please before someone else notices. 

    • #6
    • December 7, 2013 at 1:56 am
  7. Profile photo of Totus Porcus Inactive
    Peter Robinson

    The President always used to tell us speechwriters–and I heard him say this a half dozen times–“Specificity is the soul of persuasion.” · 1 hour ago

    A great line. And lucky you to have heard it from the Great Communicator himself.

    • #7
    • December 7, 2013 at 2:19 am
  8. Profile photo of A-Squared Member

    Thanks for posting this Peter. I was listening to NPR this morning on my way to a meeting (having already listened to all of the week’s Richochet podcasts), and I heard the comment about Reagan vetoing the sanctions bill. I didn’t think much of it at the time, chalking it up the ANC’s close ties to communism. But now the blatant bias is clear.

    What’s ironic is that on they way back from the meeting, NPR was playing BBC World Service, and they were interviewing an American, I didn’t catch who. The Anchor asked about Mandela being labelled a terrorist, and the response was, Mandela was at one time a terrorist, and as a result, he was appropriately placed on the list.

    You know something is wrong when you are way to the left of the BBC World Service.

    • #8
    • December 7, 2013 at 2:55 am
  9. Profile photo of Totus Porcus Inactive

    Everyone should remember too that at the time there were thousands of Cubans in Angola fighting a proxy war extending into what is now Namibia (on SA’s border), and the Russians were busy trying to establish a foothold on the Horn of Africa, and the ANC was quite cozy with the Cubans and the Soviets.

    Reagan, who could walk and chew gum at the same time, could be against apartheid at the same time he was against South Africa going Communist. 

    Of course those on the Left (many of whom were either sympathetic with or being exploited by the Communist proxy causes) were either incapable of distinguishing between the end (no more apartheid) and the consequences of their preferred means, or actively desired them. I’ll bet a nickel our current President, who according to his first autobiography was carefully choosing “Marxist professors” as his smoking buddies at the time, was one of them.

    • #9
    • December 7, 2013 at 3:18 am
  10. Profile photo of Capt. Spaulding Member
    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. · · 2 hours ago

    Bob Beckel on “The Five” this evening just raised it again as a criticism of Reagan vis a vis Mandela, that he vetoed economic sanctions against South Africa. With no context. The lies and half-truths will continue. 

    • #10
    • December 7, 2013 at 3:26 am
  11. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member

    They’re still bringing up Reagan? It’s pretty clear the man wasn’t racist. Politically Reagan was in a similar situation to what Obama faces today, and he handled it much better, I think. Obama has done some serious damage by pitting poor whites and poor Hispanics against each other.

    Reagan never did more than utter those infamous “code words” the left is always whining about; Obama has actually pushed for policies that deepen the racial divide, and one way of describing the Democrat’s approach to immigration reform is that they are pitting poor whites and poor Hispanics against each other in a race war over economic resources.

    • #11
    • December 7, 2013 at 3:47 am
  12. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Neolibertarian
    James Of England
    Neolibertarian

    Heh.

    Bywhatstandardofmeasure? OrmaybeI shouldjust ask: what is the definition of “worked” in this case? · 2 hours ago

     

    The IAEA inspections may have slowed Iranian nuclear enrichment production, but those aren’t taking place because of the sanctions, they’re taking place because of the conditions of the NPT.

    The sanctions, themselves, have hurt the bonyads (their primary target), but bonyads also provide relief to the poor.

    It’s never going to be the upper echelon in the syndicates who get hurt, at any rate, because that’s not how things work in this universe.

    The kinetics never come through because sanctions can never achieve their stated aims–they only achieve their obvious aim: to punish. And they always punish the least deserving of punishment; those with the least power to change anything in your favor. ·

    I think that sanctions are achieving delays independently of inspections. The nuclear program is unbelievably expensive, and Iran is struggling a good deal more to get hard currency than it would otherwise do. Sanctions also make it easier to monitor Iran’s trade.

    • #12
    • December 7, 2013 at 4:43 am
  13. Profile photo of Neolibertarian Inactive
    Peter Robinson

    Did Reagan opposeeconomicsanctions 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 workerswhowould 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.

    Damned straight.

    Sanctions are a bankrupt foreign policy ploy for those who have no foreign policy. Levying them achieves no other goal than to make those who levy them believe “at least we did SOMETHING positive about this bad situation.”

    What sanctions amount to is economic warfare, aimed not at the elite within the bad-actor nation, but against those who are the poorest, and who have the least political power.

    Both Reagan and Thatcher were against levying sanctions against South Africa. There’s little evidence that , of all the pressures which eventually forced de Klerk to transition SA to majoritarian democracy, that the sanctions were primary among them.

    • #13
    • December 7, 2013 at 5:37 am
  14. Profile photo of Franciscus Inactive
    James Of England
    Neolibertarian
    James Of England
    Neolibertarian

    Heh.

    Bywhatstandardofmeasure? OrmaybeI shouldjust ask: what is the definition of “worked” in this case? · 2 hours ago

    The IAEA inspections may have slowed Iranian nuclear enrichment production, but those aren’t taking place because of the sanctions, they’re taking place because of the conditions of the NPT.

    The sanctions, themselves, have hurt the bonyads (their primary target), but bonyads also provide relief to the poor.

    It’s never going to be the upper echelon in the syndicates who get hurt, at any rate, because that’s not how things work in this universe.

    The kinetics never come through because sanctions can never achieve their stated aims–they only achieve their obvious aim: to punish. And they always punish the least deserving of punishment; those with the least power to change anything in your favor. ·

    I think that sanctions are achieving delays independently of inspections. The nuclear program is unbelievably expensive, and Iran is struggling a good deal more to get hard currency than it would otherwise do. Sanctions also make it easier to monitor Iran’s trade. · 1 hour ago

    Didn’t work with India.

    • #14
    • December 7, 2013 at 5:54 am
  15. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    Neolibertarian

    Damned straight.

    Sanctions are a bankrupt foreign policy ploy for those who have no foreign policy. Levying them achieves no other goal than to make those who levy them believe “at least we did SOMETHING positive about this bad situation.”

    What sanctions amount to is economic warfare, aimed not at the elite within the bad-actor nation, but against those who are the poorest, and who have the least political power.

    Just look at North Korea. Sanctions had no effect at all; the only consequence was that a lot of North Koreans starved. Really the only way to end human rights abuses in a third-world country is to either occupy and administer it long-term, or target sanctions at those sections of the economy that directly effect the elite’s control over the masses (in high school I read that sanctions on computer equipment had that effect in South Africa, since without computers the government couldn’t maintain apartheid. Dunno if that’s really true or not).

    • #15
    • December 7, 2013 at 6:31 am
  16. Profile photo of Black Prince Member
    Peter Robinson

    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.

    I wonder how Reagan justified the reinstatement of the trade embargo against Cuba back in 1982…it seems like the same argument would apply.

    • #16
    • December 7, 2013 at 6:58 am
  17. Profile photo of Zafar Member

    They seem to have worked (so far, and despite their denials) with Iran.

    Neolibertarian

    What sanctions amount to is economic warfare, aimed not at the elite within the bad-actor nation, but against those who are the poorest, and who have the least political power.

    They are a very blunt weapon, however.

    • #17
    • December 7, 2013 at 7:24 am
  18. Profile photo of Neolibertarian Inactive
    Zafar: They seem to have worked (so far, and despite their denials) with Iran.

    Heh.

    By what standard of measure? Or maybe I should just ask: what is the definition of “worked” in this case?

    • #18
    • December 7, 2013 at 7:31 am
  19. Profile photo of Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Black Prince
    Peter Robinson

    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.

    I wonder how Reagan justified the reinstatement of the trade embargo against Cuba back in 1982…it seems like the same argument would apply. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I wondered the same.

    • #19
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:17 am
  20. Profile photo of Neolibertarian Inactive
    Black Prince
    Peter Robinson

    Most of the workers whowould 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.

    I wonder how Reagan justified the reinstatement of the trade embargo against Cuba back in 1982…it seems like the same argument would apply. 

    The trap of levying sanctions is that to lift them before goals are met is to admit defeat, and give a triumph to your enemy.

    The experiments in lifting Cuban sanctions under the Carter Administration ended in the disastrous 1980 Mariel boat lift. Castro’s clear slap in the face to Carter and all his previous efforts.

    Cuba was heavily involved in Angola and El Salvador, et al, at the time, keys in Reagan’s Cold War strategy.

    This made rewarding Castro, or even being seen as rewarding him a clear stumbling block for Reagan’s initiatives.

    “We don’t have any dealings with Cuba.” he told reporters. “If they’d ever like to rejoin the civilized world, we’d be happy to help them. But not under the present circumstances.”

    • #20
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:24 am
  21. Profile photo of Black Prince Member
    Neolibertarian

    “We don’t have any dealings with Cuba.” he told reporters. “If they’d ever like to rejoin the civilized world, we’d be happy to help them. But not under the present circumstances.”

    The same argument could have been made for South Africa. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m experiencing an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance here. For the record, I’m not saying that I’m for or against sanctions, I’m just trying to understand the apparent contradiction in Reagan’s actions/words.

    • #21
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:33 am
  22. Profile photo of Songwriter Member

    Tommy @ #18 writes: “It was a very frustrating moment. If I weren’t already a conservative thinker it may have made me one.”

    Tommy, in that simple sentence you made a very important distinction: You are a “thinker,” which almost guarantees one to be conservative. Liberals “feel.” They do not think.

    • #22
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:40 am
  23. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    I am sending this article to a very rich older liberal black patient of mine who insisted The Butler should be mandatory viewing in school. I had countered to him how insanely offensive the presence of Fonda was and the very reason many would refuse to view the film. I will await his response to your article Peter. The man is a caring intelligent person so I am curious how he counters this. Thanks for putting it out there.

    • #23
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:42 am
  24. Profile photo of Franciscus Inactive
    Tommy De Seno
    Black Prince
    Peter Robinson

    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.

    I wonder how Reagan justified the reinstatement of the trade embargo against Cuba back in 1982…it seems like the same argument would apply. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I wondered the same. · 26 minutes ago

    Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wanted to be the first President to change the precedent set by JFK back then. 

    Teddy would have lost it more than he did with Judge Bork.

    • #24
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:49 am
  25. Profile photo of Neolibertarian Inactive
    James Of England

    I thinkthatsanctionsareachievingdelaysindependentlyof inspections. Thenuclearprogramisunbelievablyexpensive, and Iran is struggling a good deal more to get hard currency than it would otherwise do. Sanctions also make it easier to monitor Iran’s trade.

    Granted. Not only is the atomic bomb project expensive, so is the international revolution business pretty pricey, as well.

    However, before the escalating series of “crippling sanctions” were leveled beginning in 2009, in which many nations from around the world joined in, the Iranian economy was already in crisis.

    Since before 2003 news has leaked of municipal workers, miners, oil, and transportation workers striking and rioting. These are ongoing, and all over the country.

    I think the price of oil has had more to do with slowing the Iranians than the sanctions. The Mullahs need to talk Putin into threatening Georgia again to see if they can achieve $200 barrels this time.

    But the question, the real question, is always: is it worth it?

    This is how a vacuous idiot asked the question of an abysmal idiot:

    Is it worth it?

    This was played on Middle Eastern TV over and over until Hizbullah blew up American personnel enforcing the Iraq Sanctions from SA in 1996.

    • #25
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:56 am
  26. Profile photo of Black Prince Member
    Franciscus

    Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, wanted to be the first President to change the precedent set by JFK back then. 

    Teddy would have lost it more than he did with Judge Bork. 

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the precedent was already changed by Jimmy Carter. I don’t get it.

    • #26
    • December 7, 2013 at 8:57 am
  27. Profile photo of Neolibertarian Inactive
    Black Prince The same argument could have been made for South Africa. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m experiencing an uncomfortable level of cognitive dissonance here. For the record, I’m not saying that I’m for or against sanctions, I’m just trying to understand the apparent contradiction in Reagan’s actions/words. 

    Granted the contradiction.

    What I was getting at was Castro WANTED the sanctions reinstated (they’d not formally been lifted under Carter, anyway). It was in his best interests, and he insured that Carter’s successor, whoever he might be, would likely reinstate them.

    Once you level sanctions, your hands are tied.

    It doesn’t matter how long you have to leave them in place: 10, 30, 50, 100 years. If you lift the sanctions before the bad actor has changed his ways, then you’ve admitted defeat.

    Sanctions are used as a first resort by naive statesmen.

    Sanctions should always be the next to last resort.

    Not an alternative to war. Sanctions are economic warfare, and often lead to actual war.

    • #27
    • December 7, 2013 at 9:06 am
  28. Profile photo of Franciscus Inactive

    As a radical, Mandela looked to the USSR for weapons, something Reagan could not support. 

    As a statesman, Mandela supported the South African Constitution and rule of law, something Reagan hoped for in South Africa.

    Milton Freidman said of sanctions that they do not achieve their political goals, only hurt hurt the oppressed masses, not the tyrannical elites.

    To put Reagan in perspective it would be appropriate to say that his policies as well as Thatcher’s, fostered a peaceful end to apartide, and transition to a government founded in liberty, not Castro style Tyranny.

    Unfortunately the Government that developed, that Justice Ginsburg so reveres, has devolved towards an opressive tyranny, but that is another story all together.

    • #28
    • December 7, 2013 at 9:15 am
  29. Profile photo of Black Prince Member
    Neolibertarian

    What I was getting at was Castro WANTED the sanctions reinstated (they’d not formally been lifted under Carter, anyway). It was in his best interests, and he insured that Carter’s successor, whoever he might be, would likely reinstate them.

    I’m quite intrigued about what you wrote. Are you saying that Reagan was manipulated by Castro to reinstate the embargo against Cuba? If this is the case (it’s plausible…perhaps it’s even fact) then it’s certainly not a point in Reagan’s favor. Thanks for your comments! =)

    • #29
    • December 7, 2013 at 9:26 am
  30. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Neolibertarian
    Zafar: They seem to have worked (so far, and despite their denials) with Iran.

    Heh.

    By what standard of measure? Or maybe I should just ask: what is the definition of “worked” in this case? · 2 hours ago

    I think that they have delayed Iranian nuclearization, giving us, the Iranian people and/ or Israel, more time to do something else. In Iraq, the DoD stepped up to the plate and the State Department whiffed, but on Iran, the State Department’s done a stand up job until recently with sanctions. It’s the kinetics that haven’t come through.

    • #30
    • December 7, 2013 at 10:24 am
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