11. Editorial Note
On September 25, 1980, Republican Vice Presidential nominee George H.W. Bush delivered a statement before the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia. The Reagan-Bush Committee prepared a news release, containing the statement text, for release at noon that day. In his statement, Bush provided an overview of post-World War II U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf region, asserting that President Jimmy Carter’s “vacillating, ineffective conduct of America’s foreign relations” had undermined the bipartisan foreign policy of his predecessors. After criticizing Carter’s approach to the Soviet Union and American hostages in Iran, Bush asserted that Republican Presidential nominee Ronald Reagan would undertake significant change, adding that the change would be “not military but moral.
“The Carter Administration has said a great deal in recent years about international morality. Yet this President has by word and action overlooked the most fundamental tenet of a moral foreign policy—keeping your word.[Page 41]
“Under a Reagan foreign policy, America will once again be recognized throughout the world—by ally, neutral and adversary alike—as a nation that keeps its word.
“Our friends must be able to depend on us. Our adversaries must know that when America speaks in foreign affairs, it means what it says in terms of what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ to our national interest.
“A Reagan foreign policy will also operate on a single standard of morality in its dealings with other countries. To condemn violations of human rights in non-communist countries but remain silent in the face of crimes against humanity in Communist-dominated countries like Cambodia, Cuba and more recently, Nicaragua, is a form of diplomatic hypocrisy that may meet President Carter’s foreign policy standards, but will not meet President Reagan’s.
“Keeping our word as a nation—that’s the first step toward re-establishing respect for America overseas. And by respect, I don’t mean fear of military might. I mean the belief on the part of people throughout the world, and their leaders, that the United States is true to its ideals—the ideals of universal peace, freedom and justice that would form the cornerstone of President Reagan’s foreign policy.
“Advancing those ideals in the world as it is—not as we wish it to be—would be beyond the power of the best-intentioned President, however, if that President were forced to deal with the Soviets and other adversaries from a position of weakness.
“That is the self-created trap that President Carter now finds himself in whenever he tries to deter the Soviets from expansionist ventures—whether in Cuba or Afghanistan.
“The lesson is clear: an American President, regardless of his good intentions, can’t deter aggression by empty threats—as this President has tried to do.”
Bush then explained how a Reagan administration would restore America’s deterrent power before underscoring the objectives for doing so: “Our aim in this will not be to engage the Soviets in an arms race. Rather, it will be to discourage the Soviets from endangering the peace through reckless actions brought on by the Russians’ perception of the United States as a nation too weak, both morally and materially, to defend its interests.
“Once the Soviets understand that this is a misconception—once the leaders in the Kremlin come to see and hear the actions and words of an American President, Ronald Reagan, dedicated to restoring our nation’s moral and material strength—then and only then can we look to a day when a real, not an illusory, disarmament treaty [Page 42] can be reached—when substantial negotiations can be entered into with the Soviets, based on a mutual interest in peaceful solutions to outstanding differences between our countries—when the threat of war recedes from the horizon of great power relations—and when the age-old dream of a world of peace, freedom and justice can be realized.
“That is the new beginning in foreign policy we can look for in a Reagan Presidency. It is the road to peace and the preservation not only of our country’s interests but our highest ideals as we move into the decade of the Eighties and beyond.” (Reagan Library, White House Office of Speechwriting, Research Office, 1980 Campaign File, Campaign and Pre-Presidential Speeches, 1979–1981, 09/25/1980 George Bush—World Affairs Council)
For additional information about the speech, see “Bush Faults Carter on Foreign Policy: Asserts That Iraqi-Iranian Fighting Reflects Declining Influence of U.S. in Persian Gulf,” New York Times, September 26, 1980, page A19.