37. Editorial Note
On March 16, 1981, Secretary of State Alexander Haig took part in a television interview conducted by Ken Sparks for Great Decisions 1981, a program sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association. Interviewing Haig in Washington, Sparks asked him to define the foreign policy goals of the Reagan administration and contrast Reagan’s policy with that of previous administrations. Haig responded: “Without trying to draw too many sharp distinctions, I think the dominating concern of this Administration is the recognition that the decade we have now entered is at once simultaneously the most dangerous and perhaps the most promising that free societies have faced, certainly since the Second World War. It is our belief that this is going to require a somewhat different approach to our foreign affairs problems. It means we’re going to have to recoil from the post-Vietnam syndrome—as it’s been referred to—and, once again, have our weight felt in the international community.
“We hope to do this in a very measured and modified way, recognizing that the post-World War II unique superiority that we Americans enjoyed is no longer ours. The basic themes will be as I stated in my recent testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee: a consistency in policy; not to veer day-to-day based on the pressures of momentary headlines, but a consistent set of themes which we will follow; reliability, so that traditionally friendly nations, those which share our values, can apply these values, although in distinctly different and unique ways in the context of their own self-determination; and, finally, most importantly of all, I think, is balance—to recognize that conduct of foreign affairs represents the careful, measured, sophisticated integration of political, economic, and security-related aspects of our conduct abroad. That must be part of an integrated mosaic.”
Following discussion of various foreign policy topics, Sparks ended the interview by noting that Haig had spent his entire career [Page 126] “working on foreign policy,” adding that many Americans were “disillusioned” by “the costly effects of helping our neighbors and our allies and containing our enemies.” He asked Haig if he had any advice to offer to “Americans who are concerned about what they should do about foreign policy.” Haig stated: “First, I think they’ve got to avoid being captured by contemporary sloganeering, whether it suggests excess hyper-American activity abroad or whether it suggests, as has been the case in the recent past, that we withdraw from there. The simple facts are that we Americans have an obligation to make sure that those values that you and I cherish are broadened and strengthened in the international community.
“And if we overlook illegal interventionisms, whether it be in Africa or Afghanistan or in our own front yard in this hemisphere, we’re leaving a legacy of increased risk-taking which could confront us as it did in the Second World War with the ultimate challenge to our vital interests. We must take these on, we must participate in the world community, which shares our values.” (Department of State Bulletin, June 1981, pages 23–26)