Structure and Scope of the Foreign Relations Series

This volume is part of a subseries of volumes of the Foreign Relations series that documents the most important issues in the foreign policy of the administration of Ronald Reagan. The subseries will present a documentary record of major foreign policy decisions and actions of President Reagan’s administration. This volume documents the intellectual assumptions and themes underlying the foreign policy decisions made by the administration.

Focus of Research and Principles of Selection for Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, Volume I

The purpose of this volume is to document the intellectual foundations of the foreign policy of the Reagan administration. This volume explores the collective mindset of Reagan administration officials on foreign policy issues rather than documenting significant foreign policy decisions or diplomatic exchanges. The compilation takes as its canvas the entire eight-year record of the Reagan administration. The documents selected, therefore, are necessarily a sampling chosen to illustrate policy perspectives and themes rather than a thorough record of a bilateral relationship or of a major issue. Similar to Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1969–1972; Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, Volume XXXVIII, Part 1, Foundations of Foreign Policy, 1973–1976; and Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, Volume I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, this volume draws upon the published record of speeches, press releases, press conferences and background briefings, interviews, and testimony before Congressional committees in addition to the internal memoranda, correspondence, meeting minutes, and other records generated by administration officials, to document the positions and the assumptions of foreign policy makers. The editor of this volume sought to present a representative selection of documents chosen to elucidate the primary intellectual themes that ran through and influenced Reagan’s foreign policy, including the desire to “reset” U.S. foreign policy following the war in Vietnam, Watergate scandal, and Iran hostage crisis; the emphasis on recreating a world structure hospitable to U.S. values; the necessity of developing an “activist” foreign policy characterized by bipartisanship; and the development of a U.S.-Soviet relationship based on restraint and reciprocity, among other objectives. The documents selected focus on the perspectives of the primary forces behind U.S. foreign policy during the Reagan years: President Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush; Secretaries of State Alexander Haig and George Shultz; and President’s Assistants for [Page X] National Security Affairs Richard Allen, William Clark, Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter, Frank Carlucci, and Colin Powell; as well as Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick. The volume also includes documentation reflecting the views of influential officials within the Department of State and National Security Council staff.


The editor wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Mike Duggan, Lisa Magana, Ira Pemstein, and Cate Sewell of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Jeff Flannery and Ernest Emrich of the Library of Congress. Special access was granted to the Haig Papers at the Library of Congress with the kind permission of the Estate of Secretary Haig. Thanks are also due to the Central Intelligence Agency for arranging access to the Reagan Library materials scanned for the Remote Archives Capture (RAC) project and to John Kirkpatrick, who granted permission on the behalf of the Estate of Jeane Kirkpatrick to reprint excerpts of her article in Commentary.

The editor also wishes to thank Forrest Barnum, Sara Berndt, Josh Botts, Elizabeth Charles, David Geyer, Charles Hawley, Laura Kolar, Paul Pitman, Alexander Poster, Kathleen Rasmussen, Seth Rotramel, Daniel Rubin, Nathaniel Smith, Melissa Jane Taylor, Chris Tudda, Alexander Wieland, James Wilson, and Louise Woodroofe of the Office of the Historian for recommending documents for inclusion in the volume.

The editor conducted the research for this volume and selected and annotated the documentation under the direction of The Historian Adam M. Howard, then-General Editor of the Foreign Relations series. General Editor Kathleen B. Rasmussen, then-Chief of the Global Issues and General Division, reviewed the volume. Chris Tudda coordinated the declassification review under the supervision of the Chief of the Declassification Division Carl Ashley. Kerry Hite did the copy and technical editing under the supervision of the Chief of the Editing and Publishing Division Mandy A. Chalou.

Kristin L. Ahlberg, Ph.D.