It is a familiar story. The New York Times, the Washington Post and presidential candidate Joe Biden assailed the Republican president as reckless in his conduct of relations with Moscow. They were incensed that the president had not followed what Biden, the permanent government (i.e., the administrative state), and the mainstream media considered to be “United States foreign policy,” that is, the talking points of the career bureaucracy’s “interagency process.”
Except the year was 1988 and the president was Ronald Reagan.
The Gipper’s crime of lèse–majesté against Biden and the bureaucracy was his determination to provide the United States and her allies with effective defenses against ballistic missiles.
In 1983, Reagan had announced his intention to pursue research and development toward attaining effective ballistic missile defenses. His announcement had a dramatic quality because Reagan had not vetted his decision through the “interagency process.” To assure that his Strategic Defense Initiative would not be strangled in the crib, Reagan kept the career bureaucracy as well as most of his own senior political appointees in the dark about his plans.
The permanent bureaucracy, Democrats, and the mainstream media were rabid with anger. They denounced Reagan as an ignorant madman who knew nothing about international politics. They depicted him as a crackpot who was dangerously disrupting the nuclear balance of terror.
Biden, who in 1983 already was something of an elder Democratic statesman in his 11th year as a senator, was one of Reagan’s most forceful opponents on U.S. policy toward Soviet Russia. Proto-Romney establishment Republicans on Capitol Hill such as Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) furrowed their brows and organized efforts in cahoots with Biden and other Reagan foes for “bipartisan leadership” to keep wingnut Reagan’s kooky impulses in check.
In 1986, the Pulitzer Prize was bestowed on a series of articles in the New York Times supposedly debunking what today the Left would call Reagan’s “baseless, discredited” belief in the desirability of missile defenses and the prospects for attaining them. This was a welcome morale boost during a challenging time for the interagency predecessors of Fiona Hill and the Vindman twins.
According to the Joe Biden and “interagency process” Weltanschauung, during those dreadful Reagan years, only whackjobs who clung to conspiracy theories believed in the pursuit of ballistic missile defense to deter the Soviet threat—which was a figment of the fevered imaginations of John Birch Society nutters and their debunked, discredited conspiracy theories.
During his 1988 presidential campaign, and for years afterward, Biden was a constant critic of ballistic missile defense, a project he derided as a “Star Wars” fantasy. Biden stood arm-in-arm with Senator Teddy Kennedy (D-Mass.) in maintaining that it would never be feasible for a defensive missile to intercept an offensive missile. Unfazed by their illogic, Biden and Kennedy were just as determined to oppose research and development towards missile defenses, because they dogmatically believed that such defenses, if feasible, would be “destabilizing.”
While Reagan pursued a new strategic approach that won the Cold War, Biden stubbornly remained a fervent prophet of the cult of “mutual assured destruction.” Today this Biden dogma, like the Maginot Line, is regarded as an antique specimen of dangerously blinkered thinking.
In the end, Biden did not prevent the United States from obtaining ballistic missile defenses, but he did much to slow down and weaken the effort. Opposition to ballistic missile defenses was a major policy aim of Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign. While Biden’s 1988 campaign is most often remembered for the candidate’s plagiarized speeches from the feckless far-left British Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, less remembered is Biden’s imitation of Kinnock’s stance on the far-left of Western defense policy.
As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden participated in an abrupt policy shift during their first months in the White House to cancel deployment of ballistic missile defenses that the United States had promised to post-Communist Poland and the Czech Republic.
In what sort of world would we live today had Biden been elected president in 1988 and forever halted America’s pursuit of ballistic missile defenses?
Chances are that the Soviet Union would still exist and that the very thought of an independent Republic of Ukraine would be considered an absurd fantasy.
Perhaps the Iron Curtain would still cut a painful gash across Europe from the Baltic to the Adriatic.
Certainly, no “Iron Dome” missile defense system would exist as it now does to protect Israel.
Our military services would not include a new Space Force.
But at least we would have had a leftist president then, as we still could have a leftist president next year, who takes comfort in liberal establishment talking points sifted and homogenized through the hopelessly leaky permanent bureaucracy’s “interagency process.”