President Ronald Reagan set the U.S. on a new foreign policy path in his 1985 State of the Union address, when he outlined what came to be known as the “Reagan Doctrine” — a policy of supporting “freedom fighters” around the globe as part of a U.S. effort to contain the Soviet Union.
“Support for freedom fighters is self-defense,” Reagan said.
Today is the anniversary of that historic speech, and while the USSR is no more, the Reagan Doctrine might apply just as well to the modern war on terror, in particular the U.S. approach to the Middle East. Reagan fans will also know that today also is his birthday (he was born in 1911).
For those who may ask themselves “what would Reagan do” today? the answer may be found in his own words:
“Harry Truman once said that, ultimately, our security and the world’s hopes for peace and human progress “lie not in measures of defense or in the control of weapons, but in the growth and expansion of freedom and self-government.”
And tonight, we declare anew to our fellow citizens of the world: Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few; it is the universal right of all God’s children. Look to where peace and prosperity flourish today. It is in homes that freedom built. Victories against poverty are greatest and peace most secure where people live by laws that ensure free press, free speech, and freedom to worship, vote, and create wealth.
Our mission is to nourish and defend freedom and democracy, and to communicate these ideals everywhere we can. America’s economic success is freedom’s success; it can be repeated a hundred times in a hundred different nations.”
Following that doctrine, the Reagan administration supported proxy armies around the globe in an effort to curb the influence of the Soviet Union, supporting the contra movement in Nicaragua (leading to scandal of the Iran-Contra Affair) and Afghan rebels resisting Soviet occupation, according to the U.S. Office of the Historian.
To read the full text of Reagan’s 1985 State of the Union speech, visit The American Presidency Project from the University of California Santa Barbara.
You also can watch Reagan deliver the speech in this video clip from ABC News: