Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan Similarities

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During the late 70s and early 80s, the US was still recovering from the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, and it almost led the US into a depression state. It was clear that the next upcoming presidents would have to make drastic changes to US foreign policy. In this essay, I will discuss US foreign policy during the times of President Carter and President Reagan. First, I discuss the foreign policies of both President Carter and President Reagan. Second, I discuss whether they were considered to be “Wilsonian”. Third, I discuss if an idealistic approach to foreign policy worked better for one of them than for the other. Fourth and finally, I conclude with a summary of the main points of the essay. I believe that both presidents were “Wilsonian”, and an idealistic approach worked better for Reagan than it did for Carter.

President Carter was elected in 1976, which resulted in a new emphasis based on his own personal ideology on U.S Foreign Policy. According to his commencement speech, President Carter’s policy rested on five cardinal principles (which were mentioned in the speech). His foreign policy became entangled in countless issues, including a proxy war against the Soviet Union, and a confrontation with the anti-American regime in Iran. The Carter Administration, which had begun on a high note, ended its term stuck in a cold freeze with the Soviet Union. According to Kirkpatrick (1979), President Carter badly mishandled the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The problem was that President Carter’s administration was a lot more critical of non-democratic allies than of active anti-democratic enemies. The Carter administration was determined to actually depose the autocratic regimes that were pro-American, consequently paving the way for pro-Soviet totalitarian regimes.

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In the late 1960s, the US and the Soviet Union agreed to a policy of détente, a reduction in hostility. Although it didn't resolve tensions completely, it signaled the relaxation of cold war tension. It was initiated by President Nixon and terminated by President Carter in less than two decades. President Reagan was elected in 1981, confident that this policy was misguided. During his initial years in office, Reagan replaced the aggressive approach that he mediated sometimes with pragmatic policies. He also greatly increased military expenditures, yet for political reasons removed the grain embargo imposed by Carter and engaged in strategic arms talks. According to Herring (2008), Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech was intended to send a signal that the US would challenge the Soviet Union. As a result, his branding of the Soviet Union as “the focus of evil in the modern world” and “an evil empire,” increased Cold War tensions and overshadowed his other statements asking for a “constructive relationship” between the superpowers.

I believe that both President Carter and President Reagan were considered to be “Wilsonian”. I believe the defining element of “Wilsonianism” is the emphasis on the “self-determination” of people, and the spread of democratic government. President Carter's important alteration in the Wilsonian tradition was to conceive a 'human rights policy that called for the liberalization of authoritarian regimes, a policy that might be seen as a preliminary to democratization. As for President Reagan, his foreign policy carried on in the “Wilsonian” tradition with alterations of its own. For instance, 'constructive relationship' was devised to steer the authoritarian allies of the United States into the organization of liberal democratic governments.

Both President Carter and President Reagan had idealistic approaches to US foreign policy. Carter's perceived passiveness during the Iranian hostage crisis mostly derived from the idealism of his rhetoric. Reagan had an idealistic belief in the supremacy of liberty as a right and as a way of organizing society. Regan’s approach to idealism was better received and had better consequences than Carter’s approach. According to Herring (2008), the people never forgave President Carter but allowed President Reagan to leave office as the most popular president since Franklin Roosevelt.

Finally, I believe that both President Carter and President could be considered as “Wilsonian” according to their respective ideologies. They also both had an idealistic approach to US foreign policy, though it evidently worked better for Reagan than it did for Carter. In this essay, I discussed the foreign policies of President Carter and President Reagan, I also determined if they could be considered “Wilsonian”, in addition, I discussed the results of their idealistic approaches to US foreign policy.

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Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan Similarities. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/jimmy-carter-and-ronald-reagan-similarities/
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Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan Similarities [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/jimmy-carter-and-ronald-reagan-similarities/

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