Just wondering if when a respected world leader dies 30 years from now will mainstream media reporters bash Barack Obama for his Mandela funeral selfie the way they bash my father for his principled stand on South Africa?
I think we both know the answer to that.
Both NBC and ABC went out of their way to criticize my father for not supporting Mandela’s African National Congress in its fight against the apartheid government of South Africa.
But both networks failed to put the issue in context.
My father abhorred racism both personally and as government policy. But the choice wasn’t between racist South Africa and the spotless ANC. It was a choice between damaging a staunch Cold War ally to help an organization that depended on Russian KGB funding and routinely used terror to advance its goals.
The ANC was banned in South Africa and closely aligned with the Soviet Union. (This was before the U.S. outsourced its foreign policy to Vladimir Putin.) Both the United States and Great Britain were reluctant to support an organization that employed communist–funded violence against the civilian population.
My father preferred to make his displeasure with apartheid known and apply pressure for change behind the scenes, rather than destabilize an ally and potentially unleashing chaos and violence on an unprecedented scale.
What’s more, my father was proven correct. Through Nelson Mandela and the pressure of world opinion the transition from apartheid to black–majority government was peaceful. Which is not something you can say about communist–backed transitions in Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
In fact, when President Obama was presented with a similar situation in Syria he punted altogether.
Foreign policy decisions are rarely black and white, and that was particularly the case during the Cold War. My father did the best he could in a very difficult situation, and I’m sure he wasn’t entirely satisfied.
But to say “Reagan wanted to solidify, you know, U.S. support for apartheid” — as was done on ABC — is simply a lie and a vicious one at that.
The fact is, my father’s ambassador to South Africa was Ed Perkins, who just happened to be a black American. Arnold Steinberg points out that during Perkin’s time in South Africa the U.S. refused to accept segregated diplomatic housing, and Perkins reached out to all segments of South African society “making clear the U.S. position was against apartheid and against violent change and for a market economy.”
That’s hardly solidifying support for apartheid, but it doesn’t fit the networks anti–Reagan narrative.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation and chairman of the League of American Voters. Mike is an in-demand speaker with Premiere. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.