The Conversation

Baker: I'm Sure Reagan Regretted Veto of South African Sanctions

Former Secretary of State told CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday that he was certain that President Ronald Reagan had regretted his veto of sanctions against South Africa, which was overridden. ""I'm sure he did regret it, Bob, in fact, I'm certain that he did," Baker told host Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation". "It was after all, I think, the only time a veto of his had been overridden in two terms. And so, certainly, he regretted it."

Baker provided no proof for that assertion. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had also opposed sanctions, as did other western countries, primarily because South Africa was considered an ally against communism. Perhaps Reagan would have regretted his veto knowing what we know now--that the Soviet Union would soon collapse and that Nelson Mandela would drop violent struggle in favor of peaceful negotiations.

But that was not clear at the time. It is odd that a "realist" like Baker--who advocated an early U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, advice George W. Bush wisely ignored--would obscure the Cold War context within which Reagan was operating. The U.S. supported many regimes of morally dubious character--as did the Soviets, and often far worse ones--because leaders like Reagan understood the need to defeat the greater evil of communism. 


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