A Critical Analysis of Secretary of State Alexander


This paper analyses the speech of Secretary of state Alexander Haig to find the bearing and subsequent direction of US foreign policy during the tenure of President Ronald Reagan. USSR aggression was high and its subversion of many treaties and international understandings prompted the administration to use its vast resources to get the confidence and support of like-minded states. The policies at that time are analyzed with the objective of connecting them either directly or indirectly to the fall of USSR. Regardless, the US emerged stronger; remaining the sole superpower. Fast-forward, a brief comparison is done to establish how different Reagan’s and Trumps’ foreign policies have changed.

It is the position of Haig that the problems America is facing are as a result of ripple effects of primary disorders. He advises that dealing with the problems faced directly would not be as productive and effective as dealing with their root-cause. A balanced economic output which is integral for sustainability of economies of all countries is constantly dependent on stable oil prices. Political unrest alongside few resources hinder successful humanitarian objectives. These two instances are supported by the fact that by that Moscow had the means and willingness to flex its military muscles to subvert any form of international peace. The fact that they do not hesitate to deploy military or fund proxies shows that the favorable status quo is under test. Haig understands that tackling final form of a problem is not efficient (Price, 1996 pp.1099-1113). He appreciates the relationship these disorders have with each other. It is his understanding that as they stand, the disorders are not good. Thus, a series of disorders acting together would be the ultimate death of democracy and emergence of autocracy and total chaos. He gives three examples of terrorism, subversion and conquest. He challenges the U.S. to wake up and take courage, help rebuild the confidence it once commanded. It is not safe to leave the Soviet Union’s limitations be the thought of what can be done to them in the event of disorder convergence, but a constant reminder by action during the build-up as to what they lose for every step they make (Hopkins, 2008 pp.228-245).


Haig underscores that America has lost the confidence of its allies in the adoption of misguided policy of “Strategic passivity”. It is important that the U.S. reclaims this lost glory. Haig observes that one cannot expect something from another person if she cannot bequeath it unto herself in the first place. In this spirit, America in its quest to rebuild, needs more support than ever from its allies; allies that cannot count on its commitment to causes. As such, Haig rolls out the Administration’s 3 core projects. The first project that would help rebuild confidence is to dedicate all aspects of their resources to affect outcome of events so that they may align interests of other countries with those the U.S. Secondly, with a responsibility of maintaining peace post 2nd world war, the U.S. feels that it should remind every country that they take this position seriously. This will go a long way in endearing friends and alarming foes; whilst getting their confidence. Finally, the U.S will tap into potentials of developing nations and support them in various aspects so that they may achieve their potentials. Haig notes that this project will be executed more smoothly with the help of a revamped military (Holsti and Rosenau, 1986 pp.375-409).

Why does Haig feel that special attention must be given to the Soviet Union? There is an obvious ideological difference communism and democracy but Haig does not consider this a reason for drawing caution. He believes the convergence of disorder, which will cause meltdown in economic stability of free and democratic societies of developed nations, is promoted actively by the Soviet Union through promotion of violence. To support his claim, he brings up the American Revolution which he both condemns and draws lessons from. It taught them that democracy, its fundamentals and ideals formed the best platform for a better human condition. He then contrasts them with the Soviet’s ambitious approach of justifying invasions through staged terror. What is worrying is the levels they are willing to go, so that they can express interest in spheres out of their territorial jurisdiction or places that do not touch on their national security. They perpetrate crimes when and where they understand that the western nations have interest (Breslauer, 2019). This level of preoccupation is disturbing because their security is always at the mercy of Soviet or proxies. It is the position of the Administration that such aggressive stances taken by the Soviets could be successfully challenged by showering invaded nations with tactical, strategic and other necessary support to curtail advances of their adversaries. The U.S. has taken it upon themselves to be the Soviet’s watchdogs and demand that they abide by doctrines instituted for international peace. The danger of Soviet Union offers the Administration a rare chance to demand for a more responsible behavior by making it harder and more expensive to invade countries. These steps by the U.S. have made it easier for allies to trust and forge stronger partnership ties (United States. Department of State and Haig, 1981).

US Vs Soviet Union Power

Though little attention is paid to US foreign policy of 1970-1980, it did a lot to undermine the Soviet Union governance thus precipitating fall of the Union. Few take this approach of analysis. However, all agree that it was not initial intention of US to dismantle the Union. Sean Gervasi differs. In one of his lectures, says that the Soviet Union would be in existence were it not for the expensive well-crafted plan by Reagan (Holsti and Rosenau, 1986 pp.375-409). Though the fashioned reasons that led to collapse of Soviet Union are poor leadership, failed centralization of the economy, Chernobyl accident, the black market and movements within the country; by themselves are an internal disorder of convergence as a result of direct or indirect repercussions of US foreign policy. Gervasi rubbishes these ‘claims’ (Zubok and Pleshakov, 1997).

He has claims of his own. It is his position that the collapse was brought about by an external convergence of disorder (Schweizer, 1994 p. xix). When it was obvious that USSR would collapse, he explained how the Reagan’s administration laid frameworks for this result. Other real causes were attributed to an escalation of nuclear attacks by either nations or arms race. He listed US funding of internal uprisings and CIA- sanctioned sabotage (Hopkins, M.F., 2008).

Adopting either the internal or external disorder of analyses ends with the positive result of fall of the USSR. This left USA as the sole superpower. The optics are greater for a more powerful US as the fall of USSR marked the end of cold war.

More than 30 years later, Trump has compromised the leadership role of the USA it took a lot of effort for Reagan to build. He has both questioned the US contribution to the NATO and put confidence of mutual defense for its members in disarray. The US China trade wars by Trump echo protectionism which Reagan outlined to be a cheap nationalism mantra. He opined that making US markets available to the rest of the world is not a form of attack but victory for America. Given that the NAFTA deal that Trump has been belittling was put forward by Reagan, we are heading in the wrong direction as far as foreign policy is concerned (Breslauer , 2019).

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Reagan’s administration did a lot to get confidence and support of its allies. Subsequent foreign policy to maintain it marked the beginning of the end of Soviet Union. Collapse of USSR was a victory for US as the world was left with unipolar superpower. Trumps policies has put NATO treaty in question. Most of his policies directly undo what Reagan had laid down for America.


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Price, D.E., 1996. Presidential Power as a Domestic Constraint on Foreign Policy: Case Studies Examining Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 26(4), pp.1099-1113.

Breslauer, G., 2019. Learning in US and Soviet foreign policy. Routledge.

Hopkins, M.F., 2008. Ronald Reagan's and George HW Bush's Secretaries of State: Alexander Haig, George Shultz and James Baker. Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 6(3), pp.228-245.

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United States. Department of State and Haig, A.M., 1981. Chemical Warfare in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan: Report to the Congress from Secretary of State, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., March 22, 1982. Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State.

Holsti, O.R. and Rosenau, J.N., 1986. Consensus Lost. Consensus Regained?: Foreign Policy Beliefs of American Leaders, 1976–1980. International Studies Quarterly, 30(4), pp.375-409.

Zubok, V. and Pleshakov, C., 1997. Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Krushchev. Harvard University Press.

Schweizer, P., 1994. Victory: The Reagan administration's secret strategy that hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union (p. xix). New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

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