Welcome to The Reagan Files | Jason Saltoun-Ebin googlea0aa0d8ee69b5ad6.html

Welcome to The Reagan Files

November 1, 2023 -

I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few days at the Reagan Library last month. It was the first time I’d been there in about four years the archivist monitoring the research room reminded me when I walked in. There were some new faces along with expected changes and a lot of old friends as well. It has been just over twenty years — actually it will be 22 years next month — it was just about December 1, 2001 when I walked into the Reagan Library the first time. 

My original archivist, Greg Cumming, has long since moved on and last I heard he was at the Nixon Library along with Meghan Lee, who also helped me get through the first few years of research. My first point of contact and usually last at the end of the day — director of security Scott Zimmer — also retired. Always welcoming with a great smile, Scott never failed to ask what I was working on and genuinly made my visits so much more enjoyable. 

After Greg transferred to the Nixon Library, Shelly Williams somehow got stuck with me and what must have felt like way too many FOIA and MDR requests. From January 2002- May 2003 I averaged about 3 days a week at the Reagan Library and it must have  seemed to Shelly that I was filing nonstop FOIA and MDR requests for what was likely a futile effort — I was hired to help with research for a biography of President Reagan and there was no way these documents were going to be released in time to make that book. Of course in the back of my mind I had other thoughts, mainly that at somepoint down the line these potentially important records would get released and I’d be in a position to write about why they are so important. I’m not sure of the timing in there as well but Shelly somehow also served as the FOIA coordinator for the Reagan Library. Looking back I’m sure I kept her busier than she needed to be, yet I honestly don’t remember ever hearing a complaint. I can’t imagine she wasn’t privately ready to strangle me — I just hope it was only once in a while. Shelly — I can’t thank you enough for all the years of help at the Reagan Library! Anyone who does research there knows what an important and lasting contribution you’ve made. I feel really lucky to have gotten to work with you. Enjoy your well-earned retirement! 

And for those of you looking for some fun finds from this past month — enjoy! 

1.     NSC 12 (June 4, 1981)– The minutes were declassified in 2016 and recently found at the Reagan Library. During the discussion on China and the Taiwan Relations Act, President Reagan is clear: “We should add that if the subject is raised, we will inform the Chinese that this is the law of the land. If they can cancel our laws, we can cancel their income tax.”

2.     NSC 38- NSC meeting on January 21, 1982 to discuss Libya. The document was originally partially declassified in 2005 and then further declassified in 2012. CIA Director Casey’s remarks are still partially classified.

3.     NSC 64 on October 15, 1982 to discuss East-West Economic Relations. Specifically, according to this background paper, the meeting will be to address the sanctions levied against the Soviet Union in response to the Polish crisis. The paper notes that the U.K. and Italy have “accepted the memorandum of understanding” but that Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany and France “have not yet done so”.  The meeting minutes are still classified, however this background paper was recently released.

4.     NSC 111: (Dec. 21, 1984) US-Japan Relations. Background memo from McFarlane to the President. The purpose of today’s meeting is “To discuss U.S.-Japan relations in preparation for your upcoming meeting with Prime Minister Nakasone on January 2, 1985.” The memo continues: “During the two year period since Prime Minister Nakasone first visited you in Washington, we have made significant progress in strengthening our overall ties with this key Pacific ally based on the overarching themes of peace and prosperity. Japan has begun reducing barriers to free trade, initiated a process to internationalize the yen, agreed to buy more U.S. energy and agricultural products, enhanced their security arrangements and been a solid supporter of U.S. policies internationally. On the negative side, however, we are faced with a growing trade deficit with Japan – over $33 billion in 1984 – which is a politically explosive issue. Their markets still remain excessively restricted to imports from all nations.”

5.     NSC 112: Feb. 5, 1985: Visit of King Fahd. Minutes could not be located. Department of State Briefing Paper on Saudi Arabia copied and uploaded to website.

6.     NSC 113 (Feb. 19, 1985): The President’s Trip to Quebec. General discussion of the U.S.-Canadian relationship with a specific focus on environmental concerns, namely “acid rain” and how to discuss sensitive environmental issues.

7. Oct. 18, 1983: NSPG 73: Review of Strategy in Lebanon

Three days after the NSPG meeting, Secretary of Defense Weinberger prepared a Memo for the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs  dated Oct. 21, 1983. Secretary Weinberger warns that the “Static position of the Marines ashore presents an extremely difficult defensive situation, and the ongoing sniper fire against the Marines indicates the MNF may be being targeted by factional elements.” See page 29 in the link above for the full Memo. 

The following additional documents can be found on the NSC/NSPG Meetings page: 

A. NSPG 103 Agenda and memos/documents related to Radio Marti

B. NSPG 121: Agenda and Briefing Memo

C. NSPG 122: Agenda and Briefing Memo

D. NSPG 124: Briefing Memo

E. NSPG 141: White House Situation Room cable re threat of French invasion in Suriname

F. NSPG 156: Talking points and Briefing Memo

G. NSPG 164: Letters indicating this meeting is about Soviet space capabilities

H. NSPG 169: Agenda

July 20, 2020 — 

I can’t believe it is July already…. actually almost August. That means in just a few months it’s going to be 40 years since Ronald Reagan decisively unseated President Carter — just the 8th time a U.S. president lost reelection. President George H.W. Bush became the 9th when President Clinton unseated him in 1992 and since we have had successive two-term presidents. Is that going to change in November? 

Thinking about those two most recent failed reelection bids, President Carter had a long list of problems but, I really think, had he been able to secure a deal for the release of the American hostages in Iran before the election voters would have given him another four years. Twelve years later, President George H.W. Bush faced a different world. The Cold War, which dominated American foriegn policy since really just about the end of World War II, was over. The Middle East, and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in particular, became the new threat to American hegemony. Hussein, a partner of President Reagan’s in his efforts to keep Iran at bay, found himself in an unfavorable position after seizing neighboring Kuwait. The ensuing Gulf War — the largest American-led coalition since World War II — quickly put Saddam back in his box, but was not enough to make voters forget about the lagging economy, or his promise not to raise taxes. With help from third-party candidate Ross Perot (who won almost 19 percent of the popular vote), Arkansas Governor William Clinton (a centrist democrat) snuck out the victory with just 43 percent of the popular vote and 370 electoral collage votes to Bush’s 37.4 percent and 168 electoral collage votes.   

Shifting gears to my latest research, I just came across this recently released document. Just eight days into his first term, former Governor of Texas John Connally came in to meet with Richard Allen, President Reagan’s National Security Adviser, about establishing an American base on Ra’s al Khaymah, an island in the Persian Gulf that was at the time occupied by Iran. Allen notes that this proposal was first made in 1972 and rejected at the time.  Allen indicates that President Reagan directed him to follow up. Anyone know what ever happened here? 


February 7, 2020!

Wow… so I haven’t been able to update the website for over a year although I’ve attempted to do so several times. Yesterday, I finally called the hosting company and they informed me that they changed their server info a while ago and, naturally, I didn’t realize I had to change something on my end. So big apologies to all your Ronald Reagan historians out there. I promise some new goodies for you soon. And let me know if you find any broken links — I can fix them now!! 

October 17, 2018


It’s been a busy year in Reagan scholarship and Bob Spitz’s just-released Reagan: An American Journey, at over 800 pages, now sits on my to read pile next to Marc Ambinder’s  The Brink: President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983

The Brink cover photo

Marc just did a videotaped talk at the Reagan Library which you can check out below thanks to the Reagan Library staff and Youtube. Well worth the watch but no substitute for the book, which does a great job of integrating Soviet and European sources into his telling of just how close the world came to nuclear war in 1983. Hint: his telling combined with all the other recent work on Able Archer ’83 and the revelations of general deteoriation in Soviet military capabilites in the early 1980s makes the Cuban Missile Crisis seem like a little bumb in the road compared to what almost happened under Reagan’s watch.

June 12, 2018


Just got my hands on the forthcoming A Covert Action: Reagan, The CIA, and The Cold War Struggle in Poland by Seth G. Jones. LOVING it so far. Great use of sorces like these NSC meetings:  

Dec. 14, 1981 CIA Briefing Note on Poland

Dec. 21, 1981: NSC 33: Poland 

That doesn’t bother me at all. If we don’t take action now, three or four years from now we’ll have another situation and we wonder, why didn’t we go for it when we had the whole country with us. I am tired of looking backward.

We could say that we cannot continue trade (if events in Poland continue) and that we will press our Allies to follow us unless the Polish situation is alleviated. But again holding out our hand. Can he envision what it would be like if trade with the West were open? It would be a different, much better, world. He can have that one, giving up nothing, or the one that will result if we are forced to take trade-cutting actions.

Let me say something in the form of a positive question. This is the first time in 60 years that we have had this kind of opportunity. There may not be another in our lifetime. Can we afford not to go all out? I’m talking about a total quarantine on the Soviet Union. No détente! We know – and the world knows – that they are behind this. We have backed away so many times! After World War II we offered Poland the Marshall Plan, they accepted, but the Soviets said no.

Dec. 22, 1981: NSC 34: Poland 

Well, Al, it seems to me on this we make up our minds on what is right to do. We say to the Soviets tomorrow night, we will proceed with actions, without spelling them out – actions that will isolate them politically and economically. We reduce political contact; we do all we can to persuade our Allies to come along, unless and until martial rule is ended in Poland and they return to an antebellum state. We have to deal with out own labor movement. They are shutting off shipments to Poland, though Church shipments are still going.

Dec. 23, 1981: NSC 35: Poland

Review coming….

May 16, 2018

Anyone catch The Americans this week? With all focus on the upcoming Washington Summit Elizabeth finds herself in the position of being able to photograph some summit related documents. Thanks to pause I was able to quickly catch the date of the document, Nov. 10, 1987, and part of the first line “accepted my invitation to attend”. I quickly knew I had read this document somewhere. A few minutes later I realized she was copying a draft of National Security Decision Directive 288 titled “My Objectives At the Summit”. Here it is if you want to read more….

NSDD 288: My Objectives At The Summit

Jan. 24, 2017

Reviewed by Jason Saltoun-Ebin

The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons From Ronald Reagan’s Final Years

By Peggy Grande (Hatchette, 2017)


Ronald Reagan was just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday when he became the 40th president of the United States in 1981. On the day he took the oath of office for the first time he stood before the world with a full set of hair, a naturally childish smile, an athletic frame that hinted at a youth spent in the pool and on the football field, and a contagious optimism that helped him secure the largest victory over a sitting president in U.S. history.


Four years later, now almost 74 years old, after winning 49 states in what was really an unremarkable first term, he looked just as youthful and vibrant as he did during the 1980 campaign. His most remembered line from the 1984 campaign was even his promise not to make his opponents “youth and inexperience” a campaign issue.


We now know Reagan likely wasn’t as healthy as he appeared. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Alzheimer’s disease is “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest task.” According to the NIA, for most people, “symptoms first appear in their mid-60s”.


Peggy Grande’s forthcoming memoir, The President Will See You Now: My Stories and Lessons from Ronald Reagan’s Final Years, shows what it was like to work for Ronald Reagan in his post-presidential years. Grande served as Ronald Reagan’s executive assistant from 1989 to 1999. She answered his phones, ordered his lunch, opened his mail, and kept him on track for his daily meetings and autograph sessions. For five years she did so without a hitch, and without a hint that the man she spent almost 8 hours a day with had an irreversible brain condition that would eventually destroy his memory. She says she occasionally worried when Reagan couldn’t finish a story he had told countless times, but chalked it up to old-age. Grande, in fact, may have even wondered if the youthful-looking Reagan might just be able to continue his daily routine forever.


Everything changed for Grande in September 1994 when Ronald Reagan announced that he was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Grande, like many Americans, was devastated at the news. Five years later, the disease had become so advanced that Reagan had to completely retire from public life.  Before he did, Michael Deaver, one of Reagan’s closest advisors since his days as the governor of California, paid one final visit. Deaver walked in and first noticed how quiet the office was for a place that usually had the phone ringing non-stop. He then continued into the president’s office, a man he had known for over 30 years, to find him reading a book so intently he didn’t even look up. Deaver finally walked over to Reagan only to discover the book he was reading was a picture book about Traveler, General Robert E. Lee’s horse. Reagan also showed no signs he recognized one of his most trusted advisors. 


Grande’s memoir is important. A quick search on Amazon.com for books related to “Ronald Reagan” returns almost 5,000 results, but hers is only the second to focus on Reagan’s post-presidential years. Admittedly not the most exciting part of Reagan’s life for historians to study, yet an interesting glimpse into the final chapter of one of America’s most endearing presidents. 

Dec. 28, 2016

Reviewed by Jason Saltoun-Ebin

Reagan: American Icon

By Iwan Morgan (I.B. Tauris, 2016)


Are we still in the “Age of Reagan”? The election of Barack Obama 20 years after Reagan left office appeared to have closed that chapter in American politics. The American people, and the Electoral College for that matter, in that election put the first African American into the White House and, probably just as significant when looking at the historical arch of American politics, the first true left-of-center politician since perhaps LBJ.

While Reagan embraced conservative values intent on restricting access to abortions and defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, Obama essentially used a wrecking ball to destroy the “family values” conservatism of the 1970s and 1980s through supporting increased access to abortions and later same-sex marriage. But Obama, for all he did for progressive values, just couldn’t close the lid on the Reagan Era, which likely would have required either the subsequent election of another true progressive POTUS or a majority of progressives on the United States Supreme Court. (Click here to continue reading!)

Nov. 9, 2016 –

Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War

Edited by Nate Jones. Forward by Tom Blanton.
A National Security Archive Book.

The New Press, (New York) 2016.


I recently got called out for being too nice in my book reviews. That’s a problem when I generally only review books that I actually like. I know I’m supposed to note something the author could have done better or some point of disagreement. But most of the books I review share my same purpose – disseminating government secrets, promoting transparency, and hopefully learning something from the past. Nate Jones’s new book on Able Archer 83 does all those things so well you should go out and buy it right now. Really! Click here and buy it now!


That being said, I’ll pick it a part a bit too because there is just so much good stuff in there screaming for an intellectual discussion. (I hope he reads this and sends me his response so I can post it below.)


For Jones, Able Archer 83 (Google it for the quick overview) represents the most important of the series of events in 1983 that brought about a turn in Ronald Reagan’s thinking from “evil empire” war rhetoric toward respectful engagement with the Soviet Union. Jones was not the first to identify this “turn”.  That started with Beth Fischer, as he notes, but he is the first I believe to center the turn around Reagan’s thinking about the Soviet response to Able Archer 83. That event, as Jones notes, scared the crap out of the Soviet leaders who thought the annual NATO exercise in 1983 could be a pretext for a first-strike and thus moved Soviet forces toward an elevated level of readiness. (Click here to continue reading, including a response from the author!)

Nov. 4, 2016 — Simi Valley

So the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library opened its doors 25 years ago today. To mark the occasion, former Attorney General and all-around Ronald Reagan advisor Edwin Meese, former CA governor Pete Wilson, and Reagan’s second and last secretary of state, George P. Shultz, made the trip to Simi Valley along with David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. (Click here to continue reading.)

Oct. 28, 2016 —Book Review: "The General vs. The President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War,” by H.W. Brands. DoubleDay, 2016.


   It might not have been the kind of hand-to-hand  combat Teddy Roosevelt preferred, but in The General vs. The President: MacArthur and Truman At the Brink of Nuclear War, acclaimed historian H.W. Brands argues that Truman wasn’t afraid to get bloody when it mattered.


What mattered to Truman: whether the president of the United States or the commander in the field determined American tactics and policy. General MacArthur, one of the most decorated soldiers in American history, led the American-supported United Nations effort to defend Korea from a Chinese-backed communist takeover. Whereas MacArthur publicly supported the direct bombing of China and hinted at American use of nuclear weapons to end the conflict, Truman believed that containment would ultimately succeed and that the risk of a direct confrontation with the Soviet Union outweighed either the benefits of a direct attack against China or use of nuclear weapons. (Click here to continue reading.)

June 29, 2016 —

SDI anyone?? Finally found a day for a quick visit back to the Reagan Library last week to see if enough documents had been released for a new edition of “The Reagan Files: Inside the National Security Council.” Probably not but I have yet to go through everything and it has just been two years since the last addition.

Back to SDI….scanned through the folder on the March 11, 1987 meeting on SDI. Meeting minutes are still classified but a more extensive briefing package was located than what I found last time and included in the second edition of “Inside the National Security Council.” Just realized I never uploaded those doc’s so here we go — (almost) everything you wanted to know about the White House, Congress and various agencies battling over the future of SDI. Given the various positions identified in the briefing papers it is no surprise this meeting is still classified. 

March 11, 1987, NSPG 148 on SDI Briefing Package

Aug. 15, 2015 — New Doc’s re Kuwaiti Airliner Hijacking on Dec. 1, 1984

On Dec. 1, 1984, a Kuwaiti Airlines flight from London to Karachi was hijacked by two Lebanese Shi’a gunman after refueling in Kuwait. The plane was diverted to Tehran where the standoff lasted six days. Two American UNAID workers were killed. This small release contains messages from President Reagan to the Swiss Ambassador in Iran, President Zia and King Fahd thanking them for their help and reminding them of the task moving forward. The documents were released in 2015 and are part of the Terrorist Incident Working Group (TIWG) files in the Oliver North collection at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Click here to download the documents. 

June 10, 2015 — New Docs thanks to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library

February 25, 1985: Middle East Terrorism: The Threat and Possible US Responses" 

In this memo from DCI Casey to Reagan and his senior officials, Casey briefly summarizes “the relative implications of counterterrorism steps taken with respect to each of the major Middle East sponsores of terrorism and different types of targets.” (Uploaded June 10, 2015)

April 23, 1985: Terrorism as a Political Weapon: Four Middle East Case Studies" 

This report, prepared by the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis for the Directorate of Intelligence, reviews the cases of Iran, Lebanon, Syrian and Libya. It concludes: “Policy options aimed at reducing Middle Eastern terrorism that are not country-specific are unlikey to succeed. Aggressive policies designed to discourage the broad phenomenon of international terrorism may reduce the short-term vulnerability of certain diplomatic personnel and installations, but they will not affect the underlying political roots of the problem.” (Uploaded June 10, 2015)

May 12, 2015- “REAGAN: THE LIFE”, by H.W. Brands.


    Just when I thought it would be a while before I came across another book as impressive as Rick Perlstein’s recent “The Invisible Bridge,” Brands “Reagan: The Life”, not only competes with Perlstein in terms of readability, he equals if not surpasses “The Invisible Bridge” when it comes to scholarship. Yes, it really isn’t fair to compare the two as Brands and Perlstein really take different approaches to the same subject, but with both bio’s released within a year of each other, there is no way around it for the Reagan community. In short: Brands is a welcome compliment to Reagan scholarship and well worth the read. Highly recommended!

April 21, 2015 — “INFAMY: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II."

Just as I was about to get to the half-way point of H.W. Brands impressive biography of Reagan (May 12, 2015) I popped into Santa Barbara’s most famous bookstore, Chaucer’s, to pick up “Infamy.” After reading the first page I knew the rest of “Reagan” would have to wait. Reeves doesn’t deviate from form — which works perfectly in his telling of how American hysteria after Pearl Harbor led to the forced incarceration of Japanese, and Japanese Americans, (Yes, U.S. citizens too!) during World War II. To say that lives were ruined does not do justice to the over 100,000 loyal Japanese Americans who dutifully obeyed the U.S. Government’s forced relocation policies. 

Run, don’t walk to your neighborhood bookstore to pickup this important book that happens to also be a great read. And if you can’t run, click here to buy from Amazon.com

Feb. 6, 2015 — “Ghosts of East Berlin” 

by Eric Friedman and Celeste McConnell-Barber

Imagine you are a 10 year-old American boy living in Santa Barbara, Calif., it is 1988, and your mother tells you that you are moving to East Berlin for six months because your step-Father, an English professor at UCSB, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship. Or, same situation, but you are a wife and mom to a ten-year-old. What to do? Like most 10-year-olds, Eric Friedman got on the plane because his mom forced him to. Unlike most American mothers in 1988, Celeste McConnell (now McConnell-Barber) jumped at the opportunity to give her son a once in a lifetime experience.

 She was right.

Twenty-five years later, mother and son published a memoir of their time in East Berlin, one of the few accounts of what it was like for ordinary Americans to live behind enemy lines in communist East Berlin.

 “Ghosts of East Berlin” (CreateSpace, 2014), is really two books. The first is the memoir of Eric Friedman, a 10-year-old American boy from Santa Barbara forced to live in East Berlin for six months. His account is exactly that – his 10-year-old impressions of life in East Berlin. From riding the subway to school, to meeting and making friends, and occasional visits to West Berlin, Mr. Friedman, now a public servant in Santa Barbara, brings us into East Berlin at a time when the Berlin Wall was a fixture of the Cold War, which was still very much hot. Recent Communist reforms had allowed for Fulbright scholars to study in East Berlin, but the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany, let alone the end of the Cold War, were still only long-term goals within the highest levels of American government.

 The second book is the memoir of Eric’s mother, Celeste McConnell-Barber. More sophisticated, Celeste grapples with questions of practicality: from learning how to feed her family when the supermarkets are practically empty to navigating the subway and border crossings into West Berlin.

 Together, Mr. Friedman and Ms. McConnell-Barber deserve our collective thanks. Mixed with humor and heartfelt stories, “Ghosts of East Berlin” should be required reading for those trying to understand what life was like in East Berlin not long before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. Highly recommended!

Available on Amazon.com and other retailers. 

Nov. 17, 2014 — Iran-Contra … Chemical Weapons…SALT 1 & 2 draft options

Some new doc’s….enjoy!

1. Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s daily schedule (segments released for the Walsh investigation).

2. Criminal Liability of President Bush. Memo prepared for Judge Walsh analyzing President Bush’s liability in the Iran-Contra affair. 

3. Jan. 19, 1982 — Draft Paper for Interagency Working Group on Chemical Weapons Modernization. 

4. Jan. 16, 1985, NSC draft SALT I and II U.S. dismantalement options. 

Aug. 5, 2014 –  “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan"

I sat down a few weeks ago with Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm and Nixonland, to discuss his latest, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. The book, due out today, has already received glowing reviews.  My favorite so far: Frank Rich in The New York Times Sunday Book Review. I would add to that the excellent review by George Packer for The New Yorker.

(Click here to continue reading)

Aug. 3, 2014  The United States, the Soviet Union, and the Cuban Missile Crisis

A special thanks to Dr. Diego Trinidad for his comments on the importance of the November 10, 1981 NSC meeting. It was widely reported in 1962 that as part of the general agreement ending the Cuban Missile Crisis President Kennedy pledged that the United States would not invade Cuba. Dr. Trinidad brought it  to my attention that, in his 45 years of research on Cuban-American relations, the Nov. 10, 1981 NSC meeting is the first time he found official confirmation of President Kennedy’s promise not to invade Cuba. Sec. Haig said in the Nov. 10, 1981 meeting: “The Soviet threshold on Cuba is clear: it is the 1962 Accords – the promise not to invade [Cuba] is the line. Invasion is the trigger for a serious Soviet response. Up to that point, there is a free play area.” Click here to go to the full meeting minutes. 

July 28, 2014 -- 

I’ve been reluctant to write about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 because I have not been very comfortable with the comparison to the 1983 downing of Korean Airlines Flight 007. In my mind the two situations are so different that comparing the two disasters would not be helpful. Here is why:

(click here to continue reading)

June 5, 2014 — The Reagan Legacy at 10

The 40th President of the United States, the larger-than-life Ronald Reagan who left office 25 years ago with an impressive 63 percent approval rating among Americans, passed away 10 years ago this week. Amidst the celebrations this week for the man and his presidency, reflecting on the America Reagan left behind in 1989, in particular on the Americans Reagan left behind, should not be left out of the conversation.

While those in Simi Valley and at Eureka College will be talking about all of Reagan's domestic and foreign policy accomplishments...

May 14, 2014 — New Reviews!

The reviews are coming in! Here are few of the latest for the second edition of “The Reagan Files: Inside the National Security Council”. 

“Significant Addition to the Historical Record” — James Strock, Serve To Lead. 

“Opening Up the Reagan Files” — Marjorie Haun, for The American Thinker

“The Reagan Files” — Scott Whitmore

“The Reagan Files is … a treasure trove of information for those seeking a much deeper understanding of Reagan’s foreign policy." 

April 1, 2014 

New Documents: 

1. 1983 memos from Vice President Bush to President Reagan on his meetings with Chancellor Kohl and the upcoming Pershing II deployments. 

2. Oct. 2, 1984: ASAT Test Next Week.” Memo from John Douglass to McFarlane. Follow-up memo’s dated Nov. 14, 1984 and Feb. 1, 1985. 

(RL: Exec. Sec: NSC Subject Files Box 3.) 

The memo’s indicate that the U.S. Air Force conducted an unsuccessful ASAT test on Nov. 13, 1984 “designed to test the miniature homing vehicle’s ability to acquire and track against a light source in Space.” The Feb. 1, 1985 memo indicates that the Air Force is now recommending a test against a target satellite."

April 1, 2014 

Congrats to Bob T. (@Tbobx) for the correct guess of former DCI William Casey. The memo is now online and can be found by clicking here: May 24, 1983 memo from William Casey to President Reagan on the budget and the Soviet Union.

March 31, 2014 —

Free signed copy of any one of my books to the first person who correctly identifies the author of this quote from a letter to President Ronald Reagan dated May 24, 1983:

"On an even more fundamental level, I believe that we are at a historic watershed. We may be the last custodians who have a chance to turn back impending bankruptcy and permanent establishment of Soviet power at our front door. If we don't aggressively act on these dangers during the next 12 months we are not likely to have the credibility to get a sufficient mandate to deal with an even greater threat in the next four years."

*One entry per person. Document (and thus the winner) will be posted online tomorrow! Entries must be submited on “The Reagan Files Facebook page”. 

March 30, 2014 —

New page! I’ve started a collection of speech drafts, and have uploaded several drafts of President Reagan’s “Evil Empire”, “SDI” and “Ivan & Anya” speech. Check them out under speech drafts, and please email me any drafts you have that you would like to share so that I can add them to this new page. The page can be accessed under “Document Collections” or by clicking here: Selected Speech Drafts.

March 8, 2014 —

Thirty-one years ago today President Reagan gave his famous “evil empire” speech. Oddly, I couldn’t find the official speech draft online, although it has been released at the Reagan Library for several years. Well, here it is! Enjoy! This link is to the draft President Reagan edited days before this speech. 

Feb. 17, 2014 —

Now available!! A second edition of “The Reagan Files: Inside The National Security Council” is now available for purchase. The second edition includes the meeting minutes of several recently declassified NSC/NSPG meetings, as well as new information on over fifity other meetings. The book is an invaluable resource for those studying foreign policy during the Reagan years. The full table of contents can be viewed by clicking here! 

Feb. 10, 2014 —

by Jason Saltoun-Ebin

I recently read a piece on Foreign Policy arguing that President Reagan showed courage for his decision to cut-and-run in Beirut, which he made about thirty years ago this month.  I have spent way too much time on this subject not to respond. 

First, the writer argued that Reagan sent Americans to Beirut as part of a Multi-National Peacekeeping Force. That is of course correct, but there is so much more to it than that: behind the closed doors of the White House Situation Room, Reagan and his team saw an American presence in the Middle East both as an opportunity to keep the Soviets out of Lebanon  and as the chance he was looking for to show the world that the United States had moved beyond the "ghosts of Vietnam."

Second, the author argued that Reagan deserves a lot of credit for a "tough decision". I'm not so sure it was a tough decision or that Reagan came to the decision to abandon Beirut for the right reasons. In terms of saving American lives in the short term there is no question that it was the right decision. But why make that decision in January/February 1984? Why not in April 1983 after terrorists bombed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut killing over fifty of the best American Middle East analysts? At that point Reagan knew that there were going to be more American casualties - the reality was that the Marines stationed in Beirut just could not be protected, which of course proved out in October when 241 Americans were killed after a suicide truck bomber rammed into the American Barracks at the Beirut International Airport. Why not pull out then?

In my mind the only explanation for why Reagan pulled the Marines out of Beirut when he did was that he did not want to go through 1984, an election year, with the realization that the Marines in Beirut were sitting ducks. Had Reagan's approval ratings for most of 1983 been over fifty percent (they were in the mid forties), I suspect he would have stuck it out in Beirut longer. But with more Americans disapproving of his leadership than approving, Reagan could just not take the chance that American casualties in Beirut would jeopardize his reelection.

Third, and this goes to the heart of this piece, did Reagan really make a courageous decision to cut-and-run? If you believe, as I do, that his decision rested on the fact that it was an election year decision than I don't see how it could have been courageous. It was a safe decision. A courageous decision, in my mind, would have been a determination to let the MNF do their job at least through the 1984 election. Would sticking it out a little longer have changed anything? We know what pulling out led to - and yes, it did lead to emboldening terrorists (think of the hijackings of TWA 847, the Achille Laura, Pan Am Flight 73) - but what if Reagan had made the really hard choice and told his advisers, "I don't care if this is an election year, we have a job to do and we are going to do it!" I'm not arguing for an open-ended commitment, just suggesting that a decision to let the Marines do their job at least through the 1984 election would have set a better precedent while also accomplishing another of Reagan's goals: showing that the U.S. had moved beyond Vietnam. 

Last, if reelection did in fact sway Reagan's decision in 1984 to cut-and-run, why then did he not reintroduce troops in 1985? My feeling is that by 1985 Reagan realized that the Middle East was not as "vital" as he thought it was in 1981 and 1982. Reagan also had his hands full with the arms-for-hostages dealings in Iran and the numerous Middle East crises that just seemed to be never-ending. Then, by 1986, after his first one-on-one with Gorbachev, he knew that the cold war could be managed without American troops in the Middle East. So, Reagan may have actually backed into the right decision (though I think the timing did do damage to American prestige), but giving him credit for doing so misses the point that were it not an election year, and had his approval ratings been higher, he very likely would have kept American troops in Beirut for the near future.

In "Dear Mr. President...Reagan/Gorbachev and the Correspondences that Ended the Cold War", historian Jason Saltoun-Ebin sheds new light on the end of the Cold War by presenting, in many cases for the first time, the top-secret correspondence between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Saltoun-Ebin shows, through this private correspondence, that the most important reason for the end of the Cold War was simply the trust that Reagan and Gorbachev built through their letters. Although Reagan and Gorbachev at first found little to agree upon, they started the path towards the end of the Cold War by agreeing that despite their differences, they would continue to correspond. From when Gorbachev took office on March 11, 1985 till Reagan left the presidency in January 1989, the two most powerful leaders in the world exchanged over forty letters. It was this dialogue -- this decision that they could individually make a difference -- more than anything that led to the cooling of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union and then the end of the Cold War. Trusting did not come easy for either of them. The letters presented in "Dear Mr. President..." show, once again, that the pen is mightier than the sword.

© Jason Saltoun-Ebin 2016