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The Chatter Podcast: Reassessing Reagan’s Foreign Policy with Will Inboden

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Ronald Reagan stands among the most consequential national security presidents in United States history, not least of which because his policies helped to end the Cold War without a direct war between the superpowers. Reagan’s vision for ending the Cold War evolved during his presidency but followed clear principles he brought with him to the office.

Will Inboden, a historian and former policymaker who leads the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin, has written a new survey of the 40th president’s national security policies, The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink. In it, he uses newly declassified documents and policymaker interviews to inform an informative and insightful reassessment of the formation, development, execution, and impact of Reagan’s foreign policy.

In this discussion, David Priess and Inboden touch on the challenges of conducting research on decades-old administrations, the National Security Council process under different presidents, the influence of the iconic Reagan on a generation, the origins of Reagan’s national security views, the impact of the 1981 assassination attempt, the nature and influence of Reagan’s faith, his evolving relationship with Soviet leaders, the Reykjavik summit, how close the US and USSR came to agreeing to eliminate nuclear weapons, Reagan’s legacy beyond the Cold War, what Will would ask Reagan if he had the chance to do so, how Reagan might view the United States today, why Reagan is hard to capture onscreen, and more.

Among the works mentioned in this episode:

The book The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink by William Inboden

The book Reagan’s War Stories by Benjamin Griffin

The book Rawhide Down by Del Quentin Wilber

The book Reagan at Reykjavik by Kenneth Adelman

“Democracy’s Next Battle,” Ronald Reagan’s address to the Oxford Union Society (December 4, 1992)

The film Lincoln