General Description Selection Policy

*Mission Statement: seeks to illustrate a 360 degree view of the formulation and implementation of Ronald President Reagan’s Cold War strategy by providing access to official government documents, diary entries, correspondence, interviews, video clips, and photo’s, dissenting views expressed in period newspaper articles, magazine editorials, and political cartoons – with a particular focus on documentary evidence produced in the years of his two administrations, 1981 thru 1989.

Broadly, we aim to provide a unique & penetrating insight into the inner workings of top level policy formulation as well as its subsequent political implementation. Specifically, we seek to show the mind of Ronald Reagan at work and help convey the personal magnetism that unified country and ensured forward movement of his Soviet policy.

In short: Reagan’s Cold War – from theory to strategy to policy to implementation – to final victory. What were the results of our "victory" and what do those results continue to mean for our country and the world at large?

We will launch our website with a focused & penetrating study of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative — our goal being to analyse SDI as a specific defense policy, but also to gain a broader perspective as to how "Star Wars" fit into his overall Cold War stragtegy.

*Historical context/overview:
By the dawn of the 1980’s the United States global influence seemed to be waning – and as a result our Cold War strategic position appeared to be weakened. Not five years removed from the humiliating final of evacuation of troops & refugees from the rooftops of Saigon, America’s economy was by the late 1970’s facing rampant inflation and imminent recession. The Watergate fiasco still panged and we appeared helpless to rescue the US hostages trapped in Iran for over 400 days. The national mood was somber, our people were disillusioned.

The Soviet Union, by contrast, appeared to be on the move. Communist insurgent groups had sprung up all across pan Africa, south Asia, and Central America. Confidence was high; they appeared to have the initiative – as evidenced by the un-checked 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. For the first time since the early 1960’s the USSR seemed to be gaining a strategic advantage on the United States.

Enter President Ronald Reagan – (stage right).

*Selection Criteria:
We’ll include elements that not only speak directly to Reagan’s hand in US/Soviet policy – i.e., original primary source documents and secondary evidence such as interview clips) – but we’ll also include period newspaper & magazine editorials to provided opposing viewpoints and period perspective. In short, we will seek to include elements that will probe SDI in detail (micro-analysis) as well those that will help frame a macro perspective – any document deemed to shed detailed light on SDI policy as well as any article that provides an interesting perspective or insightful analysis. Video will be used to place the view in time and photos will be employed for dramatic effect.

*Material Sources:
NOTE: will feature both primary and secondary source materials. Government documents, letters & correspondence, diary entries will be considered a primary sources and will provide the direct evidence, while video footage (both intvs. & archival), newspaper/magazine articles & editorials are the secondary sources that will provide the perspective, & context we feel is necessary to get a full picture of people & events. Photo’s and political cartoons will be included solely to provide color and enhance the overall user experience.

- Photos — (public domain imagery only)
Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, NARA, & LOC

- Video — (both archival vs. intvs)
Source: courtesy of ©The History Channel Archive

Interview clips:
Martin Anderson, Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, 1982–85; Mikhail Gorbachev, Gen. Secretary of the Communist Party & Pres. of the U.S.S.R. (1985-1991); Marlin Fitzwater, Press Secretary (1983-1989); Pat Buchanan, White House Director of Communications (1985 to 1987); Edwin Meese, Counselor to the President from 1981 to 1985 and Attorney General 1985 to 1989; Michael Deaver, Deputy Chief of Staff 1981 to 1985; Don Regan, Secretary of the Treasury from 1981 to 1985; Chief of Staff from 1985 to February of 1987; George H.W. Bush, Vice President 1981 to 1989; Nancy Reagan, First Lady of the United States.

Archival footage:
President announces SDI “Star Wars” initiative; 1981 inaugural address’; 1980 presidential debates; political commercials (1st campaign); State of the Union Address (1982, ’83, & ’84); cabinet meetings, and select press conferences & speeches.

- Diary entries (w/ corresponding transcriptions)
Source: courtesy of "Reagan: In His Own Hand" and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

- Official government text (to include military/intelligence analysis)
Source: NARA, Library of Congress, CIA, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

- Minutes of cabinet meetings/principals interview transcripts, etc.
Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, NARA, and Library of Congress

- Letters & correspondence
Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & miscellaneous private collections
- News paper articles, political cartoons, & magazine editorials
Sources/owners will vary extensively

*Intended Market/Audience:
- Researchers/scholars — master thesis and doctoral dissertation candidates
- Students — middle school book reports, high school term papers, college final projects
- History enthusiasts — for general public history consumption

It is said that it takes a full 20 years and perhaps an entire political generation before a president’s impact can truly be assessed. If that is indeed the case, we're only now attaining a proper critical distance from the Reagan administration.

We at wholly agree with this perspective, not only because it’s clear presidential initiatives and corresponding federal legislation and military implementation take years to begin to impact the nation, (and even longer before that impact can be quantified), but also, and perhaps more importantly, because it’s takes a long time to provide enough distance before an objective critical analysis can be attempted – one less tinged with personal biases and largely unstained by emotional reactions generated in real time as events unfolded in the 1980’s.

We believe the time has come to take a fresh look.

As with any educational tool, the best Public History websites provide sufficient context and analysis — though it is paramount that a proper balance be struck between scholarly analysis and point of view.

Achieving this balance lies at the core of our mission.

Our principal challenge lies in the sheer volume of available material. What is relevant to our Archive's mission statement? Among them, what is worthy of inclusion? Fortunately, given the nature of the content and our project's collaborative sources, we are largely free of copyright/3rd party owner issues. However, as with virtually every Archive (web based or otherwise) we of course will be required to perform all due-diligence where ownership/usage rights are concerned.

*Why is this subject important? | What is’s value?:

The Cold War was an American obsession for almost 50 years. Through eight presidential administrations the United States policy of Containment continued with various degrees of aggression and rollback. Our entire national effort in this regard came to a head in the 1980's under Ronald Reagan's direction. America's ultimate Cold War victory is one of the greatest stories of the 20th century — one with tremendous international ramifications. It's impact will last long into this new century and beyond. It is critical that we gain an understanding of events so that we can draw a link between the results of our Cold War victory and where we stand in the world today.

An example of this connection might be found in the unilateral nature of much of America’s foreign policy of the past decade – our ability to act unilaterally is a direct result of the collapse of the global balance of power provided by the US/Soviet relations.

Additionally, we believe that strong parallels can now be drawn between the 20th century's Cold War and today's "War on Terror". We think that the concrete nature of the Cold War can perhaps help put this far more abstract "War on Terror" of this still young 21st century in better, clearer perspective.

*Short term/Long term GOALS:
We hope to provide a comprehensive repository for student, researchers, and history enthusiasts who are looking for insight into the final period of the Cold War. Further, we'd like to become a trusted, key resource for users who'd like a fresh look at President Reagan's personal contribution to America's overall Soviet Strategy in the 1980's.

We anticipate this web exhibit to be ongoing if not permanent — with a continually expanding Archive.


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