Rollback policy

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In U.S. foreign policy, the rollback policy was a more general statement of the Reagan Doctrine, which involved active measures to push back expansion by the Soviet Union. It contrasted to the detente policy begun under Richard Nixon and continued by Jimmy Carter, which, in turn, was a change from the containment policy that had been effect from the Truman Administration. It still avoided direct confrontation with the Soviets, principally through major component was support of anti-Soviet insurgencies, such as the Nicaraguan Contras and the anti-Soviet factions in the Afghanistan War (1978-92).

It was the Reagan Administration policy that these activities constituted democracy promotion, as stated in the 1985 State of the Union Address:

"We must not break faith with those who are risking their lives on every continent from Afghanistan to Nicaragua to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth . . . Support for freedom fighters is self-defense." [1]

Commentators on the left,[2] as well as libertarians,[3] argued that the supported insurgencies often were undemocratic.


  1. Charles Krauthammer (1 April 1985), "Essay: The Reagan Doctrine", Time
  2. Thomas Bodenheimer and Robert Gould (1989), The Reagan Doctrine: Third World Rollback, ROLLBACK: Right-wing Power in U.S. Foreign Policy, South End Press
  3. Ian Vásquez (12 January 1994), Washington's Dubious Crusade for Hemispheric Democracy, Policy Analysis No. 201