Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan

regWith the death of Nelson Mandela, the mythology continues that, under Ronald Reagan, the 1980s was the lost decade in dealing with South Africa. It’s the same old line — Reagan was insensitive to AIDS because he wasn’t gay. He was insensitive to racism because he wasn’t black. And he was not involved in policy, because he wasn’t very deep. All of that is just not true.

During the recent Bush Administration, I served on the board of the National Defense University (NDU) and came to know two of my colleagues — Chester Crocker and Edward Perkins. Chet, an academician who served on the National Security Council under Nixon, is an amiable and gracious gentleman and a scholar. A man of enormous good will, Chet served as Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs for the entire eight years. He was unjustly pilloried by Christopher Hitchens and others for crafting the allegedly “soft” U.S. policy of “constructive engagement” toward apartheid South Africa. In fact, the policy was strategic and allowed for Reagan’s philosophy, per his U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, of seeking change within authoritarian regimes as opposed to isolating totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union, which required full confrontation. And, at that time during the Cold War, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was a Marxist, if not pro-Communist, organization, so prudence was required.

In 1986, Chet recommended to Secretary of State George Shultz the appointment of Ed Perkins to be U.S. Ambassador to South Africa. Secretary Shultz did not know Ed, but both were former Marines, and Ed, then U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, admired Shultz’s integrity and deliberative, scholarly approach. In his book Mr. Ambassador, Ed suggests that Pat Buchanan was successful in limiting the sanctions that resulted in President Reagan’s executive order that year. Pat, a Eurocentric, had quite another mindset on Africa and the Mideast. It would not be the first or the last time Pat was on the wrong side of an issue.

In his book, Ed says, quite simply, that neither George Shultz nor Ronald Reagan have been given credit for their determination to change apartheid in South Africa. Shultz told Ed, “No one has the right to ask you or any other black person to go down there.” Some thought the Afrikaners might try to assassinate a black ambassador. And “black leaders” here, he was told, would attack Ed as a sell-out to a “racist” president, and they did belittle the appointment.

Ed told Reagan’s personnel director that he was a career foreign service officer, not a Republican, but a registered independent. Ed did not get along with Reagan’s chief of staff, Don Regan, but that’s hardly surprising, since Regan was an arrogant Wall Street crony capitalist whose opposition to sanctions was probably rooted in corporate relationships. But when it came to Reagan himself, Ed and the President had immediate rapport. Ed recollects how informed Reagan was on Africa and also Reagan’s moral clarity. And, then, there was Ronald Reagan the man. President Reagan asked Ed personal questions about his upbringing, his wife, his family, and what he would do as ambassador. Then, he told Ed that he was, in effect, personally appointing him U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and, almost unheard of, giving him authorization to make American policy from the embassy. Ed recalls that in subsequent meetings during his ambassadorship, Reagan was very much always in control and thoroughly analytical and well engaged — hardly the detached caricature drawn by liberals.

The Congressional Black Caucus initially was hardly supportive of Ed, and the government-favored South African press predictably blasted the appointment. Jesse Jackson and other anti-Reagan “black leaders” tried to dissuade Ed Perkins from taking the job. But Ed became, in his words, “a change agent” from the moment he set foot in South Africa and in the first official private meeting with South Africa’s President P.W. Botha, who directly insulted him and indirectly insulted President Reagan. Later, when Botha reneged on an agreement to stop assassinating dissidents across the border, Reagan simply bypassed the State Department entirely and had Ed personally deliver to Botha a strong letter signed not by the Secretary of State but by Reagan himself that included vintage, authentic Reagan: “You have broken your word.”

There is a lot more to the story. But the bottom line is that President Reagan’s personal envoy made policy from the moment he refused to accept segregated housing for the black State Department employees. And he reached out to all groups, from rigid Afrikaners to black Marxist revolutionaries, while making clear the U.S. position was against apartheid and against violent change and for a market economy. And he directly challenged the nationalization plans of the Marxists, instructing them instead on the virtues of “cooperative capitalism.”

Ed Perkins eventually was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as Ambassador to the U.N.  But his tenure was short-lived, as partisan Democrats around incoming President Bill Clinton saw the professional diplomat as “one of those Republicans,” and Ed, without even a courtesy call, was replaced by Madeline Albright. Embarrassed by the backlash, President Clinton eventually appointed Perkins as Ambassador to Australia.

Former Secretary of State Jim Baker suggests that Reagan probably regretted his veto of the tougher sanctions against South Africa.  Not so fast.  President Reagan’s priority in those years was not the downfall of the government in South Africa, but the downfall of the government in the Soviet Union. By selecting a black American to be ambassador, President Reagan sent a message. And by sending Ed Perkins, Reagan showed that his selection was not some politically correct symbol of diversity but the real deal. In his book, Ed Perkins makes it clear that he hardly admired Winnie Mandela. And, unlike many in the State Department and many progressives, including the current American president, Ed believes in American exceptionalism. In South Africa, he celebrated the U.S. Constitution and its genius of a democratic republic of limited, balanced powers.

There are many incidents that can be recounted during Ambassador Perkins’ South African tour of duty.  At times, Ed even gave Embassy or consular sanctuary to political dissidents, just as President Reagan would have allowed in a Communist country. He turned away Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson when they wanted to exploit the situation. When challenged by the South African government, Ed Perkins declared that the dissidents were on sovereign territory. And when Botha (who, ironically, would later become part of Nelson Mandela’s government) and his hard-line emissaries repeatedly became belligerent, Ed Perkins replied with his ace-in-the-hole line — that he was acting on behalf of the President of the United States — Ronald Reagan.

Arnold Steinberg is a strategist, analyst and author, who has consulted in public policy, media, politics, and philanthropy.  He also is an expert in quantitative research (polls) and qualitative research (focus groups).

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  • Kelly

    …. and we all lived happily ever after. Tell that to the families of the murdered farmers in South Africa. South Africa has become a corrupt hell hole filled with murder and rape. Where is the media now?


  • Kathy M

    I wonder if Reagan would approve of the “change” that has come about in SA? Somehow I doubt it. But we don’t want to discuss that. Let’s just keep singing kumbaya and ignore the blood all over the floor. Maybe we can make peace with Islam too.

    • James Adams

      You are mixing your racist rants. Because it was such a peaceful place before. From 1948 to 1994 SA was ruled under apartheid. Which means almost all of the adult population were raised under that violently oppressive system. Though Mandela eventually embraced reconciliation. People who born in and grew up surrounded by violence may find it hard to abandon the only way they know to address their concerns/needs.

      • Drakken

        It was a functioning prosperous nation and more peaceful than it is now, if your one of those white liberal progressives, I would highly suggest that you go there and have a nice visit, I would suggest some really interesting places in Joberg that you would really get the whole multicultural experience. I love it when reality bites you do gooding liberals, who says Darwin doesn’t have a sense of humor.

      • Softly Bob

        Your knowledge of history is poor. Apartheid came about because the Blacks were violent and feudal. Tribe fought tribe. No matter what was done, what was tried, nobody could stop the Black violence. In the end, segregation was the only answer.
        But you sound like a typical Liberal, delusional and completely ignorant of any facts.

        • SDN

          And is your knowledge of history “rich” ? When Apartheid was established the Boers were not under siege, if you say “tribe fought tribe” then it was black-on-black violence which wasn’t supposed to be a matter of concern for the white political power. The National Party created the Apartheid because of its nationalistic ideology they believed the Afrikaners to be a Chosen People who were given SA from God and were entitled to take it from the Blacks which they saw as the equivalent of the Canaanites

  • A Z

    Reagan’s Checklist
    – Against Apartheid
    – Against Violent Change
    – For a Market Economy

    The Left’s Checklist
    – Against Apartheid
    – For Violent Change


    • A Z

      Mugabe is a supporter of the ANC. Mugabe has an apartheid regime to this day.

      His apartheid is based on ethnicity.

      He is President for Life and the Ndebele tribe is not doing so well.

      • Schaps

        There is ongoing discrimination in South Africa today – the Black Empowerment Act which actively prevents white candidates from many college/university admissions and employment. The country is a ruin governed by criminals and Zuma whose war cry is ” bring me my machine gun ” ( so I can kill the whites )..

        • A Z

          It could have been worse during the takeover.

          It could have been a lot better.

          Zuma, the ANC and others will pay for their racism. People will continue to emigrate and take the cultural and commercial contact with them. South Africa will become less wealthy and resilient.

          You do not hear of Frankish tribes after Charles the Great. Likewise with this change old tribal division will decay. With whites leaving and other immigrants flooding in the old African tribal structure will not survive. The supporters of the ANC will not like it (Skilled workers out; unskilled workers in). They are going to reap the whirlwind.

  • theoprinse

    Ronald Reagan sat with the Taliban.

    South Africa was regained by the Afrikaner thorugh the Amsterdam born Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd who left the British Commonwealth.

    The British London financial elite regained controll over Anglo Gold thorugh Margaret Thatcher

    Paul Kruger was removed by the British. Many streets in the Netherlands are named after Kruger

    • A Z

      Please put the title of the story/article you are linking above the link.

      • theoprinse
        • A Z

          Reagan did not meet with the Taliban

          That is like saying the whigs endorsed Lincoln.

          Some Whigs became Republicans but the 2 are not one and the same.

          The Taliban were formed in 1994 because despite their support the IS could not control the factions in Afghanistan to their degree of desire so they cobbled together a new faction from some new players and some old players.

          Besides people change. Benedict Arnold was a good guy until he wasn’t.

          Should Washington have known 3 or 5 years before his treachery that he was going to become a traitor?
          Maybe he should have had a time machine!

          If we had not backed the Mujaheddin the USSR would have had a warm water port in Baluchistan. The mujaheddin would have been broken and the Soviet Union would have been triumphant . The victory might have given them another shot in the arm and the y might not have fallen apart in 1991. That would have been much, much better.

          “The best of all possible worlds” -Sigismundo

          • theoprinse

            After backing the Mujahedeen the Taliban was allowed to expell the CIA backed Mujahedeen. The Taliban allowed the former CIA agent Osama bin Laden to take refuge in Afghanistan with his Al Qaeda whom then decided to fly into the Twin Towers upon which Bush decided to expell the Taliban and today Obama is allowing to have the Taliban to take over Afghanistan again.

            Here is another sample of ‘policy’ by the political elite in Washington

            The Chechen Rebels were funded via the CIA’s front corporation NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya.

            The prominent Chechen extremist websites, Kavkaz Centre, is funded directly by the US State Department. One of the charges laid against Boris Berezovsky by Moscow was the funding of Chechen rebels.

            This support for the Chechen terrorists inevitably led to the Beslan and Moscow theatre massacres.

            Former Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov after gaining asylum in the United States – wrote the book “The Chechen Struggle” the forward of which is written by notorious Russia-hater Zbigniew Brzezinski.

            In January 2012, Tamerlan Tsarnaev attended a workshop at the NGO “Fund of Caucasus” which is sponsored by the CIA-linked Jamestown Foundation, an NGO based at Freedom House.

            Jamestown’s board of directors includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter and is directly funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Foundations, the CIA’s Ford Foundation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development

          • A Z

            CIA agent Osama Bin Laden?


            Hekmatyar was an engineering student/graduate who had no tribal authority who the Pakiastani governement decided they could build up with enough money and arms that he could win over the other mujaheddin factions.

            Not having tribal or religious authority he had no power base outside of Pakistani support. Hekmatyar was to be Pakistan;’s puppet governing Afghanistan.

            After Jimmy Carter sanctioned Pakistan for its’ nuclear program, when the U.S. wanted in following the Russian invasion, the Pakistanis said yes you can arm the mujaheddin, but you have to go through us.

            I have seen nothing the books “The Looming Tower”, “Operation Darkheart”, or “Charlie Wilson’s War” to show anything different.

            Have you read the book “The Looming Tower”?

          • theoprinse

            Thanks AZ for pointing to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar born 1947) is the founder and active leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party, and a designated “global terrorist” by the United States. After escaping from prison in Afghanistan in 1973, he moved to Pakistan and became involved with Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency to carry out terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan. When the Soviet war in Afghanistan began in 1979, the CIA began funding his rapidly growing Hezb-e Islami mujahideen organization through the ISI.

            We know the Taliban originated from Pakistan.

            The Taliban movement traces its origin to the Pakistani-trained mujahideen in northern Pakistan, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. When Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became President of Pakistan he feared that the Soviets were planning to invade Balochistan, Pakistan so he sent Akhtar Abdur Rahman to Saudi Arabia to garner support for the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation forces. In the meantime, the United States and Saudi Arabia joined the struggle against theSoviet Union by providing all the funds ..
            It is fair to look closer at the meeting of Reagan with Mujahedeen in the White House.
            PESHAWAR: A photograph widely published in the newspapers worldwide on Wednesday is that of Afghan mujahideen leader Maulvi Mohammad Yunis Khalis in the company of President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985, but it was wrongly mentioned that the elderly and turbaned man with the henna-dyed beard is Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani.

            What Rashid points out is that the core, founding leadership of the Taliban did indeed form part of the anti-Soviet mujahidin struggle. In particular:

            Mullah Omar

            Mullah Mohammed Hassan Rehmani, the former Taliban Governor of Kandahar, “a founder member of the Taliban…considered to be number two in the movement to his old friend Mullah Omar”

            Mohammed Ghaus, former Foreign Minister

            Nuruddin Turabi, former Justice Minister

            Abdul Majid, former Mayor of Kabul

            and to that list we can add, Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani


            The US political elites betrayed western oriented people in Persia to the fundamentalists of khomeiny as they betrayed those in Afghanistan.

            Although the Mujahedeen was a leftist sort of islamic movement as Kadafi styled his political created and can be related to the then Soviet Union.

            But in retracting the US backed mujahedeen from the category western oriented does not extinguish those in Afghanistan who were western oriented and where betrayed by the US to the Taliban fundamentalist

            In a 2004 BBC article entitled “Al-Qaeda’s origins and links”, the BBC wrote:

            During the anti-Soviet jihad Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA

            Bandar bin Sultan: This is ironic. In the mid-’80s, if you remember, we and the United – Saudi Arabia and the United States were supporting the Mujahideen to liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets. He [Osama bin Laden] came to thank me for my efforts to bring the Americans, our friends, to help us against the atheists, he said the communists. Isn’t it ironic?

          • A Z


            Get a hold of yourself.

            I never said that Hekmatyar was a good guy. I said he was the one that received more funding than other groups. It was at Pakistani insistence. A few years into our involvement into the war we like the British started to go around the ISI and fund people like Massoud.

            Massoud was better but still no angel.

            I point out ,who we were funding, and Osama was not it. Osama had is own money and that of the Muslim Brotherhood.

            Hollywood makes so many movies about Blowback and such that you cannot but help to have their world view. I have yet to see a thespian do much in the way of saving people. They do moralize a lot.

            Instead of getting on the whole Osama blowback kick maybe you should be looking at the Muslim Brotherhood and their infiltration of our government now.

          • theoprinse

            Patriotic New song-HARIHARAN & ZIA UL

        • A Z

          Lovely website.

          1979 looked bleak. The Soviets had Angola, Mozambique, Somalia, Ethiopia as client states The world map was turning Red. but the website you frequent does not seem to care. With the Soviets in Afghanistan the Soviets could crush Pakistan. Who would save Pakistan, India? They were cozy with the USSR.

          Zero anthropology is the type of critic that says if you choose door #1 m,they’ll say you should have chosen door #2. And they will turn the table son you if you choose door #2. And so forth.

          • Drakken

            We were completely foolish in supporting the mujahedeen, we should have let the Soviets do what they did best at the time, killem all and let allah sortem out, no more muslim problem.

    • A Z

      Regan did not meet with the Taliban because that would have been impossible.

      Do you have a time machine?

      We supported Ahmad Shah Massoud, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and several other factions. Hekmatyar is not a good guy. But did we have a choice. The Pakistanis did not give us one and we had no choice but to support Pakistan. If no American aid had been given to the mujaheddin, the Soviet Union would have won by 1986. Sure we supported Hekmatyar and other bad guys, but we supported the Soviet Union in WW2 and they were every bit as bad. They murdered our soldiers and we were their allies. They murdered between a few hundred to 25,000 American soldiers.

      If you are able to defeat evil regimes around the world within a generation or two without the assistance of strange bedfellows, then I want to meet you, because you must be the ARCHANGEL GABRIEL and need no allies to win against evil.

      Yes Reagan met with the mujahedin. but not the Taliban. The Taliban were formed in the early 1990s by the ISI.

  • Charles Martel

    Was Pat on the wrong side of the issue? How much better off is South Africa today? Well they eliminate racism! Did they or did they simply replace it with a mich more malevolent form of racism?

    Let’s answer those question before we gove Reagan credit for anything in South Africa. Is it wise to credit a good man with something that eventually has led to the wholesale slaughter of white farmers? Do we want to give Reagan credit for helping to form one of the world’s most notorious rape cultures and murder capital?

    Ask youself if black Africans were safer before or after apartheid. Yes, it was institutional racism. It was safe. It was logical. It was neccessary.

    • 20pizzapies

      You’re a racist idiot .There is absolutely no sane comparison between Mugabe and Mandela , if you think there is then you’re brain damaged as well as being a racist .

      • Drakken

        Mugabe and mandela are cut of the same cloth and you see how both those former prosperous countries were run right? They are typical of any bloody African nation, cesspools of corruption and butchery, So take your effing race card and bloody shove it where the bloody sun don’t shine.

        • 20pizzapies

          Let me repeat it , since you didn’t get it the first time and you seem to have been joined with another fellow imbecile ….you’re a racist idiot . There is absolutely no similarities between Mugabe and Mandela , and as far as McKinney , she doesn’t even belong in the argument . Are all you Breitbart teabags this stupid ?

          • tibetan

            You have to be kidding (do you now what a tea bagger is) something the fitly gay community have normalized threw people like you and the DNC, the media and our illustrious President….

          • 20pizzapies

            learn to spell . teabags are people like you , if that happens to be confused by jerks like you to be anything other than an ignorant conservative , then wear it well .

          • Drakken

            You throw that bloody race card like so much confetti and it has zero meaning anymore, but thanks for playing. I feel therefore I am as your policy position progressive/communist like yourself really have zero understanding of human nature and will always side with the lowest common denominator, as for me being a racist? Not bloody likely, I am a western culturalist and your changing the subject has nothing to do with the point at hand, I never mentioned that scumbag McKinney. So do try to keep up.

      • A Z

        Mandela singing the kill whitey song in 1992 does not give me a warm fuzzy.

        Also when are radicals like Cynthia McKinney, Mandela and other going to disassociate themselves from Gaddaffi? It is not cool you know and there is no pragmatic reason to support him. He is out of power & his crimes known.

        Obama went against him due to some leftist excuse called R2P. Which has some good points, but leftists always apply it haphazardly. We could have done R2P in Rwanda for little money. The ambassador warned Clinton of the impending catastrophe, but maybe he was busy with Monica.

    • James Adams

      Oh my, we should bring back slavery in the US, because white folks were much safer then. Living hell for others, but it was a white folk’s paradise.

    • SDN

      No it was not ‘safe’, ‘logical’ or ‘necessary’. If you admit that things in Russia were better under communism is that a reason for reestablishing the communist dictatorship there ? No and it’s the same for SA. Murders of white farmers are of course an issue but it needs to be truthfully examined, crime in SA started to increase in the mid-80’s when it was still under apartheid rule and it started to drop over recent years. Besides whites in SA have lower victimizations rate than any ethnic group in this country.

      • Drakken

        WTF is wrong with you effing libtards, you have more excuses for savage behavior than Heinz has pickles, why don’t you actually ask the whites that are there what is happening than go running your mouth about something you clearly have no clue about. Liberal stupidity at its finest.

        • SDN

          “Libtard” ? Ha ! Ha ! I’m the least liberal person you could find ! Where did I try to find “excuses for savage behavior” ? I’ve said in my message that “Murders of white farmers are of course an issue” but it shouldn’t be exploited to tarnish blacks in general!

  • Drakken

    The law of unintended consequences bares it’s ugly head, instead of gloating over the bloody mess you made, you should be bloody well ashamed of yourselves Steinberg. What you useful idiots and your good intentions did was subvert a prosperous country and gave it to a bunch of primitive primates who can’t run a lemonade stand much less a country, but what the heck, democracy for the sake of democracy right? You have made the white genocide taking place possible. In a few short years the country will be starving like Rhodesia and the demands and telethons to save the savages from their own misery that they have wrought upon themselves will be the hue and cry from all the do gooders and their good intentions. White South Africa was a western ally, black South Africa is now our enemy and supports and aids our enemies, thanks a lot you effing morons!

  • Seek

    So tell me why opposing apartheid was good policy. Given the deterioration of the country during two decades of black majority rule, it would seem apartheid was the least egregious of the available alternatives to achieve stability in South Africa. The problem was not that President Reagan was right but unappreciated by the Left; the problem was that Reagan, though possessed of good intentions, was wrong. We supported Mandela, albeit “construcively,” and have reaped a terrible whirlwind.

    • James Adams

      I assume you lived under such a society. Hell, start talking about registering guns and people go off the rails. I couldn’t image what you’d do under a system like apartheid.

    • SDN

      My point is much the same as with ‘Charles Martel’ just because some things were better under apartheid is not a reason for calling for saying it was a good thing, if someone says Russia was in a better shape under Communism that’s not a reason for reestablishing the communist dictatorship there. Besides the Apartheid was not the sole alternative to the ANC, Blacks were not a political homogeneous group you had leaders like Buthelezi who rejected the ANC and its socialist ideology.

  • A Z

    They said the response to AIDS in South Africa was getting better and the SA President was finally taking it seriously.

    It is hard to find the good news story about the Gates foundation, progress & SA

    But the CDC has scary stats.

    HIV/AIDS in South Africa
    17.8% Estimated Prevalence
    (Age 15–49)
    310,000 Estimated Deaths (2009)
    1,900,000 Estimated Orphans
    971,556 Reported Number of People Receiving ART
    2,600,000 Estimated Number of People Needing ART

  • Reynaldo Marquez
  • Mr. Smith

    Democrats & Liberals, like obama, do not care about the truth…only their ideology. Like a Jihadist, they will tell you, “You have to be sodomized, so we can put explosives in your anus!” Peace be upon him…

  • CarolDru

    A very interesting article, written by a black and, for some, an eye-opener on statistics for deaths during the years of Apartheid and thereafter:

  • Drakken

    Yes we see it what little paradises there are in black areas, where I am sure every white person is dying to get into right? In case it has escaped your notice, but race relations in this country are the worst they have ever been and whitey can’t get out of the black areas fast enough. If the blacks keep up and spread the so called knock out game, the retaliation is going to be epic.

  • bleedinell

    Let’s give sanctuary to all the persecuted whites in Africa and close the doors.
    Africa has become a continental Detroit.