by Rod D. Martin
July 27, 2018
In one of the comment threads, a friend demonstrated complete ignorance of Reagan’s “Zero Option” and why I keep referencing it. Hence, this history lesson which I wrote for him, and which you need to read:
The Zero Option — proposed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 — was a proposal for the elimination of all intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe, such as the SS-20s that the Soviets had recently deployed and the Pershing II and cruise missiles Reagan and Thatcher were then proposing to deploy in response. The SS-20 gave the Soviets an enormous theatre advantage, and the left in Europe and America responded to this by demanding a “nuclear freeze” which would have preserved that advantage until the end of time (because what Euroweenie or Democrat ever wanted to stand up to Russia until the last year and a half, right?). Reagan and Thatcher, braving leftist protests in the streets of both continents by literally millions of people, deployed our deterrent forces anyway. But before they did, Reagan proposed the “Zero Option”: why don’t we just eliminate this entire class of weapons and thus make everyone safer, instead of adding more nukes on both sides?
Everyone on both sides of the Atlantic laughed. Democrats (predictably and absurdly) called Reagan a warmonger.
So Reagan and Thatcher risked their careers and went ahead with deployment, as a result of which they not only helped deter a Soviet attack but also gained badly needed bargaining power. But Reagan also stuck to his Zero Option proposal, which everyone continued well into 1987 to deride as a mere “talking point” and a “fantasy”.
And then, in November 1987, in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty, a key step toward winning the Cold War and the only treaty in history to ban an entire class of nuclear weapons: Reagan’s Zero Option made international law.
All these decades later, it still is.
And that’s why Trump’s own “Zero Option” — a true free trade zone with zero tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers encompassing the entire industrialized world — matters. He’s following Reagan’s blueprint, a huge bold proposal that completely changed the world then, and can again now.