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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Operational code beliefs of Ronald Reagan: the nature of the international environment and image of the Soviet Union Edgar, Tracey


In 1981, the Reagan administration came to the White House emphasizing the moral and political differences between the Soviet Union and the United States. The conflict between the two countries was likened to one between right and wrong, good and evil. Yet, by the end of his second term in office, Reagan was hailing a new era in Soviet-American relations. The possibility of a lasting peace between once implacable foes was pronounced. The questions which form the framework for this thesis arise from this dramatic shift in the Reagan administration rhetoric regarding the Soviet Union. The thesis focuses on the political beliefs of Reagan. The purpose is to gain some insight into the role a political actor's beliefs about politics - the operational code - in international relations. Specifically, this paper uses qualitative content analysis to examine Ronald Reagan's operational code during both terms in office and look for evidence of modified or discarded beliefs which may reflect the changing international situation and the altered character of the Soviet Union. General conclusions drawn from the study indicate that Reagan's operational code did not undergo any major modifications in response to the new situation in the Soviet Union. However, liberal, optimistic elements of his operational code became more dominant in the second term. It appears that some political leaders resist change in their belief systems - even in the face of strong, contradictory evidence.

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