Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-9-2018

Major Department or Program



David F. Schmitz


From 1981-1988, the administration of Ronald Reagan adopted a policy of constructive engagement toward apartheid South Africa. Constructive engagement was formulated in order to achieve three goals, both strategic and moral: to maintain a good relationship between Washington and Pretoria, which the strongly anti-communist Reagan administration viewed as vital in terms of strategic resources and the Cold War; to gently encourage the brutal and racist South African government into a gradual reforming of apartheid; and to use the policy of linkage to resolve regional disputes in Angola, Namibia, and Mozambique. Over the course of the Reagan presidency, however, it became clear that both constructive engagement and linkage were structurally flawed and rested on incorrect assumptions. Exacerbating this problem was an outpouring of domestic and international outrage at the policy’s immorality and constant failures. Ultimately, by 1988, constructive engagement had mostly failed to accomplish either its strategic or moral goals.

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Subject Headings

Reagan, Ronald‚ Reagan, Ronald -- Political activity -- Constructive engagement‚ Reagan, Ronald -- Political activity -- Linkage‚ Apartheid -- South Africa‚ Cold War‚ Communism‚ Social sciences‚ Pretoria (South Africa)‚ Washington (D.C.)‚ United States -- Foreign relations -- South Africa‚ Whitman College -- Dissertation collection -- History Department

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Public Accessible Thesis

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