Ronald Reagan would be crying now
by Don Hank
In the context of the current Syria crisis, I am seeing articles by “conservatives” suggesting that Ronald Reagan would have solved this by threatening the Russians or even shooting down Russian planes in Syria.
Conservatives (really Neocons if we are to be honest), I daresay you have forgotten who Ronald Reagan was and what made him a great statesman. His salient trait was, if anything, restraint. He was characterized precisely by not being the cowboy he was accused of being.
This year the GOP held its first major debate in a Reagan-themed venue, suggesting that the candidates were Reagan-like. All but one were the cheapest and shoddiest of imitations. Trump came closest because he is anti-establishment and tussles with the media, as Reagan had done. Of course, unlike Reagan, Trump does not exactly sound like a wise grandfather, more like a cantankerous uncle, but he is the only one who shows restraint toward Russia.
For all their hot air about Reagan, here is what today’s GOP wants you to forget:
Reagan never got the US into wars that killed thousands of Americans, the way the Bushes did.
Despite his cowboy image, exaggerated by the press, his skirmishes were brief and relatively safe. Only 19 Americans died in Grenada (although to be fair, legal experts tell us that war was not in line with international law), only two US airmen died in the 1986 attack on Libya, and no US military fighters died in Afghanistan because Reagan knew he did not dare go head to head with the Soviet Union in that conflict. Unlike today’s amateurs, Reagan knew that a nuclear confrontation would likely spell the end of civilization, if not of human life.
In fact, most of us have forgotten by now that, despite Reagan’s vehement philosophical disagreement with the Soviets, he did nothing to escalate the tension even after the Soviet Union shot down Korean Airlines flight 007 in September of 1983.
Instead of risking US lives in foreign conflicts, Reagan engaged in secret operations, for example, recruiting Osama bin Laden to fight the Russians in Afghanistan and numerous terror groups to ostensibly fight communism in Latin America and elsewhere (some of which groups we now, unfortunately, face as enemies).
Reagan also cautiously entered the conflict in Lebanon. However, instead of trying to reconcile the belligerent factions, he sided militarily with the Christian faction because he felt he should represent the people closest in religion to most Americans. Very shortly after that, the US Marine barracks were blown up by suicide bombers and he realized his mistake.
Now if he had been a Bush, he would no doubt have sacrificed still more lives for the sake of American “prestige.” Instead, to his credit, he pulled out all US troops and offered no lame excuses. The plaque on his desk said it all: “the buck stops with me.”
Now I am opposed to about everything our current radical socialist White House resident has done domestically, so the following is hard to say, but I hope you will make an effort to understand this: Like it or not, Obama’s policy of standing aside for Putin in Syria resembles Reagan’s policy in Lebanon and in the 007 shootdown incident more than the Neocon saber-rattling to which we are subjected 24-7. A good president knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Even a bad president has some good (and many bad) advisers. A stopped clock is right twice a day.
I can’t imagine the Gipper going up against Russia, and for the same reason that Obama won’t. It is just too downright dangerous. And yet, knowing the Gipper as we do, I am sure you will agree that he would not put the Syrian Christians in harm’s way as Obama has done. I would expect that Reagan would have made an effort to reconcile with Assad, knowing that the latter was protecting Christians and all other minorities in Syria.
So would Reagan have taken Israel’s side and opposed Assad over the Golan Heights?
Who knows? At any rate, you will no doubt agree that he’d have tried to find a mutually agreeable solution. On the other hand, it is true that no president, including Reagan, has ever supported making Jerusalem the capital of Israel – despite pressure to do so. Therefore, there never has been a totally pro-Israel US president.
Another important detail is that Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987, near the end of the Reagan administration, and the president did not bow to pressure from Israel to release Pollard.
There are many unfathomables in US politics. Reagan was one of them. Yet some foolish Neocons hide behind the Reagan brand to defend their warlike policies and reckless statements about Putin.
Ron, they never knew ye.