A New Reagan Myth?

American History

I’ve seen the claim that Saint Ronald of Blessed Memory was opposed to military interventions crop up here and there, and I don’t believe I have heard this one until recently — Dave Weigel reports:

Robert Costa goes inside Rand Paul’s campaign to block a Syria resolution.

His team is eager to cast Paul as an heir to Ronald Reagan, who, they argue, was frequently reluctant to involve the U.S. military in foreign civil wars. “It’s about reclaiming the party from hawks and putting us back in the mode of Reagan,” says a Paul source. “As we do that, we want to help him, so we’re pushing back really hard against the isolationism chatter. That’s not what he’s about; he’s about non-intervention and the national interest.”

Waving the Reagan banner to make a case for realpolitik is, of course, totally consistent—Reagan would speak ringingly of human rights and in the next breath re-emphasize that the “human rights first” Carter strategy was a disaster.

That His Blessedness was opposed to interventions really is news to me, and not what I remember. There was, for example, that Libya thing that Saint Ronnie began in 1981 —

Libya refused to be a proper Middle East client state of Washington. Its leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi, was uppity. He would have to be punished. U.S. planes shot down two Libyan planes in what Libya regarded as its air space. The U. S . also dropped bombs on the country, killing at least 40 people, including Qaddafi’s daughter. There were other attempts to assassinate the man, operations to overthrow him, a major disinformation campaign, economic sanctions, and blaming Libya for being behind the Pan Am 103 bombing without any good evidence.

Yeah, that’s what I remember. And then there was Lebanon — The U.S. was part of a multinational force formed in 1982 as “peacekeepers” in a civil war in Lebanon, so this wasn’t just a U.S. action. But as I recall Saint Ronnie was all gung ho about it until that little incident in 1983 when 241 American servicemen were killed in a barracks bombing. Kinda makes Benghazi seem like small potatoes, don’t it? Anyway, Saint Ronald lost his interest in Lebanon after that.

Then … on to Granada! Truly, that military action caused the American people to stand up and say, WTF?

And do we want to talk about Nicaragua and Reagan’s “freedom fighters,” the Contras? I’d call that an intervention by proxy.

This image of Ronald Reagan, Man of Peace and Restraint, seems at odds with the older view of him as the Great Serious Man with his hand on the nuclear trigger who scowled at the USSR and said, “Make my day.” Thereby bringing about the end of history, or something. I guess the real political genius of Reagan is that the Right can evoke his blessed name to bolster any position they want bolstered, even if it has nothing to do with what he actually did.

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  1. c u n d gulag  •  Sep 6, 2013 @10:41 am

    Maybe Paul was “thinking” of the time when Reagan ignored the fact that his and Rummy’s pal, Saddam Hussein, gassed the Kurds in March of ’83, in the town of Halabja.

    Of course, unlike Assad (if it was indeed he, and not the rebels, who used the gas – probably from Russia), Hussein was using OUR MIC gas, so it was ok.

    Reagan is kind of like the Republican’s version of the Mayan’s Shapeshifter, or Mestaclocan.
    Reagan is all things, to Republicans.
    All GOOD things, that is.
    Not the mindless puppet who, like every good actor, knew how to hit the mark, and recite the lines as written, with feeling.

  2. moonbat  •  Sep 6, 2013 @11:56 am

    Compared to the other bloodthirsty characters on the right, RayGun was a Man of Peace. Little stuff like: Grenada, bombing countries here and there – the chores of keeping client states/actors in line that comprise the daily grist of running a large empire – doesn’t count in the mind of the right.

    And I have to admit, that given this very low bar set by the right, Ronnie wasn’t really interested in starting wars to convert everyone to Democracy (see the Cheney Administration for the best example of True Believers who positively liked starting wars). The Great Communicator was at his best when he was exhorting everyone to tow the line, effusing his speech with his particular kind of “can’t we all get along?”.

    This is his perennial appeal to people on the right – the affable guy who had no hesitation carrying and using the big stick, but whose main weapon was his mouth and his charm. It’s amazing when you read people like Peggy Noonan who were absolutely in love with the man. Or one of my neighbors, a woman who grew up during the Reagan years who feels exactly the same as Noonan. These people are everywhere, and they love their Reagan.

    What’s pathetic is the endless parade of third rate politicians like Rand Paul trying to fill Ronnie’s shoes. But it’s only natural that they would try.

  3. joanr16  •  Sep 6, 2013 @1:20 pm

    “Bombing begins in five minutes.” The infamous live-mike gaffe re the Soviet Union. Ha ha ha, hi-larious!

  4. Swami  •  Sep 6, 2013 @7:07 pm

    You ain’t a real conservative until you’ve taken your haj to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

  5. justme277  •  Sep 7, 2013 @12:10 am

    Stay out of it they say? The way king Ronnie did with Iran contra? Yeah , um how did that work out for us again?

  6. weirdnoise  •  Sep 9, 2013 @7:59 pm

    Ronnie of Raygun, the guy who any competent gerontologist would have immediately suspected of incipient dementia? It’s easy for conservatives to project what they want to see onto someone whose discourse chiefly derives from dimly-remembered platitudes learned in decades past.

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