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.