The Myth of St. Ronald, Epic Tough Guy

The Myth of St. Ronald, Epic Tough Guy December 22, 2014

The Worldnetdaily provides a textbook example of the dishonest hagiography surrounding St. Ronald the Magnificent, the mythical Ronald Reagan that lives in the conservative imagination but not in the real world. Former Sen. Tom Tancredo is peddling the nonsense this time:

While much of the news about Sony’s decision to cancel its distribution of a film that mocks communist North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has focused on First Amendment issues, a former congressman who served in the Reagan administration says the real problem is what the rest of the world now thinks of the U.S.

“When it comes to Obama, the North Koreans, as well as dictators around the world, know that whatever they do to us the administration’s response will be tepid at best,” said former Republican congressman and Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo.

“None of these threats would have emanated from these countries under the Reagan administration,” he said.

Ah yes, St. Ronald the eternal tough guy, a real man’s man and various other macho cliches. He would never cut and run, would he? Well, unless you count the fact that he withdrew the Marines from Lebanon after their barracks were bombed in October, 1983. 241 servicemen were killed by Muslim terrorists with ties to Iran using two car bombs. So what did the eternal tough guy, St. Ronald, do? After immediately swearing that the U.S. would stay in Lebanon and retaliate against those who carried out the bombing, three and a half months later he withdrew our troops from the area. He cut and ran, as the platitude goes.

Then to really prove his point, he gave thousands of TOW missiles and other military equipment to Iran in a secret deal to free hostages held by Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon and Syria. “We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” St. Ronald declared over and over again. In the real world. the actual Ronald Reagan did exactly that. In fact, no less than Robert McFarlane, Reagan’s national security adviser and envoy to the Middle East argued that it was Reagan’s lack of reaction to that bombing that led the Muslim nations and terrorist organizations to believe that we didn’t have the will to respond to such attacks:

Today is the 25th anniversary of that bombing, which killed 241 Americans who were part of a multinational peacekeeping force (a simultaneous attack on the French base killed 58 paratroopers). The attack was planned over several months at Hezbollah’s training camp in the Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon. Once American intelligence confirmed who was responsible and where the attack had been planned, President Reagan approved a joint French-American air assault on the camp — only to have the mission aborted just before launching by the secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger. Four months later, all the marines were withdrawn, capping one of the most tragic and costly policy defeats in the brief modern history of American counterterrorism operations.

One could draw several conclusions from this episode. To me the most telling was the one reached by Middle Eastern terrorists, that the United States had neither the will nor the means to respond effectively to a terrorist attack, a conclusion seemingly borne out by our fecklessness toward terrorist attacks in the 1990s: in 1993 on the World Trade Center; on Air Force troops at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996; on our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998; on the destroyer Cole in 2000.

There was no effective response from the United States to any of these.

As usual, the Ronald Reagan that existed in the real world bears no resemblance of all to the St. Ronald the Magnificent of the right wing imagination.

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