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So we know what Reagan had to say before he became president, and we know what he said in explaining his decision to intervene in Grenada. Could it be possible that he changed his mind after eight years in office — that wisdom gleaned from experience led him to think differently?
Not so. Consider Reagan’s thoughts as expressed in his autobiography, “An American Life.”
“Our experience in Lebanon led to the adoption by the administration of a set of principles to guide America in the application of military force abroad, and I would recommend it to future Presidents,” Reagan wrote. “The policy we adopted included these principles:
“1. The United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.
“2. If the decision is made to commit our forces to combat abroad, it must be done with the clear intent and support needed to win. It should not be a halfway or tentative commitment, and there must be clearly defined and realistic objectives.
“3. Before we commit our troops to combat, there must be reasonable assurance that the cause we are fighting for and the actions we take will have the support of the American people and Congress.
“4. Even after all these other tests are met, our troops should be committed to combat abroad only as a last resort, when no other choice is available.”
Reagan knew it wasn’t his job to send U.S. armed forces to overthrow autocratic regimes willy-nilly just because the people who lived under the boot yearned for freedom; it was his job to safeguard the lives of American citizens and protect U.S. strategic interests.
Capturing the strategic high ground, not the moral, was his aim, and his aim was true.
I wish we could say the same for McCain and his ilk.
Bill Pascoe is executive vice president of Citizens for the Republic.