Reagan, the Pioneer of Global War on Terrorism

Ynet Hebrew Edition, June 07, 2004

President Reagan led the US battle on state-sponsored terrorism, vanquished the USSR and significantly enhanced US strategic ties with the Jewish State.


IN APRIL 1986, REAGAN ORDERED THE US AIR FORCE TO BOMB QADAFFI'S PALACE, Qadaffi's capital and a few other targets in Libya. The staggering commitment to combat state-sponsored terrorism was undertaken in response to escalated Libyan terrorism, which was responsible for the murder of four US GIs in West Berlin and in Frankfurt. The bombing transformed the US from a "Paper Tiger" (as misperceived by the world) to the leader of the war on global terrorism. Gone were the days of national humiliation (1979/80) - when Iranian terrorists took over the US embassy in Teheran - and gone were the days of the US running away from Syrian and PLO backed Islamic terrorists in Beirut (1983), following the murder of 300 American GIs in 1983.  President Reagan realized that retreat and disengagement from terrorists bring terrorism closer home. The bombing of Tripoli has become Reagan's "Business Card", reflecting his world-view, which has also led to the demise of the USSR.


ACCORDING TO REAGAN, A DURABLE PEACE WITH ROGUE REGIMES COULD ONLY BE OBTAINED THROUGH THE EMPLOYMENT OF STRENGTH AND DETERRENCE, rather than (the short-lived false sense of peace) through concession and appeasement. Therefore, he bolstered the defense budget by 35%, initiated SDI to neutralize the threat of ballistic missiles, toughened the negotiation posture vs the USSR, toppled a pro-USSR hostile regime in Grenada, supported anti-communist undergrounds in Central America and Africa, bombed oil installations in Iran and expanded the US naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Reagan did not apologize for the deployment of disproportional force against Libyan terrorism.  He aimed at forcing Qadaffi to seek peace with the US, as a means to avoid further US punishment. He did not stick to agreements and covenants, which were systematically violated by the other party, and did not consider the attainment of agreements as "the goal", but rather as "a means" to advance a strategic goal. Reagan did not consider the courts, the UN or the negotiation process as the proper arena to deal with the plague of state-sponsored terrorism. That was the background for his famous June 1987 proclamation: "MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL!" And, both The Wall and the USSR collapsed.

REAGAN'S LEGACY HAS SHED LIGHT ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STATESMANSHIP AND PETTY-POLITICKING.  He espoused a cohesive world-view, driven by long-term principles and goals, rather than by cynical political considerations driven by short-term convenience.  He realized that the inherent conflict between Western democracies and terror regimes was not territorial, but rather existential-ideological. A victory in the conflict requires - per Reagan's legacy - faith (optimism) in one's cause and capabilities, steadfastness in face of domestic and international pressure and temptation, moral clarity and determination based on tradition, values and patriotism.


REAGAN'S WORLD VIEW DETERMINED HIS SPECIAL AFFINITY TOWARD THE JEWISH STATE. The 40th President valued Israel as a special ally, which embodied the core of his own values and global strategic considerations.  For Reagan, and for many of his followers, THE DEFIANT, CAN-DO ISRAEL WAS "THE REAGAN OF THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY."  Thus, he was the only US president to sign (any, let alone) three strategic memoranda of understanding with Israel. The 1981 MOU was signed - and a military embargo on Israel was terminated - once Reagan realized the unique benefits derived from Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor. The 1983 MOU was concluded - and a bitter strain was eased - when Reagan concluded that the mutuality of the Islamic terrorism threat was more critical than the disagreement over Israel's war on the Lebanon-based PLO terrorism. The 1988 MOU has been the most comprehensive ever signed between the US and Israel.  It determined that the regional and the global context of mutual challenges were more pertinent than the narrow context of the Intifada-caused bickering. 


PRESIDENT REAGAN WENT FARTHER THAN ANY PRESIDENT SO FAR, EXPRESSING HIS OPPOSITION TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A PALESTINIAN STATE, in a televised address to the nation on US Policy For Peace In The Middle East (September 1, 1982): "In the pre-1967 borders Israel was barely 10 miles wide at its narrowest point. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again... Peace cannot be achieved by the formation of an independent Palestinian state in those territories..." Moreover, one of the ripple-effects of the Reagan-motivated November 1980 conservative revolution in Congress has been a substantial enhancement of Republican support of the Jewish State, which was until then overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats. The enhanced support has been reflected via a litany of legislation and resolutions, supported by legislators, who have been made aware - by President Reagan and his legacy - of the shared Judeo-Christian values, joint-interests and mutual-threats, binding together the US and its sole soul ally in the Mideast. 


The closer is the Israeli national security policy to the Reagan legacy - of peace through the employment of strength and deterrence - the deeper is the respect toward Israel by Reagan's followers.  However, the more Israel embraces the "Counter-Reagan" elements of Oslo, Wye, RoadMap and Retreat/Disengagement, the more difficult it is to sustain the respect toward Israel, instilled by Reagan in the heart of millions of his followers in the US and beyond.