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We remember President Ronald Reagan as a rather consequential president. Let’s remember the events of this week in 1983.
First, a terror bombing in Beirut killed over a hundred U.S. Marines.
President Reagan was getting ready for reelection and talking about the economic recovery underway. However, he had to deal with a major terrorist attack in Beirut when a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with 2,000 pounds of explosives into a U.S. Marine base at the international airport:
The explosion killed 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers.A few minutes after that bomb went off, a second bomber drove into the basement of the nearby French paratroopers’ barracks, killing 58 more people.Four months after the bombing, American forces left Lebanon without retaliating.
It was a terrible story and one of the early signs of terrorism. Many criticized President Reagan for not retaliating, but I am not exactly sure what response could have followed this attack.
A few days later, President Reagan invaded Grenada. It turned out to be a major victory against Fidel Castro that prevented the USSR from having another strategic piece of real estate.
Grenada was a small island where some U.S. citizens were attending medical school. Most people had never heard of Grenada or the Cuban efforts to turn the island into a communist beachhead, an important runway for Soviet MiGs.
However, the Reagan administration had their eye on Grenada for some time. They knew the strategic importance of Grenada and its proximity to the Panama Canal.
We learned a lot that week about President Reagan and how foreign policy can force itself on the agenda. In Beirut, we were introduced to the type of terrorism that we saw eventually on 9/11. In Grenada, we saw President Reagan as the competent leader of the free world, or a man unwilling to let the USSR gain a strategic foothold over here.
It was quite a week for President Reagan and the U.S.