After the successful attack, terrorists around the world understood that President Reagan was a serious adversary who would not hesitate to utilize the American military if necessary. Thankfully, Reagan did not follow the bombing with an invasion of Libya or additional military actions in the country. He realized that the military should be used sparingly and only when the national security interests of the United States were involved.
During his two terms, Reagan rebuilt the American military, improved pay and pride in the armed services and restored our standing around the world. He also entered into arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and played a major part in the Iron Curtain collapsing, freeing millions of people from the grips of communist tyranny.
Reagan’s presidency followed the motto, “Peace through Strength.” This is one of the phrases that candidate Donald Trump repeated often in his campaign, along with the other popular refrain, “America First.”
After his successful bombing of a Syrian airport last Thursday night, President Trump should tread carefully as he weighs his next step. The bombing received the approval of between 50-57% of the American people, good numbers, but not certainly not overwhelming. In 2001 and 2003, the American people gave much stronger support to President George W. Bush as he launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Possibly, the lower poll numbers reflect the war weariness of the American people, who have had to endure 16 years of wars, $6 trillion in investment, the deaths of thousands of our military heroes and the mind boggling number of over one million service men and women wounded in the wars.
The end result has been more terrorism and chaos as the conflicts have spread to Yemen, Libya and many other countries. There have been no stable democracies established or safe zones for Christians, Jews and moderate Muslims created, just a continuation of radical Islamic violence
With so many warring parties involved in Syria, the path forward looks quite murky. In a new CBS News poll, only 18% of Americans expressed support for the incursion of ground troops into Syria. This reluctance is undoubtedly because of the negative experiences Americans have from the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidents Bush and Obama continued the military campaigns despite the tremendous financial costs and the horrible toll on human lives, both American service men and women and the people of the region.
While President Reagan was undoubtedly successful in his two administrations, his successors have not been as fortunate. One reason Reagan was successful is that he focused on domestic problems and did not get bogged down in foreign wars. At this point, the President Trump should reflect on the success of Reagan and the problems of subsequent administrations that launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that still rage today.
Today, some Trump administration officials are calling for a regime change in Syria. The President only needs to look back at previous efforts in Iraq, Libya and Egypt to see how America fared when we became involved in campaigns to remove Middle East dictators. Sadly, the plight of those countries deteriorated from bad to worse, a result the world can ill afford in Syria.