Grenada and Reagan

daviesj at WABASH.EDU daviesj at WABASH.EDU
Sun Jul 30 17:50:33 MDT 1995

On Sun, 30 Jul 1995 glevy at wrote:

> What was the reason, though, for the timing of the Grenada invasion?  Two
> factors stand out:
> 1) After the murder of Bishop and the overthrow of a popular government,
> the Reagan administration saw that they could be able to take advantage
> of the turmoil and launch an invasion that could be managed relatively
> quickly and will little loss of life for US armed forces.  In other
> words, it was logistically an easier operation to contemplate given the
> chaotic political situation and the illegitimacy of the new government in
> the minds of the Grenada masses.  Also important from a military
> standpoint, Grenada is a small island that could be invaded quickly with
> a relatively small US task force.

I was fortunate enough to teach a course on US Foreign Policy in which
one of my students was a former Ranger.  He certainly had some strong
opinions on Grenada.  For example, as in the Gulf War, most of the
casualties were from "friendly fire."  The operation was so hastily
planned that many of the paratroopers were issued maps of the island
published by the Grenadian tourism board, so many of the soldiers got
lost on the island and had to use vague references, like "here by the old
sugar plantation monument," when calling for covering fire.  The
operation was trumpeted at the time as a huge military success, but at
least in the eyes of the participants, it was a fiasco. Military force is
not easy to use, and harder still to justify.  Consider the degree of
control exerted of information and news during the Gulf War, with barely
a peep of complaint from anyone except "The Nation."

Jerry continues:
> 2) Prior to the Grenada invasion there was a terrorist assault on the
> Marine barracks in Beirut that killed many Marines.  So what does this
> have to do with Grenada, you ask?  Well ... the assault on the Marines
> made Reagan and the Pentagon look bad when they couldn't retaliate
> effectively against that assault.  Reagan already wanted to pull US
> forces out of Lebanon but had to respond to the tarnished image of the
> US armed forces.  So ... instead of directing an assault against forces
> in Lebanon, Reagan chose a relatively easy target a hemisphere away where
> he could flex US military might and show that the Pentagon could still
> "do the job."  Not only was Reagan able to install a pro-US government in
> Grenada, but he could also launch a spectacular public relations event
> which showed the glorious and "efficient" military ability of US armed
> forces.  Consequently, it was also a show for the American people and a
> demonstration to the rest of the world that "we" could still kick ass and
> everyone else in the world should keep that in mind.
> The above suggests again that understanding US foreign policy is by no
> means a simple or uncomplicated matter.  Many factors are taken into
> consideration -- some of which we may not be aware of (since the US
> government doesn't always tell us the real reasons for their policy
> actions or keep us informed about all of the relevant considerations --
> an understatement).

Indeed.  Ideological factors, while not "determining" in a strong sence,
are certainly important.  Consider Carter's abortive attempt to rescue
the hostages held in the US Embassy in Teheran before the 1980 elections.
 Clinton's ability to use military force to further, for example, his bid
for re-election was probably gone from the time he was called a draft
dodger.  So no matter what his claims about the need to help Bosnia
during the 1992 campaign, an issue he used to beat Bush about the head
with, ideologically he may be precluded from military options in Bosnia.
What remains as an option for Bosnia, as has been suggested on the list,
is a fundamental threat to capital accumulation, such as a regional
widening of the war to include Turkey and Greece, or Bulgaria maybe.  And
even then, the EU's hand may be forced, but will the US join?

Matt Davies

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