What Crusade?

Did anyone else notice these curious sentences in today’s Richard Reeves’ op-ed commemorating the 25th annivesary of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration? (Emphasis is mine.)

(Reagan) appeared to be dead in the water after his reckless blundering in the Middle East set the United States crusading against Islam, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of U.S. servicemen and the beginnings of the terrorism we now know — and led his own administration into comic and illegal arms-for-hostages deals bartered from Tehran to Tel Aviv to Tegucigalpa.

This seems like an odd take on the history of that period. First, most historians would date the “beginnings of the terrorism we now know” to either the attack on the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games; or to the capture of the American embassy personnel in Tehran in 1979.

There’s no question that Reagan’s best moment in addressing radical Islam took place before he took office, when his belligerent rhetoric helped pressure Iran to release the hostages. After that, yes, “blundering” is the apt term for Reagan’s handling of the Middle East, and yes, hundreds of U.S. servicemen died in the Beirut attack of 1983, and yes, arms-for-hostages was an abject disaster.

But what is Reeves talking about when he says Reagan set this country “crusading against Islam?”

I am not aware that such a crusade began in Reagan’s term, nor that one has begun even to this day. We’re fighting a radical fringe of the Islamic faith, and our fight is a defensive one, in response to a jihad that was declared long before most U.S. leaders noticed it.

Our leaders bend over backward to underscore that our conflict is not with the religion or nations of Islam. The wars in Iraq were launched against a depraved, impious dictator’s regime. During the Clinton years, we took the Islamic side in the Serbian conflict. This country counts a number of Islamic nations as its allies in the war against Al Queda’s terror. And so on.

Reeves is one of the nation’s most esteemed political journalists and presidential historians. But his suggestion of a U.S. “crusade” against Islam strikes me as uncharacteristically careless writing about a volatile subject.

One thought on “What Crusade?

  1. I believe Americans first felt the hot flames of terror when planes were hijacked and later blown up by Palestinians in the early 1970’s. After that, one could not get on a plane without being searched and passing through metal detectors.

    Munich, while horrific, was an attack on Israel, not America. During Reagan’s watch, the US Marines were killed in Lebanon, and that was certainly an attack on Americans by Islamic fanatics. So, we can debate when they started targeting the US, but 1983 seems a fair year to start.

    You are definitely right in saying we should be careful in writing about terror. But we also have to state that most of the killers of Muslims are other Muslims.

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