Note to Reagan Haters: Grenada Wasn't "Easy"

In today's polarized American political climate, I occasionally hear people claim that Ronald Reagan overstepped his bounds when calling for the attack on the tiny island of Grenada. They say that it was too "easy". I disagree on both counts. War is never too easy, and true to form, neither was Grenada. Here are some facts about Grenada that you may not have known.

Following the successful rescue mission to Grenada by US Military forces in October 1983, liberals scoffed at Ronald Reagan because it seemed to them like an 800-pound gorilla had just beaten a helpless child. Tell that to the 19 service members who lost their lives and the approximately 100 who were wounded. It was only because liberals didn't care to understand both sides of the issue that they made such baseless claims, which claims gave aid and comfort to our erstwhile Soviet enemy.

As the Iranian Hostage rescue mission, known as Desert One, indicates, even the best laid plans turn out some times not to be easy. In the case of Grenada, plans were executed nearly without flaw, but it doesn't mean that the mission was easy. Would Grenada have been more acceptable to liberals if we had let a few hundred (or thousand) of our soldiers die?

It helps if the news media gets out the entire story and doesn't make value judgments about it. In the case of Grenada, the media didn't do a very good job. It helps if members of Congress look at military operations from both sides of the issue. Many at the time did not. Here are some facts to help put the Grenada mission in perspective.
  • Radical Cuban-inspired Marxist group had murdered Maurice Bishop, the Prime Minister. His supporters were jailed, tortured, and shot. A 24-hour curfew had been imposed, with violators being shot on sight. 1,000 Americans were living in Grenada.
  • Only two days prior to the invasion, 241 US marines had been killed in Beruit, Lebanon by a suicide bomber.
  • Seven months prior to the Communist takeover, it had become known that a 10,000 foot runway was being built in Grenada, with Soviet financing. Its only purpose could have been military. A Soviet beachhead in Grenada had the possibility of affecting Panama Canal traffic.
  • Six of Grenada's Caribbean island neighbors sent a request to Reagan to come to their aid. Not knowing the size of the Communist military contingent in Grenada, a 5,000-man US force was sent in. An excellent plan, excellently executed, resulted in 19 American dead and 100 wounded. One gun battle was fought against 800 Cuban enemy soldiers.
  • Although the United Nations General Assembly voted 108 to 9 against the US action, all six Caribbean nations voted, as an appreciation of their rescue, with the the United States.
  • American students studying in Grenada were visibly moved and relieved to have been safely evacuated to American soil.
  • Following the fighting in Grenada, US troops discovered a plethora of weapons, ammunition, patrol boats, and personnel carriers. Weapons included tens of thousands of rockets and thousands of hand grenades and land mines.
(See The Crusader by Paul Kengor, pages 191-196)

Somehow liberals in Congress and the media used the overwhelming success of the mission to bolster their cries that an injustice had been committed by the Reagan administration. At the time, such American reaction to the Grenada invasion gave the Soviets a great deal of cannon fodder. Soviets were, for several weeks thereafter, fond of quoting American liberals who had chastised Reagan for (a) rescuing Americans in harms way, and (b) coming to the aid of six countries who had requested assistance.

Was Reagan justified in using force against Grenada? Absolutely. Even many of those who questioned his motives early on later agreed that the mission had been necessary. American resolve and optimism--tempered by a brave rescue and lack of subsequent occupation of Caribbean territory--skyrocketed.

Was the rescue mission to Grenada easy? No. It only appears that way in retrospect to Americans who haven't studied their history.


  1. The Grenada "rescue mission" wasn't necessary because nobody needed to be rescued. The runway was expanded so that jumbo jets full of tourists could land. But Reagan did need to distract the news media following the Beirut fiasco.

    I agree that it wasn't easy for the soldiers and marines who got the job. War is never easy. That's why the USA should never invade any other country except in self defense.

    More info:
    Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer.

  2. So were the jumbo jets going to bring people to visit with the murdered Grenadian president or to wine and dine with the forcibly installed Communist government when the curfew wasn't in effect?

  3. If you think tiny Grenada, population fewer than 90,000, was ever a threat to U.S. national security or the security of any other country you're going to have to come up with more facts.

  4. If you substitute the word Cuba for Grenada, then you get an idea of how easily Grenada could have been a threat to the United States. It obviously wasn't as far along as Cuba was during the Missile Crisis, but it could have easily been on its way.

  5. OK, there were Cubans on Grenada, but many more Cubans on Cuba, which has big airports and is closer to the USA. Why didn't Reagan order an invasion of Cuba?

  6. (A) Because there was a building threat of danger to the US from Grenada (The danger from Cuba had already been mitigated.)

    (B) Because six surrounding countries felt threatened and asked for help from the US.

    (C) Because the lives of 1,000 Americans on Grenada were in danger.

  7. War is never easy, that is true if only because of the consequences for a great example look to Iraq. War could be super easy if there were nothing but positive consequences.

    But saying no to war is much easier. You don't have to tell families their loved one died, no need to find money for million dollar tanks and thousand dollar bombs, etc.

    In many ways it is like the sex. It's much easier just to stay abstinent. No need to deal with emotional sigificant others, no children, no STI's, etc, etc.

    So remember kids just say no...

    BTW: it was the Prime Minister who was disposed not the President.

  8. Historian Howard Zinn concluded that the Americans in Grenada would have been safer without U.S. intervention.

    It was the U.S. invasion that turned the island into a war zone.

    As a Ron Paul support, Frank ought to recognize that Reagan violated the Constitution by attacking another country without congressional authorization.

  9. Just for the record, I'm not a "Reagan hater." We've had worse presidents. I didn't like Reagan, but never hated an American president until 2003.

  10. Fair enough. I agree. I despise George W. Bush.

    I'll check into those hyperlinks you included and see what the opposite perspective is about Grenada.

  11. William Bennett discusses the Grenada mission in his book, America: the Last Best Hope, Vol. 2. He writes, "Grenada was part of Reagan's worldwide strategy of pushing back at the periphery of the Soviet empire."

    On pages 496-7, Bennett explains how "Grenada was the high-water mark of Soviet expansion." He continues, "Reagain's liberation of the island shattered the myth of Soviet invincibility and delivered a powerful blow to the idea of its inevitibility."

    Zinn is free to contend that we would have been safer without the Grenada mission, but his is just one opinion among many. It's a lovely luxury to sit in one's ivory tower, look at things in hindsight, and conjecture about some fantasy of what might have been. In real life, a decision had to be made. And that decision arguably marked the decline of Soviet aggression.

  12. Scott,

    Thanks for pointing that out.

    Wikipedia has this to say about Howard Zinn:

    Zinn's philosophy incorporates ideas from Marxism, anarchism, and socialism. Since the 1960s, he has been active in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements in the United States.

    Now knowing his socialist leanings, I'm not surprised that Howard Zinn disagreed with Reagan's approach in Grenada. Because it definitely helped to roll back socialism around the world.

  13. And now for a different point of view.....

    The Logical Husband was in the Army during Grenada - stationed in Germany. Because of his MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) their base was on high alert through out the whole thing. In addition, our base was close to a missle base - we were under protest during the whole thing. There were bomb threats and threats of bomb threats (this was on the tail end of the reign of the terrorist group the Bader-Meinhoff Gang) so things were awfully tense and awfully tough - even when you weren't in the direct line of fire.

    Knowing now what I experienced then, I can't imagine being a military spouse now.....


  14. I think the reason you were being protested in Germany is because the protesters didn't want Reagan to put missiles there. What they either didn't know or didn't want to admit was that Russia already had them, and we were balancing a missile deficit.

    But you're right. My wife wasn't to thrilled being a military spouse when I was in Iraq, and that was only for a year (most of the rest of my 24 service years was just normal National Guard duty).

  15. ...Not really knowing why my buddy sent me here to read this, and having read the whole thing, I'm a little lost as to what the point of this vacuous rant was? Your excessive use of the term "the liberals" was incredibly annoying and, frankly, quaint. You use it like someone in the 1950's would say "communist" (or someone from the south would use more colorful terms of endearment).
    Don't get me wrong - I think Grenada was a smashing success and excellent use of our troops (rescuing Americans - as opposed to "nation building"). But your complaining that "the liberals" didn't like it? That those nefarious "liberals", who secretly (and apparently still?) occupy high positions of power in "congress" and "the media" want more dead soldiers or citizens before we take action? Was that your point? {That's so ssscary! ooohh! <- if there was a tag for gay-lisp, I'd put it here}. Well that was 25 years ago, and 8 years after Viet Nam, so - for those of us who've studied our history - it's not at all unexpected that a lot of people would complain. In fact, it's not even interesting (unless your intent is to further vilify "the liberals").
    But mostly, I'd like to point out that you don't actually make any specific points to support the argument that Reagan DIDN'T overstep his bounds. Seriously, I note that your facts are all correct - but at no point do they address whether or not Reagan was within his authority. In my mind, yes, he was certainly justified. But did he have the *authority*? Was he within his bounds? I don't know. But clearly - neither do you.

    [PS - Go Ron Paul!]

  16. Sgt Jake,

    Sorry I didn't make my main point a little clearer. My main point was that some people thought Grenada was too easy, but that it really wasn't.

    If you support Ron Paul, which I think is a good thing, you should stop using vacuous statements to accuse people of making vacuous statements.

    I am sorry that I got your ire up by using the word "liberals" five whole times!!!

    I didn't even talk about whether Reagan had authority to do it, and at least we're in agreement that we're not sure. It could be said, I think rightly so, that it was not an emergency, so that he should have gotten a declaration of war from Congress. But the case may be made as well that he felt 1,000 American lives were in imminent danger. Howard Zinn, for example, would tell you straight up that they weren't.

  17. PS - I didn't actually mean to sound that nasty, I just haven't had my coffee yet. So, may I offer a grain of salt? :/

  18. Sure.

    Hopefully my last paragraph (after I got done being offended) got to your pertinent point.


  19. William Bennett says Grenada was part of a worldwide strategy to roll back the Soviet empire, not a ploy to distract the media from our disastrous Lebanon adventure.

    Of course, Bennett is farther to the right than Zinn is to the left, and Bennett isn't an historian.

  20. Ok, your opening sentence threw me off. Grenada = not easy, agreed and point taken.

    Vacuous point-counter-point? Touché, and well played. :D

    So - the liberal thing. It's not the number of times you use the word liberal, it's how you use it. For example: "Soviets were, for several weeks thereafter, fond of quoting American liberals..." Guilt by association then? How McCarthyesk, and at a time when Ahmadinejad & Chavez like to quote our own President to support their nationalist positions. It's in how you say "some people" you clearly mean "liberals", wink-wink. My problem is - you're both the same. You won't say you want "liberals" to "get what's coming to them", just like "liberals" won't say they want "conservatives" to "get their just deserts" - when secretly, you both really do. Maybe just a little. A lesson or two. And as long as you continue to attack each other with these Ad Hominem attacks, your making us all weaker. Not all "liberals" thought Grenada was easy, most voted for invading Panama (a far less noble invasion), and all but a single handful voted for invading Iraq. I guarantee that if you put Zinn in a life boat with Kennedy, Kennedy would get drunk and eat Zinn on the first day at sea. So you see - it's HOW you say it, not THAT you say it. You dismiss the wildly varied ideas and opinions of almost half the country [that bothers to vote, anyway] when you say 'liberals' in the way you do, and that's just... wrong.

  21. PS (again - sorry) - I'm totally with you on Grenada being a good decision. And I'll add that whether or not it saved the lives of any of those Americans is beside the point (at least to me). He showed the world that America was willing to put the full force of its military might behind rescuing a handful our own citizens we thought might be in mortal danger. And we'd do it over the objections or outrage of the UN. Well worth any political or bureaucratic ding.

  22. Richard,

    You're probably right that Grenada was somewhat of a reaction to the Lebanon disaster, but I think Reagan would have still gone into Grenada, Lebanon or no.

    Sgt Jake,

    I now see your point, and it is a good one. I'll try not be be so general next time. You are correct that it is not appropriate to cast all liberals into one mold.


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