Making Sense by Michael Reagan
Our belated and weak response to the missile attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea by Houthi militants has been embarrassing.
But that’s what happens when there’s no strong leader in the White House.
Watching Joe Biden and his inept state department screw up everything they try to do in Ukraine and the Middle East reminds me of something I saw my father do in his first year in office.
In 1981 the Bad Boy of the Middle East was the late Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya who was funding deadly terrorist groups in Palestine, Syria and elsewhere.
One night in August of that year my wife Colleen and I ate dinner with my father and Nancy in a hotel room in the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.
As we were having coffee, my father got a call from Ed Meese, my father’s advisor, counselor and future attorney general, who was staying in a room three floors down.
I couldn’t hear what Meese was saying, but by listening to my father’s answers it wasn’t hard to figure out.
Meese said he had an admiral on the phone from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Sidra, which Gaddafi claimed was part of Libya’s territorial waters.
“You know we’re doing war games in the Gulf of Sidra,” Meese said.
“I know, Ed. I approved them.”
President Carter had called off the war games in previous years because he didn’t want to upset Gaddafi, but my father had resumed them.
“What does the admiral want?” my father asked.
Meese explained that Gaddafi was sending fighter planes out from Tripoli and they were locking their radars on to our F-14 jets and feigning like they were going to shoot their air-to-air missiles.
“The admiral wants to know what we should do if our boys are shot at,” Meese said.
“Shoot back,” my father said.
There was a short pause.
I’m assuming Meese’s next question was, “What if our boys are shot at and the Libyan jets turn and run?”
“Then you chase them,” my father said.
“Mr. President,” Meese apparently said, “the admiral wants to know if the Libyan fighters fire and run back into their own air space, what should we do then?”
“Ed, you tell the admiral that if they shoot at our boys, you chase them all the way back to their hangars if necessary. But you will shoot them down.”
Meese and my father exchanged “good nights” and Colleen and I left for our home.
The next morning the world woke up to headlines that two Russian-made Su-22 fighters were in the ground outside Tripoli.
The conversation between Meese and my father shows the huge gap between the strong leadership of the Reagan White House and the weak leadership we have now.
Five years later, after Libyan terrorists set off a bomb in a nightclub in Berlin that was popular with U.S. soldiers, my dad ordered airstrikes on military targets in Tripoli that nearly killed Gaddafi.
My father made a “statement” – with 6o tons of bombs – that Gaddafi heard loud and clear, and he kept a much lower profile for the next 15 years.
How my father handled Gaddafi’s terrorism was completely different from what Biden is doing with the Houthi attacks and the situation with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism.
This week Biden finally ordered a few airstrikes on Houthi missile sites.
But how many Houthi attacks on commercial ships were needed before we decided to retaliate? 40? 50? That’s not much of a "statement."
Right now the United States has its weakest leader since Jimmy Carter. Our enemies know it and are exploiting it wherever they can.
When the media asked my father during the Cold War what his game plan was for dealing with the evil Soviet Empire, he famously said, “We win, they lose.”
Biden is a hopeless case. But let’s hope and pray that in 2024 we elect a president that can lead us back to my father’s winning attitude instead of Biden's.
Copyright 2024 Michael Reagan, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, is an author, speaker and president of the Reagan Legacy Foundation. Send comments to [email protected] and follow @reaganworld on Twitter.