In the early 1980s, when Lebanon was degenerating into civil war, U.S. Marines were stationed in Beirut as part of a peacekeeping mission. In one of the most horrific incidents in the history of the corps, a suicide bomber destroyed their barracks on Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 American servicemen.
President Ronald Reagan's response to the attack was not to declare a "war on terrorism." Rather, he announced that he was withdrawing U.S. troops from a country where they were nothing more than targets.
It was a difficult decision for Reagan to make. But it was one of the wisest of his tenure in the White House.
It is important to recall Reagan's response because Lebanon is again in crisis. And this crisis could make another generation of U.S. troops into targets - much as they were in Lebanon in 1983, and as they are in Iraq today.
The murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and the destruction of downtown Beirut that accompanied the bomb attack, was a horrible blow for Lebanon. We hope the outcry that followed the attack will pressure Syria to withdraw its 15,000 troops that currently occupy, and effectively control, Lebanon.
It was appropriate for the Bush administration to work with France to win passage of a United Nations resolution calling for the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon. And it was appropriate for the administration to condemn the killing of Hariri.
But there is no place, whatsoever, for unilateral U.S. action in regard to Lebanon.
The United States made a horrific mistake when in mounted a unilateral invasion of Iraq. That mistake has cost the lives of almost 1,500 young American men and women, along with tens of thousands of Iraqis. And it continues to empty the U.S. treasury into what can only be called a quagmire.
Any response to the current crisis in Lebanon should come from the United Nations, and any peacekeeping force sent to that country must come from the region - not from the United States.
It is right to support moves to stabilize and liberate Lebanon.
But it is also right to recall Ronald Reagan's wisdom: U.S. troops should not be stationed in a country where they will be nothing more than targets.
© 2005 Capital Times