It's strange yet appropriate to be discussing Lebanon again, where the United States began its war on Islamic terror in 1983. Or, rather, where Islamic terror began its war against the United States.
The fact is, in 1983, after Iranian-backed, Syrian-boosted Hezbollah bombings in Beirut killed more than 300 Americans at the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks, the United States just sailed away.
We wouldn't assume a war footing against "terror" for another 20 years. Ronald Reagan could fight only one totalitarian behemoth per lifetime, the spreading rot he knew, communism, not the still-nippable, budding blight of jihadist Islam. But 1983 was a good year for the Cold War: It was the year President Reagan branded the Soviet Union the "evil empire."
In his tiny corner of the Gulag, the renowned dissident Natan Sharansky learned of President Reagan's establishment-quaking words. As Sharansky has written, "Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's 'provocation' quickly spread through the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth." Sharansky experienced first-hand the transformative powers of truth and free-world leadership: It was Reagan administration pressure on the Evil Empire that ultimately won his release in 1986 after nine years of Soviet servitude.
Now, Sharansky, an Israeli government minister, has written "The Case for Democracy," a book President Bush has declared to be a part of his "presidential DNA." Being "the case for democracy," the book provides a theoretical underpinning for Bush's doctrinal optimism about the security-enhancing potential in the spread of freedom. But, as P. David Hornik has written in the American Spectator, Sharansky's famously hopeful philosophy is tempered by a less well-known realism. In other words, he sees through his own hearts and flowers to the facts on the ground.
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