On this day 30 years ago, the Reagan Administration launched the successful liberation of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada.
The military action was prompted by the coup and assassination of Grenada’s prime minister by Soviet- and Cuban-supported factions in his administration.
A former British colony, Grenada had only recently gained independence in 1974. By 1979, the Communist wave that all but engulfed Latin America took hold of Grenada with a revolution led by the New Jewel Movement’s (NJM) Maurice Bishop. With promises of Marxist reforms, the NJM began cultivating relationships with the Soviet Union and its cadre of leftist allies. Shortly thereafter, Grenada began to expand its military arsenal. Cuba became its principal supplier of military equipment, and the country signed military assistance agreements with the Soviet Union and North Korea.
Extremist factions within the Bishop regime opposed Bishop’s slow implementation of reforms and, on October 19, 1983, staged a coup and assassinated their prime minister. The coup leaders and their Communist allies then imposed a 24-hour “shoot-to-kill” curfew. In order to discourage further Soviet advances in the region and ensure the safety of U.S. citizens in Grenada, the Reagan Administration saw a military intervention as inevitable.
On the morning of October 25, U.S. forces conducted Operation Urgent Fury against Grenadian and Cuban resistance forces, and by October 29, combat operations had officially ceased. In the end, over 500 Americans were rescued, and coup leaders were captured and imprisoned by a Grenadian tribunal. Grenada held democratic elections the following year.
While some refer to the liberation as an “invasion,” this assessment ignores the dangers of Soviet-controlled Grenada. The U.S. was already embroiled in proxy wars throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia with Soviet-funded leftist groups and could not afford to lose another Caribbean island to Communism. Moreover, the “shoot-to-kill” curfew alarmed the U.S., as the Iranian hostage crisis situation was still fresh in the public’s mind.
The liberation of Grenada was the embodiment of a successful foreign policy approach centered on reasserting Western values and projecting America’s powerful capability. The Reagan Doctrine recognized and effectively neutralized the critical security threats posed by the growing Communist movement in Latin America.
Even though the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union has fallen, the struggles between the two opposing ideologies continue. Socialism is experiencing a revival in Latin America. Initiated by Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, “21st-century socialism” has drastically altered the balance of power in the region away from the U.S. and toward the Bolivarian movement. This modern incarnation is much more resilient and sophisticated than its predecessors. It has learned from the overly ambitious mistakes of the Soviet Union and kept its revolution solely within Latin America.
Recently, Venezuela and company have found an unexpected friend in the Obama Administration’s misguided foreign policy objectives. In its infamous “pivot to Asia,” the administration is neglecting the growing anti-American sentiment emerging here in the West. In the past few years, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela have expelled American ambassadors while allowing Iran to more than double its diplomatic presence in Venezuela. By neglecting to address this issue, the Obama Administration is indirectly adding fuel to this fire.