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Posts Tagged ‘President Reagan’

Long-Delayed Death Of A Bad Dude

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

In the 1980s, I was an unrefined adolescent from blue-collar Butler, Pennsylvania. I knew nothing and cared nothing about politics. I had no idea if I was a conservative or a liberal, Democrat or Republican, or much of anything else.

But I knew one thing: Muammar Khaddafi was a bad dude.

And now, three decades later, and some 40-plus years after coming to power, he is gone, dispatched to the ash heap of history with other murderous terrorists and dictators: Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin.

I will not here add to reports of how Khaddafi met his final fate, but I would like to share a valuable piece of information that was revealed to me by Bill Clark, Ronald Reagan’s right-hand man and national security adviser when Khaddafi was ramping up in the 1980s.

It was early 1981. President Reagan had just been inaugurated. Alexandre de Marenches, the director of France’s external intelligence agency, SDECE, came to the White House with a highly sensitive plan to remove Khaddafi. The plan was to assassinate the Libyan dictator during a parade, by use of an explosive device placed near the reviewing stand.

“Our answer,” said Clark, “was that we understood their feelings toward the man, but we don’t do assassinations.”

That was because there was an executive order banning assassinations, first signed by President Gerald Ford and supported by President Carter. The Reagan team had no intention of violating the order as one of the first acts of the new administration.

Intelligence sources I consulted confirmed Clark’s recollection of de Marenches’ request.

“He came over to the U.S., probably in early February 1981,” said one source, a high-level CIA “operations” person. “His interlocutor was Vice President Bush. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the removal of Khaddafi. He came to try to get us involved operationally in the plan…. He wanted not just our moral or political support but to get us involved in the actual operation.”

This same source pointed to the “Safari Club,” which was a group of countries – France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Shah’s Iran – that had banded together for two primary purposes: 1) to fight the spread of Soviet communism in Africa; and 2) to counter Khaddafi, particularly his adventures in neighboring Chad.

The group was formed by intelligence ministers in the mid-1970s, and de Marenches was its catalyst. The group was appalled by America’s unwillingness to no longer stand up to the Soviets; it was post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, Americans had elected an incredibly liberal Congress, and Jimmy Carter was president. The Club sought to fill the vacuum.

De Marenches’ offer concerning Khaddafi was consistent with the concerns of the Safari Club.

As an indication of the confidential nature of his overture, de Marenches did not discuss his offer to the Reagan administration in either of his 1986 and 1992 books. But he did note yet another intention to kill Kaddafi: He said that on March 1, 1978, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had asked de Marenches for help in “disposing of him [Khaddafi] physically.”

Think of the irony here, and how tragically history unfolds: It was Sadat who would be assassinated, in October 1981. He was killed at a reviewing stand at a parade, shot by Islamists for his “crime” of making peace with Israel.

While Sadat died, Khaddafi was permitted to live. Sadat made peace. Khaddafi left a trail of blood and violence.

And here’s another irony still: Just weeks after de Marenches’s offer to Reagan to assassinate Khaddafi, Reagan was shot, on March 30, 1981, and nearly bled to death.

Read All About It: U.S. Presidents And Israel

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Several years ago the Monitor recommended a bunch of books on U.S. presidents and the Middle East. The following is an updated and expanded listing for anyone interested in filling some hours during the upcoming Pesach holiday that otherwise would be spent sitting in a hotel lobby or zoning out on the couch at home.

These are not necessarily the best biographies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but are strong in terms of presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.

Truman, the Jewish Vote and the Creation of Israel by John Snetsinger (Hoover Institute Press, 1974): In-depth account of the struggle for a Jewish state during the first three years of the Truman presidency. Very strong on how the 1948 presidential election influenced U.S. policy.

A Safe Haven by Allis and Ronald Radosh (Harper, 2009): The most recent addition to the Truman/Israel library, the book makes use of newly released documents but is a little too sympathetic to Truman, whose vacillation regarding his position on a Jewish state was punctuated by shockingly anti-Semitic outbursts.

Eisenhower and the American Crusades by Herbert S. Parmet (Macmillan, 1972): A thorough look at the Eisenhower administration, with considerable attention paid to the Suez Crisis of 1956. Despite its having been written before the release of many classified Eisenhower-era documents, the book has aged well.

“Let Us Begin Anew”: An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (Harper-Collins, 1993): Real inside stuff here; the Strobers interviewed dozens of surviving Kennedy-era officials and opinion-makers who spoke candidly and on the record, many for the first time, on the major issues of the day.

Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance by Warren Bass (Oxford University Press, 2002): A worthwhile read, though Bass probably gives Kennedy too much credit for a U.S.-Israel partnership that really began to blossom during the Johnson and Nixon years.

Flawed Giant – Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 by Robert Dallek (Oxford University Press, 1998): The second and concluding volume of an authoritative biography, with the focus here on Johnson’s vice presidential and presidential years.

Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 and Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990 by Stephen E. Ambrose (Simon & Schuster, 1989, 1991): Parts two and three of a magisterial three-volume biography of Nixon, with plenty on the evolution of Nixon’s Mideast policies.

Nixon: An Oral History of His Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (HarperCollins, 1994): The Strobers do for Nixon’s presidency what they did for Kennedy’s (see fifth entry above).

The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Green (University Press of Kansas, 1995): The definitive history of the Ford administration has yet to appear, but this slim volume offers a good examination of the Kissinger-Ford Mideast policy.

The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. by Burton I. Kaufman (University Press of Kansas, 1993): As with Ford, a comprehensive history of the Carter presidency has yet to be written; in the meantime, this account touches on all the important points, with interesting details on the Camp David negotiations.

President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon (Simon & Schuster, 1991): A big book by a political reporter who covered Reagan longer than just about anyone else.

Reagan: The Man and His Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (Houghton Mifflin, 1998): Yet another superb oral history from the Strobers.

George Bush – The Life of a Lone Star Yankee by Herbert S. Parmet (Scribner, 1997): The first full-length Bush biography. Fair to its subject and rigorously researched, with a detailed account of the Gulf War and the Bush-Baker Mideast policy.

The High Cost of Peace by Yossef Bodansky (Prima, 2002): A smart and informed recounting of how U.S. diplomacy during the administrations of the first President Bush and President Clinton undermined Israel’s security and ultimately left the U.S. more vulnerable to Islamic terrorism.

American Presidents, Religion, and Israel: The Heirs of Cyrus by Paul Charles Merkley (Praeger Publishers, 2004): An examination of how the religious backgrounds of American presidents have influenced U.S. foreign policy.

Lost Years by Mark Matthews (Nation Books, 2007): The book’s subtitle – “Bush, Sharon and Failure in the Middle East” – makes the author’s bias clear, but this is a detailed and for the most part objective account of the U.S.-Israel relationship from 2001 through Ariel Sharon’s stroke in 2006.

Not Your Typical Summer Reading List

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Not exactly light beach reads, the following books on American presidents deal with Mideast issues in an extended and intelligent manner. These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.

Truman, the Jewish Vote and the Creation of Israel by John Snetsinger (Hoover Institute Press, 1974): Superior to anything else written on the struggle for a Jewish state during the first three years of the Truman presidency. Very strong on how the 1948 presidential election influenced U.S. policy.

Conflict and Crisis, The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948 and Tumultuous Years, The Presidency of Harry Truman, 1949-1953 by Robert J. Donovan (W.W. Norton, 1977 and 1982): This two-volume history of Truman’s years in the White House stands head and shoulders above the many books on the Truman presidency, including David McCullough’s much-acclaimed 1992 biography.

Eisenhower and the American Crusades by Herbert S. Parmet (Macmillan, 1972): A thorough look at the Eisenhower administration, with considerable attention paid to the Suez Crisis of 1956. Despite its having been written before the release of many classified Eisenhower-era documents, the book has aged well.

“Let Us Begin Anew”: An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (Harper-Collins, 1993): Real inside stuff here; the Strobers interviewed dozens of surviving Kennedy-era officials and opinion-makers who spoke candidly and on the record, many for the first time, on the major issues of the day.

Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance by Warren Bass (Oxford University Press, 2002): Though some have argued that Bass gives Kennedy too much credit for a U.S.-Israel relationship that really began to bloom in the Johnson and Nixon years, any student of U.S. foreign affairs would be well served to read this book.

Flawed Giant – Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973 by Robert Dallek (Oxford University Press, 1998): Second and concluding volume of a well-written, authoritative biography, focusing on Johnson’s vice presidential and presidential years.

Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972 and Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990 by Stephen E. Ambrose (Simon & Schuster, 1989, 1991): Parts two and three of a magisterial three-volume biography of Nixon, with plenty on the evolution of the Nixon administration’s Middle East policies.

Nixon: An Oral History of His Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (HarperCollins, 1994): The Strobers do for Nixon’s presidency what they did for Kennedy’s. Essential reading for anyone who wants to know the thoughts and reminiscences of the actual participants.

The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Green (University Press of Kansas, 1995): The definitive history of the Ford administration has yet to appear, but readers wishing a good overview will find one in this slim but informative volume (which includes an examination of the Kissinger-Ford Mideast policy).

The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. by Burton I. Kaufman (University Press of Kansas, 1993): As with Ford, a comprehensive history of the Carter presidency remains to be written; in the meantime, this concise account touches on all the important points. Contains some interesting details on the Camp David negotiations.

President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime by Lou Cannon (Simon & Schuster, 1991): A big book by a reporter who covered Reagan longer than just about anyone else.

Reagan: The Man and His Presidency by Gerald S. and Deborah Hart Strober (Houghton Mifflin, 1998): The third and, apparently, final entry in the Strobers’ superb series of oral histories.

George Bush – The Life of a Lone Star Yankee by Herbert S. Parmet (Scribner, 1997): The first full-length Bush biography. Fair to its subject and rigorously researched, with a detailed account of the Gulf War and the Bush-Baker Mideast policy.

American Presidents, Religion, and Israel: The Heirs of Cyrus by Paul Charles Merkley (Praeger Publishers, 2004): Fascinating examination of how the religious backgrounds of American presidents have influenced U.S. foreign policy.

The Unfinished Presidency by Douglas Brinkley (Viking, 1998): Books are rarely written about the activities of presidents once they’ve left office, but private citizen Jimmy Carter is a special case. In this revealing look at Carter’s post-presidential years, his obsession with the Palestinians and affection for Yasir Arafat are made clear as never before.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/not-your-typical-summer-reading-list/2006/06/21/

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