As President Biden faces the most difficult international crisis of his administration, he might take some inspiration from his predecessor President Ronald Reagan, who 40 years ago today put boots on the ground on the Caribbean island of Grenada to save American lives — even though an expert noted key differences between the two situations. 

The growing crisis in the small island nation of Grenada, a former British territory off the coast of Venezuela, occurred after a group of Caribbean nations appealed for U.S. help in what they feared would be a region-defining incident following interference from communist Cuba and other Sovietinfluenced actors.

“It was a case that was made for potential Cuban and other actors being stationed in the Caribbean and holding threats against the United States,” Peter Metzger, the former military aide to President Reagan during his first administration, told Fox News Digital. “To that end, President Reagan invited Prime Minister Eugenia Charles from Dominica to come and listen to briefings as the neighbors knew it needed to know what was going on.”


Reagan ultimately decided on Oct. 25, 1983 — just two days after the Beirut terrorist bombing that killed 241 Americans — that the U.S. would lead a coalition of six Caribbean nations into Grenada. The president cited concerns for roughly 600 American medical students on the island — with the Iran hostage crisis of the Carter administration fresh in his mind, the call was made to go in and bring the Americans to safety.

The operation, which proved successful, led to stability in Grenada and free elections. The day the U.S. invasion started now stands as a national holiday in Grenada — “Thanksgiving Day” — which commemorates the freeing of several political prisoners who went on to form the newly-elected post-invasion government. 

The execution of the invasion, known as Operation: Urgent Fury, faced criticism for its execution from some quarters, which a review from the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called flawed and used as the basis to overhaul its joint operations procedures. Roughly 20 U.S. troops died with more than 100 injured in the operation, while Grenada and Cuba lost 60 troops, according to reports.

Most importantly, the Pentagon’s review stressed the president’s “anxious” desire to avoid “a similar experience” to the Iran hostage crisis


“A number of other forces were threatening U.S. citizens on the ground in a mass and potentially a mass hostage situation, and the president wanted to prevent that,” Metzger said, calling it one of the “overriding considerations” in the crisis. 

Metzger, who accompanied Reagan in many briefings, including those in the run-up to the invasion, recalled that the president “decided it was worth using U.S. forces to defeat” a growing pro-Marxist regime in the country, which would have created ties with Cuba and other sympathetic governments.

Cuba had built a runaway in the country, allowing for the arrival of “aircraft capable of interdicting U.S. air and sea routes to Europe and the Middle East.” 

Henry Nau, who worked on international economic affairs as part of Reagan’s National Security Council (NSC) from 1981 to 1983, told Fox News Digital that through examination of the former president’s letters, it was clear even before he occupied the Oval Office that international issues weighed heavily on the Gipper’s mind, but that once in the role, he would often say he wanted his team to “keep the world off my desk” so he could focus on domestic issues.


“He was interested in that early period in trying to get a different message across to the allies,” he said, highlighting concerns that the U.S. was “no longer as dominant as it was” in the immediate post-war period.

“He was eager to nurture that message and send that message” that the U.S. needed to “step up,” according to Nau, adding that Reagan had “this desire to try to shore up both the domestic situation in America and also to focus on this hemisphere as sort of the foundation of our relationships with the allies in both Europe and Asia.” 

“Reagan has that nationalist kind of foundation to him, but then the idea that we can — if we’re going to be successful — we’re going to have a policy in the Western Hemisphere that reinforces us,” he said, noting that the U.S. only has direct rivals across “two big oceans.” 

The balance of regional interests and concerns for Americans overseas echoes the crisis before President Biden, who is working to free American hostages in the possession of Hamas terrorists after a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed at least 1,400 Israelis and led to the kidnapping of over 220 people. 


Biden has faced similar pressure to act and retrieve the hostages, but in an effort to keep the situation from spiraling out into a broad regional conflict he has stressed diplomatic negotiations: The U.S. and European Union have remained in negotiations with Hamas through Qatar and Egypt to secure the release of dozens of hostages, which has led to delays in Israel’s military response to the devastating attack. 

Metzger stressed that the “use of force by the United States, in any case, is a very, very serious event” and the president must learn “important lessons” from cases such as Grenada, but he argued that Urgent Fury was a “fairly straightforward” operation and distinct from what the U.S. faces today. 

“What we’re seeing now is a massive military buildup in the eastern [Mediterranean], in the area around the Red Sea, which is far different than it was for Grenada,” Metzger said. “Grenada was a limited objective operation for an island nation — so fairly straightforward in terms of planning.”

“As a private citizen, I believe that every effort diplomatically and politically is being tried before we — excuse the metaphor — pull the trigger… not literally, but before we commit people on the ground forces,” he added. “I’m quite sure all over the world there are discussions going on behind the scenes to ensure that every means possible is exhausted before we take any military action.” 

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