appeared to be aligned with the Christian militias in the expanding war, even shelling Muslim positions in the Shouf mountains outside of Beirut. On Sunday, October 23, a truck bearing a load of TNT backed into the U.S. marine barracks near the Beirut airport. The suicide bombers killed 241 marines and navy personnel as they slept. It was a disaster for the United States. Reagan was constrained to remove the remaining American marines early the next year. The United States Middle East policy was a shambles and would begin to recover only toward the end of the Reagan presidency.
While Reagan always insisted that he was "realistic" in foreign policy, he constantly enunciated unmistakably "idealist" beliefs about the world. Long after the president had dismissed Alexander Haig, he praised Haig for having forwarded "our new policy of realism and peace through strength." Realism, he said in a speech on January 16, 1984, meant that "we must start with a clear-eyed understanding of the world we live in." 144 Yet Reagan had been at the forefront in criticizing Henry Kissinger's conduct of diplomacy according to those very principles of realism. In fact, Reagan's many speeches on international affairs consistently expressed the straightforward view that the world would be a better place if everyone simply changed behavior and followed the path charted by the United States to bring about private enterprise and democratic rights. One of his favorite citations was a sermon by John Winthrop in 1630 declaring that the Puritan community in New England was a "city on a hill," commanding the moral heights above all other societies. Reagan undoubtedly saw Winthrop's sermon as the first enunciation of what others would call "American exceptionalism." Whenever the United States stood accused of being a bully in the world, Reagan could justify such behavior as the understandable action of a peculiar and morally sensitive nation, grounded in principles of the Christian faith, market economics, and American-defined democracy. The idea that the United States was distinct and exceptional, while at the____________________