• U.S.

How Necessary Was the Invasion?

3 minute read

Was the U.S. right to move into Grenada? Although polls showed support for the invasion, that was the most difficult question for Americans sifting through press reports and Government statements. A final verdict will depend on answers to crucial lesser questions:

> Were the U.S. students in imminent danger?

Not imminent danger, but 600 young Americans so close to an inherently unstable regime could eventually have been in jeopardy. At the least, they were an attractive hostage target.

> Would evaculation have been better?

Yes, if their safety was the primary concern.

> Was Grenada in a state of anarchy?

Yes. All signs indicate that the new leaders would have been unable to establish control and were unwilling to give up power. More arrests and violence were likely.

> Were the Cuban construction workers also soldiers?

Many were. U.S. officials admit they underestimated the capabilities of the Cubans before the invasion.

> What were the stockpiled arms for?

It is hard to say. There were too many solely for Grenadian self-defense, but whether that proves expansionist ambitions or mere paranoia is not clear. On the other hand, Cuba had a motive in trying to destabilize the region.

> Was the new 10,000-ft. airstrip a legitimate source of concern for the U.S.?

The Grenadians argue plausibly that they needed something better than the existing 5,300-ft. unlit grass strip to attract tourism, which provides 40% of their foreign exchange. Large commercial jets of the type that land at Barbados, Trinidad and many other islands require a runway of at least 8,000 ft. But it is also true that although the new strip was not built with the protective structures and support facilities usually found at military airports, it certainly could have been used by heavy military aircraft as a ferrying point for Cubans on their way to Africa and Soviets transporting weapons to Central America.

> Was Grenada being turned into a Soviet-Cuban fortress?

Of a sort, yes. The island’s armory dwarfed that of its neighbors, posing a permanent threat to their tranquillity. The Cuban and Soviet compacts with Grenada seem to have been more elaborate than the U.S. had thought.

> Was the U.S. invasion legal?

If the consent of the majority of Grenadians and the evidence of Soviet-Cuban indirect aggression is of any lawful importance, yes. But in terms of the treaties cited by the State Department, the case is weak.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com