Both of these historical analogies give a misleading impression of how Obama and Reagan actually handled these issues. In fact, Trump should take some lessons for dealing with the current crisis with Iran, which is largely of his own creation, by understanding how these two predecessors responded to similar situations.

Before attacking Syria in 2013 after Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Obama asked Congress to pass a resolution authorizing him to take military action because an attack could lead America into another Middle East quagmire. When Congress refused to consider such a step, Obama worked with Russian president Vladimir Putin to get Assad to admit to possessing chemical weapons and then pledge to give them up. While the Russian-American initiative, which was approved by the UN Security Council and internationally conducted, did not remove all of Assad’s chemical weapons, the effort did result in Syria giving up the vast majority of its stock, which added up to about 1300 tons, and much more than would have been destroyed by a single air strike (like the one Trump launched against Syria shortly after taking office.) Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not a fan of Obama, called this the one ray of light in a very dark region.

Reagan’s April 18, 1988, attack did not damage Iranian territory or its civilian population. Instead, the United States sunk five Iranian ships (three speed boats, one frigate, and one fast attack gun boat), damaged another frigate, and destroyed two oil rig platforms. Moreover, relying solely on the Reagan response in April 1988 ignores three other incidents that he had to deal with in that region in the 1980s.