Title: America’s War for the Greater Middle East
Rating: 5 Stars
This indeed is a grim tale of America’s misadventures in the Middle East over the last four decades. What makes this notable to me is how Bacevich has managed to thread together and find common themes across the seemingly independent military actions that America has embarked upon in this region.
It’s notable that prior to the 1970’s, America didn’t really care about the Middle East. Prior to WWII, this was the colonial playground of the British and the French, and as per usual, they left the area much the worse for wear.
So, what happened in the 1970’s that made America, over the ensuing four decades, spend multiple trillions of dollars, costing thousands of American soldiers’ lives and hundreds of thousands of civilian lives?
Well, if you have to use one word, of course that one word is oil.
In the 1970’s, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Now history tells us this was one of the last gasps of a failing superpower trying to secure one of its borders. The American generals and politicians instead decided to interpret it as the first play in a power move to sweep through the Middle East and gain control of the Persian Gulf.
In the same proximate time frame, our favorite Middle Eastern dictator that we’d so graciously installed by helping to overthrow a democratically elected government, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown. In his stead was a rabid Muslim cleric who hated America.
These twin threats impelled President Carter to promulgate the Carter Doctrine, which said that the United States would, if necessary, use military force to protect its national interest in the Persian Gulf.
Yes, President Jimmy Carter, that weak, ineffectual president turned Nobel Peace Prize winner, started us down this slippery slope of Middle Eastern interference that has resulted in nothing but wasted money, wasted lives, and an area of the world that in all likelihood would have been much better off if we’d just left them alone.
For example, America provided explicit support to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (here called the First Gulf War). At the same time, we supported Israel as they were selling arms to Iran (not to mention the whole exchanging arms for hostages in Iran-Contra). Yes, we were providing military intelligence to one side while selling arms to the other side.
And the madness continues across all presidents of both parties:
- Reagan’s catastrophe in Beirut, which left hundreds of marines dead and America ignobly leaving
- Reagan’s bombing Gaddafi in Libya, which in turn led to the Lockerbie bombing by Libyan agents
- At the end of H.W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq (the Second Gulf War), Saddam was still left in power and exacted his revenge by killing thousands of Kurds and Shiites; also, the now permanent presence of infidel Americans in Islamic sacred land infuriated bin Laden
- Clinton’s military exercise in Somalia, which led to Black Hawk Down and America ignobly leaving
- Clinton’s bombing of Serbia, which led to the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy and to lingering mistrust between the two countries
- W Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq (the Third Gulf War), the early declaration of victory and then the many years of death, waste, and chaos
- Obama’s support of the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya, leading to the death of America’s ambassador
- Obama’s support of drone warfare, raining death from the sky to countries that America is not even at war with
- During one year in Obama’s term, special forces conducted operations in 150 distinct countries
And what has that got us? Afghanistan is a failed state (and is now the major provider of the world’s opium). Iraq is a failed state (in the midst of the Fourth Gulf War with ISIS). Libya is a failed state. Somalia is a failed state. The Balkans are at peace solely because all sides conducted their own ethnic cleansing.
And, oh yeah, let’s not forget about some planes flying into some buildings.
After nearly forty years of war, has America learned its lesson? This question is especially relevant because, since America now gets most of its oil from Canada and Venezuela (not to mention the rise of fracking), a very real argument can be made that we have a very limited national interest in the Middle East.
Well, let’s see…in the first 100 days of his administration, Trump launched a missile attack on Syria that in no way, shape, or form, changed the situation in the Middle East.
Draw your own conclusion.
Seriously, read this book.