America’s War for the Greater Middle East | Andrew J. Bacevich

Summary of: America’s War for the Greater Middle East
By: Andrew J. Bacevich


Unearth the realities of America’s fraught interventions in the Middle East with our summary of ‘America’s War for the Greater Middle East’ by Andrew J. Bacevich. This riveting exploration examines the successes and failings of America’s military operations in the region over the years, offering crucial insights into the political, historical, and cultural factors at play. Discover the influence of Western imperialism, the Iraq invasion, the escalation of the war on terror, and the persistent misconceptions surrounding the Middle East – all filtered through the eyes of an expert.

Ill-fated US mission in Iran

In April 1980, the US government launched an operation to rescue Americans held hostage in Tehran. However, the mission failed. The plan involved using six C-130 transport planes to transfer fuel and troops to eight helicopters launched from the carrier USS Nimitz. The helicopters were to rescue the hostages, but mechanical problems plagued three of them, and the site of the rendezvous was not desolate as anticipated. When five helicopters were finally operational, the mission was still greenlit with the remaining hostages left behind. One of the transport planes and one of the helicopters collided during refuelling, killing eight Americans, with the rest of the team eventually fleeing. The failure of the mission prompted President Jimmy Carter to publicly apologize, demonstrating America’s ill-fated interventions in the Middle East, unable to win the war by fighting harder.

America’s Assumptions in the Middle East

The United States’ involvement in the Middle East, fueled by a desire for cheap oil and misguided beliefs that military action could achieve their goals, resulted in a quagmire. The country failed to consider the history of Western imperialism in the region and overlooked the significance of religion and culture. The mistakes of previous colonial powers, such as drawing arbitrary maps and backing incompetent rulers, left behind a dysfunctional Middle East. The Americans blundered in as the new overseer, without consulting historians and theologians who might demystify the perplexing undercurrents. This book challenges America’s efforts to spread human rights and foment the rule of law, arguing that the motives were rooted in preserving the American way of life.

The Unintended Consequences of US Intervention in the Middle East

The United States’ intervention in the Middle East during the 1980s yielded unintended consequences that would impact the region for decades to come. President Ronald Reagan’s support for Afghan freedom fighters against Soviet troops, led by the CIA, helped defeat the Soviet Union but also aligned the US with religious fundamentalists who would later become terrorists. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the American military’s pursuit of stability ended tragically when a suicide bomber killed 241 US soldiers and 58 French soldiers. The Iran-Iraq War further complicated matters as the US initially remained neutral but eventually backed Iraq while also covertly selling weapons to Iran. These actions only created more instability in the region, leading to more Gulf wars in the future. The United States failed to consider historical and religious factors, leading to disastrous consequences in the Middle East.

The United States’ War Strategy in the Middle East

In the 1980s, the US utilized secret CIA operations and minimal deployments to tackle its conflicts in the Middle East. However, in the 1990s, a new and comprehensive approach emerged, and the US Army deployed substantial forces for extended periods. The US responded to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait with a massive show of strength, deploying over 100,000 personnel and 500,000 tons of equipment to Saudi Arabia. After a bombing campaign softened up the Iraqi military, American ground troops invaded, and the conflict was over in just 100 hours. However, the success was short-lived as bloodshed increased inside Iraq’s borders, and Saddam brutally cracked down on Shiites and Kurds. The US’s non-response to the bloodshed led to criticism, but the implicit objective was to prevent Iran from becoming the dominant force in the Middle East.

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