Andrew Bacevich's fierce and fearless
critique of US the military strategy.
By Marwan Bisharaby - 4 Aug 2016
America's War for the
Greater Middle East is a remarkable book.
Andrew J Bacevich, a military historian and
an American patriot who served in the United
States military, and who lost his son in the
Iraq war, is a no-nonsense no-warmonger.
comprehensive, Bacevich's balance sheet of
US wars in the Muslim world is a testimony
to Washington's military failures in the
Greater Middle East.
Throughout the book he
employs an analytical razor to dissect the
doctrines and dogmas behind direct US
military intervention in the Middle East,
which he dates back not to Franklin
Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower, but rather
to Jimmy Carter.
The Carter doctrine
can be summarised by the following
declaration: "Any attempt by any
outside force to gain control of the Persian
Gulf region will be regarded as an assault
on the vital interests of the United States
of America, and such an assault will be
repelled by any means necessary, including
Carter some slack, but shows how his
doctrine paved the way for future
interventions. He scrutinises each and every
one of the dozen US military campaigns in
the Greater Middle East and Muslim world,
but connects them all into one strategic
mindset spanning over four decades.
And then critiques the
rationale behind the use of force since 1980
through a dispassionate evaluation of US
military strategies from the first to the
fourth Gulf wars and from Bosnia to
Afghanistan through Lebanon, Syria, Somalia,
Lebanon, and Yemen and others.
leadership, oblivious public
For Bacevich, US wars
in the Middle East are driven not only by
oil and the military industrial complex. He
sees a collective illusion or naivete
leading to more of the same blunders and
And he shows how
despite the proven failures, US leaders and
strategists have continued to use the same
Among others, ignoring
the simple lesson that starting wars is
nothing like ending them, and what
Washington portrayed as military victories
or "missions accomplished" have consistently
mutated into different sorts of prolonged
The victory against
the Soviets in Afghanistan later revealed
itself as a major loss. For Washington,
Soviet withdrawal meant that the US won, but
that was a short-sighted reaction. The first
Afghan war paved the way towards a second
one in 2001.
supporting Iraq in the 1980s first Gulf war
(the Iran-Iraq War) was also short-sighted,
even though the US declared it a victory
when Iran basically folded.
continued to brew while Saddam Hussein
invaded Kuwait, leading to greater US
involvement in Iraq - to undo the Vietnam
The 1991 war might
have been a profitable war - Colin Powell
later claimed America made money out of it -
but it only paved the way for the 2003 war,
which in turn paved the way for yet another
more recent intervention against the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL,
also known as ISIS).
And so on and so
Bacevich doesn't spare
any of the politicians or generals involved
in making the case for war. From Carter to
Barack Obama through Ronald Reagan, Clinton
and both the George Bushes, and from the
performances of former generals Wesley Clark
to David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal and
numerous others, Bacevich shows how the US
political and military leadership has
consistently overpromised and
And with the
mainstream media utterly complicit in
selling the war enterprise, Bacevich doesn't
hesitate to point the finger at an oblivious
American public that's too preoccupied with
trivia as their country is stuck in the
quagmire of the Greater Middle East.
In a passage of
refreshing candour, Bacevich argues that the
US might support freedom, democracy and
prosperity in the Middle East, but only as
long as it gets the lion's share of it -
everything else is an afterthought.
As a military
historian, Bacevich argues in his opening
chapter that the
Carter doctrine paved the way for
decades of US military intervention in the
Greater Middle East, allowing subsequent
administrations to expand it to include many
countries in the region.
Since then American
leaders have ignored the lessons of history
and the experiences of other imperial
powers. As a secular enterprise, Bacevich
reckons, the US military has also ignored
religion and its complex influence in the
Indeed, most of the
lessons that should have been learned in the
pre-9/11 Middle East went unheeded after the
September attacks. The US doubled down and
went on to use more military force to foster
the illusion of shaping the Greater Middle
Instead of policy
dictating the military's role, the US'
military enterprise began to dictate policy
and diplomacy in the Middle East.
Its military missions
went on to creep, as the US became incapable
of extracting itself from the region. In the
process, it failed miserably to fulfil any
of its objectives either in Iraq, the Gulf
or against al-Qaeda.
Even the most sensible of the US
presidents over the past four decades,
Obama, couldn't help repeat more of the same
mistakes in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.
Like his predecessors,
he resorted to a rhetoric that is
disconnected from reality, claiming the US'
longest war ended responsibly in Afghanistan
- when it didn't - and portending to leave
behind a democratic and stable Iraq - when
it's anything but that.
Can the US
Bacevich laments the
lack of creative non-military thinking in
Washington and the absence of a
peace-oriented political party that
advocates fewer military answers to
challenges in the US and across the world.
And he emphasises the
high stakes for the military industrial
complex in prolonged military campaigns,
against the backdrop of an oblivious public.
For change to happen,
Americans must show more interest in their
foreign policy and military interventions in
the Middle East and beyond.
Most Arabs and many Muslims have little
or no say when dictators and extremists
resort to war and violence to satisfy their
ambitions and greed.
But Americans have a
choice and do have a say, and therefore must
take responsibility for their leaders'
choices and blunders.
Does this mean
President Obama was right not to intervene
in Syria? Especially when the majority of
Americans opposed direct military
intervention after Iraq and Afghanistan?
agrees. And so do I. But it's not as simple
as that - not after the death of hundreds of
thousands of Syrians.
In the absence of
direct military intervention, the US, the de
facto regional policeman, should have done
more than witness as genocide was carried
out under their watch. And it could have
done more to deter Assad, protect civilians
and reach a diplomatic solution.
Leaving it to Iran,
Israel and Saudi Arabia to take care of
business - such as military interventions -
is hardly the solution for an exploding
Americans need to pay
attention not only when Americans die, but
also when countless Arabs and Muslims pay
the price of the US' follies in the region.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political
analyst at Al Jazeera. Follow him on
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Ebook America s War for the
Greater Middle East: A Military History
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