Andrew Bacevich has written a series of books on the topic of U.S. imperialism and U.S. military power. His latest work, America’s War for the Greater Middle East [the GME War] is the latest in this series and as with the previous works is clearly written and logically presented. It covers more narrowly than the previous works the military aspects of U.S. military endeavours in the Middle East (greater – as in including East Africa and Afghanistan et al). Generally he succeeds well and this work is a good ‘primer’ for anyone interested in a quick historical overview of U.S. military actions in the region.
However it is not one of his better works, and perhaps that is because of the narrowness of focus and the resulting tie ins that could have been made and that without do not provide a perspective of this war amongst all the other wars instigated by the U.S. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a “military” history, focused on the Middle East, which kept reminding myself about the missing links.
In general, his overall thesis is well presented. His relating of the sequence of events is strong and the critical analysis is good, until he arrives at the most recent events.
He starts off saying the GME War “was a war to preserve the American way of life, rooted in a specific understanding of freedom and requiring an abundance of cheap energy” noting also that “oil as a prerequisite for freedom,” a rather telling prerequisite. Describing his own youthful times he recognizes “The American way of life may have been shallow and materialistic, its foundation a bland conformity.” Yes it had “pleasures and satisfactions” which “tended to be transitory” but disguised as to “how precarious such expectations might be.”
An interesting start to a military history. In the prologue he dates the start of the GME War with Operation Eagle Claw from April 24-25, 1980. In the opening chapter he pushes it back to the 1973 oil embargo as a consequence of the Yom Kippur War in Israel. One of the political philosophies of the time recognized that
“Middle East oil properly belonged to those who had discovered, developed, and actually needed it. By all rights, therefore it was “ours”, a perspective that resonated with many ordinary Americans. All that was required to affirm those rights was the vigorous use of U.S. military power.”
Having started that way philosophically creates in my mind the longer view back as far as World War I and its outcomes concerning the fallen Ottoman empire. This saw the Sykes-Picot agreement dividing the spoils of empire and the Balfour letter envisioning the creation of a Jewish state. The former entangled religions, tribes, and ethnic groups; the latter, in part and in particular to this history, Israel was viewed as an ‘outpost’ of western/European control of the region – for transportations via the Suez canal, but more importantly for the newly discovered oil resources.
However, from where it does start the work progresses quickly and probably for many, very thought provokingly through the Nixon/Carter years and on through the various military enterprises of the GME War.
The Carter years involved the apparent involvement with the Iranian revolution; fortunately Bacevich recognizes that the real involvement began with the 1953 CIA/MI6 overthrow of the democratic Mossadegh Iranian government. The book continues through the years, including the shift from Carter’s “Unreasoned anticommunism had made Americans stupid and distorted U.S. policy; ” through the “end of history” according to Fukuyama “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as final form of human democracy;” and closing out with the current ‘long war’ or ‘global war on terror’, now just mostly generalized globally as anti-terrorism.
I read the book on Kindle using pink highlights for subject ‘titles’ and blue for the actual commentary pertaining to that person or idea. Eventually I ended up using yellow to indicate passages where Bacevich’s analysis or perspective appeared to be much less clear. Given how well the majority of his writing is well founded and documented it could be that the proximity in time to some of the more recent events has not allowed the filter of time to fulfill informational bias and/or create a fuller context for viewing these incidents. These moments occurred only in the last two chapters, mainly the latter part of the Obama years, concerning: Gaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria, discussion of Obama’s policies, the renewed anti-Putin, anti-Russian scenarios, a supposed ambivalence towards al-Qaeda cured by 9-11 (yet part of the moderates in Syria?).
Most currently Bacevich describes ISIS in part as having “neither allies nor patrons” a rather disconcerting statement in consideration of recent documentation of support from Turkey (a NATO ally) and Saudi Arabia (an oil/US$ ally) and other non-democratic Middle East supporters.
One of my final highlights was, “The root of the problem was obvious: “perhaps there is no strategy to contain the destabilization of the Middle East.” I noted – and this is quite important in a larger context – perhaps that is the strategy – chaos. Chaos serves Israel very well as they can then operate internally ‘under the radar’ while the world is entertained by U.S. double dealings and Russian military successes within the GME War.
For a book that begins with a biblical quote (Numbers 32: 13: “The Lord’s anger burned against Israel….”) there is very little said about Israel throughout. Considering how important AIPAC is to the U.S. election/legislative procedures, and how militarized Israel is, this is a significant omission.
Another significant omission, and this is surprising considering how the first chapter started with a description of the importance of oil to the American way of life, is how since those same Nixon/Carter years the US$ has been the global fiat currency backed mainly by its use as the reserve currency for all global oil transactions – now a fading proposition, another reason to create chaos. It is implied at the outset, but is never discussed as the GME War continues its depredations in the region and its blowback consequences within the United States (yes, I remind myself, this is a military history but ….).
Finally, but not over
Bacevich’s closing positions are clearly stated and supported by what he has presented beforehand. He almost disqualifies himself with a ‘yellow‘ note stating the creations of “a permanent footing large-scale, heavily armed forces designed for global power projection” serves as “the principal functions of these forces was not to wage war but to avert it.”
This is not a minor misstatement as the history and writings of all those concerned within the neocon cabal and the PNAC group considered ‘full spectrum dominance’ to be their end goal, with the inclusion of first strike capabilities for the use of nuclear weapons. Okay in a very sick sense they were trying to avert war by saying we will bludgeon and kill anyone who stands in our way of the “American way” of freedom. I just don’t buy into its pacifist intentions.
However, the overall conclusion is perfectly valid,
Time and again, from the 1980s to the present, U.S. military power, unleashed rather than held in abeyance, has met outright failure, produced results other than those intended, [note: see chaos, above] or proved to be largely irrelevant. The Greater Middle East remains defiantly resistant to shaping.
When discussing why the U.S. cannot “get out” Bacevich identifies “several assumptions that promote in Washington a deeply pernicious collective naiveté.” They could be summarized as ignorance (wilful or otherwise), hubris, arrogance, and stereotyped thought processes (i.e. a lack of the ability to critically analyse anything).
The concluding section continues along the parameters of the GME War’s permanence, which including the above, also includes the militarized meme of supporting the troops, the benefits that accrue to certain individuals, and most importantly to Bacevich is that “Americans themselves appear oblivious to what is occurring” without stating the obvious about the control of the media and the message by corporate-political America.
He concludes, finally and ultimately, that until Americans awaken to the reality that they need to reshape themselves first, “Then and only then will the war end.”
Or perhaps they will, one day, never wake up – period.
Originally published on 2016-06-07
Author: Jim Miles
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
The edifice of the post-1991 world order is collapsing right before our eyes. President Putin’s decision to give a miss to the Auschwitz pilgrimage, right after his absence in Paris at Charlie festival, gave it the last shove. It was good clean fun to troll Russia, as long as she stayed the course. Not anymore. Russia broke the rules.
Until now, Russia, like a country bumpkin in Eton, tried to belong. It attended the gathering of the grandees where it was shunned, paid its dues to European bodies that condemned it, patiently suffered ceaseless hectoring of the great powers and irritating baiting of the East European small-timers alike. But something broke there. The lad does ...
The worst mistake in U.S. history was the conversion after World War II of the U.S. government from a constitutional, limited-government republic to a national-security state. Nothing has done more to warp and distort the conscience, principles, and values of the American people, including those who serve in the U.S. military.A good example of how the national-security state has adversely affected the thinking of U.S. soldiers was reflected in an op-ed entitled “What We’re Fighting For” that appeared in the February 10, 2017, issue of the New York Times. Authored by an Iraq War veteran named Phil Klay, the article ...
Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ was the consummator of the Greek Genocide. He was born in 1881 at Salonica in Greece (then part of the Ottoman Empire). He attended the Ottoman Military School in Constantinople and graduated in 1905. Around 1908 he joined the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP). Kemal was an officer of the Turkish Army and founded the Turkish Nationalist Movement (the Kemalists) by regrouping the Ottoman Army, Turkish irregulars and the remnants of the CUP. He continued the genocidal policy engineered by the Committee for Union and Progress.Ottoman Greeks were persecuted throughout Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace under ...
War has indeed become perpetual and peace no longer even a fleeting wish nor a distant memory. We have become habituated to the rumblings of war and the steady drum beat of propaganda about war’s necessity and the noble motives that inspire it. We will close hospitals. We will close schools. We will close libraries and museums. We will sell off our parklands and water supply. People will sleep on the streets and go hungry. The war machine will go on.
What are we to do? The following text is Part III of a broader analysis entitled War and the State: Business ...
Figure 1. Ethnic Albanian refugees at the Lion airport, April 18, 1999 A French magazine published a couple of photos from the Lion airport on April 18th, 1999, at the time when NATO bombers were pouring their lethal burden over Serbia (and partly over Montenegro), in the course of their “preventing humanitarian catastrophe” at Kosovo. One picture showed the French weaponry ready to be transported to Kosovo, the other presented an ethnic-Albanian family from Kosovo, refugees just arrived to France. The photo deserves well our attention, for it speaks very much indeed; it exposes vividly the very crux of the ...
As the U.S. and NATO casualties rise from the war in Afghanistan, with 2010 being the deadliest year of the nine-year war for the U.S., the question needs to be asked of how we got involved in that interminable and unwinnable conflict? The Afghan war has been dubbed Barack Obama’s War but its origins go back much earlier. Is the U.S. military disaster in Afghanistan an instance of blowback?
What is the standard definition of “blowback”? The U.S. intervenes illegally in a volatile and unstable scenario and over time the consequences of that criminality come back to reek havoc on U.S. ...
Daniel Goldhagen blamed the Holocaust on «the Germans» (by which he meant the German people), and said that they perpetrated the Holocaust because they positively enjoyed murdering «the Jews». But, as has long been well understood by historians (except when they fail to point to it as being a disproof of Goldhagen’s bigoted and indefensible anti-German thesis), Hitler had to work long and hard in order to bring about a consensus, first amongst his own leadership group, and then in the population as a whole, favoring the extermination-option. Hitler, Der Fuehrer, «The Leader», clearly was the catalyst turning the chemical ...
With the recent failed bid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League at the UN security council, to try and end Israelis’ occupation of Palestinian land and to create a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, it seems an appropriate moment to review the situation for Palestinians since 1915.
What is the background to the demonization and brutalization of Palestinians? Most of all, why is the international community was assisting properly and why has it not assisted the Palestinians in protecting or restoring their inalienable rights over decades? Why is their situation so brutally upside-down almost a century after ...
“It is always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists and simultaneously trying to use some to place pieces on the Middle Eastern chess board to pursue their own interests … [but do the] so-called moderate bandits behead people moderately?” – Vladimir Putin (2015)
Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS were shot down by Iraqi forces (Iraqi News 2015) were met with shock and denial in western countries. Yet few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria. A Yemeni AnsarAllah leader says ...
The United States, Germany, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom launched "Operation Jericho".
Once again, the Obama administration has tried to force the change of a political regime that resists it. On February 12, an Academi (formerly Blackwater) plane disguised as an aircraft of the Venezuelan army was supposed to bomb the presidential palace and kill President Nicolas Maduro. The plotters had planned to place former MP María Corina Machado in power and have her immediately acclaimed by former Latin American presidents.
President Obama had given a warning. In his new doctrine of Defence (National Security Strategy), he wrote: "We ...
Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.
By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.
Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.
One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’). Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is ...
At the age of 15 on a riverbank he was shot eight times just for being Serbian. He survived and a few days later during the religious holiday of Transfiguration he was out of his coma. But until now he has not received an answer to his question: who shot the children bathing in the river near the Kosovo village of Gorazdevac on August 13, 2003? In his interview to the Voice of Russia Bogdan Bukumiric tells a wonderful story of his rescue.“It is not so scary to die as to be buried alive” – this is the inscription on ...
Throughout its long history, the Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals ranging from the dissolution of the Knights Templar to Galileo’s trial to Mother Theresa’s questionable donors. Over the course of the 20th century, many more scandals have come to light—no matter how much the Church would like to keep them secret.
10. The Duplessis Orphans
In the 1930s and 1940s, a conservative revolution ushered in an era in Quebec now known as “The Great Darkness.” Led by Premier Maurice Duplessis, the period was characterized by unprecedented corruption and repression, much of which involved the Catholic Church. After Duplessis received the ...
By now all international media resources; newspapers, magazines, TV channels, and internet social media, are busy reporting the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi; a Saudi reporter, who was loyal to the regime until he turned against Muhamad bin Salman (MBS) and his suppressive policies.
Once MBS was announced crowned prince in 2015 and started his war against Yemen, critic Khashoggi found it safer for himself to leave Saudi Arabia. He moved first to UK and later to USA. In his writings Khashoggi harshly criticized the policies of the young prince. Eventually he was lured to the Saudi consulate in Turkey, where ...
The New York Times reported on October 22 that the United States has “just over 240,000 active-duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories,” which is a staggering total. But in an intriguing revelation the Times reported that there are a further 37,813 troops deployed “on presumably secret assignment in places listed simply as ‘unknown.’ The Pentagon provided no further explanation.”It is not surprising that Washington’s war-spreaders do not supply information to the American public concerning the location of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen involved in clandestine operations around the globe, because this might bring to light the lack of justification for ...
Transcript of presentation by the author at the Conference of Independent Journalists’ Association for Peace, Vienna, Austria, May 2015.
This year the twentieth anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica is being observed. On July 11 a huge spectacle will take place at the Srebrenica Memorial center specially constructed for that purpose. It will feature the presence of most of the rather insignificant individuals purporting to be political leaders in the region and the Western-dominated world. Their speeches, which never vary substantially, will be infused with the predictable platitudes.
I propose to deal with some aspects of the Srebrenica narrative from the standpoint ...
Kosovo is today one of the most disputed territories in Europe and a real Balkan powder keg which can explode again at any time. It is a province within the Republic of Serbia, recognized as such by both Serbia’s constitution and the Resolution 1244 by the Security Council of the United Nations (the UNSC Resolution 1244, June 10th, 1999). However, Kosovo parliament with a clear Albanian majority proclaimed the independence of Kosovo (without a referendum) in February 2008 that was recognized by the majority of the Western countries followed by their puppet clients all over the world (in reality, today ...
Stalinist “Land of Eagles” As in neighboring Yugoslavia, the communist revolutionary guerrilla forces, established by the aid and crucially supported by the Yugoslav communists led by local Albanian communist leader Enver Hoxha, took over the power in Albania in 1944. From 1945 to 1948 Albania was under the strong influence of Titoist Yugoslavia and both counties being under the hand of J. V. Stalin. Yugoslavia lavishly supplied Albania with deficient material, mainly nutritious ones, like wheat, etc. As testified by the Montenegrin zealot communist and revolutionist Milovan Đilas, one of the leading Yugoslav politicians at the time, and a member ...
Never has US intentions in Asia been so obvious. Attempts to portray America’s role in the region as constructive or necessary have been ongoing since the end of World War II, however, recently, with Asia able to begin determining its own destiny for itself, the tone from Washington has become increasingly curt and direct.US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s remarks during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore were all but a proclamation of US hegemony over Asia – a region of the planet quite literally an ocean away from Washington.In Reuters’ article, “U.S. flexes muscles as Asia worries about South China ...
Accoring to the “Zeri” news agency from the city of Priština, women who join the Islamic state are mostly 23 years of age, and before joining them they were “modern girls“.
One of them is Laura Huseni who was, according to the editor-in-chief of the “Zeri” magazine, a typical teenage girl from Kosovo who used to go out and have fun with her mates.
– She would take a cab and go with her friends for a drink. She used to dress like all her friends, she would wear skirts of jeans. She was very modern – said Faik Ukasmajli, whose son married ...
The Worst Mistake in U.S. History
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938): The Perpetrator of the Greek Genocide
Historical Origins of the State: Barbarians at the Gate
Basic Introduction to the Kosovo Problem
Blowback: Afghanistan and Bosnia
Americans are no Different than Germans were (and are)
The Harvesting of Palestine. The Zionist Project Prevails?
The Dirty War on Syria: Washington Supports the Islamic State (ISIS)
Obama Failed his Coup in Venezuela
Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)
The Killing of Serbian Children in Kosovo: The Story of a Survivor
Top 10 Dirty Secrets of Vatican
International Hypocrisy: Reprimanding the Saudi Kingdom
The Srebrenica Massacre as Paradigmatic Media Spin
Kosovo: What Everyone (Really) Needs to Know
The Post-WWII Albania and Kosovo
US Declares Hegemony over Asia
Muslim Albanian Women from Kosovo are Training ISIS Terrorists