America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History
Andrew J. Bacevich
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Retired army colonel and New York Times bestselling author Andrew J. Bacevich provides a searing reassessment of U.S. military policy in the Middle East over the past four decades.
From the end of World War II until 1980, virtually no American soldiers were killed in action while serving in the Greater Middle East. Since 1990, virtually no American soldiers have been killed in action anywhere else. What caused this shift? Andrew J. Bacevich, one of the country’s most respected voices on foreign affairs, offers an incisive critical history of this ongoing military enterprise—now more than thirty years old and with no end in sight.
During the 1980s, Bacevich argues, a great transition occurred. As the Cold War wound down, the United States initiated a new conflict—a War for the Greater Middle East—that continues to the present day. The long twilight struggle with the Soviet Union had involved only occasional and sporadic fighting. But as this new war unfolded, hostilities became persistent. From the Balkans and East Africa to the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, U.S. forces embarked upon a seemingly endless series of campaigns across the Islamic world. Few achieved anything remotely like conclusive success. Instead, actions undertaken with expectations of promoting peace and stability produced just the opposite. As a consequence, phrases like “permanent war” and “open-ended war” have become part of everyday discourse.
Connecting the dots in a way no other historian has done before, Bacevich weaves a compelling narrative out of episodes as varied as the Beirut bombing of 1983, the Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rise of ISIS in the present decade. Understanding what America’s costly military exertions have wrought requires seeing these seemingly discrete events as parts of a single war. It also requires identifying the errors of judgment made by political leaders in both parties and by senior military officers who share responsibility for what has become a monumental march to folly. This Bacevich unflinchingly does.
A twenty-year army veteran who served in Vietnam, Andrew J. Bacevich brings the full weight of his expertise to this vitally important subject. America’s War for the Greater Middle East is a bracing after-action report from the front lines of history. It will fundamentally change the way we view America’s engagement in the world’s most volatile region.
Praise for America’s War for the Greater Middle East
“Bacevich is thought-provoking, profane and fearless. . . . [His] call for Americans to rethink their nation’s militarized approach to the Middle East is incisive, urgent and essential.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Bacevich’s magnum opus . . . a deft and rhythmic polemic aimed at America’s failures in the Middle East from the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency to the present.”—Robert D. Kaplan, The Wall Street Journal
“A critical review of American policy and military involvement . . . Those familiar with Bacevich’s work will recognize the clarity of expression, the devastating directness and the coruscating wit that characterize the writing of one of the most articulate and incisive living critics of American foreign policy.”—The Washington Post
“[A] monumental new work.”—The Huffington Post
“An unparalleled historical tour de force certain to affect the formation of future U.S. foreign policy.”—Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
government to restore a sense of purpose to empty lives. Officeholders at all levels, he charged, had shown themselves seemingly “incapable of action.” Failures of governance had left the country awash with “paralysis and stagnation and drift.” Salvation, therefore, lay in the people’s hands: We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea
time. Once Hussein is deposed, an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul, should be imposed. Over the years the U.S. has earned opprobrium in the Arab world for its backing of repressive dictators such as Hosni Mubarak and the Saudi royal family. This could be the chance to right the scales, to establish the first Arab democracy, and to show the Arab people that the U.S. is as committed to freedom for them as it was for the people of Eastern Europe. To
facto jihadist sanctuaries in Pakistan.14 McKiernan embraced the view that the war could not be won militarily, by now almost a mantra among senior U.S. military officers. Just a few years earlier those same officers had insisted with equal conviction that winning wars militarily described what the armed forces of the United States existed to do. No more. Expectations regarding how military efforts might contribute to America’s War for the Greater Middle East were evolving. McKiernan’s own
Foreign Affairs (July/August 1996); Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest (Summer 1989). 2. Bill Clinton, “Inaugural Address” (January 20, 1997); Bill Clinton, “Why I’m Going to China,” Newsweek (June 29, 1998). 3. Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Moment,” Foreign Affairs (America and the World), 1990. 4. Anthony Lake, “From Containment to Enlargement” (September 21, 1993), mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/lakedoc.html, accessed February 6, 2015. 5. Michael J. Mazarr et
the form of occasional hit-and-run attacks. While hardly trivial, al Qaeda’s demonstrated capabilities during the 1990s did not match its leader’s grandiose intentions. Moreover, not every terrorist attack conducted by Al Qaeda targeted Americans, and not every terrorist attack targeting Americans was attributable to Al Qaeda. As the 1990s unfolded, other names on the list of American enemies in the Greater Middle East took precedence. When Bill Clinton became president in 1993, the United