United States’ dismal record of Mideast interventions

US soldiers at Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on 2011. (Reuters)

2017/12/10 Issue: 135 Page: 12

The Arab Weekly
Ed Blanche

Beirut- Over the last few decades, US military interven­tions in the Middle East, whether involving the Americans acting alone or as part of a coalition, have ended as dismal failures with heavy casu­alty tolls.

US Marines and French para­troopers, part of a multinational peacekeeping force deployed to Lebanon during its 15-year civil war, were driven out of Beirut after near-simultaneous Hezbol­lah suicide truck bombings deci­mated their bases on October 23, 1983, killing 241 Americans and 58 Frenchmen.

US President Ronald Reagan, focused on defeating the “evil em­pire” of communism, ordered his humiliated forces out of Lebanon.

Still, it ushered in an era of large-scale attacks on the United States and its allies by al-Qaeda after 9/11.

Ten years later, US forces provid­ing security for major relief opera­tions in war-ravaged Somalia were withdrawn after militants killed 18 US special forces troops and shot down two Black Hawk helicopters in a Mogadishu battle with mili­tants of notorious warlord Moham­med Farah Aidid.

Hundreds of Somalis, militants and civilians, were killed in the Oc­tober 3-4 bloodbath, known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident.

President Bill Clinton pulled the US contingent out and remained wary of such interventions, wheth­er humanitarian or purely military, for the rest of his term.

The biggest Middle East blun­der of all was President George W. Bush’s costly invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, an action built on tainted intelligence, deception on the part of the US administration and the contorted aspirations of US neocons who sought to make Israel impregnable.

Toppling Saddam Hussein to neutralise his supposed arsenal of chemical weapons and a mili­tary nuclear programme proved to be the biggest catastrophe for the Americans. Ousting Saddam opened smouldering sectarian and ethnic divisions within Iraq and the conflict that followed gave rise to the Islamic State, the consequences of which remain a danger today.

The Iraq war of 2003-11 ended up costing the United States more than $2 trillion, with benefits still to be paid out to some veterans of the conflict, some estimates state.

Ed Blanche has covered Middle East affairs since 1967. He is the Arab Weekly analyses section editor.

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