The USA and the Middle East Since World War 2

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Yes, competent generals increase the odds of coming out on top, while inept ones can all but singlehandedly turn a potentially winning hand into a losing one. The American Civil War lasted as long as it did for several reasons. Prominent among those reasons was the quality of leadership under which the Army of the Potomac suffered when commanded by the likes of Irvin McDowell, George B.

We should not assume that present-day U. Taken as a whole, the performance of senior U. With the passage of time, however, the achievements that earned them wide renown have lost their luster.

AJCS ranked top think tank in the Gulf and fifth in the Middle East and North Africa in 2018

A similar outcome is likely in Afghanistan. We will leave. The war there will continue. George Patton would be decidedly unimpressed at such demonstrations of superior generalship. Far more troubling than the limited achievements of generals once said to be saviors is the parade of high-ranking officers occupying positions of great responsibility who never came close to delivering salvation.

To judge by the course of recent U. No doubt the officers holding this office meant well. In expeditions undertaken in at least a dozen countries, senior U. After the first of those, the Kosovo War of , as soon as the shooting stopped President Bill Clinton sacked the general in charge for serious errors of judgment. The second occasion, the May operation that killed Osama bin Laden, was hardly larger in scope than a police raid. The armed services know how to grow first-rate sergeants and captains. Their apparent inability to do the same when it comes to identifying, developing and selecting officers for the top jobs is troubling.

Nor is the problem one that the officer corps itself is likely to fix. That would require first admitting that a problem exists, something the current crop of four-star generals and admirals is unlikely to do. After all, existing arrangements got them to the top. They see little cause to question those arrangements, which as far as they can tell — especially when peering into a mirror — are working just swell. Notwithstanding the considerable virtues of our professional military, notably durability and tactical prowess, the existing system rates as a failure.

Take a closer look, however, and problems with the existing U. It encourages political irresponsibility. It underwrites an insipid conception of citizenship.

Documentary: WW2 in the Middle East and North Africa

It turns out to be exorbitantly expensive. Dishonesty pervades the relationship between the U. In practice, we subject the troops we profess to care about to serial abuse. As authorities in Washington commit U. The bungled rollout of a health care reform program might generate public attention and even outrage. By comparison, a bungled military campaign elicits shrugs.

AJCS ranks number 5 in the Top Think Tanks in Middle East and North Africa in 2018

But is that actually such a good thing? Back in the s, when Vietnam induced Americans to abandon the tradition of the citizen-soldier, Washington responded by creating a standing army. In their day, standing army was a term of opprobrium. An army consisting of professionals rather than citizens, they believed, was at odds with the principles animating the American Revolution and infused in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The shadow of Vietnam lingers even now, with ironic implications. Americans today seem intent on making amends for sins committed or said to have been committed back when supporting the troops had become optional and overtly pro-military attitudes defined the very inverse of hip — like men who got crew-cuts, women who wore bras or anyone who voted for Nixon. Today, blaming the troops for the wars they are sent to fight has become all but unthinkable.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a phrase for such posturing: He called it cheap grace. The actually existing relationship between American soldiers and the American people is shot full of cheap grace. The second-order consequences of relying on professional soldiers are likewise unfortunate. This has created a gap: Too much war, too few warriors. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, contractors ultimately outnumbered uniformed military personnel, taking on tasks once performed by soldiers.

The results have fallen well short of being satisfactory. To charge all contractors with being incompetent or corrupt would be unfair. Yet waste and corruption have occurred on a colossal scale — so much so that the Pentagon is literally unable to say where all the money went. War has always created opportunities for some people to make money. Americans tend to remember what they find convenient, too often overlooking what actually matters.

Military History: The Middle East in World War II

Isolationism remains the great boogeyman. Winston Churchill remains the ideal of the heroic leader. The postwar occupations of Germany and Japan remain the most instructive illustrations of what American leadership can be counted on to achieve. The story that matters — the account of how the modern Middle East came into existence — is largely unknown to the general public. And what the public knows is often misleading — the result of entertaining but largely fanciful movies like Exodus.

For the history that matters we might pay less attention to the Munich Conference of , warning of the dangers of appeasing evil. Instead, we should pay more attention to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of , which carved up the Ottoman Empire to suit British and French imperial ambitions and thereby yielded evil results that linger today. Similarly, while paying homage to the Churchill who got Hitler right we might ask what possessed the same Churchill who got the Middle East so grotesquely wrong. In waging the War for the Greater Middle East, our mental frame of reference remains stuck in the 20th century.

That frame is obsolete — like thinking about communications in terms of tubes, wires and postage stamps. The 21st century demands something quite different. Consider Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, for example. The United States seeks to reduce the prevalence of violent Islamic radicalism. The governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia actively promote it. Then there is Israel.

To ensure the security and well-being of its citizens, the government of Israel vigorously employs its military muscle to preempt perceived threats and ensure Israeli control of vital terrain and resources, now and in perpetuity. In practical terms, that implies double standards when it comes to, say, possessing weapons of mass destruction.

From an Israeli perspective, this makes considerable sense. That seems highly unlikely. The United States also provides Israel with diplomatic cover, for example, tacitly accepting manifestly illegal Israeli actions such as settlement expansion in the West Bank. With what consequences? It also exacerbates that previously mentioned tendency to overstate the importance of the Greater Middle East in the hierarchy of U. The chief U. Yet the government of Israel will respond to those grievances in due time and on Israeli terms. In the meantime, the persistence of those grievances provides either a genuine cause of or a pretext for anti-American and anti-Western attitudes across much of the Islamic world.

No single explanation exists for why the War for the Greater Middle East began and why it persists. But religion figures as a central element.

Secularized American elites either cannot grasp or are unwilling to accept this. Our leaders can proclaim their high regard for Islam until they are blue in the face. They can insist over and over that we are not at war with Islam. Their claims will fall on deaf ears through much of the Greater Middle East. That is, the ongoing war has an ineradicable religious dimension. The beginning of wisdom is found not in denying that the war is about religion but in acknowledging that war cannot provide an antidote to the fix we have foolishly gotten ourselves into. Does the Islamic world pose something of a problem for the United States?

You bet, in all sorts of ways. The solution, if there is one, will be found by looking beyond the military realm — which just might be the biggest lesson our experience with the War for the Greater Middle East ought to teach. Andrew J. First, the center of gravity. Second, the role of technology. Third, strategy. Fourth, the national security apparatus.

Fifth, generalship. Sixth, the U. Seventh, the political economy of war. Eighth, history.


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Ninth, regional allies. The French got greater Syria, which they divided into a coastal state, Lebanon, and four states to the east that would later become Syria. These lands had always contained a mix of religions and ethnicities, but in setting out borders and establishing their rule, the British and French deepened sectarian and ethnic divisions. After the British took power, a revolt broke out that the British brutally suppressed, but resentment toward the British and toward the central government in Baghdad persisted. In the new state of Transjordan which later became Jordan , the British installed the son of a Saudi ruler to preside over the Bedouin population; and in Palestine, it promised the Jews a homeland and their own fledgling state within a state under the Balfour Declaration while promising only civil and religious rights to the Palestinian Arabs who made up the overwhelming majority of inhabitants.

In the land that became Syria, the French initially separated the Alawites from whom the Assad family would descend and the Druze into their own states and empowered the urban Sunni Muslims in Damascus and Aleppo.

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Continuing Storm: The U.S. Role in the Middle East - Institute for Policy Studies

From the beginning, these newly created states were engulfed by riots, revolts, and even civil war. Most of the early revolts were directed against the colonial authorities, but after World War II, when these states won their independence, the different religious denominations, ethnicities and nationalities fought each other for supremacy—the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites in Iraq, the Jews and Arabs in Palestine and later Israelis and Palestinians , the Maronites and Muslims in Lebanon, and the Alawites and Sunnis in Syria.

The resulting strife was not a product of the Arab character or of Islam. In Lebanon, the turmoil has been almost continuous. Lebanon still lacks a stable governing authority. In Iraq and Syria, inter-sectarian and inter-ethnic conflict were temporarily stilled by dictatorships that severely repressed any hint of revolt.

Israel used its military to contain the conflict with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. But in Iraq and Syria, the lid of repression came off, as a result of the American invasion in that ousted Saddam Hussein and as a result of the Arab Spring spreading to Syria. In the long run, the United States has to worry about instability in a region that is so important to the world economy and that will eventually have more than one nuclear power.


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In the past, the United States has been of two minds in dealing with disorder in the Middle East. The United States generally backed kings and dictators as long as they were friendly to the United States.

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