Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Beirut Marine Barracks bombing

Fouad Ajami, in The Foreigner’s Gift, p 106: “No one ever got to know for sure, it should be recalled, the name of that young boy who on the morning of October 23, 1983, drove a Mercedes truck loaded with TNT into the marine barracks in Beirut. What was known of that seminal event two decades earlier was the cruel aftermath: the death of 241 U.S. servicemen, the proud assertion that Lebanon would not be left to the forces of radicalism, then the scramble to pull America out of the hell of Lebanon. That country was left to the tender mercy of the Syrians. There were no discernible American interests in that city by the Mediterranean. America quit Beirut under Arab eyes, leaving the impression that it is easily discouraged, that a band of plotters could dissuade it from larger goals.

“Once again, the United States was at a crossroads in an Arab land. American staying power in Baghdad was obviously the target of these terror attacks. In Baghdad, truth be known, the United States had overthrown not only a man but a religious and ethnic sect, the Sunni Arabs, and this running guerrilla war was their response to their loss of hegemony. America’s campaign had broken that minority’s tenacious hold on the state: the oil of the country is in the southern (predominantly Shia) zone and in the Kurdish ancestral lands in the north. The Sunni Triangle lived off state terror, the whip as an instrument of enrichment. These ‘remnants’ of the vanquished regime were fighting for what they had grown to see as their birthright: the state of terror and plunder that was Iraq under the Baathists.”

COMMENT: Reagan’s reaction to the bombing of the Marine Barracks in 1983 makes absolutely no sense to me. One day I’m going to try and study that decision in more detail. I suppose he could claim ignorance. He didn’t know that the Arabs were going to evaluate America by that cutting and running. And his wasn’t to be the only example. It was our policy to cut and run when confronted with Arab craziness all the way up until the administration of George W. Bush, and there are still Arab Jihadists, one imagines, telling each other, “just keep it up a little longer. They will eventually cut and run once again. Hang on. Don’t lose heart.”

Lawrence Helm

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