Armed Hostilities

“America’s War for the Greater Middle East” Book by Bacevich

In America’s War for the Greater Middle East (2016), Bacevich claims that after the Cold War, the United States has launched a war for the Greater Middle East that is ongoing to the present day. He writes about several U.S. military actions that include the Beirut bombing of 1983, the Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the rise of ISIS as a part of a single war. Being a noted military historian, career army officer, a twenty-year army veteran of the Vietnam war who retired with the rank of colonel, Bacevich has both credentials and skills to write this book. The book contains speeches of political leaders, the author’s personal observations along with analysis of secondary sources that make provided evidence convincing. Consequently, it changes the attitude to an American engagement in world politics through analyzing judgment errors made by the people who have power. Throughout the book, Bacevich addresses the questions related to the motivation of the U.S. military and the consequences of its foreign policy actions.

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Bacevich writes the book to reveal the intentions of the U.S. military in the Middle East region. The book was written to the U.S. citizens, as his critical view on American foreign affairs decisions suggests the need to reconsider the nation’s approach to the wars in the region. Moreover, readers who are interested in the U.S. foreign policy and conflicts in the Middle East may find the book interesting and easy to read. Historical references of the book, along with a personal narration, contribute to the uniqueness of the writing style of Bacevich.

Bacevich discusses events from Carter’s late 1970s errors to Barack Obama’s implications of assassination by drone strikes. He provides information and narrates in historical order, including some remarks about how he feels about certain decisions and actions of political figures. Due to this, readers can follow the ideas and motives of several U.S. political leaders that emerged as a response to various international and domestic circumstances. Yet, the main reason for the U.S. invasion was the energy insecurity of the country in the early 1970s. Bacevich suggests that military actions in the Middle East were due to the United States’ “fundamental interest in uninterrupted access to Middle East oil and gas”1. Indeed, the fear of communism was replaced by energy insecurity, provoking the U.S. to establish control over the Persian Gulf. Nevertheless, energy insecurity was an important reason for the U.S. invasion of the Middle East.

Along with energetic reason, Bacevich also mentions the ideological factor behind the U.S. military attacks. However, he uses generalizations over the Islamic world and East cultures and does not have proper investigations. He also does not illustrate how exactly ideological and cultural differences may cause difficulties for the U.S. missions in the region. In comparison, Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice, the book written by Chomsky and Achcar, emphasizes more on ideological goals that are the crucial part of the U.S. foreign policy 2. They argue that the U.S. is pursuing its ideological goals due to its hegemonic nature and desire to establish unipolarity in world politics. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations also demonstrates that in the future, the causes of war will not be power or resource-based but instead will have ideological, cultural, and religious bases 3.

Bacevich’s most important evidence is in his personal observations. As a historian and military man, he has an experience of indicating missteps and misjudgments of political figures. While reading the book, it is seen that he uses an arrogant tone in his writing. By such manner, Bacevich makes a perception of a person who knew how to do the U.S. military attacks “right” and without any flaws. He convinces readers to believe in his claims by this tone and evidence from secondary sources and direct political speeches. For example, he uses James Carter’s official speeches and presentations to demonstrate contradictions in his policies and persuade readers that his actions were wrong in some cases. Bacevich also elaborates effectively on secondary sources, providing a detailed account for each mentioned historical event.

Although the book addresses the major wars in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to the present day, is not fully covered. It is probably because of the U.S.-Israeli political relations that are meant to be friendly. Moreover, more focus on the Shia-Sunni division is needed as considering a religious factor provides a broader look at wars and conflicts in the Middle East. Cultural differences and relationships between the East and West, Muslims and non-Muslims could have better explanation and investigation. Furthermore, the U.S. relations with Russia and its former colonies in Central Asia were not addressed. Bacevich had to include these due to the Russian influence over the region and its interest in competing with the U.S. By having a comprehensive analysis of the military issues in the area and considering the differences between the East and West, and the book could make more inferences and provide a new look for the topic.

To conclude, the book provides an after-action account for the major U.S. inventions starting from the 1980s. The book may be helpful for people interested in modern era conflicts and wars, especially those taking place in the Middle East. It is thought-provoking work that calls Americans (and not only) to rethink the nation’s violent and urgent military approach to the Middle East. Despite its limitations regarding the depth of investigations and generalizations, I will recommend this book for readers who want to know more about the U.S. foreign policy, and the Middle East wars. The book also helps to understand the political decision-making process better.

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Bacevich, J. Andrew. America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A military history. New York: Random House, 2016.

Chomsky, N., Achcar, G. Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice Routledge, 2015.

Huntington, S. The Clash of Civilizations New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.


  1. Bacevich, J. Andrew, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A military history. (New York: Random House, 2016), 10.
  2. Chomsky, N., Achcar, G., Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy Dialogues on Terror, Democracy, War, and Justice (Routledge, 2015).
  3. Huntigton, S., The Clash of Civilizations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000).

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