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IPFS News Link • WAR: About that War

The time Ronald Reagan kept the US out of war in the Middle East

•, By Stephen Kinzer

American warplanes are bombing Yemen. The United States supplies Israel with most of the weaponry it uses to pummel Gaza. Thousands of American troops are deployed at bases in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan that come under periodic attack — including this week, when three Americans were killed in Jordan. Rather than lightening our footprint in the Middle East, we are plunging ever more deeply into its wars.

By forcefully taking sides in Middle East disputes, President Biden is acting like all his recent predecessors. Whenever conflict erupts in that region, Washington jumps to take a side. We cannot bear to sit back and let local actors play out their own drama — but we did once!

This month marks the 40th anniversary of a potentially catastrophic American intervention that didn't happen. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan decided not to take the United States into war in Lebanon despite horrific provocation. Biden could learn a lesson from Reagan's prudent restraint.

For decades after the end of World War II, the United States sought to dominate the Middle East partly for two reasons: to secure our oil supply and to keep the Soviets out. Today we import less than 10 percent of our oil from the region and there is no Soviet Union. We face a complex challenge from China. War is raging in Ukraine. Climate change threatens the planet. Yet despite all this competition for our attention and resources, we can't seem to break away from the Middle East.

After Biden pulled American troops out of Afghanistan in 2021, he might have gone on to withdraw others deployed in nearby countries. Instead he has taken the opposite course, toward military engagement. Aides say that events have forced his hand and give him no choice. They project the frustration that Michael Corleone expressed about his failed efforts to go straight in "The Godfather: Part III" — "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"