When Hamas shot those rockets into a rock concert on October 7th, this date was 75 years and slightly less than 5 months following the declaration of the Jewish state in 1948. Over that period of time, this region of the world which is hardly very large has been the location of more than twenty major armed conflicts, many involving the United States and American armed forces.
The first conflict was the 1948 War of Independence which lasted almost a year and cost both sides somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 lives. Then in 1954, we invaded Iran, got rid of a government we didn’t like and installed the Shah.
Remember him? He lasted until 1977 when a revolutionary movement directed by a cleric sitting in a Paris suburb threw him out.
Meanwhile, there was the Suez crisis in 1956, then the 1967 war which led to the creation of Gaza, by the way, and another war between Israel and the surrounding Arab states in 1973.
There was also a major conflict between Iraq and Iran which lasted 8 years, and the two wars that we fought with Iraq – Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Let’s also not forget the eight-year war which started when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979, along with the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 which lasted until Joe Biden pulled our troops out in 2021.
The above list covers all the really big military events in this region, but there were plenty of other violent attacks as well. Try the attack of the USS Cole, which killed 17 crew members and wounded another 30 or so.
That was nothing compared to the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon which killed 241 military personnel.
How about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1978 which resulted in armed conflicts which happened multiple times over the next 20 years? And let’s not forget the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 or the Revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, which was a duplicate of the revolution which blew away King Farouk in 1952.
Beginning to get the picture? The part of the world which is usually considered to be the ‘cradle’ of Western Civilization happens to be the part of the world in which violence, warfare, terrorism, and political instability are as common and normal as the veritable slice of veritable apple pie.
And what makes the recent history of the Middle East all the more confusing and difficult to understand is that we usually assume that as a society becomes more civilized, it also becomes more organized and therefore less prone to violence and destructive behavior, but obviously that’s not true.
After all, what is usually considered to be the most civilized and developed part of the world, i.e., western Europe or just ‘the West’ as it is known, experienced more than 100 million military and civilian deaths in the years around two world wars, and the most developed country of all committed the single most destructive event in the entire history of mankind on Earth – not just once but twice.
When Nixon was trying to figure out how to keep fighting in Viet Nam but somehow not losing any American GI’s in the process, he used to muse about ‘dropping the big one.’ That’s how he referred to the bomb which levelled Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the ‘big one.’
You think there haven’t been talks in the Israeli cabinet about dropping ‘the big one’ on the Gaza strip? Ha ha ha ha ha.
Ever hear the expression ‘the great game?’ It was first used in the 1840’s by some guy in England to describe the rivalry between Russia and Britain to control Afghanistan, Persia (now Iran) and Tibet (now part of China.) Substitute the United States for England, add a few more countries in the Middle East to that list and guess what? The ‘great game’ is still going on almost two centuries after it began.
Does it make any difference that we are allegedly more developed and civilized than we were back in cave-man days?
If development and civilization mean we can kill human beings more efficiently than we used to kill them in the good ol’ days, then I guess we really are more civilized today.