The Arab Radicals

The Arab Radicals

The Arab Radicals

The Arab Radicals

Excerpt

On October 23, 1983, a suicide truck loaded with an estimated 5,000 pounds of explosives crashed through the headquarters of the United States marine batallion in. Beirut. When the carnage had finally been cleared, America was, stunned to learn that 241 of its marines had lost their lives. Indeed, the writing had been on the wall for some time. Six months earlier, on April 18, a bomb had exploded at the United States embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people and injuring almost 100, and completely destroying the central consular section of the building. Seventeen of those killed were American nationals, including marine guards, senior embassy staff, and the director of the C.I.A.'s office for the Near East and South Asia, along with six other C.I.A. personnel. These two acts were perhaps the primary catalyst for America's eventual withdrawal from Lebanon. They were attributed to radical Islaniic Shiites.

Similarly, it was the radical Shiite zealots of Southern Lebanon, rather than the Arab states' armed forces, who inflicted on Israel its first major defeat in the area. Having totally failed to impose its will on the South of Lebanon, and with its army's morale at its lowest ebb because of the unremitting hostility of the Lebanese Shiites, the Israeli cabinet voted in January 1985 to withdraw unilaterally and unconditionally from Lebanon.

In the wake of these events, American attitudes toward Middle East politics seemed to shift quickly and perceptibly. In the 1970s, Washington's problem-solving emphasis was focused on state-tostate relations. Much effort was placed on trying to effect a political settlement between Israel and the Arab states; and when this seemed difficult to achieve, the United States ensured that Israel's military dominance over the Arabstateswas maintained.

Increasingly in the 1980s, however, America became preoccupied, even obsessed, with the hostile acts perpetrated against it by radical groups, sometimes supported and abetted by certain states in the area. And in American eyes, these groups seemed determined to attack American citizens, institutions and interests not . . .

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