During his time in office, President Reagan with the help of Pakistani intelligence and military leaders continued to expand support of the Afghan rebels, as well as supporting dictators in “dirty wars.” In addition, arming and funding terrorist groups in many other places around the world to fight proxy wars, wherever their aims coincided with U.S interests in the region at the time. These “dirty” and proxy wars were largely criticized by congress and led in most-cases to scandal, his support of the Muhajideen however was not only backed by Congress they actively campaigned for it’s further expansion. Congress support of the scheme throughout Reagan’s administration meant the level of funding was constantly increased reaching a far from moderate Nearly 700 million dollars a year by 1987, and congress campaigns succeeded to give the rebel’s the best weaponry available including American made weaponry like the stinger missile, the most effective anti aircraft weapon available. American weapons previously not provided, in order to maintain the U.S government’s plausible deniability, but with congress support for the scheme reaching new highs, such care was no longer necessary.
During this time, the Reagan administration was actively supporting another dangerous regime, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war with Iran, (1980-1988) which indirectly lead to massive (unintended consequences) future problems for the U.S that are still reverberating now. The Reagan administration feared the effect Iran’s fundamentalist new government could have on the region and most importantly U.S oil supplies, after American intelligence allegedly tried and failed to remove the Khomeini regime subversively support of its rival Iraq became a viable alternative. In 1982, the Reagan administration removed Iraq (despite fears that Iraq had created its alliances with terrorist organisations) from the state departments list of countries regarded as supporting international terrorism. This meant Iraq could now receive credit guarantees from the Export-import bank (Eximbank), and short-term cover was granted in 1985, enabling Iraq to obtain credit for the purchase of U.S products and technology. There is also some evidence indicating that during this time, America and other countries including the United Kingdom provided Iraq with dual-use materials and technology, i.e. household goods, which could be used to create chemical weapons and technology to manufacture such weapons. Despite immense pressure on the Reagan government, to do something about Saddam’s use of chemical weapons throughout the 80’s, (which Reagan’s administration is also alleged to have secretly supported) the Reagan administration continued to emphasize the importance of a good relationship with Iraq.
Pressure increased on Reagan in 1988 when Saddam attacked an ethnic minority inside his own borders, killing ten’s of hundreds of Kurdish villagers in Halabja among other locations using U.S supplied helicopters, provided as dual-use for crop spraying. The state department commented: “the failure of the international community to mobilize an effective response has lowered inhibitions on the use of such weapons in the region and elsewhere.” Reagan maintained his stance and was successful in blocking congress attempts to impose economic sanctions, with the argument that sanctions were contrary to U.S interests, in that they endangered contracts for massive post-war reconstruction of Iraq. Bush Snr’s administration then tried to capitalise on this success to gain medium term Eximbank security for Iraq on practically the same argument, there was some support but the then Secretary of State George Schultz put off his decision, leaving the matter to the incoming Bush administration.
The Iraq-Iran war effectively ended when a ceasefire, offered by Saddam was finally accepted by Khomeini in Aug 1988, both sides realising it was costing far too much, in money and in life. Earlier in the same year, Mikhail Gorbachev made an announcement signalling the U.S.S.R’s intention to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The pullout was surrounded by controversy largely due to arguments between governments regarding the cessation of funds to the terrorists in accordance with the Geneva accords, with Russian leaders refusing to stop supporting Afghanistan’s government and therefore the rebels working on their behalf, by denying the Muhajideen the same legitimacy relating to the terms of the accord. Which meant Reagan signing the accord and agreeing to cut funds to the Muhajideen would leave the rebels at a military disadvantage against a soviet supported government. Eventually the Reagan administration created a separate unwritten “clause” to the accords, stipulating that Washington would continue to aid the Muhajideen as long as the Soviet Union aided Kabul calling this stipulation “positive symmetry” and on April 14th 1988, the farcical agreement was signed. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s governments agreed to refrain from any sort of interference in each other’s territory; the super-powers agreed the same with the U.S.S.R confirming their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The stipulation of positive symmetry meant the Geneva accord wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, both the U.S.S.R and U.S governments continued funding and support of their respective rebel allies, and civil war raged on in Afghanistan.
President Bush was elected as Reagan’s successor on the 8th Nov 1988 and immediately began showing the same oil-biased attitude towards foreign policy decisions; maintaining and strengthening relations with Iraq. When his administration were unable to gain medium term security for Iraq through Eximbank, due to strong congressional opposition to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons and violations of international human rights laws, they went about it in a different way. Despite increasing scandal over American and British countries providing chemical agents to Iraq, despite fears that Saddam was attempting to manufacture nuclear weapons, and was using front companies in order to obtain materials causing massive opposition to the administrations continued funding of Saddam. With some aggressive lobbying and economy with the truth, the Bush administration was able to secure $1 dollar in credit guarantees (CCC’s) for Iraq in 1990 through the Department of Agriculture. The Bush administration attempted to justify this extra aid in the face of such atrocities again by being economical with the truth, manipulating facts, and discrediting sources under the continued policy of improving relations and increasing U.S influence by expanded trade. This policy took a severe kick in the teeth on August 2nd 1990 when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq now built up by the west to be a major military power, invaded its neighbour Kuwait.
America responded quickly to the invasion, within days demanding Iraq’s immediate withdrawal from Kuwait, when Saddam failed to comply the U.S and other U.N member states began deploying troops in Saudi Arabia within the week, as part of a worldwide coalition of half a million Allied troops in Saudi Arabia by January 1991. After intense diplomatic pressure from the U.N for Iraq’s withdrawal failed, bombing of Iraq and Iraqi forces in Kuwait commenced on January 16th 1991. America and the U.N’s use of Saudi Arabia as a base to mount operations caused massive outrage in the Arab/Muslim world. Not only at the occupation of the Arab peninsula, which became a permanent U.S/U.K presence after the war, but the fact that this occupation and supporting the Muhajideen in Afghanistan, showed successive U.S administration’s apparent eagerness to use Muslim people (Read: Iraq war fourteen years too late.) and land for their own gains. In 1992, the collapsing Soviet Union meant support for Afghanistan’s government was dwindling, and the Muhajideen fighter’s finally took control of war-torn Kabul. The victory its thought ended U.S support for the rebels in line with a deal made between them before they would sign the Geneva Accords, but the fighting did not cease. Violent power struggles continued between rival Muhajideen factions, and America turning its back was another diesel soaked rag onto the fire of anti-American feeling brewing in the whole Islamic world for many years, and now increasingly within Afghanistan’s Islamic majority, now without outside enemy, support or influence. However, continuing internal power struggles and soviet interference meant they posed no real threat to western interests. President Reagan died in 1993 following a long illness, fortunately for him just before the unintended consequences of his crowning achievement in proxy warfare, began to become a massive global problem.
In the same year George H W Bush was succeeded by President Bill Clinton, who was almost immediately faced with these consequences of Carter’s policy, but ultimately Reagan’s expansion of support for the Afghan rebels and pressuring other countries (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia)) to help in the struggle with volunteers and funds. One consequence the rapidly expanding number of Islamic extremist groups, like the Taliban now emerging within the hard-line Islamic seminaries, (Taliban means seminarians) which had rapidly sprung up in the refugee camps of Pakistan during the conflict built by Pakistan’s (flush from cold-war U.S dollars) military intelligence. The seminaries provided safe-haven for the rebel fighters and were largely attended by refugees from Afghanistan. This mixture of rebels and refugees in these seminaries meant they were and still are excellent breeding grounds for Islamic extremism and terrorism; the only difference is that breeding Islamic extremism was then deemed to be in the U.S interests. With huge military aid and support in the form’s of advanced (cold-war C.I.A) weaponry, training and possibly men from a Pakistani intelligence service keen to end the brutal civil war which was making Afghanistan an easy target for invasion, and at the same time put a conservative Islamic (extremist) ally in power in Kabul, the Taliban marched North. The Muhajideen were still fighting each other and with no U.S support, the Taliban met only sporadic resistance and had soon taken five provinces, controlling 90% of Afghanistan by the end of 1995.
In 1996, a newly stable Afghanistan brought the return of a member of the wealthy Saudi, Bin Laden construction dynasty, Osama Bin Laden, believed to have been recruited in the early 80’s by Saudi intelligence. Saudi Arabia only supported the Muhajideen after immense U.S pressure. Osama Bin Laden is thought to have been responsible for raising money from Arab gulf millionaires for the Afghan struggle. Not only is Osama thought to have raised millions of dollars for the radical Islamic terrorists cause, but is also to have encouraged thousands of Arabs to go to Afghanistan and join the fight to liberate Islamic land from a godless invader. He kept a database of his recruits; the Arabic word for base is Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden was outraged by the permanent occupation of his homeland, resulting in the first unintended consequence of the occupation, which is already an unintended consequence of supporting Saddam. Osama released his first religious Fatwa; (ruling) calling for the murder of the Americans occupying the land of the holy places, in reference to his homeland Saudi Arabia and the two Muslim shrines at Mecca and Medina. Bin Laden was also angered by America turning its back on the Muhajideen in Afghanistan allowing the country to fall into civil war, and the continued U.S alliance with Israel in their war against Palestinian Muslims. Despite during this time Israel making increasing encroachments on the Palestinian occupied territories, towards the gradual complete annexation of (the third holiest city to Muslims) Jerusalem.
Another unintended consequence of these poorly thought out U.S policies came when Bin Laden along with Ayman Al Zawahiri (recruited by Bin Laden for the Afghan struggle in the 80’s) leader of the Jihad group in Egypt, and the leaders of three other Islamic extremist groups. The Islamic Group, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan, and the Jihad movement in Bangladesh, releasing a second Fatwa in 1998, the ruling in short, was to kill American’s, civilian and military, and their allies in all countries around the world. Islamic Extremism indirectly created by America’s intentional ignorance of unintended consequences in foreign policy decisions declared war, effectively on the world.
President Clinton I feel dealt with these declarations in a controlled manner; mounting precision strikes based on only irrefutable intelligence, alongside economic sanctions imposed on the Taliban and Afghanistan intended to pressure them into handing Bin Laden (a hero of theirs) over. Unfortunately, difficulties in obtaining good intelligence impeded the possibility of precision strikes, sanctions had even less effect throughout Clinton’s presidency, and terrorism continued to rise. Clinton’s lack of decisive action to combat the growing problem became his downfall, and the current President George W Bush (Jnr) replaced him in 2001.
U.S administrations before Bush, except Clinton had ignored the unintended consequences of actions, like their policy in Afghanistan expanding Islamic terrorism, and support of Israel causing massive resentment within the Islamic community. In September 2001 the U.S was forced to face up to these consequences of Reagan-Bush Snr’s foreign policy, when two hi-jacked planes crashed into the world trade centre, and one into the pentagon, Al Qaeda and Bin Laden were immediately being mentioned as main suspects. Faced with undeniable consequences, like father like son Bush Jnr showed ignorance of the potential scale of this problem, declaring war on terrorism, immediately supported by Tony Blair in the U.K. Shortly after this broad declaration, Bush announced his intention of retribution against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, and we heard first of his favourite policy “regime change.”
The Bush engineered U.S invasion/occupation of another predominantly Muslim country carried on the trend of angering Muslims around the world, started by Carter, continued by his father’s mentor: Reagan, and then his father Bush Snr, which further escalated a massive problem. As well as giving Islamists a new cause for the propaganda machine, making use of great worldwide (internet) communications networks, therefore increasing recruitment and funding, as well as creating a massive training ground for the steady flow of seminarians still coming across the Pakistan border. Bush Jnr’s next mistake, with major consequences was the lack of planning for Afghanistan’s post-Taliban future, and failing to address possible problems resulting from the Taliban’s removal. Afghanistan quickly slipped back ten years to power struggles between rival Islamic groups and tribal leaders, which U.S forces struggled and still struggle to control, but instead of then concentrating on stabilizing that region, or slowing actions likely to have unintended consequences. Bush displayed more similarities between himself, his father and Reagan, being economical with the truth and accused many times of manipulating the facts to create a case for regime change in Iraq.
Unfortunately for coalition forces Bush chose to be ignorant of past mistakes, invading another predominantly Islamic country, not only that, but again in concentrating mainly on taking over a third world country, not planning what to do when in control. No police force (they sacked them and sent them, armed, to join the Militia’s) massive resentment from the Sunni Majority, and mistrust from the Shia-Kurd minorities, (Read: Iraq war fourteens year to late) meant Iraq quickly became chaotic, making it an ideal atmosphere for terrorism and Islamic extremism to flourish. Excellent (collateral damage) propaganda potential, thousands of disillusioned young Muslims, ripe for radicalisation and another massive training ground to train the droves of new recruits. Coalition forces are still occupying Afghanistan and Iraq, lack of planning at the start means they are a long way from being able to leave. Frequently more than one terrorist attack happens in both countries everyday, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of coalition forces and tens of thousands of innocent Afghan’s and Iraqi’s during the war on terror. With interim governments installed in both countries, the level of unrest created by insurgents, or deep-rooted hatred between communities in both countries, and their lack of an effective military or police force means the governments control does not extend past the Capital. Islam’s anti-American feeling and related terrorism increases and will continue to do so until what looks to the Islamic world like a permanent occupation, and a total disregard for Muslim People and the Muslim Faith (Using Muhajideen in Afghan, then cutting them off when they had achieved U.S aims) and the implosion of the affected Muslim communities is halted.
In Conclusion, my article proves unintended consequences of U.S foreign policy under Reagan and Bush Snr not only indirectly resulted in the creation of Al-Qaeda, but also showed Islamic extremists that they can defeat a super-power using terrorism. As well as giving them the ideas that terrorism is okay if you’re cause is just, and of funding, supplying and training terrorist groups in other countries to (fight proxy wars) achieve your aims. Along with increasing anti-American hostility in the Islamic world mostly by making foreign policy decisions based primarily on future U.S. oil supplies. Therefore, therefore mostly Reagan, but Bush Snr in continuing with the same oil/cold war biased policies are directly and indirectly responsible for the scourge of global terrorism the world now faces. George Bush Jnr has displayed the same attitude and neoconservative traits as his Father and Reagan before him, in basing his foreign policy decisions primarily on the future security of U.S oil supplies. Being consistently economical with the truth, and being accused many times of manipulating the facts to suit his own aims, both well-used tricks of the afore mentioned pair, displayed by Reagan’s policies involving Nicaragua, Bush Snr-Reagan’s continuing policy towards Iraq, and Bush Jnr’s “war on terror” and the case for war in Iraq. It is little wonder that Bush follows this trend, which has already created massive problems, as his defence cabinet is almost identical to Reagan’s defence cabinet. Clinton was the only one who showed consciousness of possible unintended consequences of his actions, and used his great power responsibly, unfortunately without much success.
Bush Jnr’s war on terror rages on, but the war has actually helped to expand the problem, and made recruitment easier, (official figures show the number of global terror attacks is rising according to a revised state department report), by creating two new marks for resistance and outrage within the Muslim world; providing excellent propaganda material for the Internet network. As well as creating two massive training grounds for terrorists: in Afghanistan (still a regular flow of students from Pakistan’s seminaries), and Iraq. I believe that if the U.S and its allies had spent as much money on actual intelligence based operations on terrorist cells in Europe and elsewhere as it has and still is on “the war on terror.” We would be winning the war instead of it seems to me struggling to stay one-step ahead.
Iraq War: Fourteen Years Too Late
During the second Persian Gulf War, (Aug 2 1990-Mar 3 1991) America and the U.N were forced to deploy troops in the gulf region, because Saddam Hussein’s Iraq successfully invaded Kuwait. Before the fighting President George H W Bush called to the Shiite (southern Iraq) and Kurdish (northern Iraq) minorities, badly oppressed by Saddam’s Sunni Regime to revolt and overthrow their oppressive dictator, arguably inferring direct U.S support in this aim. Encouraged by the stunning defeat of Iraqi forces in Kuwait, the Shiite’s and Kurd’s begin an uprising in-line with the defeat of Saddam’s regime. Unfortunately, most of Saddam’s forces escaped the fighting in Kuwait, and when American support for the uprising never materialised, Saddam easily crushed the revolt.
I believe that if even U.S forces alone had advanced north in March 1991, on the tail of Saddam’s retreating Iraqi forces, the Shiite revolt in the south, and Kurdish in the North would ultimately have lead to Iraq fighting a war on two fronts, and therefore I believe easily defeated. Furthermore, this done and Saddam overthrown; U.S forces would have had to deal with only the Sunni majority mistrust, and resentment. Being Saddam loyalists this would, and has happened in any case, but the triumphant Shiite and Kurd minorities would have undoubtedly supported U.S forces, and therefore any attempts made by them to install an interim government. I believe this support from two of the three rival groups in Iraq, would have meant the Sunni majority would have had to take part in the new democratic proceedings, (as we all know they have currently refused to do so) for fear of being left out of future decisions in the rebuilding of their new country. In conclusion, if America had done as suggested and helped the Shiite’s and Kurd’s to overthrow Saddam, Iraq would probably have been a stable democratic country by now, certainly closer than it currently is or has been for decades
My follow-up article: America's Frankenstein 2: Iran's revenge and other articles on related subjects, can be purchased at bargain basement prices on my homepage.