Sunday, February 28, 2021

US Foreign Policy

One of my sons asked me yesterday, "Who was the last US president who didn't bomb the Middle East?"

Bonus question: who was the last US president who didn't bomb (or shell) anywhere?


karlG said...

If I'm interpreting Wikipedia correctly, Carter didn't bomb anywhere during his few military operations.

David said...

On your second question, I think, if one doesn't privilege the methods used--At what point in time do we want to say use of artillery becomes "shelling"? Should one exclude military operations in which there was little to no use of artillery?--and if one doesn't exclude wars against Native Americans and domestic rebels (such as the Whiskey Rebellion), I think it would be a challenge to find any US president who didn't use any military power whatsoever.

On your first question, if, again, one isn't too focused on the weapons used, I think the last not to use any military force in the Middle East would probably be Ford. Nixon threatened Egypt and Israel--including, more or less, with nuclear weapons--if they didn't stop fighting the Yom Kippur War. In general, before the 1970s, I think there was relatively little (Lebanon, 1958; Iran, 1953) direct US interference in the Middle East, certainly compared to post-1980. The reasons for the shift are complex, but one of the most important is that, sometime in the late 1960s, the British decided they could no longer serve as the West's policeman in the Middle East. I think they even more or less formally informed the Americans of this fact.

David said...


I think that's technically right, Carter didn't bomb anywhere. But he did try to rescue the US embassy hostages with a military operation, which ended in the Desert One disaster.