Thirty years ago today, May 17, 1987, the USS STARK (FFG-31) was attacked by Iraq with Exocet missiles, resulting in the death of 37 Sailors. It was a credit to the training and resolve of the officers and crew that the ship was saved and no further life was lost. i do not regret an American presence in that region of the world. The politics, economics and diplomacy of a world power dictates that we sometimes have to deal with bad actors, complex religious and cultural forces. While we have made missteps and overly-optimistic assessment of our objectives, I do regret American blood that has been spilled in that region while politicians pushed agendas and abandoned hard-won ground. Yet no adversary has ever been dissuaded by diplomacy not backed up by a willing use of force.
Two hundred years ago, the Barbary pirates harassed commerce through piracy and extortion, and the new American Navy ( and Marines) responded to protect our interests. A hundred years ago, oil was discovered in vast reserves in that part of the world, fueling a development in technology, sciences and living standards – and setting the stage for a widening gulf between the “First World”, the oil wealth-rich Sheikhs who secured wealth and benefits, and their impoverished subjects — in those same places. After a world war, that was won as much by American blood and industrial resources as by the combined might of friends and future adversaries, a nation was founded – a democracy- embroiled in a fight for survival ever since. And that nation as well is not without its own responsibility for shedding American blood ( USS Liberty). We Americans have shed blood supporting friends and combating tyranny and terrorism originating in the Middle East for decades.
Thank you to the men and women who have served and continue to serve in our military. Don’t give up the ship!