There are many ways in which one can predict the next war, but none are so reliable as the United States Department of State’s official designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Of the eight countries that have made the list since its inception, four of them have seen U.S. military intervention; either directly or indirectly.
This statistic is troubling due to the fact that President Trump recently announced that he was putting North Korea back on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list following a nine-year hiatus. Numerous human rights abuses, their nuclear program, as well as the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half brother in Malaysia were cited as justifications.
Since the creation of the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, four of the eight countries on it have faced U.S. military intervention
The original State Sponsors of Terrorism list was released by the U.S. State Department on December 22, 1979 and had four countries on it: Iraq, Libya, South Yemen, and Syria. None of those countries has escaped unscathed from U.S. military intervention over the past 30-plus years.
Despite a decade of support during the Iran-Iraq War, the United States invaded Iraq in response to the country’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. President Clinton later launched airstrikes against Saddam Hussein’s secret security forces. The U.S. invaded Iraq again in 2003 and overthrew Hussein once and for all. Only after the initial insurgency was defeated in 2004 was Iraq taken off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
President Ronald Reagan launched missile attacks on Libya in response to the 1986 West Berlin discotheque bombing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the charge for U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which saw hundreds of cruise missile launches and dozens of bombing raids carried out. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime fell shortly after the U.S. became involved, but Libya remains on the list.
The U.S. supported North Yemen throughout the 1980’s supplying military equipment and tens of millions in U.S. aid. Yemen was reunified in the 1990’s, and South Yemen taken off the list, but that wasn’t the end of U.S. intervention in the region. The U.S. began supplying military equipment and aid to Saudi Arabia’s military campaign, and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, during the ongoing Yemeni Civil War.
Although the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, direct U.S. involvement didn’t follow until 2014. Drone strikes began that year, and U.S. ground forces were sent in the following year despite President Obama stating several times that there wouldn’t be “boots on the ground.” Syria is the only country that has remained on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list since its creation.
The four countries that haven’t been invaded by the United States have been lucky
Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan haven’t faced the same sort of U.S. military intervention, but that isn’t due to a lack of effort on the part of determined interventionists.
Politicians from both parties have been beating the war drums to invade Iran, in response to their nuclear program, for decades. President Trump has been openly taunting and threatening North Korea since before he took office.
Even Sudan saw a form of U.S. intervention in the U.N. peacekeeping force sent to Darfur, and the creation of the country of South Sudan.
Only Cuba has seen a reduction in hostilities since it was placed on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. The communist dictatorship was removed from the list by President Obama in 2015 as a first step towards normalizing relations.
There are few things more unlikely than President Trump taking that same approach to North Korea. Unfortunately, it’s more likely that he will treat North Korea more like Iraq. That is something that should concern all Americans.
(Photo of U.S marines and Iraqis are seen on April 9, 2003 as the statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is toppled at al-Fardous square in Baghdad, Iraq by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images)