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Superpowers redundant

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Please note that while Israel won a brilliant and decisive (also ruthless) military victory in the Middle East, and the British did the same in the South Atlantic the United States and the Soviet Union stood somewhat foolishly on the sidelines, making occasional noises but doing nothing weighty enough to influence the outcome.

The same thing can be said of the Iraq-Iran war where the battle was fought without any significant weight from either Moscow or Washington being applied.

True, the Soviets reportedly supplied some intelligence to the Argentinians. They supplied much of the original weaponry which the Iraqis used in their opening attack on Iran. They supplied most of the weapons the Syrians used, again unsuccessfully, against Israel.

Most of Israel's major weapons came from the US (supposedly for use in defensive operations only). The Argentinians had some cast-off American weapons. The Iranians were largely equipped with US weapons but had had some recent resupply from the Soviets.

But none of this weaponry was supplied either by the US or by the USSR for the deliberate purpose of influencing the outcome of this particular set of wars.

Soviet sympathies, so far as they were expressed, were with the PLO and the Syrians against Israel. Moscow was also sympathetic to Argentina against the British. But Moscow was as neutral in its public stand and in its actual behavior as the US in regard to the Iran-Iraq war.

The US in fact helped Israel against the PLO and Syrians by failing to use the leverage which in theory it has over Israel. But it is embarrassed in its dealing with Arab countries for this very reason. It claims to be neutral and to have tried to arrange the earliest possible cease-fire. It gets no real credit with either side for being ineffective.

The US sided overtly with Britain in the Falklands war but halfway through the war. It then marred that in British eyes by the absurd semi-retreat on the veto affair at the United Nations. The help to Britain was insufficiently enthusiastic to win thanks in London but enough to cause a problem of painful postwar readjustment of relations with Buenos Aires. The bystander and the half-hearted supporter win few friends.

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