The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Contributed by Chris Rokosky, Girard High School, Girard, PA


The Republican era of Ronald Reagan and George Bush had to deal with difficult foreign affair events. Reagan dealt with terrorism, including hostage taking and gundowns, particularly from Libya. Bush dealt with aggression on the part of Iraq in its attempt to take over Kuwait. Through map, watching news video, listening to songs of popular artists, and reading the lyrics of songs, all of which were inspired by military retaliatory action taken by the U.S. against the aggressors, the students will gain an understanding of what happened and what various opinions were being expressed at that time in history.


The student will be able to: 

  1. identify various Middle Eastern nations on a map of the world and compare their locations to that of the United States.
  2. watch news video of this time to gather and establish background information on the events that occurred.
  3. listen to hard rock music and determine whether the song played is in favor of American action against Libya or not, and cite evidence to support their interpretations.
  4. listen to pop music and analyze the lyrics as to what the singer is trying to say about the situation.
  5. write a few paragraphs that give the students’ opinion on how U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, such as in the Middle East, influences the way the rest of the world views the U.S.


high school American History students.

Time Frame

This lesson should take two 40-50 minute class periods.


Each student should have a map of the Middle East. The videotapeOperation Desert Storm Persian Gulf War (from The 20th Century A&E series); the CD/tape, player, and lyrics of “Gods of War” by Def Leppard and “Desert Angel” by Stevie Nicks.


This lesson would be part of a unit dealing with American foreign affairs during the Reagan and Bush presidencies. Before starting this lesson, students should have been briefed on this topic via a teacher lecture, through a conversation with an older relative, or by reading the section of their textbook devoted to this topic. This lesson focuses on the following two episodes:

A main opponent of President Ronald Reagan during his two terms in office was Libya’s prime minister, Moammar Khadafi. Khadafi was a major supporter of terrorism for Middle Eastern causes and an outspoken enemy of the U.S. due to its support of Israel. From 1981-1985, Libya was involved with plane hijackings and the famous Achillle Lauro shipjacking. Reagan tried to punish Libya by restricting trade with it. From December 1985 to April 1986, Libyan terrorists opened fire with machine guns in western European airports and bombed two discotheques where American servicemen were gathered. On April 15, 1986, Reagan ordered a night-time air raid on Libyan military and intelligence targets in and around the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Bengasi. Fifty Libyans were killed (the U.S. said only fifteen Libyans had been killed). Khadafi was nearly hit in the assault but a baby daughter of his was killed due to the attack. Khadafi’s living quarters and command center were damaged. As a result of America’s action, Khadafi was reported to have suffered a nervous breakdown. Two American pilots were shot down and killed in the attack. Three more Westerners would be taken hostage in Lebanon because of this attack on Libya. Ironically, most European countries, especially Britain, disapproved of the attack.

The first major post-Cold War crisis for the U.S. was the defiant invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990 by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army. To deter Saddam Hussein from pushing his occupation over into Saudi Arabia, President George Bush rapidly forged a multi-national political and military alliance that included other Arab nations. Several hundred thousand U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia to convince Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. U.S. ships were also ordered to enforce a U.N. embargo of Iraq. In September 1990, the land and sea embargo was extended into the air. This was called Operation Desert Shield. By the time fighting began, there were 539,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf. Iraq had about 545,000 troops in and around Kuwait. On January 16, 1991, the international force led by the U.S. launched air and missile attacks on Iraq and Iraq-occupied Kuwait. This was the beginning of what was called Operation Desert Storm. The number of Iraqi military fatalities was unofficially put at 150,000. By February 27, 1991, Bush was able to announce that he had ordered a cease-fire. Iraq had been beaten and Kuwait had been liberated with only 383 American deaths. It had been the most massive air bombardment and land offensive since World War II.



  1. Students will use their map to identify the following 8 locations given by the teacher. The students will then compare the given locations to the U.S. and Europe: The Mediterranean Sea; Libya; Tripoli; Bengasi; Saudi Arabia ; Iraq; Kuwait; The Persian Gulf.
  2. Students will listen to the song “Gods of War.” This song was on a very popular CD from 1987/1988. The students will then read the lyrics to gain a better understanding of the meaning of the song. For homework, students will write a couple of paragraphs as to what they believe the band’s reaction to the U.S. military action against Libya was--whether it was positive or negative and why. Also, who were the “Gods of War?”
  3. Students will view the video. Points to emphasize should be as follows:
    • Why did Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait?
    • Why did President Bush feel compelled to get the U.S. involved?
    • How did American buildup in the Persian Gulf region take place?
    • Did Operation Desert Storm begin right after the deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait expire?
    • Were America’s military capabilities and success the same as Iraq’s?
    • What was the end result of Operation Desert Storm?

  4. Students will listen to the song “Desert Angel.” This song was very timely during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The students will then read the lyrics to gain a better understanding of the meaning of the song. For homework, students will write a couple of paragraphs as to what they believe the singer is trying to say about the tense situation between the U.S. and Iraq and those individuals involved in the situation. Also, what was “Operation Desert Angel?”
  5. The following day, students will read their interpretations of the song lyrics in small group settings where they can also critique and compare each other’s interpretations. Each group will then report back to the class and summarize their conclusions.


After the small group activity, the students will write a few paragraphs that give the student’s opinion on how U.S. involvement in foreign affairs, such as in the Middle East, influences the way the rest of the world views the U.S. The grade will be based on the examples given and how they are able to support their arguments throughout the essay.

Selected Recordings

“Gods of War” recorded by Def Leppard (Hysteria, PolyGram Records, 1987); written by Collen, Lange, Clark, Elliott; Lange, Savage; Zomba Enterprises Inc.

“Desert Angel” recorded by Stevie Nicks (Timespace, Modern Records/Atlantic, 1991); written by Stevie Nicks and Michael Campbell; Welsh Witch Music.

Enrichment/Additional Resources

“Operation Desert Storm/Persian Gulf War” Episode (1995 or 1996) The 20th Century with Mike Wallace (A & E Home Video, 1-800-423-1212)

Have students research their own music collections to see if they have any music related to foreign affairs, especially anything related to Clinton’s presidency.