A New U.S. Paradigm for the Middle East: Ending America’s Misguided Policy of Domination; The Quincy Institute’s Middle East
A New U.S. Paradigm for the Middle East: Ending America’s Misguided Policy of Domination
By Paul Pillar, Andrew Bacevich, Annelle Sheline, and Trita Parsi
The Quincy Institute’s Middle East
Report No. 2
I. Executive Summary
Conventional wisdom holds that the presence of United States forces in the Middle East makes America and the region more secure. To the contrary, the U.S. military’s large footprint in the region, combined with voluminous U.S. arms sales and support for repressive regimes, drives instability and exacerbates grievances and conditions that threaten the United States. This presence has made Americans less safe and undermined U.S. standing abroad; it also leaves America less prepared to address more dangerous nonmilitary challenges such as pandemics and climate change, as the Covid–19 crisis makes clear.
Given the manifest failure of the current strategy, growing calls for a demilitarized approach to the region should come as no surprise. However, translating concepts of military restraint into practical policy requires sustained effort. This paper is intended to move the debate forward by operationalizing a holistic approach to the region based on a narrow definition of vital U.S. interests, in accordance with a foreign policy centered on military restraint and responsible statecraft.
U.S. policy toward the Middle East should be guided by two core interests: Protect the United States from attack; and facilitate the free flow of global commerce.
While these objectives require the U.S. to prevent hostile states from establishing hegemony in the region, they are best served by enhancing peace and security within a framework of international law. Neither warrants a major U.S. military presence in the Middle East, let alone regional military dominance.
A basic reorientation of U.S. policy is long overdue. Rather than allowing bilateral friends and adversaries define regional policy, the U.S. should center policy decisions across the region on their direct implications for U.S. interests, rigorously defined. Bilateral relations should be adjusted to this regionwide policy, not the other way around. A new approach based on responsible statecraft would not disengage from the Middle East, but would instead prioritize diplomatic and economic involvement over military domination, military interventions, and arms sales. This paper explains what such a shift would entail in practice and makes the following recommendations: […]
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