A New U.S. Paradigm for the Middle East: Ending America’s Misguided Policy of Domination

Summary of Study

Bottom line: The dominant foreign policy paradigm that American troops in the Middle East make the U.S. more secure is misguided. U.S. meddling in this region and the propping up of repressive regimes drives instability and turmoil, making the U.S. less safe. U.S. Middle East policy should follow two objectives: protecting the U.S. from attack and ensuring the free flow of global trade.

Despite the failures of U.S. Middle East policy and increasing calls for demilitarization in the region, reducing troop levels has been difficult in practice. Responsible statecraft and the protection of vital U.S. interests indicate that reducing troop levels is key. A Middle East policy of peace and international law is the best way to advance U.S. interests.

Preserving access to oil, which has traditionally been a key reason for the U.S. presence in the Middle East, has become moot. U.S. oil production has grown to the point where it imports just a small amount of oil from the region.

To achieve this Middle East vision, the U.S. need not disengage with the region but rather prioritize diplomatic and economic concerns over military adventurism. This Middle East policy paradigm shift should follow these goals:

  • Time to come home: Immediately draw down forces in the region because a large military presence isn't needed to prevent a hostile regional hegemon.
  • A deliberative drawdown regardless of stability milestones: Inform regional interests about plans to withdraw from the region, unconditional of any regional stability metric, which nefarious actors could exploit to disrupt the region and keep the U.S. there in perpetuity.
  • Support a new security architecture: Encourage a regional security structure similar to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and remove itself as the main security power in the region.
  • Talk to everyone: Engage in diplomatic relations with allies and adversaries in the region, including normalizing relations with Iran, to maximize diplomatic maneuverability.
  • Do not make Iraq into a battlefield with Iran: Iraq should not be used as a proxy to fight Iran, and the U.S. should honor Iraqi requests to draw down its military presence.
  • Participate in diplomatic efforts to end the wars in Syria and Yemen: Lead diplomatic efforts to end the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, while ending arms sales to combatants.
  • No more cartes blanches for partners: End unconditional support for allies in the region which disincentivize compromise and diplomatic solutions in favor of aggression and destabilization.
  • Lead by example on human rights: Recognize that military intervention is not the way to promote human rights; instead, lead by example about the importance of the rule of law both at home and abroad.

Read the full study HERE

Feature Charticle

Quincy Institute

Findings:

  • Preserving access to oil, which has traditionally been a key reason for the U.S. presence in the Middle East, has become moot. 
  • U.S. oil production has grown to the point where it imports just a small amount of oil from the region.
  • U.S. Middle East policy should follow two objectives: protecting the U.S. from attack and ensuring the free flow of global trade.

Read the full study HERE