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  • Author: Geoffrey Kemp
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Nixon Center
  • Abstract: America’s Middle East policy must adapt to a changing region. The lack of an overarching theory of vital U.S. interests in the Middle East and of a strategy narrowly tailored to defending them has rendered U.S. policy reactive and largely incoherent. To the extent that it has coherence, it is driven by a strategy of primacy—by a complex of ideas in which active, armed American management of the region is essential for stability, in which states do not have a strong tendency to seek balance against threats, and in which increasing U.S. involvement will generally increase stability—and do so at costs acceptable to the United States. This strategy has undergirded costly choices like striking Libya, invading and occupying Iraq, putting American boots on the ground in Syria, and supporting unsavory partners against their internal opponents. This strategy faces building headwinds: public frustration, a growing national debt, and better-armed foes. Primacy comes at a growing opportunity cost: power tied up in the Middle East is unavailable to address a rising China or a more active Russia. And this strategy seems out of step with the region’s rapidly shifting strategic alignments. The time is ripe to go back to the basics, prioritizing the threats that require U.S. action in relation to the other international crises that affect vital U.S. interests, especially in East Asia and Europe
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Joe Barnes
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Nixon Center
  • Abstract: President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies have come under increasingly sharp criticism since the emergence of ISIL as a threat to Iraq during the summer of 2014. Some of this criticism has come from predictable quarters: neoconservatives and liberal interventionists who have long been critical of the Obama administration’s relatively “soft touch” approach to the region, notably its hesitance to get the United States more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war. But a sense of drift in U.S. policy toward the Middle East has spread to the general public, as well.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East