My comprehensive plan for US policy on the Middle East

Four years ago, I put forward a comprehensive plan for US policy on the Middle East (reproduced in full over the fold). Looking back from 2015, I think it’s clear that it would have yielded better outcomes all round than the actual policy of the Obama Administration, or any alternative put forward in the US policy debate. Not only that, but it needs no updating in the light of events, and will (almost certainly) be just as appropriate in ten years’ time as it is now.

Feel free to agree or disagree.

Comprehensive plan for US policy on the Middle East

38 thoughts on “My comprehensive plan for US policy on the Middle East

  1. Does anyone know if Israel offered any financial aid or safe passage to Syrian refugees? I am not aware of anything other than BAU across the Golan Heights barrier between the two countries but in the light of ‘breaking the stalemate’ suggest that it might have benefited
    both sides if some form of temporary relief occurred as with other neighbours, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The action would not have been lost on some, perhaps many West Bank Palestinians where we get the impression hatred runs deep. Even more so and with more justification in Gaza. There is always the memory of ‘ping pong diplomacy’ between the US and China to suggest this ‘what if’ gesture might have been worth a try.

  2. @Uncle Milton
    So Uncle Milton, in your opinion, if the United States hadn’t kept the leash on Israel by staying involved in the Middle East on those two or possibly more occasisions, the United States of America would have suffered more than 4,500 millitary deaths, more than 32,000 casualties, more than perhaps 1.600 majore amputations, and there would have been more than hundreds of thousands of civillian deaths of some nationality? And so the United States was better off to stay involved in the Middle-East rather than do nothing? If so how would that happen? Would Israel surprise attack the United States in retaliation for it not being there to retrain them? That seems unlikely to me, but what do I know? I’m not very bright.

  3. I am with JQ on this one, but perhaps it is even more pertinent for Australia not to get involved.

    US policy is driven by a) the need for the military-industrial complex in the US to sell and develop armaments b) the present political imperative to pander to the powerful pro Israeli policy and c) the strategic objective (albeit one that is weakening) of ensuring continuing access to ME oil.

    Surely the best policy approach for the US would be to leave them to it and try to get some consensus to ban military sales to the region. We have no strategic interest in the ME apart from grain and beef sales and I can’t see these being adversley affected so it would certainly be the best policy for Australia to butt out.

  4. @Ronald Brak

    My claim is much more modest. It is that the United States has some influence over Israel, which occasionally it exercises to stop the Israelis killing even more people than they do during their periodic forays into Lebanon and the West Bank.

    What the Americans get out of the relationship, other than arms sales, I have no idea. Occasionally one of them thinks this out loud, as once did the elder George Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker.

  5. Uncle Milty, are you arguing in favour of the proposition that the United States should stay engaged in the Middle-East? Or do you agree with John Quiggin? Or are you just somewhere inbetween and not too fussed either way?

  6. @derrida derider
    An interesting quote DD. Whence came it ?

    And does it explain exactly why “our foreign policy establishment” is feeding “pure bulls**t” to “our media”. Who exactly is “our media” ? And has theDept of Foreign Affairs become totally politicised ? Or are other “foreign policy” folks involved too, or instead ?

  7. @Ronald Brak

    Let’s put it this way. I find the prospect of ISIS, Putin and Iran carving up the Middle East to be very unappealing. Who could stop them? Only the United States. Will they make things worse if they try? Quite possibly. I would also like Israel and the Palestinians to find a peaceful settlement. What is the only country that could push the Israelis into doing so? The United States. Do the Americans want to? Maybe, maybe not. There’s no reason to be hopeful about anything in the ME.

  8. Here’s a link to an article on The Drum posted yesterday about Saeed Fassaie’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder:

    I don’t know how many US citizens are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the Iraqi invasion and occupation, but given the 32,000 injuries suffered and thousands of deaths, I suspect the number is quite large.

    It really was a massive human tragedy, even just looking at US losses and ignoring the much greater death toll among the people who were invaded. The cost was so high, the gain so negative.

  9. @Troy Prideaux

    I can see the reasons why Russia is involved. I can’t see what has changed that they now go in hard. The Russians are the masters of timing so I suspect the UN council meeting plays some role in explaining the decision. Look at their timing with the invasion of Georgia. One day before the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony the invade Abkhazia.

  10. So just to be clear on this, Uncle Milty, when you write, “I find the prospect of ISIS, Putin and Iran carving up the Middle East to be very unappealing”, you think the United States should stay engaged in the Middle-East to oppose ISIS which the US created, and to oppose Iran’s local hegemony which the US created by smashing the Iraqi state, and that Americans should waste lives and money in the Middle-East to prevent Putin’s Russia from wasting lives and money in the Middle-East? Because if so, I think the first two might only work if you have found the secret switch to flip that would magically change America’s Middle-East foreign policy from “incompetent” to “competent”. Otherwise they seem destined to continue in their long standing pattern of attempting to solve problems by creating new problems, as in the case of ISIS and Iran’s new regional superpower status. And the third point would really only make sense if the US valued Russian lives and treasure more highly than American lives and treasure, which I suppose is possible if they were really noble and self-sacrificing, but even so, it still might be a good idea to set a good example and abstain from Middle-East politics. Some relationships, no matter how close and supportive, still need a dose of tough love every now and then if they are set on a self-destructive course.

  11. The USA needs to take some geostrategy lessons from China. China does not waste men and treasure on distant expeditionary war. China relies on internal development and incremental expansion while retaining a strategic interior lines posture.

    Meanwhile, the US breaks the first rule of all war. Have a clear objective. What is the USA’s clear objective in the Middle East? There is no clear and militarily winnable objective.

    To expand it a bit further. To wage offensive war there must be a clear objective that is militarily winnable and which will confer some lasting net benefit to the winner. One might also add that if this objective is achievable in any other manner than war must be eschewed as the last, worst and most costly option.

    What is the clear objective of the USA’s Middle East wars? I wish someone could explain it to me. If the objective is oil it is misconceived. The Middle East’s oil could have been continuously accessed via trade at a much cheaper price (meaning almost zero military expenditure in the area). If the objective is to combat terrorism then it has obviously backfired and created much more terrorism. If the objective is to contain Russia (and Iran) it is misconceived because Afghanistan and the M.E. in general naturally contain these countries anyway via the various expressions of overall demography and geography in the region. The peoples, mountains and deserts of the region create a “quagmire” for any superpower foolish enough to stick its foot in there.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s