Why the Middle East is less and less important for the United States.
(2) Nobody wants America to play Mr.
thing is clear: We’ve likely seen the last of the big
transformative-interventionist schemes to change the Middle East from the
outside in the name of U.S. security, a freedom agenda, or anything else. I say
this knowing that there’s little historical memory here, that the military
gives a willful president all kinds of options, and that the world is an
unpredictable place. But watching the public, congressional, and even expert
reaction to the prospects of a limited U.S. strike against Syria, there's clearly
zero support for intervening militarily in somebody else's civil war.
alliance of the liberal interventionists and neocons who bemoan the Obama
administration’s lack of will, vision, and leadership and its abject
spinelessness in the face of 100,000 dead (a full half of whom are combatants
belonging to one side or the other) is simply no match for a frustrated public
promised a reasonable return on two wars who instead got more than 6,000
American dead, thousands more with devastating wounds, trillions of dollars
expended, a loss of American prestige and credibility, and outcomes more about
leaving than winning.
believe anyone in the United States is ready to invest additional resources in
tilting at windmills in the Middle East is utterly fantastical. Who can blame
them? Last week in Libya, the one successful example of U.S. intervention in
the Arab Spring, militias kidnapped the prime minister. Car bombs kill scores
weekly in Iraq. And, in Afghanistan, one can only despair about the gap between
the price we have paid there and what we can expect in terms of security and
good governance in the years ahead.
(5) Israel is stronger and more independent
matters have gotten worse for America in the Arab world, the U.S.-Israeli relationship
has only grown stronger. Israel’s own situation has also improved dramatically.
Indeed, three factors – Israel’s formidable capacity; steadfast support from
the United States; and stunning Arab incapacity – have created a situation
where Israel is stronger and more secure than it’s ever been.
nuclear pretentions remain an acute challenge, and an unresolved Palestinian
problem holds longer-term worries, too. But the notion that the Jewish state is
a hapless victim, the Middle East’s sitting duck, has been an illusion for some
time now. Indeed, that image infantilizes the Israelis and creates a sense that
they don’t have freedom of action vis-a-vis their friends and enemies – which
they do. (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself projects this image
sometimes: His use of Holocaust imagery when describing the Iranian nuclear
challenge seems to accord the mullahs great power. I’ve seen the picture of
Churchill that Netanyahu has in his office, and I know he admires him. But
Churchill would never, even in the darkest days of the blitz, have ever
suggested that Hitler had the power to destroy Britain.)
is a dynamic, resilient, and sovereign nation, and the United States needs to
realize that, even while the Israelis take our interests into account, their
own matter more – particularly when it comes to their security and weapons of
mass destruction. Where you stand in life is partly a result of where you sit,
and as the small power with little margin for error, Israel is going to make
its own decisions on the threats it faces and act unilaterally if necessary to
deal with them.
was never America’s client. On the contrary, we helped enable and empower its
independence of action. If Israel acts militarily against Iran because diplomacy
can’t address its concerns on the nuclear issue, it will be another indication
that, as much as we would like to shape what goes on in the Middle East, we
really can’t. We don’t live there, and we are clearly unable or unwilling to
dictate to those who do.