The main concerns of this blog are the fiscal and economic problems faced by the U.S. How do we address the very serious issues of a slow economy and rapidly growing national debt. But like it or not, what we do affects the whole world. If we fail to meet our responsibilities for world leadership, then everyone, including us, will suffer the many serious consequences.
The Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack has an excellent article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, “Fight or Flight: America’s Choice in the Middle East,” clearly making the case for strong American leadership. According to Mr. Pollack, “The costs of stepping up are more manageable than the risks of stepping back, but either option would be better than continuing to muddle through.” He explains that
- The problem began after WWII when the Arab states either became secular republics (dictatorships) or monarchies.
- By the 1990’s popular discontent had risen throughout the Middle East and exploded in the Arab Spring of 2011.
- Now there are full blown civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen with nascent conflicts in Egypt, South Sudan and Turkey.
- Stabilizing the Middle East will require shutting down the current civil wars with at least small numbers of combat forces in Iraq and possibly Syria. Economic assistance and infra-structure development should be given only in return for political reform.
- The advantage of a reduced U.S. presence in the Middle East is that it would reduce the threat from terrorism.
- The great challenge to the U.S. in stepping back is the risk of the near-term collapse of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey.
- The worst outcome of all is for the U.S. to continue muddling through, committing enough resources to enlarge its burden without increasing the likelihood of making things better.
The current European refugee crisis is perhaps the most glaring example of what happens when the U.S. fails to provide the leadership of which only it is capable. Let’s hope that our next president has the ability to turn around the chaotic situation which currently exists in the Middle East.