The Irrelevance of the Middle East
Magazine or Newspaper Article, The American Interest, volume 2, issue 5, pages 19-27
May / June 2007
Author: Philip Auerswald, Associate, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Science, Technology, and Public Policy
The Middle East, as virtually everyone knows, is the repository of half of the world’s proven oil reserves, the locus of vital shipping lanes and the heartland of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. Events there directly affect the U.S. economy and its national security, which is why we almost universally view this region as one of paramount importance. That the U.S. military presence has declined since the end of the Cold War in every part of the world except this one is a natural reflection of the region’s strategic centrality. This line of argument is so familiar that it is almost impossible to conceive of its being mistaken. Yet it is.
As the 21st century unfolds, the Middle East (leaving Israel aside for the moment) will matter less and less to the United States and to most of the rest of the world. Only when we recognize this fact will we be able to forge a coherent and effective foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere. As a consequence, we have much more to fear from a U.S. posture that strives to accomplish too much in the region than we do from one that strives to accomplish too little.
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