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Monday 25 Mar 2019 | 16:54 | SYDNEY
Monday 25 Mar 2019 | 16:54 | SYDNEY

The Middle East doesn't matter



14 October 2014 09:34

Could someone please explain to me where Justin Logan's argument is wrong?

The American foreign policy elite is obsessed with the Middle East. Despite President Obama’s rhetoric about a “pivot to Asia,” the United States remains bogged down in the region, now at war in Syria in addition to Iraq. What’s most perverse about all this is that the Middle East doesn’t matter. Washington would do better to leave the region alone...

...three fears have turned this small, poor, weak region into the central focus of U.S. foreign policy: oil, Israel and terrorism. Each of these concerns merits attention, but nowhere near the amount they have received over the last several decades. And certainly, none of them calls for the sort of forward-deployed interventionism both Republicans and Democrats favor.

Logan addresses each of these three fears. He says concerns about the oil supply understate the effect of market forces; moreover, an offshore US presence will deter the worst-case scenario of Iran taking over Saudi supplies. As for Israel, it is militarily secure and doesn't need the US military presence in the region; if anything, America's activism has made Israel less secure. And terrorism?:

The amount we’re paying now to fight terrorism—roughly $100 billion per year—is simply crazy. If someone ran a hedge fund assessing risk the way the U.S. government has responded to terrorism, it would not be long for the world. Indeed, it is difficult to identify how U.S. policy across the region—with the possible exception of some drone strikes and special operations raids—have reduced the extremely low probability of another major terrorist attack. If anything, our policies may have increased them.

A question for Australian policy thinkers: what is our chief obligation to our ally in this regard? Is it to offer support to US military operations in the Middle East as a show of solidarity and form of 'down payment' on help we might need in the future, or is it to persuade the US that it is making a mistake by focusing so much energy on the Middle East at the expense of Asia? If you had to choose between these two as a policy objective, which do you think would be more likely to advance Australia's interests?

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