The Smart Way out of the Middle East
This commentary was originally published in The Hill on February 22, 2021.
The United States has been rebalancing away from the Middle East for almost a decade now. Weary of committing blood and treasure to a region whose problems persist and whose centrality to the global economy seems destined to fall, U.S. strategy has clearly shifted its focus to the Pacific.
And yet, the United States cannot quite quit the Middle East. The United States maintains its presence there neither out of nostalgia for historic allies and partners nor out of inertia, but because the region remains integral to the global economy. Violence in the region—whether carried out by states or non-state actors—could still shake the world to its core. For that reason, the United States still keeps tens of thousands of troops and an array of bases in the Middle East. Thousands of U.S. diplomats, aid workers, intelligence officials, and finance experts, among others, are spread out across the region.