The decade and a half the United States has spent fighting the "long war" in the Middle East has yielded many tactical successes but left a lasting victory elusive. The inconclusive nature of these struggles has sapped support for the U.S. policy of shouldering the burden of providing security and stability in the region. Although many believe U.S. involvement in the region has resulted in more violence, disorder, and radicalization of local Arab populations, the current situation in the Middle East illustrates that inaction has been highly destabilizing.
In this new CSBA report, Eric Edelman and Whitney McNamara expand upon the histories, cultures, and foreign policies that have brought the United States to its current juncture in the Middle East. This is the last of four reports that provide detailed regional recommendations based upon the defense strategy outlined in Andrew F. Krepinevich's Preserving the Balance: A U.S. Eurasia Defense Strategy.
Despite the growing importance of different regional theaters in which the United States must operate, it seems almost certain that the dual challenges of Iran's regional rise and the persistent threat of violent jihadists will continue to demand the time, attention, and resources of national security decision-makers. The Middle East presents an enormous set of difficulties for policymakers against a backdrop of long-lived conflict and turmoil that is likely to persist for a generation - or perhaps longer. The United States has historically been successful in accomplishing its strategic objectives in the region, and it can be again if it develops a clear strategy that aligns ways, means, and ends and builds up capable partners in the region to contain Iran's ambitions and defeat violent jihadists. Without such a strategy, both challenges will otherwise threaten the governments of America and its partners.