The Middle East is a mess. And, Hadar argues, the U.S. ought to be in a hurry to get out of it.
Early on in this provocative essay, Hadar (Cato Institute) ventures that what is wanted in places like Palestine and Iraq is an “Ensemble of Great Powers” effectively led by Europe, which “should gradually take the place of the United States as the ‘balancer of last resort’ in the Middle East.” This realignment would serve American interests, he adds, by making possible a “constructive disengagement” from a region that yields mostly tears. But arrayed against what he holds to be an eminently sensible solution to our Middle East problems, if no one else’s, are the usual suspects on both left and right. Not least of the latter are the “inside-the-beltway crowd in Washington,” those who miss the Cold War and are afflicted by an “Enemy-Deprivation Syndrome” that causes them to seek foes to vanquish far from America’s shores. Hadar’s argument is somewhat more qualified than the usual isolationist tract, and it twits just about everyone in the current administration: Richard Perle’s argument that the U.S. has played a benign and enlightened role in the Middle East overlooks CIA high-jinks in Iran and Iraq and the State Department’s alliances with “the authoritarian and corrupt Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf and Egypt,” while neoconservative nation-building cheerleaders ignore the fact that “a democratic empire is unlikely to be sustained in the long run”; almost every civilian in the enterprise seems to ignore the fact that not everyone in the world thinks like an American. Hadar’s argument is sometimes counterintuitive and begs elaboration, as when he argues that the cost of maintaining a U.S. military presence in the Middle East is the real cause of rising oil prices. (Statistics, please.) Still, he scores points when he wonders how many soldiers will have to die in order to maintain the petroleum status quo.
An analysis for policy wonks to wrestle with, with one big unanswered question: Would Europe want the job?