06 August 2020

Democracy – an expensive business for the US in the Middle East

Sergiu Medar

The Trump Administration has fundamentally changed the US’s foreign policy, being now more pragmatic and its assessment becoming a report of achievements and costs. The financial limitations, which followed the SARS CoV-2 virus pandemic were extended to all fields, following, in fact, the trend which came before the crises provoked by the pandemic. The costs’ analysis related to the armed dislocations in the US’s national interest areas showed that the effectiveness of the costs in this field is quite small, many of these resources being available in fields which, without affecting the citizen’s security, could contribute to its well being.

Image source: Profimedia

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks from New York and Washington, the US started the “War against terrorism”, as called by George W. Bush. All the programmatic documents were mentioning terrorism as a first threat over states’ national security and over the global security. The US’s reaction, whose territory was, for the first in ever, facing the attack of a foreign power, was prompt, strong and asymmetrical in terms of the ability to fight of the involved forces. From a recent analysis of Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think-tank founded in 2019, it comes out that the US Administration, in terms of the fight against terrorism, was bankrupt if we analyze the achievements and loses of the strongest state in the world.  It comes out that the results of an analysis made almost 20 years after the terrorist attacks are way more different than an analysis made today, immediately after the event. The emotions of the person who analyses a phenomenon with casualties immediately after it took place are most likely marked by the feelings of that moment. Hereof the meaning and magnitude of the taken decisions.  

The US troops’ redeployment on the entire world, with meanings related to US’s real, current interests comes from the new security strategy according to which terrorism is no longer seen as the main threat over the American people, its place being taken by the big powers competition. This objective is subordinated to the strategic withdrawal from the Middle East and the US’s redeployment in Europe.

The reason of the massive troops’ dislocation of the US in the Middle East aimed at ending terrorism where it happens, protecting the American people more. At the same time, it had also economic reasons related to the energy resources, especially related to Iraq’s oil. Its interest for these resources has decreased, during time, as the US became from a net hydrocarbon consumer to a schist gases exporter. Given these conditions, the US analysts proposed the withdrawal of US from Iraq. This decision was the first signal of the entire withdrawal from the Middle East.

Considering now that those actions were a failure would not only be immoral, but unfair. The decision the Bush Administration took, which were continued by Obama were proper for those times. But if we are trying to translate these decisions today, they would certainly be different.

The Trump Administration and its isolationist approach analyzed the effectiveness of these actions for the present. In the past 20 years, all the military efforts, starting with the fight training and up to the massive weapons’ sales to areas which then became hostile have been directed to this region, increasing the aggressiveness of the rival states. The US’s army equipment turned into one that involves that fights will mostly be taking place in the desert.

Following its own interest in the region, the US took part to most of the conflicts in the area, defending those who were contributing to the businesses which could give a hand to Americans’ well being. On the war against terrorism there are les talks, which can be seen as a success of the military campaign in the Middle East.

If this is how the problem is presented, then one must analyze the cost of success and the advantage the American people had. In this war, the US spent almost 6,4 billion dollars. At the same time, it is noteworthy that in the Middle East’s military conflicts, many civilians and tens of soldiers in the region as well as American soldiers lost their lives. The best argument for an analysis about the long and medium term effects is the bloody episode, Iraq, which managed to reduce the violent actions, but left behind a state marked by huge instability and a strong fight between the political and sectarian factions. Instead of bringing peace in the region and benefit the US, the instability in the area and the hostility’s increase against the US is rather disadvantaging these interests both in the political and security fields and also the commercial and economic ones.

The NATO military intervention in Libya, where the US supported the participation of the European states, led to the overthrown of Muammar al-Gaddafi, but left behind the chaos. This action as well developed for the fight against terrorism was disfavoring the US’s political and economic interests in Libya, but also in other North Africa and the Gulf states. The support the US gave to the Saudi government in the Yemen intervention led to the US Administration’s involvement in one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of the contemporary world. Killing the Iranian military leader Quassem Soleimani on Iraq’s territory increased the tension in the relation with Iran, being also seen as going against US’s main interests.

The use of violence in this case increased the risk for other violent acts to emerge from Iran, reducing the effectiveness of the diplomatic efforts to normalize the relations between the two states.

The US military assistance in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the one given to armed groups from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, instead of protecting these states, have increased the violent actions and stimulated conflicts like the one between Israel and Palestine.

Through this approach of the Middle East region, the US’s involvement in reestablishing the stability of all states in the area proved to be counterproductive. Instead of reaching the main purpose, to provide the security of the American citizen, they did the opposite: they have increase the threats the US faces.

The new US foreign policy approach, which is more pragmatic, does not only follow the domination in the area, or abandoning the Middle East, but prioritizes the diplomatic and economic methods in the detriment of the military assistances, arms sales and the military intervention. The US will use any methods which will not fit in the violent approach of conflicts in the region.

Providing the stability in the region generates effects like respecting the human rights, as a basis for US behavior in the territories it operates in. This goal, however, collides with the authoritarian governments of the Middle East states. When they contradict principles related to the culture, in a broad sense, of the population, the use of force is unnecessary and contraindicated. Human rights abuses in dictatorial states or in areas where fighting is taking place between participants in civil wars or as a result of foreign intervention, cause flows of emigrants to democratic states. In these areas, too, measures resulting from diplomatic negotiations can be more effective and, of course, cheaper.

According to public sources, the US could try to achieve its interests that would require military intervention, through the use of private military and security companies, whose missions do not have the formal endorsement of the Government.

US’s interests in the region will be subordinated to the direct interests of the White House in preserving and developing ways to provide the security and well-being of American citizens, as well as the security of US close partners.

The new US approach in the Middle East must be holistic. The United States must identify its policy and define its regional interests. Hereof the bilateral relations with each state in the area.

The goals that the US will follow in the Middle East, under the Trump Administration, will be:

• reducing the US military presence. This means giving up the position of hegemony in the region and recognizing multipolarity as a system of regional security. However, the US's abandonment of hegemony in the region does not mean giving up this position to another state. This goal will be closely monitored by the White House.

• Negotiations will begin with the host states of the American troops, in order to reduce their presence. This decision will not be agreed by some states but, being something the US wants, it will be enforced.

• US diplomats must convince local authorities that the troops withdrawal will not increase instability in the region.

• The US will support the establishment of a new security architecture in the area, organized following the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe or the Association of South Asian Nations model. In order to provide the military support needed to ensure security in the area, the US will permanently keep a group of forces on board in the region, ready to act as soon as necessary.

• this security architecture will not be coordinated or controlled by the USA, but by states belonging to the Middle East.

• The US will abandon the policy related to changing the regimes of states in the area due to corruption, immorality or other causes.

• normalizing relations with Iran is an important goal for the United States. It has been found that its isolation policy is not productive and the US will invite Iran to negotiations.

• The US will declare a moratorium on arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Purchases of military equipment will become transparent.

The conclusion of the analysis is that the US domination policy, which often led to success for the White House Administration, is no longer adequate and is going against the Trump’s Administration decision according to which the US does not have to be the global gendarme or the defender, by any means, of all the democracy in the world.

Translated by Andreea Soare