Robert Pape on Obama & The Middle East

Story Stream
recent articles

Writing in The American Conservative, the University of Chicago's Robert Pape comes out for Obama:

From my work on suicide terrorism, it is clear that America’s military presence in Muslim countries—especially heavy combat forces—is a powerful factor in the rise of anti-American suicide terrorism around the world. The Persian Gulf, however, is too important for the U.S. to cut and run. We need a new strategic approach to the region, one that moves American combat forces “off-shore,” relying primarily on air and naval forces stationed on ships or bases on the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula. Obama’s policy is heading precisely in the right direction and is crucial to our future security.

I want Pape to be right, but part of me thinks this is wishful thinking.

One of the central issues in this election is the question of whether it would be wise to use military force to impede Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon. Both camps have done the perfunctory throat clearing, of course, but it's pretty clear that McCain is more amenable to using force against Iran than Obama is.

That means that on Obama's watch, Iran may well go nuclear. As I observed a bit earlier in RCP, Obama hasn't really repudiated the broad contours of America's Cold War-derived Middle East policy. So, unless he is ready to do a major and totally unexpected about face in U.S. policy, the Obama administration is going to have to strengthen its military commitment in the Middle East under the aegis of containing a nuclear Iran.

Perhaps this containment can be done exclusively "off-shore." But I suspect it won't be, particularly with regards to Israel. Nor do I think that such a distinction is as relevant in an age of mass communications.

So it's very likely that both administrations may end up reinforcing the same dynamic that, as Pape has documented, drives radical terrorism against the U.S.

Show commentsHide Comments

Related Articles