Bradley Bowman, Andrew Gabel
Security, Middle East
A large-scale U.S. pivot out of the Middle East would not be prudent, but Washington can and must find a way to address persistent threats there economically. Where it serves the interests of both countries, greater integration of U.S. and Israeli military doctrine and weapons development represents a great place to start.
The U.S. military is very busy these days. The Department of Defense wants to focus its finite resources on great power competition with China and Russia, but persistent threats from Iran and Islamist terrorists demand continued attention. How can the Pentagon address this dilemma? Strengthening Washington’s security partnership with Israel in areas of military doctrine and weapons development may provide part of the answer.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) made an admirable effort to establish clear priorities. “Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Department,” it concluded. Furthermore, the NDS stated unequivocally, “Inter-state competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” Yet, as much as some might like to focus exclusively on great power competition, the NDS itself also acknowledged persistent threats from Iran and terrorist organizations. “In the Middle East, Iran is competing with its neighbors, asserting an arc of influence and instability while vying for regional hegemony, using state-sponsored terrorist activities, a growing network of proxies, and its missile program to achieve its objectives,” the NDS assessed. Tehran’s activities over the last few months underscore these concerns.
The NDS notes, “… threats to stability remain as terrorist groups with long reach continue to murder the innocent and threaten peace more broadly.” Islamist terrorists are far from defeated. Without constant pressure, seemingly tactical terror threats can quickly become strategically devastating for the United States. Another 9/11-style terror attack emanating from the wider Middle East—perhaps this time with a weapon of mass destruction—could kill tens of thousands of Americans and require the diversion of military resources needed for great power competition.
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