Debating Middle East Disengagement

by Dave Schuler on December 16, 2008

For the last couple of days I’ve been pretty absorbed in debating whether the United States should disengage from the Middle East with Bernard Finel over at Outside the Beltway. Dr. Finel is taking the affirmative; I am taking the negative.

The introductory post in our debate is here. Dr. Finel’s affirmative case is here. Here is the meat of his argument:

I have argued for a the United States to maintain a dramatically smaller “footprint” on the ground in the Middle East while actively seeking to reduce our “fingerprints” on policy developments in the region. The U.S. military is too active and too visible. American Embassies are too large. And in general, our role in region is too overwhelming. Poll after poll shows the same thing — The United States is blamed for many of the misfortunes of the region and is considered an aggressive, hostile, imperialist power. At this point, our active involvement is self-defeating.

He develops that argument with the claim that our interests in the Middle East are limited to counter-terrorism, oil, and Israel and that our presence in the Middle East is on net counter-productive in all three matters.

This afternoon my negative cross-examination will appear and when it does I’ll update this post accordingly.

Please join in. This is an interesting and important topic and the debate form is one that isn’t exploited enough in the blogosphere which has historically limited itself to diatribue and polemic, very limited forms with very different objectives than debating.

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The Glittering Eye » Blog Archive » Replacing the Fleet
January 21, 2009 at 6:13 am

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett December 16, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I agree with Finel’s main point, which is that US disengagement wouldn’t necessarily weaken the Islamic movements and their radicalism (although it would probably diminish the source of foreign fighters out of the European muslim populations, as well as some fund-raising), but that that radicalism wouldn’t really be directed at the US anymore.

My guess is that the Islamists would probably turn inward, to their own regimes (particularly those they despise, like Hosni Mubarak’s), and to the Shiite other in the form of Iran. That can be good and bad for the US, but assuming we have disengagement, it’s probably not a major issue unless it spills over into Europe (America’s muslim population is pretty non-active on the whole issue).

Brett December 16, 2008 at 1:59 pm

To add –

We do have trading interests with Middle East states outside of oil. But we don’t need to be heavily interventionist or playing power politics to get that; the Chinese do quite fine with neither.

Callimachus December 16, 2008 at 8:52 pm

I can naver get the OtB site to open for me. Something in the flag hangs it up. However, on the surface of it, I’m afraid I agree with Finel. The shoe-tossing thing really puts the punctuation mark on it.

PD Shaw December 17, 2008 at 9:23 am

If we leave now, they will only throw more shoes at us.

Callimachus December 17, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Apparently some Saudi prince has offered millions of dollars for the “hero’s” shoes. I say we let them throw all the shoes they have at us, then sell them back to them as holy relics, and pay off the Wall Street mess with the proceeds.

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