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We need a presence in the Middle East, just not a military one

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The Middle East is the most important region in the world. It’s not just the oil. It’s not just the turmoil or the political brinkmanship that are incessant in the region. Middle East stability is crucial as the linchpin that keeps the geopolitical and religious wheels of the world from flying off their axles.

At the heart of it is Israel, and more specifically Jerusalem. The Jewish state, which is our only real ally and only true Democracy in the region, must be protected at all costs. If there becomes a need for the United States to get involved militarily in defense of Israel, so be it. Otherwise, there is no need for a military presence in the region.

Hawks often invoke the importance of the region as their reason for wanting to keep troops stationed throughout the Middle East. Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, among others, are hubs for terrorism. The Islamic State is still active and has the potential to regroup in a matter of weeks if the right catalysts came to be. Crime is a serious concern and Afghanistan in particular contributes to the drug problem in America and throughout the western world. Unwanted factions can disrupt the world’s oil supply. Human rights violations are rampant across the region.

There are dozens of reasons politicians on both the right and left can call for military intervention in the Middle East, but all of them neglect one important fact. It’s not helping. With the exception of the defeating the Islamic State, none of our efforts in the Middle East have been effective. In fact, there’s clear evidence that since the 1980s, every attempt to bring stability to the region through military activities has resulted in much more damage than good.

We needed to be there to defeat the Islamic State. Now that there’s just a remnant remaining, we need to either eliminate them completely now or pull out and let regional powers finish them off. That’s up to our military leaders to decide, but lately it seems like they’re preference is to use the remnant of ISIS as an excuse to stay in the region.

The political reasons for keeping troops in the Middle East are all based on fear of what could happen if we’re not there. They argue that our presence is beneficial, and that may be true to some extent, but the benefits are greatly outweighed by the detriments. Our military is to be used for the defense of the nation and its interests. It’s very hard to make a case that being in the Middle East serves our interests without succumbing to irrational fears of what could happen if we’re not there.

We definitely need a presence in the Middle East. We need businesses and contractors earning money as they help the region stabilize. We need journalists there to report on developments. We need our intelligence services there to keep an eye on what’s going on and what’s coming down the pipe. But our military presence is unnecessary, wasteful, and unproductive.

Critics of pulling out will say that we’ll leave a void that will be filled by Iran, Russia, or even China. Here’s the thing. Leaving the region will not create any bigger void than the one that already exists. We’re not occupying these nations. We’re not fulfilling a strategic need at these Middle Eastern nations’ request. We’re there to say we’re there and to act as cover. In essence, our troops are acting as human shields to prevent Syria, Russia, Iran, or others from attacking those who are serving our interests, such as the Kurdish rebels in Syria. As sad and heartless as it may sound, we cannot put our troops at risk in this manner to deter attacks on those who have helped us. A valid argument can be made that pulling out will put those who helped us at risk, but let’s not inflate their benevolence. They weren’t fighting for us. They were fighting for themselves. They are serving their own interests, and just because their interests partially aligned with our interests in the past, that’s not enough motivation to keep our troops in harm’s way.

Israel is the only exception. We need to be ready to swoop in and assist in any way necessary when called upon by our true Middle Eastern ally. They haven’t needed our help yet, but if that day ever comes, we need to be ready. Otherwise, we don’t need to have a military presence in the Middle East, period.

If we stop basing our actions around fear of what could be and start looking at the Middle East situation rationally, we’ll discover that our military presence is unnecessary. It’s not just about no longer intervening. It’s about not succumbing to irrational fears.

I’m Tammy Rucker. Thank you for listening.


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