U.S. Strategic Interest in the Middle East and Implications for the Army
RAND ARROYO CENTER SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA United States
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Many U.S. administrations have attempted to limit American involvement in the Middle East. The immense costs of previous interventions cast a heavy shadow over how policymakers view the risk of wading into the many conflicts of the region. Isnt this someone elses war has become a common and colloquial way to express that wariness. The same debate is mirrored within the U.S. Army, where the U.S. European Command EUCOM and the U.S. Pacific Command PACOM have now come to provide the natural pacing scenarios around which the Army plans its force structure. Specifically, strategists and analysts typically argue that preparing to meet the demands of dealing with North Korean collapse and deterring or defeating Russian aggression should now be the Armys focus. This is a logical response to the great challenges that such contingencies would present, but, as among civilian policymakers, this prioritization is also partly due to the fatigue induced by Operation Iraqi Freedom OIF1 and Operation Enduring Freedom OEF, which greatly strained the Armys force generation model and moved it away from core competenciessuch as combined arms operations and land-based deterrencethat it needs today. While it would simplify planning if the Army could treat the U.S. Central Command CENTCOM area of responsibility AOR as a lesser-included case, it is not. There are currently only three places in the world with sizable combat deployments, and all three are in the CENTCOM AOR. Two are in the Middle East, where Army personnel are deployed in Iraq and Syria, both active conflict zones. The regions mix of violent extremism, malign Iranian influence, and decaying regimes require the involvement of the United Statesto include the U.S. Armyand can be expected to do so for years to come, even if that involvement does not take the form of large-scale stabilization operations akin to OEF and OIF.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics