American Proscenium

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

“Allies fear a U.S. Pullback in Mideast,” shouted a headline splashed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, reflecting a sense of hysteria in Israel and Saudi Arabia that the diplomatic rapprochement between Washington and Tehran was “just the latest evidence that a war-weary U.S. is slowly seeking to close the books on a series of nettlesome long-term problems, allowing Washington to pull back from its longtime commitment to the Middle East.”

Reading the report and, in particular, the reference to these two U.S. “allies,” I recalled that political thinker Walter Lippmann had urged Washington to resist the temptation to inflate the number of U.S. allies and alliances.  “A great power like the United States gains no advantage and it loses prestige by offering, indeed peddling, its alliances to all and sundry,” he stressed.

Indeed, by accepting the notion that the relationship between the United States, the Jewish state, and the gas station in the Arabian Peninsula amounts to a strategic “alliance,” we assume that Washington shares with the Saudis and the Israelis a set of long-term common interests and a similar view of the world.  As a result we end up interpreting major disagreements between Washington and these two Middle Eastern countries as a sign that a critical alliance is crumbling and that the...

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