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The U.S. Challenge in the Middle East

Will the United States be able to improve the Middle East's position in the global economy?

April 26, 2004

Will the United States be able to improve the Middle East's position in the global economy?

The Middle East has been missing out on the benefits of the global economy. The United States is now involved in changing this — for better or worse. Thomas Barnett, professor at the U.S. Naval War College and author of "The Pentagon's New Map," explores the options for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

What turned Iraq into the key U.S. battleground in the Middle East?

“By taking down Saddam Hussein — and turning Iraq into a magnet for every jihadist with a one way ticket to paradise — America has really thrown down the gauntlet in the Middle East.”

Why does the United States focus on offering hope to the Middle East?

“We need to demonstrate to the Middle East that there is such a thing as a future worth creating there, not just a past worth recreating. That is all the current bin Ladens offer the population — an escape from today’s diminished expectations.”

What accounts for the Middle East's bad economic performance?

“The Middle East remains trapped in a colonial-era economic relationship with the outside world.”

In a nutshell, how do you describe the complexity of Iraq?

“The Yugoslavia of the Middle East.”

Are the Balkans better off as a result of our intervention there?

“The Balkans are on a completely different track today than they were just a decade ago — and America’s military intervention was crucial to turning that tide.”

Is the United States ready for a long Middle East engagement?

“Only time will tell if George W. Bush is more Harry Truman than Woodrow Wilson. Truman started the ball rolling on a multi-decade, grand strategic course that changed human history."

And what about Woodrow Wilson?

"Wilson’s attempt at forging a new rule set — namely, the League of Nations — died a quick death, only to rise a quarter-century later from the ashes of World War II.”

What message does the U.S. presence in Iraq send to Saudi Arabia?

“It targets the House of Saud, telling the royal family that we will no longer turn a blind eye to their export dumping’ of terrorism around the region — much less to our society.”

Where else does the United States need to make a difference?

“Central Asia will be a different place a decade from now, because America is progressively guaranteeing its stability through the insertion of our military bases there.”

Give examples of the alternative vision for the Middle East.

“Jordan will blossom as a target for foreign investment once Iraq is a connected, thriving society. The same will be true for Ghana in a calmer West Africa, or a Uganda in a less violent Central Africa.”

How did Baghdad's fall change everything for the Middle East?

“When the Arab world saw Marines walking through the streets of Baghdad in the spring of 2003, their world was turned upside down. Their sense of what is right and what is possible — their rules for how things change in the Arab world — were completely rearranged in one morning’s time.”

This Read My Lips is based on Thomas Barnett's book "The Pentagon's New Map. War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century" Published by G.P. Putnam.