North America Biden Is Rightsizing U.S. Ambitions in the Middle East

Biden Is Rightsizing U.S. Ambitions in the Middle East


Assessing the Biden administration’s performance in the Middle East at the one-year mark requires some careful metrics. Should the benchmark be a comparison to the turbulent Trump years, or to earlier times when U.S. diplomacy was defining the regional agenda and, on occasion, making a meaningful contribution to achieving peace? Should it prioritize the possibility that people in the region, who once resented the effects of too much U.S. power, now fear its absence, or the emerging consensus in Washington that the U.S. has more urgent strategic challenges to attend to elsewhere?

Biden administration officials talk in pragmatic terms about the Middle East, and many observers in the U.S. foreign policy community applaud the effort to set achievable goals, without grandiose ambition. Bret McGurk, the Biden team’s point man on the Middle East who has now served in four presidential administrations, is quick to acknowledge that for decades, the U.S. has overcommitted and overpromised in the region. It is now putting aside the maximalist goals of transforming the Middle East through its largely discredited efforts at regime change or democratization—or, alternatively, its Faustian bargains with authoritarians. …

Ellen Laipson
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