America’s oldest ally has always been a bystander to diplomacy in the Middle East. It’s time they took on a bigger role says Leon Hadar of the American Conservative.
One can appreciate why members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment are so worried about Russian military intervention in the Middle East, since, after all, the Soviet Union and communism are threatening core U.S. interests. Except that the Cold War ended in 1989, and today’s Russians were actually helping us fight the Islamic State in Syria. Whoops.
But isn’t France America’s oldest ally? The first foreign partner of the new United States, France provided military support during the American Revolutionary War. We fought on the same side during the Great War and helped liberate Paris during World War II. The U.S. has been France’s military and diplomatic ally since the Nazis fell, through the Cold War, and now into the recent campaign against terrorism.
And in a way, there’s nothing new about France’s involvement in the Middle East and North Africa, where after World War II it received a mandate to administer Syria, Lebanon, and Algeria, and ruled Algeria as a colony from 1839 to 1962. Indeed, if you look at the map, you would have to conclude that the Middle East is the “strategic backyard” of France in the same way that Mexico and Central America are ours.
The French economy, unlike the American one, is dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, and what happens in that region of the world affects directly its interests and those of its European neighbors. […]
[…] The French are at least trying to supplement American diplomacy in the region—and this should be regarded as a good start. Now let them work to restrain Iranian influence in the Levant or try to handle a few rounds of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Indeed, until recently, the Europeans could free-ride on American diplomacy and then criticize Washington if, say, the Arab-Israeli talks collapsed or yet another crisis erupted in the Middle East. Now Washington has an opportunity to turn the tables, to let the French give diplomacy a try and weather the criticism if it fails. Or perhaps they may actually succeed. Quelle horreur indeed.
Leon Hadar is a foreign policy analyst, author, and contributing editor at The American Conservative. He holds a Ph.D. from American University, and is the author of the books Quagmire: America in the Middle East and Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East. He is a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm, a former Cato Institute research fellow, and his articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, theLos Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and the National Interest.
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