It looks like there are two ways to get countries to reduce their dependence on the American military umbrella. One way is the calculated, tough-love approach: point out that to other governments that they’re capable of fighting their own fights, set a timetable for them to assume responsibility for defense matters, and stick to it. The other approach is to act so nuts and untrustworthy that allies sense an implosion of crazy and reluctantly take on new responsibilities. This second technique seems to be working miracles in the Middle East as some sort of unified Arab self-help emerges from an anguished watching of whatever the hell it is the United States is up to.
Yesterday, The New York Times noted that “The Arab states said on Sunday that they had agreed to form a combined military force to counter both Iranian influence and Islamist extremism, a gesture many analysts attributed in large part to their drive for more independence from Washington.”
Independence is good, right? We all like independence. But independence tends to involve fighter planes, troops, and initiative—the sort of pricey, high-responsibility commitments so many nations have been loath to make when Uncle Sugar and the marines are around to take it on themselves. So…Why the willingness to assemble a large, expensive international military force when the U.S. war machine is still so enthusiastically engaged around the world?
The Times story contains a hint, noting that Sunni Muslim nations in the Middle East are less than thrilled by U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran. “Regardless of Iran’s nuclear program, they complain, the deal would do nothing to stop Iran from seeking to extend its influence around the region by backing favored factions, as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen”