Long-Term Gains Far Outweigh Short-Term Costs from Withdrawing the U.S. Military from the Middle East

By Monica Duffy Toft

President Donald Trump and his administration came into office promising to stop “endless wars” in the Middle East. But like his predecessors, the president has found himself walking back this important strategic objective. Why? Because he seems to believe the best option for the United States in the Middle East comes down to pain and loss no matter which policy we choose: military withdrawal or continued forward deployment. In choosing the shorter horn of this dilemma, there are two important points to consider.

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DIPLOMACY BY FORCE. U.S. special forces are taking the place of ambassadors. That’s a problem. Monica Toft in Tufts Magazine

A STRONG LEGACY OF U.S. LEADERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT IN GLOBAL POLITICS has been reduced today to what I call kinetic diplomacy—diplomacy by armed force.

As of March 2018, the Trump administration had appointed only 70 of 188 U.S. ambassadors. Meanwhile, it increased the deployment of special operations forces to 149 countries, up from 138 in 2016 during the Obama administration (the use of military force also expanded under Obama). By October, after a concerted effort by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 127 ambassadors had been appointed. Still, ambassadors are operating in just two-thirds of the world’s capitals, while special operations forces are active in three-fourths of them.

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