As events such as the Arab Spring, Syrian civil war, Israel-Palestine conflict, and the rise of ISIS have revealed a region in turmoil, some argue that the United States has shown considerable restraint in its relations with Middle Eastern countries, when compared to its history of global intervention. While some see a lack of action and praise it as disciplined leadership, others criticize it as a display of weakness and declining influence. As a global power, does America hold a responsibility to enforce order in this unstable region? Moreover, how does the role of peacekeeper fit within its broader foreign relations and ethical obligations? Intelligence Squared US (IQ2US) took on this polarizing topic with a debate on the motion, “Flexing America’s Muscles in the Middle East Will Make Things Worse.”
Debating for the motion were Aaron David Miller, vice president for new initiatives at the Wilson Center and a former US negotiator for the Mideast, and Paul Pillar, a senior fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies and a former national intelligence officer.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael Doran, a former senior director of the National Security Council, debated against the motion alongside Bret Stephens, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.
The panelists drew on research covering several Middle Eastern foreign policy concerns, including the Iran nuclear deal, Israel-Gaza conflict, America’s aid to Syrian rebels, and the ongoing activities of ISIS. Many of the panelists’ sources included analyses and criticisms of President Obama’s strategy to contain ISIS, questioning whether the US government possesses the means and will to fully defeat the terrorist threat. Their research explored the nation’s history of intervening in global conflict and presented realistic views of various challenges in the Middle East, often discussing possibilities for temporary mediation rather than ultimate solutions. A number of sources addressed the potential repercussions of increased involvement in Middle East conflicts, outlining logistical and foreign policy hindrances to further intervention. Others presented the benefits of increased US involvement in Syria, Gaza, and the Middle East as a whole, noting benefits to both America’s national security and position in the global political sphere.
Pre-Debate Poll Results:
In the pre-debate poll, 31 percent of IQ2US audience members voted against the motion, 26 percent voted for it, and 43 percent were still undecided.
To view the full debate and final poll results, visit: http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/past-debates/item/1158- flexing-america- s-muscles-in- the-middle- east-will- make-things- worse