, Volume 92, Number 1

Andreas Krieg

 

 

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring the Middle East has plunged into a state of instability. The United States has responded to these rising insecurities in a region of strategic importance with hesitation or half-hearted commitments. The Obama administration, plagued by the increasingly difficult decision of defining America’s role in an apolar world while managing the political and economic legacy of the Bush administration, has relied on a policy of delegation. Obama neither refrained from military options nor showed any willingness to commit American ground troops to one of the strategically and operationally most complex environments of the world. Instead, Obama’s preferred way of war is one relying on surrogates— both human and technological—that allow the United States to externalize, partially or wholly, the strategic, operational and tactical burden of warfare. Unlike any other previous US administration surrogate warfare has become the principal means of protecting US interests in the Middle East that are perceived to be all but vital. The need for deniability and legitimacy, cost–benefit considerations as well as the lack of capability have made warfare by surrogate a preferred option in the Middle East. The consequences for US policy in the region are profound, as the lack of control and oversight have empowered surrogates whose long-term interests are not compatible with those of the United States. More severely, the US might have jeopardized its standing as the traditional guarantor of security in the Middle East— something that partners and adversaries alike have exploited.

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