The Pentagon doesn’t need more appropriations of taxpayer money—it needs a foreign policy leadership willing to recognize that nearly two decades of counterinsurgency, regime change campaigns, and meandering wars have degraded the U.S. military and put extreme pressure on the U.S. Treasury.
The United States has remained the major military power and leader within NATO by an enormous margin. As a result, all European NATO armies, not just the Germans, have shortchanged common defense by free riding on American power. This defense welfare, funded by the American taxpayer, serves no one’s interests.
The U.S. would be able to pass on much of the cost of protecting Europe—in both blood and treasure—to Europeans themselves, who are already geopolitically situated to stand up for Western interests, in tandem with their American allies, in relation to Russia and non-state threats from Africa and the Middle East.
Washington must not get involved in another war and reconstruction effort that it cannot handle. Instead, America should offer direct aid, coordination an international humanitarian response, and assist Venezuela's neighbors in housing and caring for those who have fled. Washington should also continue to put financial and diplomatic pressure on Mauro. But nothing more.
We are long past the point in which U.S. involvement in Yemen—involvement that Congress has not expressly authorized—is making the prospects of a political resolution more difficult to envision. American military and logistical assistance to the Saudi coalition is morally strategically bankrupt. The U.S. can no longer squander it’s good name on a war in which all of the belligerents are engaging in ruthless conduct.
The Khashoggi affair and Riyadh’s floundering cover up of the murder demonstrates why putting all of America’s chips in the Saudi pot is dangerous. While the U.S. should always look for opportunities to engage the Saudis on mutual problems, Washington should no longer confuse Saudi Arabia’s interests with its own.
The Middle East is an epicenter of violence. It will only be able to turn itself around when the region’s politicians have the incentive, determination, and leadership to take ownership of the crises currently inflicting their neighborhood. The U.S. military should not be put in the position of doing it for them, nor should the American people be on the hook for throwing their hard-earned taxpayer dollars towards a project that will inevitably fail.
If the Trump administration will not set about substantially changing that relationship (and recent history suggests it will not), Congress must act. Putting an end to arms sales is the first step, and it already has bipartisan support in the Senate. Washington’s habit of turning a blind eye to Saudi malfeasance has never been principled or prudent. The crisis in Yemen and the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi make it inexcusable.
The raison d’etre for creating the UN following World War II was to have a forum for nations to bring concerns and openly communicate in an attempt to prevent future violence. This is still a viable goal in the 21st century, but for the U.S. must be within the context of our interests and what we believe is achievable. To do that, President Trump must nominate an ambassador who has as much experience and passion for our governing principles as they do with international affairs, and will use our membership in the UN to advance our nation’s economic and security goals.
The killing of a journalist is an unconscionable act, especially when the assailant is a supposed U.S. friend. U.S.-Saudi ties, however, were never founded upon friendship, shared values, a mutual sense of ethics, or a common history—they were founded upon pragmatism and realpolitik. If the pragmatism is wearing off, or the other party is acting counter to U.S. interests, Washington should reassess the assumptions underlying the partnership.
The United States does not need to meddle in every part of the world that faces a lack of security, especially if we can count on our friends. Moreover by getting involved in local fights against radicals—most of which can be dealt with by regional powers—we often go looking for trouble. American interests are better served by a more hands-off approach to Niger and the Sahel.
The Saudi government has taken maximum advantage of America’s appetite for crude oil and a desire for a long-term counterterrorism partner in order to press its own regional agenda. This agenda is centered on the Saudi monarchy’s existential rivalry with Iran and its absolutist quest for hegemony. The United States, despite having no national security interest in the sectarian fault-lines of the Middle East, has frequently chosen to wade into Arab conflicts on Saudi Arabia’s side. Why U.S. officials continue to follow Riyadh’s lead is a mystery with no simple explanation.