February 6, 2015
Middle East Needed More Attention in National Security Strategy
By Bilal Y. Saab
The document puts a premium on and is crystal clear on leadership. That is comforting following accusations by international partners and allies — some legitimate, others unfair — that the United States was disengaging and more often than not leading from behind.
The document has some useful words on sequestration and how that process hurts strategy. Let’s see how the administration handles this very important issue in the next two years. Talk is cheap.
The document reconfirms the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and even puts it above any other issue in its “International Order” section, which tells me that it is a first-order regional priority that is even higher than the crisis in Ukraine and Europe.
I much preferred how the National Security Strategy of 2010 organized its “International Order” section. This one does it by region, while the previous one does it by overlapping themes. There is a risk that with the way the administration has currently ranked its regional priorities adversaries — and even partners — might misunderstand US intentions or resolve.
Furthermore, I don’t agree with the ranking. The one region that is in massive turmoil —the Middle East — is mentioned after a relatively stable and secure Asia-Pacific? There should have been greater and more urgent attention to the problems of the Middle East, which are undermining international security more than any other region.
Bilal Y. Saab is a resident Senior Fellow for Middle East Security in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.