With the current American election campaign and change in presidential administrations due in January 2017, the debate over appropriate levels of US engagement in an unstable Middle East assumes vital importance. Should a new administration be more proactive in seeking to address threats, resolve conflicts, support allies, and deter foes? Should the new US president be wary about excessive American involvement in complex overseas problems, and focus on other concerns and issues closer to home? What should be done directly by Washington, and what is best addressed by local actors, alliances, and coalitions of the willing? What is the appropriate balance between doing too little and trying to do too much?
On June 23, 2016, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Middle East Peace and Security Initiative (MEPSI) held a crisis simulation on the Middle East in partnership with the Middle East Strategy Task Force (MEST) at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. Co-convened by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley (who also serve as MEST co-chairs), the simulation sought to credibly test the scenarios of decreased and increased US engagement in the Middle East and how each posture might affect regional stability and core US interests. Broader goals of the exercise included generating policy-relevant insights for the next administration that might help it in identifying a more fruitful path for US policy and raising awareness among a Middle East-fatigued American public about the costs and benefits of either greater or lesser engagement in the region.