How do external powers withdraw from the Middle East? Just as Hemingway described going bankrupt: gradually then suddenly. That was true for the Ottomans, for France, for Britain, and now potentially for America as well. Not long ago this was unthinkable. Now it is not only possible but increasingly likely, and both friends and foes are already actively hedging against this future. The next U.S. president will be our last chance to halt this process. 

Many Americans would undoubtedly welcome such a withdrawal. That’s understandable for a nation still reeling from costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continuing chaos in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. For many who are interested in global affairs, the region seems cursed with innumerable, insurmountable conflicts which demand attention that might better be focused elsewhere, where the prospects for success appear better. 

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