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10/6/16

Middle East: The US is bogged down in the Middle East — and China knows it - by Matt Purple

Many years ago, the Obama administration had a good foreign policy idea. Remove your jaw from the floorboards and stay with me on this one.

Barack Obama was elected during a period of tense ceasefire in the Middle East. The violence in Iraq had dwindled, and new sanctions on Iran quickly rendered Tehran economically impotent. After years of immersion in Mesopotamia, it seemed we could finally move on, and so the Obama administration redirected its efforts towards East Asia.

Give the president credit: he got that much right. The recession had proven that economic power was just as important, if not more so, than military strength, and two of the world’s three largest economies lay in East Asia. Also nearby was Australia, a staunch ally that weathered the downturn better than most first-world nations. Meanwhile, China needed to be engaged, Japan needed to be bolstered, and North Korea needed to be contained. Myanmar also needed guidance as it held elections and transitioned away from its governing junta.

Early Obama gestures towards Asia seemed astute. Having inherited America’s strongest relationship with China since before the Tiananmen Square massacre, Obama set about trying to expand our channels of cooperation. Washington also joined negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the White House saw as a way to unleash commerce and, later, as a restraint on China, which wasn’t party to the talks.

This was sound policy, but it also rested on a mirage: that Obama’s overtures towards the Middle East and Asia would allow us to decamp from the former and swoop into the latter. Today, neither of those propositions has borne out: the Middle East is ablaze, East Asia is a far more dangerous neighborhood than before, and we’ve spent another eight years staring glassily into the Mesopotamian sand.

Read more: The US is bogged down in the Middle East — and China knows it - Business Insider

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