Perceptions of American Decline
The United States remains a critical force in the international order.
The new style of foreign policy practiced by the Trump administration has provoked a great amount of commentary on the waning of an international order created in America's image. But this style of commentary says more about the way experts debate trends in international affairs than about the substance of foreign policy itself. For a better perspective, let’s focus on America’s role and actions in the Middle East.
America historically has had two overriding interests in the Middle East: supporting the state of Israel and ensuring the free world's oil supply. It was generally believed that the United States did this by attempting to balance the interests of others in the region. The Suez Canal crisis of 1956 allowed Washington to supplant the British and French, while the emergence of Anwar Sadat allowed them to supplant the Russians in Egypt. The Americans now presented themselves as the region’s key arbiter. Despite severe challenges from Iran in 1979 and in Iraq in 2003, this was understood to be a region where the Americans called the shots, or at least prevented anyone else from doing so.
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