American Influence Decline in the Middle East and its Meaning: A Research Essay

International Relations

American influence decline in the Middle East Research Paper Prompt Do you think that American influence decline in the Middle East is happening, and is this a good thing? Readings: Caverley, Jonathan D.  2009. “Power and Democratic Weakness: A Neoconservative Theory of International Politics?” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA’s 50th annual convention, […]

American Influence Decline in the Middle East and its Meaning

In recent years, a waning of geopolitical involvement by the United States in response to the Arab uprising necessitates a comprehensive theoretical analysis that examines the interregional dynamics and the country’s response to emerging threats and shifting hegemony. America shows a reduced appetite for intervention in the region, not spurred by an idiosyncrasy or ideological predilection by recent administrations, but by changing national outlooks that merges Realism and Neo-conservatism foundational ideals that prioritize democracy as not only the reward but a means towards improving a state’s security. As such, American influence decline in the Middle East is spurred by a lack of fulfillment of neo-conservatism and realism goals within the region and rising rival hegemony, thus necessitating a change of focus to more grave global threats.

Contemporary changes in how the latest administrations have handled the Middle East exemplify the declining influence. For example, the current U.S President, Donald Trump, talks tough to Middle Eastern countries, although he takes a passive stance towards involvement in the region. For example, he pulled the United States from Iran’s nuclear deal, although he is unwilling to engage in an armed conflict in the territory (Katlin & Wittes 2019). The decision correlates to his predecessor’s line of action, where Obama supported the Saudi campaign in Yemen without the commitment of troops. Similarly, Trump’s views on reduced intervention in the Middle East correlate with Obama’s policies (Katlin & Wittes 2019). Therefore, recent activities exemplify reduced U.S. intervention in the Middle East, which means that the nation’s international relations policies are slowly drifting away from the region.

Reasons for the Decline

The pertinent question now remains on what has caused the shift of focus from the Middle East. According to Caverley (2009), American International Relationship is slowly shifting to a conflation of neo-conservatism and realism due to both tenets sharing similar foundational ideals that affect the country’s success in the region. Similarly, the authors note that the decline in U.S. intervention is spurred by regional dynamics changes (Caverley 2009). When America entered the region, it played a “reactive “role that sought to place its hegemonic domination into the middle east turmoil while cultivating democratic ideals (Fawcett). However, the U.S faced the uphill battle of changing the prevailing Arab culture, with its democratic ideals facing the dilemma of the dangers of ambitious social engineering (Caverley 2009). In short, bringing change through neo-conservatism failed at a societal level, as they failed to balance between curbing the challenges against the Arab world authoritarianism while preserving the transition to democracy and, consequently, preserving U.S. interests (Fawcett 2013). Realism also failed, as America sought to ambitiously democratize “shared Arab public space” collectively known as the Arab spring, without understanding that the region contains poor interstate cohesion due to persistent regional rivalries, making the area apt to weak hegemons and lack of distinct, durable hierarchies (Fawcett 2013). Additionally, American military intervention started stressing stability over democracy, thus setting the stage for Arab hostility toward a genuine, credible transformation (Fawcett 2013). As such, the American government started losing the will to persuade ruling structures and regimes in conflict areas to abide by the U.S interest, thus diminishing the impact of intervention justified by realism. Additionally, the emergence of new regionalism in the Middle East faces persistent complexity and challenges that are regional dynamics in nature, further disadvantaging the U.S position in the region (Fawcett). As such, the waning of U.S. interests in the Middle East due to failed democracy and the significant role of cultural and Islamic factions and self-identity amongst some Arab factions as a source of irredentism and revisionism makes the region unattractive the common American conflation of neo-conservatism and realism policies.

The shift is not only exuberated by interregional shifting dynamics but also proposes a ‘complex realism,” which starts at the basis of survival but branches towards complex global dynamics that respond to emerging threats and shifting hegemony. Arguably, the reason is that American relations adopt an interplay of the post-9/11 and the cold war effects. While controlling the Middle East is crucial, emerging hegemony has shifted America’s agency in the region, as China and Russia involve themselves in regional politics and the political economy that directly threatens America. Although the involvement of Chinese and Russian troops in Syria and Iran’s trade relationship with China and Russia threatens U.S dominance in the region, the rising economic might of China, as shown in figure 1 below, coupled with the development of sophisticated weapons by Russia due to a failed nuclear arms control pact diverts most of U.S attention (Karlin & Wittes 2019; Murray 2019). As such, the benefits of maintaining a campaign in the Middle East are limited, considering that shifting global dynamics hegemony threatens both neoconservatism and realism foundational belief in improving America’s security and agency.

The Meaning of the Decline

American influence decline in the Middle East results in a power vacuum that other influential states seek to fill. For example, there is an increased presence of rising powers in the region, as exemplified by the involvement of Chinese and Russian troops in Syria. The consequence of the power vacuum is evident in the recent withdrawal from northeastern Syria, where Trump ordered the removal of the American forces, leading to mass displacement and slaughter of Kurds. Subsequently, U.S-allies shudder at America, abandoning its battlefield partners (Friedman 2019). Similarly, China’s growing trade in the region with sanctioned countries such as Iran undermines U.S influence in the area, which may signal a declining hegemony and influence of hard and soft power that America holds in the Middle East, thus affecting the economic viability of the country.

Figure 1: China Vs. US GDP Comparison

American Influence Decline in the Middle East : US vs. China GDP Comparison

US vs. China GDP Comparison

Source: (MGMResearch 2018).

Reference List

Caverley, Jonathan D. 2009. Power and Democratic Weakness: A Neoconservative Theory of International Politics?. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA’s 50th annual convention, New York.

Fawcett, Louise. 2013. International relations of the Middle East, 5th ed. Oxford University Press.

Friedman, Uri. 2019. The consequences of Donald Trump washing his hands of the Middle East. [Online]. Available from: < > [Accessed 28 Nov. 2019].

Karlin, Mara, & Wittes, Tamara Cofman. 2019. America’s Middle East Purgatory: The Case for Doing Less. Foreign Affairs 98 (1): 88.

MGMResearch, 2018. Business and economy data insights. [Online] Available from: <> [Accessed 28 Nov. 2019].

Murray, Lovi Esposito. 2019. What the INF treaty’s collapse means for nuclear proliferation. [Online]. Available from: <> [Accessed 28 Nov. 2019].

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