A U.S. military vehicle in Darbasiya, Syria, April 2017
Rodi Said / Reuters


Robert Satloff

Mara Karlin and Tamara Cofman Wittes (“America’s Middle East Purgatory,” January/February 2019) argue that because the Middle East matters less to the United States than it did 20 years ago, the region should receive less attention and fewer resources. “Heavy U.S. involvement in the Middle East over the past two decades has been painful and ugly,” they conclude. “But it is the devil we know,” they continue, “and so U.S. policymakers have grown accustomed to the costs associated with it. Pulling back, however, is the devil we don’t know, and so everyone instinctively resists this position.”

In fact, pulling back is a devil we know all too well. As Karlin and Wittes acknowledge, U.S. President Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, “seem to share the view that the United States is too involved in the region and should devote fewer resources and less

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