A major debate within public policy is the ideal foreign policy that the US should follow with regards to the Middle East. some argue that the US should pursue an active policy in the region that is beneficial to their current regional interests. Additionally, proponents of a more active presence in the Middle East also believe that the US should promote democratization in the region and strongly support allied countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States. On the contrary, others feel that US policy in the Middle East has had overall negative results and feel that the US should drastically reduce its presence in the region as a way to improve overall regional stability. Critics of US policy in the Middle East also note that the US policy in the region is generally opposed to Shi’a Islam and is more aligned with the interests of both Sunni Muslims and Zionism.
Overall, it can be argued that the ideal Middle East policy of the US should be one that disavows military intervention and regime change and instead focuses on diplomacy and peace-building efforts. This policy would be beneficial for the US and the wider region for several different reasons. The first reason is that it will reduce the high levels of violent extremist currently characterizing the region. A major factor contributing to violent extremism throughout the Middle East is the legacy of US intervention in the Middle East. For example, the US intervened in countries such as Iran in 1953 and Lebanon in 1958 to prop up pro-Western authoritarian leaders in both countries when their holds on power were threatened by indigenous democratic movements and to preserve their economic and geopolitical interests. The actions by the US in both cases directly contributed to the subsequent destabilization of both countries in subsequent decades and events such as the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79 and the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-89. These and other interventions by the US within the Middle East contributed to much resentment on the part of the local populations and thus encouraged the spread of extremist groups.
To move past this cycle, the US should pursue a more diplomatic approach to its policy in the Middle East. A policy based on diplomacy and mutual respect will allow the US to establish closer ties with the nations of the Middle East and reduce the resentment towards the US that the populations in the region have. By reducing resentment and promoting peace, the prevalence of violent extremism in the region will begin to decline and the overall stability in the region will improve. On the other hand, the importance of oil within the American economy is a major inhibiting factor to the implementation of such a policy. Because of the importance of oil, the Middle East is an area of strategic importance to the US military. The only viable option to change US policy is to encourage the development of domestic energy sources within the US and to shift away from a primarily oil-based economy. By developing alternative energy sources to oil, the need for the US to continually intervene in the Middle East will diminish.