Diplomacy, A Solution As Opposed to Military Force in the Arab Region
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer
Foreign military force has been quite pervasive in the Arab world as it has been taking many lives and injuring civilians both physically and emotionally. In recent years, the increased use of soft power, or diplomacy, has been brought up to ease tensions and establish peace in the region.
According to essays by Martin Indyk (in The Wall Street Journal) and Mara Karlin and Tamara Cofman Wittes (in Foreign Affairs), Washington should “do less” in the Arab world, and lighten the U.S. footprint because “it isn’t worth it,” highlighting the need to slowly decrease the physical presence in the region. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced this as the U.S. looks to direct its focus on to more demanding, internal challenges. Strategies to cut funding, furnishing foreign agreements and trade contracts are some of the ways to deviate from military force.
It seems that diplomacy can only be achieved if the U.S. realizes that Arab states can successfully take matters into their own hands, de-escalating conflicts, and inhibiting foreign interference regardless of its impact. As Joseph Nye mentions, the United States military capabilities assures Arabs that they can defeat adversaries and “do almost anything it wants, anywhere in the world”. Admiration by Arab leaders for the U.S. and foreign interference has been undoubtedly great, they believe the external powerhouses can defend their interests.
Yet, some pro-force and physical presence realists believe that diplomacy alone is not a solution. Individuals such as Henry Kessinger, former secretary of state in the Nixon administration despite speaking the language of realists for “credibility,” “linkage,” “balance of power” has a different view of reality. Some named him a war criminal for his radical views on justifications of wars and genocides. Tension has increased, after a series of destabilizing incidents in the Middle East in 2019, including attacks on oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, the shooting down of a U.S. military surveillance drone, and a complex missile strike on Saudi oil facilities affecting key countries in the region and around the world, such as Oman, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
Diplomacy internal to the Arab Region
Diplomacy is not only a foreign issue but also one that is unfamiliar to the region. The Arab world has been in conflicts throughout history, many of them remain unresolved. The complex ethnic, religious, and geographical issues in the Arab world are rather dynamic. Making it hard for the U.S. to abruptly leave the region. According to the former foreign minister of Egypt, Nabil Fahmy’s essay “A Call for Arab Diplomacy”, he calls the issue a “National Security Capability Deficit and a Managing Change Deficit”. The idea that the region has been focusing on other matters rather than exacting diplomacy with one another. First, the Arab Spring has had a detrimental effect on the region, both positive and negative.
Also, the rapid fall of Arab economies, exposure to injustice, and other institutional problems that are central to individual Arab states. For example, Moroccan-Algerian tensions concerning the dispute over Western Sahara and the role of the Polisario Front remain unresolved. Libya has become divided, now seen as a fertile ground for extremists and terrorism.
The recent Arab military presence in Yemen by UAE and Saudi Arabia puts emphasis on values associated with nationalism and armed forces. Such as patriotism, sacrifice, discipline, duty, and concepts of heroic model citizens will reinforce public appreciation of the military despite its weak track record. Syria is a battlefield of war and civil unrest, despite intensive diplomatic efforts sponsored by the United Nations. Iraq is still unsettled with terrorists able to operate across the border between Iraq and Syria. Especially after U.S. military evacuations.
There are also exacerbating tensions between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Persian Iran. The Arab-Israeli conflict, nearly seven decades old, continues to make life unbearable for the Palestinians living under occupation. Egypt and Tunisia, the countries that ignited the Arab Spring, are going through fundamental domestic transformations in which some proved to have failed. Without a doubt, multilateral engagement and the strategic exchange of international and Arab national organizations is essential. In order to enhance the flow of diplomacy in the area.
The Great Powers Regional Issue
In addition, in order to defend the great powers’ region and maintain the balance of power politics. The United States needs to present its military force in the region. Other great powers such as Russia and China, from their own economic or security perspective, aim to build their networks and relationships. Russian influence and balance of power issue with the U.S. persists. The Saudi Russian created somewhat a threat to the American oil deals with the Gulf.
President Trump delivered the message to the crown prince 10 days before the announcement of production cuts on oil. Trump’s strong desire underlined the need to protect the U.S. oil industry from a historic price meltdown. As governments shut down economies worldwide to fight the virus. It also reflected a telling reversal of Trump’s longstanding criticism of the “oil cartel”. Which he has blasted for raising energy costs for the United States. With supply cuts that usually lead to higher gasoline prices. The response came to the 75-year strategic alliance. Which was central to U.S. diplomatic strategy forced the deal to slash oil supply. As demand collapsed in the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The economic hegemony is tightly connected and maintained by United States dollars. Which is greatly influenced by Iraq and the Middle East OPEC members.
Digital Media & Diplomacy
The digital media has also played a role in enforcing the idea of diplomacy in the Arab region. Arab educators, influencers, and even the general public took it to their own hands to attempt to preview a cultural aspect of their lives to Western countries. Nonetheless, U.S. officials at embassies in the Arab world establish meetings with the Arab media and other opinion leaders. Cultural centers assist in the regional culture since it attracts students, scholars, and many others who were interested in using the American library, listening to lectures, learning English, or learning how to apply to a U.S. university. Embassy libraries carry American magazines, journals, and books in relevant subjects.
Contrary to belief, U.S. international power has not declined globally. But only eased the ability for soft power to replace hard power. Furthermore, this does not mean that cultural education and exchange will cease; rather it will continue reinforcing the benefits of diplomacy, as opposed to military force.
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