What is the Middle East in the middle of anymore?

Since World War II, the United States has been involved in a series of crises and wars in the Middle East on the premise of protecting U.S., Western, or global interests, or purportedly all three combined. Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the hub of three continents, and of three great religions, and the maritime intersection between East and West…

[V]arious reasons explain why we tended to intervene in nasty places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Yet despite the sometimes humanitarian pretenses about our inventions in the Middle East, we should remember that we most certainly did not go commensurately into central Africa or South America to prevent mass killings, genocides, or gruesome civil wars.

But two questions now arise in the 21st century: to what degree do strategic reasons remain for a strong U.S. ground presence in the Middle East and, in terms of cost-benefit analyses, how much material, human, and psychic U.S. investment is necessary to protect our interests to the extent they still matter in the region? …

The United States does not need Middle East natural gas or oil. Europe does. China does even more.

Certainly, it may be in the larger economic interests of America to keep moderately priced oil flowing from the Middle East. But disruptions, cartels, and embargoes do not matter to the United States in the degree they did during the last half-century.

This reality is especially germane when the European Union, larger and nearly as rich as the United States, simply will not provide for its own security, despite its proximity to the region and its dependence upon it. China likewise freeloads on the U.S. Navy’s deterrent presence in waters off the Middle East.

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