Some Iranian General named Quasem Soleimani was killed by U.S. airstrike this past week. The mainstream media squawked about it for a couple of days. I am sure most Americans suppressed yawns during their post holiday bloat. The media frenzy seemed to be riled up over the administrations lack of transparency over the reasons for the action, other than intelligence reports suggested he was an imminent threat. Congress says there is no U.S. strategy in the Middle East. This is not news. The U.S. has never had a strategy in that area. It does, however, have an end state: the uninterrupted flow of fossil fuel that we still depend on. That's what separates the Middle East from Southeast Asia, Africa or South America. An end state, however, without a cohesive strategy is an ineffective and wasteful use of a country's blood and treasure.
Realpolitik and the Middle East
Other than some oil leases in Northern Iraq in 1925, the U.S. had no real interest in the Middle East until after World War II. In short order two U.S. decisions still resonate today. First, the Truman administration recognized Israel, and second, they also established a relationship with Iran's Shah Reza Pahlavi. The Iran decision was strictly due to access to oil. In 1953 Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh won election on a nationalist platform, but was soon deposed in a CIA led coup, and Pahlavi was reinstated. For the next 25 years, the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations showed little interest in the area. Jimmy Carter had success with the Israel-Egypt treaty in 1978, however, Iran finally imploded in 1979 after years of a repressive regime. Safe to say, the US - Iran relationship has been damaged beyond repair for over 60 years. One could also argue that for the last 40 years, there has been no real U.S. strategy in the Middle East. It has been a series of reactions such as Cold War proxy (Afghanistan), Peacekeeping (Lebanon), Stability (Iraq I), Counter-terrorism (Afghanistan), Regime Change (Iraq II), Counter-insurgency (Afghanistan), Sanctions (Iran), Sanctions and Counter-terrorism (Syria). Meanwhile, we continue to preach democratic ideals to the region but remain apologists for theocracies like Saudi Arabia.
Say what we mean
If our national interests in the Middle East is continued access to oil, at pretty much any national cost or concern over host nation policies, then let's just develop a strategy to achieve that. We should either do that, or God forbid, reduce our dependence on oil from that region. We should also use all the elements of power the nation can bring to bear in order to develop this strategy. Instead, we resort to tactical actions and let the military bear the brunt of this ineffective approach.