Retired General John Abizaid, who recently headed American forces in the Middle East warned the need for US military forces in the Middle East will be present for many years. “Over time, we will have to shift the burden of the military fight from our forces directly to regional forces, and we will have to play an indirect role, but we shouldn’t assume for even a minute that in the next 25 to 50 years, the American military might be able to come home, relax and take it easy, because the strategic situation in the region doesn’t seem to show that as being possible.” Abizaid says it may not necessarily always be war that consumes our efforts, but as long as the United States depends on oil and as long as there are extremists, an American military presence will be necessary in the region. He noted that “I would characterize what we’re doing now as 80% military and 20% diplomatic, economic, political, educational, informational, intelligence,etc… ” and “You’ve got to change that equation and change it. Make it 80% those other things.”
General Abizaid raises important issues about the need to shift from a military towards a concentration on politics and economic development. His assumption that America must be the center of the shift toward the other factors can be challenged. Nothing prevents in the coming years the emergence of a united Arab force which seeks to economically develop the region and work for peace among all inhabitants. The shift must be led by Arabs, not Americans and the sooner US forces leave the Middle East, the sooner this might be accomplished.