Trump-Clinton Doctrine

The Intractable Middle East

The United States is weary of sending troops to far away lands. But a new president may have no choice but to reengage in the Middle East. Source: Reuters
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Critics argue the Obama administration has abdicated responsibility in Syria to other major players like Russia and Iran. Others worry a stepped-up role by the next president could do more harm than good.

  • Facts


    • Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has at times sounded more hawkish on the Middle East than President Barack Obama, for example pushing for a no-fly zone over Syria.
    • Donald Trump has vowed to “bomb the sh**” out of Islamic State if elected but has offered little in terms of concrete policy.
    • Iraqi forces were hoping to capture Mosul, one of the last strongholds of Islamic State in Iraq, in a major offensive over the coming days.
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In just two months, a new U.S. president will be thrown into a mess that has dogged the Obama administration for much of its time in office – how and where should the United States exert influence in an increasingly volatile Middle East?

There’s a growing recognition in foreign-policy circles that something has to change – that the Obama administration’s policy of keeping the civil war in Syria at arms’ length, for example, has not been effective. Critics argue a U.S. policy of disengagement from the region has left a hole for countries like Russia and Iran to exploit – and even play an active military role – in the past few years.

It’s not just something said by Mr. Obama’s Republican critics. There’s an acceptance of that even among officials supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. Taking a more “hawkish” stance is one way the former secretary of state has occasionally distanced herself from Mr. Obama in this election.

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