Why the U.S. Will Struggle to Reduce Its Military Commitments Abroad

Aug 5, 2019 | 19:16 GMT

This photo shows French, British and U.S. paratroopers training together in south of France.

For all their important contributions, Washington is finding it difficult to draw France and the United Kingdom -- its two important European allies -- further into Middle East missions.

(Fred Marie/Art In All Of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)


  • The United States has called on its allies to increase their support of various missions, particularly in the Middle East, in the hopes of refocusing resources on its competition with Russia and China. 
  • U.S. allies, however, have been largely unwilling or unable to commit more forces abroad. And those that have so far have offered only token additional support. 
  • The widespread mistrust that the bulk of its partners share regarding U.S. intentions against Iran has hampered the White House's ability to garner support for its security program in the Persian Gulf. 
  • In other places, like Syria, the United States will likely be able to cobble together some extra reinforcements, but nowhere sufficient enough to allow Washington to completely draw down its presence. 

Time and again, the United States has attempted to redirect its attention and resources more toward its great power competitions with Russia and China. But this effort keeps getting undermined by Washington's other commitments around the world. Since taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to address this problem by pressuring allies to commit more military resources to places like Syria (where the United States is trying to draw down its troops) and most recently, the Persian Gulf (where it now finds itself with an increased risk of a military clash with Iran).  But concerns over the direction of U.S. leadership has made even Washington's strongest partners in Europe reticent to deploy more troops to these hot spots. This lack of trust -- combined with the fact that many allies already have significant security commitments of their own -- will thus likely leave the United States with little choice but...

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