RAND, a leading political and security think-tank in America, have recently published a report, third in its series titled ‘Friend, Foes and Future Directions: U.S. Partnerships in a Turbulent World, Strategic Rethink’
It states that the U.S. have three stances that it can take in the coming year(s).
To mitigate this mismatch, U.S. policymakers have at least three general approaches to consider:
- First, the United States could take an assertive approach focused primarily on American values, thereby limiting compromise with potential adversaries. Washington would seek a few capable partners but would be prepared to go it alone or with a small coalition of the willing if needed. This “assertive engagement” option would require a significant increase in defense spending.
- Second, the United States could seek greater defense contributions from allies and partners. Under such a policy, termed “collaborative engagement,” the United States would act based primarily on its interests and would seek to further harmonize its policies more with its major allies and strategic partners. It would be more dependent on the will of its partners and would be inclined to seek some accommodation, where possible, with potential adversaries. It would be more restrained in its policy choices and stress regional trade partnerships.
- Third, the United States could reduce its ambitions and focus on only the most critical challenges to its own vital national interests. In some cases, it might need to reduce its commitments to partners. It would stress homeland resilience and seek to find surrogates to take the lead wherever possible. This alternative is called “retrenchment.”
Saudi Arabia and the United States have been partners — not allies. Typically, America’s allies share values and not just interests.
United States view partners as those who do not share the same values and ideals however share common interests, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. However a partner are those who share the values and ideals such as freedoms and democracy. This includes the likes of Great Britain, France and Germany.
The report goes on to suggest that if the U.S. were to take the first path it would require a massive amount of economic support and such support would not be possible without the American public and therefore only a stunt such as 9/11 could sway public opinion in agreement.
One U.S. election is unlikely to fundamentally change those constraints. It would probably take another direct attack on the homeland, like 9/11, to shift both public opinion and spending priorities enough to finance this approach.
However it is quite clear that the second pathway is preferred under the Obama administration, making use of its partners in the region such as Iran and Saudi.