discovered something that we ourselves were reminded of in Iraq and Afghanistan: Operational excellence alone is often not enough to realize strategic victory.) So why does the current administration fight so hard to keep arming our partners in the Gulf? I don’t think it’s as simple as the need to support the U.S. military industrial base, though that is a concern I’m sure it has. Some U.S. strategistsgenuinely fear that if we do not arm our partners, ourRussian or Chinese rivals will. They can’t cite that fear to justify the “emergency” that allows us to continue arming the Saudisand Emiratis over congressional objections, because it’s more of a strategic concern, but based on my conversations withU.S., Saudi, and Emirati officials, it’s a major driver of American policy. I’m just not sure that is a good-enough reason. Russia and China cannot, in the near term, rival the numbers of personnel we have deployed in the region.None of our partners is going to call the Chinese military to save them from the Iranian navy. So we shouldprobably stop beingso scared ofthe Russian or Chinese bogeymen, no matter how much our partners might publicly flirt with our rivals. One of the reasons they do that, after all, is because their strategic interests diverge from ours: We want to rebalance our resources toward future security challenges, while they want to keep as many of our forces tied down in their region as possible. Going forward, we can afford to focus on building our allies’
capacity only when we expect to reap a direct benefit. Especially following large recent sales of aircraft to Saudi Arabia (F-15s), Kuwait (F-18s), and Qatar (F-15s), we’ve probably sold enough advanced fighter aircraft to the regionAllies of ConvenienceWe need to help our allies build capabilities that will allow the United States to do less, and that largely means building up naval forces and integrated air and missile defenses—another rare bright spot in U.S. capacity-building efforts (at least until the Gulf militaries all stopped talking to Qatar, home to the largest U.S. air base in the region). You want to sell weapons to the Gulf? Fine. But sell them some frigates and air defenses. That’s not going to be easy for two reasons: First, unlike Egypt or Lebanon or Israel, the Gulf militaries are not the beneficiaries of U.S. largesse in the form of foreign military financing, a mechanism whereby we give countries funds to spend on U.S. weapons and training. The Gulf states have their own dollars that they can spend as they like,and they don’t have to spend those dollars on U.S. weapons. If we don’t sell them a certain weapon system, they canbuy a similar one elsewhere. But they do so at their own risk. If you buy a bunch of Chinese drones and allow Chinese engineers to walk around your air bases, it will not be long before those U.S. aircraft and U.S. military personnel find another base. And our Gulf partners don’t want that. They like keeping us close. Second, our Gulf
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World War II, President of the United States, United States armed forces, Nuclear weapon