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We need to compete by building and maintaining partnerships globally

As published by the Middle East Institute

The National Security Strategy was correct in aligning our priorities as China and Russia (strategic competition), North Korea and Iran (regional rogue state actors), and then countering terrorist organizations. However, viewing this as simply surging our military assets and efforts with allies and partners to a geographic area is not the correct implementation of that strategy. We need to compete by maintaining key partners and building new ones on a global scale. Yes, in Asia, but also in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere.

China and Russia view strategic competition as global, and so should we. The decision to pull all of our forces out of Afghanistan, against the advice of the entire military chain of command, was not only a mistake regarding countering terrorist organizations and maintaining the gains we had fought for over the last 20 years but also in our efforts to militarily compete with China and Iran, both of which border Afghanistan. The military capacity we had in Afghanistan served many purposes. Likewise, if we fully withdraw from Iraq and Syria, the biggest beneficiaries will be Iran, as well as terrorist organizations.

Yes, we need to actively work to maintain our relationship with South Korea and Japan, two countries we already have defense pacts with, and the AUKUS pact between Australia, the U.K., and the U.S. was the right step, but we need to distribute our military capacity based on the current threat picture informed by the intelligence community and determined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Simply redirecting military assets to the Pacific may do little to counter China and may unnecessarily provoke them.

The term “strategic competition” should be changed to ”global strategic competition.” Ceding the Middle East and Africa to those we intend to compete with is, in fact, no competition at all; it is capitulation.

Mick Mulroy is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, retired CIA officer, a senior fellow at MEI, and ABC News national security analyst.