Post-Cold War U.S. Security Strategies for the Persian Gulf

by Marcy Agmon

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The end of the Cold War has presented the United States with an opportunity to adopt a different strategy toward the Persian Gulf region. In the past, the policy has been one of close and enduring political, military, and personal ties with friendly regimes. An opportunity for a more distant, "insulating" policy now presents itself. This report analyzes the potential costs and benefits of such a strategy. It posits four possible strategies — two traditional and two insulating — and evaluates them against five criteria. All strategies have different degrees of risk and benefit. Analyzing all factors leads to three major conclusions. First, whatever strategy is pursued, the United States needs to maintain sufficient military resources to serve as a balancing force in the region. Second, the two alternatives that emphasize either all-Arab or Saudi defense of the region pose the highest risk in terms of political instability. Finally, regional arms control makes all alternatives less costly and more beneficial.

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