The End of the Carter Doctrine: Part II

In Part I of this report, we identified the need to stabilize three areas of the world prone to war in order to maintain global peace. We focused on the Middle East and discussed the development of the Carter Doctrine, examining how the doctrine has been enforced since its inception. In this week’s report, we will discuss the reasons for the breakdown of the order prior to President Trump and follow this discussion with the impact of the current president. We will project the likely actions of the nations in the region and, as always, conclude with market ramifications.

The Breakdown of the Order

The key element of the Carter Doctrine was the explicit threat to use military force to prevent outside powers from gaining influence in the Middle East. The tacit element of it was that the U.S. would enforce stability in the region which included honoring existing borders regardless of the internal social problems that the colonial frontiers created. Since the turn of the century, U.S. actions have tended to undermine regional stability. It began as overreach, but it has evolved into neglect.

After 9/11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban leadership would not extradite Osama bin Laden for the terrorist attacks on the U.S. The conflict continues to this day.

In 2003, the Bush administration led a small coalition to oust Saddam Hussein from power on the grounds that the Iraqi leader was housing weapons of mass destruction and was willing to give them to terrorist groups. Although the military invasion proved successful, the aftermath was rather rocky. Removing Hussein from power triggered a civil conflict that al Qaeda and Iran exploited. This required a constant U.S. military presence until 2011, when the Obama administration and the Iraqi government could not agree on conditions for continuing U.S. military involvement.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq went beyond the mere maintenance of order to regime change. Although the U.S. had participated in fostering regime change before (e.g., supporting the coup against Mosaddegh), the outright invasion and removal of a government was something new. It turned out that nation-building was difficult and expensive. The U.S. liberation of Kuwait did not proceed to “liberate” Baghdad for a reason—the signal the first President Bush wanted to send was that borders would be honored. That policy changed under his son. Although an argument could be made that the region is better off without Saddam Hussein, it’s hard to make the case that it is more stable.