From Africa to the Mediterranean, Ian Lesser Unveils the U.S. Strategy
The United States has been a Mediterranean power for well over 200 years, but without devoting much attention to the Mediterranean as a strategic space in its own right. Traditionally, U.S. interests in the Mediterranean have been a derivative of broader concerns, often at some distance from Mediterranean shores. This stands in sharp contrast to the European and even the Russian approach. For the United States, the Mediterranean is not a neighborhood or a “near-abroad.”
Washington’s interest in and policy toward the region has been a derivative of the United States’ interest in European affairs, the Mediterranean’s position as a political and logistical gateway to the Persian Gulf, and as a collection of flashpoints around North Africa and the Levant. Taken together, these elements have been sufficient for successive administrations to pay considerable attention to the region.
The U.S. policy debate and the structure of its foreign policy bureaucracy has always been sharply divided between Europe on the one hand, and the Middle East and North Africa on the other. The Mediterranean per se has rarely been an organizing concept for U.S. regional policy. One important exception has been the U.S. military, where the areas of responsibility for key commands (e.g., EUCOM and AFRICOM) have cut across regional lines. In terms of naval presence, the United States’ Mediterranean footprint has eroded steadily since the end of the Cold War.