by Patrick Appel

Yglesias debates it:

When the USA assembles a large coalition of allies that is, among other things, a large coalition of customers for American defense contractors. What’s more, the allies then often need defending, both in terms of military bases and general expeditionary capabilities. So we have a controlling domestic political coalition that’s defined our “interests” in the Middle East as consisting of collecting a large and diversified portfolio of local allied regimes who we then directly and indirectly subsidize.

But the proposition that this reflects the real interests of the American population is contestable. The connection to real interests is that the price of gasoline is very important to the welfare of the average American household, and that Middle Eastern politics are important to the price of gasoline. But I’m not sure Middle Eastern politics really are all that important to the price of gasoline over the long run and I’m quite certain that the past 30 years worth of American policy in the region don’t represent a cost-effective way of coping with the economic risks of oil price instability. 

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