After Afghanistan, Does the U.S. Need Bases In the Middle East At All?

President Joe Biden’s declaration that the withdrawal from Afghanistan puts an end to “an era of major military operations to remake other countries” adds further urgency to the question of what America’s military footprint in the Middle East should be. This is a central element in Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s forthcoming global posture review. But does the United States need to have any permanent military bases in the Middle East at all? Not according to former Pentagon advisor Eugene Gholz, who argues in a Quincy Institute Paper titled Nothing Much to Do: Why America Can Bring All Troops Home From the Middle East that the U.S.’s core interests in the region are safe, and as a result, the United States should begin significant withdrawals from the region and eventually close down all permanent bases there. Join us for a debate between Eugene Gholz and Kirsten Fontenrose, former Senior Director for the Persian Gulf at the National Security Council, on the future U.S. military footprint in the Middle East. Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, will moderate.


Eugene Gholz

Eugene Gholz is an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, currently on leave as a visiting fellow at the Defense Priorities Foundation. He works primarily at the intersection of national security and economic policy, on subjects including innovation, defense management, and U.S. grand strategy. From 2010-2012, he served in the Pentagon as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy. He is the coauthor of two books: Buying Military Transformation: Technological Innovation and the Defense Industry, and U.S. Defense Politics: The Origins of Security Policy (4th edition, 2021). He previously held faculty positions at the University of Texas at Austin, Williams College, the University of Kentucky, and George Mason University. His Ph.D. is from MIT.

Kirsten Fontenrose

Kirsten Fontenrose is Director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council. Her team engages technical experts and decisionmakers globally to develop bipartisan approaches to burning and long-term obstacles to regional security. Kirsten spent 2018 as Senior Director for the Gulf at the National Security Council, leading the development of U.S. policy toward nations of the GCC, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan. Prior to this service at the White House, Kirsten spent a year in the private sector consulting on specialized projects in the national security space. Her interagency experience includes five years at the Dept of State leading the Middle East and Africa team in the interagency Global Engagement Center. Prior to this Kirsten worked with a field team studying foreign populations for US Department of Defense Theater Special Operations Commands. For seven years ending in 2006 Kirsten was responsible for building relationships with military officers and diplomats from the Middle East and South Asia for the Near East Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

Trita Parsi (Moderator)

Trita Parsi, PhD, is an award-winning author and the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. He is an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He has authored three books on US foreign policy in the Middle East, with a particular focus on Iran and Israel. He is the co-founder and former President of the National Iranian American Council. He received his PhD in foreign policy at Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies, a Master's Degree in International Relations from Uppsala University, and a Master's Degree in Economics from the Stockholm School of Economics.