Peace in Palestine key to U.S. policy
Jim Ferlmann | Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The foreign policy problems that President Obama has to deal with are complex and intertwined, Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft said in a lecture, “The Foreign Policy Challenges Facing the Obama Administration,” Monday.
“Seldom has there been a president faced with such a dizzying array of complicated, if not intractable, problems as those facing President Obama,” he said.
The lecture was focused mainly on issues that the Obama administration has to deal with in the Middle East, but Scowcroft also discussed a range of related topics, including globalization, the antiquated and defunct nature of current international government institutions and the changing face of foreign policy and national conflict since the end of the Cold War.
“Partly as a result of our intervention in Iraq, many of what we had considered separate and discreet problems in the Middle East have become intertwined,” he said. “You can’t just consider Iraq in isolation from the Palestinian peace process, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or even India. It’s very difficult to sort them out.”
In his understanding, however, one central issue will affect all others.
“There is one issue that can do more than anything else to transform attitudes in the region: the Palestinian peace process,” he said. “It has created a gnawing sense of injustice for everyone; an injustice that is laid for the most part at the feet of the United States. It infuses many of the other conflicts. The sustenance that Hezbollah and Hamas get is largely from the Palestinian issue. Iran feeds off of the Palestinian issue.”
While peace in Palestine will not solve the other problems of the Middle East, “it would change the psychological atmosphere” of the region, he said.
“It would put Iran back on the defensive,” he said. “It would give a sense of relief and comradeship between the Arabs and the United States to pursue these other issues.”
In addition to the Palestinian peace process, Scowcroft said that Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are the cause of most of the U.S. foreign policy problems in the Middle East.
Scowcroft commented that the main thing that the United States needs to keep in mind as it begins to withdraw its troops from Iraq is the need for the Iraqi government to maintain stability after the American troops leave.
“President Obama has moved a long way from his campaign in his attitude about Iraq,” he said. “I am fairly confident that he will not let the calendar dictate the policy [for troop withdrawal].”
Obama should work to change the United States’ attitude in foreign policy decision-making, according to Scowcroft.
“It won’t come easily, but we can bring ourselves to think multilaterally and to lead, not dominate, and go out and listen for suggestions and present our own views,” he said. “It is a hard and laborious way to do things, but in the world we have now, it’s the best there is.”