Saturday, January 24, 2009

 

Assessment of the Day: Obama in the Middle East

We Americans have this wonderful but frightening innocence, a belief that we have a mission to transform troubled parts of the world. Even more troubling is that we not only think it is our responsibility but that we can actually remake the Middle East in our own image as a peaceful, democratic place. It is that instinct which George W. Bush and Bill Clinton shared in the Middle East, even though they pursued the objective of transformation in two very different ways -- one by peace-making, one by war making. But they shared that basic naïvety and they both failed. Now we have to be less naïve and more humble. I am sure Obama has understood that. —Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel in an interview with Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gabor Steingart

Obama is more determined to engage with the problems of the Middle East than Clinton, and almost anyone is less naïve than Bush. Both good signs.

Indyk also makes an important observation concerning Russia—

If we want Russian support in the Middle East, we need to reconsider our current strategy on NATO expansion or the missile shield in Eastern Europe. We can't have Russian cooperation on a strategy to prevent Iran's nuclear program and the missile shield at the same time.

A part of the relief that comes with the Bush administration's departure is that diplomats appear more willing to state the obvious.

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