The Caravan

Obama's Second Term - Middle Eastern Memos

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Bedu have a fitting reminder: free advice is worth a camel, but no one takes it.  Here at the Caravan, we are optimists. We have come forth with free advice for a re-elected President Obama as to how to deal with the Greater Middle East.

American presidents invariably find themselves High Commissioners for the affairs of the Middle East.  The imperial age is gone, but that region is forever in search of an outside arbiter.  President Obama was in the Far East, in Myanmar and Cambodia, and with him was his secretary of state.  This was the “pivot” toward Asia that was billed as the centerpiece of the Obama diplomacy in his second term.  But the Middle East had refused to follow the script, a small war broke out between Israel and the Hamas rulers of Gaza as the President and his secretary of state were visiting Buddhist pagodas in Cambodia.  Secretary Clinton rushed to Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank to put out the fire.  Benign neglect had not worked, and the obvious erosion of American power and authority had emboldened the anti-American axis of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.  Things deferred in Mr. Obama’s first term have not gone away.

To this effect, the Caravan has enlisted a wide range of strategic thinkers.  We asked of them a memo to the re-elected president, or a set of reflections, as to the way forward in the Greater Middle East. We know the surprises that history throws at policy prescriptions, but we are certain that our contributors have identified and mapped out the maladies and dilemmas that will press upon us in the phase to come.  From Truman to Obama, the Middle East has tempted, tugged at, and frustrated American presidents; Mr. Obama’s second term is fated to know its share of upheaval. President Obama is famously “cool” and cerebral, but America’s enemies in that region have their own cunning, they are methodical and relentless under the sound and fury. Over the next several days we will be rolling out our contributors one day at a time.


Contributors to this Caravan  –

Russell Berman, senior fellow at The Hoover Institution; Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli Ambassador to Washington, D.C. and Chief Negotiator with Syria; Professor Charles Hill, senior fellow at The Hoover Institution; Robert Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy with seminal studies of Islamic fundamentalism and the Hashemite kingdom; Asli Aydintasbas, columnist at the Turkish daily MilliyetHabib C. Malik, Associate Professor of History at the Byblos campus of the Lebanese American University; Reuel Marc Gerecht, former case officer in the Central Intelligence Agency and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Leon Wieseltier, Literary Editor of The New Republic; Tammy Frisby, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; Abbas Milani, the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; Fouad Ajami, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Herb and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, Hoover Institution.