Tom Friedman and the Washington Institute: Grading Obama’s Middle East Foreign Policy Plan

An interesting study was gone by the Institute by Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt on “How to think about preventative military action against Iran” that supplements this discussion. Find it here

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy concluded its 25th anniversary celebration with a discussion on the success and effectiveness of President Obama’s foreign policy plan. Tomas L. Friedman, Martin Kramer, William Kristol, Robert Saloff, and David Makovsky were among the panelists who discussed issues such as Israel/Palestine, nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and what to do with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“What’s going on today in America is the greatest show on earth,” said Friedman on the sweeping changes the Obama administration has implemented on the domestic front. On the international front, however, he said the Administration hasn’t had the conviction to stand strong and take action on necessary issues. He did praise two efforts of the administration: the training of a Palestinian police force in the West Bank and having the Vice President lead Iraq across the finish line in the coming months.

Kristol said the President also deserves credit for efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not with Israel or the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon. “With this regime, nuclear weapons would be a disaster,” he said. The U.S. lost its window of opportunity to act forcefully during the political unrest on June 12 and has not seriously considered military action. These factors, he said, have slowly led us to two terrible choices: an Israeli strike on Iran or Iran’s creation of a weapon.

Military action would be a high-risk operation and would create huge implications for the global and U.S. economy, Friedman noted.

The real debate, he said, should be on what happens the morning after the morning after? What happens when Iran gets a bomb, and God forbid, does something with it? Or what happens the morning after Israel attacks an Iranian nuclear site?

First, there will be attacks on Jewish sites, U.S. embassies and individuals. The global economy would weaken, and Iran would now have justification for attacking and creating a weapon of their own.

Soon, other Middle East countries will obtain weapons, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and then conflicts will escalate between Shiite and Sunni nations.

Troops in the Middle East will be more exposed, the “War on Terror” will be more difficult, and Iran would enjoy united support of all its people against one enemy, which hasn’t existed in the past year. They also could channel what weapons they have to terrorist groups outside the country.

Makovsky said if Iran did obtain a weapon, it would be a severe blow to U.S. prestige in the Middle East and the prestige of future presidents.

Kramer said he admired our missionary impulse in the Middle East, “but sometimes, ther are people you just have to fight and you just have to kill because they are determined to do that to you.”