America's Role Archives



Guest Analyst  |  March 5, 2007 4:02 PM

Bush's Delusional Cuba Policy

Since becoming Acting President of Cuba last July, Raul Castro has on several occassions offered to begin a dialogue with the United States. Each time, the offer has been rejected. Speaking to the Council of the Americas on February 21st, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez made it clear that this will not change, that the Bush administration will not deal with the “successor regime” in Cuba. Instead, Bush will continue efforts to bring down the Cuban government.

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Global Poll  |  March 9, 2007 12:10 PM

Latin America: Down on Bush, Not Democracy

President Bush’s effort to show Latin Americans that “you have a friend in the United States of America,” may be a hard sell during his five-nation tour of the region: A majority of Latin Americans view the United States unfavorably, recent multinational surveys show, and most disapprove of the Bush administration’s foreign policies.

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Panelist View  |  August 7, 2007 1:33 PM

President Taft, and my America

By Sami Moubayed

Nearly 20 years ago, I was a student at the American School in Damascus. We had to study US history and memorise parts of the US Constitution.

Running out of time, I (shamefully) tried to cheat before the exam, by scribbling the Preamble of the Constitution on the palm of my left hand, and the 10th Amendment on my right.

I was caught doing that, had to wash my hands, and forced to sit there for the remainder of the day, memorising chunks of the US Constitution.

I had to learn it the hard way. I eventually did, and grew up proud of my strong command of US history. I believed in US principles, democracy, opportunity, and the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

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Guest Voice  |  May 16, 2008 4:16 PM

The ABCs of Iraqi Education

By Lee Hudson Teslik

SULAIMANI, IRAQ – In a compound guarded by gun-swinging, camo-clad Kurdish police, a small group of Iraqi students is trying to recreate the American college experience.

I’m sitting in on classes at the American University of Iraq, which just this academic year opened its doors in a relatively calm corner of southeastern Iraqi Kurdistan, in the city of Sulaimani. For the first wave of undergrads, today is test day. The most advanced group at the university faces its first exam in introductory political science.

I glance at the test.

Question #3: Do you agree or disagree that Iraq in 2003 was a good candidate for successful democratic transition? Why or why not?

You get the sense the stakes here are higher than who makes honor roll.

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Guest Voice  |  May 28, 2008 11:20 AM

U.S. Out of Pakistan

By Alizeh Haider

In a recent meeting with corporate leaders in Karachi, the U.S Ambassador Anne W. Patterson expressed her surprise at the ‘depth of Anti-Americanism’ in Pakistan. She said, “I suspect that those who oppose American engagement in Pakistan have a limited understanding of how our partnerships—economic assistance and financial interactions—changed the lives of everyday Pakistanis in real and positive ways.”

I assure Her Excellency that such is not the case and that we are not an abysmally ungrateful bunch. We know very well that our country’s economy cannot sustain itself and that financial help from other countries like America is helping us barely stay afloat.

The source of anti-American sentiment, thus, is not Pakistanis’ lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for America’s economic assistance. Rather, our sense of resentment and deprivation is the result of the pound of flesh which America demands in return—that is, the sovereignty of our people.

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Guest Voice  |  September 10, 2008 11:16 AM

Palin's Dangerous Lack of Curiosity

The Current Discussion: Does it worry you that Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee talks about issues like gun rights and abortion and teaching "creationism" in school, but has no experience in foreign policy? What does her selection say to people in other countries about how U.S. politics works?

By Chuck McLean

The selection of another incurious, ill-schooled politician with no foreign policy judgment and a simplistic "the military can solve everything" view of foreign policy will continue the dramatic slide of the U.S.'s global influence. It will also dig us much deeper into a foreign policy hole that has already brought us to an international situation more dangerous than the darkest days of the Cold War.

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Guest Voice  |  October 6, 2008 1:38 PM

U.S.-Muslim Ties in '08

By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz

Following a week of devastating economic news, the latest presidential and vice-presidential televised debates have put concerns of foreign affairs back on the campaign agenda - particularly issues of importance to Muslim-U.S. relations. Coupled with earlier campaign spin about Barack Obama's alleged Muslim roots, Sarah Palin's reference to "God's work" in Iraq, John McCain's repetitive reference to "radical Islam" and other examples of media mania about Islam, one may have the impression that the future of American relations with the Muslim world depends on the outcome of the 2008 elections.

This is not the case.

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Guest Voice  |  October 30, 2008 10:13 AM

America's Re-emerging Democracy

By Daniel Brumberg

Next week's election has me thinking about democracy both at home and abroad. How, I wonder, can the U.S. promote political reform overseas unless it puts its own house in order? One of our chief problems is widespread political apathy, a long-standing ailment compounded by a congressional redistricting system that encourages political disengagement. Yes indeed, people are "free" to vote or stay at home. But their choices are shaped by the perception that voting does (or does not) advance their interests. As political scientists would put it, the culture of apathy is politically "structured."

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Guest Voice  |  December 19, 2008 11:50 AM

U.S., Iran Both Need an Attitude Change

By Richard W. Murphy

As she prepares for her role as Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Obama foreign policy team should consider how a new American-Iranian relationship might advance American interests in Iraq and Afghanistan, and conceivably even the Arab-Israeli peace process.

This will not be easy. Thirty years have passed since the Iranian Revolution without formal diplomatic relations or any sustained dialogue between Washington and Tehran, and mutual suspicion remains entrenched.

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Panelist View  |  January 23, 2009 10:28 AM

Bring Back America's Principles

By Mahmoud Sabit

President Barack Obama will face many challenges in the area of foreign policy, but in general terms his biggest mistake would be "business as usual" -- continuing the policy of dominance versus balance, the policy of partisan favoritism on issues that should be judged instead on their respective merits, as in the case of the Middle East, to name just one. A continuation of a policy of unilateralism versus multilateralism, including but not limited to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Ignoring and supporting injustice because of the inconvenience of doing otherwise, as in the case of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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Guest Voice  |  March 4, 2009 10:55 AM

Turkish Perspectives on George Mitchell's Middle East Tour

Common Ground News Service asked two Turkish journalists this question: What would you like to see come of U.S. Middle East special envoy George Mitchell's visit to Turkey? Their distinct answers give an interesting perspective on prospects for U.S. mediation efforts in the region.

Mitchell Won't Make Progress Without Hamas

George Mitchell has taken on a very challenging and tough mission. The last thing he needs is to have his impartiality as a mediator questioned from the get-go.

By Defne Samyeli

Istanbul - I remember feeling a sudden surge of optimism when I first heard that George Mitchell was to be the special envoy to the Middle East. His appointment was a clear sign of the US administration's sincere willingness to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, as the special envoy takes his second tour in the region, I admit that the initial optimism has already - let's just say - lost its intensity.

Mitchell is a first-rate diplomat. His track record has earned him the respect of the international community. Back in 2002, he had successfully established a reputation for impartiality on the Israel-Palestine issue when he called for freezing Israeli settlement activities, as well as for intensifying Palestinian efforts to crack down on terrorism.

But a fundamental change has taken place since then; there is a new lead player in the conflict-torn region: Hamas.

Hamas representatives voiced resentment when Mitchell did not make any attempt to communicate with them on his first visit to the region last month.

"Not negotiating with the terrorists" is one thing, but it is hard to justify not even setting foot in Gaza while claiming to be "sincere" about healing this shattered piece of land.

Reputable and credible as Mitchell is, what this tells us is that there remains too much rigidity in US foreign policy. Whether we like it or not, Hamas is one of the major players in this conflict and it's essential for the US envoy to at least listen to what Hamas has to say. No offer or deal on can be brought to the table unless accepted and supported by both Israelis and Palestinians.

On this second visit, Mitchell is again expected to go to the Fatah-controlled West Bank and skip Gaza. This will be interpreted in the Middle East as renewed affirmation that American policy favors Fatah over Hamas, so that US mediation in the conflict is unlikely to be impartial.

This obviously reduces the United States' chance of success in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

George Mitchell has taken on a very challenging and tough mission. The last thing he needs is to have his impartiality as a mediator questioned from the get-go.

Defne Samyeli is a columnist/journalist for the daily Gunes of Turkey. She has previously worked as a News Director, Editor and Evening News Anchor for 17 years. The article was written for the Common Ground News Service.

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Message to America: Help Turkey Help You

Obama needs Turkey to help the U.S. meet its goals for the Middle East - but it must help Turkey get back on track first.

By Pelin Turgut

Istanbul - When Barack Obama was elected U.S. president, Turkish pundits instantly likened him to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Like Obama, Erdogan is a political outsider. He is a grassroots leader who campaigned on a slogan of change and was rewarded with a landslide electoral victory -twice, in 2002 and 2007- becoming the first single-party government in decades.

Turks overwhelmingly elected Erdogan not because of his Islamic credentials (the hardline Islamic vote in Turkey is generally around 10 percent while the AKP won with 47 percent in 2007), but because he represented a young, new breed of politician, the hope of more democracy, an end to corruption and cronyism, and economic stability.

But six years on, Erdogan is faltering and Turkey appears to have lost its way. A determined campaign to make Turkey an EU member has stalled, replaced by a more pro-Arab foreign policy in the Middle East; Erdogan has failed to resolve the two-decade old Kurdish conflict in the southeast (which spills over into Iraq); he brooks little tolerance of media opposition and abandoned plans to democratize the constitution in favor of a bitterly divisive overnight bid to allow headscarves in universities.

Under the AKP, Turkish society has become increasingly polarized.

The message Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell needs to take back to Washington is this: help Turkey get back on track on EU membership, democratization and resolving the Kurdish conflict. During the Bush regime, Turkey became one of the most anti-American nations in the world - a recent Pew Global study found only 12 percent of the Turkish people approve of the United States - and yet it is a key ally, or "peace partner" as Mitchell mentioned yesterday, in a troubled region.

Obama needs Turkey's support to succeed in Iran, Iraq, Aghanistan and possibly even in brokering an Arab-Israeli peace deal.

After years of being led by a Western-educated elite - the so-called "white Turks"- Erdogan's victory finally gave the conservative Anatolian hinterland a much-needed political voice. The task now is to balance two visions of the country's future. Turkey can yet find its identity - both Western and Eastern, politically secular and mainly Muslim, constitutionally liberal and socially inclusive.

But with European leaders frustratingly myopic over Europe's future and focused on their own internal political dynamics, it's up to Ankara to restructure ties with the new U.S. administration, and up to Washington - through the likes of George Mitchell - to extend Ankara a helping hand.

Pelin Turgut writes about Turkey for publications like TIME magazine and The Independent on a variety of political and cultural issues. {She is also co-founder of the !f Istanbul International Independent Film Festival, the region's premier festival dedicated to cutting-edge local and international cinema}. The article was written for the Common Ground News Service.




Guest Voice  |  April 9, 2009 2:22 PM

Obama's Turkish Successes

By Utku Cakirozer

In the aftermath of President Obama's visit to Turkey early this week, PostGlobal asked five Turkey experts from prominent American research and policy institutions for their reactions to President Obama's visit to Turkey. They reached broad consensus on two issues.

First, Obama made it clear to everyone where exactly Turkey stands in the eyes of the United States. He confirmed his administration's perception that Turkey belongs to West, and supported Turkey's European Union accession process. He did this not only symbolically (by including Turkey to his tour to Europe rather than to Middle East), but also with powerful statements before the Turkish parliament in Ankara. While showing great respect to Islam, the religion of the majority of Turkish society, he underlined the secular and democratic nature of the country, too.

Second, he made great strides toward remaking America's image within Turkish society. Between his personal charm, his promise never to make war against Islam, his firm support for Turkey's EU accession process and his promise to continue supporting Turkey's struggle against terror, he gave important signals that Turks immediately understood.

Some observers prefer a cautious stand about the future of the relationship, especially regarding the American Armenian community's expectation that the President will officially declare the killings of Armenians during the First World War as "genocide." These analysts warn that such a development could radically change that rosy forecast for Turkish-American relations.

Other analysts were less satisfied with the President's performance, highlighting his avoidance of certain human rights issues like freedom of expression and women's rights - the roots of which problems, they believe, emanate from the authoritarian attitudes of the AKP government.

Thoughts from the five experts, in their own words, are below. Please add your own impressions in the comment thread.

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Guest Voice  |  April 30, 2009 5:18 PM

Pakistan's Zardari Goes to Washington

By Mansoor Ijaz

Pakistan has a split personality problem. Its citizens can rise up en masse on one day to depose a military dictator and reinstate honest judges, but the next day seem helpless to stop politicians from ceding strategic territory to enemies who publicly flog a 17-year old woman as a show of justice. Most American taxpayers, who are being asked to finance aid even as the country disintegrates, don't have the faintest idea how to decode what's really wrong there or where to begin to help. President Zardari could change that during his upcoming visit to Washington - but it would require his bold domestic leadership and a new direction for Pakistan and its relationship with the U.S.

Pakistan's central problem today is the systemic failure of its federal, provincial and local governments to provide for its citizens' basic needs, whether public safety, healthcare, education or employment. The Taliban is stepping in to fill that void. Hamas did the same in Palestinian enclaves throughout Israel when PLO leadership failed to offer disenfranchised Palestinians a structured way of life. You've heard it before: security is assured, albeit through intimidation and brutality. Basic daily staples like food and clothing come from Arab-financed hawala cash transfers. Education comes from Saudi-funded madrassa schools. Legal disputes are settled through harsh Islamic laws. Only geography makes the Pakistani case different from that of the Palestinians.

To make matters worse, America's visible role in Pakistan's internal affairs only helps the Taliban's cause. Pakistan's woefully inadequate leader, President Asif Ali Zardari, has been privately lectured and publicly admonished by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. Those lectures have made him look like an American stooge playing to the often conflicting ways in which Washington wants Islamabad to act.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.