Great Decisions - "Middle East" - Arguably the best Session

Monday at the Westfield Library for "Great Decisions" has become a routine that I really started to appreciate and enjoy. Unfortunately, today is the last session. There have been 8 sessions about foreign policy topics that were all interesting, inspiring and usually insightful. The program is certainly worth the time and energy invested.
Of all 8 topics "Middle East" is probably the one that at the same time is most critical for what happens in the US but is equally difficult to grasp in a comprehensive fashion. Prof S. Azmat Hassan, the speaker for tonight, clearly knew what he was talking about. In addition to a lot of points specific to particular country, region and their history, the most important point that he made was: The "problem" of the Middle East is one that has developed over centuries, that has a multitude of sub-problems with their own respective causes and influences, that includes complex relationships and dependencies between a plethora of stakeholders. Meaning, it is not an easy problem.

The inevitable - and very rational - consequence of this observation is: The solution to the problem will not be simple, will not be fast and straightforward and will certainly not be painless. The assumption of some protagonists in politics and media that shape public opinion that there actually is such an easy solution to a problem that is that complex is IMHO arrogant at best and really scary.

This reminds me of a quote by HL Menken:

"There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong. "

In reality, the "solution" for the Middle East will be difficult, cumbersome, messy. It will take a long time and there will be set backs. It will require patience, openness, knowledge and an understanding of the other side and a lot of diplomacy, dialog, trust building, etc. A dogmatic approach that is mostly based on military might will ultimately fail (and leave everybody much worse off).

Prof S. Azmat Hassan didn't have answers to any of the problems, but he was able to articulate very well that we need a more comprehensive strategy, one that is more long term, one that is based on dialog and knowledge and not on short term partisan politics. This problem is so critical to the future of the US (and really the whole world), it seems ridiculous that our political leadership (and I mean all of them regardless what party they are with) doesn't understand this (or doesn't want to understand it for selfish interest) and somehow is incapable of transcending beyond partisan politics to device a true solutions strategies that makes all better off in the long run.

Logic and rational thinking tell us that it should be fairly easy to develop a fact- and experience-based strategy that we pretty much can all agree on regardless of party affiliation. And if we only pursue this strategy with vigor and patience at the same time we will eventually solve the issue.

As much as today's session about the Middle East was insightful and private a good perspective, I'm not much more optimistic that we will actually solve this.

And certainly, I look forward to next year's cycle of "Great Decisions" in Westfield.

Signing Off - The Westfield Blogger.

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