Forget how they'll handle a crisis. How will they prevent one?
--Mona Lisa Mouallem, 360 Associate Producer
Today is President Bush's first day back from his diplomatic tour throughout the Middle East. In these past eight days the president has discussed his vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace, expressed concerns to Saudi Arabia about the rising price of oil, urged the Egyptian government to hold true to the pursuit of democratic goals, and marveled at the economic growth of the UAE.
He also made a stop at a military base in Kuwait to declare that "hope is returning to Iraq."
Whether this was Bush's sprint to the finish in his race for positive legacy, or a sincere effort for change, or both, this diplomatic visit was one of the President's most important ones during his stint in the White House.
It's no secret that the Middle East has been a target of most of the administration's foreign policy decisions, and whether or not you deem these decisions as successful, our country has still paid an expensive public relations price among Arabs.
In a recent Zogby poll, 78% of the Arab respondents described their attitudes towards Washington as "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable.
So it got me thinking: which of the Presidential candidates will be able to bear both the responsibility of damage control and take on the seeds of change planted by the Bush administration in its final hour? And, of course, how will our next President proceed?
I'm a bit in the dark with regards to where these candidates stand on Middle East foreign policy. Seems like the candidates have largely focused on their position on Iraq and how they would react to extreme scenarios - a terrorist attack, for example, or a potential nuclear threat by Iran.
But instead of focusing on how they would respond to acute threats, I'd like to hear more about the candidates' long-term plans for restoring the United States' image in the Arab World.
How do they plan, really, on proceeding with the delicate yet volatile Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What will be their political stance toward Lebanon, a country Bush once declared a symbol of democracy in the Middle East?
How will our next President deal with the millions of Iraqi refugees, the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world? And how will our new President approach the anti-Arabism and anti-Islamism in America that many of our own Arab-Americans claim they encounter?
Our Arab friends here and abroad are watching the elections closely. It's no secret that our future President will have enormous impact on the region, and it's no secret that our Arab leaders will respond accordingly.
We keep asking our candidates how he or she will act in a time of crisis. Isn't it equally important to ask how they will prevent one?
What do you think?