Thursday, January 17, 2008
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?
Posted By CNN: 2:14 PM ET
  14 Comments
Honestly I don't think any of them really know what they will do. That is why they haven't layed it out for us.

I think Hillary would be the best in foreign affairs. Since Hillary did a stint in the White House I think she knows the ins and outs of that whole process and has dealt with those people before. While the others haven't. And on the Rep. side I'd say McCain because he has lived it. Who better to deal with these issues than someone who has actually been in the thick of it.

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 2:46 PM ET
I don't know that totally preventing crisis is realistic. But working for it on a continuing basis is essential. The peace process with all nations and all groups of people must continue. We've had next to none over the past eight years. Whoever ends up as our president will have a job of monumental sorts on their hands....cleaning up our past messes will, unfortunately, take up valuable time. Talking, understanding, relating, loving will go a long way toward startin the process. And what about our own nation? Can't we have a little of that peace process here too?

Lewis
Portland, Oregon
www.spiritofsaintlewis.blogspot.com
Posted By Blogger Lewis : 3:04 PM ET
We can even take it a step further and ask the candidates to tell us how they have already handled a crisis, even if it's on a smaller scale. That's why mayors and governors make better Presidents than Senators -- they've handled some crises. Why vote only on how they promise to handle a situation, since all Presidential hopefuls will say they would be superior to their opponents ?

Instead of asking how they "would" handle it, let's ask them how they have managed a delicate, volatile situation in the past.
Posted By Anonymous xtina -- chicago IL : 3:07 PM ET
Hi Mona Lisa,
Your name is very nice!
It is not equally important to ask a candidate how to prevent a crisis as well as how to handle one. I believe it is MORE important to know how our leaders will prevent a crisis.
That's what I'm listening and waiting for.
tick. . . tick.. . tick. . .
Posted By Blogger Betty Ann : 3:21 PM ET
"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?"

Step one - see it coming.
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 3:28 PM ET
The coming election is important on so many fronts including this often overlooked one. A long term plan for this region is a key to future progress for everyone involved.
Posted By Anonymous Brian Carr, New York City, NY : 3:47 PM ET
I kind of don't think any of the candidates are going to take a position on the issues that you mention because right now the name of the game is getting delegates. That means offending as few voters as possible. And the media aren't helping any with all the emphasis being put on the personalities of the candidates and how they relate to a room full of strangers, i.e., how they go about campaigning.
Posted By Blogger Barbara in Culver City, CA : 4:00 PM ET
Hello, IMO Bush's visit to the Middle East was nothing more than a photo op. His influence is so tarnished by his foreign policies that no one in these countries would or could listen. His last ditch effort to add something good to his legacy will not change that legacy. I can hardly wait for history to judge him and this administration.
The next president better be sincere and honest in his or her interest in the rest of the world
or we could blow each other off the face of the earth.

Judy Stage
Brooklyn MI
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 4:43 PM ET
In the absence of any real experience thwarting terrorist attacks, these front-runners at least should be laying out a long-term plan for preventing terrorist attacks.
Posted By Anonymous kate s milwaukee, wi : 4:50 PM ET
I believe the most we can hope for is a President who will be able to maintain the delicate balance already existing in the Middle East.

We must face the facts honestly and realize these Arab nations hate us and that isn't going to change in the near future,

The delicate balance will go on as long as we need their oil and they need our dollars.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 5:38 PM ET
We have not only suffered a "public relations" blow in the Middle East but in the rest of the world as well. Its a little scary to think that practically all the rest of the world regards us as a bully and has lost respect for us.

Whoever we elect will have a lot of foreign relations damage to repair. As to preventing - perhaps repairing our image with the rest of the world will help prevent other attacks. In addition to that they need to know an attack is coming to know how to prevent it from happening.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Blogger Annie Kate : 9:00 PM ET
People have been getting too caught up with such small things like these individual crises and forget that the only way to acheive real change and success abroad is to concentrate on the big picture. That is, to develop a real foreign policy which is forward thinking and comprehensive. Adding duct tape to the problem will only patch it up for the time being. A full reconstruction of our foreign policy is necessary to restore our position in the world. These band aids hide the real issues. Who, of these candidates, will be able to handle these pressing issues? I am nowhere near sure, but I do know that exposure to the foreign community is necessary to at least have some familiarity with these areas.

David
New York, NY
Posted By Anonymous David : 9:58 PM ET
Honestly, I want a President who doesn't care what other countries think of us. We have to continue to stand against terrorism, even if we're the only nation taking action.
Posted By Anonymous David H - Lake Barrington, IL : 10:00 PM ET
I hope we do learn better the potential changes the candidates will effect. In the meantime, however, we can glean certain possibilities without asking them a thing. Sen. Clinton will bring two things to the world stage--her last name and her gender--that can really make a powerful difference vis-a-vis the current administration. And of course Sen. Obama brings his face, his father's (albeit abandoned) faith, and his own hopeful air to our friends and our enemies. When you're president, preventing disasters may be just as much about who you are as what you do.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle J. -- Allentown, PA : 2:23 PM ET
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