Over 200 members and guests filled the Chautauqua Room at South Franklin Circle
last Wednesday to hear Middle East Policy expert Aaron David Miller’s take on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. It was his third consecutive appearance as part of the South Franklin Circle Dialogue Series
A Cleveland native, Miller served for two decades in the Department of State as an analyst, negotiator and adviser on Middle Eastern issues to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State.
At South Franklin Circle he offered a six-point commentary on America’s current foreign policy, not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world. Overall, he advised that America be careful and deliberate where it projects its military power.
- We find ourselves in a Middle East conundrum. We are stuck in a region we cannot fix, yet cannot leave. The best we can do is manage.
- Neither the Democratic or Republican Party has a monopoly on what works. The dividing line in US foreign policy shouldn’t be between left/right, conservative/liberal, democrat/republican, but between dumb and smart. If we want America on the smart side, we borrow ideas from wherever we find them, regardless of party/partisan affiliation.
- We don’t have the luxury of expenditure of resources that we did following World War II. Our house is falling apart. It’s killing our economic power and cohesion. He mentioned six deadly D’s: dysfunctional politics; debt; deficit; dependence on hydrocarbons; decaying infrastructure; deteriorating educational system.
- We’re handicapped by our own illusions. We view the world the way we view America. We can’t relate to many of the conflicts in which we intervene because we’re spoiled with non-predatory neighbors to the north and south and fish to our east and west (what one historian described as our “liquid assets”). This explains our idealism, pragmatism, and arrogance too.
- America’s street cred is way down. We’re neither admired, feared nor respected in many parts of the world-especially in the Middle East.
- America must be embrace idealism without illusion. We can aspire to change the world, but we must always have our eyes open.
The evening concluded with astute questions from the audience submitted on note cards and read out loud by South Franklin Circle member and programming chair, Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell.
Miller is currently Vice President for New Initiatives and a Distinguished Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., where he’s finishing a new book Can America Have another Great President? He is a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR.