Friday, October 5, 2012

PF 2012 Middle East Policy - Pro

For part 1 of the topic click here



Developing Pro specific positions can be a little difficult, as I found out while looking a little deeper into this resolution.  Much of the evidence will show the volatility and current unrest in the Middle East possibly threatens U.S. national security and if there is any fault in U.S. policies, it is the lack of responsiveness to the rapidly changing landscape brought about by regime changes and shifting alliances.  Nevertheless, there are some sources who believe the dynamic situation could have been foreseen and so the failure of U.S. policy to address the looming changes results in a dangerous situation today.  There are also some sources which say the current Middle East volatility is a consequence of U.S. policy.  Personally, I think this position is less tenable but if you want to run with it, the idea can possibly be supported (at least until properly scrutinized).  Additionally there are lots of well respected opinions about how future policy should be shaped so as to avoid undesirable consequences in the coming year and beyond.  While interesting, I don't think Pro can go there because the resolution specified current policy, not future policy.

I also want to clarify another point prior to trying to set up some Pro advocacy.  I am intentionally avoiding the North Africa region as much as possible, except where there is spill-over effect into the Middle East region.  The only legitimate reason for excluding places like Libya and Egypt is to remain true to the definition I established in the first part of this analysis.  It goes without saying, if you find a definition of Middle East that includes all or parts of North Africa, then you can expand your evidence search to include those nations.

The Current U.S. Middle East Foreign Policy

The first thing I want to do is lay this on the table because there are no doubt many opinions about what are the U.S. policies for the region as opposed to specific nations.  I think this is a pretty good source and a nice summary of current U.S. Mid-East policy.

Blanchard 2012:
U.S. policy goals in the broader Middle East are generally understood to include:
  • Discouraging interstate conflict that can threaten allies (including Israel) and jeopardize other interests;
  • Preserving the flow of energy resources and commerce that is vital to the U.S.,
  • regional, and global economies;
  • Ensuring transit and access to facilities to support U.S. military operations;
  • Countering terrorism (CT);
  • Stemming the proliferation of conventional and unconventional weapons; and
  • Promoting economic growth, democracy, and human rights.

Some Problem Areas

Much of the research I did, focused on four major areas of potential trouble for U.S. policy.
First is the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people.  This strife has failed to yield a lasting peace treaty since the 1948 recognition of the state of Israel by the U.N..  The U.S. continued support of Israel without any kind of peaceful settlement with the Palestinian people fosters a lot of division in opinions which harms overall U.S. standing in the region. 
Second, the so-called Arab Spring movement in North Africa and parts of the Middle East (including possibly Syria) is having a profound impact on U.S. relations which may or may not be harming our national security.  For years, the U.S. has maintained relations with stable regimes which in some cases abused or repressed their own people.  Some of these regimes have been toppled by popular uprisings, encouraged by the U.S. and in some cases, directly aided by the U.S. without any assurance of continued cooperation by the emerging governments.  There are two principle effects from this.  One, there is the risk the new governments will be uncooperative with the U.S., and two the emerging governments may not have the same relationship with neighboring nations as the former regimes and so the shift in alliances may not be in the best interests of the U.S. 
A third potential problem for U.S. policy is the situation in Syria.  A popular uprising is threatening the existing regime which is fiercely resisting change.  Many feel the U.S. needs to directly intervene.  There are mixed reports of certain kinds of U.S. involvement, and spill-over from that conflict has already resulted in the shelling of a village in neighboring Turkey and accusations of Iran and others providing weapons to the Syrian government.  There is believed to be a major cache of chemical weapons in Syria and there is the fear of those weapons being used, "lost" or otherwise uncontrolled. 
Finally the fourth and most important trouble spot is the fear of Iran developing nuclear weapon capability.  Israel's President, Benjamin Netanyahu has recently visited the U.N. and several countries calling for a "red line" to be drawn as a threshold for a pre-emptive strike on Iran nuclear materials production.  Currently the U.S. is claiming, "there is still time" to reach a peaceful solution even though we have supported extreme economic sanctions against Iran.

Framing the Pro Advocacy

There are plenty of opinions the current U.S. policy in the Middle East is not good for U.S. interests and I will give you some of the sources.  In my opinion, it is not enough to read the "cards" so to speak.  The evidence needs to be framed into a more complete argument which will require you to explain how the evidence relates to the current U.S. policies which are aimed toward national security interests which include the protection of our economy (including the energy interests), military operations, counter-terrorism, and weapons proliferation.  Failure to close that loop to national security will leave your case vulnerable.

The Evidence

Having laid down some background I guess I will get to what you really want anyway...the evidence.

Keck 2011:
The voices calling on the Obama administration to give greater attention to human rights abuses in Iran have been forceful and diverse. A Washington Post editorial from last month, for instance, told the administration to "bet on a renewed popular uprising in Iran" and advocated increasing U.S. aid to Iranian dissent groups. Then, after the European Union placed sanctions on 32 Iranian officials for human rights abuses, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to "designate President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad as an Iranian human rights abuser" and to enact sanctions against other Iranian officials. More proactively, two prominent think tanks have formed a joint task force to generate recommendations for how the United States can place democracy and human rights at the forefront of its Iran policy.

These arguments, however well-intentioned, are misguided. The Iranian government's violent repression of dissidents certainly stands in direct contrast to democratic values as well as to the professed values of the Islamic Republic itself. But putting overt pressure on the Iranian government for its human rights abuses risks alienating the domestic opposition from the Iranian population and would almost certainly unify an increasingly fractured Iranian leadership.

Lobe 2012
Last month, experts at the RAND Corporation, a think tank closely tied to the Pentagon, summarised the findings of two of its recent reports by concluding that “an Israeli or American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would make it more, not less, likely that the Iranian regime would decide to produce and deploy nuclear weapons. Such an attack would also make it more, not less, difficult to contain Iranian influence…”
“In fact, a post-attack Middle East may result in the worst of both worlds: a nuclear-armed Iran more determined than ever to challenge the Jewish state, and with far fewer regional and international impediments to doing so,” the report stated, adding that Washington “should support the assessments of former and current Israeli officials who have argued against a military option”.

Jentleson 2012:
A significant number of Israelis increasingly doubt that the United States understands the gravity of the threats their country faces, while concerns are raised increasingly in the United States about the extent to which support for Israel serves American interests. These differences have been particularly acute over the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In the last few years the Israeli leadership has resisted concessions toward the Palestinian leadership and fears, above all, the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear program.94 Meanwhile, the Palestinians have insisted on a settlement freeze as a precondition for talks, following the Obama administration’s assertion that a freeze should be a precondition. While continuing to work closely with Israel, Obama administration officials have spoken of the toll the failure to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace takes on U.S. interests. “Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” in the region, GEN David Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command, stated in his March 2010 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region].”

Lynch 2012:
Finally, some are calling on the United States government to arm the opposition, providing advanced weapons, communications equipment and other support to even the balance of power and would enable the Syrian opposition to defend itself and take the fight to Assad. This is often presented as the least intrusive path. But in fact it might be the worst of all the options. Providing arms to the opposition would not likely allow it to prevail over the Syrian military. The regime would likely discard whatever restraint it has thus far shown in order to avoid outside intervention. What is more, the Syrian opposition remains fragmented, disorganized and highly localized. Providing weapons will privilege favored groups within the opposition, discredit advocates of non-military strategies, and likely lead to ever more expansive goals. It could further frighten Syrians who continue to support the regime out of fear for their own future, and make them less likely to switch sides. Arming the FSA is a recipe for protracted, violent and regionalized conflict. It would be foolish to assume that an insurgency once launched can be easily controlled. It should also be sobering that the best example offered of historical success of such a strategy is the American support to the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union, which led to the collapse of the Afghan state, the rise of the Taliban, and the evolution of al-Qaeda.

Gengler 2012:
The death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials in Libya last Wednesday should serve to draw much-needed attention to an increasingly untenable contradiction in U.S. policy toward the Middle East. Even while it seeks to recover from this latest attack by Islamic radicals, the United States continues to support or tolerate the mobilization of adherents of that very same ideology elsewhere in the region, most clearly in Syria and in Bahrain. There, U.S. policymakers should expect equally frightening results.

Indyk 2012:
In a period of revolutionary turmoil, it is easy to get distracted by the crisis of the moment. Today, our attention is focused on the assault on the American diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya. These attacks certainly deserve the attention they are receiving from the highest levels of our government.
Amid the turmoil, however, we must remind ourselves that it is Iran—not al Qaeda and certainly not Salafism writ large—that represents the paramount strategic threat to the United States. This is so, because the Islamic Republic is a state sponsor of terrorism that is developing a nuclear weapons capability. In addition, it leads an alliance system, the self-styled “Resistance Bloc,” which is dedicated to undermining the influence of the United States, its Arab allies, and Israel.
The Arab Spring has deeply complicated the American-Iranian contest. It has, among other things, empowered new actors—such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis—who pose independent challenges to the authority of the United States.
As Washington contends with these, it risks losing sight of the fact that the major allies of the United States—the Israelis and the Saudis—do not actually believe President Obama when he says that he will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Repairing this lack of confidence is the issue that should be at the top of the American agenda.

FPI 2012:
For its part, the Obama  administration’s Middle East policies, to date, have seemingly favored short-term fixes over securing long-term U.S. interests.  In June 2009, the President stood silently as protestors were beaten and shot in the streets of Iran.  In early 2011, he waited weeks to intervene in Libya as citizens were slaughtered by the Qaddafi regime and its loyalists.  In early 2011, he vacillated as protestors took to the streets to protest in Egypt.  Since February 2011, he has refused to take any meaningful actions to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad despite the deaths of an estimated 20,000 people by his regime.
The truth is that efforts either to double down on the President’s misguided regional approach, or to prematurely wash America’s hands of the Middle East, would harm—not protect—the national security interests of the United States and its partners in the Middle East.  Egypt and Libya show that it is not enough to simply rid nations of brutal dictatorship or tyrants.  Rather, it is critical that the United States play a decisive and ongoing role in helping post-dictatorial states to build representative governments that respect peace with their neighbors, the impartial rule of law. To this end, there are a number of steps the administration and Congress should take.

For the Con position, click here.
For more on Public Forum topics, click here.


Change in the Middle East: Implications for U.S. Policy
Christopher M. Blanchard, Coordinator, et al
March 7, 2012
U.S. 'Human Rights' Stance on Iran Would Weaken Opposition
World Politics Review
Zachary Keck, on 06 May 2011

Attacking Iran Likely Counter-Productive, Think Tank Warns
Interpress Service News Agency
Jim Lobe
Jun 7 2012

Strategic Adaptation
Toward a New U.S. Strategy in the Middle East
Bruce W. Jentleson, Andrew M. Exum, Melissa G. Dalton and J. Dana Stuster
June 2012

Testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
Prepared Statement of Dr. Marc Lynch
April 25, 2012

The dangerous U.S. double standard on Islamic extremism
Foreign Policy
Justin Gengler Monday, September 17, 2012

Around the Halls: Has the Arab Spring Made the World a More Dangerous Place?
Martin S. Indyk, Daniel L. Byman, Bruce Riedel and Michael Doran
September 13, 2012 2:00pm

Dangerous Isolationism
by Stefano Casertano — 20 Sep 2012

The Foreign Polict Initiative
FPI Bulletin: Responding to Recent Events in Egypt and Libya
September 21, 2012


  1. Interesting and helpful analysis. One method of "current foreign policy" that i have been thinking a lot about running for Pro is the use of drones to kill the Taliban militants. By this drones killing more civilians than terrorists, they do create a negative global image for America which essentially hampers our national security since terrorist have more incentive to attack. I don't know what do you guys think? Valid? Invalid? Noob freshman argument?

    1. Personally, I agree with you. However, I am restricting myself to the U.S. State Department definition of the Middle East, which excluded Afghanistan, Pakistan, and regions around the Caucasus Mtns. If teams use a broader defintion which includes, say, the Greater Middle-East then our policies in regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya and perhaps even Somalia, would be very relevant. There is no need to restrict yourself as I have done so long as you can justify your definition.

    2. I'm using that coupled with this definition. Middle East - an extensive area of SW Asia and northern Africa, stretching from the Mediterranean to Pakistan and including the Arabian peninsula.

    3. @Stephen - I deleted your repeated comment.
      Again, I think if debater's can support their definitions, then bringing Afghanistan and Pakistan into the discussion opens up plenty of opportunities to bring drone warfare in the debate. But even if the definition is disputed, it may be a good idea to have evidence of the many drone attacks which occurred in Yemen, which is indisputably in the Middle East as defined by the State Department.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. i am totally behind and i really don't understand the us foreign policy in the middle east. i don't understand what my contentions will be either. please help.

    1. Don't let the fact the topic is very broad add to your frustration. On the Pro you only need a few specific examples to prove the case. Focus on the Syrian revolution, Iranian nuclear ambitions and sanctions and possibly Israeli-Palestinian conflict as potential threats to our national security. Afterall, these problems have not been solved by the U.S. On the Con side, explain how the rapidly changing situation (i.e. from the Arab Spring) makes it too difficult to claim national security is threatened, the U.S. policy is constantly changing, there is regional support for the Obama policies of cooperation and support of the Arab Spring movements.

  4. I am totally confused on how the evidence from Lobe supports the Pro side of the resolution. If you could explain that it would be a great help!

    1. The Obama administration policy toward Iran is basically, continue sanctions but at the same time, "nothing is off the table". There are contingincy plans in case the sanctions fail to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons tech. The Lobe evidence addresses those plans. But, I understand your confusion, because right now, the US is saying it will not strike Iran for the time being. Nevertheless, that does not mean the policy excludes a military option.


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