Categorized | Middle East, Rotto_Gary, USA

Columnist provides Mideast Policy 101 short course

By Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

Gary Rotto

SAN DIEGO — When listening to Bret Stephens, you wonder why US foreign policy is so complicated?  The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist laid out a succinct set of foreign policy goals to the 1100 participants in the Jewish Federation of San Diego’s Men’s Event.

Under a perfect evening suitable for a leisurely walk around the athletic fields at the San Diego Jewish Academy, Stephens took the audience for a stroll through a thoughtful, reasonable and actionable set of goals for the next administration.

He asserted that US foreign policy should be based on a policy of keeping our nightmares at bay. “Think of the three or four things that you will not allow to happen,” is his frame for the next president. If one thinks about those things, then a foreign policy should be build to focus on preventing these events. That would create foreign policy goals that the American public can understand and that US diplomats and military leaders could make actionable.

The three goals would be to prevent Iran from using the nuclear deal to build the infrastructure for a bomb or to build a bomb; to prevent the establishment of an ISIS caliphate; not allow our allies – even our non democratic allies –  to crumble as other countries have.

The latter goal may cause great pause amongst human rights activists.  But consider the alternative:  the chaos and civil war that we have witnessed over the past eight years in countries like Sudan, Libya and Syria.  The streaming of millions of Syrians as refugees to many countries a far away as the US is the product of such chaos.  The violence and fear rising due to civil conflict spawns mass migration as well as the uprooting, dislocation and separation of families.

While not necessarily the focus of the address, these three goals leapt out from one of the subsections of his remarks. Stephens had actually laid out Nine Rules for US foreign policy making for the next administration.  The names evoked a Pop Culture aura though a more sophisticated. Rules such as the Vegas Rule, the Larry David Rule (really, Curb Your Enthusiasm), the Hillary Rule and the Peres Rule, this was an address to create a reasonable foreign policy understandable for the educated lay person.

In nod to the legacy of recently decease Shimon Peres, Stephens described the Peres Rule as short term realism with long term optimism. This rule asserts that a Jewish civilization will be in Israel forever. The US foreign policy goal should be “What can be accomplished in the short run? “  This can even be applied to the Israeli government.

While he was asked not to comment on the presidential election, it would be hard to disagree that his concepts would add more substance what better resembles a reality television show.  Clearly, the concepts suggest by Stephens form a sensible guide for discussing foreign policy during this election year.

Rotto is a freelance writer with an interest in government and politics.  He may be contacted via [email protected].  Comments intended for publication in the space below MUST be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the United States.)



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