Press Club Looks at Future U.S. Leaders & Middle East

     WASHINGTON (CN) — With the United States set to elect its next U.S. president in 130 days, Middle East scholars gathered at the National Press Club to weigh Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.
     “I’m not so sure everyone in the Middle East is so afraid of [Trump],” said Aaron David Miller with the Wilson Center’s Middle East program. “He’s known on a personal level by many leaders there, and they are comfortable with his defending authoritarianism. Their biggest problem is that they don’t know what to expect.”
     When it comes to Clinton, though another panelist said Middle East “officials think they’ll get Obama-plus — but maybe just a bit more muscular.”
     Shibley Telhami is the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland.
     “Even if you call Hillary Clinton a ‘war hawk,’ her policy would be only marginally different than Obama’s,” Telhami said. “She’s cultivated an image as an interventionist and I don’t buy that.”
     The Arab Center Washington D.C. sponsored Wednesday morning’s talk, which was titled “Impact of the U.S. Presidential Election on the Middle East.”
     Ellen Laipson, distinguished fellow and president emeritus of the Stimson Center, summed up the priorities of the next president plainly.
     “It’s management versus change,” she said. “Profound, permanent change. The tones may get tougher but in actuality, the next president will quickly understand that there is limited negotiability.”
     The panel seemed unified on the need for America’s next leader to strike a balance between “risk readiness” and “risk aversion.”
     “Whatever divides Clinton and Trump — and there are many issues which do — what has been established so far is that they have both asserted aversion to nation building,” Miller said.
     The panelists presented nation building as more than stabilizing or managing countries in crisis by installing of U.S. military forces or policing constituencies there.
     It will require leadership, David argued, that “fills the gap between what people want and what people get.”
     “Policy is derived from struggle, and policy is driven by the realities of the region,” David said. “The Middle East is angry, broken, dysfunctional, lacks leadership and ownership.”
     Another member of the panel, Manal Omar, with the Center for the Middle East and Africa chapter of the U.S. Institute of Peace, said understanding the issues requires an important distinction.
     “We’re truly looking at a global crisis from the Middle East,” Omar said. “We’re not looking at a Middle East crisis. That shift [in understanding] is an important shift. … Everyone is [being] globally affected — whether it’s the movement of refugees, the economy or the fight against violent extremism.”

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