Covering the Obama Administration in the Fog of Foreign Policy

Nov. 27, 2014

Washington Post Opinion Writer and Senior Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project, David Ignatius, delivered an address entitled “Covering the Obama Administration in the Fog of Foreign Policy” and led a breakfast seminar with experts, students, and fellows on September 18. He explored current trends in the Middle East, critical factors at play in the negotiations with Iran, the West’s relationship with Russia and positive developments in the US-China relationship.

David Ignatius began his seminar by exploring current positive and negative trends in the Middle East, both positive and negative. He raised the importance of technology to the Arab Spring, arguing that "the connectedness of the disaffected people simply by technological tools that allowed the [people in the Middle East] to gather is an important part of the story." Ignatius compared the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to the French Revolution two hundred years previous in terms of the mobilization of "mass politics, [that] brought people to the streets, [and had] shock effects in neighboring countries." He cited Richard Haas' argument that the Middle East is experiencing its own version of the European Thirty Years' War as a result of Sunni-Shia sectarian violence and political fragmentation.

Referencing Henry Kissinger, particularly his book, A World Restored, Ignatius maintained that an appropriate response to regional crises requires the status quo powers, namely Saudi Arabia and the US, to engage with rising revolutionary powers such as Iran and Russia in creating a "new regional security architecture that respects both sides' rights." Ignatius predicted that given the current trends of nuclear negotiation there was a strong probability of an impending Iran deal during the Obama administration. Ignatius quoted Dr. Kissinger’s assertion that "Iran needs to decide whether it's a nation or a cause,” and highlighted favorable trends in the Rouhaniadministration in Iran that suggest a forthcoming settlement.

With regard to Russia and the Ukraine crisis, Ignatius asserted that it was “time to move to some provision of military assistance to Ukraine,” and maintained that despite Putin’s saber-rattling, he is “playing a weak hand” and “Russia is a country in decline," both in terms of economics and population.

On the topic of China-US relations, Ignatius argued that a new type of relationship was in formation. He felt confident that it would continue to shape the world in a positive way. Ignatius asserted that both President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping recognize this and appreciate that "we can't live in a world where we don't know each other and we miscalculate." Ignatius agreed with Future of Diplomacy Project Faculty Director, R. Nicholas Burns, that the US was behind the Japan-China rapprochement that emerged at the APEC summit in Beijing earlier in November, quelling some level of tensions between the two countries, especially over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. “It really shows that Xi is a smart leader who understands how to play the triangular game between Russian, Chinese, and American interests very well,” said Ignatius. Ignatius pushed the notion that Congress needed to help build on President Obama's success in the Asia-Pacific.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Future of Diplomacy Project
For Academic Citation:Covering the Obama Administration in the Fog of Foreign Policy.” News, , November 27, 2014.