Is American Engagement in The Middle East Good for America?

Highlighting its commitment for a stable and prosperous Middle East, the United States of America today underlined that American engagement in the Middle East is good for America and for the region.

In her remarks in Washington DC, Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs says in a hyper-connected world, the world has become a geospatial pinball machine, ringing and pinging with security, economic and cultural connections and implications for all of us; and that ball never stops coming around.

“So it is very much in our interests to engage fully, energetically, and creatively. There is no more urgent region for such U.S. engagement than the Middle East and North Africa.” – Ms. Sonenshine

She says the reason is simple and that American engagement in the Middle East is good for America and for the region.

A more stable, more democratic, and more prosperous Middle East and North Africa region enhances security and prosperity for all, she underlined.

“It means greater economic opportunity for young people, for entrepreneurs, for the business community, for educators.” – Ms. Sonenshine

She says it also opens opportunities to deepen personal connections and strategic alliances with all countries in the region.

So how does US engage fully so that the American people and the people of the region benefit from the current changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa?

According to Ms. Sonenshine, the answer are two words which is Public diplomacy.

King Abdul Aziz with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdul Aziz, converses with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on board a ship returning from the Yalta Conference in 1945.

She says these two words may sound simple. However, she says they define a critical strategic tool in the full-on campaign of American international engagement.

Public diplomacy has a great many, mutually reinforcing elements, she stated.

According to Ms. Sonenshine, public diplomacy includes conveying and explaining U.S. policies and values; fostering democratic transition; supporting entrepreneurship and U.S. exports; facilitating educational exchange; and promoting U.S. higher education.

“So, how does US employ American public diplomacy in such a complicated, fast-moving and volatile region, and why we must redouble our efforts, despite the challenges we face.” – Ms. Sonenshine.

She says US engagement in the short-term emphasized a key value of the United States freedom of speech and expression which is also central to its mid and long-term public diplomacy efforts.

The US also used social media as a major 21st century tool in our public diplomacy toolbox to ensure their message was disseminated quickly and widely.

Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, web chats and other media, the US confronted the anger head-on, she cited.

She says one web chat connected State Department officials in Washington with hundreds of youth from every country in the region giving the Americans a chance to dispel widespread myths and misconceptions about American intolerance.

“We were also able to project an image of the real America as a tolerant, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.” – Ms. Sonenshine

The US flagship exchange program invites journalists, doctors, gender rights advocates, artists, engineers, urban planners, and others to the U.S. to build valuable professional skills and also to help them network with American counterparts.

She explains as they do that, the participants gain a better, more nuanced and accurate understanding of American society, culture, and values.

In addition, Ms. Sonenshine cites that the most desirable way to minimize how often US have to put out fires, and correct misunderstandings, is to open doors of trust and avenues of prosperity before they occur.

“That is why our public diplomacy is focused on young people. They were a critical force behind the Arab Spring.” – Ms. Sonenshine

She says the youths are the region’s future change agents. They are the emerging leaders and innovators who can lead their countries and economies to greater productivity and global understanding.

It is also true that they are vulnerable to violent extremist ideologues who use false messages to recruit them into terrorism.

So though the US Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication or CSCC, the US has developed a credible, multifaceted approach to sow doubt about extremist worldview among those being targeted by terrorist recruiters.

From digital engagement in Arabic, Somali, and Urdu which includes aggressive use of online videos to creative strategies that reach audiences on the ground in their home countries, the US is contesting the communications space used by al-Qaeda and its supporters.

“That’s what public diplomacy is all about. No matter what the challenges, we can and must continue to engage.” – Ms. Sonenshine

In December 2012, with its commitment to pursue regional security and stability in the Middle East, the United States of America has revealed the four inter-connected elements to effective American policy in the region.

First is security, and in particular meeting the urgent challenges posed by Iran’s reckless behavior across a wide front, and the related imperative of accelerating a transition to the new leadership which the Syrian people so deeply deserve.

The US shares with the rest of the international community a profound concern about Iran’s continuing refusal to meet its nuclear obligations, and a profound commitment to intensifying economic and political pressure until it does pressure which has already resulted in a fifty percent drop in the value of Iran’s currency and a similar drop in oil exports.

A second element of American strategy across the region is continued support for political openness, democratic reforms, and successful post-revolutionary transitions.

The United States, for its part, will consistently emphasize the importance of respect for the rule of law; of peaceful and inclusive political processes; of protecting the fundamental rights of all citizens – including women and minorities and people of all faiths; and of steady focus on building strong democratic institutions and real checks and balances.

Third, no political transition or democratic reform process can succeed without a sense of economic possibility.

The US long-term goal should be societies in which getting ahead depends less on who you know and more on what you know; and in which economic growth is revived and spread widely across populations, not just monopolized by a tiny minority at the top.

A fourth element of strategy is a re-energized effort to resolve regional conflicts, especially renewing hope for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

The US highlighted the status quo between Palestinians and Israelis is unsteady and combustible, and ultimately unsustainable.

Israeli settlement activity continues to corrode and undermine hopes for the only workable solution – two states for two peoples, a viable Palestine and a secure Israel.

US support to Middle East is unequivocal especially on regards to non-proliferation efforts as well.

US asserts that a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction is an achievable goal, but a long-term goal.

A WMD free zone in the Middle East can only be achieved once essential conditions are in place, most critically a comprehensive and durable peace and full compliance by all countries in the region with their nonproliferation obligations.

The United States continues to address the multiple instances of Treaty non-compliance that have arisen from the region.

Recognizing the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)in global security, the United States has underlined that the threat is not just theoretical, but also exists in real world.

The United States is committed to the complete elimination of chemi-cal weapons stockpiles in the United States and around the world.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.