• 24 June 2008
  • Posted By Caroline Tarpey
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC, Presidential 2008 Elections

On June 23, panelists at the Partnership for a Secure America discussion on “Bipartisan Foreign Policy for January 2009” demanded bipartisan national security policy in the next presidential administration.

The panel, which featured Ambassador Tom Pickering, Undersecretary of State, 1997-2000; Robert McFarlane, National Security Advisor, 1983-85; and Frederick Barton, senior adviser in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program, called for U.S. national security reform that clearly defines U.S. strategic interests, abandons party lines, and builds consensus between and among policymakers and the American public.

“Paralysis” cripples Democrats and Republicans when they solely pursue partisan goals, McFarlane said. He argued that bipartisanship has historically yielded considerable progress, pointing to cross-party efforts against communism during the Cold War era as an example. “There are no fundamental philosophical differences between the two parties,” McFarlane noted, but on certain issues, there apparently remains “a certain political advantage to taking the opposing view.”

Pickering and Barton agreed on the need for a shift in national security policy development. Calling for major policy reform, Pickering argued that one important step is the creation of a bipartisan commission to consult with the president on national security issues.

Barton focused on the coming administration’s obligation to re-engage the American people: “Unless the population thinks we are doing good [things], they will pull back [from public life],” he warned, calling on Washington to shape a “fresh narrative” that “balance[s] fear and opportunity.”

The conversation quickly turned to an issue that often thwarts such bipartisan initiatives: U.S. policy in Iraq and the greater Middle East. The panelists argued that the U.S.’s Middle East approach must involve what McFarlane called “sustained, full-time, consultative planning” to overcome oversights that resulted from poor policy development in the past.

“Consensus starts with the American and Iraqi people,” Barton said of U.S.-Iraq policy. He called for a target date for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and looked to non-political exchanges as avenues for bipartisan regional progress, observing that various elements of American society, such as American-style university education and U.S.-produced technology, are taking hold in the Middle East.

“It would be profoundly wrong to set a date,” McFarlane said of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, disagreeing with Barton. He argued that the U.S. needs to define its own interests in the Middle East, but realize that a U.S. presence in Iraq is still vital to regional security. “There is a uniquely strong animus to foreign presence,” he said of Middle Eastern sentiment, “but neither can there be a vacuum,” which he argued rushed withdrawal would create.

With Iraq’s neighbor Iran, McFarlane said that the next president cannot make diplomatic engagement of Iran his first action. “The U.S. ability to engage is much better after disciplined planning,” which he said the next administration needs before engagement in order to fully understand U.S. goals. McFarlane noted the importance of soft power initiatives similar to those Barton endorsed in the greater Middle East. He called for better U.S. broadcasting efforts, exchange programs, and other similar initiatives to solidify U.S. cultural leverage among the younger, pro-Western generations in Iran.

Championing immediate diplomacy in both countries was Pickering. “Absent part of the equation in Iraq has been a sustained diplomatic effort,” Pickering said. He underscored the need for major regional players Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, other key UN countries, and the U.S. to join in consensus-building and solution formation in the Middle East. “The U.S. is not strong enough to put things back on track alone,” he cautioned.

Regarding Iran, Pickering continued his calls for robust diplomatic action. Calling for substantive, direct talks between the U.S. and Iran, he acknowledged the ideological appeal but practical counter-productivity of keeping Iran’s uranium suspension as a precondition for talks.

“Preconditions, as laudable as they are as a context,” he said, “are standing in the way of diplomacy.” Pickering contended that “to ensure permanence” of U.S. policy proposals and international solutions in the Middle East, diplomacy is indispensable.

Despite their differing views on some of the issues discussed, the panelists overwhelmingly agreed that to uphold U.S. national security interests the next administration must facilitate consensus in Washington. Whether Democrat or Republican, their message to the next administration was, “You can’t do it alone.”

Posted By Caroline Tarpey

    One Response to “Bipartisan Consensus-Building: The Key to Any U.S. Strategy”

  1. Arsalan Barmand says:

    this is exactly what we need – to transcend party lines for unity among all decision-makers and the public.

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7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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