April 23, 2004

Faculty to discuss Middle East policy

John Mearsheimer and Ron Suny, professors of political science at the University, and Michael Ledeen, of the right-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute, will debate the implications of the 2004 presidential race on U.S.—Middle East relations this Monday.

The event, titled "The 2004 Election and U.S. Foreign Policy Toward the Middle East," will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the I-House Assembly Hall. Dean of the Social Sciences Mark Hansen will moderate.

Student Committee on the Middle East (SCME) will host the event with the International House Global Voices Program, the University of Chicago Democrats, the College Republicans, and the Chicago Society as co-sponsors.

Panelists will evaluate President Bush's Middle East policy and suggest policy options for the future. "U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East will be one of the most important topics of the 2004 presidential election for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and others," said Blythe Dorn, graduate student and co-chair of SCME.

Ledeen, who received his Ph.D. in Wisconsin, said of revisiting the Midwest, "I am always happy to come to a University campus, especially one as distinguished as Chicago, and especially after the snow has melted."

A neoconservative, Ledeen said he was not interested in debate so much as scholarly, political discourse. "I am interested in advancing understanding and in learning from the other members of the panel," Ledeen said. "I think the national debate is excessively limited—the proper subject for study and analysis is much greater than ‘Iraq today' and I will try to explain why."

Mearsheimer, who will speak from the realist perspective, knows Ledeen's positions well and looks forward to debating him. "It is very important to talk about the election and American policy in the Middle East," he said. "The U.S. is likely to be stuck there for a long time to come, and it seems quite clear that the our present policies, especially regarding Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict, are making a bad situation worse."

Suny will argue the liberalist perspective.

Dorn said that SCME hopes to elevate political events on campus to a higher standard of civility. "Too often political discourse in the U.S. is characterized by sound bytes, narrow partisanship, ad hominum attacks, or exclusion of certain major views rather than by a genuine search for the truth," she said.

Yael Levin, the other co-chair of SCME, also emphasized the need for fair, balanced discourse. "By bringing in an intellectually diverse group of speakers, our aim is to have an informative and balanced panel discussion about important foreign policy issues," she said. "Especially because of the upcoming elections, we think promoting general education on such issues is of extreme importance. The conservative, liberal, and realist positions—each of which has thoughtful and worthwhile components—will all be represented, so it should be very interesting."