March 14, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- About 250 high school students got an inside view of conflict in the Middle East today from three of the world’s foremost authorities on that region at the Worldview Conference.
Co-sponsored by the University of Kentucky Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and Lexington Rotary, the annual conference seeks to expose Kentucky high school students to a broad view of world events.
Speakers Carl Brown, Ambassador Samuel W. Lewis and Patterson School Director John Stempel spoke about the looming military action against Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Brown, a native of Mayfield, Ky., is a professor emeritus in Middle Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He has written or edited more that 20 major books on the Middle East.
Lewis is a retired career diplomat who most recently was head of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff. His most notable achievement was serving as Ambassador to Israel during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
Stempel came to UK after a 24-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, which included assignments in Africa, Iran (before, during and after the 1979 revolution) and India.
All three speakers took students’ questions after their presentations.
Following a particularly pointed question about the U.S. focus on Iraq rather than North Korea, which to the questioner appears to be the more imminently threatening foe, Brown said, “Thank God I’m not Ari Fleicher having to defend my administration . . . these are the kind of questions we need to ask ourselves.”
Brown noted America’s “roller coaster” relationship with Saddam Hussein, which has swung from faint support during the Iran-Iraq War to the current amassing of U.S. troops at Iraq’s boarders.
“There is no moral clarity in the Middle East,” he said.
Issues that are clear, he said, are that Hussein is a despot and the people would be better off without him, and that he has flouted United Nations weapon inspectors.
He said the outpouring of sympathy for the United States that occurred after 9/11 has turned to disapproval of the Bush administration’s doctrine of preemption.
“The U.S. is in a no-win situation,” Brown said, noting if President Bush pulls troops back, the U.S. stands to lose credibility; if the president forges ahead with war, the U.S could reap global disapproval that would upset the world order.
“We need the full-throttle support of the rest of the world,” he said.
Lewis spoke of the search for peace between Israel and Palestine, the times when the U.S. nearly brokered that deal, the reasons peace accords fell through, and the current guerrilla war being waged there.
He said the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want peace; it’s the extremists on both sides that have made the situation difficult for diplomats.
“The president must put his prestige and effort into the deal,” he said, referring to presidents Carter and Clinton, both of whom placed special emphasis on bringing peace to that region.
He said the Bush administration is diametrically opposed to taking any path forged by Clinton.
Lewis concluded, “Violence corrodes trust in leaders and hardens the leaders to use force.”
Stempel provided insight into the volatile situations that exist in the Middle East and he gave the students reasons to become informed of world events by quoting Leon Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."
Students attending the conference represented high schools from Clark County, Franklin County, Madison County, Lawrence County, Montgomery County and Nicholas County.