Former ambassador shares his alternative views on Middle East

Azka Khan

U.S. Ambassador Charles Dunbar speaks about the global war on terror in the Governace Chambers. Now retired, Dunbar has served in the Middle East and Northern Africa. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

Charles Dunbar has studied, taught and lived diplomacy for 44 years.

The now retired U.S. Ambassador spoke of diplomacy and the current war in Iraq as he guest lectured last night. The lecture, titled “The War on Terror at Five,” was hosted by the Lemnitzer Center for NATO and European Union Studies.

“The Middle East is my major professional interest,” Dunbar said. “It is hard for me to be interested in the Middle East and not be interested in the war taking place there.”

The lecture was structured around four regions: Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine/ Lebanon and Iran and issues of democracy in each country.

“He brings professional and realistic insights that provide a clearer understanding of the complex developments in the Middle East,” said Victor Papacosma, director of the Lemnitzer Center for NATO and European Union Studies.

Dunbar presented his points by offering his perspective on what would happen if the United States continued its fight on terror and what would happen if they pulled out.

“It was very interesting to hear both sides of the issue presented,” said Kristen Leciejewski, senior French translation major. “Mr. Dunbar gave me a lot to think about and changed my mind on some things.”

Dunbar worked as a Foreign Service officer for 21 years through the U.S. State Department. He witnessed firsthand the crises in Qatar, Yemen, Afghanistan, Morocco and many more areas of the Middle East.

Dunbar said he believes that Americans need to understand the complexes that Middle Eastern people have toward the West and their relationship toward the West. Dunbar explained that many Middle Easterners believe that Muslim civilization was at its pinnacle at one point in time and it has gone down since then due to Western forces.

“They admire the West for the many opportunities that it has,” Dunbar said. “But they are very resentful that America considers itself the best.”

He said that it is because of this resentment that America is the blamed for many of the problems faced in the Middle East.

“The majority of the Muslim population believes that America will do anything to get what they want,” Dunbar said. “And they think that America doesn’t really want or try to help them.”

Overall, Dunbar said that all Americans need to understand that the war on terror is really a struggle for the 1.3 billion Muslims who reside in the Middle East and simply want to live in peace. He added the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population condemns actions such as bombing buildings and hijacking planes.

Yet, this majority also believes that if America would act appropriately in certain situations, these types of extreme actions would not be taken.

“They (Muslims) think that the maximum amount of pain should be placed on the West,” Dunbar said. “There are also many Americans that think the same thing should happen to them and that Islam should be eliminated.”

Dunbar believes that it is ultimately the job of the government to combat people that advocate extreme measures.

“There are actions made by both the East and the West that make peace a difficult thing to achieve,” Dunbar said. “The American government and people should avoid alienating Muslims, and Muslims need to make policies that recognize what America has to offer them.”

Besides the current conflict in Iraq and the Middle East, Dunbar discussed the hasty use of military power by the United States.

He said that America’s quick military action in Iraq set the wrong precedence for other Middle Eastern countries like Iran.

“Iran believes that America will never use military power against them,” Dunbar said. “They think this because of the mess that America currently has in Iraq.”

Dunbar thinks that if we had kept military power until it was absolutely necessary, we would have been better off.

“Military power is a strong curse because not being able to do anything with it, like in Iraq, is worse than not being able to solve the problem.” Dunbar said.

After serving the State Department, Dunbar was the Special Representative to the United Nations Secretary-General. He is writing a book on his work as a Special Representative, which allowed him to work closely with the organization of a referendum in Northwest Africa. He was President of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, while at the same time taught at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University and Hiram College.

He was the Warburg professor in international relations at Simmons College and is currently an international relations professor at Boston University.

Dunbar has had articles published in The Boston Globe and The Plain Dealer and he is a foreign affairs commentator on local, national and international radio and TV.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Azka Khan at [email protected].