Education is Best Way to Defeat Radical Islam

July 17, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s July 17, 2014 blog post.


On June 10, 2014 our family returned to Africa as we do every year. Kenya’s Masai Mara was again selected. There were fourteen of us, including twelve family members and two close friends, ranging in age from eight to eighty. The youngest family member had been to Africa six times. Marcia and I first visited Africa in 1970, on a fact-finding mission to review CARE, UNICEF and World Food Program operations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. We have since been to over twenty-five countries–some a number of times. As U.S. ambassador from 2002 to 2005, I oversaw three Indian Ocean island nations off the coast of Africa–Mauritius, Comoros and Seychelles.

On our visit this year we stayed in two tented camps–Bateleur at Kichwa Tembo and Cottar’s Camp. In addition to enjoying the vast savannah with its abundance of wild life, we visited the Emurutoto Primary School again. Since our first visit twelve years ago the school had grown to almost 400 students with fifteen teachers. The school administrator reviewed with us a list of immediate needs, including adequate toilet facilities for the students, and new housing for the teachers.  At the time construction was underway for a new dormitory to house up to 200 girls, who have been sleeping on the dining hall floor, sponsored by the non-profit organization Angels in Africa. Our son Steven had brought along several soccer balls. It didn’t take long for the grandchildren to be involved with the school children in a scrimmage. On leaving we agreed to build the needed restrooms and teacher housing facilities.

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How a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal could help save Iraq

July 15, 2014

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s July 11, 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post. Ambassadors William Luers and Thomas Pickering co-authored the article.


An Arab proverb advises, “A problem is solved when it gets tougher.”

Illustrating that point, the advance in Iraq and Syria of the Islamic State poses a threat to the United States while clarifying choices for U.S. policymakers. The question confronting the United States and Iran is no longer whether to work together but how to do so. And in light of decades of distrust and animosity, communications between the two countries can be greatly facilitated by reaching a comprehensive nuclear agreement in talks underway in Vienna. Failure, however, would leave only bad options.

If the Islamic State is to be contained, the United States and other nations will have to reconsider past policies and manage enmities.

For Iran, the breakup of Iraq and the creation of a radical Islamist Sunni state next door would be catastrophic. Iranian leaders now must decide whether to join Iraqi Shiites in a bloody sectarian war or, along with the use of force, work with others to build a federalized Iraq in which ethnic groups share in the responsibilities and benefits of statehood.

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A Caliphate has been declared in the Middle East

July 8, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s July 3, 2014 blog post.


Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 did not diminish al-Qaeda’s quest to destroy Western civilization. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it” was the ‘fatwa’ issued by bin Laden in 1998. Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, the aging Egyptian Islamic theologian who leads al-Qaeda today, is having difficulty controlling the newly formed Islamist affiliates.

The U.S.-led incursion into Libya in 2011 emboldened a new breed of Islamist extremists—young, eager and brutal—wanting to take control. In addition they have infiltrated the Maghreb and Sahel regions in Africa, and the Middle East.  Al-Qaeda’s mission of destroying western interests will continue, while the newer Islamist groups have a more territorial plan–creating Islamic states, ruled under Sharia law.

New recruits have been inspired by radical Wahhabist and Salafist clerics believing Islam has been disenfranchised and want to create a caliphate, taking the region back to the 12th century when Islam reigned under Sultan Saladin, and more recent past under the Ottoman Empire. The irrational borders created by the European powers after World War I separated tribes and religious factions, which is at the heart of the conflicts today, with everyone wanting their piece of the turf.

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Ambassadors discuss the U.S. image abroad

July 1, 2014

Ambassadors Anne S. Andrew (Ambassador to Costa Rica, 2009-2013), Donald Gips (Ambassador to South Africa, 2009-2013), Ford Fraker (Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2007-2009) and Laurie Fulton (Ambassador to Denmark, 2009-2013) appeared on “This is America & the World” to discuss the U.S. image abroad.

Mexico’s economic transformation means change for Texas

June 25, 2014

Antonio O. Garza, Jr. (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassadors Garza’s June 10, 2014 special to The Dallas Morning News.


Texas has worked for many years to cultivate greater private sector opportunity. We’ve gotten a lot of things right, as a look at the most recent report from the Dallas Federal Reserve makes clear. But with the profound process of change now underway in Mexico, the competitive dynamics of our region, and very possibly of the global economy as a whole, will shift. That means it’s imperative that Texans look beyond the good news of today and prepare for the challenges — and opportunities — of tomorrow.

Mexico’s historic reforms, including the much talked about energy sector opening, will recast its economy. The bonds Mexico shares with Texas are sure to deepen and grow more complex, a fact that should compel state policymakers here to address issues that are important to our own economic vitality and competitiveness.

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It’s not too late to reengage with Iraq

June 24, 2014

Ryan Crocker, Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2012), Iraq (2007-2009), Pakistan (2004-2007), Syria (1998-2001), Kuwait (1994-1997) and Lebanon (1990-1993)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Crocker’s June 19, 2014 op-ed in the Washington Post.


The news from Iraq is, quite frankly, terrifying. And it was utterly predictable.

I have been saying for months that we must do everything we can to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan, Lebanon and especially Iraq — to ensure that the al-Qaeda contagion in Syria does not spread. It has. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now occupies much of the area between Kurdistan and Baghdad. Although the capital is unlikely to fall into its hands, ISIS has effectively established a radical Islamic state.

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America’s duty is to provide real help to embattled Ukraine

June 16, 2014

Victor H. Ashe (Ambassador to Poland, 2004-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ashe’s June 15, 2014 special to the Knoxville News Sentinel.


President Obama visited Poland on June 3 and 4 as part of the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Poland’s free elections in 1989 which led to a freely chosen democratic Poland and the fall of Communism. Poland since then has joined NATO and the EU and enjoyed an economic growth which others envy.

Immediately after the Obama visit, the 5th annual Wroclaw Global Forum was held in southwestern Poland sponsored by the US-based Atlantic Council which I attended. This three day conference brings governmental, academic, commercial and civic leaders from Central and Eastern Europe together.

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Ambassador Elson on Europe

June 13, 2014

Edward Elson (Ambassador to Denmark, 1993-1998)


Following President Obama’s trip to Europe, what do you think the top US foreign policy priorities should be in Europe? Do you agree with the President’s call to provide $1 billion to boost the US military presence across Europe?

While serving as in Europe, I was constantly challenged as to the amount of money allocated by the US for the purpose of foreign aid. Frustrated by the lack of gratitude to the US for the security safety-net provided over the then past 50 years, I developed a standard reply about their trading their foreign aid budget percentage for our defense spending percentage. I was inevitably met with a stony silence but the accusation would never be brought forward again. I found our trusted European allies willing to hold our coats in a fight but reluctant to join in, an attitude both craven and selfish. Nothing seems to change.

Global War on Terror has become more dangerous

June 6, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s June 6, 2014 blog post.


The Obama Administration has increased the risk of Islamist attacks against Americans with the release of five–most dangerous and seasoned–jihadists from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (GITMO). They are as brutal as Osama bin Laden, and capable of planning major terrorist attacks. They have had over twelve years in isolation to think about targets. GITMO still holds over 150 battle hardened enemy combatants. Sending the five to Qatar, the headquarters for the Taliban, will be like a homecoming—a brief period of rest and recuperation.

Qatar is one of the main financial supporters of Islamist groups throughout the Middle East and Africa. Returning the Islamists to war-torn Afghanistan will not be necessary to carry out their evil deeds. It was while Osama bin Laden was in Sudan from 1991 to 1996 that he planned numerous strikes against to United States, including the attacks on U.S. and UN soldiers in Somalia in 1993, the World Trade Center garage bombing in 1993, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the two U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; later while in Afghanistan the USS Cole bombing in the Port of Aden in 2000, and the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001.

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Regime Change Will Not Diminish Al-Qaeda Attacks

June 2, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s May 30, 2014 blog post.


In Syria how will the U.S. clearly define moderate opposition groups? That has become a major difficulty as well in Libya. Rebel groups break down into tribes, clans, and broader religious factions—some with fundamentalist beliefs, while others have a more radical interpretation of Islam which includes armed jihad. In any event we do not know their ultimate goals. A Muslim diplomat once told me it is difficult to know the mission of a person carrying a weapon: “When they come, they also bring their behavior with them. There is one baggage that doesn’t weigh much–it is the behavior that is inside of them–the behavior in their mind–the attitude that they have. We can search their pockets for weapons–and see the one’s on their shoulders–but we cannot search their mind”.

Syria over the last three years has been in a chaotic civil war in which no one has clearly defined the “moderate” opposition that could rule democratically, if we take out President Bashar al-Assad. I have written articles saying, “regime change without an endgame plan is fraught with disaster”, as we witnessed in Libya after the U.S.—NATO incursion in 2011 that led to the downfall of the ruler Col. Muammar Gadhafi. Armed Islamist militias have since taken over large swaths of the country.

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