Hours after news of a bombing attack in a Brussels’ airport and subway station by ISIS terrorists last Tuesday, Dean Ryan Crocker took the stage at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, Texas A&M University, for a panel discussion entitled “What Lies Ahead? Considerations for Future Middle East Policy and Decision Making.” Crocker is a decorated ambassador to six Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He was joined onstage by Dr. Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute and Dr. Erin Snider, assistant professor of international affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.
“Post-9/11, we worked really hard on our intelligence and security capacities and our ability to coordinate among agencies and services,” said Crocker to KBTX news shortly after the panel discussion. “We’ve gotten very, very good at this. The Europeans, sadly, have not. I would say the Belgians are behind where we were on 9/11. They are going to have to do a lot more, and we are going to have to do a lot more to help them as a NATO ally.”
The panel discussion at many times focused on the importance of engagement with the region while recognizing the unintended consequences of both too much intervention and abrupt abandonment of the region. The panelists also discussed the damaging rhetoric of the current presidential campaign, especially among the GOP candidates. Crocker pointed to the administration of President George H. W. Bush as an example of an approach that should be followed by the next administration when it comes to engaging with the Middle East.
The panel began at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday and was followed by a reception at the Presidential Conference Center. Following the panel discussion, which covered topics ranging from the Arab Spring to the current refugee crisis, members of the audience were allowed to ask questions, several of which focused on US policy toward the Middle East in light of the recent attacks in Belgium. The event was hosted by the Bush School chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society, an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting constructive debate on basic principles and contemporary issues in foreign, economic, and national security policy. The organization was founded by Dr. Aaron Friedberg, Daniel Blumenthal, and Roy Katzovicz in 2010 and can be found on over fifty campuses nationwide.