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'There's No Coming Home Early'

'There's No Coming Home Early'In a unique forum on the United States’ role in the Middle East, nine Tufts experts spoke on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq – and why there will be no easy resolution for either. Boston.

Boston [02.05.04] As the reconstruction of Iraq stretches on, and the Bush administration continues to stress military spending and homeland security, the United States' role in the Middle East remains a leading concern for many Americans. In an innovative forum moderated by Dean Stephen Bosworth of The Fletcher School, a panel of Tufts experts gathered to offer their thoughts on the country's position in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the discussion, professors cast an academic eye on recent events - and saw no easy answers.

"There's no coming home early," said assistant professor of political science Malik Mufti, explaining that the U.S. presence in Iraq may extend much longer than originally expected. While the Bush administration has set a date of June 30, 2004, to turn governmental control over to the Iraqis, objections of Shiite Muslims - the country's majority - may stall the process.

"Establishing stable regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan requires the active presence of U.S. military personnel for a long time, [said Mufti] which neither President Bush nor Democratic presidential hopefuls are willing to admit," reported the Worcester Telegram & Gazette -- one of several media organizations present at the "Tufts on Tuesdays" series, a new external media outreach program

Andrew Hess, professor of diplomacy at The Fletcher School, agreed. "It will be a long haul before we see democratic order in Iraq."

Other Tufts experts stressed the importance of setting up basic services in the nation - not only for the reconstruction effort, but as a pathway for political stability. According to Tufts' William Moomaw, lack of infrastructure to provide resources - most importantly water - has aggravated Iraq's situation.

"Is it any wonder that the hostility towards the U.S. and its allies has risen so high when the most basic requirement of water has not been supplied to the population?" said Moomaw, professor of international environmental policy at The Fletcher School.

He added "I think water trumps oil if we really want to have a long-term goal of peace in this region."

Dr. George Saperstein echoed the concern about meeting fundamental needs in Iraq. "In the Middle East, veterinarians work for the government. There are no medicines, no vaccines. Hoof-and-mouth disease can run rampant," he said.

"If we really want to show the people of Iraq that there is a way to be successful in developing independent economic stability, we don't have a chance if their bellies are empty," the Tufts veterinarian told the forum. "We don't have a chance if we believe in the old proverb: ‘Don't teach a man to eat by giving him a fish, but instead teach him how to fish.' In this country, they already know how to fish. We just need to give them the opportunity to fish and fish at a profit."

The other Tufts experts at the innovative forum were Leila Fawaz, director of the Fares Center for Easter Mediterranean Studies, Hurst Hannum, director of Tufts Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Jeff Taliaferro, an assistant professor of political science with expertise in foreign policy and security studies, and The Fletcher School's Antonia Chayes.

Emphasizing issues ranging from disregard for international law to new strategies in the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Tufts experts agreed that greater knowledge of the issues at stake is the first step toward improved Middle East policy.

As Professor Mufti said, "education is key to a better understanding of the Muslim world," reported the Telegram & Gazette.

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