This month’s Schieffer Series Dialogues in Public Policy and the Media examined ‘Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term’ with Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS and the New York Times columnist David Brooks (John Hamre, the President of CSIS, which hosts the Schieffer Series was also present). I was doubtful that Africa would come up in the discussion, but I thought it would be good to confirm in person – additionally, Lara Logan is a South African (Durban) native.
Although it was not billed as such, the event strictly focused on US relations with the Islamic world. Hilary Clinton’s handling of the September 2012 Benghazi crisis was the most prominent subject of discussion. Logan was particularly scathing of the Obama administration’s handling of the event, stating flatly that there was no reason to have ever labelled the attack as a ‘demonstration’ that then degenerated into an armed conflict.
Logan also briefly touched on Mali, lambasting the State Department’s analysis of the Mali situation, stating that foreign service analysts were proven to be spectacularly wrong when the Algerian In Amenas hostage crisis showed that the conflict was not internal to Mali. She also suggested that AQIM had passed bomb-making technology to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Logan appeared to take a particularly hard line on the War Against Terror (which unbeknownst to me is apparently a term that is out of vogue). She claimed that as Al-Qaeda means the base, anyone acting out of an ideology that is sympathetic to the organization, such as the Boston Marathon bombers, should be considered Al-Qaeda affiliated.
She spoke critically of US strategy in Afghanistan and was scathing of Obama’s flip-flopping on Syria’s use of chemical weapons as a red line for US intervention.
Brooks stressed that the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was an event that has greatly transformed American relations with Islamic world and compared its consequences to those of the French Revolution in the 18th century. He added that the Obama administration, which he called ‘brutalized (and) controlling’ should seek to make Syria Iran’s ‘Vietnam.’
The list of attendees that was distributed did not seem to have many with African interests represented, although I did note that someone from the Embassy of Senegal was listed.