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Professor says US continues to work on goals for Middle East
Event was part of Great Decisions series on foreign policy
Jonathan Miner, assistant professor of political science at North Georgia College & State University, speaks to audience members about the Persian Gulf.
Great Decisions 2010
Hall County
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays
Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St. NE, Gainesville

Forsyth County
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: Hampton Park Library, 5345 Settingdown Road, Cumming

Week 5: Peace building and conflict resolution
Week 6: Global crime

President Barack Obama has the same foreign policy goals as former President George W. Bush, but the current president uses different tactics, according to one political scientist from North Georgia College & State University.

Both administrations have worked in the Middle East to fight terrorism, promote democracy, secure oil, keep Iran from nuclear weapons and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Bush used more “abrasive” tactics of negotiation and policy making, though, while Obama uses a “smooth-gloved approach,” said Jonathan S. Miner, an assistant professor of political science.

Miner spoke Monday to a room full of people at the Gainesville Civic Center about U.S. policy in the Middle East as part of Great Decisions 2010, an ongoing lecture series on foreign policy issues held weekly in Gainesville and Forsyth County.

 “It’s all about perception,” Miner said. “When I teach about foreign policy, it’s as much how you’re perceived as what you’re actually intending, and Obama is trying to increase the positive perception of the United States without changing our goals.”

Miner, who said his interest in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East stems from the fact that his father’s family is from Iran, explained the basic government structure, foreign policy goals and economic conditions of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

He said understanding the different power struggles and goals of the four different countries would assist the United States in achieving its goals in the region.

Reaching those goals requires a unique combination of tactics, ranging from military force to international diplomacy and economic incentives as well as military and economic sanctions, Miner said.

“If we understand what the Middle East is all about, we’ll be better able to accomplish our goals,” he said.

Miner also said that while the United States’ military presence in Iraq costs many lives and many billions of dollars, he believed the country was on its way to becoming a real democracy.

He said the 2009 election was seen as free and fair, but the next 10 years of the country’s development will be integral to the survival of that nascent democracy.

“The results are real,” Miner said. “They just need quite a bit of time to become real solid.”

The most recent election in Afghanistan, however, was not seen as fair, Miner said. He said the country’s pluralist system is “very roughly developing.”

“It is centuries behind Iraq and Iran,” he said.

While there is a basis for compromise and representation in Islamic cultures in the Middle East, Miner said the United States’ efforts at spreading democracy may not be completely successful.

“The U.S. pushes democracy, because it’s something we believe in, not because it’s something that will necessarily work,” he said. “It’s largely a naive foreign policy.”

Miner will make the presentation again at the Hampton Park Library in Forsyth County on Wednesday. Participation is free and no registration is required.

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