WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Several prominent policy analysts warned this week that America's foreign policy had to be urgently re-evaluated to prevent wider disaster.
The Bush administration should even consider evacuating its military forces from the Middle East, according to experts speaking a meeting of he Green Institute think tank Wednesday.
The meeting reflected the growing unease among both traditionally conservative and liberal foreign policy analysts in the U.S. capital about the consequences of the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the growing anti-American sentiments expressed throughout the region.
"This is really an effort to assess where we are right now in the wake of the catastrophe with Iraq and Afghanistan," panelist Roger Morris, senior fellow with the Green Institute, said. "We want, above all, to point the way out. We want to ask: what are the alternatives here?"
The think tank, hosted by the Green Institute as part of its Global Policy 360 project, and led by Steven Schmidt, co-director for GP360, explored current U.S. policy in Iraq and the Middle East as well as current national security concerning Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Israel. Leading the discussion were four panelists, each with differing political backgrounds.
"It's an example of people coming together who agree on one thing and are willing to engage in healthy discussion even though they may not agree on other issues," panelist Charles Pena said. Peña is a senior fellow of the Independent Institute and an adviser to the Status Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information. "We are fueling hatred in the Muslim world against us," he said.
The only reason America should stay in Iraq is to prove itself as a fair but powerful mediator, particularly in Lebanon, said Sascha Mueller-Kraenner, director for Europe and North America at the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
"The rule is you break it, you buy it," he said. "The mess in Iraq was produced by American politics and American allies and there is no way you can leave Iraq a wreck. You have to repair what you do."
Experts at the meeting agreed that the situation in Iraq was now so chaotic and the prospects there so grim that no "fix" was possible. Peña said the United States had to choose the least bad of a series of bad options, because otherwise the war would continue in the Middle East for decades and it would drain the U.S. budget while paving the way for more serious terrorist acts.
"Maybe the current situation is elevated to the point that it's headed straight for disaster," said panelist Winslow Wheeler, director of the CDI's Straus Military Reform Project. America must leave, but it must be sensitive to its allies' concerns in a practical way, he concluded. "We can't leave in a manner like we came in."
Wheeler, said he thought the Bush administration may have learned from its mistakes in the Middle East but that it was now using the prospect of chaos there as a means of frightening the American public for leverage.
The majority of the U.S. media, as well as American politicians, had failed to adequately discuss alternatives to the Middle East crisis and offer practical solutions, the analysts said.
"We can't underestimate the importance of this," Morris said. "A lot of Washington ideas begin in think tanks. Sometimes it takes 20 to 30 years for change to take place... The progressive community needs to build new forums like this one that will discuss with candor and honesty the real problems with national security."
Most of the speakers at the meeting had already been identified as critics of the Iraq conflict and administration policies in conducting it. However, the broad range of political backgrounds they and their institutions represented reflected the growing unease and possible indications of future realignments across the political spectrum in Washington.