Dennis Ross Explains his Support for Obama

Ambassador Dennis Ross has served the United States during the Reagan,  Bush 41, and Clinton administrations. He has maintained a non-partisan image, working closely with Republican and Democratic administrations on the Middle East and Russia. Until now, that is. Dennis Ross is a senior foreign policy advisor to Obama’s campaign, and traveled with him on his tour of Europe and the Middle East.

At a conference entitled “The Jewish Vote and the 2008 Presidential Election” at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, Amb. Ross explained why he has chosen to support Senator Obama.

Ross gave two major reasons: the stakes of the election, and Obama’s temperament and skills.

Ross made his choice based on the stakes long before the financial meltdown. But he feels his point is only buttressed by the situation, and that Obama is someone who knows how to operate in international markets. Ross said that this is not a situation that America can solve by herself, and the hundreds of thousands of screaming Berliners indicate to him that Obama would be able to bring together our allies to figure out a solution.

To what stakes is Ross referring? He still views the situation in Iraq pessimistically, in light of the lack of political progress. When the news from Iraq is the good news in the Middle East, said Ross, we must really be in trouble.

Israel’s strategic position vis-a-vis Iran is especially problematic. Ross feels that the Bush administration has utterly failed in this regard. Iran is now going around the region asking leaders, “Look at Georgia. Look at Siniora. Do you think it pays to be an American ally? You’re better off with us.” Ross maintained that is urgent to change the dynamics of the situation soon. Presumably, he was hinting at negotiations with the Iranians.

Hezbollah has also grown in recent years. They have 40,000 rockets now, and have veto power over Lebanon. Ross asked if anyone really thought that they would sit quietly if Israel had to attack Iran?

The problem, according to Ross, is that America has sat on the sidelines. When we are not  involved, someone else fills the vacuum. Ross was especially impressed on Obama’s world tour. Obama would have an objective for every meeting, and looked to build relationships wherever he could. Obama said to the Israelis, “I understand why you fear Iran getting nuclear weapons. Israel’s existential threats become a priority for me. But even if you did not view it that way, it would be a top priority for me. A nuclear Iran would be a game-changer, and would lead to terrible changes in the Middle East.”

Obama received an interesting suggestion from the Israelis. There are five insurance companies that insure all Iranian businesses. If America could stop them from insuring Iranian businesses, that could deal a serious blow to an already struggling Iranian economy.

Ross said that Obama creates political space for other leaders so that they can take the necessary steps to accomplish joint goals. Ross was vague about what he meant, but seemed to be saying that because Obama is so popular in Europe, the fact that he says something like “Germans have to help more in Iraq and Afghanistan,” that makes it politically easier for Merkel to do so.

But what happens when Obama has to actually start defending American interests? If he does what he says he will, he won’t be very popular in Europe anymore. If his abilities depend on his popularity and not skill or knowledge, what happens when that popularity dissipates?

Regarding Obama’s advisors, Ross pointed to Dan Shapiro and Eric Lynn as the main foreign policy advisors, both strongly pro-Israel. Brzezinski has zero role in the campaign, and Robert Malley was originally on one committee but removed himself.

 Like Powell, Ross’ explanations seemed more like justifications. They have known each other since 2005 since Obama invited Ross to Chicago after reading Ross’ ‘The Missing Peace’. Ross may well have been impressed with the Senator then, but it is unlikely that he knew how Obama would deal with foreign leaders until the trip, which is well after Ross was an official advisor. What motive might Ross have? If Obama is elected, it is safe to say he is a leading candidate for a major role in the administration. Also, Bush has largely rejected Ross’ hands-on approach regarding Israel.

12 Responses to Dennis Ross Explains his Support for Obama

  1. Lorenz Gude says:

    To put country before politics, I hope that Obama has some new and more effective ideas about defending American interests. I have stuck with Bush through thick and thin and I think it fair to say there has been a lot of both. I find it encouraging that Obama read Ross’s book and invited him to talk about it. I find it discouraging that Ross is still expressing pessimism about Iraq. That said I just had dinner with some English people who said they thought Clinton was a good president and were clearly willing to take a positive view of Obama but not of Bush and were horrified at Palin. Basically I think Europeans are willing to understand when Democrats act in the national interest and view Republicans as imperialists and/or religious fundamentalists. Or cowboys. So to answer the rhetorical question I am fairly certain that Europeans will give both Obama and their leaders much more room to cooperate with a president Obama when the time comes to defend American interests. I am far less certain about what Obama really believes the interests of the US to be.

  2. Cynic says:

    Hezbollah has also grown in recent years. They have 40,000 rockets now, and have veto power over Lebanon. Ross asked if anyone really thought that they would sit quietly if Israel had to attack Iran?

    What, he assumes that Hezbollah is independent of their Iranian masters? They only exist because of Iran. Has Ross no knowledge of 80s Lebanon? Instead of putting Iran in its place back then, Weinberger and co., more fearful of the Arab Street exposed the paper tiger.
    Does he think, if Israel is removed that Iran will stop there? As seems most likely, the Egyptians will be on the run.
    Could this develop into another Cold/Hot Superpower standoff with rogue regimes squeezing the trigger?
    Once the Iranians, an apocalyptic regime has nuclear weapons America has lost any influence in the Arabian peninsula unless they are prepared to respond with NW.

    Dennis Ross backs Obama to dissuade with smooth talk the Iranians, North Koreans and others and get them to sing kumbaya?
    After his Arafatian experience he still insists on using hot air?

  3. Fat Man says:

    Ross wants an important job in the new administration. Everything else he said about President-for-life-elect Hussein is B$ made up on the spot.

  4. oao says:

    cynic,

    to all your questions, yes.

  5. oao says:

    Ross wants an important job in the new administration. Everything else he said about President-for-life-elect Hussein is B$ made up on the spot.

    These people are taken with their own importance and cannot stand being without their visible jobs. They have also convinced themselves that they are indispensable and only they can bring peace, despite all the evidence that they have been played for fools and failed utterly. They are incapable of questioning their own mistakes and admitting failure, because they cannot accept they are fools.

  6. epaminondas says:

    “Ross maintained that is urgent to change the dynamics of the situation soon. Presumably, he was hinting at negotiations with the Iranians.”

    Since we cannot even get them to discuss their nonexistent weapons program, and since they regard the state which currently its on the waqf as a tumor, what is it that Amb Ross expects to negotiate, and since they regard us as a typical “risk averse” (according to their key strategist, Hassan Abbasi) people?

    Sorry, while I like the guy generally, Ross (who also defended Robert Malley)is dead wrong on this. Just like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan, the Iranians in that govt are prepared to see the people EAT GRASS to get a nuclear stockpile.

    He is a professional diplomat.

    When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

  7. oao says:

    what is it that Amb Ross expects to negotiate, and since they regard us as a typical “risk averse” (according to their key strategist, Hassan Abbasi) people?

    1st these people are for PROCESS, not solutions. iow, they believe that as long as there are talks nothing bad can happen. they seem incapable to give up this belief which has been proven a tool for all enemies in the ME to screw the US and Israel. and they are incapable because they are entirely vested in it; if they give it up, they’re left fools and without appeasing alternatives.

    2nd, my guess is that the likes of Ross simply recognize the weakness of the US and are looking for a loss with save face. My bet: dump israel (of course, labeled something else) in the stupid belief that this will keep the US in power in the ME. of course, the exact opposite will happen.

  8. Cynic says:

    Once more WordPress eats my comment!

    epaminondas,

    Just like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan, the Iranians in that govt are prepared to see the people EAT GRASS to get a nuclear stockpile.

    Just like the Norks.

  9. 4infidels says:

    Dennis Ross is a professional “peace processor.” That is his livelihood and his claim to fame. Despite pursuing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations throughout the entire Oslo disaster, Ross wishes to return to the same approach that didn’t work the last time around.

    His frustration with Arafat’s rejection of the Clinton-Barak proposals led him to cast himself as more pro-Israel early on during the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign in 2001-02l. Yet Ross’ loyalty is to pursuing the peace process, so he has since exhibited no signs of learning the lessons of Oslo.

    He knows nothing about Islam and little about Arab-Muslim tribal culture and societies besides which leader needs to do what in order for his schemes to result in a signed piece of paper, an agreement that the Arabs will surely violate at the first opportunity.

  10. Rich Rostrom says:

    Obama represents the surrender of the “cowboy” U.S. to the wise old Euro-UN establishment (and the repudiation of the conservative outsiders in favor of the old State Department/Ivy League insiders). Ross, I’m afraid, has been in the process so long that he has been assimilated.

    He is really drinking the kool-aid here. Obama’s entire history is of association with radicals and repudiation of U.S. “imperialism”. Ross seems to think that Obama will use his magic charisma to get Europe et al to join in the sort of policies that Obama and all his friends have always decried and which the Euro-UN gang loathe.

  11. pacific_waters says:

    Amother deluded useful idiot.

  12. Eliyahu says:

    Rich R is right about the Obominable One. As to D Ross, he is part of the problem.

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