Today’s guest blog comes from Chris “Repman, Jr.” Cody, and addresses a surprising cultural misstep by President Obama. It’s just one proud dad’s opinion, but I found his research fascinating…”
Did you know that 18 of 19 U.S. ambassadors to Arabic speaking countries aren’t of Middle Eastern descent? That’s like Major League Baseball sending all-white recruiters to inner cities in hope of attracting urban kids to consider a career in what once was America’s pastime.
I find it ironic that our nation’s first black President isn’t more sensitive to the cultural nuances essential to connecting with an Arab world in total flux. Sensing that I was on to something, I spoke to my good friend, and Arabic professor, Ahmed Eissawi.
Ahmed is an Arabic language professor at both the United Nations and NYU. Moreover, he is an Arab-American community leader, and a respected intellectual.
I brought up the ambassadorial “gap”, and asked Eissawi how the U.S. should address it AND improve its image in the Middle East.
He suggested the following: “Instead of launching drone strikes and threatening military interventions President Obama should, instead, tap into loyal, intellectual Arab-Americans such as academics, Middle Eastern experts, journalists and lawyers. These individuals could bridge the gap that currently exists because they know both the Middle Eastern and American mentality.”
I agree with my professor (I better. He grades my papers). America needs far fewer individuals such as James B. Smith (our ambassador to Saudi Arabia) and many more diplomats like the current U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Susan L. Ziadeh. To Professor Eissawi’s point, Ambassador Ziadeh is the daughter of noted Palestinian-American scholar Farhat Ziadeh. She was born and raised in the U.S., where she earned a PhD in Middle Eastern History.
I know President Obama is rightly concerned with his legacy in light of the Obamacare website fiasco. But, he risks losing the respect of far more than Americans if he doesn’t wake up soon to the realities of the new Arab world.
Our current ambassadors to the Middle East:
Iraq – Robert S. Beecroft
Egypt – David M. Satterfield,
Libya – Deborah K. Jones
Yemen – Gerald M. Feierstein
Oman – Greta C. Holtz
Jordan – Stuart E. Jones
Lebanon – David Hale
Tunisia – Jacob Walles
Algeria – Henry S. Ensher
Saudi Arabia – James B Smith
Turkey – Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr.
Syria – Robert Ford
Bahrain – Thomas Krajeski
Qatar – Susan L. Ziadeh
Kuwait – Matthew H. Tueller
UAE – Michael H. Corbin
Afghanistan – James B. Cunningham
Pakistan – Richard G. Olsen
Morocco – Matthew Lussenhop