There are three reasons why the United States cannot walk away. That part of the world generates the oil that fuels the industries of the West and increasingly China and India as well. America has commitments to the survival and well-being of the Jewish state on one side and the security of our Arab allies on the other.
We Americans have this wonderful but frightening innocence, a belief that we have a mission to transform troubled parts of the world. Even more troubling is that we not only think it is our responsibility but that we can actually remake the Middle East in our own image as a peaceful, democratic place. It is that instinct which George W. Bush and Bill Clinton shared in the Middle East, even though they pursued the objective of transformation in two very different ways -- one by peace-making, one by war making. But they shared that basic naïvety and they both failed.
We face a challenge from Iran, which is making a claim to dominate the region. We have seriously reduced our hard power capabilities because our military is tied up in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soft power has been tarnished as a result of the Bush years.
If the Middle East should be a priority -- and I am convinced it will be -- the US needs to be more considerate of the interests of potential allies.
SPIEGEL: You mean: concessions.
Indyk: I don't like the word concessions. But we need to understand something George W. Bush never grasped: We can't have it both ways. Obama quickly needs to sit down with the Russian leadership and try to get a better understanding of their interests. If we want Russian support in the Middle East, we need to reconsider our current strategy on NATO expansion or the missile shield in Eastern Europe. We can't have Russian cooperation on a strategy to prevent Iran's nuclear program and the missile shield at the same time.