October 14, 2009 —Time magazine columnist Joe Klein was introduced at the Shorenstein brown-bag lunch by Director Alex S. Jones as “deeply informed, outspoken, clear thinking,” in covering the “troublesome parts of world affairs.” Klein spoke on Obama’s foreign policy in Afghanistan and Iran, describing his own experiences in that part of the world as “the most astonishing and compelling” of his life.
Concerning Afghanistan, Klein said that “everything you read about where the [U.S.] government is heading on this issue is wrong.” Klein outlined three things that have changed in Afghanistan in the past six months. First, he said, the United States pursued a strategy of counterterrorism, which he explained as “going after the bad guys” instead of counterinsurgency, which “achieves stability by protecting the population.”
Second, the August elections in Afghanistan were an “embarrassment,” said Klein, and bring into question whether there will be a “reliable partner … or continuing disaster” in the country. Finally, he noted that “increased intelligence capabilities are improved,” and so have helped the U.S. situation there.
As for Iran, Klein says it is the “greatest mismatch of a government and a people of any country in the world”: a “military dictatorship with religious patina” and a highly educated, sophisticated populace.
In dealing with these countries, Klein says that “diplomacy is crucial,” and that the United States should feel relief that Obama is “trying to engage in diplomacy” instead of “making enemies and being bullies.”
This article was written by Janell Sims and the photos taken by Leighton Walter Kille, both of the Shorenstein Center.