Tuesday, October 7, 12 p.m. | Taubman 275
October 7, 2014 — Michael Crowley, chief foreign affairs correspondent for Time magazine, gave a sweeping tour of a life spent covering stories from the Middle East to Mexico, revealing the tensions inherent in trips with government officials as well as the challenges that America is facing globally.
Most recently Crowley traveled with John Kerry to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt as the Secretary of State worked on building the “anti-ISIS coalition.” Crowley discussed how reporters and government officials on the trip had differences over how to responsibly and accurately report on Turkey’s sensitive role in the coalition. (At the time ISIS was holding dozens of Turkish hostages, whose fate was uncertain.)
In the Syrian conflict, Crowley said there is no “smart answer” for what to do. Similarly, in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, it is unclear if there’s enough trust between the two countries to forge a lasting deal. Crowley’s latest feature for Time, “America’s Real Problem in Iran: Ayatullah Khamenei,” suggests that the country’s Supreme Leader is deeply suspicious of America’s ultimate intentions, which Khamenei believes includes overthrowing the religious leadership and empowering the country’s moderates.
Crowley expressed some “sympathy” for President Obama in his attempts to cope with an array of vexing foreign policy challenges, as these are coinciding with a moment when America’s role in the world is changing, partly the result of diminished economic power, military cutbacks and a dysfunctional Congress. “I think we are operating from a real position of weakness,” Crowley said. “We are certainly in a period of near-term retrenchment that really limits our options.” This means that the United States is compelled to be more pragmatic; and structural shifts in power contribute to America being “forced into these unpleasant compromises,” such as a restoration of relatively normal relations with Egypt’s new strongman, former General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Asked about Time magazine’s future — Time Warner recently spun off its magazine division as a separate company — Crowley said staff morale is better than it was a year or two ago. There is a “new sense of urgency about digital,” he said, and the online audience is “booming.” Despite the company’s $1.3 billion in debt, the stock price has held steady, Crowley noted: “I don’t think all hope is lost. I really don’t.”
Article by John Wihbey and photo by Nancy Palmer of the Shorenstein Center.