The Middle East is deteriorating, but there is something everyone can do about it.
Former U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker spoke to BYU students on Thursday concerning the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. At the end of his lecture, he left BYU students with two basic concepts of advice and a strong admonishment.
“Go to hard places and do hard things. Think about how and where you want to serve. Take a look at the foreign service. It is really hard but intensely rewarding. They’re doing hard things and great things for their own country,” Crocker said.
Crocker then explained the causes for the escalating tension in the Middle East, mostly attributing it to long histories of occupation by Western countries over the years. He commented that the situation right now in the Middle East is the worst it ever has been.
“We have never seen a more chaotic and turbulent time than we see today. We are used to a Middle East that has revolutions and coupes. We are seeing states fail, and countries collapse like Syria Libya Yemen … Iraq is right on the edge. Afghanistan will be there too,” Crocker said.
He commented on the instances in history where Western powers came in without teaching infrastructure, governance and other vital concepts for the survival of a new government. As a result, they would evacuate the country, leaving it helpless and at the hands of who had the most ammunition.
Crocker said he believes that ISIS will soon disintegrate like all of its previous predecessors, and it’s what comes after ISIS that Americans should be most worried about. He voiced his concerns about terrorist groups coming back stronger with passing time.
Colton Pitcher, a junior from Mesa, Arizona, studying psychology, agreed with Crocker’s statements, saying “He basically gives us a future and what it is going to look like.”
The final two pieces of advice Crocker gave included a caution that America needs to be careful about what it gets into and to be careful with how it gets out. He cited many U.S. examples, including the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Mohammed Mossadegh and other situations where consequences still linger today.
That request to do hard things was further emphasized by Wheatley Institution Director Richard N. Williams. “We need to search in our minds a little deeper,” Williams said. “We need to broaden our minds and apply for those jobs in public service.”
In regards to Crocker’s words concerning foreign diplomacy in the Middle East, Williams agreed that “the unintended consequences can be treacherous.”
Crocker concluded and admonished BYU students to seek careers of service and meaning. He referred to the many embassies that contain BYU graduates and the favoritism the U.S. government has with them. The government currently employs three BYU graduates as ambassadors to Libya, Yemen and Egypt, and he emphasized the difficulty of each of those missions.
“It speaks a lot of the university to have its graduates serving as ambassadors in countries with such turmoil,” Crocker said. “This university promotes selfless public service.
Crocker is dean and executive professor at the George Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, where he holds the Edward and Howard Kruse Endowed Chair. Crocker previously served as the James Schlesinger Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia and as the first Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale University. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian award.