Last Thursday evening marked an enticing beginning to the summer season of Institute Speakers at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. Bruce Riedel and Martin Indyk are two scions in the field of Middle-Eastern politics. The two were joined by Summer Institute committee member Francine Frankel, in a 90-minute discussion as part of this season’s focus on educating the public from the front lines of politics, science, and the arts.
Bruce Riedel and Martin Indyk are two names consistently at the forefront in news concerning the Middle-East. Mr. Riedel, who retired from the CIA in 2006, has advised three presidents on Middle Eastern and South Asian issues. Mr. Indyk is a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who is currently the vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institute.
The majority of the lecture consisted of questions directed to each of the panelists by Ms. Frankel, who is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. The experts were introduced as representing an “optimistic” and “pessimistic” point-of-view (Indyk and Riedel respectively), and embraced these categories for the most part throughout their discourse.
For instance when addressing President Obama’s recent meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mr. Indyk sought to stress hope in future relations between the two countries. “In dealing with a crisis came a working compromise,” he said of the meeting between the two leaders. Indyk also addressed Israel’s foreign policy and how he believes it will increasingly reflect the perspectives of its people.
Mr. Riedel’s message was more cautionary, perhaps unsurprisingly as the questions he addressed were focused on the Afghanistan war. He offered a brief but comprehensive look at the intricacies of the war as well as those of Al Qaeda and U.S. relations with Pakistan. While emphasizing the pervasive difficulties of the topics, he closed with somewhat uplifting words. “An informed citizenry is the first step in a struggle against terrorism.”
Discussion points were both thought-provoking and pertinent to current events. Other questions raised were related to sanctions against Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons and U.S. relations with both Israel and the Muslim world respectively. The evening had an intellectual air that seemed to spark curiosity for both speakers and the audience on a subject whose complexities are limitless.
Twenty minutes were left at the end of the lecture for questions from the audience and dessert followed on the porch at 9. The event was an impressive gathering that promises to lead to many exciting Thursday evenings to come.
The program’s featured speaker on Thursday, July 15, is Ruth Marcus, an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. All Summer Institute programs are held at 7:30 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, located at 130 Center Street in Vineyard Haven. Admission is $15.