THE BLOG
10/31/2016 03:21 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2017

The Writing Life: The New American President and The Middle East

The following report comes from The Dilenschneider Group:

As we move toward November 8th, we should all reflect on the big issues that the next president will need to confront in the Middle East. Specifically:

1. ISIS and Al Qaeda are implacably expanding their operations beyond the region, so the president will have to figure out how to destroy them by force. That will mean assembling a new coalition of Western nations and possibly other countries vulnerable to Islamic fundamentalism such as India, Pakistan and even China.

2. Joblessness among the region's already restive youth is increasing. The president will need to persuade American investors to establish manufacturing plants there that will create work for them. The United Nations estimates that at least 15 million new jobs need to be created in the next four to five years.

3. Although oil-producing countries such as the United Arab Emirates have aggressively backed the reduction of carbon emissions, the president will have to coax other Arab countries to join the movement to address global warming.

4. Broadening educational and employment opportunities for girls and women is a major priority for the region.

5. Affordable healthcare at primary as well as secondary and tertiary levels is a must. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are spreading in the Middle East. Healthcare development must include more awareness of how best to tackle and treat these diseases.

6. Many countries in the Middle East lag in offering access to digital technology. The president must get American companies to raise their profile in the region by developing better connectivity. Middle Eastern leaders should not allow the region to be left behind as the rest of the world gallops toward a wired community.

7. While most Middle East countries may not be ready to embrace democracy, the president will need to work with grassroots representatives to strengthen local municipal councils that listen to citizens' problems and then work at resolving issues such as deteriorating infrastructure.

8. The president must assist in strengthening institutions such as the judiciary to ensure that local disputes are adjudicated with fairness.

9. With more than 75 percent of the Middle East's population of 355 million under the age of 30, the president must help develop programs to identify and train tomorrow's local and national leaders.

10. The president will need to persuade Arabs and Jews to return to the negotiating table and work out a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis. That, of course, is easier said than done.

All this is complicated by a wealth of evidence suggesting that the people of this region have been disappointed with President Obama.

During his trip to Egypt in June 2009, he made a major speech declaring that there would be "a New Beginning" for relations between the United States and the Muslim world. The speech covered seven major subjects: violent extremism, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, nuclear weapons, democracy, religious freedom, the rights of women, and sustainable economic development. In the eyes of many Middle Easterners, little progress has been made on any of these issues.

Regardless of who succeeds Obama, therefore, everyone in the region will be waiting for the next president to address these challenges--particularly the conflict in Iraq and Syria with ISIS and America's commitment to enhanced economic prosperity. It will be an enormous challenge.

Which Candidate Does the Region Favor?

There's never been a poll in the Middle East about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It is far too vast a territory for that-- from Morocco in the West to Iran (which, remember, is not an Arab state) in the East. Were there to be such a poll, however, Trump would likely be the overwhelming favorite.

Why? For one, he's a man and the culture of most Middle Eastern countries favors men over women, notwithstanding some efforts to promote gender parity. For another, Trump has long had business ties with the oil-producing states of the region. And Middle Easterners are less swayed by political principles--especially of the progressive sort that Clinton articulates--than by financial status, so Trump's wealth counts for a lot.

Never mind that many businessmen in the region have spurned associations with Trump, often on the grounds that he fails to pay his bills. Never mind that Trump has said he would institute a ban on Muslims entering the U.S and has called for close monitoring of Muslims already in America.

Never mind, too, that Trump once said that Muslims should be sent back to the Middle East--overlooking the fact that a majority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims do not live in the 22 countries of the Arab League but in Asia including Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

There is also the Middle Eastern idea of leadership. Trump, despite all his bluster and bombast, is seen as being uniquely qualified to lead the world's most powerful country by people who are not into parsing political vocabularies. The Arabic language is rich in subtleties and nuance, but the politics of the Middle East are straightforward: No women in national leadership roles. No political dissent permitted. Leaders in this region are either born into their positions or seize them by power.

Trump may not be a great campaigner, but he looks like a strongman, so most Middle Easterners are for him. Clinton is a very smart and able woman, but women aren't generally invited into the salons of power in the Middle East. She will have many hurdles to clear there if she's elected.

Best regards,

Bob Dilenschneider