Tareq Ismael, author and expert on the Middle East, sounded a note of optimism about the Obama administration and "the good will the new president has produced by his recent trips abroad."
According to Ismael, President George W. Bush was "a blip in the American political process," but under president Obama "America can rebuild an international order on a wave of optimism."
Speaking by telephone from Washington, D.C., Friday, the Iraqi native and professor of political science at the University of Calgary in Canada, reflected on his Monday talk at Central Connecticut State University. As Middle East lecture series speaker, he offered a prescription for the "ills caused by the U.S. intervention in Iraq."
To him, America's new president is part of the cure.
Ismael cited three "positives" about Obama.
"First," said Ismael, "he is not Bush, which was a curse. Second, he [Obama] is very intelligent, someone with international stature, which America desperately needs. Finally, as a statesman Obama has the aura of a movie star — it seems to radiate from him."
Asked to comment on criticism from right-wing critics who have likened the new president to a banana republic dictator, Ismael replied:
"I am not saying that this is my view of Obama, I am only saying that he radiates euphoria." This, Ismael warns, could lead to unhealthy expectations.
About Iraq, Ismael observed that many Iraqis feel they were punished twice: Once by installing Saddam Hussein then again by Americans for having Saddam Hussein.
"You have destroyed a state and its institutions," he said. "Three million Iraqis have been forced to leave the country; most have fled to Syria and Jordan. The question now is, 'How do we leave Iraq responsibly?' Saddam was a horrible man. I was glad to see him go. But is Iraq truly a democracy? I think not."
Norton Mezvinsky, professor of history at CCSU and host for the lecture series, called Tareq Ismael "one of the world's top authorities on Iraq. He offers valuable insights about the condition of that troubled country and prospects for its future."
As secretary general of the International Association of Middle Eastern Studies, Ismael edits the International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies.
Author, co-author and editor of 21 books on foreign policies and domestic politics of Middle Eastern countries, his works include "The International Relations of the Middle East in the 21st Century: Patterns of Continuity and Change" (2000) and "Middle East Politics Today: Government and Civil Society" (2001). He has completed a trilogy on the Communist movement in the Arab world. He is currently writing a book that will view Islam through the eyes of a Westerner.
Mezvinsky, a CCSU professor, organized the lecture series in 2006 featuring Middle East scholars and experts in diverse areas. Underwritten by CCSU's Dean of Arts and Sciences, the series is sponsored by the university's Middle East Studies Committee, the History Department and Peace Studies Program.