James Zogby, Managing Director at Zogby Research Services, writes for the Huffington Post on the Rafik Hariri Center’s Middle East Strategy Task Force (MEST) launch and his presentation during the event, highlighting the importance of understanding Arab public opinion concerning the various challenges facing the Middle East:
I was asked by the Atlantic Council to appear at the launch of their “Middle East Strategy Task Force” (MEST) to present a report on how Arab public opinion views the challenges facing their region as well as their assessment of the role the United States can play in addressing these concerns. The goal of the MEST, according to co-chairs, former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, will be to develop a long-term US strategy to assist the Middle East achieve stability and prosperity.
One might take a jaded view that this is just another election year effort by a Washington-based “think tank” to develop a policy paper that will, in the end, be nothing more than a restatement of conventional wisdom and existing policy. What, I believe, however, sets the Atlantic Council project apart is the stated resolve of the co-chairs to ground their work in the attitudes and needs of the Arab people. Instead of projecting policies developed in Washington for the people of the region, the MEST intends, as its starting point, to ascertain what the people of the region say they need and then craft policies that meld America’s interests and capacity with Arab aspirations.