Atlantic Council Nonresident Senior Fellow Richard LeBaron and Rafik Hariri Center Intern Jordan Lesser-Roy write for The Hill on the benefits of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program:
As kids go back to school and Congress goes back to work, a very effective State Department program is influencing long-term positive change in the Middle East and wider Muslim world. Since 2002, over 8,000 Muslim teenagers have come to the United States through the State Department’s YES program. While the flow of recruits to the Islamic State grabs the headlines, these young people are beginning to make a positive difference in their societies. The American families who host the students are doing more than their share to ensure the long-term security of the United States and deserve recognition and support. They are actually doing something useful at a time when many Americans seem to have lost confidence in their ability to create positive change, and at a time when some politicians have resorted to fear-mongering about the role of Islam in the world.
Long-term issues in the Middle East require long-term, creative solutions. Rather than shy away from engagement with the Muslim world, now is the time to double down in our outreach. The YES program, one of the very few genuinely successful efforts since 9/11 to affect change, should be celebrated and we should double the number of participants.