Our Current US National Interest and Policies in the Middle East

Can the United States police the world? Can we identify and act on another country’s national security interests? These are some of the issues addressed by Donald Nuechterlein at this month’s meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.

nuechterlein_110309Donald E. Nuechterlein grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, and received his undergraduate and PhD degrees in political science from the University of Michigan. He served on active duty in the Navy during World War II and was commissioned in 1945. After the war ended, he served in the U.S. military occupation of Germany, in Bremerhaven and Berlin.

Mr. Nuechterlein had a long career in the federal government, at home and abroad. After joining the State Department in 1952, he served in Washington, D.C. and at U.S. embassies in Reykjavik, Iceland, and Bangkok, Thailand. In 1965 he joined the senior staff, International Security Affairs, in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as a specialist on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. In 1968, he became a founding faculty member of the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville and lectured and conducted seminars on U.S. foreign policy. He retired from government service in 1988.

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Dr. Nuechterlein has taught U.S. foreign policy both in the United States and abroad, including George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Queen’s University in Canada, the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany, and the University of Virginia, where he taught most recently in 2008. He was a Rockefeller fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (1963-64), a Fulbright scholar at the University College of Wales (1976), visiting faculty member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford (1982-83), and research fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra (1991) During each of these fellowships, he wrote a book on various aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

Don is the author of ten books, the most recent: Defiant Superpower: The New American Hegemony (2005). He writes a monthly commentary on international relations for several Virginia papers, including in Charlottesville, Richmond, Lynchburg, and Roanoke.

Don and his wife, Mildred, have four children and six grandchildren, and reside in Albemarle County near Charlottesville.

Mr. Nuechterlein spoke at the March 9, 2011 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held at The Charlottesville Senior Center. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV board member Sue Liberman.

Program Summary

At the March 9 SSV meeting, Donald Nuechterlein discussed “Our Current US National Interest and Policies in the Middle East.” The topic could not have been more timely given the recent developments in Egypt, Libya and other countries in the middle east. He identified 16 criteria for determining vital interests in case of war. He divided these into two categories, “Value Factors” and “Cost/Risk Factors.” The first include proximity of the danger; nature of the threat; economic stake for U.S.; type of government; effect on balance of power; sentimental attachment; national prestige at stake; and support of allies and friends. The “Cost/Risk Factors” include economic costs of hostilities; estimated U.S. casualties; risk of enlarged conflict; risk of protracted war; risk of international opposition; risk of U.S. public opposition; risk of congressional opposition; and cost of defeat or stalemate

Mr. Nuechterlein conducted a very interesting and informative exercise involving audience members. He distributed copies of a “National Interest Matrix” with the vertical axis titled “Basic National Interest” and comprised of the following factors: defense of homeland; economic well-being; favorable world order; and promotion of values. The horizontal axis, titled “Intensity of Interest,” was comprised of the following factors: survival level (critical); vital level (dangerous); major level (serious); and peripheral level (bothersome). He then asked all members of the audience to place the following countries on the matrix: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel and Libya. This was followed by a discussion of the thinking behind why the audience members selected the particular cells in which to place the countries

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