Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee during the Bush administration, criticized the United States’ minimal involvement in recent conflicts in the Middle East at a talk Wednesday afternoon.
Perle, a well-known neoconservative and supporter of the war in Iraq, spoke about U.S. policy in the Middle East in front of an audience of about 60 people — many of them admitted students and their parents — in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, as part of the ongoing William F. Buckley Jr. speaker series. He said American presence often benefits Arab countries by inspiring uprisings against dictatorial leaders, also emphasizing that the U.S. should intervene early in these conflicts.
The current revolutions in Egypt and Libya are unusual in that they began without American influence, he said.
“The Arab revolution, by what we’re seeing in the last few weeks, is taking place in the absence of American power,” Perle said. “This is a new phenomenon.”
He added that he thinks the Obama administration should have taken a larger role in the situation much earlier, and that he does not believe the United States’ “half-hearted” military efforts will make much of a difference now.
A stronger, faster U.S. response could have changed the course of the conflict, he said, adding that “we simply do not know what would have happened” had American policy been different in recent months.
Perle said the American government’s lack of involvement in the democratic revolutions stemmed in part from the Obama administration’s belief that the dictatorial regimes in the affected countries were not a threat to the U.S. He added that autocratic governments are often less stable than they appear because ethnic or historical resentment can build against a leader over time.
“False stability of tyrannical regimes in the Middle East cannot be counted on to last forever,” he said.
One admitted student who attended the talk, Jay Ruckelshaus from Indianapolis, Ind., said that while he appreciated that Yale brought such a high-profile speaker for Bulldog Days, he did not agree with Perle’s views, particularly that the U.S., not Europe, must shoulder the responsibility of international peacekeeping.
Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13, the events director for the William F. Buckley Jr. Foundation and the student who invited Perle to campus, said he thought it was valuable for Yalies to hear Perle’s views.
“Perle was a great guest because he presented opinions that were not necessarily said on campus, and opinions that not everyone agrees with,” he said.
Perle also served as assistant secretary of defense during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.