Although occasional outbursts of foreign policy have been interjected into the debates between House and Senate candidates in Florida (such as in Tuesday night's final Senate debate moderated by NBC's David Gregory), the fact is that with the economy being the dominant issue of the 2010 political season, discussions on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have gotten short shrift, even though members of Congress will undoubtedly be involved with the world in the coming two years.
So while the politicians and wannabe politicos think they can avoid discussing that, academics and the military are focusing on it all the time, and what's happening overseas will be the subject of a two-day conference taking place next week on the USF Tampa campus.
The discussions will feature the interplay of electoral politics, religion, social conditions and democratization efforts in the region.
Mohsen Milani, the conference's organizer and chair of USF's Department of Government & International Affairs, says, "There are no other four contiguous countries in the world that pose a greater challenge to American national security than do Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran."
Among those who will be at the conference include Marine Lieutenant General John R. Allen, CENTCOM deputy commander, a talk by New York Times international affairs columnist Roger Cohen, and an address by Ambassador John Limbert, one of the former hostages held by Iran during the crisis of 1979-80. Limbert will speak on Thursday, on the 31st anniversary of that seminal news event.
Limbert is the author of Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History, a scholar of Persian history and poetry and a former Peace Corps worker in Iran who is fluent in Farsi. He is also the only American official who has met Ayatollah Ali Khomeini during the hostage crisis before Khomeini became Iran's president and then supreme leader.
The conference will be held at the Embassy Suites, 3705 Spectrum Boulevard in Tampa. All events are free and open to the public.