Middle East experts Ross, Kemp to discuss ISIS, Israel-Palestine



Few foreign policy experts or commentators in the past 30 years have shown the resiliency, versatility or continuing relevance of Dennis Ross, who will deliver the 10:45 a.m. lecture in the Amphitheater with political scientist Geoffrey Kemp.

A frequent visitor to Chautauqua, Ross was on the grounds during Week Seven last year and has appeared in various roles here over the past several years.

His discussion with Kemp was originally scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the Hall of Philosophy as part of the Middle East Update series. By taking the Amp stage, Ross and Kemp are filling in for Michael Morell, who was originally scheduled for this date.

Ross was one of the experts cited by The Washington Post last Friday in an examination of President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy American military power against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-led insurgency that originated in the desert borderlands between Iraq and Syria.

In the Post story, Ross noted that the president is “adept at identifying the risks of [military] action, less so in appreciating the dangers of inaction.”

Ross told The Chautauquan Daily last year that “the story in the Middle East is being written by the people in the region. It is not being written by the United States. We are neither a bystander nor a big player. But we are not the authors of the upheaval that you see.”

Describing himself on an earlier visit to Chautauqua as a “free speaker,” Ross will likely discuss issues regarding Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Syria. He will also likely cover the latest developments in Arab-Israeli relations and the implications of all these issues for U.S. foreign policy.



Until late 2011, Ross served in the Obama administration as the top National Security Council official for the Middle East, Persian Gulf and South Asia — including Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is best known as a Middle East expert.

Despite his long identification in the public mind with the Middle East, however, Ross did his doctoral dissertation at UCLA on Soviet decision making. He also served as director of the State Department’s Policy Planning staff under President George H. W. Bush, a time when the Soviet Union collapsed, Germany was reunified and NATO issues were front-page news.

Entering government service during the Jimmy Carter administration, Ross worked on Middle East affairs in the Pentagon under Paul Wolfowitz. His bipartisan appeal was confirmed by service both in the White House and Pentagon under President Ronald Reagan.

A newly elected Bill Clinton named Ross as his special Middle East envoy in 1993, and today’s speaker is credited with a significant role in negotiating several Arab-Israeli agreements. In recent years, he has alternated between private think tanks and government service.

Ross is presently counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Kemp has been a familiar foreign policy resource for the Institution for many years. Since establishing his regional expertise nearly 50 years ago with several published studies on arms transfers in the Middle East, today’s moderator has moved in and out of Washington, the academic world and think tanks.

Kemp received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from MIT. He is currently Director of Regional Strategic Programs at the Center for the National Interest, formerly the Nixon Center.

Kemp worked with Ross at the Pentagon in the mid-1970s Pentagon on Middle East issues.