Academy of Lifelong Learning



International Affairs


Mondays, October 23 – November 27 (five weeks)

*No classes the week of Thanksgiving.

4:15 – 5:30 pm



The situation in the Middle East remains extremely unstable, with large-scale conflicts continuing in several countries where the U.S. maintains historic ties and deep political and economic involvement/interests. The region continues to be a source of trans-national groups engaging in terrorism and other destabilizing activities in the region and globally. The population displacements caused by these actions have severely strained socio-economic conditions in other areas, including much of Europe and North Africa. In addition, the Republican Party’s victory in the 2016 elections and, particularly, Donald Trump’s election as President has prompted changes in Washington’s declared U.S. political, military and economic strategy towards the Middle East. 


We will begin the course with a review of the situation in the Middle East, including a summary of some of the key political, economic, social and demographic issues that resulted in the current geo-political situation. We’ll follow this broad overview with a look at the socio-political situation as it has evolved, focusing on the various key groups that have been destabilizing/stabilizing influences in the Middle East since 1967. From there, we will jump to the end of the 20th Century, particularly the direct involvement of the U.S. in regional conflicts, beginning with involving Iraq, Iran and, after “9/11,” Afghanistan and global counterterrorism. 


Finally, we will address the U.S. invasion of Iraq and U.S. attempts at regional stabilization since then, the emergence of “Arab Spring” and its meaning, now. We will conclude with a close look at the ongoing conflict in Syria, trans-national Islamist extremism (ISIL/ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban). We’ll also touch on the ongoing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and the Iran “issue,” closing with a discussion of where we think U.S. Middle East policy IS going and where, perhaps, it SHOULD be going, from our perspective and, as best as we can tell, from the perspective of the people of the Middle East. 


C. ‘PAT’ PATTERSON, a retired career diplomat, spent much of his career in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, including assignments in Lebanon, Israel and Kuwait during wars and internal conflicts. Following retirement, Pat was called back to the State Department to work on “The Future of Iraq Project,” and the Iraq Task Force (including a brief assignment in Iraq). He also participated in the 2004 re-opening of the U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya and, from late 2010 through March, 2011, at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a during the emergence of the “Arab Spring” in Yemen. Pat relocated to the Eastern Shore in 2012 and is completing service as Acting Manager at Church Hill Theatre in Church Hill.