FREDERICK KEMPE: Good afternoon. On behalf of the chairman of the board of the Atlantic Council, Jon Huntsman, on behalf of the vice president of the Atlantic Council and the Director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East Frank Ricciardone and all of us at the Atlantic Council, welcome to the launch of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.
We’re pleased to be joined by some of the task force’s senior advisers, as well as many of our friends from Middle Eastern and European diplomatic communities. As you can see by looking around you, we have a full house, but we also have a virtual full house. So welcome also to our viewers around the world.
This event is live streaming on our website in Arabic translation as well. And a full video of today’s event, both in Arabic and English, will be posted on the council’s website following the event. This is an innovation for us. I believe, Frank, this is the first event that we’ve done with live translation, live streaming from the Rafik Hariri Center. We now have this capability and we will do this more often. We encourage you to interact online by following @ACMideast and tweet using the hashtag #ACMEST. That’s the acronym for this group – so #ACMEST.
I want to particularly greet, welcome, and salute the founder of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Bahaa Hariri, who is in Washington today with us for the launch of this group. On behalf of all of us, Bahaa, I want to thank you for your vision, without which this center would not exist and this task force would not exist. And thank you for entrusting to us the legacy of your great father, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Today, after more than a year of behind-the-scenes groundwork, we’re proud to announce that former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley will co-chair the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force in the bipartisan manner for which the Atlantic Council has become known. It’s an ambitious project to advance the public policy discussions toward a new global consensus on how to – how to address the challenges and opportunities confronting the Middle East.
In a moment, I’ll invite Secretary Albright to the stage to tell us more about the task force’s work, but let me first give you some context on how this task force fits in the Atlantic Council’s larger mission of working together with our friends and allies around the world to secure the global future. Through the ideas we develop and the communities we convene, we emphasize an active approach to policy communities around the world, with a premium on highly relevant and impactful policy recommendations.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen a growing need for well-developed, actionable strategy for addressing the world’s problems. For too long, the United States and its global friends have focused on tactics, jumping from crisis to crisis without a larger plan for leading the world to a better future with our friends and allies. To begin answering that need, the Atlantic Council this spring launched a comprehensive strategy initiative led by our Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, using a multi-vector approach to developing a strategic framework to guide American foreign policy, irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 elections – a foreign policy led by our interests and the interests of our friends and allies around the world for a better future.
The Middle East Strategy Task Force that we announce today, led by the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, is an element of that larger effort, with the specific goal of advancing the strategic collaboration among Americans, among our closest friends and allies in Europe, and among our closest friends and allies in the Middle East about the future of the Middle East. This is not Americans talking to Americans about what others ought to do. This is – this is a multi-stakeholder conversation about what those in the Middle East believe their future out to be, and then how do we help them get there.
The task force will explore alternative policy approaches and convergences that can lead to the breakthroughs to a more stable and prosperous region. Rarely is the world confronted with challenges more intractable than those in the Middle East today. But I’m equally confident that there’s rarely been an initiative better equipped to address those challenges, nor leaders more capable in cultivating the right kind of change, as we find in this task force. With two of the great foreign policy strategists of our time – Secretary Albright and Mr. Hadley – chairing the project, alongside the incredible energy and diplomatic savvy of Frank Ricciardone, and a network of advisers and supporters that spans the globe, I think there’s a real opportunity for impact. We certainly are going to give it our best try.
It’s now my pleasure to invite the task force co-chairs to the stage to kick off the event. One is executive – an executive vice president of the board of the Atlantic Council, the other is an honorary director the Atlantic Council, both dear friends of this organization. Since leaving office, both Secretary Albright and former National Security Adviser Steve Hadley have remained deeply engaged in the issues of the Middle East. Steve serves as the chair of the US Institute of Peace, which has been deeply engaged in trying to mitigate conflict in the region at a national and local levels. He’s also chair of RAND’s Middle East board, one of their many bipartisan collaborations since leaving office was a CFR task force on Turkey – collaboration between the two of them.
As the chair of the National Democratic Institute and of partners for a new beginning, an organization that seeks to build new understanding between the US and the Muslim world, Secretary Albright has been a champion both for political and economic development in the region. Her 2007 book, “The Mighty and the Almighty,” was a front runner in calling for a reassessment of US strategy toward the world, specifically citing the independence of politics and the region. So, Secretary Albright, the stage is yours. (Applause.)
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I do lack some of Fred’s height.
Thank you very much, Fred, for your kind words. And my thanks to you and the Atlantic Council for bringing us together to examine one of the most complicated and salient issues of our time. And I’m particularly gratified to see so many distinguished members of the diplomatic corps in this audience. Your presence here today underscores the global perspective that we want for this project.
And our emphasis today on listening to voices from the region reflects our determination to incorporate the views of your citizens in our research. As Fred mentioned, it was last year that Steve Hadley and I began discussing the need for a focused effort to better understand what is happening in the Middle East. And I would like to say what a pleasure it is to work with Steve Hadley on this project, and many others.
The reasons are simple, yet compelling. And this is a region of tremendous importance to the United States and to the world. And it’s facing a set of overlapping crises, unlike any we have witnessed in generations. Policymakers here in Washington have been working around the clock to navigate these crises and protect America’s full range of interest. But having both served in the government, Steve and I know how easy it is for the inbox to get overrun. And there is rarely the opportunity to take a step back and consider the deeper issues at hand, to get at the root causes of the crises and to develop an effective and enduring long-term approach in concert with people from the region.
So the important part is to take the time and step back, but look forward. That is, in part, what we hope to accomplish with this bipartisan project. It’s an ambitious effort, but we begin in a strong position because we can leverage the considerable resources of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. And for that reason, I also would very much like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank Mr. Bahaa Hariri, whose generosity has made this effort possible, and who has done so much to advance the causes of progress and peace that were so dear to his father’s heart. Thank you so very, very much. (Applause.)
I would also like to thank the Hariri Center’s director, and my very dear friend, Ambassador Frank Ricciardone, who really has been one of the finest diplomats the United States has had. Thank you, Frank. (Applause.) We’re all lucky that after a long and distinguished diplomatic career, Frank has chosen to stay involved in the public policy debate. And it’s really his vision that has helped shape this into a distinctive and compelling project.
And I say that it is distinctive for a few reasons. First, while it will be housed here at the Atlantic Council’s Hariri Center, we are engaging with a wide range of think tanks and involving a diverse range of academic experts, foreign policy practitioners and civil society leaders. We’ve established five working groups, led by experts from Brookings, the Stimson Center, the United States Institute of Peace, as well as an independent researcher. And I would note that two of our working group conveners, Geneive Abdo and Chris Schroeder, are here with us today.
These working groups have already begun to explore their topics. And I’ll just list what they include: security and public order, religion, identity and countering violent extremism, refugees, recovery and reconciliation, politics, governance and state society relations, and economic recovery and revitalization. So you can see that we are fully covering many of the issues that we see as root causes of some of the disruptions and looking at ways to deal with the issues.
In the coming months, the working groups will analyze these topics in depth and issue reports which will then feed into a final task force report that will be drafted here at the Hariri Center, and reviewed by a distinguished panel of senior advisers. This group of advisers, some of whom are here with us today, include eminent diplomats and experts from the United States, Europe and, most importantly, from the region.
In fact, a majority of these advisers are from outside the United States. And that’s another thing that I believe makes this project especially distinctive. We’re not just going to look how to simply codify the inside-the-beltway consensus. We want to engage with people on the ground in the region and incorporate their perspectives into everything that we do. And in short, we want to listen more. And listening to voices from the region is what today’s event is really about.
So with that, let me invite my friend and co-chair, Steve Hadley, to step forward and set the stage for our discussions. (Applause.)
STEPHEN HADLEY: Secretary Albright, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be with all of you here this afternoon. I want to thank especially Madeleine for the opportunity, pleasure and privilege to work with you once again on one of our bipartisan policy initiatives.
It’s going to be, I think, an important and exciting prospect. What we want to distinguish this project from others is – to do, is to start with the views, perspectives and interests of the citizens and leaders in the regions on the problems of the region and the challenges it face. And for that reason, the theme of today’s public event is, “A View from the Region.” And we want to start that process, which we hope will address a number of questions that will be the basis of our work.
What are the underlying causes of the current crisis in the Middle East? Why have so many countries seen their governments collapse or be overthrown? What explains the rise of extremism in the region? What sort of government would people in the region be willing to support and fight for? What do the people of the region need to do to help resolve the current crisis? And how can the United States, Europe and the rest of the world help?
This isn’t your typical panel event today, so let me walk through what’s going to happen this afternoon. First, we are going to watch a brief video of on-the-street interviews produced exclusively for this project by Sky News Arabia. Next, we will hear some polling data presentations by Jim Zogby and Mohamed Younis. And then we will turn to Rabab El Mahdi in Cairo to respond and to participate in our panel. We’ll have a brief conversation among the three speakers, with Madeleine Albright and myself presiding, and then we will bring our in-house and Twitter audience into the conversation for a Q&A session.
So let me first introduce the panel that you will see on this stage after the video. First is James Zogby, who has had a four-decade career working on US-Arab relations and bringing an Arab and Arab-American perspective into the Washington policy conversation. He is a managing director of Zogby Research Services, author of the book “Arab Voices,” and founder of the American – the Arab American Institute.
Next will be Mohamed Younis. He is the Gallup organization’s subject matter expert on the Middle East and North Africa. His research at Gallup focuses on employment challenges in the Arab world and relations between Muslim majority and Western societies.
And finally, coming from us from – with us from Cairo, will be Rabab El Mahdi. She is associate professor of political science at the American University in Cairo. Her research interests cover the areas of state civil society relations, social movements and resistance and the political economy of social policy.
So now, if we may, let us turn to the short video of the on-the-street interviews with citizens in Beirut, Cairo, Ramallah and Tunis, explaining what future they want for themselves and their country.
(A video is shown.)
MR. HADLEY: Let me express our thanks, again, to Sky News Arabia for pulling that together. And let me invite the panelists and Secretary Albright to come to the stage and take their seats.
So let’s start, if we might, with Jim Zogby.
JAMES ZOGBY: Thanks, Steve. And thank you, Madeleine. Thanks to the Atlantic Council for hosting this. I’m going to – I think I’m going to sit here and do this rather than get to the – to the podium.
Let me begin by saying that what you saw is validated in all the polling we’ve done. Remember when we first did our poll after 9/11, there was questions of what Arabs think, what do they want, where are they going? And we did a wide-ranging poll, published in a book called “What Arabs Think: Beliefs, Concerns and Values.”
And what we found was that, contrary to the myth that they go to bed at night hating Israel, wake up in the morning hating America and spend the day in the mosque hearing some preacher teach them to hate a little bit more, that they actually went to bed at night thinking about their kids and woke up in the morning worried about their jobs and spent the day working real hard trying to get a better life. I mean, their values and their concerns stacked up pretty much with what anybody – man on the street in America would say they want with their lives. They want to prosper. They want to take care of their kids. They want to make sure that when they get old somebody’s going to be there for them.
We’ve reviewed, for this project, our polling over the past 15 years. And basically I guess what I can say is that I’ve found that to some degree people are confounded in the region about the changes that are taking place and how to respond. And they’re also conflicted – in particular conflicted about the United States. I remember after 9/11 there was this notion that, well, why do they hate us? They hate us because they hate our values.
So we polled in the region. And what we found was that they actually like our values and they like our freedom and democracy, they like our education system, our television programs, et cetera. They don’t like the way we treat them. And so they reacted to that by, when asked the question, how do you feel about America? They say: We don’t like America. We don’t like America because – one guy said in an interview post-polling – he said, I feel like a jilted lover. I like America, but I don’t think America likes me. Look at what they do to us.
Move forward to 2009. We did a survey of obstacles in the region. What did people think were the biggest problems that they faced? The two problems where the Israel-Palestine conflict and US interference in the region. Issues of democracy and economic inequality, even strife caused by religion didn’t even factor much at all.
Toward the end of that year and into the beginning of the next year, 2010, we did a poll that we do very often. We ask a series of 11 issues and we ask people to rank them in terms of priority. In almost every country the top issues were health care, and employment and education, and a couple of issues – terrorism ranks a bit high in some, corruption and nepotism in others.
But those three – health care, education, and employment – are top priorities almost everywhere, and Israel-Palestine factors in as well. It’s an existential question almost in the Arab world. Interesting that questions dealing with democracy and reform of government didn’t make it into the top tier at all. It wasn’t a priority issue for the people that we polled in every country.
We asked then about what they wanted America to do, what they thought America could be helpful with. And again, it was employment, education and health care, and Israel and Palestine. Those were the issues. Issues of democracy and reform of government, et cetera, weren’t there, not unlike if you were to ask Americans during our gun control debate whether we thought it would be a good idea to bring the Brits over to help us figure it out. Or bring the Canadians and the Swedes in to help us with health care reform. People didn’t want people meddling in their internal affairs.
Skip forward to 2014, we asked the very same questions again, top priorities. And as you can see again, Israel-Palestine and US interference were the two issues that people thought were the most destabilizing in their region. And yet given that, when we – no, let me – let me go to this first. The top issues were resolving the Arab-Israel conflict in 2014 and Syria. Almost scant mention was about Iran and the nuclear program with Iran.
But look at this, when we asked people how important was the challenge versus how effective was the US response, this is what they said about Israel-Palestine, this is what they said about ending the conflict in Syria: Really important, but the US response, limited. The nuclear program with Iran, not a factor at all, and yet, that’s how effective we were. So in other words, we were good at doing what they didn’t really care much about and not good at doing what they cared most about.
Importance of your country, however, maintaining good relations with the US? Very important in almost every country that we poll. But how effective is the US at maintaining good relations with your country? We get credit for trying. Not very effective, but we’re trying at it. Which is, actually, not a bad sign – better than the other way.
Let’s look at a couple of individual issues – Syria, for example. What are the policies that the US should pursue in Syria? Humanitarian aid for refugees, pursuing negotiations and leaving Syria alone. Look at the blue – leaving Syria alone – in almost every country a top issue. What they didn’t want us to do was airstrikes, direct involvement and weapons to the opposition.
This is what I mean by the conflicted and confounded issue. Syria is important. They want Syria resolved. They want the US involved to help provide some leadership on it. But they don’t want us to do any of those things, in part because they don’t trust the judgments that we make, given our past experience in the region.
Conflict in Syria contributed to an increase in sectarian – yes, very dramatically so. Impact of Syrian refugees, very dramatic in every country, both on the country’s security and on the country’s economy.
In the conflict in Syria who do they side with? Well, look, I mean, it’s interesting to note that in every country – in every Arab country it’s with the opposition, except in Lebanon where there’s a – there’s a division and in Iran. Turkey, on the other hand, was interesting because it was the one country where Jabhat al-Nusra and the – and the other Syrian opposition groups did very well. And also in Iraq it was the same.
Then look at Syria, the worst outcome. What would be the worst outcome? In almost every country the worst outcome, added together, was the country being partitioned or fragmenting and/or Bashar al-Assad staying in power. Iraq, the best outcome for the future – most of Iraq’s neighbors want Iraq to stay whole and do not want Iraq to fragment.
Is ISIS a threat to your country? A very grave threat, in most of the neighboring countries where we polled. But do they support the Western-led military intervention to combat ISIS? Only in Turkey, where there was a significant majority, and in Iraq where opinion was divided but still a slight majority in favor. In every other country, opposition to that.
I conclude: They know what they want. They don’t know how to get there. They know that the US is a valuable participant in the region, but they are not confident enough to have the US play the leadership role that oftentimes the US wants to play or feels it ought to play. And so conflicted and confounded is how I’d conclude – and a little lacking in confidence as well.
MR. HADLEY: Thank you, Jim, very much.
MOHAMED YOUNIS: Right, I’m going to change it up here and come stand over here a little bit. Let you folks see my slides as I show them.
Thank you so much for including us. It’s obviously an honor for Gallup to be part of this initiative. I took a different approach than Dr. Zogby, because he has very interesting sort of topical information using public opinion research. I figured I’d take the more longitudinal approach to give you a little bit of a contrast of what Gallup has learned polling in this region since 2005 on some topical issues, but mostly on issues we’re also polling the entire world on, and look at some of the comparisons.
I’ll tell you a little bit about our tool. Actually, in response to a very off-the-cuff remark by Secretary Rumsfeld in 2001, believe it or not, about the inability to poll Afghans on the Afghan invasion, our CEO was actually watching the press conference and thought to himself, why can’t we start polling Afghans on the Afghan–US invasion? So in 2001 we started a process of working with stakeholders, starting to build our capacity globally, running several pilot projects in the region and really finalizing our survey tool.
In 2005 and forward is really where a lot of the data that I’ll be sharing with you comes from, and a lot of the learnings that I mention that I may not have slides for have come from.
The first really important lesson that we’ve learned – and really this started after the Arab Spring in terms of us looking back, but this is a metric we, as you will see, have been gathering far before – is leaders were sort of following the wrong metrics, or not following enough of the right ones. And I’ll give you an example here in a second. But what we ask at Gallup, and one very important question is asking people how their own lives are doing.
On a scale from zero to 10, where you tell – ask the respondent to evaluate their current life and then evaluate where they think their life will be in five years from today. If they respond with a seven or higher for today and an eight or higher for their life in five years, Gallup places them in what is called the thriving category. If they rate their lives at a four or below today and in five years, they’re placed into what is called the suffering category. So what I’ll be showing you on the next several slides is actually the rate of those who fall into the thriving category in several countries.
But back to following the right metrics. Egypt, GDP per capita looks – still, until today looks very promising. At the time of 2010, 2009, even – beginning of, you know – you know, getting over the 2011, World Economic Forum is giving Egypt and Tunisia recognition, bumping them up in the rankings. Competitiveness in doing business is improving. A lot of the macroeconomic indicators and some of the economic reforms had started to take place and things looked very positive.
When you asked the Egyptians how they felt about what was going in Egypt, this is what you found. And this is a trend, this incoherence, or cognitive dissonance, if you will, between GDP per capita and a lot of other macroeconomic metrics, and how people are actually rating their lives. We saw this almost similar graph in Tunisia, in Bahrain, in Syria, and of course here in Egypt. You’ll actually notice that the first dip is not the Arab Spring. The first dip is what? It’s the spike in wheat prices in 2008, 2009.
So when we come around the Arab Spring, Egyptians were already registering that something was going very wrong in their world, in their economy, on their expectations. But not a lot of people were picking up on it. Just to show you that it’s not just the Middle East phenomenon – so I mentioned sort of several of the high-hitting countries in terms of instability throughout the region and what we saw. Let’s look at Ukraine. And I thought this would be particularly interesting because we’re, of course, at the Atlantic Council.
It’s GDP per capita in Ukraine. Let’s look at how Ukrainians had been rating their lives. So you see that, you know, there’s certainly something there. Now, I need to be very clear, I’m not claiming that this is a predictor for instability. And I’m not claiming that there’s any kind of causal relationship between stability and these variables or the variables and each other. We’re just saying that something is going on and there are a lot more metrics that we have learned to follow very closely, beyond just the top line GDP or other metrics rankings that we are used to.
To give you a positive example – it’s not all negative – on the positive side, here’s Colombia. This is, I think, the desired outcome for most countries – certainly a much more healthy relationship between the macroeconomic realities and how people are evaluating their lives. Just for context, in Egypt leading up to 2011, the only people whose life evaluation scores were improving were the top 10 percentile in income, which is not a surprise to many of us who are familiar with the country.
So I want to look at thriving and life evaluation from a different perspective now and examine some of the acute conflicts, at least just two that we have unfolding in the region. Instead of showing you a thriving great percentage, I want to show you the average numeric score of a country on that scale from zero to 10, both today and in five years.
Let’s take a look at Syria. This is how Syrians have been rating their lives in our study. I should mention that in 2013, due to the security situation, we had to exclude Homs and Quneitra governorates. That reduced our sample to representing – we lost about 9 to 10 percent of the population, to put it sort of more simply. In addition to that, we had to substitute at least a quarter of our PSUs within the same areas, but to different locations based on the security situation.
But nonetheless, you see that life today in Syria continues to be just horribly rated and declining. Interesting that hope seems to somehow be holding on. We did do a series of topical polls with Syrians about when they thought the conflict would end and various kind of aspects on where things were going. Most of them did not see it ending soon. This was in 2013, so maybe have changed since then, but life evaluation clearly reflecting the reality for Syrians on the ground.
Here’s Yemen. And again, clearly, Yemenis knew something was going on with their country before a lot of us were following them in the headlines. And it really drives home the point that as leaders, as policy makers, whether you’re leading Yemen or somebody who’s leading a country trying to help Yemen, these metrics become absolutely essential to understanding what is really underlying the changes that are taking place here.
Bread and butter issues – I was very hesitant to either title this subject bread and butter issues, the greater jihad or it’s the bread and butter issues, stupid. (Laughter.) But it depends on sort of what side of the aisle you want to sit on. But since this is a bipartisan effort, I figured I’d just leave it as bread and butter issues and let people decide.
But on a serious note, one of the underlying premises of this task force, which I very wholly agree with, is the idea that movements like ISIS are actually a symptom and not a cause. And if that’s the case, what I would argue is that to understand the cause is actually to address the issues that they capitalize on, the grievances that they very effectively use to get people to either ideologically support them or even if not ideologically support them, what we see in Iraq, people to feel like they are relatively a better alternative than the other choices they have.
So let’s jump into some of these issues. One of the things that we have asked – we ask all over the world and we ask in the Middle East is, in the last 12 months was there a time – have there been times when you did not have enough money to buy food for your family that you and your family needed?
And I wanted to compare Latin America and the post-Soviet Eurasia countries on these items, because Dr. Steve Grand, who’s with us here today, in his book – which I very much agree with – drives home the point that a big miss for us – us being the US sort of policy world – since 9/11 – since 9/11, even, and the Arab Spring, is that we’ve lost the ability to really compare and look at other countries that have made it across the world.
So establishing democracy is not something we’re trying to invent in the Middle East. Improving economies is not something that’s trying to – we’re trying to do for the first time ever. There are actually other parts of the world that have seen a relative amount of success. What lessons learned from those other parts of the world can be applied to the Middle East? Certainly not all of them, but maybe some of them.
Not enough money for food, there’s the post-Soviet Eurasia countries making significant progress on that item. Here’s the Middle East. That is the median average of Middle East countries. This includes the GCC and many countries that have no issue whatsoever relatively speaking, or for most people, with access to food. So you see an increasing trend of concern on that front.
Payroll to population – Gallup measures employment four to six ways, depending on the surveys you’re talking about. Our most useful metric has been payroll to population. This is respondents 15 and older who work at least 30 hours for an employer for pay. Here is Latin America and the Caribbean, obviously post-Soviet Eurasia would be a little higher, as expected.
There’s the Middle East – basically no progress since the Arab Spring on the regional level. Does this – is this a story everywhere? Absolutely not. We had a great conversation over lunch about sort of Dubai, UAE, for example, being there are pockets that are exceptions to this reality. But in terms of really delivering on the jobs issue in the region, we’ve quite frankly seen a lot of talk and very little in the way of delivery.
Do you feel safe walking alone at night? This has been a huge issue in the countries that did see uprisings. So again, the Middle East median average. There is Egypt with a serious collapse during the Arab Spring and then a significant rebound. The Egypt wave here in 2014 was actually three weeks after President Sisi assumed office. It’s an important kind of fact to keep in mind when you look at the Egypt data.
There is Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia there at the end – safe walking alone at night, something that has very much dramatically shifted in the countries particularly where we saw any kind of uprising, protest, unrest.
Corruption in government – is corruption widespread throughout the government in this country or not? Middle East, flat at 70, almost no improvement or decline. There’s Egypt. And we actually used to ask this question in a different way, but I wanted to use the most recent data for you here. Significant at least expectation that things will improve in that last reading of 2014, but consistently on government and corruption in business Egypt is consistently one of the highest – not a surprise. Iraq, surprisingly a little bit of improvement. Lebanon and Tunisia – apologize, Tunisia there at the end.
Desire to emigrate – one of the issues that unfortunately has remained with us and was actually reference in the video that we just saw. When we asked respondents: Ideally if you had the opportunity would you like to move permanently to another country or would you prefer to move – excuse me – or would you prefer to continue living in this country? So right now we’re looking at the percent of those who said, no, I would like to move, I’d like to leave my country permanently.
There is the median average. There is Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia – significant improvement in Tunisia – significant hope of people may be seeing things improving and not having to sort of run away from a bad situation – Jordan and Lebanon at the very end. But think about this. Until now, 15 to 30 percent of respondents in this country – this is pretty reflective of almost everywhere except the GCC countries in the region – 15 to 30 percent want to get out. They want to leave. The Steve Jobs, the Zuckerbergs, the Mohamed El-Erians, all of these people, a lot of them, are still trying to leave.
And I think one thing for this task force to consider is in terms of sustainable policy, until you can, number one, stop that phenomenon from taking place, but equally important I think, for the US, number two, connect with the ex-pats all over the world that are leaving these countries and succeeding that actually want to improve things in their own country. How do we form a strategy to not necessarily politicize, but at least connect those networks and communities of ex-pats that are very serious about wanting to give something back and don’t necessarily see as bleak of a future maybe, or as security-focused a lens of a future for the region as some of us in this city tend to.
I wanted to just share a very few slides from Iraq, because I think our latest polling there really demonstrates what happens when societies lose faith in local and national institutions and how movements like ISIS and others really effectively capitalize on them. This is that same thriving rate I shared with you at the very beginning of this presentation. This is Iraq broken into ISIL-held areas, disputed areas, Baghdad, Iraqi Kurdistan and southern Iraq.
So here I am using – it’s based, obviously, on proxy or dummy categories for the regions of the country – but Baghdad, predominantly Shia – slightly predominantly Shia, and southern Iraq, overwhelmingly Shia, are the only two regions where we’ve seen thriving come back since that disastrous September ’13 reading as Maliki was sort of in the full thrust of his approach at governance.
Iraqi Kurdistan and the disputed areas, ISIL-held territory still much, much lower in their thriving rates since September 2013 through December 2014. To jog your memory, August is when Prime Minister Haider Abadi took over. June/July is sort of when Mosul went to ISIS. So this is six months after Prime Minister Abadi’s in office, and still thriving rates pretty low in non-Shia areas.
Let’s look at confidence in the military. Again, a similar dynamic where the Shia-majority areas – excuse me – Baghdad and southern Iraq, seen significant improvement, some improvement in the disputed areas. But again, ISIL-held and Iraqi Kurdistan still some pretty significant loss of confidence in the military. You’ll notice that very last is the total – the national average. And you’ll notice on this slide – and I should have shown you on the previous slide – it almost tells you nothing because there’s not a lot of fluctuation on that – on that level of analysis. But when you look locally, you see a lot.
Confidence in national government, unlike thriving and national institutions like the military, we did see a significant bounce back in the political appetite, if you will, in giving the new prime minister a chance. In Iraq do you have confidence in each of the following – how about the national government? Confidence shot pretty significantly back up December 2014.
Do you disapprove or approve of the way Prime Minister – in this case Nouri al-Maliki – is handling his job as prime minister? This is September 2013. Thirteen percent of people in Iraqi Kurdistan approved of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s job performance. May 2014, even worse, to a point where barely a majority in Baghdad and only a majority in the south approved of Prime Minister al-Maliki’s approach at governance. And very promisingly, I think, at least initially, in December of 2014 a huge resurgence of at least a chance for this new political leader to strike a new page.
What I would challenge us to think about is how much should we stake as policy makers on these very fleeting approvals, disapprovals versus how much should we stake as policy makers on addressing thriving and the underlying bread and butter issues? My argument would be, we’re a lot better off focusing on those issues. Perhaps we have to deal with these issues, but so much of our RPMs, if you will, as Washington tends to be focused on this part. A lot less tends to be focused on the other part. So using the right metrics, bread and butter issues, and Iraq as an example. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. HADLEY: Mohamed, thank you so much. I would now like to turn to Rabab El Mahdi, who has been waiting patiently in a studio in Cairo, and it’s fairly late in the evening her time. And what I’d like to do is ask you if you would, Rabab, to tell us your own views about what public opinion is right now in the region. What are citizens in the region thinking about right now? And how does it line up with what you’ve just heard here and what we have seen in terms of the polling data.
Rabab, are you with us?
RABAB EL MAHDI: Yes, I am. I am, Steve. Hello, everyone.
So, I mean, it would be audacious for me to sit here and just, you know, tell you what every citizen in the region believes, but I would say in general that I didn’t hear anything today that comes across as completely, you know, unacceptable or something that I have not seen through my interactions or my studies or my political activism. So, I tend – overall, I tend to agree with the picture that was painted by James and Mohamed.
Having said that, I think there is a number of points that I would like to reiterate. One of them is that we are not freaks of nature, right? So basically, just like James said and just like the person who came up first in the video said, we are just normal human beings. We eat. We think. We want to have fun. We make love just like anyone else anywhere in the world. So I think the idea of cultural specificity, that there is something wrong or exceptional about this region, needs to be rethought.
I thought this was the case with the Arab Spring, right? You know, with all the euphoria about all those young people going out and seeking freedom and dignity and social justice, that there was an understanding that they’re just like everyone else. But unfortunately, with the turn of events, we went back to addressing citizens of the Middle East, and the Arab world in particular, as, you know, some form of irrational actors who tend to have very strange choices, either of the dictatorship, religious or military, who just hate the US, so on and so forth.
And I think anything that we see in the public opinion, once we analyze it, it becomes completely clear how this is a rational reaction to their own experiences, right? So when people are given a choice between – or have to make a choice between their personal safety and their freedom, between the safety of their children and being able to live in a democracy, they – rationally they tend to choose their own personal safety. And that’s just, you know, a human instinct. The idea is not those choices they make, it’s understanding what circumstances we put them in in order for them to have to make a choice between issues of bread and butter on one hand or security on the one and democracy and freedom and dignity on the other hand.
The other thing that I think we need to understand about public opinion in the region nowadays and for a few years to come, is that this is a state of flux. Things are changing so fast. And the idea that, you know, the US administration or any administration or even regimes from the region, to – focusing on stability and governability, I think this is the wrong bet. The idea is to question at what cost is stability or governability being brought about? The idea is to think about the governmentality. The only way forward for this region is to have a kind of stability that does not come at the expense of people’s dignity, their freedom and their bread and butter issues.
The other thing I want to comment on, and this was made in Steve’s introduction, the idea of thinking about what’s going on in the region in terms of a crisis. This is not a crisis or a series of crises. This is a historic transformation. And historic transformations – as we have seen in Europe in the, you know, eighteenth and nineteenth century up until the mid-twentieth century and then the US– those kinds of historic transformations are messy. They take a long time. And they need to run their course.
So the idea that they can be addressed or that we can, you know, seek mechanic conclusions between what people think today and, accordingly, how we address this – so if we – if we look at Egypt for example and we see a poll, or in the region in general, saying that democracy is not a priority and that bread and butter issues is the priority, this should not fool us into thinking that people do not care about freedom and dignity, because democracy is a means to an end.
So, yes, if their dignity or freedom will not come through a particular system or a particular regime, they are very well-aware that they need to seek it elsewhere. This does not mean that they have, quote, unquote, “a different set of values.” There are universal values that people of this region – no one wants to be beaten up in a police station. That’s what human dignity translates into. The people who left their jobs to stand in front of polling stations throughout the region since 2011, are scenes that we’ve never seen before. Those are people – when they were given a choice to seek out freedom properly, that they opted and they actually risked much more than standing in line. They risked their own lives.
So thinking that, you know, in terms – there’s a ladder of priorities. You know, those people need to be fed first, and then, you know, have some religion and then they would be fine because they don’t care about freedom, it doesn’t work this way. They need a number of things, all of them at the same time. Sometimes they prioritize the urgent needs of survival, hence, you know, their security or their bread and butter issues, but that, for them, is not because they tend to not value freedom or dignity. That’s because sometimes, most often they are pushed to having to make such a choice.
The final thing that I want to comment on, and then we can go to questions, is the focus on procedural versus, you know, strategic issues. I think if we conceive of what’s going on in the region as a crisis, and accordingly the urgency of asking people questions about procedural matters such as, you know, do you want elections or don’t you want elections? Do you want the US to intervene in Syria or not to? I think we’re missing the point because in those transformations the important issues are much more structural and strategic. They’re not just procedural and technical.
The idea is not to give them elections. The idea is to make sure that there is an environment that will lead to a political system that reflects their choices, that will be responsive. Elections become a means to this. Same thing with the issue of Syria – intervention or no intervention, I think misses the point because that’s a technical issue. That’s a procedural issue. That’s for people, you know, in the policymaking world to decide. But this decision should be based on a more in-depth understanding of what’s going on.
The idea is not to put forward elections or have an air strike in order to momentarily solve a crisis. The idea is to guarantee enough conductive circumstances to allow the people in this region to work for what they have been striving for for years. And the idea that they shouldn’t – I think most of the people I talk to and I work with, including even the person who runs that venue that I’m in today, they have made huge sacrifices for what they saw as a better future coming with, you know, the Arab Spring. This guy had lost his job and started a small business. And they are ready to make those sacrifices. But up until a point where they can see, first of all, that – you know, even risking their lives is OK, but as long as they can see a future.
Unfortunately, both regional powers and international powers have put the majority of citizens of this region in a position whereby they have to become more apathetic because they lost all faith that there can be a better future, that they need – some of them need to resort to violence and extremism. Whereas our point of remedy was the hope that came with the Arab Spring, and that was completely shattered. And hence, from the euphoria that I have felt, you know, for a couple of years after 2011, I think what the polls and the presentations of today are missing is a feeling of despair and intense frustration that the citizens of this region are feeling. Thank you.
MR. HADLEY: Thank you very much. That was extremely helpful. And I think it showed the power of mixing polling data and then anecdotal data because, Rabab, you helped, I think, us to understand how in the polling data democracy and freedom could be a low priority in the face of security or bread and butter issues.
But, as you point out, that does not mean that it is not an important element of where the people in the region want to go. It is a question of priorities and responding to the circumstances in which they find themselves. So I think we’re off to a terrific start in terms of trying to get some input and appreciation from the region. And I think also this mixing of the anecdotal and the polling is a very powerful tool. And we will try to use that in the course of the study.
We’re a little bit running behind time-wise. Have a firm 4:00 stop. And what I’d like to propose to do is rather than conducting a dialogue within the panel, I would like to turn to Secretary Albright and give her a moment to comment on what she has heard, and then I think we’ll go right to the audience and to our Twitter followers and get as many questions in as we can before the 4:00 stop.
So, Madeleine, do you want to comment for a moment on what you’ve heard?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it truly was interesting. And I made a lot of different notes and we have a lot to look at.
I think the question for our task force, however, is to look at the data and then try to figure out how we approach the longer-term part, since a lot of the issues have to do with immediate polling and the question in terms of security, jobs, et cetera, and look a little bit at – and I’d just make this suggestion, is – there’s a paradox here. They – we want to know what they want to do and how they can act. And they, to some extent, want us to have the United States do something, but they don’t particularly like some of the things we do. So that there are – for the US, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
I think that is worth looking at – and I have done an awful lot of polling in Eastern Europe at a time immediately after the fall of the wall. And it was very, very similar to what you were talking about, thriving versus suffering, and how people see their own personal situation versus what’s going on in the country. So I would be interested – and we don’t have to get an answer now – in who you actually poll. What is the age group? What are their jobs? Because one of the things we found in Eastern Europe was that it really made a difference and it has a lot – to what Rabab has to say – whether you’re, quote, somebody who – I always hate this term – an intellectual versus somebody who is a worker has a very different approach to this, and kind of dividing that up.
But the other part here that I think we need to know is to what extent the people in the country know that this is up to them, that we can provide suggestions but I think we really need to figure out – and ultimately the institutional development, I think, is important. As somebody who heads the Democratic Institute, I find it hard to think that democracy’s not important, but democracy has to deliver. People want to vote and eat.
And part of the issue is lack of faith in institutions. And I stole this statement from somebody but I use it because of the role of social media. What has happened is people are talking to their governments on 21st century technology from Tahrir Square. The government hears them on twentieth century technology and is providing nineteenth century responses. And so there is no competence in the institutions. And yet, institutions need to be built in order to be able to deliver the jobs, education and health care.
MR. ZOGBY: Can I just make a point about the –
MR. HADLEY: Very briefly, because we do need to go to the questions.
MR. ZOGBY: – the attitudes of – the people have toward their lives. We’ve been asking what I like to call the Reagan questions – are you better off than you were, do you think you’re going to be better off in the next few years, are your children going to be better off than you, and are you better off than your parents? And then we ask a right track, wrong track question. We’ve got that data over the last 15 years in all the countries, and it’s fascinating. It tracks, Mohamed, some of what you say. But it’s an interesting way of looking at people, and then looking at the demographics within. And we largely find not a big shift among the different age groups or gender groups.
MR. HADLEY: Interesting.
MR. ZOGBY: If there’s hope in the country, it’s widespread. If there’s a lack of hope, it seems to be widespread across the demographic groups.
MR. HADLEY: I think one of the things we might do, if you – the two of you are willing, is to have a dialogue with you about other data you have that might be relevant.
MR. ZOBGY: Sure.
MR. YOUNIS: OK.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Yeah.
MR. HADLEY: And secondly, if there are questions that we can formulate or maybe come from our working groups that we would like to commend to you, that you might go out on in the next couple months that would help us drill down on some of the things we’ve learned today, that would be a wonderful part in parallel track to the work of the working groups and a contribution to the studies. But we can go to that and talk about that as a follow up to this conference.
So let me open the floor for questions from the audience and via Twitter. Jessica Ashooh, I think, is somewhere here, who is our Twitter – source of Twitter questions. There she is. I will look to Jessica when we have a Twitter question and we will put that into the mix. For those of you in the hall here, I know it’s a little dark, if you would raise your hand I will hopefully see it. And after you are acknowledged, please wait for the mic. We have microphones which will come to you from the sides. Would you state your name and affiliation? And I would ask both the questioners and responders to be brief and to the point, because we want to try to get as many questions in between now and 4:00 as we can.
Let me begin with Ambassador Faily.
Q: Good afternoon. Lukman Faily, Iraqi ambassador.
First of all, let me thank you for such a proactive task. I think there are a couple of timelines we need to have a better understanding of so that we, as ambassadors and others, can help.
MR. HADLEY: Could you hold the mic closer? I have a little trouble hearing.
Q: Sure. The first timeline is I hope that such a discourse and discussion should lead to better enriched discussion with the 2016 elections in United States. I think it’s an important – I hope it’s an important contribution to define the discourse as well as the foreign policy and the regional discussion.
As to the timeline you have for your own project, it’s important for us to understand the road map so that your description versus your prescription of what should take place is important for us to understand. At what stage have you finished with understanding what is – describing what’s taking place, versus the policies and prescribing for it. I think that’s another issue for us.
The other point I have is the view of United States of what it wants the region versus what the region wants from United States. Unfortunately, although we are in a – in a global world and technology and superhighway and others, I don’t think the region still fully understand the dynamics inside United States. How is that evolving and what the United States sees its own role? So further description of what’s taking place in United States might help in at least setting expectations of the region. I think that might be too much a task to ask, but I think it’s important. Thank you.
MR. HADLEY: I think it’s – those are very important points. I think one of the things I would say, Ambassador, we’re trying to get in this study – and Madeleine, you ought to jump in on this – is it gets too much about the United States and the region and what the region wants of the United States and what the United States wants of the region.
We think a step-back look needs to begin with what the region wants for itself. What is the conversation that is going on in the region? What are their thoughts and expectations of what they want for themselves? That seems, to us, to be the starting point to then have a conversation, well, what might the United States and Europe and other countries be able to do to help, and how to make that – how to do it in a way that is acceptable and positive for the region?
So we will get to that interaction, but we really want to start with a better appreciation of what’s going on in the region. And we say the region as if it was all one thing. And of course, the situations are very different country to country. And that’s something we need to get grounded on as we move towards some recommendations. Thank you very much.
In the back there. Yes, ma’am. You – yes, exactly right.
Q: Amanda Kadlec, RAND Corporation.
MR. HADLEY: Speak loudly, it’s – there’s a lot of ventilator noise back here. Thank you.
Q: Amanda Kadlec, RAND Corporation.
I have a question for Rabab. Do you think that the growing anti-ISIS contingent throughout the region would be enough of a basis for the United States to create a relationship with those people or with people on social networks? Do you think that that would be – lay enough of a ground work for some more of a – a stronger relationship between the United States and Middle East countries and citizens as well?
MR. HADLEY: Mohamed, do you want to take that?
MR. YOUNIS: I think it was for Rabab, but I –
MR. HADLEY: I’m sorry. Rabab, do you want to take that please? Thank you.
MR. YOUNIS: Yeah, I want to let Rabab take that.
MS. EL MAHDI: Yeah, sure. I just – so let me first very briefly comment on what Secretary Albright said.
I think people in the region are very well-aware that they – you know, they are the doers, they are the main actors. And they don’t look to the US to bring them – to bring them anything. I mean, the Arab Spring was not – did not come out of any kind of US plan or support. I still remember vividly Secretary Clinton coming on TV on the 26th of January 2011 to say that they think that the Mubarak regime is stable and will be responsive to its people. It was – so it was totally, you know, the plan of this region, the people who knew very well what it wanted.
The idea of doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t, I think this has nothing to do with people’s perception in the region. This has to do with how this – strategically the US, for different reasons, has positioned itself as the policeman of the world and the – you know, a unipolar power and whatnot. And hence, this comes – you know, it’s a status that comes with the – with the position and with the continuing asking, you know, of the Christmas list. So how can the US help? What are we supposed to do?
And that’s why in one of James’ parts of his presentation, there was – I can’t remember which crisis – but there was a part where there was a question about leave us alone in a crisis. That was an option, and many people opted for that option – leave us alone. So I think the expectations are clearly set.
In terms of the anti-ISIS, the question, I don’t think that being anti-ISIS is enough for people of the region to bond with the US and believe with – believe in the capacity of this administration or the following administration to deliver, because we can have common enemies but that doesn’t necessarily make us friends, right? Plus, I mean, there’s a lot of talk in the region about, you know, anti – about ISIS being an outcome of different forms of US policy in the past, all the way from the invasion of Iraq to the position on Palestine, not supporting the Arab Spring enough. And hence, this is seen as an outcome that now the US, you know, complains about, but it’s part of its doing in a way.
So I think that the only – you know, as I said, this is not enough. What you need to do is to be – to proactively seek, as Steve was saying, you know, seek to understand what they even want, what they believe in, and to understand that you’re not – you know, that the US cannot be the chaperone, cannot be the leader, but if anything it should just try to coordinate between its own national interests and what people in the region might be striving for.
MR. HADLEY: Mohamed, do you want to say a word about that?
MR. YOUNIS: I just want to – just speaking anecdotally, and I do want to address your methods question about the poll. Rabab, I just – I want to push back and say, you know, when you’re the biggest actor in the room, you’re always going to be damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
And I think that while – you know, and I’m saying this as somebody who’s committed a significant portion of my life studying public opinion. Public opinion absolutely matters, but making the most appealing decision that’s going to please the street in Cairo – I think if you’ve been watching what’s happening in Egypt in the last two years that is not a strategy, because in many cases public opinion will take you to a place that is not very consistent with our values, with democratic values, with a lot of values. So public opinion is extremely important, but when you craft policy I would very much caution against deciding which policy is going to be popular.
What was very popular in Egypt just 18 months ago, in my polls at Gallup, was bashing US aid. US aid was – nobody wanted to touch it. Eighty-something percent, I believe, of Egyptians did not want US aid. They felt like it was a bad influence on Egypt. Go have that conversation now in any coffee shop with any Egyptian and propose to them that the US will cut aid to the military. And I’m talking about very ardent military Sisi supporters. They have a very different attitude.
So what you have seen in the region with public opinion is that it has been very effectively manipulated in some environments to provide a very convenient fact pattern for whatever powers are trying to operate – from the regimes that are in the region to ISIS to the Muslim Brotherhood, to al-Qaida, to elite groups. Following sort of the ebb and flow of public opinion can be extremely disastrous. It doesn’t mean that we should ignore people’s opinions, but it means that, in my personal view, we should give a lot less credence to this damned if you do, damned if you don’t as a problem. I think that’s just going to be a reality of whatever the US does.
MR. ZOGBY: I want to take issue with that, but I guess we don’t have time to do it, but I do have to take issue with that. I’ll let it go.
MR. HADLEY: All right, let’s do it, because this is an important issue. And so let’s do it.
MR. YOUNIS: Go for it.
MR. ZOGBY: You know, my sense is that the damned if you do, damned if you don’t is right. The policy options have not been – have not actually been good ones for us to carry out. And yet, there’s a reason that we’re damned, and that has to do with a trajectory – a history that we have in the region that has not been awfully pretty. When I did my book, “Arab Voices,” and I went around the country talking about the myths that Americans have about Arabs, I’d finally get a question, someday in the conversation somebody would say to me, well, what are the myths that Arabs have about us?
And I’d say, well, the first one is that they think we’re really smart. (Laughter.) And I’d get a little bit of a giggle, not – just about that much. (Laughter.) And they’d say, what do you mean? And I’d say because they think that we are all-powerful and that we make decisions based all the time on our interests, so that when something happens that’s really stupid, they think we actually knew what we were doing and got the outcome we wanted. We invaded Iraq so that Iran would become more powerful so that the Arabs would have to turn to us for more weapons and it was all part of a master plan.
MR. YOUNIS: It’s all a master plan, yeah.
MR. ZOGBY: And the master plan was because they couldn’t explain our stupidity. Frankly, they couldn’t. And I think that that’s an issue that we have to wrestle with, is as Americans if we’re going to look at ourselves as the agent for this change – and I think I’m with you that this project ought to be what do Arabs – we need to understand what the Arab world wants.
But one of the things that they – that confounds the whole study is that they don’t look at us as the positive agent of change as much as we would – we look at ourselves in the mirror and we say, we’re really a great bunch of guys. We know exactly what the world needs. They don’t see us in the same way. And I think that’s a problem that we have to wrestle with ourselves as Americans as we approach it.
MS. ALBRIGHT: I have to say one word here, because people compare this to Eastern Europe. What happened in Eastern Europe is they wanted to be like the West.
MR. ZOGBY: Yes.
MS. ALBRIGHT: And that is not what’s happening here.
MR. ZOGBY: Exactly.
MR. YOUNIS: Let me just –
MR. ZOGBY: And I think that President Obama said in 2011, I loved that speech, when he said: We didn’t start this – referring to the Arab Spring – we didn’t start it, we can’t direct it, we can’t determine its outcome. We have – there’s a sense of humility that we have to have as we approach this. He then said: What we can do is help them in the ways that they want help from us. That’s – the conversation we need to have is that one. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head a couple times on that one, thank you.
MR. YOUNIS: In an open-ended question when we ask people – and this is true for Muslim-majority counties and Arab countries – what is the number-one thing you admire most about America? Liberty and freedom are the first thing they say, and the technology is the second thing they say.
MR. ZOGBY: Yep, yep, yep.
MR. YOUNIS: I am in no way saying that people in that region don’t want the outcomes of democracy and good governance. I’m just saying that democracy has a really bad brand right now with those people and absolutely we’ve made a plethora of very bad policy decisions in the region – especially in the last 15 years. But moving forward, my point was we should not simply just do what’s popular, because what’s popular – what has become popular at this late date in the Arab Spring is not something that we can get behind in a lot of countries. Let me just put it that way.
MR. HADLEY: Yeah, I’m going to bring this to a close with – and we’ll do some other questions. I think there are two cautions: One, just because it’s short-term popularity is not a true chart for a future of a prosperous and stable Middle East. And I think people in the Middle East will know that.
Secondly, I just, you know, have to add a footnote. America does have its own interests. And sometimes those interests contradicted the preferences of the people of the region. And you know, when your country is attacked from that region, you have to respond and do things that many times are not going to be popular in that region. So one of the things we have to do if we get this kind of understanding in the region, is we’re going to have to put it through the filter of our own national interests.
Let’s go – Jessica, do we have any Twitter questions at this point? No. Odeh.
Q: Odeh Aburdene, a member of the board of the Atlantic Council. I think the big issue that I have seen from these graphs and data, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs. You have young people who want prosperity. So this big challenge short term is, how do you create jobs? Do you create jobs through innovation? The area – the region has a lot of liquidity. I mean, people talk about the Chinese having –
MR. HADLEY: Put the mic –
Q: – $2.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. If you look at that region, they have an equal amount of money. So how do you bring entrepreneurs to the region? How do you get people to invest? That’s, in my view, the big challenge. And I say innovation, not imitation.
MR. HADLEY: A very good point. We have a task force that is working on that very question, and I think you are supporting them. And we will – that’s clearly a part of the study.
Jessica, do you have a Twitter question here?
JESSICA ASHOOH: We do. We’ve got a question from Twitter. And the Twitterati really want to know: How can we harness public-private partnerships better to more effectively meet the needs and wants of the people in the region?
MR. ZOGBY: You know, I would refer you back to President Obama’s – the same speech I’m talking about, the May 2011 speech on – it was the fifth anniversary – or – the fifth anniversary of Cairo? Yeah, fourth anniversary, or – fourth anniversary of the Cairo speech – because he talked about all of that. And then when he said, here’s what we can do. And what he talked about was a fund that would promote the public-private partnerships, that would create investment in small- and medium-sized enterprises to create jobs, to help build a middle class in Tunisia and in Egypt because they were going to be the catalysts that were going to make democracy move forward. We couldn’t teach democracy, we could rather create the structures that would – that would enable it.
And I thought that that speech was very thoughtful in that regard. And so I think that there are plenty of ideas out there, Odeh, but I think the question is getting the will on the part of government to make those programs available and actually push them forward. I know AID – Paige was just here a moment ago – AID does have programs from our end like that. They’re under-funded programs, but they’re the areas where I think our foreign aid programs really ought to be, is creating enterprise funds and public-private partnerships to promote the private sector.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Let me specifically answer that, because what happened as a result of the Cairo speech, Secretary Clinton wanted to have this Partners for a New Beginning. I chair that. We have public-private partnerships. And Tunisia is a very good example. There is a local chapter there, because we are dependent on the local. We just had an investor conference in Tunisia in order to bring public-private partnerships together. So I think that as a model works very well for trying to figure out how to develop this economic – the jobs, jobs, jobs.
MR. HADLEY: We are now down to the 4:00 hour. So I’m going to take one more question – brief question, brief response – and then we are going to adjourn. And those of you who have to leave can do so. Those who want to stay, we will have a reception out in the hall there. And hopefully a number of you can continue this conversation after we adjourn.
There was a hand up here, ma’am. Yes, please.
Q: Thank you. Hi. My name is Erica (sp), and I’m actually with USAID. So thank you for speaking to some of the work we do.
Actually, I was just wondering if you could perhaps talk a little bit more about maybe what role USAID in particular, or aid – US government aid can have in the region, because a lot of the findings were very interesting and, you know, talk to, you know, some of the needs that they have in terms of wellness, like jobs, as the other gentleman was saying. But in addition to the specific question about public-private partnerships, some of the discussions that we have been having have been around should we get back to more basic development projects, such as infrastructure building or education or some of the more sort of core, basic, nitty-gritty projects that AID is traditionally known for doing. So thank you.
MR. HADLEY: Anyone want to take that?
MR. YOUNIS: Yeah, sure.
MR. HADLEY: Mohamed? Please.
MR. YOUNIS: I would strongly advise, just from the polling and from my anecdotal sort of experiences traveling through the region, the latter projects that you suggested. The current minister of tamween – I don’t even know how to translate that to English – but the basic sort of subsidy needs that poor people go to in Egypt has recently become a superstar simply for improving the way in which domestic subsidized bread is processed through the ovens that people go stand in front of everyday in Cairo to get – and throughout Egypt – to get bread.
USAID should be helping fix that. USAID should be helping fix the water system. USAID should be helping fixing nursing in a place like Egypt – or any other country. I just happen to obviously be more familiar with that example because USAID is obviously most active there. But those are the projects that are apolitical that nobody can blacklist. It’ll be very hard to convince people that the US government has embarked on a process to poison Egypt’s water because they’re helping with the infrastructure of the water system. I mean, that’s one crazy theory that probably will not get too much play.
But those kinds of projects demonstrate, number one, you’re in it for the long haul, number two, you’re not interested in any short-term political gain, number three, you’re not doing this because there’s a protest in Tahrir. You’re doing this because this is your long-term commitment to this region and this country. It has nothing to do with what president’s in office here in the US or any of that. You demonstrate that this is the interests of America and the American people moving forward in the long term. That’s what has value there.
MR. ZOGBY: My estimate always is demand driven. Make the projects demand driven. That’s where polling can help, but that’s also where partners on the ground can help. And I think our foreign aid used to be more supply driven and I think has increasingly become moving – gone the movement toward being more demand driven.
MR. HADLEY: So we’ve come to the end of our time. I want to thank Rabab and Jim and Mohamed and Secretary Albright for participating in the panel. Thank all of you in the audience. Please join me in giving a round of applause to our panelists. (Applause.)