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The Atlantic Council of the United States

After the Arab Spring: The Uphill Struggle for Democracy

Welcome and Moderator:
Michele Dunne,
Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East,
The Atlantic Council

William B. Taylor,
Special Coordinator, Office of Middle East Transitions,
U.S. Department of State

David J. Kramer,
Freedom House

David Yang,
Director, Office of Diplomacy and Governance,

Hisham Melham,
Washington Bureau Chief,
Al Arabiya Television

Vanessa Tucker,
Project Director, Countries at the Crossroads,
Freedom House

Friday, November 4, 2011
12:00 p.m.
Washington, D.C.

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

MICHELE DUNNE: My name is Michele Dunne. I’m the director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East here at the Atlantic Council. I want to welcome you all to the Atlantic Council for this event, “After the Arab Spring: The Uphill Struggle for Democracy.” I want to thank Freedom House for honoring us with the opportunity to launch their new report, which I hope you’ve all taken on your way in, “Countries at the Crossroads 2011.”

We’re going to be discussing the report a bit. This is a very fine report that discusses conditions, and it sort of sets the stage for change in countries that are undergoing change, discusses conditions in those countries – and in the case of the Arab countries, largely before the revolutions took place.

And I think it can serve as a benchmark for the changes going forward. It’s very important, I think, to remember, sort of, where we have come from here. The purpose of this discussion – we will go over the – just say something briefly about the report, but what we want to do is take the discussion forward, use this report as a baseline – sort of, launch off this report to focus specifically on the Arab countries, and to clarify the issues for change going forward in these countries, and also to discuss what the United States is doing and what it can do.

As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are all kinds of diverse challenges in the Arab countries when it comes to building democracy and building support for human rights. And they differ a little bit. Even if we look at the three Arab countries that really are in active transitions – in Tunisia, you know, for example, the issue of preserving gains in women’s rights while the country democratizes. In Egypt, now, we face the very sharp question of military rule versus democratization, and what is going to happen there; in Libya, the question of building institutions more or less from scratch.

And then there are some overarching themes, I think, in all of these countries. One political theme, for example, is Islamists and non-Islamists in all three of these countries, and whether they will be able to work out new constitutions, new political systems, the rule of law, under which there can be free competition but the rights of all citizens will be protected. So we will be discussing these, and also other Arab countries that have not yet reached the point that these three have.

Now, we have with us what I consider, really, an incredible panel today to discuss these issues. And I’ll introduce them very briefly, because you have their bios written down. We have with us Ambassador Bill Taylor from the State Department. He’s the new special coordinator for Middle East transitions, a newly established position.

And he undoubtedly got this position because of his very broad and deep experience with other transitions. He was ambassador to Ukraine. He was the – he served in Baghdad as the director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, in Kabul as coordinator of international and U.S. assistance in Afghanistan. And he’s also worked on the Middle East peace process as the Quartet representative, so he has quite a bit of Middle East and other experience.

We also have with us David Kramer, who is the president of Freedom House, and who was previously assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor. We have with us David Yang, the director of the office of democracy and governance at USAID.

We have with us my good friend Hisham Melham, who is the Washington bureau chief of Al Arabiya Television. If you watch high-end news programs, you know Hisham already. You don’t need me to introduce him to you. He’s one of the most prominent commentators on Arab affairs here in D.C.

And we have with us Vanessa Tucker, who was the project director for the “Countries at the Crossroads” report.

And I’m going to – what we’re going to do, we’re going to have brief remarks by the speakers. And we’re going to have question and answer. The question and answer will be a little bit broken up, because Ambassador Taylor has to leave us at 1:00. So after he makes his remarks, he’ll take questions. He’ll have to leave us, but then we will continue the conversation after that.

So I’m going to turn it over now to David Kramer to give us a few words from Freedom House.

DAVID J. KRAMER: Great. Michele, thank you very much, and thanks to the Atlantic Council. A little secret – between Freedom House and the Atlantic Council, we have the power couple on the Middle East, with Charles Dunne heading our Middle East programs, and Michele, with the terrific work you do here. So our deep appreciation for partnering with you today on this event, and thanks for hosting us.

Let me also acknowledge and thank Vanessa Tucker for the terrific work she did as editor of this report, and the project director for it, for Rachel Jacobs, for the work she’s done. Where is Rachel? She’s here somewhere. And also Jake Dizard, who had been with Freedom House. He has made the mistake of going to pursue a Ph.D. instead. Good luck to him. And to Chris Walker as well, vice president for strategy and analysis at Freedom House, for overseeing this report and several others that Freedom House produces.

The release of the “Countries at the Crossroads” and the discussion we’re having today, I think, is certainly very timely. I’ve just returned from a very short trip to Cairo on Wednesday, and I can attest to the fact that democratic reform challenges are certainly big, complex, and hang in the balance – certainly in the case of Egypt. And as today’s Washington Post editorial highlights, a number of challenges certainly remain.

The report that you have before you certainly underscores these, and it notes that the uprisings and remarkable events we’ve witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya, and the turmoil we see continuing in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, elsewhere and in other parts of the region, offer no guarantee that democratically accountable systems will emerge in the wake of these revolutions and in the wake of these movements.

The removal of a dictator represents only the beginning of the end of authoritarian governance. It’s not to say, however, that removing dictators is the easy part and building a post-revolutionary system of government is the hard part. If it was so easy to remove these leaders, they wouldn’t have been in place for decades. And as long as the Ben Alis and the Mubaraks and the Gadhafis were in place, the Tunisias, Egypts, and Libyas had no choice, or no prospect, of moving in a more democratic direction.

But their removal – there’s no guarantee that they will, but there is, for the first time in decades, the possibility and hope that these countries can move in a more democratic direction. How these countries negotiate the current environment of reform mixed with repression remains an open question, and our report can help understand the dynamics that are in play here.

Let me just say a few brief words about the history of the report. It has been produced now for six years, and it provides detailed written analysis and comparative data on a select group of critical, policy-relevant countries annually. And because we were so prescient over – about a year ago – we happened to pick a number of the countries that have gone through revolutions this year, including Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. So my thanks to my very forward-thinking team in New York.

This year’s report analyses the performance of 35 countries, including, as I said, six in the MENA region, and it looks at the spheres of government accountability, civil liberties, rule of law, anticorruption and transparency. And the findings – and I’ll leave most of this to Vanessa to talk about – generally indicate grim and deteriorating conditions in the run-up to the Arab Spring.

The declines from already low levels in Egypt and Tunisia, for example, suggested that leadership in both countries had little commitment to reform. And the people living under these dysfunctional governments were no doubt aware of that. “Crossroads,” the report, provides analysis that can be helpful in thinking about ways to prioritize support for competing institutional challenges.

And this year’s report concludes that success in the Arab democratic revolution will require major reform and rebuilding in government institutions that were critically undermined under the deposed authoritarian regimes. And it’s important for all of us to remember that the post-uprising countries in the Middle East are not yet democracies.

And it’s important not to describe them as such prematurely. They’re quasi-authoritarian states that have varying degrees of institutional strength. Some, Libya in particular, have little in the way of institutions, and so they are essentially starting from scratch. Others have remnants of the previous regimes to varying degrees.

Political reform will help economic opportunity. And some of the old regimes were successful in achieving economic growth, but they consistently blocked political reform. And as a result, any new national wealth was channeled into existing systems of elite corruption and patronage, deepening the sense of grievance among ordinary citizens that we saw reach a boiling point earlier this year.

Successful political reform, among other things, would offer the societies of the Middle East and North Africa a critically important chance to break free of the crony economics that have smothered economic opportunity and that are endemic to their autocracies. So without further ado, let me turn it over to Vanessa to highlight a few more of the report’s findings, and then look forward to the other panelists’ comments. Thanks very much.

VANESSA TUCKER: (Off mic.) Thank you, David. The “Countries at the Crossroads” project covers 70 countries in total, half of which we assess every other year. And as mentioned, our analysis includes detailed written reports that are usually between 7,000 and 8,000 words, and a set of ratings that look at governance progress and erosion over time.

We rely on a large group of country experts and analysts in the production of the project, and I’d like to thank all of them now. We ask a lot of our analysts, and we simply couldn’t produce the project without them.

As mentioned earlier, this year’s edition covers the period between April 2007 and December 2010, which was, of course, the point at which many of the uprisings started to build up. And this endpoint really sets the tone for the analysis of post-reform – post-uprising reform – and gives us a clear look at conditions prior to the Arab Spring.

Our analysis in the MENA region demonstrates a number of troubling declines in the run-up to the upheaval. Before I turn to those findings, I’ll just briefly mention that the report also covers countries in Asia, including, this year, China, which had a number of troubling declines, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and also Italy, Greece, and Turkey. All of these reports and findings are available online at

Looking specifically to the topic of today’s discussion, we were fortunate, as David mentioned, to have a group of countries that are particularly relevant in light of what’s been going on, including Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. Looking at the first two, our analysis showed that Tunisia and Egypt suffered acute governance downturns before the uprisings.

They experienced declines, respectively, in eight and nine of the 17 subcategories that we examine. And that placed both of them among the lowest-ranked countries in the report. Syria’s already low scores declined in the area of primacy of rule of law. And Libya, which always has performed fairly low in our analysis, declined again this year in the protection from state terror. Its scores, across the board, demonstrate the complete lack of accountable institutions.

Both of these countries will, of course, need to build governance systems almost from scratch. The “Crossroads” analysis demonstrated troubling declines in freedom of association in Algeria and judicial independence and primacy of the rule of law in Morocco. Like their neighbors, however, both of these countries score, overall, quite low. And their cautious and – many would say – limited pursuit of reforms may prove inadequate in the context of rising expectations in the region.

The extensive challenges to long-term democratic development are clear right now, and no one would discuss – no one would dispute the imperative of economic growth and getting stability back on track. But what our analysis demonstrates is the importance of institutional strengthening and reform as a starting point for these efforts.

Our analysis looks at serious institutional voids in each of the MENA countries that we examined. From our view, one of the most significant mistakes after the uprisings would be to view these countries that are really post-authoritarian systems – to see them as democracies. They operate, instead, to one degree or another, in a post-authoritarian limbo where the remnants of the old system form a hostile environment for institutional reform.

The “Countries at the Crossroads” findings remind us in clear terms of the institutional reform challenge. Keeping up the pressure to establish meaningful institutional reform is of the utmost importance. And formulating an effective strategy for aiding democratic reform in this context will be a real test of ingenuity of the United States and the European Union. “Countries at the Crossroads” really directs our attention to some of the critical issues that we think should inform this effort.” Thank you.

MS. DUNNE: OK. Well, Ambassador Taylor, over to you to tell us, what’s the United States going to do – what are we doing, what are we going to do – about addressing this challenges from a U.S. policy perspective?

WILLIAM B. TAYLOR : Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me here. I thank David Kramer, old colleague – actually, David was one of my many bosses in Washington when I was in Ukraine. There are other bosses in this room. Ambassador Will Taft, here, is an early boss of mine.

And other colleagues around – I see Tom Taim (sp), who we worked with, and I walked in with Dov Zakheim. Dov and I travelled around the Gulf at one point, trying to – when we were – I was doing some work on Afghanistan, to try to get the Arabs to write the checks that they had promised to write to the Afghans. Well, we’re still doing that, Dov, but this time it’s to the Egyptians. And so some things – some things stay the same.

Also, let me thank both Atlantic Council and Freedom House. I’m a big fan of both, and have participated in many of the Atlantic Council – in particular, on the Afghanistan side. But now I’m looking forward to learning from you on the Middle East and North Africa. And on Freedom House, several of you will have seen my office in Kiev, where I had your map on the wall. Because Ukraine was green for three years while I was there. (Laughter.)

Every year, I would call either David or his predecessor, Jennifer Windsor, and say, when is your map coming out? I want to put the new version on the wall. And I would point out to my Ukrainian friends, when they would come into the office, that they were – that Ukraine was the only former Soviet – with the exception of the Baltics – republic that was green. The rest were other colors. Sadly, Ukraine is now another color. But we do have hope.

On the topic for today, the Middle East transitions, we see this – so the United States government sees this, and people in this room, I’m sure, would share this – people on this panel – that this is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity – it’s probably the greatest opportunity for major change in foreign relations, in strategic arrangements, certainly, in this century – in this part of this, certainly, of this decade, moving forward.

So it’s an opportunity of great importance. And we want to do what we can to support that and to make this come out in the right way. It’s comparable, I believe, it’s comparable to the 1989 changes. Very different, for reasons that – some of which we’ve already talked about. In 1989, the Soviet Union and the Russians left East Europeans. And then the Soviet Union disappeared.

And the East Europeans, and the Central Europeans, and some of the – some of the Soviet republics – had someplace to go. They had a model. They had a goal. They had Europe that they were interested in joining. And Europe provided institutions that we’ve talked about, and it provided a history and a culture that they felt themselves part of.

In the Middle East transitions, we don’t have that. We’re looking for some organizing principles there. And I say we, but the Arabs are looking for some organizing principles there. So it’s a different – it’s a different structure, a different challenge for us, I think. It is important, I think, that we try to get it right – help them get it right. U.S. and Europe and others, but the United States has great interest in them getting it right.

It is clear that, from a stability standpoint, dictatorships are brittle. Sometimes dictatorships can last a long time, but nonetheless, they are brittle. And when they – when they shatter, they can lead to problems, chaos, difficulties, some of which can affect us.

Democracies, if we – and I take all the points about the countries we’re talking about now. And I’m specifically focused on Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. They’re not yet democracies. But we want them to get to that point. We want them to get to there, because democracies make better allies, for all kinds of reasons that people have written about and people in this room have studied and understand very well.

A third point, I think, that makes it in our interest, is this has the opportunity – these revolutions, this movement toward democracies, not yet there – has the opportunity, has the ability to repudiate the terrorist narrative.

There are Arabs and others – there are terrorists who would like to say that this is the – that the Egyptians and the Tunisians, and now the Libyans, are doing it wrong. That was not what they had in mind. The terrorists had something different in mind. And so this is a model, if it succeeds, that can have those benefits for the United States as well.

I’ve been trying, actually, in thinking about today’s discussion and the Freedom House report – been trying to think of the metaphor that will, kind of, help us think this through. And this transition that I’m working on, with a lot of help from a lot of people in the government, is not a bridge. You could think of a transition being a bridge. No, I don’t think this works.

Because on a bridge, you start – you know where you’re starting. And the Freedom House report right now talks about where they were starting. So we kind of know where they were when they wanted this trip, whatever it is. And we’re now – you know, one might say a bridge, and we’re partway over it, and we – but it fails.

That metaphor fails in that we don’t know what’s on the other side. We don’t know that it’s going to be a democracy, or three democracies, or 12 democracies on the other side of this bridge. That we don’t know yet. And so I was thinking, it’s more like getting on an airplane and not knowing where the airplane’s going to land. We are – and we’re not in the driver’s seat. We’re not in the pilot’s seat.

You know, and we hope it will land in a place that will allow democratic values to be clear and to give voice to citizens, have citizens have the dignity they’ve been asking for in these revolutions, that they’re demanding. But we don’t know. These planes might land somewhere else. And all the – there are three planes that I’m working on right now, but there, hopefully, will be others. And they may take different paths and may land in different places.

So what we would like to do is give them some advice and help them along on this – on this trip, so that they do land in places that are good for us. And so we achieve the benefits that I spoke about. How do we do this? Well, Freedom House and others in this room, and others, have advice for these countries and advice for these leaders. Some of the leaders are still emerging. But the U.S. government can do that as well.

And so my office – a new office – Secretary Clinton wanted to demonstrate that the United States cares about the success of these transitions, so one way to do that is to put someone in charge of thinking about that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. She told me that I’m supposed to be thinking about that. And so there are some resources that I have available to me. And they are both domestic and international. We’ll do some donor coordination and these kinds of work.

Like David, I just got back from Cairo last week, and Tunis the week before, to be able to listen to these pilots – the people who are flying these airplanes – and see what they need, what they would like from us, and then in that engagement process, try to give them advice that will land them in a place that we’d like.

This will clearly be a challenge. We can talk to them about universal values, and we do. And both in Cairo in particular, but other places in general, talking – talking to them about the importance of universal values of freedom of expression, and freedom to associate, and the other ones that we associate with universal values, human values: tolerance, respect for minorities, recognition of the value of women, the contributions to moving forward of all of these parts of the society. This is important that we can – we can provide as well.

We can also talk to them about democratic values. And here, again, in Cairo and other places where we talk about civilian control of the military, and civilian oversight over the budget, and the importance of the rule of law, and the – how emergency laws don’t fit into that kind of a structure. And military courts trying civilians – that doesn’t fit into the rule of law. So democratic values is also part of our engagement in these countries.

I had a long session with the – with three of the generals in Cairo last week, long conversations. Also with the government, but also with nongovernmental organizations and civil society and regular Egyptians, as well as regular Tunisians. And it’s a complicated place. And it’s a very unsettled place. And this flight, again, is going to be bumpy, and it’s going to be – there are going to be winds pushing it in a lot of different directions.

And there are organizations and parties and groups that have been suppressed for a long time that are now not suppressed. And that’s good. That’s a good thing. These elections that are going to take place in Egypt this month, later on this month, as the NDI and IRI reps told me last week, are going to be the best Egypt has ever had. Now, that may be a low bar. But it is progress, it is progress.

They’re going to have elections that, at least at this stage, are not manipulated. And there’s real politics going on there. So there are big problems, as I said, and this is going to be a bumpy ride, but they – but there is progress there, and there’s a lot of hope on the outcome.

We can also help – and part of my responsibilities will be to help on the economic side. Our conviction is that the political changes are fragile if not supported by economic changes and economic prosperity. There are going to be great expectations. David and I saw the expectations in Ukraine after their revolution, the Orange Revolution. There were great expectations that could never be met, and they didn’t come close to meeting them.

There will be great expectations in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as well. And so the parties that run and succeed are going to have enormous challenges to meet those expectations of those young people, as well as the range of – the range of people across those societies. So that’s what we’re – I will stop here. But I did want to acknowledge that Freedom House and Atlantic Council – but Freedom House, in this report, tells us where we’re taking off from.

And we have some work to do to try to get them to land in the right place, so it’s a very valuable thing. But it’s also – Michele, as you point out, for the discussion today, how we encourage them. How can we engage them? And the values that Freedom House has laid out, and measures, will be very helpful in that engagement and in that direction, so that we can have some hope that they will land in the right place.

I’ll be glad to take questions, or I’m happy to listen to David and Michele.

MS. DUNNE: Thank you very much, Ambassador Taylor. And again, thank you very much for being here. And I do think it’s a very positive step on the part of the administration to create this office and appoint a person like you, with the experience you have, to really take these transitions seriously.

Now, I – I’m going to – I’m going to seize the privilege of the moderator here to ask you the first question and then I promise I’ll open it up to all the participants. And at the risk of – I’m hoping this won’t be your last appearance at the Atlantic Council if I ask you a really tough question. (Laughter.) But –

MR. TAYLOR: Do what you have to do, Michele. I will be here. I’ll be here. It doesn’t – (inaudible) – Freedom House.

MS. DUNNE: Right. Anyway, the – I have to ask you about Egypt, Ambassador Taylor. Because you gave a – you gave a briefing at the State Department yesterday in which you laid out how you see these transitions. And it was very, very interesting, and I really appreciate your frankness and the way you’re able to discuss these transitions.

But I’m a little bit worried that there is – there’s a different perspective, or a different narrative you hear between people in the U.S. government and people who follow Egypt outside the U.S. government, about what is going on there. And in your briefing yesterday, you spoke about the Egyptian military being eager to hand over authority and so forth. And you did acknowledge that there are different views about the sequencing of elections and when the constitution will be written and so forth.

But still, I think there is a real question now – I’m sure you’re very aware of what’s going on with the super-constitutional document, and what seems to be an attempt, on the part of the ruling military council, to take the authorities that they’ve had in the past de facto and make them now de jure in the new constitution, and perhaps even expand them.

And this danger was outlined very, very clearly in the Washington Post’s editorial this morning. We have Jackson Diehl here with us today. So, you know, but when I meet with people from the U.S. government, I keep hearing this belief in the good intentions of the military leadership in Egypt.

So could you tell us more about how you see this? And do you think it’s a danger for, you know, the Egyptian military to get its powers and its privileges and – in fact, placing it not only apart, but really, even above civilian authorities in new documents, in the new constitution? Do you see this as a problem?

MR. TAYLOR: I do see it as a problem, of course. And I mentioned the universal values and democratic values, in terms of civilian oversight – civilian oversight, as an example of where we can see a problem, is not only a democratic principle, but it’s also important for financial management.

If the civilian – if the minister of finance doesn’t have visibility into the military budget, that the secretary of defense oversaw in this country, that’s a major portion of the budget. And even a larger portion of the budget in Egypt – and many dollars of which come from the United States.

So there are democratic principles, there are universal principles that we want them to adhere to. And it is that – our ambassador there – we have probably the – I can’t imagine anyone better suited to be in Cairo right now than Ambassador Anne Patterson, having just come from Pakistan – from Islamabad. This is – one hard place to another. She knows this and she working very hard –

MS. DUNNE: (Inaudible) – some uncomfortable parallels.

MR. TAYLOR: There may be – there may be. We hope it will not go that direction. But – and – but there are some benefits to being in Cairo rather than Islamabad. In Egypt you are – Americans are if not loved, they are at least tolerated. But that’s not clearly the case in Islamabad. (Chuckles.)

But your point about the intent of the military – the SCAF, the strategic council – I do believe, based on my conversation with them, that they’re uncomfortable exerting – trying to lead. They right now have both the executive authority as well as the legislative authority. And this is not what military people do. This is not what they were trained to do. This is not what they like doing.

They have their privileges and their benefits and they have economic benefits and commercial benefits and all those kind of things, which I’m sure they’re perfectly comfortable with, but in terms of running the government, this is – this is not something that they want to do – I believe. They’re doing it now, and they will be doing it, at least on the legislative side, until next March or April when the – when the parliamentary elections will have yielded a parliament. And they will turn – and their – there’s not debate about whether or not they will turn over – at least I’ve not hear a debate – as to whether they’ll turn over legislative authority to the – to the parliament.

Then the question of timing, as you pointed out as I mentioned yesterday, the timing of the executive – when does the presidential election start? Is it only after the constitution is ratified in a referendum and the constitution – and the supra-constitutional rules that are coming out that suggest that there might be an attempt and an interest in having control over who writes that – the hundred people on that committee – very troubling. You know, that’s very troubling. That’s not the kind of direction that we would like them to buy into – that they would like to pursue.

So it is a concern. It is something that Ambassador Patterson deals with every day, that we deal with every day. When we saw the – yesterday we got the word about these changes and these new principles that they – and we also heard that there have been some changes to that. Our sense is that the instincts of the military have been developed and have been observable for many years – for decades. And they don’t change that quickly. They don’t change that quickly. And so that kind of change has to come over time. It’s going to be a long plane ride – to keep that one – and I think that we have – it’s going to be bumpy. We have to be vigilant and clear about what we want them to do – what we would like them to do. But they’re flying this thing. It’s not going to be us; it’s going to be Egyptians that have to do this.

MS. DUNNE: We’re buying the gasoline for the flight. (Laughter.)

MR. TAYLOR: And we’re also – we’re buying the gasoline for the plane, that’s exactly right. And the subsidies to the gasoline that the Egyptians use, are also repaid – no, that’s exactly right.

MS. DUNNE: OK. I’ll open it up to the audience now. I believe – do we have microphones? Please, Barbara – if someone can bring a microphone down to the front here, please? If you could please identify yourself and then – yeah, the – we’ll take right now questions for Ambassador Taylor and then later on we’ll take questions for the rest of the panel.

Q: Hi. Barbara Slavin, from the Atlantic Council. I work on Iran, another kettle of fish. Carrying the analogy a little bit further, what if the parliamentary elections take place and the Muslim Brotherhood comes out with a majority of seats and would therefore be able to claim, perhaps, a majority of seats on the committee that writes the constitution? Will you have the same reluctance to embrace the views of the SCAF wanting to control that process if it looks like the pilot is going to be wearing a beard and Islamic garb? Thanks.

MR. TAYLOR: I think the answer’s yes. I think – I think we will be satisfied. I think we’ll be – if it’s a – if it is a – is a free and fair election – I mean, take a look at what happened in Tunisia. In Tunisia there was a – by all accounts an excellent election. And it is clear that Ennahda – not the same as, but in the same idea as the Muslim Brotherhood – and is a moderate Islamist party, won upwards of 40 percent of the seats. They have been saying and indeed doing the right things. That seems to be me to be the measure.

First, the process: Is the process fair? Are Tunisian votes counted? Are Tunisian voices here? They’re piloting this thing. They are – they’re the ones that are going to guide this plane.

And those voices seem to have been heard. And for many years, Ennahda was not able to participate, and now they were. And they did pretty well.

So Tunisian voices were heard, and that seems to be a good thing. And by observing what they are saying and doing, they are forming a coalition with other moderate – some secular parties, and they’re going to be – there’s going to be a coalition government. They’re talking – there’s probably going to be a person from Ennahda who is the prime minister, but they’re talking about somebody from one of the other parties being the president. They’ve said that they want to keep the finance minister, who’s very good; we’ve had – many people in this room sure had good relations, good reactions, good interactions with him, and the central banker as well.

And so – then on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, let me just tell you a story about the Muslim Brotherhood. I didn’t meet them while I was there. I would have, because we do – as long as parties, entities do not espouse and/or conduct violence, we’ll talk to them. We will have more interaction with parties who recognize the value of tolerance and are inclusive and recognize the contributions that women make and minority rights.

But I did talk to the World Bank folks in Cairo. And a World Bank guy was telling me an interesting story about his work. And he said he recently, about two weeks ago, had a meeting with four members of the Muslim Brotherhood. And there was only one beard in the room, and it was the World Bank guy’s beard. There were no beards on the Muslim Brotherhood. And one of the Muslim Brothers was a Muslim sister. So – and these folks were very interested to be talking with the World Bank about how an economy works and willing to take advice on this.

So I think what we need to do is judge people and parties and movements on what they do – not what they’re called, but what they do. And so the answer to your question, I think, yes, there – but you’re also right. There will be people and people – some – they’ve been labeled (down to ?) “illiberal democrats” who will want to ally themselves with the military to avoid outcomes such as the one you posit happening, but that would be – that’ll distort the democratic process. And in the end, that’s – that will lead to a bad place. You’ll land in a bad place on – authoritarian again, in all likelihood.

So the short answer is yes.

MS. DUNNE: Another question. Jackson Diehl?

Q: Hi. Ambassador Taylor, could you talk about the extent to which the administration is considering free trade agreements with Egypt and Tunisia as an element in this policy?

MR. TAYLOR: Be glad to. That’s a – that’s an excellent question.

In the previous times where – in 1989 and 1991, we had a good amount of money. We had – we had some resources that we draw on from the Congress that we could use to help guide and help influence and actually take a larger role in the – in those transitions, in 1989 and 1991.

It’s a different environment now. It’s a different environment now. We had some resources that we can bring to bear, and we’re going to ask Congress for more. But trade is probably much – I would say is clearly a much stronger tool than any of the resources that we could bring to bear in terms of technical assistance – and Dave’s going to talk about some of the world that we’re doing there, very important – but in terms of economic development, if we and the Europeans are – were able to open up our markets and reduce barriers, then that would do more good, I think, than any of the bilateral assistance that we could do.

So we are going to be pursuing steps to open up trade. There are building blocks, I would say, that lead in the direction of a broader free trade kind of regime. But these building blocks – for example, there are bilateral investment treaties. And there’s TIFA, which is, what, Trade Investment – thank you – Framework Agreement. There are customs agreements that must be put into place. There are investment arrangements and protections that need to be put in place. All of these pieces are chapters in free trade agreements.

And so rather – we’re not now talking about opening free trade agreement discussions, negotiations with the Egyptians or Tunisians, but we are talking about using these and building upon these building blocks in that direction. So I think it’s a – I think it’s a very important direction, very important step that we can take as free trade.

MS. DUNNE: Question right here?

Q: Yes. Thank you. Christian Caryl, from Foreign Policy magazine and the Legatum Institute.

There’s a big battle going on in Egypt right now over the judiciary, reforming the judiciary. Have any of the participants in that discussion asked for our advice? Are we giving any kind of advice to them on that particular score? Thank you.

MR. TAYLOR: So far, not that I know of. When I was there last week, I had a discussion with many people and got a lot of requests and a lot of suggestions about how we could – how the United States government could support. But so far, not – we do – and we are going to try to be demand-driven, as opposed to supply-driven. We are going to respond to requests for assistance in areas that the Egyptians or the Tunisians or the Libyans want, that we find, of course, is more likely to succeed and have better use. And we have – in my office, we’re going to have opportunities – rule of law experts there to help on – in that regard, so we’re ready to respond to those requests when they come.

MS. DUNNE: Do you have time to take one or two more, Ambassador Taylor?

MR. TAYLOR: Sure. Sure.

MS. DUNNE: I want to be respectful of your time.

MR. TAYLOR: Yep. Thank you.

MS. DUNNE: In the back of the room, we have with us Magdy Samaan, who is a well-known Egyptian journalist who’s with us briefly as a visiting fellow. Magdy?

Q: Thank you. I have a question and concern about external intervention in our genuine experiment, which will determine the future of the region.

We have two concerns. First is the Saudis’ pressure and fund for the fundamental Islamists. And second, some people have some concern about the American support to some kind of continuous of the military rulings. What do you say about this?

MR. TAYLOR: The United States has a lot at stake in Egypt. And there are going to be these stages. I mean, again, this flight is going to be broken up in several – we’re in one stage right now. We are going – and we’re about to start the parliamentary elections. That will lead to a parliament, and following then a constitution, and then – and then presidential. And at the end of that, there will be – that’ll be something different than we are now. And that could be two years. That could be a year; it could be two years.

With as much at stake as we have in Egypt in terms of our security, of our cooperation with overflight rights, with our – with the Suez, with other kinds of – you know, the Egypt-Israeli treaty, there are a lot of things that we care about that we’re going to stay engaged with the Egyptians. We are going to abide by the commitments that we have for the financial assistance. If the Congress continues, then there will still be a large FMF – foreign military financing – relationship with them, with the military.

During the first couple of these – two of these phases, the military is going to be both, as I’ve said earlier, legislative and executive, and then will still be the executive. It’s important for us, for our ambassador there, for our embassy to be dealing with him. So we will – short answer is yes, we will be dealing with the – with the military.

MS. DUNNE: OK. Actually, there’s a lady in the back of the room who’s had her hand up for quite a while. Yeah. And I think that we’ll probably have to be –

MR. TAYLOR: OK. That’ll be good.

MS. DUNNE: Is that your last question?


MS. DUNNE: OK. Sorry to be –

Q: Thanks for much, Michelle. And thank you, ambassador, for coming in. I’m Indira Lakshmanan. I’m from Bloomberg News.

I just wanted to follow up on Barbara’s question about the Muslim Brotherhood. And as you know, in Congress, there are many members who have made very clear their opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood regardless of the red lines that you discussed, and they’ve threatened to cut off of U.S. aid to Egypt if they were brought into power. What are the administration’s plans for talking to Congress about this? And do you have any leverage against them cutting off aid to Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood were elected?

MR. TAYLOR: Well, I – let’s not talk about leverage over the Congress. This is not something I would like to talk about because of course, we have none. (Laughter.)

But you’re absolutely right. And the congressional people that I’ve talked to want the administration to make clear what our policies are vis-à-vis these kinds of parties – the Muslim Brotherhood, Ennahda – I’m sure we’re going to see something similar in Libya as well and other – and other places as well; I’m sure this is going to come up in many of these – of these (flights ?). And as I say, we do have the criteria on violence. Previous administration – this administration has had the same policy of talking to people, including these groups if they are not violent. And we will continue to do that.

And what we have to do is talk with the public. And so this is an extremely useful forum, Michele and David – I appreciate the opportunity to do this – to say that it’s the process. It is the process. Again, I go to the Tunisia example where the process was good. A modern Islamist party apparently won. They are doing the right things. We want to measure them on what they do, not what they say or what they’re called. We want to point to other examples around the world. Some people want to point to Turkey and that’s – that’s – you know, that’s perfectly legitimate. There are other Muslim governments. Look at Morocco. Look at Jordan. Look at Indonesia. There – this is – this is something that we are used to and should not be afraid of. We should deal with them.

And as we deal with them, we know we’re going to disagree. We know there are things that they say and propose and would legislate that we disagree with. We know that. But that doesn’t say we shouldn’t be engaging; that says we should be engaging more to try to convince them.

And what you see in a lot of these countries, when these parties come into government, they moderate. In Tunisia, another Tunisian example, Ennahda is going into a coalition with secular liberal parties. They are going to have to compromise. And they know that and they’re ready to do that. They’ve said so. That compromise is going to bring that party into a more acceptable, mainstream, democratic, tolerant place than they are now.

So we think that this is not something to be afraid of. This is something – this is an opportunity. This is something we have to actually take advantage of so that we can bring into something closer to what we would like to see.

MS. DUNNE: Ambassador Taylor, I’m going to release you because I do hope you will come back here.

MR. TAYLOR: I promise to come back.

MS. DUNNE: Again, I don’t want to hold you prisoner.

MR. TAYLOR: If I’m invited, I’ll be – I don’t know about –

MS. DUNNE: (Chuckles.) And thank you so much for being with us today.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.) Sorry about the –

MR. : No problem.

(Audio break.)

MS. DUNNE: – in waiting to make your remarks. So now David Yang is going to give us a few words just about the USAID perspective and efforts on this issue. And then we’ll hear from Hisham who gets to react to everything you’re heard so far – (chuckles) – and more.

Go ahead, David.

DAVID YANG: Thank you, Michele. Thanks to Michele and David for co-hosting today. Congratulations to Vanessa and Chris for, once again, a very excellent Crossroads publication. Congratulations to the whole leadership team at Freedom House for your continuing leadership on democracy and human rights across the globe, to David, to Will (sp), to Tom (sp) and Bobby (sp), Charles (sp) and all our other colleagues here from Freedom House today.

You know, I’ve been in my position as a(n) Obama official for about a year. Given the great influence that Freedom House publications had on all democracy activists, either inside or outside of the government, I took into my new position at AID the view that we were, as Freedom House argued, in a democratic recession since the peak of the so-called third wave, about 2005. And even though we don’t use Sam Huntington as the basis for U.S. national security strategy, I urge my staff and my office to consider the laying of a foundation of a fourth wave of global democracy as our greatest goal, strategic goal and to take Freedom House’s analysis of the democratic recession to heart in doing so. So thanks very much to Freedom House.

Unfortunately, I’m going to repeat some of the big themes that Ambassador Taylor enunciated, but I think it’s important, in the context of AID, to repeat them. I’ve been asked to talk about, very briefly, how AID is approaching the reform opportunities, political reform opportunities in the wake of the Arab Spring, and, in our view, what would constitute success of these political reforms. So very quickly, let me present some overview thoughts.

I was thinking, as I was going over my talking points this morning, that in terms of the overall approach at AID to the Arab Spring movements and revolutions, I would summarize them in three points. The points, really, are recognitions, recognitions of truths, recognitions or abiding truths and recognitions of these abiding truths as applied to the Arab world.

The first recognition that these are truly bottom up revolutions and movements – they were led by citizens from the bottom up, formerly voiceless citizens. And therefore, AID, we want to listen to these new actors on the stage of their politics. And we believe, through listening to them, that there’s an opportunity for AID to reform and redefine our own approach to the region. That’s the first truth.

The second truth, as Ambassador Taylor said, is that these revolutions and transitions are dual in nature, that we recognize the truth that most revolutions, and particularly these revolutions were born out of both political and economic grievances. Therefore, embracing the dual nature of these revolutions and transitions, we want to work at AID and our programming to support both political and socioeconomic reform simultaneously and assist both sets of reforms in ways that they support each other rather than contradict each other.

And finally and thirdly in terms of our overall approach, as the Arab – new Arab democrats were – are in it for the long haul, we’re supporting them for the long haul. We have no illusions and they have no illusions that this dual transition will be easy or quick, certainly not after decades and decades of poor bad political and economic governance. So we at AID are working to provide a program of long-term comprehensive assistance and a developmental approach that spans many, many development sectors, not only democratic governments and human rights.

If I could turn very briefly to three countries that Chris (sp) asked me to speak on: In terms of Tunisia, overall, in terms of our support, we rushed in quickly. We’re providing – we, as only one of many U.S. government partners, provided less than $20 million to support the electoral process leading to the successful election of the National Constituent Assembly. As I said, we’re one part of a multifaceted approach that Ambassador Taylor is leading. The MCC has named – Millennium Challenge Corporation – has named Tunisia as a threshold country, which is very important. OPIC (ph) is developing a program. The Peace Corps is opening a program as well as our MEPI colleagues: The Middle East Partnership Initiative at the State Department are using quite larger budgets to support the transition. You know, we – I won’t go into detail, but we supported many, many different aspects of the election of the National Constituent Assembly.

What do we see as milestones of success in the Tunisian transition, at least in terms of political reform? First, of course, we want to build on the successful election that took place last month. We want to assist the new assembly in their chief mandate of, within a year, writing a constitution. We want to support the members of that constitution to do so in the most inclusive ways possible, in particular to include the formerly neglected interior regions and the women and the voices of women and youth.

In terms of the other and less defined role of the Constituent Assembly, as you know through political negotiations, they have defined, as another goal, to form an interim government, even though the former constitution is unclear about the transition process. Therefore, we want to support the formation of an interim government, and we want to do all we can to support the formation of government and the addressing of the urgent issues that led to the revolution.

In particular, as I said earlier, we want to help them address some of their economic concerns. The International Republican Institute recently published a very informative public opinion survey where unemployment, not surprisingly, violence, delinquency and vandalism were some of the key problems identified by Tunisian citizens. So we want to do all we can to help the new government quickly address those types of grievances.

For Egypt, as you know, we moved very quickly to reprogram $165 million of programming, $65 million for the democratic transition, and $100 million for economic reform. We sent out proposals to domestic and international organizations. In the democratic governance area, we’ve already supported over 25 organizations working across, really, the waterfront of the democratic transition.

I could take your questions later, but let me move quickly because I want to move forward.

Milestones of success: I’ll just rattle a few off that are top of our list. We would see lifting of the emergency law a milestone. We would see the trying of civilians accused of crimes in civilian courts a milestone. We would see this month’s election, if it’s free and fair, for parliament, with international domestic observation, to be an important milestone. We would see the creation of a free environment for civil society and media to be an important indicator of the success of the transition. We would see the protection of the rights of women and religious minorities to be another important indicator. And of course, as Ambassador Taylor said, we would see the gradual institution of civilian control and oversight of the military to be a very important indicator of success.

Finally, Libya, the newest and most recent transition. My colleagues at the Office of Transition Initiatives at USAID have taken the lead in supporting civil society groups during the transition and the rebellion. We stand ready, once the new government forms within the next month, to support it and its needs. We’re supporting and participating in the multisector assessment that the United Nations is conducting. We also provided assistance at AID to those wounded in the war and provided medical assistance and evacuation for the war wounded.

What would be milestones of success that we would see in Libya: Of course, an inclusive process as they form the government this month, and beyond, as they begin the long road to an electoral process and the formation of the government to fill the vacuum that Freedom House and other observers have identified in terms of the vacuum of governance institutions.

We also would like to point out that this is a post-conflict situation. So we see reconstruction, physical reconstruction is a very important part of Libya’s success. And we see the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration of the militia forces as an important part. And finally, we see the addressing of justice issues from the former regime and the – what’s called transitional justice. We support the Libyans in addressing transitional justice in their transition.

So to sum up, the truths that we see and seek to (report ?) in application to these Arab Spring transitions: We want to support the bottom-up spirit and reality of the transitions. We want to support the dual nature, economic and political, of the transitions. And we want to support these transitions for the very, very long term that it will take to consolidate both the political and the economic reforms that are so bravely being conducted.

Thank you very much.

MS. DUNNE: (Thank ?) you very much, David. OK, Hisham. Over to you for your comments on situation in the region, U.S. policy as you see it developing and so forth.

HISHAM MELHAM: I will do my best not to sound like a Cassandra preaching gloom and doom, but I have to admit that I’m less optimistic about Egypt and Libya; a little bit more optimistic or realistic about Tunisia. We didn’t talk and we don’t have time to talk about Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, where the change is going to be likely very bloody, as in Libya, Syria in particular and, to a lesser extent, Yemen.

Let me at the outset –

MS. DUNNE: Do you still – do you see Syria moving toward a definite change?

MR. MELHAM: Syria is moving – I think one could argue historically that the Assad era is over. How it will end actually, how he will fall, whether he will pursue the path of Gadhafi, as I think he will, or his wife will force him to go and retire in London, who knows? But the era of Assad is over in Syria. There’s too much blood that’s been spilled. And I think every demonstrator in Syria realizes, if they stop now, they will be condemning themselves to another generation or two of the Assad rule because this fellow, Bashar, has a son named Hafez. (Laughter.) And that gives you an idea.

Let me – (chuckles) – yeah, exactly – back to the future. By the way, the Umayyad dynasty lasted 95, so – and, you know, these have now 41 years, and 50 years of Baath rule, one-party rule in Damascus.

Let me dispatch with the notion that this is an Arab Spring. I don’t like the moniker. I don’t think those who are demonstrating in December in Tunisia or later on in Egypt in January and February called it the Arab Spring. Somebody in Europe or in the West – the United States, I really don’t know who – decided to borrow the moniker from the Prague Spring and he superimposed it on the Arab – on the so-called Arab Spring, and we know what happened to the Prague Spring; those are – old of – those of you who are old here remember what Leonid Brezhnev did to the – to the Prague Spring.

They are not revolutions either. If, by revolution, we go back to the classical concept of revolution, when a revolutionary agent driven by one overarching ideology and led by a charismatic leader – I have yet to see a Robespierre, and I don’t want to see a Robespierre or Lenin or Khomeini, for that matter.

But these movements who are – these upheavals, these uprisings were not driven by one overarching metanarrative or ideology. They were driven by a sense that we are – we are – we are being treated as subjects by our autocratic, repressive regimes, and we want to be citizens – citoyens, as the French would use to – used to – you know, that original concept of citizen – citoyen. And it was a yearning for karama – dignity. It is also a yearning for political participation, justice, empowerment and economic empowerment too.

Whether you want to use the analogy of Ambassador Taylor that this is a plane – we just – we took off now, we don’t know where to land – or whether you use the analogy of the train – we just hopped on a train but we don’t know the name of the last terminal – I don’t know. We all agree this is a transition, and transitions, by their nature, are uncertain, bumpy, painful and, at the risk of repeating this definition of transition in front of Michele because I’ve done it before – I cannot be as eloquent as Antonio Gramsci, and I know maybe in Washington, quoting him, an Italian Marxist, is a heresy, but what the hell, let’s do that – Antonio Gramsci said that – when he described the transition from one order to another – he was extremely eloquent and he wrote the – you know, the sequel to Machiavelli’s “Prince,” “The Modern Prince” – these from notes from the present – he said that the crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old order is dying and the new order cannot be born yet, and in the interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear – a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

And we are seeing these morbid symptoms, whether in Libya or in Egypt, in other places. So let’s keep that in mind. And what happened in Egypt and in Tunisia and in Libya is that –

And again, these countries speak – I mean, they have Arabic as a unifying culture; they are Muslims on the whole. I don’t even – I’m not comfortable with the Arab world term, you know, although we don’t call it the Arab world for nothing because it is – it is populated by subgroups and subsects and sub-, you know, cultures and whatever, you know. You cannot ignore the Berbers and the Kurds and a great variety of a human mosaic that inhabits this area that we refer to as the Arab world. And they have one thing in common too, is they are ruled by mostly, you know, corrupt, repressive, autocratic regimes, again, with varying degrees of brutality. After all, you cannot compare Libya to Kuwait or Lebanon to Syria.

But the similarities stop. There’s a world of difference between Tunisia and Libya. One reason I’m somewhat optimistic or hopeful about Tunisia is that Tunisia is a homogeneous country; Tunisia is a small country; Tunisia has traditions of reform. In the mid-1990s, you had Er Erdine Bachar Tunisi (ph) who wanted to learn from the European experiences to develop Tunisia.

Tunisia, by the way, abolished slavery in 1846, 17 years before the United States of America, and it did not require them the bloodiest civil war in their history. And we did it in this country after not only the bloodiest war in American history, but the bloodiest day in American history, because the Emancipation Proclamation issued by my man, Abe Lincoln, following the – Antietam, which is the bloodiest day in American history – I’m a Civil War history buff, as you can say – as you can tell.

So Tunisia is different. The secular traditions of Tunisia that were brought about by the first president of Tunisia, a man who was maligned later and, as a young man, I used to demonstrate in the city of Beirut and malign him. This is Habib Bourguiba.

And now we look back at Habib Bourguiba, and we yearn for people like Habib Bourguiba. Habib Bourguiba enacted universal suffrage in Tunisia in 1957 – 1957. Universal suffrage in the United States was in 1920. So that tells you something. Abolished polygamy; gave women’s equal rights when it comes to divorce. He looked jaundicedly, as I do – and forgive me, this is undirected – on Ramadan, when people don’t work on Ramadan. He didn’t like the fact that – people, you know, should not be unproductive in the whole month of Ramadan. So we had these traditions which makes Tunisia somewhat similar to Turkey and a history – a polity that is more open, more tolerant, women were more educated, the economic development of Tunisia is much better than neighboring countries. So that’s one of the reasons why Tunisia may make it.

Egypt, if I have to bet my money on Egypt, next year from now, we will probably be talking about Egypt the way we’ve been talking about Egypt for the last 40, 50 years, since the collapse of the monarchy. That is, we will be saying the famous or infamous phrase: Egypt will muddle through, Egypt will muddle through.

Libya – Libya politically is a wasteland. Libya is a country bereft of institutions, even a functioning civil society. No political parties the way you and I know political parties. This was a country that was physically and literally pulverized by this bizarre, crazy man named Gadhafi. So they have to start from scratch. I mean, what kind of model you – I should say “muddle.” You can talk about Libya – for Libya, it is going to be extremely difficult, and they need international support more than Egypt definitely or Tunisia.

I know many Arabs, you know, complain about the role of the West and the United States. It’s a fact of life. You cannot have upheaval, you cannot have revolutions, you cannot have civil wars in the neighborhood, and people – countries around you ignore it. And if you want to call them revolutions, remember what happened to the French revolution: Every European country invaded France after the revolution. If you want to talk about the Russian revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, look at the invasion – U.S. in Russian revolution. If you want to talk about Iran revolution, look at what that stupid Saddam did to Iran. I mean, the Spanish Civil War – what happened to Spanish Civil – in three years, the whole European continent fought each other. So the Arabs should get over the fact that the West and other countries are going to be involved in their affairs whether they like it or not.

I would argue that, had it not been for American-Western intervention in Libya, Gadhafi would have succeeded in crushing the rebellion in Benghazi. And that’s why there is a role for the United States and the West and Turkey in Syria. We have to live with this fact, and I – we have to also live with the fact that the United States, when it comes to the aid of Egypt or Tunisia or Libya or any other country, the United States brings with it a great deal of baggage. And a great deal of that baggage is negative baggage not only because of the American support for Israel, which is the easiest thing to say, but mainly – mainly when we talk about the Arab upheavals, want to call it Arab Spring or whatever, it is because the United States – and I’m not a fan of George Bush and I did not vote for George Bush, but I agree with the George Bush’s analysis in his second inaugural speech when he said we, the Americans, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, for the last 60 years, we looked the other way when our friends in the Arab and the Muslim world were pulverizing their societies, oppressing their own people, and we did it in the name of stability, free flow of oil, and alliances against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This is the baggage that the United States brings with it, like it or not.

Whether, you know – and we all, you know, wanted to give Barack Obama a chance, because he is somewhat different than George Bush obviously, but still that baggage is going to remain with the United States for a while, and hence the questions from our Egyptian friend about the Americans supporting the SCAF or this or that, or even now I hear stories that the Americans are supporting the Islamists in the Arab world. So – but we have to live – I mean, the Arabs themselves have to live with the fact that the West and the neighboring countries, when it comes to Syria, for instance – we are talking about Turkey here – they are going to have a – to have a role.

Finally, let me say that the problem – and that’s one reason I don’t call them revolutions. What you have – if one uses the analogy of the pyramid in Egypt, Mubarak, the person – and his family and cronies – was the tip of that – the head of that pyramid. He was kicked out. The pyramid itself – if by the pyramid, you mean the security structure, the cultural structure, the economic structure, the social structure, that allowed this man to rule for 30 years or allowed the four military officers to rule Egypt since the fall of the monarchy in 1952, that structure is still there. The challenge is what to do and how to chip away at that structure, and chipping away at the structure is going to require time, patience, political dexterity and — to overcome the tremendous resistance to change.

The ambassador talked about SCAF. I think SCAF today is part of the problem and not the solution. I have a jaundiced view of Arab militaries. Arab militaries are not good defending the countries, the state, the homeland; they are good at crushing their own people. Now, the Egyptian military and the Tunisian military was much better than the Libyan military or the Syrian military; they don’t have tradition of crushing people in the street, but the Egyptian military today is probably trying to do what or to repeat what the Turkish military succeeded in doing in 1960, when the Turkish constitution was written and given the armed forces a special place as the guardian of – the guardian of the state.

The SCAF people who – remember – were appointed by Mubarak, and they are led by a 75-year-old man who calls himself Field Marshal Tantawi. He ain’t a reformer. He cannot be a reformer. These people want to maintain their special privileges and economic as well as – I mean, who thinks that these people want economic reform? They don’t want to pay taxes. Who thinks that these people want serious political reform? They want to keep hovering over the system, over the new order, whatever that order is going to be. And so SCAF is a problem.

I mean, I was appalled on October 9, when the Egyptian television called on the so-called honorable Egyptian(s) – (in foreign language) – to go to the streets, which was a code – which is a code not only to the Islamists in general, but to the Salafists, the worst kind of Islamists, to go and beat up on the – on the – on the – on the Coptic demonstrators. This is the SCAF. This is the SCAF.

Now, you add – you take the SCAF, you take the remnants of the ancien regime; you add to it the ugly head of sectarianism now, which is more, you know, influential in Egyptian life and became more so during the Mubarak years in particular. Remember what happened in the Kushar tent (ph) 11 years ago when 24 people were killed and not even a serious investigation took place? This is the legacy of – part of the legacy of Mubarak. So you have the ancien regime, you have the military, you have sectarianism, and then you have – let’s be frank about this – cultural, societal legacies. Early on women were demonstrating in large numbers – relative large numbers at Tahrir Square and other places. Later on, many people who demonstrated with them did not want to see them in the streets again. So here you have cultural baggage that you may not see necessarily in Tunisia, but you see it probably more so in Egypt than in – and in Libya, and they’re are going to be part of all of these impediments for any kind of serious, serious reform.

I think I took too much of my time – of your time, but –

MS. DUNNE: Well, thank you, Hisham. Next time you speak although, I’d you to tell us what you really think, OK? (Laughter.) All right – (chuckles) – thank you very much.

OK, but I’d like to add one footnote. Although – you know, we’ve raised today so many problems and so many reservations about these transitions, but we also have to remember, it’s very early and, while these problems are – need to be taken very seriously, it’s not time to give up and decide that it isn’t going to work, there aren’t going to be democratic transitions in the Arab countries. Anyway, that’s my opinion, that it shouldn’t be time for that.

All right, but it is time to get some more questions from the audience.

Rhonda (sp)?

Please identify yourself –

Q: Sure.

MS. DUNNE: – and let me know if – or direct your question to someone specific.

Q: Randa Fahmy Hudome.

Hisham, thank you for bringing up that issue of the Arab Spring terminology. A few months back, I picked up the change in terminology, first started by the State Department. And they started using the term “Arab awakening.” So I asked all my colleagues in the Arab world, do you like this term, “Arab awakening,” better than “Arab Spring”? And they said, we love it. It comes from a 1938 book by George Antonius. It was about Palestine under the British mandate, losing its Arab identity; every Arab in university had to read it. And so I said, great.

So I started adopting the term, I tried to push it around Washington. I’ve seen lately, though, the State Department now back off that and use “Arab Spring,” and I’m wondering whether or not they’re having an interagency working group about the terminology. (Laughter.) I mean, seriously! Or is it the whole situation with Israel-Palestine that’s touching a nerve there?

So I’d love to hear – James Baker used the term the other day. I sometimes see it in the press, but I’ve adopted the term, and I’m trying to use it. So what do you think about the term “Arab awakening,” Hisham, and maybe some of the other panelists?

MR. MELHAM: It’s better than the Arab Spring, and it’s much better probably than “revolutions,” because we don’t have that, and “awakening,” because it harken(s) back to a previous era, where not only George Antonius’ book on Palestine, which was also a pan-Arabian book, but also what happened in the 19th century when we had the long process that took place in Cairo in particular, Beirut, Tunisia, Damascus, when the Arabs had – began to deal with exactly – exactly the same issues we are dealing with today.

I mean, there was a classic book – I usually don’t tell people – presume to tell people what to read, but, you know, on the weekend if you want to be away from your spouse, which is advisable – (laughter) – once in a while – read that book – it’s by Albert Hourani, and it’s called the “Arab(ic) Thought in the Liberal Age,” “Arab(ic) Thought in the Liberal Age.” It’s one – and this is a brilliant scholar who wrote about that great debate that occurred in Beirut and Cairo and Damascus and Tunis in the 19th century. I swear, I reread it months ago; I read it when I was in college and, you know, when you grow older, you get, you know – you get, you know – you get some perspective on life, as they say, and you mellow and you lose your hair and all these things.

Essentially I was shocked because he – I thought he was describing current – the current debate in Egypt. What is the relationship between state and the citizens, religion and society, the Arab world and the West, the issue of minorities, empowering women? All of these things that the kids – and I call them kids, because I have kids that age – in Tahrir and other places were discussing: empowering people; how to have a state that represents us; how we deal with Islam; how we deal with the – with the – with the – with the – with the – with the clerical authorities; and how we deal with the West. And it is – it’s, you know – history repeats itself. And so, you know, to go back to your term, “Arab awakening” is much better than the rest.

Q: Thanks. Steve McInerney with the Project on Middle East Democracy. I have a couple questions for David and sort of taking off from where Hisham left some of his remarks; I agree with much of what he said about the SCAF and them trying to ensure what –

MS. DUNNE: Which David? Do you have – (off mic) –

Q: Oh, sorry, it’s for David YANG, and I wanted to talk a little bit about USAID in Egypt and sort of the resistance that you are receiving in your work from the SCAF and kind of the heavy push-back against U.S. assistance in general, particularly to civil society, and the kind of persistent attacks through the media and through public statements from the Egyptian government.

And then I also want, in Tunisia, I wanted to ask – obviously Tunisia’s very different for USAID than Egypt. You – we haven’t had a USAID program; there’s no USAID mission in Tunisia. There’s a lot of work that you talked about that the U.S. needs to do to continue to support Tunisia’s transition. Could you talk a little bit about possible longer-term presence? Is there thoughts of establishing a USAID mission? Or, if not, can – what other steps can be taken to support Tunisia’s transition beyond this year?

MR. YANG: Thank you very much. First let me – I have my personal thoughts on the “spring” versus “awakening.” I take all the points that have been made – Hisham’s and our colleagues in the audience.

I can only speak for myself; I’ve never been to a meeting or read a memo where I instructed, as an interagency participant – (laughter) – not to use a certain term rather than the other. So I don’t think that that concern exists – at least, not that I’m exposed to.

I would actually argue that “awakening” goes back much farther in the Arab spirit and Arab history and Arab civilization than the 20th century reference to the Palestinians or the 19th century reference to the great liberal waves in the Arab world. I would say “awakening,” as my former colleagues in the U.N. Development Program, who bravely pioneered the U.N. Development reports for the Arab world about 10 years ago and since harken back to an awakening both cultural, educational, and other – political, certainly – of the awakening inspired by the great civilizations of the ancient world, the Mesopotamia, of Egypt, of Persia. And I think it’s that history and that enlightenment and that awakening that stirs as much pride as those movements of the last couple centuries and certainly inspiration. And I think all of those that feel a part of world civilization look to and are excited by these recent movements, whether you call them “spring” or “awakening” or whatever.

On Steve’s questions, very particular questions, we do face opposition to our assistance in terms of civil society. We stand by our belief and our principle that civil society and empowering the new voices of Tahrir Square are a key part of Egyptian democracy for the future. We are proud to be supporting Egyptian organizations directly, and we are proud to be supporting international NGOs that are supporting Egyptian organizations, both of civil society and within the government. And we stand by that assistance, and we have the support of the State Department and our other interagency colleagues in standing by that assistance.

In Tunisia, it’s – you raise a hard question. These are tough budget times, it’s a tough budget year, we’re anticipating even tougher budget year in fiscal year 2012. We are not considering, at this point, the opening of a mission in Tunisia. We’re working, as I said earlier, as part of an interagency approach, including the Peace Corps, OPIC and other facilities. We are working very closely with our colleagues in the Middle East Partnership Initiative and Ambassador Taylor’s office who have access to larger budgets than our own AID internal budget and we look forward to programming some of that money. We certainly look forward to programming beyond the democratic governance sector, and we hope to support the new Tunisian government in doing so. How much and at what dollar figure all depends on what budget we get, our consultations with our congressional colleagues, and what the Tunisians ask us for.

We are working very closely also with the donor world, both multilateral and bilateral donors, to make sure that Tunisians get the support they can. So, on the one hand, we face budget realities; on the other hand, we’re pulling all the levers we can in the donor world to ensure that Tunisians have support for this dual transition.

MS. DUNNE: Thank you. We have a time for a few more questions.

This gentleman here.

Q: My name is Fouad Arif. I’m the bureau chief of the Moroccan news agency here in Washington. I would like to ask my friend Hisham if there will be a difference in outcome as far as the Arab Spring is concerned for monarchies and Arab military republics. It seems that, in monarchies, people are rather asking for reform rather than regime change, which is not the case in the Arab military republics.

MR. MELHAM: Well, the only exception to that is Morocco – is, excuse me, not Morocco – Bahrain.

In Bahrain, you have the inverse situation in Syria. In Bahrain, you have a minority, which happen to be the Sunnis, in charge of a country where the majority are probably 70 percent Shia. In Syria, you have a minority of Alawis, an offshoot of Shia Islam, constituting probably 12 percent, running a mostly Sunni state although there are important Christian and Jewish communities.

And in the case of Bahrain, by the way, it was the only case now in these upheavals, rebellions, Arab Spring, whatever you want to call it, where neighboring countries used military force to crush the rebellion or crush the uprising or the movement, which was, by the way, very peaceful, very peaceful. And when it comes to Bahrain, unfortunately, most Gulf states, when they look at the Shia, they see the Iranian boogeyman behind, and we’ve seen that in – with the way Ali Abdullah Saleh tried to frame the rebellion on the Houthis last year in northern Yemen, when he said this is a – this is inspired by or instigated by the Iranians, which is a big lie; it’s not the case. And Iran may and will exploit problems and upheavals in Yemen or in Bahrain or in any Gulf states, but Iran is not necessarily – and it is not – I have not seen any evidence that Iran is behind the Houthis – the Houthi rebellion in Yemen last year or the uprising in Bahrain.

There is a sense of when it comes to Morocco, some Gulf states like Kuwait and maybe even Saudi Arabia, there is a some sort of a thin veneer of legitimacy that these countries may have that the new republics, especially in Egypt and Iraq and – after the fall of the monarchy in Iraq – and Egypt had.

In Kuwait, I mean, you had a group of families agreeing that the, you know, the Sabah (ph) family or Jaber (ph) family or (Salim ?) family will rule. In Morocco, you have – you have a dynasty that’s been there for a long time; even in Saudi Arabia whether you like that version of austere, you know, suffocating Islam or not, they may have that too. But – and also, with the exception of Morocco and Jordan, these monarchies have money. They have oil money. And they can throw money at problems at times, and they could succeed, again, for a – for a period of time. In the end, also, these monarchies would have to open up, whether they like or not.

And they may have managed somehow to insulate themselves and sometimes by paying a heavy price. I mean, you’ve seen even in Saudi Arabia in 1979, you know, serious violence and opposition, and I’m not talking now about al-Qaida; I’m talking about what happened in 1979, the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. So – and we’ve seen agitation on the part of the minorities, particularly the Shia minorities in Bahrain as well as in Saudi Arabia and other places. So these monarchies may feel somewhat more secure or a little bit more secure than the Arab republics, but the – but I – but when I look at the whole Arab world, I really don’t see any single country that is really, really immune.

MS. DUNNE: One last question.

Q: Dan Christman (ph) from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to anyone on the panel: The question on the economic development piece, we focused almost entirely to this point on the possible U.S. role on bits and TFAs and notional FTAs, but I think realistically the chance of that, given the climate in this town, is very limited. The question is, what can we realistically expect for support from, say, the Gulf Cooperation Council and key countries in the GCC, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, towards the three that we’ve focused on here in terms of helping in the economic transition of these three? Is there a realistic possibility of eliciting some help from them?

MS. DUNNE: I’ll make a brief response to that, and then, any of you who would like to chime in as well.

I mean, of course, we have seen the GCC countries step forward regarding all three – Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya so far – and – but that the question I think is, what are their goals in these countries? And I do have a concern about that, that the goals that Saudi Arabia or Qatar or the Emirates might have for the future of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya might be quite different from what the United States has in mind. And you know, I think it’s something that the United States and the governments of these countries should be – should be talking about to try to deconflict.

I mean, in Egypt, for example, one already hears quite a bit about Saudi funding of Salafi Muslim groups and so forth. So, you know, there are – there are ways in which Gulf funding and certainly within the Deauville process and so forth – that’s already been, you know, brought to bear in some ways. There are ways in which it can be helpful; there are ways in which I also think it can be unhelpful to democratic transitions.

Would any of you like to add a word on that?

MR. MELHAM: Just to say that Qatar’s role in Libya is being criticized now because Qatar is being accused of arming Islamists.

MS. DUNNE: Right.

Well, thank you very much, and I will – I want to get you all out of here in time, but please join me in thanking Hisham Melham, David Kramer, David Yang and Vanessa Tucker for a very fine panel. Thank you. (Applause.)



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