Just as twenty years ago the USSR’s collapse created both uncertainties and new opportunities for freedom and prosperity, so the Arab Awakening of 2011 has produced changes of both regional and global importance. The future of the Middle East, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, remains to be determined. Local and global economic problems abound. How do the region and its prospects look today, and what problems, issues and challenges do states face in common? How will the contest between stability and freedom play out in Eurasia in coming years, and can the region have both? What should be the roles of the United States, the European Union, and Turkey?
CHAIR: The Hon. Franklin D. Kramer, Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council
- H.E. Ashraf Ghani, Chairman of the Transition Commission, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
- H.E. Suat Kınıklıoğlu, Central Executive Committee Member, Justice and Development Party, Republic of Turkey
- The Hon. Robert Wexler, President, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace and former Member, US House of Representatives
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Time: 10:45 a.m.
Date: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Federal News Service
FRANKLIN D. KRAMER: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this session which is focusing on the character and the shape of the region.
We have three distinguished panelists this morning, each of whom are extremely knowledgeable. From my right, Robert Wexler, who is the head of the Abraham Center for Middle East Studies, a former U.S. Representative; Ashraf Ghani, who to this audience needs no introduction, but who currently is the chairman of the Transition Council in Afghanistan and a distinguished economist; and to my left, Suat Kınıklıoğlu, who is the Central Executive Committee member for the Justice and Development Party. Each of them has extensive experience. Myself, I’m Franklin Kramer; I’m with the Atlantic Council.
And what we want to do this morning is to have a conversation both among the members of the panel and also with you in the audience. So we will start out with the panel having a discussion, but then we will turn to the audience, and if you have questions that you would like to raise for the panelists, if you would just raise your hands and someone can find you with a microphone, then we will bring you into the conversation.
I think that you heard already from the various speakers, two prime ministers, multiple ministers, distinguished guests, Senator Hagel and the like, that there are multiple factors affecting all the energy and economic issues that we want to talk about. The Arab Awakening, for one, the issues of stability; as the prime minister pointed out, the human element, of course, in Istanbul; the role of Turkey, a central role in a dynamic region, a bridge.
Other dynamic security relationships – Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq; the economic set of issues including the economic hardship in Europe; Angela Merkel speaking of the greatest crisis since World War II, and obviously the changing dynamic of the energy market, issues of unconventional gas, issues of pipelines, issues of offshore gas. All of those come together in these kind of issues, and I think the people on this panel are uniquely positioned to talk about the context and the framework of what will affect energy and economics in this region. And even the region itself is open to discussion. Is it Eurasia, the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Middle East – you know, what should we really be thinking about, what’s the most relevant?
So with that, let me start with a question for one of the panelists. And that, as we all are intimately aware, reading day by day about the Arab Awakening, about the issues in the northern Mediterranean but even much more close to home, as the prime minister spoke about with respect to Syria, what does that really mean for energy and economic issues? How should we think about it? And let me ask Robert Wexler to start on that issue.
How do you see it? We know the specifics, but what should we look for in the future? How is it going to change the region and what do we really need to be thinking about?
ROBERT WEXLER: Well, thank you very much, and I do want to thank the Atlantic Council for putting together this extraordinary meeting and conference.
Prime Minister Erdoğan, I think, very eloquently set the stage or the framework of what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa. And of course, as we watch events unfold in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya at their different stages of democratic formation, they are quite transformative.
However, I actually think as extraordinary as the events that have already occurred are, the most significant events are yet to come. And Prime Minister Erdoğan essentially laid out a very strong policy this morning, which is consistent with what he has been doing for the past several weeks regarding Syria. And the fact is, when the Syrians have a transition – and undoubtedly, it will happen; it’s just a question of time – and President Assad is removed or leaves power, there will be a tremendous jolt to the region.
And I would argue, from an American perspective, but also from a Turkish perspective and also from the perspective of most, if not all, of America’s allies, that the extraordinary negative impact on the Syrian-Hezbollah-Iranian relationship that will occur, assuming the next Syrian government does not reinvent that relationship, which it would be unlikely to do, presents an extraordinary opportunity, both in terms of energy, both in terms of economics but, most especially, for political stability in the region.
And to that extent, Turkey is extremely well placed to play a formative role. And the fact that Turkey has housed the Syrian transitional council, the fact that Prime Minister Erdoğan more than any other leader effectively has articulated the reasons why at this point President Assad must leave, Turkey, I think, will in fact play a remarkably close role with the United States. And I know my Turkish friends do not phrase it in this manner, but the fact of the matter is, as American troops recede from Iraq, the Iraqi people, of course, will determine the future of Iraq. But Turkey and Iran will play also a very important role, and from an American’s perspective, I welcome the fact that Turkey will play an even greater role, as Prime Minister Erdoğan outlined this morning.
MR. KRAMER: Well, with that, let me turn to my Turkish colleague then, Suat, and how do you see Turkey’s role in the region? Obviously dynamic country last eight to 10 years, huge economic growth, democratic change, you know, much, much developed, a role model, as many people talk about in the region, but then, as Bob said, many new things to come. What’s your view on the –
SUAT KINIKLIOĞLU: Well, I think Robert’s set the stage quite – as articulate as he always does. And let me just follow up on it. I agree Turkey is well-situated. Prime Minister Erdoğan took the initiative early on. Even when the events in Tunisia started, he called early on for Mubarak to leave. And I think – I agree, actually, what has happened is just the beginning, that we are yet to see a lot. And Syria is obviously probably the most complicated case that the region is now confronting. But as much as many decision makers, think tankers, or people who deal on these things look it as, from a sort of security perspective that this is all trouble, this is complicating everything, we need to remember that these are historic processes we cannot stop.
And, you know, I always look at the events of the Arab Awakening as the reintroduction of the Mediterranean into history. The region as a geopolitical unit is coming back, so we no longer think of these regions as asleep, run by dictators, and we’re dealing with them on issues that works for us, but rather, they are reentering into history and into our neighborhood and our lives. And I think we need to embrace it. Turkey, I think, has so far played an extremely constructive role. We are, as Robert said, hosting the Syrian National Council. We are counseling them to be representative, that they include all ethnic groups in Iraq, including the Alawite minority of which Bashar Assad is a member.
A good sign has been recently that the village representatives inside Syria have recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate body representing them. And we hope that the will of the people in Syria will – and I agree, it’s only a matter of time; I think it’s no longer if but when – and I think if the events continue to be in the way they are progressing, the Syrian regime – the Syrian economy will most likely – is already suffering. It’s probably going to get worse. And we hope that internal Syrian dynamics will bring about change, which puts Turkey, I think, into a unique position as a country that has called for change, for reform, as Prime Minister Erdoğan uses the term, of listening to the people’s legitimate demands.
What we are asking for ourselves for Turks and others, and we can’t say to our Arab brothers and sisters, that no, no, no, you shouldn’t be – it’s not good for stability and predictability. I think they equally deserve and want it, and I think they will get it. But in the short and medium term, we might have more instability, more complication, and I agree, if Syria changes, I think that will have a huge impact on how Hezbollah, Lebanon and the Iranian connection there will remain.
But it is good to see that the United States, Europe and many countries are in solidarity in calling for Bashar Assad to go. And I think it’s only a matter of time.
MR. KRAMER: Well, let me turn in to Ashraf Ghani.
Ashraf, obviously, Afghanistan has been in turmoil for many, many years. Now we have a focus on transition. We have the possibility, if you will, of the ending of hostilities, if there is a reconciliation mechanism, and then a larger look at the region. Can we really build the Silk Road that was mentioned this morning? Can we really build regional trade? Do you see a possibility to the end of the security side of issues and a development of trade? How would you go about that?
ASHRAF GHANI: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
First, times of uncertainty – uncertainty is the dominant characteristic of our time. Uncertainty both produces opportunity, and it produces danger.
On the opportunity side, the Asian continent is the least economically integrated continent still in the world. But this is the Asian century. So the shift now in the global recovery is being led by East Asia. And that is going to have phenomenal implications for Central Asia and for West Asia. I think we have to stop dropping the term Middle East, because it is from external point of view, and focus on various parts of Asia. And South Asia, again, is coming into play as a major way.
Second, Turkey chose the example of a transformation from a cul-de-sac, where things were really locked in to being a roundabout, because bridge is passive. I think roundabout is an active concept – the flows of ideas, goods, relationships. And the key opportunity now is for the emergence of a series of these roundabouts on the Asian larger continental integration, and Turkey has provided a key dynamic.
Three, the Silk Road, I have a long paper coming on this, is the possibility of having for Asia what happened in the United States in 1869. Infrastructure is least used in Asia. Even Turkey, on the global logistics index ranks only 3.2, and it’s the most advanced other than China. So we have a phenomenal way to integrate. If you look at the Black Sea region, the key is not just investing in new infrastructure. It is utilization of the existing ones. The borders in this area are thick, meaning, a lot of human-made institutional obstacles stand in the way of flows. So there’s a reform thing. This is one side.
Now, look at the danger side. First, every decade since 1950s, international use of force has manifested in Southern Asia. But the domestic situation in the United States and Europe is changing the dynamic. Use of force is no longer affordable. So that’s the first issue. How long will the U.S. be able to afford the type of use of force that it is engaged in? This question is a simple one. And if use of force by the major superpower is not affordable, then how does politics of stability come into play?
And that is likely to produce a series of regional tensions that could be quite destabilizing. Pakistan, for instance, needs to make a major choice. Is it going to become a non-state state actor behaving like a non-state but claiming the privileges of a state? And there are series of others of these that have behaved like that. Or is it going to be an issue of stability?
Second, the political and economical intention – some of the wealthiest powers in the region have got political participation issues, and those need to be sorted out, because if they are not – so to round up, what does it depend on? This is time for visionary leadership. The critical issue is going to be leadership. The mental mind-set, whether we open ourself to the 21st century or shut ourselves into a 19th century model of nationalism that is exclusivist, that is arbitrary, that is superimposed – so in that balance, I think I agree. We are going to be entering a time where we’re going to see both dynamics, a dynamic of positive movement towards integration, and a series of tensions. But 20, 30 years from now, I can envisage the end of the long Asian conflicts and an emergence of a nation continent that would be, again, the dominant economic power in the world.
MR. KRAMER: Can we – let me ask the panel, and then I’d like to open it up to the audience: We have some areas which are obviously still internally in tension. Iraq would be one. Similar areas where there are questions about their views to their nation would be another. (Inaudible) – these countries either into the integrated approach that Ashraf talked about or at least have them not cause a problem, as may be the case in Iran. Is that something that you can see the United States working with others on, and how would you go about that kind of issue?
MR. WEXLER: Certainly, the United States will work with others, and I think more than simply working with others, the United States will seek to lead with others. Part of the question that was framed for our group was is stability – is the quest for stability and freedom compatible? I think that was a legitimate question in the 20th century. In the 21st century, actually, I think it’s the opposite. Not only is stability and freedom compatible, I would argue that they are mutual dependent, that without stability, ultimately, you will not have freedom. If the events of the Arab Awakening have taught us anything, that is the lesson, it seems to me, to be learned.
We’re in Istanbul, and I think it would – we would be remiss not to talk in context of what you asked about Turkey’s role. And it just strikes me, you pick up these two wonderful quarterlies just outside, Turkish Policy Quarterly that are printed – and I would highly recommend them. But even now, on both covers, we have questions: “Losing Turkey Or Strategic Blindness?” Or, on the other one, “Turkey Leaving The West?” At what point do we actually stop asking this question?
I would argue, with all due respect to the writers, and they answered it well – that question was also from many years ago. Turkey has answered that question. America and Turkey are working in concert in Iraq. America and Turkey are working in concert in Afghanistan. We’ve worked in concert with all of our allies in Libya, now in Tunisia, in Egypt. We will do so in Syria. We are doing so in terms of missile defense for Turkey, for America, for our European allies, energy security. In fact, how more west, in many respects, could Turkey actually turn? (Laughter.)
MR. KRAMER: How more west could Turkey turn?
MR. KINIKLIOĞLU: Well, I’d like to thank Robert, we’re in full agreement today, not always the case, but – (laughs) – I think he’s put it right. I think Turkish-American relations are at a level that I think works mutually well. These seminars and questions and articles of who lost Turkey, I think, have become passé and unnecessary. But Turkey is now a different Turkey. I think both our American friends and our European allies now recognize that Turkey is no longer the countries of the 1970s. Turkey is now a country that has its own interests, and many times, our interests coincide with those of the United States and our European friends, but there are times when we have different ways of getting there.
But getting into this sort of fundamental identity crisis issue I think is passé, and I think it’s not necessary. I think Syria, in itself – Egypt, Libya – I think in itself are a manifestation where Turkey stands. And I think it needs to be underlined, in this country, democracy, with all its shortcomings and all its problems we had, has been internalized. Democracy, human rights, minority rights, as imperfect we practiced them, are thoroughly internalized. And it’s one reason why, as a 99 percent Muslim country, is, as you heard this morning from Prime Minister Erdoğan, objecting to what is happening in Syria. It is simply not acceptable for Turks of whatever political persuasion they are to see that Syrian civilians are killed on a daily basis, of which some are relatives of Turkish citizens living in the south of Turkey on the Syrian border. So we have a direct interest of protecting some of the relatives of our citizens.
But I agree, I mean, this is something that is beyond us. But I’d like to thank Ashraf Ghani for putting out what I think is the larger picture. The larger picture is that you will experience instability, unpredictability, problems and complexities in the short run. We need to brace ourselves for that.
But I think, as I like to reiterate, we are seeing in front of our eyes the reintroduction of the Mediterranean, of the Middle East – for a better word – into the history of global affairs. And this is something to be welcomed.
MR. KRAMER: And Ashraf, do you think that, with the economic set of issues in Europe and also in the United States, that the region has to do it on its own, if you will? Or can there be a good deal of – I wouldn’t want to call it assistance, but really integration with Europe and with the United States as it goes forward?
MR. GHANI: Well, take the Black Sea. Where there’s been private sector, it has moved. Where it’s been state-to-state, it has stopped. So the world is not short of money. It’s official aid that is not going to be the driver. We are in a different world, and that is a world where the rules of the game, for the private sector to operate, must come together.
And second, as I pointed out a minute ago, we have an advantage of backwardness. Because the base from which we are beginning is so low that the move internally for reform can be tremendous. I mean, why is Turkey standing up and standing erect? Because it managed to endure a series of painful structural reforms – it had the vision and leadership and capability, so today it stands apart.
Now, we are dealing with a region of the world where the absolute majority are young and they are jobless. Egypt’s transition to democracy is really going to depend on whether jobs are established and established quickly or not. The European Development Bank has just done an excellent survey that was released yesterday regarding the impact of the global financial crisis on the region, on transition countries. And it’s a very interesting trend. Where democracy has been established, people are turning against it. And where democracy is not been established, people are voting for it. People are fed up with existing regimes. So on the economic side, I think with the right financial instruments, it is going to depend on financial architecture.
And if you look into each piece, China, India, the Gulf are putting about $3.5 trillion into infrastructure investment. The sovereign funds of the Gulf could again be a tremendous driver of this. In India, we have seen the emergence of about 100 infrastructure funds that are managing to utilize existing set of resources. Turkey, again, has pioneered the private-public partnership again and renewed it.
So if we look into a portfolio approach to seeing how we vary in how we utilize, I think the region could provide – and again, China again has an enormous amount of surplus money that if it were harnessed into this task jointly – so the approach that is going to be required is a type of imaginative approach where these resources could be brought together, the obstacles clearly identified, and risk guarantee instruments are devoted make it happen.
MR. KRAMER: We open it up to the audience, if there are people who would like to ask questions or, for that matter, make comments. And if I could – sir. Do we have a microphone?
Q: Thank you. I agree, the changes that we are witnessing in the Middle East are inevitable, irreversible, and these societies are going to move into free, democratic, progressive societies. And for us really to be credible supporters of these changes as we should be, we have to apply the same standards in all cases. What we have heard was basically focused on one case, and rightly so. I’m not saying that we should not really help the Syrian people to achieve their freedom, their human rights and democratic system. But the other countries in the Middle East are not much more democratic than what Syria is.
In Iraq, we are very proud that we have pioneered this process, but there are other countries where more people are killed perhaps than Syria, like Yemen. There are countries that foreign troops have been invited to suppress peaceful demonstrations like Bahrain. There are more authoritarian regimes in the regions than some of these that we have mentioned. And if we apply double standards towards these people, we lose our credibility in really supporting these changes. So we have to apply the same standards and stand by all the people who are calling for these changes towards a progressive, prosperous and democratic free societies. Thank you.
MR. KRAMER: So let’s pick up on that point, because one of the – I think it’s very well taken that the region’s moving unevenly; there are multiple complications and different approaches. And maybe you’d like to start and then ask, how do we deal with, maybe not the region as a whole but the region in parts, and to deal with different parts, as you pointed out?
Would you like to comment on that?
MR. WEXLER: I think the point’s a very important one, and I think there are, in fact, principles that should be applied universally. However, if we start from the perspective that the goal is to create progressive, liberal democracies with prosperous economies, my fear is not only will we have turmoil in the short term that has been described, but by defining our goal in such an ambitious way, we may actually undermine our effort, because it may be seen as a effort directed from the outside, from the United States or Western Europe, as opposed to definitions. And I wouldn’t be so presumptuous to offer them, but definitions that would come from within that would suit the individual needs of that particular society.
And I think there are, in fact, questions, serious questions – for instance, the role of religion – that a country like the United States and Western European democracies – even between Western Europe and the United States, there are differences. But questions of the role of religion, for instance, must be determined locally, not by an outside power or an outside perspective. And as we apply these principles, I think more than anything, I would add the word respect – respect for the differences between Yemen and Syria, for instance, between Yemen and Libya and Tunisia and Egypt and Syria – and be very mindful that, if the perception is that a broad principle is being applied that my fear is it won’t work.
And I will close this part, if I may – and I listen very carefully, Mr. Ghani, and your analysis is brilliant. But I guess I would just possibly take exception in some of the – one respect of the conclusion, and that is that, while certainly – and you’re correct, there are examples of success and examples of at least relative failure, but I think in the example of success category, we’ve already taken for granted almost the experience of Central and Eastern Europe. We’ve already put that in the “won” category. I mean, we’ve already won it. But the win is still relatively recent, and we also maybe don’t view with the degree of importance that we should a place like Georgia, which has done an extraordinary reformation of both their economic and political systems, and the very positive changes in several places in Central America, South America, as well as Asia, are driving forces.
I mean, Indonesia – again, we’ve put it in the – it’s already progressive, liberal, and prosperous. But that wasn’t a guarantee, by any means. So while there certainly are setbacks, I think the fact remains that positive results still significantly outweigh those setbacks.
MR. KRAMER: So just to go back to the question, though, and I’ll ask my other two panelists, if you will – universal values and those kinds of issues, but in specific contexts – how to get there, how to think about that. You’re working that through very much as we speak in Afghanistan. It was good of you to fly over today; you’ll fly back.
We all know there’s a loya jirga going on to deal with many of these issues in context. How do you think about them?
MR. GHANI: Well, I mean, the fundamental issue is context nationally is different, and we need to operate at three levels. There’s the national, there’s the sub-region, a country and its group of neighbors, and then there’s the global set, and the intersection of these three is not an easy one.
For instance, in Afghanistan, the West did not adhere to those values. It supported warlords, and now we are stuck with the price. It is costing the United States $110 billion last year because of the type of decisions that were made. It looked at the society from a prism of immediate stability without thinking through, and Iraq, again, was a work that this was enormously complicated. I don’t want to enter into debate, but the consequences of large actions need to be, I think, taken morally. There has been too little moral responsibility for a set of actions regarding use of force.
Two, the solutions, I very much agree, must come locally, and Indonesia I think is a brilliant example. Ten years ago very few people would have placed a bet on Indonesia working its way out of conflict, out of authoritarianism, out of economic crisis.
So there are lots of positive examples to be built on, and in the case of Afghanistan, you know, we have the specific – in 2014 we must ensure the exit of NATO forces, and for us now we’re operating, at least I’m operating, and pushing for three timelines.
In 2015 our task is national survival. We have to survive the withdrawal as a country that has got a lot of problems, and we must come together to be able to sort them. To that end, and in that short period, the army that has been created for us – and again, the numbers were arrived at outside Afghanistan – is unaffordable.
So how do we square a security imperative with affordability? And that brings back politics, economics into the play. 2025 is about feasible change, and 2035 is about sustainable change. We are going to have to deal in a country like Afghanistan – and Iraq, again, would have similarities – that has really been uprooted from its roots with a generational transformation, and the question of generational transformation unfortunately is that the world community cannot stay focused more than four or five years.
So the burden comes back internally into the region, and in the region we must engage in a different dynamic. For instance, you know, when 19th century views like strategic debt or spheres of influence are talked about, they are not compatible with this type of – so my last remark, let’s rethink stability as sustainable stability, because too often we’ve opted for short-term considerations of stability that has not had bottom-up support and endurance.
And the discourse that we had this morning is effective precisely because the root of stability must now be taught from the citizen’s perspective, and their culture matters. You cannot just do the same cookie-cutter approach across the board.
MR. KRAMER: Again, let me open it up to the panel.
MR. KINIKLIOĞLU: Can I say a few things?
MR. KRAMER: Absolutely, Suat, please.
MR. KINIKLIOĞLU: I think on your question and comment, which was very timely, I think one thing we need to register is there’s not going to be democracies the next day once a dictator is removed from country X. Let’s be realistic about this. But that doesn’t mean we have to support – we should stop supporting those progressive, democratic, whatever you want to call them, and sometimes religious groups who are wanting change.
The Tunisia example is quite striking. I mean, the international press’s take on how the win of Ennahda is being portrayed in the Western media is rather disappointing. We cannot overlook the fact that most opposition throughout these dictatorial decades could only be harbored where there was religious authority, be it the mosque, the tariqat or whatever.
Now that they are more organized, that they come out, doesn’t mean that the West in general, I mean, or some parts of the West, take a negative view before they are given a chance to run these places. Now, when they run these places and if things go wrong, obviously there is a place to criticize and to be critical.
But without giving them a chance, I think it’s unfair, and it’s unrealistic. We have now people who are tweeting from Egypt about the Egyptian election and they’re digging and looking, finding secular candidates. Well, Egypt is a religious country and most of the candidates and the most well-organized people over there is the Brotherhood, and they’re probably going to get a good election result.
We need to engage with them instead of a priori pushing them away. It’s not going to work, and I think we need to brace ourselves, one, for short-term instability, but that doesn’t give us the moral right to refuse change or to ask or talk in favor of change, and second, I think we need to be mindful and accept that the new folks who are running these places might be religious, some of them very religious, some of them less religious, but we need to engage with them.
We need to give them a chance to take responsibility. For decades they have been calling in opposition for X, Y and Z. Now is the chance to perform, and if they do not perform well, we don’t know, then, of course, we need to allow these societies – and when they need help in removing the new folks, I think then of course the international community has a role.
But I think we have to give them a historic chance to prove themselves of governance, of how they’re going to provide the economic standards of an Egyptian who has six children and who wants to know how is that going to happen.
MR. KRAMER: Questions?
Let me raise an issue, because I think you all raised it differently. Ashraf pointed out government aid is down, the United States does not want to make its military foreign policy to the extent it’s been private-sector led, but as Suat has pointed out, if you will, thoughts, ideology approaches is really critical.
How does one engage well with the forces of change through an engagement of the mind, if you will, to bring ideas into play which then of course affect people’s actions? I mean, my own view is that it’s what’s in your brain that’s most important, and then you do it from that regard.
Is there a way to do that? Do we use NGOs, do we use private-sector forces, do we use universities? Are they the new, if you will, foreign policy mechanisms that ought to be relied upon, or should we think of something else? Media, the Internet and the like? I just want to open it up to a different way of looking at these issues. Do you have –
MR. GHANI: Sure, thank you.
Well, first, look at the youth. And I mean in the Arab Spring, what’s the most striking thing? They’re embracing a discourse that everybody four years ago thought Arabs were incapable of. So don’t generalize about us, firstly.
You know, once the Soviet Union disintegrated, a lot of former Sovietologists were unemployed, so they started constructing the specter of Islam, the green specter. Well, it’s not the former Soviet Union, it’s not communism, and we need to start taking people with their culture and history seriously, but also we need to appreciate that we live in a simultaneous world.
MR. KINIKLIOĞLU: And their narrative.
MR. GHANI: And their narrative. And here, I think, is the opportunity to engage the youth. Most of the universities in the Middle East – Turkey has changed because it’s now put education as its top budget priority and it’s incredibly impressive in this regard. The education is not suiting the needs of the 21st century. The model education needs to be taught root, stock and branch. So that’s the first thing.
The second is that the discourse of jobs really matters. If we don’t focus on jobs, there are 100 million Arab youth that are called the generation of waiting. They cannot get married, they cannot have families, they cannot have homes. So some set of priorities must really engage.
But vis-a-vis the West, the first thing is to appreciate the limits of power. The 21st century is not 20th century instruments of power. Hard power needs to be harnessed to soft power, and there I think the aid machinery of the West needs radical restructuring. That machinery is out of sync. It is outsourced to a series of Beltway bandits that do not deliver and are not capable of delivering. Look at Afghanistan and Iraq. All this money, and what has come as a result? Disenchantment from both people.
So when we say private sector, it must be the real private sector, and here small and medium enterprises are really critical, but the nature of competitiveness again needs fundamental thinking.
So I think a dialogue – and as was said very eloquently, we need to have a tolerance for mistakes, because it’s not going to be designed from A to Z. There are going to be bumps on the road; there are going to be difficulties. Staying with it is going to be fundamental.
So let me close with Korea, you know, where the United States, South Korea, managed to deliver brilliantly. South Korea of 1950s resembles the problems of Afghanistan and Iraq to a T – corruption, mismanagement, conflict, et cetera. Yet the transformation that took place, and if one looks at the role of the USAID then and in Iraq and Afghanistan, though now USAID has some very capable leadership, so I’m hoping for a change, they were able to engage in a multi-front that became an instrument of change.
So in the past, again, it’s not just Indonesia’s recent examples, transformation of Taiwan, of Malaysia, of South Korea. Provide a menu. Not that any of them are going to be copied in this context, but there’s a range, and we need to think comparatively.
One of the things that strikes me – I was in the Davos discussions in the World Economic Forums in Jordan – is that what passes for the Middle East, West Asia, is extremely self-centered on some of these, and it needs to open up to competitive understanding and analysis much more.
MR. KRAMER: So let me ask each of you to finish with education as an initiative, opening minds as an approach, a different kind of engagement.
Robert, and then Suat.
MR. WEXLER: I think the good news is we don’t have to wait for governments. The era of globalization of information, of the economy, of issues such as the environment and weather and different types of things that affect all of us are, in the age of globalization, no borders. And no government in the world can stop that, and governments will be late, but they will ultimately join in in a constructive way, I believe.
If I may, Suat raised a very important point, I think, and I don’t want to mischaracterize his words, but he offered a concern regarding the Western media’s response to the election in Tunisia, and I think that’s a very fair point, but I also think it requires at least a context. The context, of course, is that there is a track record, unfortunately, when members of the Muslim Brotherhood or affiliated groups have in fact used the democratic process to then undo the democratic process.
And while I think Suat is absolutely correct that it is not proper to prejudge the government in Tunisia that – I would only offer the observation that the reason, or at least partially the reason for the angst is not a distrust necessarily of religion or traditional ways in and of themselves, it is an application of the example of, for instance, what has happened in Gaza with Hamas.
Regardless of how one feels about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hamas has not been the provider of a liberal, progressive democracy in which people can better express themselves within the Muslim faith. Hezbollah has not provided that example in a different context in Lebanon.
So the angst is not necessarily a fear of more observant people engaged in politics and elected office. The fear is that the limited democratic gains by those practiced in groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood is not genuine, and with all due respect, Prime Minister Erdoğan himself in essence warned that when he visited Egypt.
And I would then close again by suggesting that’s why, yet another example why Turkey is so important, because it shows the way how people can be true to their faith, they can be observant, they can be, in fact, both political, economic and religious leaders all simultaneously.
MR. KRAMER: It is true that initial democratic reforms don’t always go through, and Europe is a good example. Many of you, I’m sure, are students of history. 1848 was a time in Europe when there were many, many democratic efforts, and then they didn’t succeed for a number of years. So that’s true.
On the other hand, one has to reach out, I think, and encourage those efforts. And I’m going to give you the last word on that thought to talk about that.
MR. KINIKLIOĞLU: Thank you. Let me continue where Robert left off.
I think conservative politics in the Middle East, or political groups, organizations, parties, elites who are more religious are likely to be in more decision-making positions.
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s call for secularism was really a message at a time, I think very timely, and in some circles in the region it was not much welcomed. But I think it was extremely important to call attention to the Turkish experience, to tolerance, especially in a country where Egypt, where 10 percent of the population is Christian.
And I think it reached the right audiences. Some may or may not like it, and I think that’s the complexity that we have to deal with in the coming decades. On the one hand we will find decision-makers who are more religious or have brought in Islamist political circles, but on the other hand, I think – and I would even argue in the Hamas case, Hamas was elected by the Palestinians knowing what Hamas was standing for. They won the election; they were permitted by Israel and the United States to run in those elections. But I think today if the Gazan electorate would be asked again, we don’t know what the outcome would be. But I think it would be fair then, because they were given a chance to run and govern in Gaza, although very limited because of Israel’s policies towards Hamas. But I think there is still a track record where people can gauge and then if they would, if there is a next election, they would vote accordingly if that’s positive or negative.
But what I really would like to say, underline here is we cannot prejudge political groups in the coming decades who are likely to be powerful, influential just because there is an angst, as you said, of Islamic groups, or there are track records. There are also good track records. I would say my party, Prime Minister Erdoğan’s political evolution is also a positive track record, and I think there are also positive examples.
And I think we should build on those, and I’m especially privileged today to speak with Robert and Ashraf Ghani here, because we are right in the middle between the United States and the Far East; we’re right in the middle. And I think we are blessed with these huge global changes taking place, and we find ourselves right in the middle with one foot in the West and one foot in the East. And I think – I can only bless – I feel very blessed as a Turkish citizen to be able to be right in the midst of it, and I hope we will continue to contribute positively in any way and fashion we can. I think Prime Minister Erdoğan’s last call for secularism in Islam was an important one.
MR. KRAMER: Sure. Let me thank the panelists. We’re going to finish a shade early, because as you know, we’re running a shade behind, shall we say, for the whole conference. And I would just underscore, I think, what the prime minister said, that we need not to forget the human element. That ought to be a critical aspect, I think, of all of our thinking as we go forward with the multiple initiatives. It’s easy when one thinks about energy to think about pipelines. It’s easy when one thinks about economics to think about investment. But there are always people there, people underneath, people critical, people striving, a man with six children in Egypt, as you mentioned. How do we remake it really better for the people?
We’re going to have a somewhat more technical, somewhat more economic focus set of discussions throughout this conference, but again, to me it comes back to the people. What are we really trying to do at the end of the day to provide for them, and I hope we all think about that.
And with that, let me thank each of you very, very much. Thank the audience, and we appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)