THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
HOW SHOULD THE TRANSATLANTIC COMMUNITY RESPOND TO THE ARAB SPRING?
WELCOME AND MODERATOR:
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL
FORMER PRIME MINISTER,
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES (RET.).
FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
LIEUTENANT GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT (RET.)
FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011
Federal News Service
BAHAA HARIRI: I mean, I think the – like General Scowcroft said, that the army is – the Alawi – when the decision to dissolve the Iraqi army was done, I was sitting with my father. And he put his hand, and he said – (laughter) – he did like this. You know? What decision is this? It’s a disaster. All what they have to do – and by his words – is the leadership should change, but the army should stay intact.
So here you have virtually the same example as you had in Iraq. So you don’t dissolve the army; there is just a certain leadership because at the end of the day, Syria is ruled by what? By a Sunni – by Alawi minority ruling a super Sunni majority. So the army is – and it’s majority-Sunni. So yeah, if you play your cards well on the military issue, it’s the same issue as Iraq.
FREDERICK KEMPE: Thank you very much, please –
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman. Thank you very much for a very, very useful and interesting discussion. I have two very brief questions, which probably sound more like editorial comments. First, nobody refreshingly mentioned East Asia, China or India in a different context. And I wonder how you would balance out what’s happening in the Arab Spring writ large with our interests in that part of the Pacific.
And for Shaukat Aziz, if you were in government or advising government, how would you get an investigation done that was credible, and indeed, really got to the bottom of the issue about who knew what and when they knew it?
MR. KEMPLE: So General Jones, do you want to handle the first question? And then Shaukat Aziz –
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES: Well, Harlan, I think that – you know, the answer to that is obviously that people are watching this extremely closely. I just got back from Korea, and we talked about, you know, China a great deal in terms of how they might be thinking about these things.
In watching the phenomenon of the so-called Arab Spring, it’s clear, I think, at least from my standpoint, that any regime that is autocratic and, you know, very controlling in this new age is going to have to think twice about when this act could be coming in a neighborhood – a theater near them. And China would not be any exception; I think there’s huge contradictions for the Chinese to deal with in terms of their own future, and other countries that have this autocratic, kind of controlling aspect of the society.
It’s clear to me that the 21st century presents itself as one in which that is going to be a very difficult way to govern. And so they’re going to have to – it’s going to have some ripple effects I think that go out far and wide.
MR. KEMPE: You’re back in charge, Mr. Prime Minister.
SHAUKAT AZIZ: Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: I want you to – yep.
MR. AZIZ: I think what we would need is obviously a combination of civil and military leadership, along with parliamentary involvement, to find out what really happened, and where things worked and where things didn’t work.
It cannot be just one aspect of – Pakistan has a complex governance structure. So the parliament is active; the parliamentary committees are very active. That, along with military personnel, can get to the bottom of this particular situation quite quickly.
I think the facts are probably available; I don’t have them because I’m not in government anymore. But I think a small group of such people, knowing that the whole world is watching, and there are many ways of checking and double-checking what went on, you could get some interesting results very quickly as to exactly where things were dropped and where they were not dropped, and there were other reasons for what happened.
MR. KEMPE: Please.
GEN. JONES: Just a follow-on comment. You know, I completely agree with what General Scowcroft said. I would just add another point to this, is that I participated in two major humanitarian operations in Pakistan in a – from a command-and-control standpoint. First one was the earthquake that NATO responded to, and the second one, of course, was the very serious floods that the U.S. and many other countries responded to.
You know, one of the things that really is going to affect the bilateral relationship, I think, is some honest dialogue in Pakistan about what they – what Pakistanis want this relationship to be. On the one hand, the mood of the electorate here in our country and in terms of at a time of economic distress is going to – it’s difficult to accept the fact that we can provide all of these things and do all of these things that everybody accepts, at the same time not benefit from any kind of internal campaign in Pakistan that gives us any credit for it.
And so I think the leadership of Pakistan, military especially, has to decide whether they think we’re good guys or bad guys. And if they think we’re good guys, then give us some – give us some recognition and start helping us with the popular opinion in Pakistan, which is terrible right now, I mean, in terms of the U.S.
I mean, I’ve been to Pakistan; I’ve traveled beyond Islamabad; I’ve been out to the Swat Valley, and you can feel in the popular rank and file the animus towards the United States. And that’s got to change because otherwise you don’t – you can’t have – no matter how important strategically it is, you’re never going to get the Congress to vote for the largesse and the resources that are necessary at a critical moment in time.
So I think this dialogue to the extent that Pakistani authorities – don’t fool yourselves about how serious this moment is. I think the prime minister is exactly right, but it’s going to take honesty and really clear thinking to be able to move past this point. And that’s something that, with all due respect, that the leadership has somehow been unable to come to grips with.
MR. AZIZ: One thing –
MR. KEMPE: Yep.
MR. AZIZ: I think as I said earlier, I’ll just re-emphasize again, this is a window of opportunity. The Pakistani leadership, civil and military – that’s why I said everybody has to be on one page – has the capacity to do what General Jones just mentioned. But the time has come to do it.
MR. KEMPE: That’s right. Yeah, if you – there are inflection points where something like this breaks cement. And so suddenly, you can get things done that perhaps you couldn’t get – got done. So I think the bin Laden killing offers that opportunity. But then the (summata ?) comes back together again. And so I think you’re absolutely right.
I see two questions. I see Paula and – we’ll take the two right next to each other there, please.
Q: Thank you. Paula Stern, member of the executive council of the Atlantic Council. I would like to follow on the conversation that General Jones in his last response to Harlan was on, and that was this reference to China and how trends may or may not be the same as those that we’ve been discussing here in North Africa, the Middle East and in Pakistan, Afghanistan.
And I want to talk about economics, and ask you to talk about the economics because I think the role of jobs, unemployment and demography, the youth, all have that in common except in China where they’re aging and – (chuckles) – where there are jobs.
So I do believe that if we are talking what these new opportunities with these two centers of coordination, and the issues of economic rights and the right to have a job, I’d like to hear what your thinking is about how we pull in those trends – the demographic and the economic trends – in these new centers that we’re standing up.
MR. KEMPE: And to whom would you like to pose that question? And then –
Q: I’d be happy to hear it from any of the leadership on the podium.
MR. KEMPE: OK, great. Please. And – yes, yeah. Thank you.
Q: I’m Major David Buffalo (sp). You can probably guess I’m with the U.S. Army. General Jones painted a picture of where we should be in 10 years, from what I saw, with democratic institutions with generation-skipping technologies across the Arab world.
In relation to the Arab Spring, though, he also mentioned strategic patience, which seems to be the route that we are all taking across the trans-Atlantic community. My fear is that the young people who created this uprising do not have strategic patience; they want change now.
And building off of Paula’s question, you know, what can we do from a national security standpoint, from a trans-Atlantic standpoint to assist this, whether it’s economic – political in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, whether it’s military where atrocities are taking place in Libya, Syria, and understanding also that there’s a trust deficit between the trans-Atlantic community and the Arab world that that somehow needs to be eliminated among both sides? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Let me call – General Scowcroft first, and the – yep. Please.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT: To deal with Paula’s question, to me, the best answer to what’s going on in China is the way the Chinese regime is responding. And they are scared; they are worried. There is a major crackdown going on. And this is not just youth; it’s not just economics; it’s not just employment.
To me, the fundamental thing – and I’m not sure it’s democracy; I think it’s dignity. I think people see that they have been treated like cattle for so long that there’s been a small group around the leadership enriching itself at the expense of the people. And I think it’s that sort of cry for dignity that the Chinese are worried about.
I think – internally, I think the Iranians have to be. And that is what is spurring it, much less than economic poverty. There was some of that in the Egyptian case; there’s no question about that. But it’s accelerated – and then, the Tunisian case. But in most of these, it is not economics. It is dignity.
MR. KEMPE: Do you want to deal with the youth issue? And also, I would add to the question – Radek Sikorski, the foreign minister of Poland, and John McCain were actually here in the Ritz with an Atlantic Council event. And one of the things Radek argued was that while in Poland, the youth and the people of that time knew what they didn’t want, they also knew what they did want. They knew what they didn’t want, and they knew what they did want. And they would then went after it.
Is it as clear in the Middle East – what these revolutions are about, what they do want beyond dignity?
MR. HARIRI: Yes. It’s absolutely clear because, again, like General Scowcroft said, that we are living in an interconnected world. People know what is going on in the United States, whether it’s a TV show or a movie or watching the news or traveling or reading the Internet; people are so well-connected.
And then, what happened is, this youth that has been – I call it the “Internet youth,” you know, they see the – they see the change, and they see in the region – it’s like a frozen, not going anywhere, going – staying into a certain circle, even in Pakistan.
So they are seeing the change outside. And where they are living all over the Arab world, it’s not going anywhere. Before that generation, the generation before wasn’t connected the way this new generation is – like General Scowcroft said, family, get the children up, educate them, have a normal life, that’s it. Today, the world is interconnected. Connection doesn’t cost anything. So they will not accept to live a normal life; they want to express their opinion; they want to have a right to say in leadership; they want transparency; they want economic benefit. And they want a change in the system.
And this is what – I think the Arab leadership in Tunisia, let’s say, didn’t see this change. They did not. And they paid the price for it. So I truly think that their demands are legitimate. And there’s nothing to fear about such demands.
MR. KEMPE: But let me take – and there are so many questions. Let me take these two right here. Please, you may – why don’t you go first, Jill?
Q: Thank you. Jill Shooker. There was a report in The Wall Street Journal, Fred’s former home, this last week that the prime minister of Pakistan had gone to see Karzai, and specifically said that the U.S. was not to be trusted – I’m clearly bringing this to just highlights – not to be trusted, and that Pakistan as well as Afghanistan should turn to China.
I’d be very interested in your reflections on both the accuracy as well as the validity of that point of view.
MR. KEMPE: Can I – because we’re getting down to our last 10 minutes, I wonder if I can pick up a few questions, and then come back to you since there’s so many questions, please.
Q: Oda Aberdeen (ph). Fred, can you tell us about the relationship between the Scowcroft Center and the Hariri Center? To General Scowcroft and General Jones, Saudi Arabia is one of the critical countries in the region; we haven’t talked about it. How do you see the U.S.-Saudi relationship in view of what’s happening in Iran, in view of what’s happening in Egypt and Bahrain? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: OK, so we’ll store that up. Georgette, and then I have two questions here. And I’m really sorry; there’s just been so many questions. Yeah.
Q: Just to take on from the point he made, to avoid further military involvement in the region, shouldn’t we be encouraging regional allies such as Saudi Arabia, and I would add Turkey to that, to help – to take a hand in guiding the turbulence? And what would that do to the geopolitical look of the region if they did?
MR. KEMPE: And I think we can talk a little bit about the Turkey role in Syria that’s being talked about a little bit right now. And then, the two questions right here. And very quickly so we can get – yeah.
Q: I’ve only heard two mentions of Saudi Arabia. I’d like to hear some more consideration of Saudi Arabia for at least four reasons: the first is, that it’s the guardian of the holy places; the second is, that the bin Laden family came from Saudi Arabia and Yemen; the third is that the Saudis have not exactly reacted delicately when it came to responding to Shia threats in places like Bahrain; and the fourth is oil. What should the United States policy towards Saudi Arabia be now?
MR. KEMPE: Please.
Q: Thank you. Terry Murphy, CSIS. Not even a question – I can’t put one to these statesmen. A couple of quick points, comments on Mr. Aziz’s early comments –
MR. KEMPE: If you could make them questions, because –
Q: Yes, very, very quickly – your question about freedom – your comments about freedom: We just had a major in uniform asking very tough questions to two senior generals and a prime minister. Just very quickly – (laughter) – that’s the kind of freedom that we have, and there are many others – you were challenged by your media; I’m sure it was uncomfortable. It’s freedom.
Just any comments that you would like to make on that summary point would be welcome.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. And then one last question. And I do apologize to those I didn’t get to.
Q: Atul Singh. I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of Fair Observer. And my question is to General Scowcroft. You said, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been difficult and will need long-term engagement. My question to you is, in the light of the past, can the U.S. – or again, Pakistan – in the light of domestic policy constraints and considerations, given the notoriously short attention span of democracies, promise any long-term engagement?
Now, I say that because the Congress may pass an act; there might be another press contact in Pakistan. You have many, many power centers. And things might change; things are fluid. So is that even possible? Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: OK, we’ll work through these, and I’ll try to remember what I’ve remembered. And you can all remember – (laughter) – and what I’ll do – what I’ll do is I’ll actually go down the line for last comments, and then pick up these questions where you want to. And I’ll try to prod where I don’t see them answered.
My answer is on how the centers will work together. We have functional centers at the Atlantic Council, and we have regional centers. The Brent Scowcroft Center is sort of the mother-father, whatever, of all functional centers. It’s the core – it’s the core of the Atlantic Council’s work. And then we have a Transatlantic Relations center; we have an Energy and Environment program; we have a Global Business and Economics program; and we have a successor generation program. These are the functional.
Then, we have regional. And regional, now, we have Africa, and the Middle East, South Asia, Eurasia. And so they work together. And as the Scowcroft Center works international security issues, it will work with the Hariri Center on international security issues to do with the greater Middle East – the Middle East and North Africa.
So we’ve really done a good job of breaking down silos at the Atlantic Council. And these programs and centers work ever better together; it’s not perfect yet, but we’re getting there. So that’s my answer on that question.
And maybe we’ll start with Prime Minister Aziz and work our way down. Yep.
MR. AZIZ: There have been a few – ma’am, your question was about the meeting as reported in The Wall Street Journal. My information is that that government has denied this – the Pakistani government and the prime minister have denied. And knowing the players, the prime minister and President Karzai, I think their denial – to me, without talking to anybody – carries some weight.
I doubt they would get into a discussion like that even if they wanted to because Afghanistan and Pakistan are pretty close, but the trust deficit is still there. So you would never open a discussion like this where you have other issues on the table.
On the Middle East economic issue, let me just quickly respond that in any economy, and most of the Middle Eastern economies are developing economies, the one thing which we haven’t talked about is the need for structural reform to improve and develop the economy. Now, this is a long subject that I will not get into, except to say that that program has to be well-crafted for each country with the clear objective in the current situation for growth – because that you need to create jobs – and then equitable distribution of wealth, meaning of income.
So if these are the two pillars, and I don’t mean to imply these are all inclusive, then you’ll get some dividends which will affect the potential demographic challenges which you face. Every country in the region requires that – rich, or less rich or even poor – and the quality of that program will determine how quickly you bridge this gap.
If you don’t bridge this gap, then you will see some of the situations which are in front of us today. That’s not the only reason they are there today, but this is one contributing factor.
GEN. JONES: When I was commandant of the Marine Corps, I gave a lecture at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. And a major stood up and asked a very difficult question, and I didn’t really want to answer it, so I gave him a wave-off answer, took another question. And I could see out of the corner of my eye that he was not happy with my answer, and he stood up again and re-posed the question politely, and I again waved him off and took another couple of – and he stood up a third time – (laughter) – and finally, after he posed the question a third time, I said, you know, Major, you’re really asking difficult questions.
And he said, well, sir, with all due respect, you didn’t get to be commandant by asking easy questions along the way. I said, no, but it helped me make lieutenant colonel. (Laughter.)
MR. : Good one; good one.
GEN. JONES: But I particularly appreciate that question because I think it’s very important, and it’s – it really is a long answer, so I won’t try to – and I’d be happy to stay behind and talk to you. But I really believe that the fundamental answer to your question is, the central concept of constitutes national security has changed. And it is much more inclusive; it’s much more of a whole-of-government concept. In the 21st century, national security was the Defense Department, a little bit of the State Department and maybe a little bit of the National Security Council, and everybody else was on the outside looking in.
Now, if you look – if you look at what we talk about with national security, all of the asymmetric threats that you know better than I – energy, you know, is a big portion of our national and international security. And American leadership in the 21st century is going to be, in my view, determined by our ability not only to harness our own system and change our own institutions so that we move it – we move – we turn the ship or state into the correct winds of the 21st century, but also to recognize that it is going to be more of a holistic leadership, not a top-down thing. People have got to participate in their future, and we have got to find the ways to let them do that.
And so from my standpoint, it comes to basically the proper application of three essential pillars of national security: engagement in the world; security, very important – that’s not gone away – but in conjunction with governance and rule of law, helping people achieve the transparency that we talked about; and third, the promise of a better future – dignity and all of these things are very, very important. It is certainly about that.
But at the end of the day, I think the autocratic – the good news is that the dictators of the 20th century are going to have a very tough time surrounding – I mean, of surviving – in this century. And it’s only a matter of time till the Arab Spring comes to a theater near them.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much, General Jones. Please.
MR. HARIRI: I truly believe that the change is inevitable and irreversible. And this is why the Atlantic should be very active in it because engaging is the best way. Isolation will not lead you to anywhere. And I truly believe that convergence between the blocs in the region is also a must because these values are well-enshrined in the United States and Europe, and also Russia to a certain extent. You know, the new Russian generation is very critical of supporting democracy and transparency and human rights. So I truly believe this is something that we cannot avoid, we have to face, we have to embrace and to comprehend, and say – and protect to make sure that this transition is a successful transition.
I, from the region – we are from the moderate camp; we suffered. But we have to keep on going. We hope that any regime in the region would comprehend and understand the needs of its people. In Syria, we hope that they understand that this is something – these are rights that has to be considered and taken into consideration. Nobody wants anarchy; nobody wants a mess. The United States doesn’t want a mess in Egypt or Syria or Palestine. Through dialogue, things can happen properly.
So for me, my wish, not to have a violent transition but a smooth transition. The Atlantic Council should play a very pivotal role in this – on this issue.
MR. KEMPE: General Scowcroft, Saudi Arabia has not been answered yet – a role of Turkey. And then, there was the question of domestic politics and whether we have lasting power. And maybe we’ll end with those questions, and anyone else who wants to jump in on them can. And then we’ll close.
Of course, we did have patience with Europe after World War II, and the outcome was a good one. Why can’t we summon that kind of thing –
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: I think we did have patience in Europe. I think we make a mistake, though, when we look at what happened at the end of the Cold War and the liberation of Eastern Europe with what’s going on now. That was liberation from communist regimes imposed by the Soviet Union. There was a strong nationalist impact to that.
As a matter of fact, in Hungary, the revolt took place within the communist party. So that’s a – it’s a very different motivation than this. And the United States, after the collapse of colonialism in the Middle East, I think, adopted in general a policy of stability – you know, just, things are going well; we need access to oil, and so on; just let them run. We recognized the difficulties that were brewing with generational changes, but that’s over now.
But what I urge we do, there is no simple blanket for all these. Each one of these countries has its own unique aspects to it. And what works in one place will not necessarily work in another place. They all have different internal problems, whether they’re religious, ethnic, whatever. I think we need to put our long-range glasses on now – this is just chapter one – and start to analyze what the situation is, where we go.
We have, for example, in our reaction so far, deeply alienated the Saudi government because from their perspective, they say, is this the way the United States treats its friends when they get in trouble, looking at Mubarak?
Now, those are the kinds of things we have to deal with. And the Saudis are a particular problem, but they have their own particular issues. And we have to be more far-sighted and look down the road: Where do we think we can end up by encouraging change, by resisting certain kinds of change? And I think we need a very individualistic approach to this region, not a regional approach because I think we’ll do at least as much harm as we do good if we apply a single nostrum to deal with the issue.
MR. KEMPE: Anyone want to make a last disagreement?
GEN. JONES: I mean, I think I completely agree with that. And we fall into a trap when we try to apply a certain doctrine. You know, everybody wants to put a name associated with a doctrine as though you’re going to be able to take this cookie-cutter approach, put it down on top of a situation, and somehow it’s all going to work out. That’s not the case; as a matter of fact, the Soviet Union made a bad mistake thinking that we adhere to our own military doctrine – because we don’t – (laughter). They studied it for a long time, and it took them a long time to figure out that we don’t – we have a flexible doctrine militarily.
But you need flexibility in how you impose your solutions. And I think General Scowcroft is absolutely correct: What works in one place is not going to be a solution in another, but it’ll be some element of that. It’s just a different configuration.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, General Jones. I am tempted, however, by Bahaa Hariri’s convergence doctrine, which is a nice way of thinking about how to – at least rather than the strategic doctrine, it’s a tactical “how do we actually deal with each other.” So I’m happy about that.
Let me close this now; I just want to say thank you to these gentlemen. It’s such an honor to work with all four of you. And on behalf of everyone at the Atlantic Council, I want to thank you for this panel which was fascinating. But General Scohoff (ph) – Scowcroft – (chuckles) – General Scowcroft, Bahaa Hariri, General Jones and Shaukat Aziz, I want to thank you on behalf of everyone at the Atlantic Council for what you’re doing for our relationship to the regions we’re dealing with, for the trans-Atlantic relationship and for the Atlantic Council. Thank you very much.
LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT: It’s an honor.
GEN. JONES: Thank you.