THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL OF THE UNITED STATES
UNCERTAIN FORECAST IN NORTH AFRICA: PREVENTING THE “ARAB SPRING” FROM BECOMING THE “SEASON OF DISCONTENT?”
PANEL 1: REFORM, REVOLUTION, OR REPRESSION? FINDING POSITIVE PATHS FORWARD FOR A REGION IN TRANSITION
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2011
9:30 AM – 10:45 AM
J. PETER PHAM, DIRECTOR, MICHAEL S. ANSARI AFRICA CENTER, ACUS
GEOFFREY PORTER, PRINCIPAL, NORTH AFRICA POLITICAL RISK CONSULTING, INC.
ANTHONY J. CORDESMAN, ARLEIGH A. BURKE CHAIR IN STRATEGY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
YONAH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR TERRORISM STUDIES, POTOMAC INSTITTUE FOR POLICY STUDIES
HON. EDWARD M. GABRIEL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO
Federal News Service
J. PETER PHAM: Good morning. I’m Peter Pham, the director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center here at the Atlantic Council. And on behalf of our chairman, Senator Chuck Hagel, and our president, Fred Kempe, I’d like to welcome all of you here today to the Atlantic Council and to this discussion.
A warm word of welcome also to those who are joining us from the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies via video teleconference link. The Atlantic Council was founded 50 years ago to promote trans-Atlantic relations and U.S. engagement with Europe in global leadership. So it’s wonderful that they’re joining us via video conference and sharing the benefits of this morning.
If I may be permitted a word on the Ansari Africa Center, the Africa Center was founded in late 2009 with a mission to help transform U.S. and European policy approaches to the entire continent of Africa from one primarily focused on donor aid to one anchored in strong geopolitical partnerships with African states and strengthen economic growth and prosperity on the continent. Within the context of the Atlantic Council’s work to promote constructive engagement and U.S. and European leadership in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in global challenges, an important part of our work at Ansari Africa Center is to engage and inform policymakers, as well as the general public, of the strategic importance of Africa, globally and as well as for our own parochial interest, through programming, publications, as well as a robust media presence. So I welcome you to this event and, hopefully, we succeed in making some of those objectives through this event.
Certainly one might ask why this is so important to the U.S. Certainly one looks back to U.S. engagement in this region and goes back to the North Africa region in particular to the very founding of the American public. There’s – if you’ll bear with me – goes back actually to 1777, when Mohammed III, Muhammad Ben Abdullah, the sultan of Morocco was the first sovereign to actually recognize the independence of the U.S. when he sent a diplomatic note around to the various counsels posted in his kingdom that Americans were among the nations and citizens whose ships were welcome in Moroccan ports. And this year there’s a particular anniversary with recording: the 225th anniversary since 1786, the Treaty of Friendship, with its additional article and ships signal agreement, the oldest treaty of friendship that the United States has still in existence and arguably the oldest security agreement still in existence, signed by Thomas Barclay, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams with Morocco.
This is also a region which was helped by dint of its military challenges shape the foundation of the federal government in the United States. The ambassador of Israel to the United States in his previous incarnation as Ivy League academic points out – makes the interesting thesis in his book on America’s role in the Middle East – the role of the Barbary War in shaping the federalism in the United States and the creation of our national government, and certainly the proximity to our European allies, the proximity of North Africa, the status of Morocco as an associate of the European Union, points to its importance – the importance of our topic this morning as a trans-Atlantic topic; also the importance of this topic of North Africa, the status of the revolutions, the results, the reforms to Africa, the impact on Africa of what’s going on in the northern part of the continent when we deal with the continent as a whole. But also I make the argument that there’s also – that dialogue goes both ways – lessons for Africa, from what’s going on in North Africa, but also perhaps some lessons from sub-Saharan Africa back to the transitions going on in North Africa.
If you’ll indulge me as an Africanist, pointing out that for example, major upheaval in system of government or regime that had been in place for a long time, the South African case, probably – gives us probably six pointers that we might bear in mind fruitfully in our deliberations: one, that transitions require time for groups to emerge, to develop cohesion and political leadership; two, that political and strategic deadlocks are not necessarily bad things if they can be used constructively to facilitate dialogue within society and democratic change; some conflict is unavoidable, but the goal is to limit and to contain it; fourthly, the need for constructive reform within the transition period; fifthly, the importance of economic and social reforms to bring in those who’ve been previously marginalized; and the finally, the need for the process to be internally driven and a process that’s organic, the system, rather than one that’s imposed from the outside. And we see all six of those in the South African transition, so maybe some points to bear in mind as we look at transitions in North Africa.
Today, we’ve put together two really stellar panels that I’m very grateful to the panelists who’ve agreed to join us – some with great sacrifice on their schedule and even their well-bring, especially those who just arrived quite literally – I know at least two of our panelists came back just in the last 24 hours or less from extensive travel abroad. So I’m very grateful for their presence this morning.
I’m also grateful for the presence of those of you who’ve joined us, a number of distinguished guests. In particular, I point out my good friend, Professor Mohammed Benhammou, the head of the Moroccan Center for Strategic Studies, and also the current president of the African Federation for Strategic Studies who is in Washington and joins us this morning. So we’re grateful for and honored by your presence and that of others here.
With that, let me proceed to introducing our first panel.
Our program this morning runs in two panels, where each panel is asked to speak on their assigned themes for between 10, 15 minutes and then leave time for dialogue between the panelists, friendly disagreements, whatever have you, and as well as have an question-and-answer both from the audience from here and then we’ll be receiving questions via email from our audience in Garmisch, Germany.
The panelists, you’ve got their biographies in the program that was handed to you, so I won’t consume their valuable time, because I think you’re much more interested in hearing them than hearing a recital of their very distinguished resumes. But we’ll begin this morning with Dr. Geoff Porter, who is the principal of the Northern African Risk Consultancy, and a long-time observer who brings us not only subject matter expertise in the region, but also I think something that’s a good balance for those of us in the think-tank world: relations with the business community and business sector.
And he’ll be followed by Dr. Anthony Cordesman who holds the Arleigh Burke chair at the Center for Strategic International Studies, certainly one of the distinguished students of strategy and security issues and practioners in this town who needs no further introductions from me.
And then he’ll be followed by Dr. Yonah Alexander from the Potomac Institute, another very distinguished figure whose lengthy curriculum vitae is available in your programs, and a great scholar of not only this region but also — currently also the editor of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Journal and distinguished fellow.
And then finally, rounding off our panel, we’re very honored to have Ambassador Ed Gabriel, who served as America’s ambassador in Morocco, and distinguished businessman, communicator and, again, to round off our panel.
So without further ado from me, I’d like to turn the floor over to Geoff. Thank you.
GEOFF PORTER: Well, thank you. I just want to thank Dr. Pham for inviting me down here. I flew in from New York this morning, and I want to assure you that New York is as hot as D.C. is. I also want to thank the Atlantic Council for hosting me today. And it’s a real pleasure to speak with you about the Arab Spring and some of the events that have transpired since January – or December of 2010 and January of 2001.
I just want to say first of all that I was trained as a historian, which gives me a lot of pleasure and actually gives me an excuse for not having anticipated anything that’s transpired since – during the course of the Arab Spring. I think every political scientist has some explaining to do, and every political scientist model about transition or succession scenarios in the Middle East has been – has been disproved in the last three months.
I just want to – my comments today are going to focus on three main observations about the Arab Spring and what has taken place. And bear with me: Some of these are shockingly simple, but I think they bear mentioning, and some of them are I think a little bit more nuanced and I may spend a little less time on them and leave them – leave them for discussion.
Just for example, one of the most simplistic observations that we’ve seen over the course of the Arab Spring is that, in fact, every country in the Middle East and North Africa is different. Despite a regional grouping, one is at – you know, at pains to make comparisons between Tunisia and Egypt. It’s hard to say the events that transpired in Egypt are likely to unfold in Algeria, that the domestic and international circumstances of each country makes the likelihood of a transition in government there different from one capital to another, but it also makes the implications of the revolutions in each country different.
Another thing that’s worth mentioning, and also potentially remedial or relatively simplistic, but historians and political scientists have known and observed for a long time, based on the events that have unfolded in other revolutions and rebellions, is that rebellions and revolutions depend upon the participation of the elite and you need, at some point, for the elite to buy into the protests, to buy into the rebellion, and that will ultimately determine a rebellion or revolution’s success or failure.
The last observation is that it’s generally the combination of these two, the domestic and international circumstances, plus the willingness of the elite to participate in a rebellion or revolution that determines how the succession transpires, how long it takes to unfold and what the ultimate outcome in the new government is going to be.
So there are some other observations that could be made based on the events that have occurred over the last couple of months. Some of them are less compelling than others. There’s a lot of talk about the resurgence in Arab nationalism or the mistake in having counted out Arab nationalism, having said that Arab nationalism is dead. I think the jury is still out on this issue, whether we’re actually witnessing a resurgence of Arab nationalism or whether we’re just simply seeing the participation of a community that speaks a common language. You know, when you – when you tweet in Arabic or in the fake Arabic characters that people are using now as sort of the Latinized Arabic or whether you have a Facebook page in Arabic, you have a – there’s a certain facility and there’s a certain community that grows around this. But this community may in fact be different from an Arab nationalistic community. So I think, you know, it determine – it’s yet to be seen how – the degree to which Arab nationalism has been embodied or has been revived in the – in the Arab Spring.
You know, at the same time, we’ve got Anthony Shadid writing in The New York Times about the resurgence of nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire. And he wrote it – I read it in the Herald-Tribune. I’m not sure when it was actually published in the Times. But, you know, the Ottoman. The Ottoman Empire was, you know, to say the least, hostile to Arab nationalism, very hostile to Arab nationalism. And it’s something that Shadeed acknowledges in his article, but nonetheless, these two ideas seem to be antithetical. On the one hand the Arab Spring epitomizes the resurgence or renaissance of Arab nationalism, on the other hand, you have the potential for the resurgence or nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire.
Another observation that we’ve seen, which I’m certainly not all qualified to talk about, is the role of social networking in having brought about protest movements, having brought about the coalesce of large parts of the Egyptian population, the Tunisian population, the Libyan population, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen in protest against the government. I just got on Twitter, and as far as I can tell – and I’m certainly no expert – Twitter is very good for making a lot of noise, but it’s not very good for expressing nuanced ideas. And there are certainly plenty of people here in D.C. who are much more component at talking about the role of social networking in having brought about the Arab Spring, having perpetuated the Arab Spring and potentially bringing about future changes in the Middle East and North Africa, but I’m not one of them.
So this brings me back to my free fundamental and perhaps simplistic observations. The first one is simply that, you know, every country is different. Every country is a hodge-podge of domestic circumstances, international relations. And these conditions that are unique to each country reflect how the revolutions or rebellions unfold.
You know, if we take the example of Tunisia, Tunisia is – was an interesting case study. And I don’t think many people had anticipated that what transpired in Tunisia would actually lead to what we have today in Cairo or in Benghazi or in Damascus or in Manama. You know, if – Tunisia was a country that had almost no geostrategic importance. It was very closely tied to Paris and Washington. It didn’t have any or much interference with its neighbors. Relations with its neighbors to the east and west were fairly curtailed and primarily focused on its relations to the north. It didn’t have a large military component. It had a large secular population. Even the Islamist Party, which has now been reconstituted, is largely a very moderate Islamist party. It has strong technocratic capability. And I think from the perspective of the West, from Paris and Washington, and perhaps London and The Hague as well, Tunisia was low-hanging fruit, that Tunisia – a revolution could unfold there with a strong likelihood of success and with very little post-revolution investment from the West, you could probably see Tunisia transition to a democratic and free market country.
Egypt was a much more different calculus, and it responded to its own unique set of circumstances. Just to begin with, on the international level, obviously Egypt has a profound and significant geostrategic position. It’s a strong ally of the United States. It has a peace treaty with Israel. It has an enormous population. It has a de facto statist economy, having the intertwining of the military and so-called SOEs or quasi-private companies. It also has, unlike Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, I think the – what happens with the Muslim Brotherhood is still an open question, how it positions itself. What its ideology actually turns out to be is still undetermined. But the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a source of tremendous anxiety here in Washington, but also in London and Paris and The Hague. These have determined how the revolution has unfolded and how – the degree of international involvement in Cairo’s revolution.
Libya itself is again a unique country, and the Arab Spring there has unfolded differently from the way it did in Tunisia and Egypt. You know, despite his brief return in 2004, you know, Gadhafi, Colonel Gadhafi, has always been a pariah. And one of the things that determines the course of the revolution and the rebellion in Benghazi I think is the fact that Gadhafi has nowhere else to go. You know, Ben Ali had some place to go. Mubarak had allies within the military who would at least vouchsafe his health and well-being while he might be incarcerated. But Gadhafi has no place to go, and he still has no place to go, and that has determined and has been a huge determinant in the way in which the rebellion has unfolded there.
Likewise, you know, Libya plays a much more significant role in the global economy than either Tunisia or Egypt, and I’m speaking primarily in this case about oil. The – I don’t have the exact dollar figures – and I’m not sure oil traders do either – but there’s certainly upward pressure on oil prices due to the Libya risk premium, the fact that there’s 1.4 million, 1.8 million barrels a day of light sweet crude pulled of the market because of the conflict in Libya has pushed up oil prices to the point where they’re jeopardizing the global economic recovery, and so there’s a huge economic role that Libya places and the Libyan revolution plays in the global economy, and that determines the degree to which, you know, the West or NATO will get involved in the conflict there and determine the outcome of the Benghazi rebellion.
Another example – not to belabor this point – is Syria. Syria faces its own set of unique of unique circumstances. The Syria one can challenge whether Syria is, in fact, the uncontested sovereign within its own borders. The role that Saudi Arabia plays, the role that Iran played, the role that Saudi Arabia plays in Lebanon, the role that Iran plays in Damascus, all impact the ways in which the international community is willing to step into the Syrian conflict to protect civilian populations, to curtail the activities of Bashar al-Assad and to try to limit his own crackdown against his population.
So again, a unique set of circumstances. Perhaps the Syrian protesters are responding to the Arab Spring. There’s a sense of common experience shared amongst the Syrians and the Egyptians and the Tunisians and the Libyans. But the ways in which they are able to carry out their revolution is curtailed or is determined by the specific set of circumstances in each country.
This brings me to my second point, which is – that I had raised earlier, that the participation of the elite is ultimately critical in the ways in which these revolutions transpire. One of the things that we saw in the very early days of the Tunisian revolution was the willingness of the elites to join the sides of the protesters, and we saw very early on, very fast elite fracture within the Ben Ali camp. Ben Ali fled and we had a new government within three weeks – well, an interim government.
In Egypt, I’m sure everybody has their own story to tell about their friends who they know in Cairo who went down to Tahrir and joined the protests, and I’m sure everybody, more importantly, has a story to tell about their friends’ fathers or mothers who left their jobs and went down to Tahrir to join the protests. My own story is from an Egyptian analyst. His father is a successful businessman. The analyst has been studying and monitoring Algeria for about – or Egypt for about a decade. And he was sort of, you know, reticent about the Tahrir protests until he got a call from his father on his cellphone that his father was in Tahrir. And once he got the call from his father, he knew that this time was different, that the revolution was going to be successful, because his father, a 70-year-old businessman, left his job to join the protesters and you had the full-on participation of the elite in the protests which ultimately led to the toppling of Mubarak.
Libya, we’re also seeing elite fracture, particular from the Gadhafi camp. It’s much slower. It’s much more glacial. But certainly without the participation of the elite, the fracturing of the elite from Tripoli, their defections to Tunis or to Rome or ultimately to Benghazi, you know, I think the rebels would be at a much more significant disadvantage. And one of the things that we are – that the NATO campaign is trying to do, that the international community is trying to do, is speed up that process of elite fracture and break away supporters – significant supporters from Gadhafi and lead to an ultimate regime change.
The counter example to this, of course, is Algeria. In Algeria, there have been periodic popular protests throughout the capital, primarily down in the – in the center city, but there have also been protests in other secondary cities in Algeria. But one thing we haven’t seen, and I don’t think we’re likely to see, is the participation of the elite. The elite in Algeria are content with the current situation. They are content with the political process such as it is, and they are content with the way that the economy is unfolding. So without the participation of the elite in Algeria, there will be periodic popular protests, but it’s unlikely to lead to regime change.
So this brings me to Morocco, and just a couple comments on this and then I’ll conclude my statement and pass the microphone to Dr. Cordesman.
You know, Morocco is a – is a fascinating country, and I’m a – I started traveling to Morocco in 1986, and I spent most of the 1990s living in Morocco. And it’s remained – it remained very, very dear to me on a personal level, in addition to a professional level.
You know, Morocco, I think, is like Egypt. It’s a geostrategicially critical country for the United States. It sits obviously on the Strait of Gibraltar, which is a strategic chokepoint for both the U.S. Navy moving in and out of the Atlantic Basin, but also for oil flows moving out of North Africa into the Atlantic Basin and serving terminals in the U.K. and on the Eastern Seaboard here in the U.S. It – Morocco maintains very strong ties with Washington. It’s a major non-NATO ally of the United States. It maintains very strong ties with Paris, less so with Madrid, but nonetheless the diplomatic ties with Madrid remain open and communications are clear. It – Morocco has limited engagements with its neighbors both to the east and also to the south. There is – unlike Syria, I think there is no question about Morocco’s sovereignty; Morocco’s sovereignty, Havat sovereignty remains contested and entirely coherent within its own borders. The monarchy, which is the seat of this sovereignty is a sound institution. It has made gradual progress over the last two decades. I think we have to look at Morocco in the long duree. But Morocco has made gradual progress over the last two decades towards democratization, towards human rights, towards rights for women, towards rights for minorities. I remember when I first began traveling to Morocco that there was no Berber on TV. Now you can turn on the TV and see every show duplicated in Berber.
The economy is also growing. I’m sure that people who have traveled to Morocco over the last two or three decades have recognized that the massive investment in infrastructure, the changes in consumer retail, consumer goods, the increasing use of Morocco as an offshoring destination by European countries, both for customer service representatives but also for manufacturing, the increasing integration of Morocco’s north into the European economies – we’re starting to see a real flourishing of economic activity to the extent that if you go to Marrakesh or if you go to Rabat, you’ll see young Europeans working as waiters and waitresses – you know, young French just out of school will take a job as a waiter or waitress in Morocco rather than staying in Europe. You’re seeing a lot of Moroccan families or second-generation Moroccans who were born in France returning to Morocco to participate in the economic activity there, which is much more dynamic than it is in France itself.
Lastly, you know, people I think refer to the elite as a dirty word, unless it’s part of a frequent flyer program or a hotel loyalty program, which then has a sort of cheaper quality to it. But, you know, people think of the elite as a – as a bad thing. But that’s not necessarily the case. And I think if we look at Morocco, the elite certainly has a role to play in the political processes unfolding there.
You know, it’s true that – and I think I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that, you know, Morocco’s elite is embroiled in corruption scandals. It has been accused of all sorts of nepotism and ties to politics. But this is the problem of elites everywhere. Elites, you know, throughout the world are – use their wealth to influence political – or politics or economic regulations, and they’re always involved in scandals. There are plenty of elite in Morocco that have no regard for social issues. They have no regard for the welfare of the state. They have no interest in doing anything except ensuring that they remain elite.
Now, this is – this is unseemly, but it’s not a crime. And it’s – in fact, probably one of the characteristics of the elite – and certainly the elite in the United States share many of these same characteristics – where the sole interest is ensuring that one remains elite.
But among Morocco’s elite, there are also good actors that do care about the welfare of the country, that do care about social programs, literacy programs, youth programs, housing programs. A good example of this is Mulig Shavi, the entrepreneur, and one of Morocco’s wealthiest men. He is – embraces – I think he would be what we would call her in the United States a socially-conscious investor. He intertwines his investment profile with a social agenda.
Many of these good actors or members of the elite support the institution of the monarchy. They see the institution of the monarchy as ultimately a sound institution and an essential institution for the stability of Morocco.
I’d like to – just to close one final comment about this – about Morocco exceptionalism. I think – you know, people speak about Moroccan exceptionalism, but to me, the notion of Moroccan exceptionalism stems from a miscategorization of Morocco. You know, Morocco, for those of us who have lived there, for those of us that travel there, especially for those of us that speak, you know, Morocco is not the Middle East. Morocco – it’s also not Africa, and it’s not Europe. And, you know, Morocco has always existed – you know, putting on my historians’ hat again, Morocco has always existed sort of on the margins of these three different larger regional groupings: Middle East, Africa and Europe.
But in a certain sense, it’s always also acted as a bridge among these three regional grouping between Morocco and between Africa and Europe, between Middle East and Africa, between Middle East and Europe. You know, I’m speaking in part from my personal experience when I used to be – I used to be a history professor. And when I was applying for jobs, people would also ask me, well, do you teach African history or do you teach Middle Eastern history? And I always tried to say that I taught Mediterranean history. And the response was always, well, Mediterranean history is a European category. So do you teach Middle Eastern or African? And you’re always forced to choose. I always decided that I was just going to teach Moroccan history, which is why I’m no longer an academic.
So I think, you know, this notion of exceptionalism comes from the perception that Morocco should fit into a category of Middle East or Africa, but I don’t think it does, and I don’t think it ever has or nor will it ever in the future. You know, so to measure Morocco and its current political trajectory against the events that have transpired in Tunisia or Egypt or Libya I think is a mistake. Likewise, you know, I think it’s a mistake to measure Morocco against sub-Saharan Africa or against Europe. And in fact, it may simply be best to measure Morocco against its own aspirations and its own desires and its own stated political objectives, and that may yield us with a better understanding of where Morocco is going and how it wants to get there. I’ll leave my comments at that.
J. PETER PHAM: Thank you very much. Geoff, go ahead and pass the microphone to Dr. Cordesman.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Thank you very much, and thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. I had come back from the region and I was a little struck by one meeting on the instability in the area where I was one of the few Westerners where a very leading Arab politician talked about the phrase “Arab Spring” with intense disgust and said: What you need to understand is, for us, the spring is a time when things get extremely hot and the area is filled with sandstorms. And I think that’s in many ways a very insightful comment, because I would suggest that most of the upheavals we see, even if they succeed in getting rid of the current regime, are not going to in any sense produce near-term stability or effective governance or be able to cope with the mix of economic and demographic and other changes and tensions the societies face. Historically, revolutions rarely succeed in either being kept in power by the elite that starts them – although it may get through a year or two – or in meeting the stated objectives that people have and demonstrating and overthrowing the regime they overthrow. And very often they are hijacked by something marginally better, or sometimes worse.
And I think if we look at this region – and I’m very glad that Geoff made two points: one, countries differ; and second, I think there are successful countries. And I would have to agree that I think Morocco has done well.
But what we need to consider is what’s really happened in this area over time. International economic indicators are always uncertain. But if you compare the growth in per capita income in the region as a whole between 1980 and 2010 by World Bank indicators, it increased by 29 percent. If you look at South Asia, it increased by 200 percent. If you look at East Asia and the Pacific, it increased by 221 percent. Logically, developing countries, to survive, have to increase more quickly in per capita income than developed countries. But this region’s 29 percent, compared with 62 percent for North America, which includes Mexico, and 52 percent for Europe and Central Asia. And as many of you have noticed, Central Asia is not the most developed place in the world.
When you look at what are the impacts of these kinds of pressures – and I’ll get into some of them in more detail, we do have enough pulls to provide some warning signals. One is that there are very sharp differences in how people do react to the pressures their societies create by country and ethnic group et cetera. But there are also some very common things. None of these countries fails to have a massive employment problem. Economic growth is not related to per capita income in terms of equitable distribution of the increase in income. In virtually every country there are perceptions that the system is unfair and inequitable. Looking at how people define the word “corrupt,” which is often very different from the way it is measured in the West, corruption is often perceived as unjust economic, social or political advantage.
Now again, people define these terms very differently by country and area. And we in the West tend to assume that there is a common semantic belief. And frankly, again and again, when you poll in detail, you find that, for example, there is no agreement event on a term like “sharia” in the Arab world. It’s very nice to spotlight it in the West, but when you ask people in Yemen what it means, they don’t agree with what it means in Iraq or in any other place. You do find that there is the feeling of being excluded, of dealing with a system that has gotten progressively more corrupt and more authoritarian and more selfish in far too many countries. And that is a perception which is, to go back to Geoff’s point, largely a perception among elites, because you cannot poll the very poor. You cannot poor people in rural areas or in urban slums. We tend to use things like statistic deviation for polls. This is analytic rubbish. A poll can be perfectly statistically valid and completely wrong, and the samples that we are using are essentially those of elites.
As somebody who has to look at the military and strategic side, what you also see is a major shift over the last 15 years or so towards larger and larger internal security structures. There is within the police, within the intelligence branches, within the internal security services, a growth of both size and the role and pervasiveness of the operation. It is, I think, a reflection on perhaps the low quality of area studies that we tend to focus either on the military or the civil side but we have virtually no analysis of police, internal security and intelligence forces. And when you have aging regimes, what you can see from the budget and the numbers is the increase. And if you look at the United States State Department Civil Rights Report, which I think is often as balanced as civil rights reports get, and you look at that over time, you see this steady increase in repression and pressure and control. This has been disguised to some extent by the war on terrorism, and that has had a mixed impact. Some of the training, a lot of the efforts to help countries deal with terrorism, have actually had, from the outside, from the West, a beneficial effect in softening some aspects of this repression. But more counterterrorism is also abused, and it’s abused not only in arrests and detention, but in the fact virtually every country in this region has a special court system which exempts the standard rule of law and can produce disappearance, torture and sometimes killings.
There are exceptions. There are countries which have tried to work this out. And I think, again, you look, strangely enough at Morocco and Saudi Arabia, which would not logically be the countries as monarchies that have done most to moderate this, but it is those countries that have done best and countries which are titular democracies, like Egypt, which has often does worst.
We find too, I think, as you look in this structure, a warning. With repression comes a fact: There are no real political partners. People do not have experience in running for office, in giving up power and, above all, in acting as a political structure that can govern. I would caution people in the West that one of our great abuses of political science is assuming that legitimacy consists of how governments are chosen and not how governments choose to govern. The fact is that elections do not historically produce stable or beneficial results unless you have mature political parties. And you do not have governance unless the revolution produces a stable structure within ministries, governance and the justice system in the process of political change. And if you consider what’s happened in Iraq and what probably will happen in Libya and may well happen in Egypt and Tunisia if you do not see the army retain its power, one has to be very careful about throwing terms like democracy and justice around when you do not have any of the key elements that make them work in the West present in the systems that are coming into power.
You also have a history of failed secularism. It’s all very well to talk about the threat of Islamic politics, but one might talk about the threat of failed secularism. Socialism, Arab nationalism, 19th-century capitalism, swollen bureaucracies, 30 years of hiring people in the government and into the state without having a function and without having salaries that allow them to operate without having extra charges delaying, leaving the office or a second job. You do not normally think of the bureaucracy as a major threat to the state, but frankly, if you consider Egypt and far too many other governments and you would ever try to do anything with an Egyptian ministry, you may have a different view.
We have also, in the West, forgotten – or it has become politically unpleasant to talk about – demographics. My first trips into this region were as a student in the 1950s, which dates me, but it also gives me a different perspective. Morocco had a population of around 9 million. Its population is now 32 million. The most conservative demographic estimate I can find is 42 million by 2050. It will probably be substantially higher. Our demographic models frankly assume that women are going to have a lower birthrate and higher rates of employment much more quickly than has been the case.
Algeria was under 9 million in 1950. It’s now 35 million, and it’s headed towards 44 million. Egypt was 21 million in 1950. It’s now 80 million, and at current rates it will be 137 million by 2050. You can go down the list. It’s Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia: They all are under these conditions. These are countries with finite resources, finite supplies of water. Only the countries that have massive oil and petroleum resources at this point in time have begun to be able to cope with the level of investment in education, infrastructure, job creation necessary to deal with this population growth. We talked about the youth bulge, and the figures are somewhat controversial, but when half the population is under 25 and you can at this point employ about 20 percent at most of the young men entering the labor force in the first year of leaving school throughout the region – and that is as true for petroleum economies as it is nonpetroleum economies – you have to worry.
The exception of course is agriculture – except the whole trend in the economics of agriculture in the region is grossly distorted by water subsidies, state interference and the fact that basically more and more people are pushed off the land and into cities. The most glaring example of hyperurbanization is outside the area, but Saudi Arabia was about 8 percent urbanized in 1950, and it’s now over 85 percent. To talk about traditional societies under these conditions or stable structures is to simply ignore reality. And if you look at satellite photos of major cities in North Africa or in the region, you can see immediately large areas that are not served by meaningful urban infrastructure – power, water, sewers – and you can find areas where the school system is grossly underinvested. This is a key factor, although it is also true that education systems have not adapted to the point where there’s any clear correlation between education and employment. In fact, there seems to be a growing lack of correlation between university degrees and people getting anything like the job they will accept on an immediate basis and without several years of delay.
There seems to be a growing lack of correlation between university degrees and people getting anything like the job they will accept on an immediate basis and without several years of delay. We also frankly – looking at some of this, need to understand where we are.
We do not have good measure of most of the data on economics. The few cases we do have show that for nearly 20 years, the poor have been relatively frozen; the lower middle class has been pushed down in relative earning power. The middle class itself has been kept fairly constant and a small elite has gained more and more of the wealth. In short, GDP growth is irrelevant in terms of social stability, particularly if you take into account the number of young men who do not have real or productive jobs and the exclusion of women from the labor force.
A metric we’ve played around with but do not have numbers on is something totally different from the sort of subsistence level of the economy. And a petro-state like Libya is 30 percent of the population at the subsistence level. That’s less than $2 a day.
When you hear those figures, you have to be careful about economic growth and wealth. But another index is can you afford to get married, which affects both men and women, and can you get a house? And frankly, every year, the problem is getting worse – and the social pressure on families – because people do have parents – has grown.
I think it’s also interesting to look at some of the data on the idea that oil states are wealthy. There are – Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar. Qatar is arguably one or second in global per-capita income. Algeria rates 128th, which is roughly the same as Gaza. When you look at Iran, it’s 100th. Iraq ranks 160th, which makes it one of the least supported countries in the world. Oman is 52nd. Yemen is 172nd.
With statist economies, with this kind of interference, with poorer infrastructure, with weak governance, regardless of what happens, most of these revolutions are not going to succeed in meeting any of the basic expectations of many of the people who caused them in less than a decade, because it will take them half a decade at the minimum to create something approaching a competent elite and at least half a decade to move forward.
Now, these are realities that are not going to be terribly popular with people who believe that you get instant democracy and miracles follow. But I think this is a good description of the region.
Now, let me just close with another observation from being out in the region. A very sophisticated Kuwaiti businessman did not hand out a book on Arab politics. He handed out a book on the revolutions in 1848. Why, because most of them failed even when they appeared to succeed. Most of the regimes that did survive didn’t learn. Living standards – and this is one of the things people tend to forget – during that period of the Industrial Revolution actually dropped for more than a quarter of a century. And eventually, reality did take place. People did change. And real revolutions actually succeeded.
I would say that some Kuwaiti businessman may have more insight into the future than a lot of American regional experts and political scientists.
J. PETER PHAM: Thank you very much, Dr. Cordesman for those remarks and for reminding us of the importance of keeping ourselves grounded in reality.
Turning now to Dr. Yonah Alexander, the director of the International Center for Terrorism Studies who speaks to us – pick up on those themes and talk about a very specific reality that faces us in this region.
YONAH ALEXANDER: Thank you very much for inviting me. It is indeed a great pleasure to participate. Listening to our two colleagues here, it triggers a lot of questions. And hopefully, we can all discuss it a little bit later on. Particularly, what does interest me is the crisis of identity in the region in terms of loyalty to whom, which is really fundamental. But hopefully we can discuss it a little bit later on.
I’d like to bring in some other dimension, particularly related to security concerns. Just in the interests of time – and we have another panelist – and hopefully we can have some discussion. First, I would like to bring to your attention a number of studies that we prepared in the past couple of years, which relates to the situation in the region now and, I think, if you are interested – it’s not a commercial; it’s not for sale. I would be delighted to share some of the studies with you, which again relates directly and indirectly to the situation now, the potential development.
One is related to the refugees in Algeria. I think the Western Sahara issue – I’m talking about some of our studies in the past two, three years. So you’re welcome to have it. The other one relates to why the Maghreb matters, particularly related to the strategic threats – terrorism, insurgency and so forth – and the opportunities and the policy options for the United States. The third – (inaudible) – it’s about the rising threat from al-Qaida terrorism in North Africa and Western, Central Africa. Earlier this year, we had a report again on the consequences of terrorism based on a trip to the region.
Then, one particular report that we had about Iran – involvement in Latin America and the Maghreb – and the link with the narcotrafficking in Latin America and the West Africa, which I hope we can discuss. And some of the articles we had in the NATO journal. So you are welcome to have this report. Again, it’s not for sale. And we would like to share it with you.
Peter, if I may, to make – to save some time, can I distribute this? Is there anyone who will – OK, no, I can do this. (Inaudible) – materials so we can save a little bit of time on that.
I have some other things for you anyway. OK.
But what I would like to basically to do is to share again in the interests of time just a few ideas. One, basically, I think an idea that if you look at some observations by statesmen, I picked up Lord Salisbury who – British, as you know, statesman and foreign minister and all that. And he made some very profound observations when he said that if you believe that – if you believe basically the doctors, nothing is awesome. If you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent. If you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. And as an academic, my own observation is to what he said that if you believe the academics, nothing is new under the sun.
And again, in reference to what Tony said about the uncertainties, the only certainty obviously is uncertainty about trying to deal with this particular region. As a historical footnote that provides maybe a context in general to nothing is new, I think this month – month of June – marks the 97th anniversary of the assassination in Sarajevo that triggered or contributed to the outbreak of the First World War. And clearly, I think in all our studies over the years, it is evident that terrorism triggers war. And war triggers terrorism. And it is related to basically what is happening in the North African area. And I’ll come back to it.
So this is in terms of the threats. Nothing is new. Another, I think, observation in terms of the response that I like to share with you – 27 years ago, I received a letter from a very prominent U.S. senator, who chaired the intelligence committee and so forth. Later on, he became the candidate for the presidency for the United States, Senator Barry Goldwater. And he said – and I quote, the only approach to terrorism, in my view, is to use strong, almost terrorist-type tactics against those initiate such action. And this in itself is not acceptable to the average American.
In other words, at that time, he felt that, for example, assassination or targeted killing is not accepted and obviously today we see what is happening and particularly most recently the killing of bin Laden by the American commandoes and so forth. What I’m trying to say is that when we talk about counterterrorism, the question is what is the perception of the threat. And what tools, what means do you have to deal with that? And it relates obviously to North Africa.
But in general, if I may, just one second to provide a broader perspective to the security concerns in the region – before the Arab Spring, if you will – and the post-Arab Spring. For example, the theological and political radicalization in the area, the increase of propaganda and psychological warfare, the violations of human rights, the internal political and economic dislocations, the organized – the increase of organized crime, the narcotrafficking, for example; the human trafficking; the weapons proliferation and so forth. State-sponsored terrorism is still alive and well. And we can discuss it.
We mentioned, for example, Libya. I want to stress that one of the grave concerns is the use of mercenaries in the region from the entire area – we can go into some details and perhaps my colleagues will deal with that. But at any rate, I think in terms of Libya itself and what concerns NATO. And I’m saying this because I work with academically – with some people in NATO who are concerned not only what’s happening in North Africa, about what’s happening in Latin America and the role of Iran in particular.
Then, the question of piracy and maritime threats, the development of weapons of mass destruction or the resort of the weapons of mass destructions – and I remind not only Iran but aspiring nations and the al-Qaida ambitions in this area. The employing of the energy weapon by some of the states in the region and all the question of regional destabilization that was discussed previously.
The other important point that I think we have to keep in mind in terms of the region, which is a permanent fixture, I think, of strategic threat is basically the network, the informal and formal network relationships among the various terrorist groups in the region and beyond the region. And I’m going to refer specifically to the region in a few minutes, meaning what kind of relationships – and the relationships include, for example, the theological and the theological affinities, the organizational assistance, the propaganda that I mentioned before, financial assistance, recruitment in the region, sharing of intelligence, supply of weapons, the trafficking that I mentioned before and operational activities. I think this is a permanent fixture in the region itself and would continue and in the coming months and years.
Now again, we distributed some information, some data up to, I think, this month in May. You can see for yourself. I don’t have to go into details. But to indicate that the most turbulent area is Algeria. And if there is no stability in Algeria, there is not going to be stability in the region itself because of the impact. Usually when we talk about the Arab Spring, somehow, you know, Algeria is not being considered from that perspective. And then the – (inaudible) – area.
So you can see that there is an increase actually – we tried to monitor the situation in the region, particularly after 9/11. And there is an increase over 500 percent in the past couple of years. And what concerns strategies – and I can tell you again from personal experience in the region and other regions – that there is a concern about the so-called hotspot – the linkages, the interregional linkages all the way from Asia, the Middle East itself into North Africa and then Latin America and Europe.
So from the strategic point of view, I think we have to ponder the potential threats not only to the region itself and the debate whether Morocco or some of the other countries that are in North Africa or the Greater Middle East, whatever. I think this is a fiction because we don’t deal any longer with boundaries. In some sense, yes; in other sense, we live in a different kind of a world and we have to be adjusting to this kind of reality. In other words, the entire world is in the same boat. If we have instability in one region, it does affect the other region.
So therefore, it is in the interest of the United States, its friends and allies around the world to find some sort of solutions, strategic, economic and social. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not only the question of the hard power but it is also the question of the soft power. And hopefully, we can discuss what are some of the specific recommendations that we can offer to the policy-makers, not only in the United States but around the world. So I’m going to stop at this point.
J. PETER PHAM: Thank you very much, Dr. Alexander. And now we turn to Ambassador Ed Gabriel, the former U.S. ambassador to Morocco. Ambassador Gabriel?
EDWARD GABRIEL: Thank you, Peter. And thank you to the Atlantic Council. This morning’s presentations remind me of a story I once heard about Ronald Reagan who, as a young man, came home early from school one day and they had – the parents were trying to grow grass on the lawn and had horse manure all over the lawn. And he ran inside the house and he said, where’s the pony? My job today is to associate myself with my three colleagues, Yonah, Tony and Geoffrey and try to find a pony through this whole mess that we’ve been talking about this morning.
I’d like to do that by associating myself with the Moroccan experience that I’ve had over the last almost 15 years and talk to you about what this could mean for American foreign policy under the circumstances that we’ve seen with the Arab Spring. Foreign minister of Morocco recently remarked in March that he can’t be sure that the Arab Spring will produce a bright summer or a dark winter. We’ve been talking about that today. And we know that there is change of seismic proportions going on in the Arab world. We’ve talked about Tunisia and Egypt a lot today. Yemen, Libya and Syria are bound to be faced with further turmoil and unclear outcomes.
That puts up five countries for discussion that we’ve been talking about through this Arab Spring. And although we’re hopeful about what this all means in terms of U.S. foreign policy, stability in the region and the hopes and dreams of people, we really can’t be sure that this is going to be for the better or worse. And we have a very important stake on what happens in this part of the world. And so it’s going to be very important to us to follow these matters closely and hopefully have some influence.
Geoffrey said earlier and I agree that we’ve been taken by surprise. We’ve been caught off guard. It doesn’t speak very highly in my opinion about our foreign policy apparatus. In the past, maybe we couldn’t have predicted it. It was like the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late ’80s. And despite the steady signs of discontent in this region, none of us seems to have seen this coming, not at least in the way it has. But history has shown us that once again, popular discontent, left to simmer, is going to boil over.
America has, of course, traditionally been in a debate in making foreign policy and trying to measure its values against its interests. In the Middle East, we have decided to enact policies in the last several decades, one that puts our interests and the issue of stability over what we considered values. And the Arab Spring has kind of taught us that perhaps we were wrong. Maybe in this case, although we focused on our interests and we focused on stability and we focused on jobs, maybe a lot of this came down to the value of freedom, which we didn’t predict.
The question now is what can we do about it? And I was a little encouraged by the G-8 summit in France last week when they put this at the top of their agenda and the talk of – their talk to assist nations of the region to meet challenges that have led to these circumstances. Fortunately, some countries recognize the need for change and offer us perhaps an opportunity to help negotiate a better way forward if we’re prepared to also help them and we see that reliable partners in the region are going to be important to us.
We must understand the discontent that brought down the governments of Egypt and Tunisia and have other nations in the region under immediate duress that we’ve talked about are just not confined to these five countries that we often talk about. Others are going to face similar issues and similar consequences unless they are able to avoid mistakes that brought down Egypt and Tunisia and will surely affect others in the region.
Obviously, I’m pointing to the country that I know best and that is Morocco. As many of you know, I was ambassador to Morocco under President Clinton and still represent the country’s interest in the U.S. today. Over the past dozen years, we’ve worked very hard to work on our interests with Morocco and we have found that Morocco’s interests and Morocco’s values happen to be our interests and our values. And that’s where our interests and values have converged into what I now call our interests. Our values are our interests there.
Much has been said in the international press about the Moroccan exception. And Geoffrey talked about it. And I would like to associate myself with your comments that I’ve often heard about – I’m asked, what is Morocco like? And you can’t quite say it’s Arab. You can’t quite say it’s African. It’s not French. It’s not Spanish. It’s Moroccan. It’s a very hard thing to try to describe to people.
But there is some association to the region. Ask any Moroccan what they think about Palestine and the Palestinian problem and there is going to be a consistent Arab view. There is also an ‘Arabness’ about their feelings towards the Arab Spring. So there is some connection there, although I generally agree with you.
But I think the first thing that helped Morocco adjust to sweeping demands in North Africa is that it realized more than two decades ago that such changes were coming. They were inevitable in that these changes needed to be embraced for the good of the country rather than to be resisted. I happened to have been there at a very interesting time under the reign of King Hassan when the opposition government of the Yousif USFP government came in. King Hassan died and King Mohhamed took over. So I got to see this up close and personal.
Morocco didn’t set itself on a course of political and social reform because the West was pushing them to do it nor because streets were erupting. Morocco began this process and has pushed forward with great determination during the past two decades because Morocco very clearly understood that participatory politics, social equity and economic opportunity for all its citizens was very necessary for its future and not a luxury or something to be feared.
Some may say the reforms didn’t happen fast enough. Some may say it happened too fast. I think that’s a legitimate debate that we should have. But I think by any objective examination, when you check the record, Morocco has made a decision for democracy and reform and change. The king himself said there’s no turning back. For us, we’ve made a strategic decision.
Nevertheless, Morocco faces the same demographic pressures and growing frustration of the youth about the future as the rest of the region as Tony has talked about. And has less wealth than a lot of the other countries. So there are legitimate demands placed upon Morocco that it’s going to have to deal with.
It’s fundamental in our interest to the United States that Arab nations that have a clear track record like Morocco and the experience of pushing forward reforms become our reliable partners in the region. And we must begin to think about going beyond the immediate emergencies of these five countries that we’re talking about and looking at other countries like Morocco where we can join in partnership.
Certainly, we’re going to have to deal with Egypt and Tunisia and debt relief for them is important. And while crisis in Yemen and Libya and Syria are still in full swing, we’re going to have to get past our crisis management mode if we’re ever going to be in the projecting mode in the public policy mode of knowing what’s going on in the region and being able to predict it and make good U.S. foreign policy. Otherwise, there’s going to be no choice for us other than playing catch-up in the region and always being behind the 8-ball.
And so, we have to look at a new policy in my opinion. And I happen to think that Morocco and the experience it went through and how we analyzed it this spring and how it’s holding up relatively compared to other places is a case in point of what we should do.
I want to propose to you some actions that we proposed in 2003 under a CSIS study, which I chaired and directed, which addresses this issue still today except it’s almost 10 years later. And that is that I would suggest the development of the Arab Growth and Development Partnership Initiative – that’s what we called it in 2003 – to help the U.S. and its prospective Arab partners to set and meet long-term – and I want to underscore long-term – objectives. The initiative would tailor the right mix of strategies with country needs that we consider progressive partners, so working with progressive partners. It would encompass the implementation of a long-term strategy with those countries that have undertaken reform seriously in the region, like Jordan, like Morocco, and are willing to partner with us on a new way of doing business in the region and meeting defined, understandable requirements.
As part of this strategy, long-term strategy, I propose the establishment of a formal dialogue bilaterally, maybe through a commission that commit to mutual interest and goals and conduct the work over time, not just due to emergencies that come up like we are faced with now. The effort can begin immediately. It doesn’t need presidential direction and it doesn’t need legislation.
Such an effort was addressed by Secretary Clinton last month in her meeting with Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri of Morocco in which they agreed on a new structure around a strategic dialogue process. Such an effort should address regional stability, security, of course, which are the traditional issues that we get involved with but also really consider in a more strategic way, economic and political reforms including trade, aid and commerce. And aid and trade, in our opinion, should be positively conditioned – should be conditioned on a positive basis mutually together as an incentive for meeting common interests and goals.
Secondly, as part of this, embassies should be empowered to carry out the agenda for the bilateral dialogues because they are the only entity that has the bilateral relationship at heart. And we don’t get it at the State Department. We keep saying this has to go up the ladder. But no one cares bilaterally other than the desk officer about the bilateral relationship. So strategic dialogues have to empower the embassies. This long-term strategic kind of looking together at the future and bilaterally, combined with an empowered embassy will have dual results of creating incentives to speed up reforms and cooperative strategic efforts as well as preparing the U.S. to better predict political changes in the future, thus reducing the kinds of surprises we saw with the Arab Spring.
Let’s face it: If you can see around the corner, you can predict these things. Well, if you live on the block, you can see around that corner a little better. And those embassies are on that block. And we’ve got to really relook at the way in which we treat and deal with embassies.
The second part of this recommendation deals with political, economic and social reforms, which are often difficult but are going to be essential to the Arab world. Remember, this was said in 2003 not this spring. Yet right now there is a central initiative – there is no central initiative that is ambitious to face this region. When you think about what America is doing compared to what is happening, you have to ask yourself whether or not we get it yet. We were proposing at that time – and would continue to propose – a presidential advisory board on Arab growth and development to help determine and oversee the right package of trade aid, debt relief, other resources to facilitate long-term improvements in the regions.
We do have programs. We do have policies. But they come up in an emergency fashion and they don’t really deal with the long-term nature of where we’re headed with the region and bilaterally with countries. This is something that the president could do. He could appoint – have six appointments himself and then plus ask the minority and majority leaders of the House and Senate to add representative so you can make this bilateral in nature. We have to begin to think beyond emergencies and think more long term.
Third part of this recommendation is investing in the future leadership of Arab leaders. And for that, we are recommending a new independent fund that would encourage and greatly add to education, business and academic exchanges of all kinds called the Arab Partnership Foundation. It would not be part of government. It would be a 509(a)(1) corporation, which would foster education, entrepreneurship and reforms among a new generation of Arab leaders, modeled after the British Council or the Asia Foundation.
So in summary, what I was trying to say this morning is we must go beyond the immediate crisis, which is taking up all of our policy-makers’ time concerning our intervention in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen – and probably more to come, unfortunately or fortunately. If we don’t also start investing, however, in our friends who are doing the right thing like Morocco and opening up opportunities to exchange ideas, opportunities and long-term thinking, America will forever be prone to intervening in crisis without future thinking in the region.
And the ultimate question is whether or not we’re going to truly start looking around the corner. I stole that from President Obama’s famous speech on the campaign trail. And hopefully, looking around the corner, as he once said, will help us avoid larger issues further down the road.
J. PETER PHAM: Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador Gabriel, and thank you to our distinguished panelists. I realize we’ve gone a little bit over our scheduled time, but we’ll try to make that up. And I do want to allow for some questions from the audience, and because of our time limitations, I would please urge you to make it a question and not a statement or a speech. And please identify yourself.
Q: Thank you for that. Those were great presentations. I’m Commander Billy Bushman, Joint Staff, J-5, Libya desk officer. I also handle Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the Sahel. So we’re pretty busy, but one question I have for the panel is – particularly for you, Ambassador, as you said, we need to look at how to empower the country teams in the various countries. But we’re trying to look at what this means and how and if we should change the way DOD does engagement in that region based on the Arab Spring. What does this mean for us? And so, you know, in particular to your comment, how do we empower the DATT to gain more access to help us have more knowledge of these incidents? And so should we change the way we’re doing engagement, whether it’s less FMF or more – and more IMET going in line with the education and the partnerships? Thank you.
J. PETER PHAM: I think – actually I think Tony’s going to have something to say that and I would, too. Tony, do you want to –
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: I think within the resources we have available, this is an issue we really need to remember, because we already have put in an FY 2012 budget submission, which is going to cut those resources. And the guidance for 2013, which you may already have seen, is a great deal more draconian. In other words, you are cutting your resources in direct proportion to the increase in the need for them.
But what I would say is, within the problems we face, there are areas where FMF could ease the economic situation in a few countries like Morocco. The IMET program is very inexpensive and has produced consistently good results in introducing foreign military officers to the kind of civil military structures that are going to be critical for success. But I frankly do not believe that there is more of a margin or need for arms sales. I don’t think we need larger use – (inaudible). What I do think is missing that has begun to be pioneered in Saudi Arabia and a few other areas is trying to provide that kind of advisory effort to deal with the internal security and counterterrorism forces. The problems is, if that is not a Department of Defense mission, the State Department has 50 years of failure in trying to come to grips with police training. Its example in Iraq and Afghanistan is all too clear. And the question is, is the Department of Defense at this point in time going to be able to deal with that? Because it is not so much the competence of people at State: It is the fact there aren’t any people at State. The entire mission is turned over the contractors. And to be honest, contracting in this area has a reputation roughly equivalent to a nine-month-old carp. The smell is, shall we say, totally memorable.
EDWARD GABRIEL: I would – I would like to say one thing. It’s probably controversial. But as long as the State Department doesn’t have the resources and funds, we need DOD money for nation building. Whether we like to hear it or not, we need to find the resources wherever we can find it to serve the mission that we’re about.
The second thing I would say is, again, if the embassy was empowered correctly, it’s that ambassador who can bring the country team together, including the DATT, for a country-wide mission. There shouldn’t be functional efforts in the country, DATT does one thing, AID does another, USIA does another, whatever, public diplomacy does another. There’s a CEO supposedly in that country. There should be a strategy. They do strategies now at the State Department; they laugh at them and put them on the shelf. They do have a strategic planning process. They don’t use them. But if there was and the CEO of that country was working correctly, the DATT would be an integrated part of solving the problems that the United States has set for its relationship in that country.
J. PETER PHAM: Do we – and do we have a question from – (inaudible)? OK. We’ll take one more and then we’ll have a more extended period of questions after the next panel.
Q: First of all, I want to thank you, Peter. I’m Bernadette Paolo, and I’m the president of the Africa Society, and I worked on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the Maghreb specifically, many years ago.
My question – and I’d like, Dr. Cordesman, I’d like for you to answer this, in addition to other panelists – is that we have a dilemma in that we’re naturally concerned about our national security interests and tend to gravitate toward leaders of countries that, you know, have to share our values. At the same time, we’ve made friends with people who are so unpopular with their own citizenries. So how do we become perceived as an even-handed broker in North Africa and the Middle East, given the conditions that are unfolding? Thank you.
ANTHONY CORDESMAN: Well, the answer is very simple. We don’t. Frankly, this gets back to the dual-standards issue, which generally gets centered around the Arab-Israeli issue. We’re going to have not only dual standards but multiple standards indefinitely. We act in our natural interests and we do not have an infinite set of good choices, so we take the best choice that we have at a given time.
And here, quite frankly, we have governments that are likely to remain in office. Morocco is a case in point. It’s not clear that the Gulf states are states where we can have that much influence. When we come down to the cases which are radically unstable, we look at Egypt, Tunisia, we may be able to do some things – although debt forgiveness is scarcely going to provide the kind of stable stability that Egypt needs. But what choice do we make? Until you have an election, until you see what the election produces – and if Iraq is any model, you can have an election which, what is it, nearly a year into the election has still not produced a government.
These are uncertainties we’re going to have to deal with on an opportunistic basis, because there simply is not going to be a Saladin democratically elected to deal with in most of these states, and I think we have to get used to that fact. And we do have, as Ed has suggested, deal with this country by country and deal with the specific conditions in those countries as revolutions evolve, often unpleasantly, because that’s what most revolutions tend to do during their first couple of years, if not longer. This is not the kind of hope or aspiration that – Ed said we should find a pony, but children have been looking for ponies for a very long time, and very few of them have ever found them.
J. PETER PHAM: Just as we wrap if, Geoff, the other panels want to add a concluding remarks. Geoff.
GEOFF PORTER: Yeah, I just – I want to return to – in answer to both of the questions that we received, just return to, you know, my initial comments, which is simply that, I mean, and I guess this is my own sort of methodological bias – sense that, you know, each country should be approached according to its own conditions and circumstances. And, you know, my remit actually corresponds almost exactly to the remit that was mentioned earlier about North Africa and the Sahel states, and the degrees to which the U.S. can engage with those countries depends on the willingness of the governments to engage with the U.S. And each of them is distinct from the other. Likewise, the ability of the U.S. to engage even-handedly with the countries of the region depends upon the nature of the governments in the region. And I do want to echo Tony’s comments about the ugliness and messiness of revolutions, and I entirely agree that it’s going to be a fairly messy region for some time to come, perhaps with the exception of Morocco.
YONAH ALEXANDER: Yeah. I understand fully why the focus is on what the United States should do and whether State Department or Defense Department – clearly the leadership of the United States is very critical. But when we deal with the security issues and the consequences, for example, in Europe, how can we deal with this unilaterally without the full cooperation with the Europeans? After all, if there is no stability in the North Africa or the Maghreb area or the Middle East, there is no stability in Europe.
In addition to the European countries individually, the collective, I think, response – and we’ve seen what NATO was doing or – and is doing now in Libya. This is a case in point. How come they’re involved? In other words, from a regional security provider, they’re becoming a global security provider. As I said before, they’re even interested what’s happening in Latin America. So what I’m trying to say is that there is no unilateral response that can be effective vis-à-vis the security, the economics, social development in that region without involvement – the full partnership of the Europeans, NATO, OSCE, of the United Nations and so on, because, fundamentally, when you said before that we were totally surprised – well, in some ways we were surprised, but we were surprised about the surprise because the writing on the wall was there for a very long time.
In fact, the studies that – you know, that we tried to indicate as academics, we were very clear that you must have economic and social development in order to diffuse some of the grievances – I mean the unemployment and so on. I had the opportunity to work at the United Nations at some point in my life, economic/social development. And I remember very vividly this Asian proverb: If you give a man a fish, he will eat for the day. If you teach him how to fish, he will live for the rest of his life. That’s what it is all about: Technical assistance, support, not only what Tony was talking about, the counterterrorism – always this is the first responsibility of the police and the intelligence and the military and so on – but we cannot stop there. So economic/social development is very critical. And we see what’s happening there with the revolution.
J. PETER PHAM: OK. Well, thank you. Please join me in thanking our distinguished panels for their remarks and – (applause).