tv Michael Rubin Brian Katulis Seven Pillars CSPAN April 6, 2020 8:42am-10:00am EDT
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the scheduling of this book and panel is certainly timely given the rising crisis with iran. will get to the subject eventually, but the point of the book entitled transeven and the discussion is to look more broadly and more deeply of the drivers -- entitled "seven pillars." from yemen to syria iraq and now with iran, the region more than ever seems in a permanent state of turmoil. it's become a land of endless wars. and tragically, despite decades of intense and often well-meaning american attention and expenditure of billions of dollars, u.s. policy has more often than not been a failure. maybe the caveat more often than not is too kind. it's been absolute failure. the basic aim was to foster stability and a better life for the people of the region.
of course the ones ultimately responsible for a country success or failure of the people who live there. but the catastrophe of today's middle east raises a lot of questions about whether the united states should continue to be engaged in the region, and if so, how. in this regard the editors of "seven pillars," michael rubin and brian katulis, and their co-contributors have given us a gift. identify seven factors that affects stability or not and examine what they mean and the role they play. the pillars that identify them are legitimacy, islam, arab ideology, the militaries, education, economy, and governance. i personally found many of the authors perspectives to be unique and useful basis to begin looking at all the problems in new ways. whether can serve as a basis for a new bipartisan approach in the
current poisonous political environment here is anyone's guess, but at least the authors are trying to provide some fact-based reality and analysis to encourage debate. so with us today, starting with my left, is michael rubin who is a resident scholar here at aei. is a pattern of the bush administration's iran and iraq team and as a phd and iranian history. he contributed to the chapter on legitimacy in the region. next is brian katulis who is a clinton administration veteran, now at the center for american progress with extensive experience in the arab world. prior to joining c.a.p. he lived in egypt and palestine when he worked on governance issues for the national democratic institute. he contributed to the chapter on governance. and then we have kadir yildirim who's a fellow for the middle east at the baker institute at rice university. the researchers of pluralism in
the middle east and the interplay between religious authorities and foreign policy. he contributed to the chapter on islam. we're going to try to keep the conversation lively, and i will interrupt to keep everybody from not just going on and on and on. we will talk for a while and then we'll open it up to questions on the audience. so to start i'm going to start with michael and ask you, you know, what's special about this book? what you do think was lacking and the scholarship or the analysis that requires this kind of approach? >> if a look at the last half century of american interaction in the middle east, by any metric like you said in your introduction, the u.s. as a successful and is not a democrat or republican thing. we'll wanted to do was, number one, get away from analysis based on the u.s. political calendar. that's too easy and it doesn't work. but more broadly do a
fundamental rethink. summed issues and drivers in the region. in terms of legitimacy, for example, there's common core assumptions in the united states is all about good governance. that's what feels legitimacy, but when we are in iraq, people are willing to forego in some cases good governance just so they can have kurdish national flag shiite flag over a certain building. we also wanted to identify and look at the impact of things round ever talk about in the united states. i'm sorry come in the region. disruptive technology, how's that going to change things? how is foreign aid impacted if legitimacy is in good governance? then is for a the right thing? one of the broad issues that was most surprising to me personally when brian and i traveled across the region was that many people if we asked the question, what represents the most legitimate
government in the middle east? people tend to say something like lebanon, yet lebanon is often thought about in the united states and faith in many parts of the middle east as an abject disaster. we were trying to grapple read some of these issues from a much more academic and less political partisan approach. >> so what is legitimacy, and why is lebanon seen as more legitimate than other places? >> first of all we need to abandon this notion that one size fits all. that's the easy for american policymakers to do. what ultimately, people wanted legitimacy for whatever -- they wanted representation for whatever their identity was. the problem is of course identities change with time. what was clear, however, is that people were increasingly finding themselves disenfranchised. this isn't just an issue of the arab spring, not just an issue of the anti-iranian protest but there just seems to be a failure of the traditional-ism in the
middle east which is why he wrote his chapter reimagining or reconsidering all the ideologies at play because, take the example of iraq. 40% of iraqis were born after the 2003 war. more than 60% of iraqis were born after the 1991 war, which means no has a functional memory of what life was like under saddam hussein among the broad swath of the youth. therefore, they are no longer willing to accept we might have problems from some of the islamist groups but at least we're not saddam hussein. people are looking at this generation seceded ideologues and dictators in the region and saying these guys that represent us. we have in the united states, as much as we complain about politics, usually a 90-95% incumbency rate in congress. places like iraq its round
12-60%. people are adrift and that makes it a very dangerous moment. >> brian, you wrote about governance. the form of governance that has evolved or been imposed on iraq since saddam was overthrown, is it working? do you see it working? do iraqis had to come up with something else? tessa united states have helpedp iraq come up with something else? >> great question i'll answer that and a second. i first want to highlight the subtitle of the book is what really causes instability in the middle east. my simple answer after spending nearly two years with michael rubin on this project is its michael rubin. [laughing] to your question on iraq, quite honestly before this latest episode, if you see what's happened in the last week and what was happening just a few
months before that, young people in the streets of baghdad and in major cities in iraq questioning the very old order, , political order that is in iraq, protesting corruption for services and a bunch of things that quite frankly when you go around the region like we do and we did together, and quite regularly, are the sorts of things that impact every country in the middle east. this sort of crushing demographic social economic pressures, and inside of iraq, to answer your question, quite clearly despite multiple elections the current system of governance and government is not helping the people. one of the points of this book, and is not a new point because if you go back to the air of the u.n. human development report, 16, 17 years ago is those structural factors that contribute suits stability are quite weak and in those 15, 16,
17 years since they have gotten weaker. and i think in a place like iraq quite clearly and this is where i joked about michael but we do have our differences. he was in favor of the iraq war. i wasn't. he was against the iran nuclear deal. i was. but the one thing we agree upon is to dig deeper and wider wanted to do this book and in the chapter on governance, i talk a bit about a rock but not about its national governments. talk about this experiment in governments that actually emerged under the islamic state. spent a couple of pages on it and it shows you that responsive governance and discontent with a government that is not responding plants the seeds for the sorts of instability that we saw under, happen in iraq under the previous prime minister that groups like the islamic state exploited. i think we should have learned by now, many years after the
iraq war, that the united states hit six of these factors it's important to factor these fundamental building blocks for stability in our analysis. as a see today the hot takes over going to do next and the cycle escalation which is quite dangerous. >> isis was a new phenomenon, and there has been a failure of governance, failure of leadership in the middle east for a long time. so why at this moment did a group like isis have an opportunity to rise and have such a profound impact? >> i think its multiplicity of factors in some of it ties to this generational transition where you simply have a youth bubble that is crushing. if the governments in place like iraq are not responding to it, people will rise up in various different forms. the isis model which again was short-lived and i don't think as much legitimacy in the long run was created though in response
to an ineffective government. there were far more tools now in a place like iraq under saddam hussein it was a dictatorship. that wasn't as much open space for people to produce change, and i think the theory that was behind the iraq war in 2003, and we don't want to go back and debate that, but the theory behind it was flawed and that simply we topple regimes and eliminate or decapitate the top, then somehow freedom will spread. we know that didn't happen. i think wide accelerated in the islamic state in particular is you had multiple fights going on inside of iraq, civil war first and then a system of governance the center was a responding. that's the main point is this conditions are still there. iraqis are still looking of the national government with a caretaker government. >> i would challenge the notion that islamic state was all that new because if we go back in history there's any number of millennial movements, whether it
was the seizure of the grand mosque in 1939 or go back a century before that. what i do want to draw out from what brian was talked about, there's any number of issues on governance, beyond simply this, monarchy versus republic and so forth. but what does this mean for the nature of america diplomacy if we are still in many ways limiting ourselves to interactions with representatives of governments who are under siege, whether those governments know it or not. are we missing the broader picture both in terms of diplomacy and intelligence when it comes to the middle east? >> obviously, what's the remedy to that? the united states has to do with the governments that are in power, no? to summative. >> to some extent we have to do with the governments who are in power but, for example, how much time did diplomat spend outside
the walls of indices? versus talking and interacting on the local market as opposed to simply interacting with government. we don't want to bring in u.s. policy to too much but one of e aftermath of benghazi putting -- lockdown upon which americans diplomat spy nacelles. when you go to the root and both and brian and i went to beirut together. >> it's a tactical point, a strategic point which i think the u.s. policy in the middle east are quite likely at the end of the forty-year period that began with the events in 1979, the islamic revolution in iran, soviet invasion of afghanistan, and a number of things that led to the u.s. having its engagement primarily be focus of what our military does. look at where we are today and
discussing and worrying about what's the next move and what will our military do. to me this point michael makes as her diplomats and that diplomatic service has been desmet in the last couple of years. a are our eyes ears and understand societal trends. more broadly and the last point is i think it opens up questions of whether the united states should actually be spending a lot of the money and other things and countries that simply lack the capacity to do this that maybe there's a strategy for thinking more modestly about our engagement. thinking about the beacons are outposts where whether felt to progress in places like tunisia. maybe a dollar spent in tunisia and time spent in tunisia milton would be a lot better than in other parts of the middle east. but we don't even have that discussion these days because you reacting to mostly military moods and military centric moods and not thinking about how do we diversify the portfolio.
>> i do want to follow up on that but i want to bring kadir into the conversation. is religion more important in the middle east today than it was before? >> it is. it is very much so, but i think one of the fundamental misconceptions about middle east in terms of religion, politics, the we tend to assume that this has been the case all the time. but if you go back 40, 50 years ago, what we see is the dominance of secular governments, second ideology and how these parties and groups, they were existent many of them but they were much smaller, much less influential in terms of policy making, affecting other groups in society or how governments were acting in terms of foreign policy or domestic policy. but over the course of the last 40, 50 years things have changed dramatically i think. the iranian revolution was a big
turning point, , but also more importantly, something that brian has mentioned, secular ideologies have failed. throughout the middle east at threat the 1960s and 70s and '80s. >> failed as leaders? >> in terms of policy. the fundamental issues were political and economic, and they failed to deliver on the promises, on what people were expecting, and this is, this is what precipitated the rising i think significance of these religious groups, islamicists or later on secular fundamentalist groups and played on more violent extremist groups throughout the region. the key problem here is their rise what's not just in terms of their own popularity come within their borders.
say muslim brotherhood, in 2011, 12, 30-40% of -- they were able to dictate the parameters of the discussion in terms of good policy issues that were ongoing. their rise influence secular groups, nonreligious groups, political groups so much so, they felt the need to bring in religion to their own discussions. .. in such a way that the secular parties are unable to determine
the agenda, political agenda. they're unable to discuss issues in a way outside of the parameters set by himself. and one problem here is that, you know, if you think about this in terms of religious competition from the frame work of religious competition, that means you -- or political activists, both religious and non-religious will try to cater to the demands, their religious demands because people will want more of that. that carries currency in political debates. >> but erdogan has not been uniformly successful. he was successful in growing the economy in the early years, but he's run into trouble, more trouble do you and run into political pushback. so is there -- i mean, it's --
islam, do you see him using islam and his religious beliefs more as a political tool to advance his political career? or do you think that this is just so indigenous to the people of turkey that every politician going forward is going to have to encompass religious beliefs more into their way of --. >> right, i mean, i can't speak to his personal beliefs. that's beyond my sort of focus as a political scientist. what i can tell you is that, religion is an important element of his political discourse and when you look at over time, it changes in terms of the intensity that he emphasizes in religion in his political discourse. if you look at the period until 2011, 12, 13, from 2001 when the party was first established, religion did not play as significant a role, but
once his political prospects were, i think, receding as a result of the corruption scandal first and then later on, you know, other issues that he's come up losing, you know, in elections to some degree, then he started actually using more religion, partly because he wanted to bring in some of the more conservative elements, especially from among the kurdish voters in turkey and some of the nationalist votes. so, what we see is, you know, depending on the time, his use of religious discourse, you know, in ways and this is really important and this is to not just for erdogan, but other politicians, going back to, you know, to an issue that mentioned about tunisia, i fully agree. i mean, a dollar spent in tunisia is going to go much further compared to other parts of the world in terms of foreign policy because it's a newly, you know, democratizing
context and what's underlying, you know, overall support for a lot of these religious, political groups, is economic and political issues. once those issues are addressed first and foremost, we're most likely going to see a decrease in support levels. i think that's the key. >> so are the tunisians-- or a-- ments separate, you used the phrase and that's pretty smart, using religion and you used it in the context of turkey, which is spot on, that leaders use religion in islam in their own way. and the point i wanted to make, two points, one, this is about power. we shouldn't-- it's not necessarily about faith as the right interpretation of religion if there is such a thing, but it's about power. and secondly, in addition to the domestic use of religion, what i see in the middle east right now is this
multi-faceted, multi-dimensional competition for power and influence, and the use of islam by turkey, say, versus saudi arabia, which has its own sort of definition and how it tries and uses islam as the birthplace of it. and then the cutterqataris, thi about power not ancient interpretation of religion, but it's about leaders trying to stay in power by different themes and memes and trying to compete with what they see as their adversaries, their competitors in the region, through the use of-- and that's the most underanalyzed and i think interesting aspect of it because it spills over into media fights and into all sorts of things and it's something that, frankly, the book couldn't cover itself, but it's part of the thing that america wants a better foreign policy and approach, need to understand that this is in addition to sort of military moves and the use of terrorism
and other things, a key part of the struggle and competition for power. >> one of the themes i want to actually ask of the book is how rapidly things are changing, so if we look 40 years in the future and you have a complete new set of the majority of each population hasn't even been born yet. is religion, is the major influence for religion going to be the mosque or is it going to be social media? and is it going to be legitimate theological rulers or leaders or is it going to be populous leaders and if so, how are traditional muslim scholars looking at this rise of populism and do you think that the way in way people consume religion is going to rapidly change putting aside whether the united states can even keep up with that? >> right, i mean, great question. some of my research actually directly is trying to address this question. so, a couple years ago, we
started a project from the foundation trying to look into how religious authority is sort of distributed across the middle east, among religious leaders. primarily muslim leaders, and what we found is that there were a couple of major findings. one is political actors actually have great popularity. they-- people do look up to them as religious figures, religious leaders. and this is something really important that's been rising, that's been changing a lot. in terms of social media or mosques, i think that's-- that's a change that was precipitated at the turn of the 20th century, more than a century ago. this time it's different. it has sort of a free market of religion, very much like protestantism and high
hierarc hierarchy. and there was the group of collective class of islamic scholars were big for almost a millennium between the end of 9th into 10th century up until the turn of the 20th century in islam. so they were classed as religious authority, the eminent sort of religious authority, but once they started waning, once they started dying, so to speak, there was a big void in terms of who was the eminent religious authority. right? so this is when we see the rise of political islamists early on, in the muslim world. and this is a process that's going to -- that's evolving with the rise of social media, more so. i don't know what's going to happen in 40 years, but definitely not the mosques, i don't think.
things are changing fast and quick unless there emerges some form of a central hierarchy authority, things will be pretty sort of distributed. >> is islamist force a stability in the region or not? >> it depends on what we mean by stability. if you look at turkey, it is a force for stability. it's authoritarian way, but it's a force for stability. in the context, early 2000's or 1990's in turkey again, it would be a force for instability because it was, you know, stirring up the opposition, it was pushing them into trying to get more, you know, political space, you know, in the parliamentary representation or change policies. so, it totally depends on the concept. i don't think at that islam by
itself is different than many other religions, it depends on the political context. it depends on the actors, depends on the overall sort of circumstances in terms of what kind of a role it fills in these countries. so, it depends on the context. in india, iraq, syria, it can be a force for instability. say tunisia at this point in time it can be a force for stability because-- seeming commitment for democracy, in the words of raj in terms of muslim democracy. >> i think this is one of the major issues that we're witnessing now inside iraq although it's not being framed that way in the media, in that when we look to the grand atolla sistani, he's apparently extreme extremely cognizant what the popular opinion is, instead of leading it, he has to worry about following it, because if he goes too far out in any of
his friday sermons, he risks the emperor wears no clothes, and with the young people, a caution that hasn't been there since he lived under saddam hussein. >> that's exactly religious competition, these religious leaders are not blind to what's going on around. they know what's going on. they follow them and they adjust their discourse, whether these are traditional religious authorities or, you know, oriented religious figures. they know what's going on and they will cater to those because you know, ultimately what islam does, what religion does for them-- i mean, they may be faithful believers individually, islam is a tool, it's a political resource that you want to make use of and you want to make sure it helps you in terms of your power, you know, struggle. i think this is really the key point. >> from time to time, there's talk about reforming islam.
is that-- does that have any value? is that something that i-- and i would throw this out to all of you. is that something that the west should be encouraging? >> what does it even mean? >> it's happening. i mean, what i don't understand-- it's an organic process that i see as happening and my own view is, when you say the west, i'm taking that as mostly governments and things like this. and i don't think necessarily we need to play a role in that, you know, when i look back on, certainly right now we have a president who when he ran as candidate, he said i think islam hates us. but in a used sort of an interpretation of islam which i think is quite dangerous, catering to certain political constituencies here, deeply unhelpful. and i'm not making a comparison or parallel between the two, when the u.s. did a special point envoy to the organization
of islam conference, i thought it was anywhere from irrelevant to maybe slightly unhelpful because i don't think it should be u.s. policy to sort of encourage some sort of reform of islam. it's a religion. it's going to sort of have strands that are more extremist and more reformist and it's organic and it's playing out. i'm not a muslim, but my friends who live in america or europe, there are certain different ideas about their faith and religion and i would stay away from sort of that as a use of engagement. when president obama spoke in cairo, there was sort of an idea of muslim engagement that a lot of my friends in the arab world found a little bit offensive, especially those friends who were, say, christian or were not muslims of tradition, but not of faith and wanted to be engaged as egyptians or something else. >> let me approach this a slightly different way, not surprisingly, for my liberal friends.
i think one of the issues where american policy is caught in the trap is due to our own navel gazing. one of the most interesting experiences occurring in the region is morocco. women are educated to be community prayer leaders alongside men and moracco, of course, has a theological and intellectual history that goes back well over a millennium, except when you talk to american officials what's going on in morocco, you hear that morocco is from the broader islamic world. and much more significant than what happened in saudi arabia, saudi arabia much course had the advantage of oil, which is why a much more minority interpretation spread, but we
seem to be doing saudi arabia's work for them when we're so dismissive of other trends because we see from our vantage point them as peripheral so sometimes i would actually argue and it looks like you may disagree with me a little bit, but our own perspective from washington can actually get in the way. i'll agree with brian that there has to be limits to what we do in terms of the sort of religious debate although we can't ignore completely, but on the other hand, our first rule should be first, do no harm. would you disagree with me from-- >> not necessarily disagree with you. i have a little different take. >> i don't disagree with you, but i disagree. [laughter] >> and think that islam is in great need of reform. i don't think there's any denying to that. the muslim world has a great problem in terms of underdevelopment at this point
in time with violence. i'm not saying religion causes this violence, but there is pervasive, you know, case of violence throughout the muslim world. if you look at the muslim world today, i can't remember the figures, but 8 or 9 muslims killed today are being killed by other muslims and that, i think is a very important statist statistic. we have pervasive underdevelopment, undereducation in the muslim world, a lot of these issues and problems and you know, one great book that addresses these issues recently published by cambridge, and authoritarianism and i think they should look at these critically. the point is there's a great need for reform and religion, whether we like it or not, is being used for justified or is
used to justify ongoing trends, issues, and problems in the middle east. a great problem of patriarch, for example, a great problem of gender inequality. i mean, in tunisia, recently, just last year, there was debate about introducing legislation for equal inheritance and the most progressive of islamist parties opposed in legislation. and what are you going to do with it? i mean, this is, i think, an important issue. i think there's a great need for reform in islam because i think islam or muslims, rather, are still trying to, in my opinion, trying to-- are struggling, trying to come to terms with it. and this is a big issue, i think. this is a very deep-seated issue that needs to be
addressed, but with the current state of affairs it's difficult to come to terms with that. part of the problem, i try to emphasize how islamists and fundamentalists have been so influential. they've been able to change the mindset not only of those who are conservative, but also on the secular side. a lot of these issues, if you look at the issue of lbgt, for example, right, a century ago i think the muslim world was much more, you know, progressive on this particular issue, for example. on many other issues, you know, ethnic, religious diversity, i will argue na the muslim world was much more progressive is century or two centuries ago and this is, i think, really the crux of the issue. this is the-- when i said islam is so important not because they have 30, 40% popular support, but because they were able to shape, reshape the mindset of a
lot of people in their society. >> and we're going to make the same point, i think, and you mentioned lbgt and it's a story from one of our trips in research and he can correct me if i'm wrong. we went out and met with officials and talked to people, but we went to universities and i remember we were in morocco, mohammad the fifth's university. and we talked with a town hall and it was a give and take and we said, look, we're here from america and you might find this alarming or interesting because a lot of people are puzzled about america today. the students were asking question and we asked them what's different about your generation from your parents' generation? and one woman, who had a head covering, raised her hand and she said some of us are lbgt
a they debated-- >> whether they could bring someone home from their parents. >> and you talked about cases like iraq, it's taboo. >> it's almost like the younger generation shifts back-- >> whether the younger generation over 40, 50 years you're identifying are the outlier or the signifier of a continuing trend. >> it's not just about at the individual level, but at the public policy level. i think there was much more, you know, tolerance about many of these issues than it is right now. >> fair enough. >> i mean, how many muslim majority countries is there a death penalty or other kinds of penalties. >> i mean, yeah, or i mean, these are, i think, important issues, can you build a mosque in saudi arabia? why not. i understand maybe if they want to exclude medina or mecca because of religious region,
but what about the rest of the community and saudi arabia. i think there's a problem. >> fair enough. >> does this change have to come organically or is there a role for, i don't know, the clerics? is there a role for government leaders? how does reform-- you say reform is needed. how does this reform come about? >> it's a taboo subject right now. it's very difficult to introduce this subject. in several countries, those people, individuals, whether they were scholars or just prominent figures who wanted to introduce debate and discussion about islamic reform have been, you know, essentially castigated. some of them were penalized for other reasons, but you know, that it was a pushback from government officials or others in terms of their official stance or being critical of islam, so to speak. this is what they understand from introducing debates. he think the fundamental
issues, again, going back to socioeconomic developments, you know, unless you have good education systems where you are able to introduce critical thinking, analytical thinking. you improve equality in the country, you improve socioeconomic sort of-- or economic development, well-being of a lot of these people in these countries. i think it's very difficult. >> go ahead. >> i mean, we're in a think tank so we're going to be policy prescriptive for a second. back in the bush administration i think around 2002, there there is a case of the american ibrahim, a socialologist and the u.s. held up aid. and we look further back at the reagan administration and abrogation in islam. and there is a sudanese
scholar, i forgot his name. >> it was actually someone else. but he talked about how reform should include the need for reverse abrogation, putting the early versus the koran versus the later version and he was executed. and while the united states we have separation of church and state, does that mean, a, we can ignore religion in other countries and use the leverage of our purse, for example, in order to create some sort of space so that the people who are being most bold on the course of reform, don't end up in prison or worse? >> this is an important point. >> three quick ones for u.s. policy. number one, listening and understanding. what we were saying before. getting diplomates outside of the wire. the fact, the tragedy that ambassador chris stevens who was killed in benghazi, he was adept at doing this and as powerful, as i think as some elements in our military, understanding what are some of
the social dynamics is important. number two, keeping this issue of democracy, governance and freedom on the u.s. policy agenda i think is really important and obviously, it's been downgraded under president trump. i would submit that that's a preexisting condition, that that actually started. that process of not having as much sort of focus in terms of what our diplomates do, it started under the obama administration for a number of reasons. they wanted to pull back, because we define and there's a distorted debate about democracy, equating interference that russia did in our own economy and it's totally missed in our own government and things like that. >> and you're thinking that it's something that the united states should still-- >> what michael was talking about ibrahim, when someone is imprisoned in saudi arabia or did-- we need to raise our voice and make it part of the conversation and be serious about it. >> a bipartisan issue, no reason it can't be.
>> and that's a human rights issue not democracy as-- >> it would be to create a safe space. >> for the reform to happen. the that's the point, this is why i'm skeptical of the top down attempts at reform in saudi arabia. if you do that while maintaining your position as an absolute monarchy and don't give organic space for people to debate religion or other issues, it's likely to fail. and the third point, a simple one, relates to what you said at the top, carol. don't do harm. wars are actually one of the worst things and flawed wars, unnecessary wars, that actually enhance the hard liners and hard line interpretations of religion, so, you know, sort of extremists there, feed off of this and this is where we have to have a new style of engagement in the middle east. that i would say earlier, trying to learn the lessons from the last 40 years and especially the last 15 years or so and then talk about what's sort of the right level of engagement and it's one of the
diplomatic political and social space and understanding what's happening. >> i want to clarify one thing that brian side or add to it, i'm not contradicting it, don't worry, i'll do that later. but when it comes to reform, oftentimes when we talk about reform and middle east thinks about reform, it's apples and oranges. take, for example, saudi arabia. what is a reformed absolute monarchy? a reformed absolute monarchy, sometimes it seems that our conversations in congress cross the spectrum and usaid versus what is in the region are two different things and when the clash occurs between the two different definitions it can actually make things a lot worse. >> i'm going to ask one more-- >> can i-- >> yes. >> in terms of what role does, you know, does-- can the united states play, i think it's very important to understand that any kind of intervention, i mean, i think you know, those safe spaces should be created, but i think
the white air created is very important because anti-westernism is so much ingrained in political islam or fundamentalists interpretation or even among seculars, any kind of intervention by the u.s., by european union or other european countries, is going to be deemed as, you know, as problematic. and that's why, you know, those kinds of interventions in terms of creating those spaces should be done really very carefully because it's going to undermine. you know, you're going to basically, you know, make the issue very toxic. you know, whatever that pers person-- whoever says or does after that point onward is going to be-- >> we had this debate during the bush administration, what happens in the case of iran, when iranians would say even when we're not touching someone, not supporting someone, they're supported by
the americans, it's sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't. shouldn't we use our ability to compel governments not to arrest certain people. not necessarily to fund them, but to compel them not to arrest because they're going to be slammed no matter what they do. >> all i'm saying, it should be done in a way that's not going to undermine the bigger goal. >> and america looks at the scalpel and that's a problem. american democracy. >> i'm going to ask one more question and then anticipate it up to the audience. there's a whole chapter in the books about the militaries and i found interesting. >> like florence-- >> yeah, and a big point is made the militaries nlt region have attempted 73 coups since 1932 and succeeded in 39 of them. the point being that militaries are often a force for instability not for stability. and it also hammers the point that a lot of these militaries
suffer for lack of training, for lack of equipment. the united states has spent decades, you know, training officer course corpses in turkey, egypt or whatever. it has sold billions of dollars worth of weapons to a lot of these countries. was that for naught? and two, i mean, how can you say so many of these militaries are underresourced when all it seems we do is spend military aid. >> a couple of points on this, consider the collapse of the iraqi military in 2014, we had invested $25 billion in that. of course, we've also invested a great deal in afghanistan as well. now, florence chapter was fascinating so i'm glad that you highlighted it. a couple of things that come into play. one of the reasons why, aside
from perhaps being destabilizing in their own country, middle east militaries have r should have a question mark over there, they seldom do more. they seldom do what they profess to do. and also with-- i mean, when a starting in basic training breaks down and when the drill sergeant breaks down the new recruit, the idea is not to simply break them down, it's to make them better soldiers. in the navy when a chief breaks someone down, it's to make them a better sailor or pilot, then this could have the ability to correct the mistakes. putting that aside and bringing it to what brian was talking about, rightly so, in having diplomates being the front and center. if you look at a country like pakistan, pakistan-- during, i think it was 2007 you have the kerry luger amendment,
bipartisan approach to say the states approach shouldn't be the military or the cia even though that's what it's been in pakistan. they put forward a $7 billion aid package and made anti-americanism worse. why? because the military, which was about to get cut off from this gravy train, started suggesting through the rumor mills and so forth that this money was meant to christianize pakistan, which was nonsense, and it was also an insult, all the accounting mechanisms were an insupplement. one of the issues to deal with across the board as we tried to get diplomates front and center, it doesn't make a sense to resource them and they're stuck behind balls. but when it comes to the militaries in egypt and pakistan, there is what i would call a cycle of extortion, in which we give money in order to
have the local militaries fight the islamist insurgents. but at some point the idea dawneded if we defeat the insurgents, we're going to be cut off from money. if you look at egyptians and northern sinai, for example, which is it? the egyptian army can't defeat the islamic state because they don't want to or because they're incompetent? it's one or the other. when it's the military in general, it's not just the coup issue. brian and i were also in egypt together and you could argue, perhaps cut president see see some slack for making some of the corrections which he needed to make which were 50 years overdue, but instead of economic development, the military has come in for its own unique interests and repeating the mistake the military made for the previous 50 -- five decades which means that what he's doing is it
gratuitously cracking down on human rights rather than improving the status of egyptian society. >> if i could add some thoughts to supplement that because i agree with what michael said. what i was trying to say before, the last 40 years and especially the last 15 years of u.s. policy we need a strategic questioning of using arms sales and military aid as a tool of engagement with these societies to produce what we're trying to get at in the books. it has not succeeded in places like egypt that we've talked about before. internally, i think it's tilted the balance of power against freedom and it's corrosive and it reinforces authorityionism. you look at what we've
delivered in gulf states and others. when i look at it, there's a danger and dysfunctional dependence on the u.s. military approach. look at it today, this past week, a lot of militaries are in the region themselves, can't defend themselves. look at what happened in september in saudi arabia. how the hell did that happen if we had sent them sort of defensive systems and things like this? and that's main point is that if you see it here in washington, there's this episodic and largely tactical and emotional debate that i think in some ways is important, it's a reflection of a lot of americans saying what the heck. it's often not strategic. it often assumes that is this sorts of tools of assistance or sales, if we cut it off then we've read them the riot act and that will change. we have to have a somewhat fade back from the tools and emphasize other aspects. because what we've done with all of the arms sales has not
produced the stability in the region and the country themselves. anybody got any questions. >> could we ask that you identify yourself if you have a question? >> the gentleman in the back. >> yeah, jeremiah for the association of the u.s. army. i had a question about the arab-israeli conflict. i think for a while, especially in the '90s there was this belief that all roads to middle east stability goes towards ending the arab-israeli conflict. do you see between the israel and the sunni arab states in the middle east and what do you see is the continued importance for that regional conflict today? >> what i would answer very briefly is decades of incitement remain and even if the difference of the posture of many of the gulf states have
altered. that doesn't necessarily trickle down to the various populations in egypt, saudi arabia and so forth. what i would say is, position, brian alluded to how we went from the mohammad the fifth university, and if i travel or travel independently, i'll do round tables at the university because they have much less of that filter than the diplomates and embassies do. when i was in iraq, one. things strange, in the three-hour session no one brought up israel ones. people brought up saudi arabia quite a bit and what i would argue the problems are looming so great throughout the region, that people, people are focusing on their own immediate problem. that doesn't mean that israeli-arab conflict isn't important, but i'd say there's a greater and broader one through the region than american diplomates have had. >> i would say there's a shift, but not realignment yesterday yet. i used to live in gaza and--
there's a shift, i don't see a realignment, and what in essence the gulf and many say, we have this relationship in the closet or underneath the table with israel, mostly on intel and concerns about iran, but we're not going to come out publicly so long as there's this sense of injustice, the sense that there's not a sustainable just resolution to the arab-israeli conflict. i don't see the pathway there at all. if you look at sort of the reactions to it, of president trump's initiatives, whether moving the embassy to jerusalem or the golan heights decision. it was muted in the streets, but in sort of officialdom, saudi arabia and others had conferences that condemned this and they issued communiques and that's all you've got. my main point is i don't see realignment, meaning open relations between a lot of these countries, breaking out
without any sort of sense of a pathway to resolving the conflict between israelis and palestinians. >> anybody else? >> i'm sorry, did you see somebody that i-- >> oh. sorry about that. >> just a second. >> i'm sorry, my name is bill chip. i've read a little about the middle east, but not as much as any of you have. i thought, when you talk about the middle east in your book, i'm not sure how far east and west you go, but i think your discussion today is mostly focused on that little area from lebanon to iran, is that correct? >> we covered different authors and bring in different examples, but we cover from moracco through iran, a little on pakistan, the chapter on education, from a professor at university of michigan focused heavily on north africa. >> one quick comment and then a
question on -- when you say that while we maybe here tend to look at all of these problems as religious issues, one form of religious extremists against another, we have to remember in many cases religion has been adopted as a tool to gain power, not the other way around. and i'm-- my comment is maybe the exception to that is afghanistan, where i think religion is what's driving -- the people trying to take over the country are doing it for purely religious reasons, but that's a comment. the request he is, in the area you focused on there are two ancient direct divides. there's the religious divide between the sunnis and the shiites and the ethnic divide between the persians and arabs. i think i'm not wrong that the war between more people died in the war between iraq and iran than have died in any other conflict all put together in the last, you know, 40 years.
and my question to you is, in the long-term how do you see -- i think we' zoo-- we see a little of that-- . >> do you have a question. >> yeah, in the long-term do you see those two divides, which do you see as ultimately creating more stability or overcoming the other? >> first of all, just one small factoid. the way ethnicity historically has been considered in the middle east was originally geographic, starting in the 1920's and 30's, it started to linguistic. the point of this is egypt on over to morocco was not always considered arab. let me put that aside, another factoid in the middle east you're absolutely right in terms of the sheer scale of the war. if we want to put in what's happened in syria, however, that may have surpassed the iran-iraq war, certainly the great lakes region in africa.
the reason why sectarianism seems to be so contentious right now in the middle east is only 10 or 15% of the muslim world may be shiites, but if you draw a circle around the arabian peninsula and iran, 50-50 parity, since the beginning of the century, there's a sense that absolutely everything is in play, but in conclusion what i would argue is it that people who are hellbent on having a conflict will always come up for an excuse to have one and that can be political. that can be religious, it can be some other aspect. what i wanted to avoid with this and the reason we're doing a rethink, we weren't trying to come up with the political science theory where one size fits all, and in this case, i'll just defer that-- i'm a historian by training that means i get to predict the past, brian would say i only
get that right half the time. the point of this is you i simply don't know. >> i think it's an interesting question the factor persian versus arab or shiite versus sunni, my mind went to when you raised the point. carol asked me about iraq, what's going on inside there and i think the centerpiece of the struggle, i don't know whether those things will be resolved, they're large and big, but the center piece of the struggle is from the bottom up, in a sense and that struggle that's happening is accelerating and the thing that people thought was over two or three years after the arab uprising is not over and my guess, now that we're in a new decade is that that's actually going to accelerate when you look at the structural, just the basic metrics of where the society is going, there's going to be some change and the question is whether that change is fast or slow, the pace of it, or whether it moves in the right direction, however you
define that or try to go back a thousand years. and i think those internal tensions and societies and what we've seen in the last year, the rise of nationalism throughout the countries of region is going to be where the first immediate arena where then impacts those other sort of arenas you talked about. arab, persian, shia, sunni. and people are going look at their lives and who is ruling them and are they ruling with effectiveness and that's a big part of the debate. >> do we have other questions? >> yeah, pat, spent a lot of time in the middle east last 20 or so years. i guess i'm wondering, you know, i blame everything on
english and french couple hundred years ago when they carved up the ottoman empire and you just mentioned national. it seems like that's an unheard of thing until recently. do you see-- you actually see the nation states either recombining? i hate to say that biden was right on something, but iraq is really three places. do you see-- nobody wants to give up their boundaries, their current international boundaries which to me is one of the issues that the different ethnicities. the kurds were promised kurdistan which they were promised and never got and none of the countries want to give up, like what's going on with turkey and syria, but i guess do you see a day when like as kurdistan exists, that things happen, that the current
boundaries get shifted to more natural coherent ethnicity? >> i'll respond to that briefly. generally speaking i take a little bit of issue. of course you're right when you look at the middle east and you see a straight line, that's an artificial border, that doesn't mean it's an arbitrary country. so, most people in the middle east live traditionally along the coast or along rivers. so when you consider egypt and 90 plus percent of the population living along the nile, it doesn't necessarily matter where you draw the border. egypt has a sense of being egypt. if i had to go back through any of these countries, iraq, of course, only became independent in 1932, but back in 19th century arabic literature people talked about the concept of iraq, talked about the concept of lebanon or syria long before they formally
became independent. so when it comes to the artificially of states, i would say that's the most artificial states of course were jordan, qatar, the emirates and kuwait, but many of the others and we see that how they retroactively extend back their national myths have some basis in legitimacy, that's really not going to change much. if the question are the kurds. the kurds are the largest people who have been, if you will, dispossessed. it's not four countries because of world war i because of course, the treaty in the 17th century created the iran-iraq border. thele problem with the kurds, are you going to have one kurdistan or four? the notion that we have one. we have two romanians, one of am i is called moll dava. we have two-- >> the arab states you could see some adjustments, but i
don't think you'll see a wholesale revision of the map of the middle east so-called illegitimate. it's more illegitimate that is sometimes the grievance it would have us accept. >> may i have request question, aren't we seeing them coming over the border and claiming yanked ap russians and iranians playing a huge role in syria. who knows what will happen. assad doesn't have control of his country. let me finish the thought. the israelis made formal claim to the golan. don't we already see a change in borders? >> there's wholesale and adjustment. and when you have an argument
from a border issue, that's different from existing recognized borders. when it comes to turkey, and this is the challenge erdogan is posing to the world, kadir can comment on this, when we look at the fact that cypress remains occupied since 1974, was it, when we look in northern syria, turkish civilian post offices sprouting up. i would worry a great deal about advancism of erdogan and whether the world is going to respond to that, whatever his true position is, we have an expert here. i'll defer to kadir. >> the international concept has changed from what it was 50, 60, 70 years ago, in terms of legitimacy of changing borders. i mean, everything is said by and large, unless it's by choice, that person people want
to leave and others agreed to it. i'm not sure what would happen in northern syria. turkey is expanding. i think there's some university branches or faculties opened. >> is the world ever going to see that as legitimate or just an a turkish occupation? >> by default right now it's occupational. by definition. but i'm not sure how far he wants to go with that. it may depend on whether he can strike agreements with assad and russia in terms of what kind of autonomy will kurds get there that might threaten the turkish kurd, so to speak. it remains to be seen, but-- >> i think the --. >> but the way it goes, it continues this way, i don't think there's going to be a lot of legitimacy. >> no request he. >> to this point and i think it's a really important point you made. i think the issue is key and will be whether-- what's happening defacto, sort
of what's playing out already rather than-- where are the formal lines are. we haven't talked at all about yemen on the panel, but to me the really interesting discussion what's happening in yemen and whether there can be a move to the conflict, if you-- what was yemen before this conflict? and does it hang together? i kind of tried to address this on the chapter on governance about decentralization. again, if we want to serious about diplomacy and other groups, defining how the groups are to the central government and how regions do. joe biden tried to do this 10 or 15 years ago when he had the biden plan for iraq which again, a lot of this doesn't translate well to our own politics and it's not that meaningful because it's got to be organic. the point i'd make this notion that was brought out by the colonial powers, yes, they made
mistakes, but i think it would be a mistake to sort of go back to that model and try to redefine borders. it's organic and we kind of have to watch and see how it develops and in a place like yemen, we have to understand with more texture, what we try to do in the book, what are the factors of governance and political legitimacy and the different islamist groups, so they can create these knew arrangements that have sort of more staying power than what we have right now. >> of course, nationalism has developed over the past 100 years in some of the artificial states. >> yeah. >> i'm sure i'm going to get a complaint from the jordanians calling them artificial because of that nationalism. >> yeah, hi, i'm request with graham thornton. thank you for the remarks and you've covered a lot of topics in a short period of time. one thing that was mentioned briefly was on social media and
the influence technology and visual diplomacy, influencing conflicts. we saw through both revolutions and surviving military coups, you know , one way or another in turkey. can you touch upon digital responsiveness and how that may contribute to diplomacy or even intensifying conflicts in the middle east? >> if i could start with this and first, try to relate it to the book. i think the twitter and facebook revolutions, as they were called, the arab uprisings in 2011, it produced enormous capacity for people to organize against something, to be against something and i see that here, to tear off and disagree with a lot of people, but it's not all that useful-- i'm talking just in these
countries, i'll get to your u.s. diplomacy question here. i haven't seen a great test or test case study of building concensus and building political movements. you look at our current president, he uses his troll power very effectively to divide and fragment political coalitions at home and keep people off balance, but my main point, tech companies were looking into this. seven or eight years ago the tools were used to expand freedom and tear down authoritarian rule. we're in a dangerous movement, saudi arabia, china, others that aren't democracy, they're using tech tools to reime pose control. in effective ways they try to squelch debate, and that's bad. i don't see the u.s. playing any meaningful serious role in all of this, including in the test case of iran, and michael,
i hope he disagrees with me on this point. i think there's so much long with the non-policy of trump and who knows what he said at 11:00 at the top, but when the protests started again in iran early last year, i think all we really saw was an op-ed and a rhetorical approach of this administration to talk about freedom of the iranian people but i didn't see any-- maybe there were moves, but no serious move to talk to how do we help iranians help themselves and vpn, and you're probably more adept at the technology here, but having the space to communicate with each other, in iran, those who aren't in favor of the current regime and talking about military-led regime change, tools of engagement with societies. we don't talk about that now because of the nature of how bad our government is and the nature of debate, you can't raise it.
if we move to a less dysfunctional space here at home, it would be to talk about how we can engage to broader sectors of society. back to michael's point, diplomates shouldn't be be behind walls. guess what? none of us have to be behind walls because after this panel i can expect with somebody israeli, palestinian and have the conversation, but i don't see those tools used in diplomacy very well. >> two ways to look at this, when it comes to the dime model every strategy should have a different informational and military and economical component and the sum is greater than the parts, the united states hasn't done the i in the dime model. and the is information strategy such as it is is to be truthful. through truth you're being credibility. and the drawback, determining what the truth is is slow after which point after three or four
days, the news cycle has moved on. i've talked to people involved in strategies, in the u.s. government, we're so afraid of doing something wrong, we end up doing nothing right. especially on the milt side of -- military side of this. and if the basis of our counter insurgency strategy is to win hearts and minds, the iranian influence strategy has been traditional to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. there was a case in 2007 one of the iranian moderate newspapers, i think ir, a website affiliated with ro-- there was absolute nonsense. there was a contractor in indiana who put biblical numbers on a sniper scope and picked off by the media and
next thing it's in al-jazeera, and the poor farmer says, there was enough there, just to get in the way of our strategy. what brian said getting out the walls, i had a conversation early on in the trump administration to was a high level official, basically when i talk to people in the middle east, including prime ministers and so forth, i'm using whatsapp or turkey, i'm using signal. or if it's iranian i'm using telegram. if we're still picking up the phone and calling people, it's like a 20th solution to a 21st century problem. and that goes into the practical diplomacy i think is hard to change. >> this has been a very rich discussion and i'm sure we could go on for probably another hour. we have to leave it there though. thanks to all of our speakers,
to michael, to brian, to kadir. >> and to carol. >> oh, thank you for coming. [applaus [applause]. [inaudible conversations] >> week nights this months, we're featuring book tv programs showcasing what's available every weekend on c-span2. tonight socialism, kentucky republican senator rand paul discusses his case against socialism on the history and rise of socialist ideology in america. and then it's current affairs editor and chief nathan robinson, author of why you should be a socialist. after that, economists robert lawson and benjamin powell and socialism sucks, about their travels to socialist countries. book tv this week and every weekend on c-span2.
>> tonight on the communicators from the annual state of the net conference, internet archive creator brewster cale talks about documenting the internet. >> we collect about 800 million pages every day, the total collection is about 800 billion url's, so it's actually kind of huge and in terms of-- that turns out to be only part of what we do. we also archive television, abc, nbc, cbs, fox. and international television. if you go to tv.archives.org, you can search to find clips much what other people said and be able to put those in blog pos posts. the idea is so people can compare and contrast what people stay on television. >> 8:00 eastern on c-span2. >> the u.s. senate is about to gavel in for