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The Center for Preventive Action Independent Commission Report On Angola, "Toward an Angola Strategy: Prioritizing U.S.-Angola Relations"

Speaker: Vincent A. Mai, Commission Co-Chair, Chairman, AEA Investors LLC
Presider: Chester A. Crocker, James R. Schlesinger Professor of Strategic Studies, Georgetown University
May 29, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations

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CHESTER A. CROCKER: Just a couple of housekeeping details, which I'll keep to a minimum:

I'm hoping that our two co-chairs will say a word about the process that led to these remarkable conclusions that are in this report. I say "remarkable" because, among other things, they are unanimous, as far as I can tell. That doesn't happen with every Council project. So that's certainly a feather in your respective caps.

Our ground rules today are that this is on the record, both what you say in your opening remarks and the Q&A that we have. But once we go to Q&A from the floor, questioners will be not identified. The answers will be identified. So this is called secret questions but open answers. (Soft laughter.) That's apparently what the ground rules are for the -- do I have that right, Jamie? Is that -- that's correct? (Chuckles.)

FRANK G. WISNER: This is the first time I've ever heard -- I thought Council events --

CROCKER: No, different --

WISNER: -- the questioners had to identify themselves, so we would at least know who was asking the question.

CROCKER: Well, maybe they identify themselves, but we don't identify with any -- you can't take the news out of this room as to who asked the question.

WISNER: Oh, I got it. Okay. 

CROCKER: So that's the -- that's on the housekeeping side.

I might just say that this report was produced by the Center for Preventive Action, which is a part of the Council. And it was done in part in order, I think, to make sure that Angola's war-to-peace transition works, that it stays on track, that it succeeds, and that there isn't a reversal of the important trend that is now five years old, since the Angolan conflict came to an end, the Angolan civil conflict came to an end.

It's an important juncture. I think the publication of this report has triggered some important high-level diplomatic travel by my successor several times removed, Jendayi Frazer, who is en route as we speak to Luanda, which is an interesting development. So it's interesting what council reports can do. 

And it's also a time of importance because not only is Angola in its war-to-peace transition, but it's by next year going to be a 2 million barrel-a-day oil producer. Between '05 and 2014, Angola will receive revenues of between 3(00) and 500 billion (dollars) from its oil. It's a country in the midst of many transitions.

So I will ask Vincent and Frank to introduce their report and the conclusions, and then we'll open it up for some conversation, which I will lead initially, and then open it up to the floor.

Vincent, do you want to set the stage for us?

VINCENT A. MAI: Sure. Thanks, Chet.

Well, the first thing to say, for me, having the opportunity to co-chair this group with Frank was -- made the task a lot easier. And to your question about unanimous report, I wasn't as experienced at these things as Frank was. In the first meeting I had with him, he said one ground rule: no minority opinions.

WISNER: That's right. (Chuckles.)

MAI: Having said that, we actually had a wonderful group of people on the commission, including Chet and including several of you in the room, and a lot of very experienced people who had very strong opinions. And so I don't want to suggest in any way that we went through a process here where we just arrived at this unanimous conclusion. We actually spent a lot of time going through this. I think Bill Nash will agree, we took much longer to come up with the finished product than the Council or he would have liked, but I think it was worth it, because we really spent a lot of time at the end trying to resolve issues that -- where there was not unanimity, and I think all the commission members in the end felt that we achieved the balance that I think was reflected on that -- amongst the commission members.

Just a quick word about the origin of the report. As Chet mentioned, it came out of the Center for Preventive Action. And I must confess that at the beginning, I think there was a sense that Angola perhaps represented a potential failed state, and I think as we got into it, I think the collective view of the commission was that was not the case. Having said that, there were many, many other issues that came out of it which still made the report very pertinent and also to say not too relaxed on the failed state that I mentioned of Angola, because as you read in this report -- I mean, there are significant disparities in income distribution, in transparency, in all of those issues which come to good governance -- which constitute good governance, and certainly the United States has a real interest in promoting all of those qualities. Because I think long term, you know, for a stable democracy which we would like to see, those issues really are central, and so -- but we don't see them as an imminent threat, but certainly the pressure needs to be put on Angola to -- in those areas, but of course starting with the Angolans themselves.

We have a representative here from UNITA who is very active in the political dialogue in Angola, and certainly I for one am very encouraged that this kind of dialogue is going on in the early stages of what one hopes will be a fully functioning democracy. But one cannot overstate the importance of those -- of soft issues around what we all understand, and as Chet mentioned, the crucial importance of Angola as a source of energy for the United States.

And so that is certainly a critical point, but all the other issues have to be center stage as well if one is going to have a really, you know, I think, healthy, neutral dialogue between the United States and Angola for the long term.

Finally, before turning it over to Frank, this report was really written from a U.S. perspective. It wasn't meant to be a prescription for the Angolans. The Angolans themselves have to, you know, do what they feel is necessary to make progress on all these issues, but it was very much intended for U.S. policymakers, and it is in that spirit that we did it.

So Frank will talk about some of the specific thoughts that we had, but I thought those were just some quick overview remarks.

WISNER: Well, Vincent, thanks very much. I am enormously pleased to be here in the council and join Vincent -- you, Chet in thanking the Council really for the opportunity of returning, in my case, after virtually a quarter of a century to Angola and looking at what has happened and what is at stake for the United States.

There are present in this room -- Vincent, as you noted -- a number of our colleagues on the commission -- Mora, Kofi, Princeton, who's found himself hiding in the back of the room, stay out of the crossfire; others on whom we relied enormously like Paul Hare --

CROCKER: Why don't we all raise our hands who are commissioners so people know.

WISNER: . . . , Pauline.

Very pleased that you all could be here as well today, and I think when the questions come, I may turn to you and seek some support for our case.

I'd also like to just add a note for one person who isn't here today, and that's Adam Frankel, for Adam did a terrific job in researching and writing this report in very credible English. And Jamie, you and Adam are the real heroes and heroines of the day. Bill Nash, of course, as well. But this would not have happened without you, your perseverance, Jamie, your determination to get it done. My admiration and I know Vincent's as well.

Why did we do it? For all the reasons that Vincent described, but as we sat and reflected on Angola today in the United States, the two compelling reasons are the ones that we would all agree. 

And that is that Angola is rising day-by-day as a critically important supplier of a vital resource this country needs, and that's hydrocarbons. It's also situated in a region of Africa that is of huge sensitivity, the Southern African, Central African area, the Gulf of Guinea, where real American interests are at play. 

Now we believed when we set out that it was right and proper that Americans think, in general, and about American policy in particular, to try to get things right in this part of Africa. I believe we also recognized as an inherent part of our thinking that what we had to say about Angola to the public and to our own government would make sense in the context of a sensible American international energy policy, particularly one that recognizes, this country is going to be hugely dependent on imported hydrocarbons for years and years to come. And therefore the suppliers do matter to us. And second, that the United States needs to get it right in dealing with the crises and the opportunities, but particularly the crises that currently plague that region of Africa, including the Gulf of Guinea. 

So if we have the right context, then what we do with Angola will find some traction and make good sense.

We never underestimated from the outset how tough a target Angola would be for American policy. It has the history that is amply described in the report and its own problem-filled present of the shattered infrastructure, the issues of poverty, development, education, health, the democracy deficit, corruption; all of the international rankings that we know so well, Angola standing 161 out of 177 in the UNDP's Human Development Index, a problem-filled country and a country that has a history of shaping, resisting, sidelining foreign pressure, foreign influence, and with a capacity given its oil revenues to be able to listen selectively when Angola wants to. 

But I think we also concluded that Angolans want a different future. They recognize they're part of the world; they recognize they have a lot at stake in a relationship with the United States; they recognize they will be and are dependent on markets, technology. And therefore there is a range of activity that we can all usefully engage. 

To any of you who have not visited Angola, I invite and  encourage you to find a way to do it, though as Mora and I discovered, getting there is only a quarter of the problem. It is a major issue. But I've rarely seen an African country that has creatively and interestingly mixed European and African culture to come up with a style that is very, very special. And it's a country that's changing, changing very rapidly, changing very fast, particularly since 2002, and will be changing a lot more.

Broadly speaking, the conclusions of the report were principally that the United States needs to reconsider its engagement, to be engaged, to be patient about that engagement, to put Angola and treat Angola on a par with the way we manage American relations with the great nations of the continent. To be certain, our policies are predicated on a recognition of the past, the problems of the present, and the special sensitivities that lie in U.S.-Angolan history; to be careful as Americans, we must not set goals which exceed the reach of American power and influence. I know we have no habit of doing that,(laughter) Dr. Crocker, elsewhere in the world, and you're the best witness. 

CROCKER: (Chuckles.) 

WISNER: But to be very careful, and remember what Vincent said, that it isn't the United States that's going to transform Angola, it's going to be Angola that will be doing that. But what we would try to accomplish will help Angola be recognized.

Never -- and Vincent, you've made this point with consistency and clarity, and it's absolutely right -- never can you lose sight of core American beliefs in democracy, human rights, freeing the country of corruption. These are inherently Angolan needs. And if you can get those right and be engaged, and get it right in Angola, we'll have a bit of a better idea about how to chart courses in other resource-rich, problem-filled nations that we encounter elsewhere around the world.

American engagement at the official level means a number of things, we concluded. It means engaging high-level political dialogue. It means getting our political leaders, both legislative and executive, together. It means getting trade and investment missions. It means maintaining enough of an official aid presence to keep us in the game, relevant to the Angolan situation.

But it also means taking some bold steps, and we've recommended consideration of a free trade agreement and perhaps an initial step with the trade and investment framework which are popular in other parts of the world. 

But seeing the U.S. private sector broaden the base of the relationship, increasing the ballast in the relationship, is very important -- particularly if the private sector remains sensitive to the social responsibilities that one needs to carry out institution building and capacity-building requirements.

And finally, an American approach to Angola needs to be seen, in addition, in an international context. It would be a good thing if the fund [International Monetary Fund] were re-engaged in Angola. It would be a good thing if the bank were fully engaged. It is always wise to work within institutional frameworks like the AU, with its NEPAD’s [New Partnership for African Development] and its anti-corruption conclusions. It's smart to operate inside of international conventions, the extractive industries agreement among African states to make their investments transparent. And it's important that the United States, we recommended, undertake a careful discussion with China not to discourage China from concluding that she doesn't have a role there -- that's not our place in the world -- but to try to find what both of us can do by starting with an agreement on what your objectives are.

Well, we concluded in broadest terms that the time is right at hand to give the relationship a fresh impulse, to take one another seriously and to intensify the engagement that we think serves two nations with important issues at stake's future.

Thank you, sir.

CROCKER: Thank you both very much.

Let me open up some of the discussion here by posing a question. As a commissioner -- and I did participate in some of the dialogue about what we were going to conclude -- I think the bottom line of this report is ‘take Angola seriously and raise the importance of Angola in our African regional policies.’ That's to me what the bottom line of the report is.

There's an implication there that we're not doing that at the present time or that we're not doing enough of it, and that we should take it more seriously than we currently are. So I guess an initial question is, is that a correct perception, that we should in fact elevate Angola to the same level as, for example, Nigeria, South Africa, DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], Sudan? If I'm reading you guys right, as a member of your commission, I'm wondering if that's what you're saying.

And the second thing that you say is, yes, but keep expectations sober, be patient, be forbearing -- as the word "forbearing" comes to mind in the executive summary of the report -- and don't set the expectation -- don't the set bar too high of expectation, but have a sustained and expanded diplomatic engagement with this country.

So that's what the report is saying.

I guess I have two questions to open it up, and I'll turn to you, Vincent, and then to Frank.

Is it your view that Angola needs more attention than it is currently getting by official Washington? And secondly, is official Washington capable of conducting the kind of nuanced, sophisticated, forbearing but engaged, and sustained policy?

We all who are in this room know something about what engagement means, and when it's constructive and when it's -- (interrupted by laughter). So are we capable of doing what the report says we should do?

Vincent, over to you.

MAI: Well, if I may start with the second one first, I think that's a trick question because -- (laughter) -- because, you know, one would like obviously to say that the answer is yes. I think that if one looks at the history of U.S. policy in Africa -- and Chet himself have played a crucial role and a sustained role in that department in the 1980s, so he knows exactly what I'm talking about here -- but I think Africa has never -- if I can just push this throughout the continent -- has never really assumed the preeminence that many other regions of the world have had, and as a consequence of that, I think that U.S. policy, in general, to your question, has been it has been very, very sporadic. I mean, I think sometimes there's been trips and starts. So has there been a sustainable, rational, long-term policy pursuing U.S. interests throughout Africa? I think the answer is no.

Now, having said that, I think you see encouraging signs that Africa is now -- certain parts of Africa are assuming greater prominence, and I think there is increasing and more sustained attention. I think Angola has not achieved yet the importance that, as the commission suggests, we think it deserves. Now central around that is the fact that, as Frank mentioned, Angola is hugely important as an energy supplier to the United States, so it's part of our strategic interest to promote a really good long-term relationship and develop it. But I think it's also very important not to have only energy as the linchpin of that relationship.

And what we also tried to say in this report, is that it has to be completed with many, many other tools, but these all -- if it's going to effective -- have to be long term.

And I hope one of the consequences of this report, if we can be presumptuous, is that we will play a little role in drawing attention to the importance of a long and sustained relationship. Whether you have a Republican or a Democratic administration, the collective interests of the United States suggest that that's the right approach.

CROCKER: Frank, you want to --  

WISNER: Well, I'm going to take a shot at the two aspects of the question and speak not with any sense of prejudice about succeeding administrations, so on, over the years, but to go back in my own experience, Chet, to the waning years of the Cold War, when the Cold War actually moved into Africa and we began to define "vital national interests" as tied up with what happened. 

And in the conduct of our relations with nations, we approached the larger serious governments of weight in the continent with a view of what we were about in the world, where they stood, how we saw a cooperative framework developing, trying to identify issues that were important to them, and then putting ourselves on the side of those issues, recognizing we did not want to be outflanked.

Now, the Cold War ended. I would argue that that same discipline of treating Africa in terms of the strategic sense of where the United States needs to go is something I'd like to see as part of the way we approach the continent. It's not just our bilateral ties, but it's a conceptual framework, for the larger nations of Africa are the ones that will maintain the balance on the continent. And there's where my Angola, or the Angola of our report, fits. 

And so I only look to this question now as a way of managing an approach to a collectivity of nations, and Angola I certainly would put up very high.

Now come to the second part of your remark, about the bar. I'd like just to reinterpret it slightly. I like to think we set the bar quite high. What we were arguing for, though, is that you do not try to cross that bar with one jump. You're not going to be able to develop a relationship with Angola with as much history and as many problems if you don't have a long-term perspective, if you're not prepared to invest the time, take the ups and downs, the buffeting. Go for the high points, granted, but do it on a patient and committed basis, and don't be deterred by the next abuse or next disagreement and driven off course.

It's hard with Angola. Among the many other reasons that just are obvious to us, it's a lot easier to fly tomorrow morning to Cape Town and sit down and talk to the leaders in South Africa or Kenya. Lusophone Africa is still a very remote part of the continent for the United States -- reaching it, talking to it. So patience comes in many dimensions, and a relationship has to be built on patience. 

CROCKER: It's particularly important that you've stressed, I think, both of you, the fact that we have interests; Angolans have interests. And we've got to find a way to align them in the context that we're now living in. And that context includes bilateral issues. It includes domestic Angolan developments, whether it's in the field of economic of political governance, but it also includes the region. 

And my next question relates kind of to that, because clearly we've got a range of interests vis-a-vis our partners in Angola. We have bilateral interests; we have values interests; we have energy interests. We also have regional security interests that relate in a way to the energy piece. 

So all of this has to be seen, I think, together. And I wonder if I could invite our two co-chairs to say a word about Angola's subregional role. What role do you think Angola is playing today, or could be encouraged to play more of, vis-a-vis key partners such as Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, Zimbabwe, where we read occasional stories that Angolans have shown some attention, and vis-a-vis South Africa? 

In other words, is this a regional strategy that we're talking about? And to what extent is that maybe up there in the top three priorities for American policy? How do we rank the American priorities, I guess, I'm asking? Which is of course the least helpful question I could ask, but I'm going to ask it anyway. 

MAI: Do you want to go first, Frank? Or should I? 

WISNER: Go ahead. 

MAI: Well, if you had to rank them, and we frankly didn't have a long dialogue in the commission about this, so this would be a personal point of view, which Frank can be free to disagree with. But I think clearly energy policy, and as part of the U.S. energy independence, has to be a pivotal driver of that relationship. And so I would put that right up there. 

Now to our earlier discussion we had, that's not to say that there are not a lot of other issues that go around it. But frankly if Angola had no energy, no oil, I think it would be much lower on the list of priorities. So that has to be, I think, viewed as a critical strategic issue, at least as far as the U.S. is concerned. It's also a great opportunity for Angola. Because in many of the countries in Africa where poverty reigns, well, that is not the case in Angola. 

And I think the second piece of the importance to us when it comes to stability is, with all those resources that Angola has, there's an absolutely wonderful opportunity for this country to shine under the headings of social responsibility and education, health and all those issues, democracy, that go towards creating a stable country, and therefore an important and stable relationship for the United States. 

Frankly, I think right now Angola falls distressingly short in terms of capturing that opportunity, because of all the corruption and all the things that we've referred to in the report. But to me, the stability that comes out of the natural resources and the United States promoting that stability is a very important second piece of the priorities.

And then the third one -- and Chet, you've just touched on it -- is the regional importance of Angola. It's a very important part of the continent. I happen to believe that if South Africa can really flourish -- and it's beginning to show very encouraging signs -- that the whole southern Africa region has a crucial role to play really in the economic and political evolution in the best way of Africa. 

And I think Angola, as part of that regional grouping, has a very, very important role to play not only economically, but also militarily. And they have played a very important role in the DRC. There have been these reports coming out of Zimbabwe, which I've checked with people I know well and I think, regrettably, are true, which I think is very unfortunate if that is the case. But I know that the South Africans are very, very anxious to have Angola as a crucial member of a southern African political-military-economic coalition. And so to me the military-political stability on a regional basis would be a third, very important priority.

CROCKER: Just to dramatize the point on the regional thing before I give the floor to Frank, Angola will have more spending capacity than any country anywhere near the region apart from Nigeria. And Angola has one of the few militaries that can operate cross-border, and does with regularity. So, you know, that's why the question is important, and what kind of a partner is Angola for us in the regional arena.  

And Frank, you --

WISNER: Yes, I --

CROCKER: -- know this patch well.

WISNER: No, I wouldn't say that. But I have a very strong view on it, and that is that -- and why I listed among my very top priorities as we undertook the report is the regional dimension of Angola. I can only agree, Vincent, the way you've looked at it in terms of southern Africa, but I also come back to your first priority, and that is the oil priority. 

When I look at Sao Tome and Principe, Angola, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo, and Congo-Brazzaville, and I look at the degree of difficulty being experienced throughout that region today, the amount of instability that is still before us, then I know that as a sound, sensible planner of national policy, I need to have a relationship with the strongest and most important government with disposable power at their hands in that region, and I need to do it on a number of levels.  

I need to have a political dialogue. I need to have military-tomilitary strategic perceptions coordinated. I need to have military-to-military joint exercises. I want my armed forces to be able to know the armed forces officers, commanding officers on the other side. I want a wide range of connecting points so that when we enter the inevitable cycle of crises, we have a way of estimating how Angola will operate and trying to influence the Angolans in the course of it.  

CROCKER: Well thanks both very much. 

Let's open it up now. And when you ask your question, just identify yourself and your affiliation, if you would do so, please.

QUESTIONER: The one topic that wasn't covered in the introductory remarks, which clearly probably matches in importance the energy interest, is China. How does China fit into the multiple connecting points that you want to foster, Frank? And does China provide an out for Angola to engage the United States in the ways that we want to engage?

WISNER: I perhaps was running out of steam or mumbling at the end of my opening remarks, but I did try to emphasize China because I think it's a critical aspect of looking at Angola through a multilateral perspective. I don't believe we just have a policy towards Angola; we need also to look at Angola through its international dimensions. And I tried to mention three: the World Bank and IMF; second, the AU and other international engagements, like EITI; and then China. So China's really important, and I think the report does focus on it.

Now, what do we mean? You have put your finger right on the core of the problem, and that is nobody questions whether China should or should not be in Angola. That's a Chinese and an Angolan decision. And personally, I can't conclude that more oil on the market of the world today, found by Chinese or found by Americans, isn't generally to everybody's good. 

The question is, what is the engagement about? How is it conducted? How is the playing field worked through? What are the issues of responsibility that nations have when they venture abroad and involve themselves in one another's society? 

Those are the issues that I think it's important that we get sorted out in our own minds with China and with Angola. And I believe that sitting down with the Chinese face to face, talking about what goes inside of sensitive areas -- Sudan, Angola, elsewhere -- ought to be an objective of American policy, ought to be part of our Africa exchanges with the Chinese government to understand one another.

We know the Chinese will be very reticent about appearing to involve themselves in the internal matters of another country. It's a Chinese perspective, but that's still to say one can agree -- not to say that one cannot agree on the importance of social development, human capacity development, development of economic sectors like agriculture, how we can both coordinate, what the rules of commercial engagement will be -- all I think are fruitful areas of discussion with China and ones that we do need to undertake and have formally as part of our exchanges with Beijing.

CROCKER: (Off mike.)

QUESTIONER: No, I think Frank just said it all, thank you.

CROCKER: Okay, in the back with the red glasses.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. I should preface the question by saying that almost everything I know about Angola I've learned in the last half-hour, and the question will probably reflect that. (Laughter.) But what I've been sitting here thinking about is that suppose there was an organization remotely like the Council on Foreign Relations in Angola, and that today they were issuing their report on Angola 2020 and relationships with the United States, et cetera -- what would their key issues be and what would they be talking about?

MAI: A very intriguing question, but I'll give that a shot.

First, I think from Angola's standpoint, generally notwithstanding the fact that I think the U.S. image around the world has diminished somewhat the last few years -- but I think Angolans would still regard the United States as a very important crucial foreign policy relationship, number one.

Number two, I think that the Angolans would look to the United States for-- I mean, one of the things we heard a lot about as we were going through the process of creating this report -- is respect, from all the foreigns of the world. And the United STates, from Angola's standpoint I think, is key in giving that kind of legitimacy, that kind of respect.

And so I think that the Angolans do take seriously the -- you know, the views that the U.S. expresses. And we were mindful of that when we were doing this report, to try and strike a balance between encouragement and healthy criticism.

Obviously, from an energy point of view, the United States represents an important outlet for Angola. But having said that, I don't think if the United States disappeared as a customer tomorrow, I think Angola would have no trouble finding other places to sell its oil. So I think from that standpoint, paradoxically, the United STates may be less important.

But fourthly, I think the Angolans themselves, whether it's the government or the opposition, recognize that there's a tremendous capacity shortage in Angola, and I think the quality of the relationship from the Angolan standpoint -- of the relationship with the United States-- is very important in terms of long-term addressing some of those capacity deficiencies that exist in Angola. And there actually are a lot of initiatives under way that are going to that problem.

So if you look at the sort of soft issues, if you will, in terms of development, I think that Angola would welcome and would benefit from a healthy relationship with the United States. And I think that's the way they see it.

CROCKER: Frank, do you want to add?

WISNER: It's hard to add much to that. I would say if you got beyond the point that Vincent has touched, the dialogues that can develop and be useful to Angola over its capacities, its developments, its international trading positions, all of which I believe at some level Angolans would like to be in, and if you got to issues of national security, I think you'd have to start with the assumption that it would take a while to get there. Nobody understands this better than Chet, how long it took to build a degree of confidence, trust with Angola when you were talking about issues of war and peace, and particularly their war and peace. 

CROCKER: Their war and peace.

WISNER: It took years of the most patient probing to create an atmosphere of intellectual -- an intellectual meeting ground and enough trust where you could really have a dialogue about national security. 

CROCKER: It took five years, and you did most of it.

WISNER: No! (Laughs.)

CROCKER: Just to build on that point, if there were such a thing as an Angolan Council on Foreign Relations, it wouldn't surprise me if some of the things that were in their report included balancing off the external powers that are important to their life. And that includes China, the United States, the Koreans, Brazilians -- lots of other people -- Arabs (off mike) -- that would be on their list. But beyond that, it would depend on who was a member of the Council of Foreign Relations in that -- (off mike).

We have some questions in the front row here.

QUESTIONER: First, I have to -- my intention was to sit here quietly, having had a platform previously as a commissioner. But I can't help myself. And I want to get back to a question posed by Chet, and that is whether or not there are things that are impeding our official response or that make it -- put it in a better position vis-a-vis Angola today than in the past. And my own reading of history is that while the kind of discipline that Frank is advocating may have been at play during the Cold War, to be sure, you know, from my reading of the history, during that period we tended not to be too concerned about the interests of African peoples, and to misread our own official -- our national interests in ways that led to disastrous consequences for us and for Angolans. 

And so my question is, what is -- if anything -- different now that would either facilitate or impede an official response in the way that we have recommended in the report? And it's partly a question for Frank, who has -- and you, Chet, who have had that experience in officialdom, but it's also a question for Vincent, since I think a part of what we're talking -- what is a possibility now is a non- official, private sector, as well as civil society response.  

MAI: Well, let me come to the sort of private sector, civil society part of it first. I think one of the things that you have in Angola, which I think is in the early stages of changing -- and Paul and others will have a better feel for this -- is that there's a tremendous concentration of power and of control over resources that spills over into the private sector in that many companies that I know of, and I've spoken to lots of people, find Angola still a very, very tough place to do business, very not user-friendly.  

And Angola's crying out for investment in the non-oil sector to really create the jobs and create the economic activity, because the oil and what's going on in the oil is a huge distorting factor. And when you look at the economic numbers for Angola, it's almost meaningless. So if you get beyond the oil sector, there's the -- it's crying out for, I think, very enlightened and broad participation. And U.S. companies, with the exception of those in a few sectors, find it a very difficult place to be, because you have to crack through all sorts of barriers that have been established by the government. So it's not -- it's just not a user-friendly place, and it's particularly a burden today when you've got a global economy and a great many countries which are extremely user-friendly.

And so I think one of the crucial things that the Angolans have to recognize is -- if they want foreign investment, is to really get with it in terms of what global practice is. And that's a big issue.

And I think the same is true in the nongovernmental organization (NGO) sector. There's some people doing really good work in Angola, and they need to be encouraged. But I think what you really also want to have is not foreign NGOs doing good things there, but you -- really the growth of domestic NGOs across a range of sectors. 

There's the beginnings of some of that. And again, others would have a better feel for that, but I think all of that needs to happen. It's happening but, I think, painfully slowly. And one hopes with the increasing oil revenues that this will -- that there be a more expansive approach to these things.

On the government side, I'd leave it to Frank and to Chet. 

WISNER: (Coughs.) Forgive me. 

I do want to demur for a moment with the opening remark, your opening remark that somehow in the Cold War, American relations with African nations were purely at a government-to-government level and at a strategic level, in part because, having practiced the trade, I practice in a different manner, but also because our leverage in Africa flowed from our capacity to actually get on the ground and try to deal with issues of health, education, economic development. And that was part of a Cold War strategy. So we were hardly disengaged at that moment.

But what -- the point I was trying to make at my remark was a different one. There was almost a -- there was a higher level of logic and engagement that I remember between the secretaries of state, vice presidents, others when they sat with African leaders looking at the strategic imperatives that were guiding the United States, taking Africans into their confidence, asking Africans what they needed in their contexts. And I still come back and believe that that's where you've got to aim to get your dialogue, not simply as if Africa's some continent that's floating and unconnected with your national and international security concerns.

But when you come down to it, to me -- and the report does touch on this, if you go towards the back of it -- how we engage our government, as opposed to the issues of the private sector -- and Vincent's covered that -- does come down to the way we deliver dialogue in our modern government. And I may be overstating the case from my perception, and I haven't been in government only a bit, for better than a decade, but I believe that critical relationships like Angola are likely to be underserved because the level of responsibility for serious engagements has moved up.

And no secretary of state, no undersecretary of state or defense or whatever can devote the time to the careful maintenance of relationships very, very much we're proposing for Angola; will not be able to do it because crisis management, the imperatives of those urgent pressing matters of life and death, war and peace will block it out. And therefore, it becomes hugely important the way we select and empower the next level down in our government.

So I'm delighted today that Ms. Frazer is off to Angola. It's at that level of government where the key strategic focus on critical relationships with Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia and others are going to have to be focused if they're going to be -- we're going to be able to deliver the attention that's necessary. And I'd like to think, broadly speaking, empowering your regional assistant secretaries is really an important feature in being able to implement policies.

CROCKER: I would just add one point to what Frank has said, which is that it is possible to conduct a lot of relationships at the level you're talking about, but only if there's no slack in the system and only if you have Cabinet-level officials who understand and know how to spell the word "delegation," and downward as well as upward loyalty. And these are very important factors. They don't just apply to Angola, but that's why if you ask the question, well, all right, we're going to add Angola to the list of key accounts in Africa that already has four or five countries on it, that means that my successor is going to have to take more than one trip to Angola.

How many trips did you take to Angola during the five years you were my senior deputy? I mean, you know, an unbelievable amount of 24/7, 365 engagement is what we're talking about with that particular set of relationships. I'm not saying that's what has to happen now, but you do have to have less slack in the system -- maybe the word that I'm looking for.

QUESTIONER: Two short comments and one short question. In response to what would the Angolan Council talk about, well, one thing they would certainly talk about is the fact that the United States did not support an international donors' conference after the war, and we're using, you know, double standards and so on in the way we treat them. And they still are bitter about that fact.

Secondly, with respect to Vincent's comment on Angola and Zimbabwe, I assume you're referring to the ‘ninjas’ that were supposed to go there or were alleged to be going there. Now perhaps you have information that I don't have, and I'm not privy to intelligence channels these days, but everything I've heard is to the contrary, and I think it'd be rather difficult to disguise 5,000 Portuguese speakers in Zimbabwe in their black uniforms -- at least I hope that's the case. I hope you're wrong and I'm right.

My question, though, is to both of you. Have you received any Angolan reaction to the publication of the report? And if so, what is it?

I might just say that in terms of what I've -- the only thing I've seen so far is in the Angolan press of where they underlined the report saying that they wanted -- that the reported stated for a much stronger relationship between the two countries. That was what they seized on.

WISNER: And that's exactly the report I've received. It's been press reports. Unless, Bill or Jamie you've seen something -- I know Vincent and I haven't received a formal reaction from the Angolan government to the report. I didn't particularly anticipate one. But what I have heard is the very press comment you've talked about, which I welcome, because that is certainly a key point that we were stressing in the report. And it also means, given the, I understand quite extensive press coverage, that the report, which pulls no punches, is getting quite thorough reading in Angola, and that's good.  

And we're planning, in fact  working on convenient dates when members of the leadership are there [in Angola] to try to go out there -- maybe we can catch a plane that will get us there this time -- and go out and go around and let each of the key figures react to us directly. 

CROCKER: We're running short of time, so maybe we can take the last questions in a group and then see if our two co-chairs would have some concluding remarks.

QUESTIONER: I wanted to come back to the issue of security again. I looked at some of your recommendations, and although I agree with them individually for police types of training, engagement with the military, some judicial types of training, I think that you should take it one step further and really emphasize the requirement for a collective security sector reform, security sector enhancement, something like that, because when you take these individually and not in coherence, they lose a lot of their synergy and we see sort of the military's doing one thing that's not in coordination with the police training, and so on and so forth. And that's one of the things that we're looking at as far as Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The second thing that we're discussing as far as engagement goes is perhaps more of a soft type of approach. You did mention de-mining. But the environmental security of de-mining; of disaster training, which could not only be used within Angola, but also transnationally with some of the other areas there that are prone to floodings and those kinds of things. And I'd appreciate your comments on that.

WISNER: We've got a question over here.

QUESTIONER: My question is directed specifically at the private sector strategy, because I'm here as an actor, someone who's looking for ways to engage with Angola on behalf of the U.S. government. And I wanted to see if we could take it a step further and see if we could get any recommendations on specific non-petroleum sector sectors that you think not only the Angolans would like to see the U.S. government and U.S. companies and the private sector engage with, but also that the U.S. private sector has the capacity to engage with Angola in. And so that takes into account how the U.S. private sector is engaging with Africa as a whole. And so that was my specific question.

QUESTIONER: . A long time ago, in an administration far, far away, one of tools that was used to signal the importance of a country was the establishment of a binational commission. We did it for Angola, we did it for Nigeria. It signaled to the country that, indeed, you're important. It signaled to the rest of the continent that this country was important, and to the rest of the world. And there are so many issues that could be covered in those bilateral commissions -- binational commissions. And my question is whether you would recommend something like that be restored.

And secondly, whether the Gulf of Guinea Commission -- if you want to talk about oil and security in Angola and Nigeria and other places, you've got to engage the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and we're not doing it, not by a long shot.

CROCKER: Any other questions that can be phrased in one sentence, and then we'll go back to our two co-chairs? Anybody else?

QUESTIONER: Some of the discussion here on the private sector issues may fail to have noted that there was an Angola trade mission here to the United States several weeks ago; it covered a lot of ground, met with a lot of people, and I think that it was an important first step.

My question is on the elections. We haven't talked about that. Major, major step coming up, lots of progress being made, and I would like the views of the panelists on how that portends for bilateral relations.

CROCKER: Okay. I think that does it on the questions, and now we go to the answers. Frank, you want to go?

WISNER: Okay.

CROCKER: I want to give Vincent the last word here. Okay?

WISNER: I think that's right. (Laughter.)

Well, it's hard to group them. I think -- if you don't mind -- I'll go through them. I listened very carefully to what you had to say, and you're closer to the staging of our dialogue with the Angolans on a Department of Defense and military-to-military, EUCOM -- now AFRICOM -- discussions.

My only reflection is I would start with simple forms of direct engagement -- joint exercises, invitations, IMETs [International Military Education Training] -- and build up a pattern of understanding and cooperation before you get to collected security reform. You need a level of understanding just in linguistic terms, conceptual terms. You also need a basis of trust before you will have an effective collective security reform discussion. So in this case, while I generally like top-down, in this case, I would recommend personally, from my experience, bottom-up.

Second, in terms of the non-petroleum sector, there are just a wide variety of opportunities in Angola where Angolans want us to be present. And you have a feeling that opportunities are slipping by, that Americans don't recognize, don't access. There's the infrastructure development field -- I don't have a sense that American companies are present as I would wish them to be. There is the terrifically important field of human resource development, the training, educational commitments that come either in private sector or NGO deliveries, very important. Third, the Angolans emphasize it, it's a harder one to export, and that's agriculture. Angola has got extraordinary endowments, fishes from sea to land. But I'd like to think that intensifying the number frequency, sophistication of trade missions, doing a careful analytical view of what are the priorities -- and you're asking for those -- and then planning very careful and frequent numbers of trade missions would make a great deal of sense.

Binational commissions. My experience perhaps is a bit different than yours. Binational commissions were great for all the reasons you stated, absolutely. The problem was in sustaining them once you started them.

Because inside the United States government, it was my experience that State had an officer responsible for Angola but the Department of Treasury didn't. 

And how many Treasury and Commerce and other officials could you get, even for the top countries? They have very small deliverable -- capacity to deliver. I was unable to sustain it for India. And look at the economic relationship today, simply scheduling departmental representatives on a sustained basis. 

I came to believe that while it's good as an idea, it doesn't -- it's -- you can get one or two meetings out of it. But once you try to put it on a routine basis and say you're going to meet for every several years twice a year or whatever is the number, you can't do it. It's just not a practical mechanism. 

The Gulf of Guinea Commission -- I don't know its work well enough to be able to comment. Chet, if you or Princeton or someone else feels comfortable answering Howard's question, please do. I don't know the commission. 

MAI: Maybe the other question was about the election in Angola, you're talking about. (Laughter.) 

WISNER: Notice the one I ducked. (Laughter.) 

MAI: Look, I think there's no question that today Angola is as close to a dictatorship as -- you know, I think if one had to call it by its name, I think that's what it is. Having said that, you do have a legislative body. You do have a legislative election coming up next year, I believe. 

There is an active process of registering voters going on right now. We were just at a meeting, Frank and I, with Princeton Lyman before lunch. And that is very active, and apparently about five million voters have been registered. And they've asked for an extension to September 2007 to try and see if they can get everybody registered. So that's all a prelude to the hope of having an effective democratic election next year. 

But I think there's a much deeper issue, which is really trying to create true democratic structures into a society which has been used to a centralized authority. And there it's a question of having an independent judiciary, an independent constitution, and people feeling willing to participate in elections where their vote is registered and there's no fear of violence or any other kind of threat. And I think that still needs to be tested. And I think that if you look at the history of Angola, the record is not good. 

But I must say, speaking for myself, I'm encouraged that I think maybe -- but again, someone like Paul Hare will have a much better feel for this. But I'm encouraged that a process is underway which will start leading to a more -- a greater respect for democratic institutions and ultimately for a government that feels responsible to the people in the classic sense of what democracy's all about, which I don't think you have there at the moment. 

The final thing, in terms of presidential election, I think it's much murkier. I mean, that keeps getting put off. And one can have all sorts of philosophical debates about what's on in the president's mind about whether he's willing to have an election or not, or how vulnerable he would be if there were to be an election. 

And now I just heard today that there's the African Cup, which is going to be -- they're hoping will be in Angola in 2010. If it is in Angola, maybe it's not the wisest thing to have a presidential election just the year before the African Cup. 

That was all -- something I just have heard.

So I think, you know, there's just some little steps, but I think a long way to go before one would feel confident in saying you feel good about the progress towards democracy there. I think it's been distressingly slow would be my opinion.

CROCKER: President dos Santos has been in office -- will have been in office -- for 30 years when 2009 rolls around. He's exactly my age, and he's a person I respect and admire. I wonder if maybe that's a good exit point after 30 years. Not bad as president.

MAI: Well, maybe you should tell him.

CROCKER: Maybe we should -- (laughter) -- we can send a message from the Council here. (Laughter.)

As a moderator, one of the functions of a moderator is to introduce the two speakers. I didn't do that because you don't -- guys don't need any introduction, and therefore, you didn't get one. (Laughter.)

Please join me in thanking our two co-chairs. (Applause.)

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