This session was part of the Center for Preventive Action Symposium on Preventive Priorities for a New Era, which was made possible by the generosity of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
JANE HOLL LUTE: Good afternoon. For those of us who know Madeleine and have known her for a long time, she's a very difficult act to follow. But we will try to, and we'll try to do it in a way that puts a little -- a slightly sharper framework around some of the issues that were raised during that session.
We're very fortunate that we have three experts who will take us through the region. Paul took advantage of the organizer's position to suggest an order. And I think it's fair to say, when I tested him on his preferences for the order in which our speakers go, I asked him which was the biggest -- which region of the world was likely to present the major significant first foreign policy challenge to the new administration. And he did not hesitate at all and said Pakistan region -- Pakistan. He may prove righter than any of us know. And so, for that reason, we'll begin with Daniel Markey.
You have bios in your folders and in the material that's been presented. So let me ask Daniel perhaps to start us off with a brief overview -- I don't know; one to two minutes. I'm kidding. (Laughs.) You know, eight to 10 minutes on where he thinks the biggest challenges and the outlook for this region is. And then we'll move on from there. I think it's important that we hear and perhaps look for especially the kinds of things that may be common to the regions, given their outlook, and where the big differences lie.
DANIEL MARKEY: Great. Thanks a lot. And thanks to Paul for giving me this forum to meet all of you.
I was originally asked to really think about the region as a whole, and so the region being South Asia, not Pakistan. And I'm going to try to do that briefly, but I will spend more time and attention on Pakistan, because I agree with Paul and I agree with Secretary Albright and many others that that really is likely to be the largest challenge that faces this administration on the foreign policy front, at least right off the bat, and I think really should be a top priority as it looks further into the future.
But South Asia is a region, as I'm sure most of you know, of tremendous growth, tremendous populations, almost astounding populations, and also tremendous conflict. And much of the conflict -- I attended a conference a little while back in Canada and it was on state failure, state weakness.
And looking at South Asia, the really glaring point for all of us at this conference was the extent to which conflict in that region is largely borne of state weakness, of weak governance, weak institutions. And that may be true more broadly globally, but I think it's especially true there. And when I talk about weak institutions, it's not just the states themselves, but it's also the regional institutions. We rarely, if ever, hear about the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC. Many of you probably have never heard of it. That's partially because it's not particularly effective and it's not particularly meaningful.
There are many -- because of these weak states and weak regional institutions, there are many what I would term localized grievances that may fall in the category of areas maybe for more work in terms of preventive diplomacy, preventive action.
These -- and just to run through this very quickly -- would include Nepal, where we had the strange and sort of vaguely anachronistic view of a Maoist insurgency taking over a state, and we have many questions remaining about whether that new structure, that post-monarchy structure in Nepal, will actually function.
We've got Sri Lanka, where you've got ethnic conflict that looks to be continuing to burn strong. And obviously the military offensives by the government are continuing, and we've got serious humanitarian concerns about where that's going, but that doesn't seem to be ending any time soon.
Bangladesh, again, a state that is weak, political leadership that is very weak, and a military leadership that's been in charge over the past several years that lacks a certain legitimacy that would enable it to be an effective substitute for democratic rule even in the short term; and even in India, where we tend to think of strength, growing strength and economic capacity, power, we have vast populations that are affected by what they call a Naxalite or agrarian Maoist insurgency that the prime minister of India not long ago termed maybe the greatest single threat to Indian internal stability and security.
So in all these places, the state weakness, I think, is the common theme. But at the same time, I would say, from a U.S. perspective, and not to be too sort of realist in outlook, but most of these, as I said, are localized conflicts, and many of them are relatively low on sort of the U.S. foreign policy agenda and are not likely to crack into the Obama administration's top priorities in the near term.
There are two exceptions that may start to factor, I think -- of these issues that may factor into the Obama team's planning that looks into maybe later in its first year, its second year. And those would be, I think, the Bangladeshi political weakness story, because here you've got a really enormous country with a relatively fragile population and a state that is not capable of defending its people, taking care of them, meeting their basic needs.
And that could, I think, open the way in the medium to longer term towards alienation, radicalization, and the kinds of processes that we've seen elsewhere lead to terrorism and other kinds of instability that laps out over the edges of the state and into the region and further afield.
The other is India's struggle with the Naxalites. I'm not quite sure where this would fit specifically into the U.S. agenda except to say that, more broadly, I think there is a concern about Indian state weakness and the weakness of its institutions and inability, even as we watched Mumbai unfold just within the past couple of weeks, the inability of the state to provide effective security to its population -- at the one end, the Mumbai end, the most privileged and wealthy of Indians, and at this other end, the Naxalite end, the poorest agrarian Indians were living in places where foreigners rarely ever go.
At both extremes, the Indian state faces a challenge, and so far isn't rising to that challenge. And I think there are probably areas where, because the United States would like to see India succeed, the Obama administration could do a great deal more in terms of cooperation, technical sharing, and kinds of exchanges that would build up Indian state capacity.
But the areas obviously of greatest concern to this incoming Obama team will be Afghanistan, which we heard a fair amount about in the lead-up to the election, and obviously Pakistan. And we're pretty familiar with these ongoing challenges. They start with the headliners of al Qaeda and Taliban and infiltration cross-border into Afghanistan from Pakistan, the safe haven problem and so on.
And now we're acutely aware, in the aftermath of Mumbai, how they verge -- take us back into the potential for an India-Pakistan conflict or crisis, standoff; how the Kashmir story continues to play into Pakistan's national identity and security identity, and the instability of the region.
And over the past couple of years, I think we've also seen, in the Pakistani case, an instance of how Pakistani politics -- the Musharraf story, the Benazir Bhutto story, the return of Nawaz Sharif, the lawyers and chief justice movement -- how that also plays very directly into our own security concerns here in the United States, how politics of Pakistan, and domestic politics, is not something that we can long ignore or avoid if we're interested in understanding how this state is to unfold.
Now, I think it's very healthy that we've started to see a gradual shift in the United States in terms of discourse about the region from an Afghanistan-centric version of South Asia to a Pakistan-specific or --centric version of the area. It used to be that first we would start talking about the problems that we're facing in Afghanistan, the troubles that we have with al Qaeda and Taliban, and it would eventually lead us to a conversation about the safe havens along the border in Pakistan.
Now I think we're starting, correctly, to see the problems, or at least some of the problems of Afghanistan, and some of the instability in the region, as symptoms of a larger disease that is firmly situated within Pakistan. And again, it's a problem of state weakness, of state lack of capacity, and a rising movement, so to speak, of, in this case, radical groups, including old groups like we're seeing this week, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and new groups, like the Pakistani Taliban, coming together to challenge the writ of the state and to threaten the very stability of a nation, a nuclear-armed nation, as we know, of roughly 170 million people.
I think, for all of these reasons, the Pakistan story needs to be at the very top of the new Obama team's agenda as it starts to formulate its strategy, above even Iraq, because, at least with Iraq, I think that we have basically a road map. We have a consensus view that has emerged, maybe not in any direct sense, but it has emerged, and I think people are relatively comfortable with it.
Pakistan is more of an open story. And I think, to be very quick, in terms of trying to be effective, any U.S. approach has to be founded on the goal of forging a better cooperative relationship with the Pakistani government, with the Pakistani people.
And this is difficult for a variety of reasons. This is difficult because we have this lengthy history of a nexus between the state and state institutions, including its intelligence service, and the very militants that are now causing troubles.
It's difficult because we've seen, over decades, the indoctrination and radicalization of larger portions of the Pakistani public. And it's difficult because the range of anti-American attitudes, everything from sort of vaguely leftist anti-imperialist liberals in Pakistan to the Islamists to nationalists, all have reasons to doubt and distrust the United States and our ability to work with them.
So we're starting from a tough space. We have very limited tools. We have assistance programming that can be calibrated and targeted to build state capacity. But we all know that there are grave limitations to where we are right now.
So if I were to sketch out where Obama should go in his first six months, it would be start by framing the strategic plan for Pakistan, put that as your top priority, make it an inter-agency agenda item for your new national security team, and come up with a presidential directive that is formal.
To my knowledge, the Bush administration has not had that for Pakistan. This is something that would be significant because it would bring together that national security team and get everybody on the same page. Start at congressional outreach. If assistance programming, in the order even of magnitude that the Bush administration has had, is necessary, then you're going to need to get some money from Congress. And that's going to be a difficult sell in this tough financial environment.
Reframe publicly the nature of the relationship. Use the bully pulpit of the presidency and the fact that you have a new face in that presidency to reframe for Pakistanis what we expect from them and how we intend to work with them. And finally, more broadly, take this issue to what I would call a war footing, or maybe in this context a preventive war footing, but take it up a notch in terms of the urgency, the level of resources that we're dedicating to this problem, and the numbers of individuals in the U.S. government in its various agencies -- State, USAID and so on -- who are devoted to this specific problem, either based in Pakistan or based in Washington to support that.
Right now we are treating Pakistan -- we all know it's a huge problem, but we're treating it like a normal problem. And that's, I think, something that can change very quickly with the new administration.
LUTE: Thanks very much.
It's really a testament to the Council's ability to inspire conversation and casual exchange of views that I neglected even to introduce myself. (Laughter.) It's not because I think you all know me. I have identity issues as the middle of seven children. I'm Jane Lute from the United Nations Peacebuilding Office, and it really is a privilege for me to be here with the Council and with my colleagues here on the stage.
I think Dan has set up a very interesting array. I'm trying to think of which country you left off your discussion.
MARKEY: Bhutan. (Laughter.)
LUTE: Bhutan. Well, there we are. And we'll move on to the Middle East, where Steven Cook will take us again for priorities. I would ask you all, though, to think about what's the starting point for the United States government as it looks at these problems and evaluates these critical outlooks for these regions. What is the starting point? What does this country need at this moment in its history to have these things have the relevance that the panelists will suggest?
STEVEN COOK: Thank you very much, Jane.
Thank you all for joining us here this afternoon.
Well, I don't know whether to be relieved or even more frightened that Dan studies a part of the world that's even scarier than the part of the world that I study. So I'm actually a bit relieved by that. What I'll do is I want to go through a list that is by no means exhaustive. You can go from Morocco to Iran and spend a lot of time talking about over-the-horizon threats and potential conflicts in the region.
But what I wanted to do is I wanted to go take four from the more obvious to the less obvious and demonstrate to you, you know, the array of challenges is not just in the places that we normally think of as conflicts in the region and why.
The first, and probably the most obvious, is on the Israeli-Palestinian front. The cease-fire that the Egyptians worked so hard to establish in June is unraveling about nine days before it's set to expire. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of activity that points to hope that we will have yet another cease-fire to last six months.
Add to that significant political uncertainty, both within Israel and the Palestinian areas. In fact, the Palestinian president's term ends on January 8th or 9th; I believe it's the 8th. And Hamas, the Palestinian authority of the Gaza Strip, has vowed that it will not recognize Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, after that date as the Palestinian president.
In Israel, obviously we're going to have an election in February and then another long, drawn-out process of coalition-building, while at the same time, during this period of uncertainty in between governments, right-wing settler groups are challenging the rule of law in Israel in the most significant way in recent memory.
If things deteriorate considerably during this period, despite the best efforts of the Israeli Defense Forces, despite the best efforts of even Palestinian security forces on the West Bank, you can foresee -- it is absolutely plausible to see wide-scale violence both in Gaza and the West Bank.
And you have to remember something that is -- (inaudible). This would not necessarily be contained to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. If you remember back to the origins of the war in Lebanon in 2006, Hezbollah attacked Israel because the Israelis were engaged in military operations in Gaza. Hezbollah intentionally opened up a second front with the Israelis.
So I think that that is something that clearly an Obama administration is going to have to address its attention to almost immediately after coming to office.
The second obvious one, although it may not be obvious, given the kinds of reports coming out of Iraq and the more kind of sunny evaluations of the situation in Iraq, but I do think that there is a tremendous potential for violence in Iraq. There is no doubt that there has been a dramatic reduction in violence in Iraq and that things are looking much, much better. But that dramatic reduction is, in many ways, a function of T-walls, those large concrete barriers that have been thrown up all over Baghdad that separate ethnic and sectarian groups and essentially keep them separated.
It's not at all clear to me that, in the absence of American forces and the absence of these T-walls, that we have created a balance of resolve between the major communities in Iraq that will not return us to a day of violence there. The Sons of Iraq in Anbar, Diyala and other provinces that had been a great success story are deeply, deeply distrustful of the government in Baghdad, and vice versa. So you can foresee any number of issues coming along, a breakdown in political negotiations and so on and so forth, that would unleash violence.
Now, those are the two more obvious issues on the agenda. I think two less obvious ones that are under the radar screen right now that have enormous implications, not just for the United States and its position in the region but, more generally, our traditional allies in the region in general.
The first less obvious one is Turkey. We know the story about Turkey and its interest in northern Iraq. But what I'm talking about is how the dynamics of Turkish domestic politics are making it possible for greater violence between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, a terrorist organization, and more broadly, the Kurdish population, the unassimilated Kurdish population in the southeastern portion of the country.
What you have in Turkey is suddenly an unstable political environment. Let's rewind a little bit to this past spring and summer in which the ruling Justice and Development Party, which has done extraordinary things in Turkey since coming to power in 2002, faced closure for being a center of anti-secular activity. They narrowly escaped.
The constitutional court in Turkey found them guilty of being this center of anti-secular activity but did not close the party. They narrowly escaped being closed. And what the party has been forced to do as a result of this is tack in a different direction. And on key issues like the Kurds, they have tacked in a more nationalist direction.
At the same time that they've been forced to tack in a more nationalist direction, another political party is facing closure, the Democratic Society Party, which is a Kurdish ethnic-based (society ?). If that party is closed, as seems likely it will be, who will represent the Kurds? The Justice and Development Party garnered extraordinary numbers of Kurdish votes. But as it has tacked in a more nationalist direction, Kurds have becoming angrier, and there has been violence in the Southeast. There have been protests against the Justice and Development Party.
And you can be sure that the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a terrorist organization, will seek to take advantage of the political alienation of large numbers of Kurds based in the southeastern parts of the country, which will then in turn provide more room for maneuver for Turkish security forces to do as they have vowed -- break the PKK.
So this really does set up a situation in which you may have more widespread violence in a critically important country in Turkey. And we have seen sporadic bombings. We had a bombing in front of a district office of the ruling party just a week ago. This is something that I think that policymakers are going to have to keep an eye on, given, as I said, the essential importance of Turkey for some of our most important pressing foreign policy issues in the Middle East, in Central Asia, in the Caucasus, in Europe and the Mediterranean.
And then, finally, let me take you to North Africa. It feels to me like 1988 all over again in Algeria. If you remember, in 1988 in Algeria there was an explosion of popular anger at the government and really was the beginning of a decade-long period of darkness in which 200,000 Algerians were killed in an insurrection.
With the price of a barrel of oil falling below $50 a barrel, the Algerian government cannot balance its budget and it cannot grease the wheels of the Algerian political situation. This is adding to a situation, an increasingly desperate situation for many Algerians. You are starting to see a narrowing of the political space in Algeria. Hogra, an Algerian Arab-ized French Tomasi (ph) word for repression, is on the lips of many Algerians.
And add to this that the insurgency of the 1990s that was responsible for this blood-letting has never really ended. And the last of the Algerian violent groups, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, has become a subsidiary of al Qaeda and calls itself al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb and has engaged in a series of spectacular attacks against Algerian targets.
Now, you have to say to yourself, "Well, why does this matter? This is Algeria. We don't have tremendous interests there." Well, it does matter, given the fact that the Bush administration has made Algeria a focal point of our anti-terrorist activities in North Africa. Algeria is one of the largest suppliers of gas to Europe, and that al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb has the ability to attack targets in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, our new friends, and throughout.
You have -- what you have in the insurgency in Iraq, you have tremendous numbers, actually, of North Africans, and they are coming back to Algerian territory. And this was almost the same story that you had with Afghanistan at the close of that war and the end of the Soviet occupation there. You had North Africans coming back and using Algeria as a base, and you had an explosion.
I'm not saying that this is going to happen overnight, and the political dynamics in Algeria are quite different from what they were. You don't have the mass Islamist movement contesting for power. But still, al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb can do considerable damage, not just to Algeria but to American interests throughout North Africa.
I'll stop there.
LUTE: Thanks very much. It's striking to listen to you say that Turkey is suddenly in an unstable political environment. I think people who know Turkey well might say it's back to the future.
COOK: They haven't read my book. (Laughter.)
LUTE: No doubt. It's really striking, when listening to the two presentations that we've had. I mean, one the one hand, can you tell yourself a story of Afghanistan without talking about Pakistan? Most people would say no, you can't. But you can certainly tell yourself a story about Pakistan without mentioning Afghanistan.
And I wonder if we look in the Middle East, an area that might be more familiar to more of us compared to Southeast Asia -- sorry, Southwest Asia -- then, you know, there are equally regional anchors that bear on these problems that we haven't really talked about. What are they doing in this regard?
And an area that we often leave for last, and we've done so today, is Africa. And the challenges that Africa presents almost defy anyone in 10 minutes characterizing them. And I'm going to press all of our panelists, after we have the initial presentations, to tell us what is it we do? What does the next administration do about the priorities they've laid out?
But let me ask Michelle Gavin to give us an overview of the challenges in Africa.
MICHELLE GAVIN: Well, I'm grateful for the sort of disclaimer that it's virtually impossible to take sub-Saharan Africa and look at the outlets for conflict throughout that region and give any kind of cogent 10 minutes.
But I will say this. Dan, I'll see your weak states in South Asia and I'll raise you. (Scattered laughter.) And we can start with Somalia as sort of the ultimate failed state. And the outlook is grim and getting grimmer -- just when you think things can't get worse, I think is the way The Economist put it recently. And they're absolutely right.
It looks quite likely that the transitional federal government, which is never controlled much more than a small bit of Mogadishu, will fall -- it looks likely; it's not a certainty, but quite likely -- to al-Shabab, a fairly radical, much rougher version of the Islamic Courts Union that had seized control of much of Somalia before the Ethiopian invasion.
The Ethiopians, who have been shoring up the TFG with a few thousand AU troops providing some assistance, are weary of this exercise. It's costly for them in lives and treasure. They don't want to be pinned down forever in Somalia. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a military that would. And the outlook is really quite difficult.
You also have, of course, Sudan, where you have ongoing conflict in Darfur that sort of shocks the world's conscience, but the world hasn't come up with a very good way to address it yet. You have a peacekeeping mission in Darfur that hopes to be at 50 percent strength by the end of the year -- that's the optimistic view -- that is not capable of providing the kind of civilian protections that would -- that essentially is its raison d'etre in the eyes of many advocates who pushed for a peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
And then you have the looming ICC issue, potentially an arrest warrant being issued for Sudanese President Bashir, coming perhaps late January, early February, sometime likely around the time of our inauguration, and the question of what that could trigger. Obviously there's a great fear that all U.N. personnel within Sudan will be targets in the wake of the warrant being issued. The Sudanese have sent different signals about how likely that scenario is.
And we can't forget, in the case of Sudan, that we still have a completely separate U.N. peacekeeping mission in the south as a part of the comprehensive peace agreement seeking to end the long decades of north-south conflict. And while some elements of the CPA have been implemented and have proceeded apace, others have not. And we saw the flashpoint of Abiye not too long ago, Abiye essentially being razed to the ground.
We have other regional flashpoints. We have the slow implementation on the issue of the elections that were slated for next year. We'll see if they happen; all of this, of course, leading up to the big element of the CPA, right, which is the 2011 referendum, where southerners are supposed to have the option of being able to choose independence.
I think it's difficult for observers of Sudan today to look at the situation and to believe that, yes, in 2011, there will be a free and fair referendum. And should southerners choose independence, which all of the current polling suggests that they will, they will be allowed to go.
It's very hard to envision the scenario right now, yet you have 10,000 peacekeepers on the ground as part of UNMIS. What are they supposed to do, come 2011? There are some ticking time bombs here that have to be addressed, and some incredible diplomatic challenges.
Just to then jump over to the Congo, much in the news lately, where conflict continues to flare up in North Kivu. And the Kivus, of course, have been problematic and violent for quite some time. Those of you who've spent time there know that feeling one gets, whether you're in Goma or Kabu or really anywhere in either province, that sense that anything could happen tomorrow. That hasn't gone away, despite the deployment of moneg a huge -- 17,000 troops that had recently added to the 17,000 troops; a huge peacekeeping mission, an expensive mission. But no one is able to deal with the negative forces, the -- (inaudible) -- Interahamwe, who continue to have a presence in the East, giving a, sort of, justification for movements like Laurent Nkunda's CNDP, recently in the news.
Despite the successful election in Congo, we still have a situation where many actors see that the path to power involves, essentially, committing enough atrocities to get the spotlight focused on you, and then you can have a negotiation and get yourself a place in government. And too often that's been the case.
You also have now an LRA presence in Congo that could be a flashpoint later on -- Ugandans unlikely to simply accept that for forever; and various actors who have all kinds of incentive to continuous to resist state authority because they have access to mineral wealth where they are. And it's a simple case of opportunism.
I start with those three -- Somalia, Sudan and the DRC because all of them have, in one form or another, peacekeeping missions deployed at this point. Somalia, it's an A.U. mission, and there's long been hope -- in some quarters, of turning it into a U.N. peacekeeping mission formally.
And I just want to flag this point, that one of the things that I think is important to think about, in the context of conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa, is the credibility of U.N. peacekeeping. The U.N. keeps getting handed some nearly-impossible tasks. And I do think it's important to ask ones self if some of these missions aren't set up to fail, to some degree.
And what does that mean, then, for the credibility of important multilateral tools that the U.S. needs to be able to call on in all kinds of situations, not just limited to Africa? So, I sort of grouped these very difficult problems, where conflict is ongoing, together under that rubric of real challenges for peacekeeping, and credibility of multilateral interventions.
But there's more. Of course, there's Zimbabwe, which is a different kind of conflict, as it were. It's largely a one-sided campaign of violent repression and intimidation led by ZANU-PF, the long-time ruling party. But, it doesn't look as if that campaign's going to end any time soon. And as the economy continues to bottom-out, and you know how this evidence of junior officers -- rank-and-file security forces losing discipline in ways that they had not before; the prospects for a more chaotic situation in Zimbabwe seem to be quite real.
You have the continued tension between Ethiopia and Eritrea -- unresolved problems regarding the boundary there. You had a U.N. mission that essentially had to pack up and go home because you have intransigent parties that fight, having signed a peace agreement. And the Eritreans also deciding to get engaged in a border dispute with Djibouti. So, the Horn is armed to the teeth and full of flashpoints.
Then, just to run down some other, sort of, "looking out in the future," Nigeria, you continue to have a very serious insurgency, essentially, in the Delta. You have seen recently the return of serious communal violence in Jos. I want to mention Nigeria because it's an incredibly important country in Africa, and there are these trend lines that suggest things aren't going to be getting more stable immediately.
But, I want to be clear that I'm not arguing that the whole country's going to implode at any moment. I think it's a -- it's a different kind of situation where it's very hard to see crisis and conflict in the Delta being resolved any time soon, and this is incredibly costly for many years now. This appears to have essentially taken one-fifth of Nigerian oil production off-line because of this -- because of this insecurity.
And the communal violence is a serious issue that really challenges the potential for Nigeria to build stronger institutions and play the kind of leadership role that it could potentially play on the continent. But it's not -- you know, it's not Sudan, it's not Somalia, it's a different kind of situation.
Just to flag a couple more, you have the Central African Republic and Chad, both of which are influenced by Sudan, but have their own internal problems -- issues of government legitimacy that make them real flashpoints for conflict.
You have Guinea, always hanging out there with the potential of, what kind of succession is there going to be once President Conte is no longer with us, or no longer president. And, how orderly is that likely to be? What are potential -- what's the potential for spillover in that neighborhood where you've had roving bands of essentially thugs for hire for some time throughout the Mano River region.
And I would also just flag Kenya, where the underlying issues that caused crisis --
LUTE: There's a few left.
GAVIN: -- sorry, but I feel remiss -- I would be remiss if I didn't, because we didn't look at Kenya for a long time. That's why a lot of people were caught by surprise by the violence that accompanied the December, 2007 election. Kenya's at peace right now, but the underlying issues have not yet been addressed. And that's why I think it deserves a mention in a presentation like this.
So, you have these specific issues. There are others -- (laughter) -- we'll leave Guinea-Bissau for another day. (Laughter.) And you have some big-picture trends that I think are important -- demographics where you have rapidly urbanizing populations in Africa; extremely young populations in Africa that need job opportunities.
You have the fact that global climate change is likely to have a greater impact in Africa, initially, than almost any place else when you look at big regions of the world, and that can have real significance for conflict.
Food insecurity, which remains a huge problem, is a tremendous problem right now in the Horn.
And, of course, HIV. So, you have these in the mix, affecting these different conflict drivers.
And then I guess I would close, is what I realize now is a terribly pessimistic presentation -- I could do a whole other presentation on positive trends in Africa, but I would just close by saying that, you know, we save Africa for last; and some -- I don't think anyone up here, often try and, sort of, marginalize the importance of these issues, that they do matter.
They matter, obviously, for humanitarian reasons, but they also matter to us for some very concrete national security reasons. There are real counterterrorism issues to be concerned about, particularly when we talk about Somalia, for example. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb doesn't just operate in North Africa. There have been attacks in, for example, Mauritania. It's an issue in Mali and in Niger, and in Chad.
And there's this piece of international crime, where when you have state weakness on this scale, and the potential for criminal opportunism on this scale, you end up with problems like the one we see -- not just off the coast of Somalia anymore, but off the entire coast of East Africa in the form of piracy.
So, it does matter. These issues cannot simply be left to fester; and "It's never going to affect the U.S." or, "Oh, well, the migration woes only affect Europe." This is not the case. I'm sorry, it's a huge region. So, there's much more to say, but I will wrap it up. (Laughter.)
LUTE: No, thanks very much. It's also, I think, a very able job in slightly over 10 minutes. But --
LUTE: -- but you covered the waterfront in a way that forces me to ask -- and, in fact, ask all three of you, and I'll give you a chance to formulate your thinking -- what's the simple story? I mean, you've laid out arguments that people who follow foreign policy -- whether in the -- foreign policy of the United States or other regions will be familiar with. And a lot of the arguments that you say Africa is important, I accept that.
So what does that mean we do? And how do we differentiate -- how do we differentiate, within a comprehensive understanding, what the strategic imperatives are? Because a measure of the next administration's achievements will be 12 months from now when we all turn around and say: How far have we come? What have we done?
And this is not simply to put any one of you on the spot, but really, you know, ask what is the U.S. to do about these things? What are its comparative advantages? Where does it need help? What price must be paid to get that help? And how does it balance the short-term achievements -- stability for example?
I was struck and amused. You know, you used -- someone used the phrase "the international conscience." Really? I wonder if it's a conscience or a consciousness? Barely worthy of the name, because many of us in the North spend most of our lives barely appreciating what's going on for the world's most desperate societies.
So, what is it we do? Can we really worry about HIV/AIDS at the same time we're worrying about Pakistan melting down; at same time we're really worried about India's ability to hold itself together against a number of internal threats; a persistent set of problems in the Middle East that prevent Israel from existing without, primarily, a security regime? In each of these areas, you know, there are regional anchors that the U.S. has to pay attention to as a source of help.
So, for each of these, Dan, let me begin with you, perhaps. I mean, what's the short -- what's the headline? What's the short version, given what you know about what comes first?
MARKEY: Well, Pakistan comes first -- I mean, in case that wasn't clear. (Laughter.)
LUTE: I'm from the U.N., I'm -- (Laughter.)
MARKEY: It comes first because it's -- it is impossible -- and I think you made the point, it is impossible to imagine a progress, sustainable progress in U.S. efforts in Afghanistan without seeing improvement in Pakistan. And it's impossible, I think, unfortunately, for India to achieve the role that we would like it to achieve in the world, which is of a significantly more prosperous and greater power as long as Pakistan remains a spoiler in the region. So that's where you start.
LUTE: What does -- what does the U.S. have? What sort of comparative advantages does the U.S. have?
MARKEY: Well, I tried to make the point that our leverage is -- what makes this difficult is the limitation on our leverage. And Pakistan is not a traditional ally, and it's not a traditional adversary. It floated somewhere in the "in between" world. It's a partner that we try to cultivate but that we are routinely frustrated by.
And so when I look at the means by which we have to leverage -- say, our assistance programming, it's to try to make it both a more capable partner, meaning technical assistance, and things that strengthen the tools of its own state, it's military as well as the civilian side. But, it's also, you know, the functional equivalent of bribery, or winning people over by courting them with incentives --
MARKEY: -- as compared to -- let me just say, as compared to the alternative, which is coercion; which is, I think, more effective with adversaries.
LUTE: Okay, so the U.S.' comparative advantage is not coercive in this setting.
Michelle, let me ask you. What price does the U.S. have to pay to get cooperation for what it's trying to do?
And put this again, and let's say the imperative for the U.S. is to prevent some of the circumstances that you've talked about, some completely from the Horn -- exploding into uncontrollable violence, along tribal lines, for example?
GAVIN: Right. Well, it is -- as you rightly pointed out in framing this, it's difficult to generalize, in part by sort of, what to do about each different crisis. But certainly it's clear that robust, intensive diplomacy is required; a real understanding of the incentives and disincentives, as you suggest, before some of the actors on the ground that can help shed light on how their calculus could be changed. And that requires a consistent presence, high-level attention.
And so it's -- you know, diplomatic resources, I would argue, are vitally important, not just a big assistance packages, although, I do want to second a point that you made about the need to work with Congress -- any administration, particularly in a difficult economic climate -- to get real bipartisan consensus behind some strategic vision early on. Not just to spring surprises on the -- I worked on the Hill for many years, and I really believe it's possible to have very constructive partners in Congress. But, they have to be brought in early.
LUTE: We won't put that to a vote -- (laughter) -- see how many people agree with that.
What you're suggesting, both of you -- diplomacy, presence, incentives, cooperation, engagement, is a very definite trajectory and point of view.
Steven, what does -- what have we not tried in the Middle East?
COOK: Well, I mean, you can -- first, let me just say that it's going to have to be Iraq and Iran. Iran I didn't even discuss, but it's going to have to be -- those are going to be the priorities for an Obama administration, given the fact that we have 140,000 troops in Iraq and Iran represents a significant challenge.
But, I think the Arab-Israeli conflict is a very, very close third to these issues. And I think that there is an opportunity for us to do some creative things on Arab-Israeli conflict. And that's an amazing statement since the fact that, from the floor to the ceiling, you can pile up the proposals, plans, white papers, and so, and so forth, to deal with this conflict.
But, I think that very early on we need to articulate a strategic framework for security and peace in the region. That ties many of these issues together. Now, I don't want to use the dreaded "linkage" word, because I don't want nasty e-mails in my inbox after this, but there is a sense in which many of these conflicts are, in fact, linked.
And that's not to suggest that whether a Sunni and Shi'a decide that they going to fight each other one morning in Iraq has something to do with whether the Israelis are in armed conflict with the Palestinians on the West Bank. But, the fact that, as the situation in Palestine deteriorates, and nothing is done, it provides opportunity for a malevolent power -- revolutionary power like Iran, seeking to extend its influence in the region.
And, as a result, when nothing happens the Iranians are able to paint the United States, and our traditional allies -- our anchors in the region, the Egypts, the Saudi Arabias, others, that have -- that are not perceived to be helping the Palestinians, as advocating their historic role, their historic Arab role.
And I think that if we articulate this through a very early on intensive set -- a change in tone, that challenges the way in which we have previously conducted Arab-Israeli diplomacy, I think we can generate that kind of help from our friends.
And I think that we should expand the Quartet. People have said the Quartet's nothing. It's just a sop to the international community of some sort. But, we should expand it. And last week Richard Haass called and said maybe we should make it "quintet," and add Turkey to it. I'd certainly agree with that.
But, maybe we should make it a sextet, or a septet adding Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and bringing these -- because they are going to play a critical role in what happens in the historic split between Fatah and Hamas, and that is at the central, central problem in our approach to this conflict.
LUTE: Most people think that does present an opportunity that's been underexploited.
Let me open it to all of you. We have about 25 minutes. Let me remind you that this session on the record, and let's see if we can't keep the conversation moving.
I recognize you first.
QUESTION:Andy Revkin, The New York Times.
You've all -- well, you didn't all hint at it, but the demographics in all these regions are similar. You have urbanization, as you said, and a lot of kids. In fact, on the planet right now we have a billion teenagers, which is a pretty scary thought -- (laughter) -- just in and of itself.
Given those trends that already exist, is there a way -- are there institutions or approaches that can shape urbanization; work with developing countries in these particularly turbulent regions to get better outcomes -- both in terms of employability, of education of young people, and in terms of the urban trend?
Just one quick snapshot: I was with the Environment minister of Angola at the U.N. a year-and-a-half ago, and they were talking about climate. It was all climate, climate, climate. He said, "Forget about climate, I have Luanda -- in 1975, 500,000 people; now, 5 million people. What do I do? What do I do?" So what can you do about those trends to make better outcomes?
LUTE: So, youth -- the bad news, a billion teenagers; the good news, 50 percent girls. (Laughter.) What can we do with that? (Laughter.)
COOK: To some that may be bad news.
LUTE: What can -- let's take this, because we really didn't focus on the youth, and the whole question of their opportunities and what they're facing.
Who wants to go first? Yeah, Dan.
MARKEY: I'd just -- I would say this is absolutely right, in terms of as a concern. If you look at Pakistan -- one of the things I had on my notes but didn't say, is about half the population is somewhere under the age of 18. And this is not going to go away And they are underserved by education, in terms of state education. There are few opportunities, and economic opportunities are also scarce.
So, you have a vast labor pool to be exploited, which is exactly the "up" side, but they will not have opportunities available to them. And right now, many of them, the only opportunity they have is to pick up a gun. So, they will go in that direction, at least many of the young men.
So, you know, the education story is obvious, and yet still underserved, even despite the fact that everybody talks about it. Higher education in the country is also very poor, so even the best and brightest become alienated because they don't have opportunities that are open to them.
And, just a simple pitch, in terms of economic opportunity for Pakistan: We've known this from the beginning that the garment industry is one of the very few places where they have comparative advantage, and yet the face significant hurdles to enter into the U.S. market. And that is something that hasn't changed.
And, to the extent that that could be shifted -- that you could get a Congressional consensus and do something about that, I think it would help in terms of the national security interest.
LUTE: Okay, David.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is David Phillips.
Steven, I'm glad you mentioned Kurdish issues. I wanted to focus it a little bit more on a specific flashpoint, which is Kirkuk. If Iraq exercises Article 140 of its constitution and there is in fact a referendum on Kirkuk's status, the ripple effects through the region would be enormous. That could be the point that breaks Iraq, could bring Iran into the conflict. It would trigger a series of events in Turkey. Rather than just forecast out a disaster scenario -- I don't want to do -- I don't want to fall into the Michelle syndrome -- (laughter) -- what do we do about Kurdish issues in general? It doesn't fit in to any of the regional bureaus because EUR deals with Turkey -- NEA deals with Iraq and Iran. It also has crosscutting themes of security, development and democratization. So how do we basket that?
QUESTION: How does the U.S. government institutionally address it so that the Kurds don't get left on the margin and run the risk of being a flashpoint that no one pays attention to?
LUTE: And Michelle, is the answer to Kirkuk the answer to Abyei?
COOK: Well, David, you know, thanks for the question because I've been saying for a long time in kind of a lonely voice, and you probably were joining me in this is that Kirkuk really is the -- the under the radar untold story that really could break Iraq, and -- and that's the one area where I -- I firmly believe that you could have the -- the intervention of outside powers. I think there was a lot of discussing of this that was overblown but on the Kirkuk issue it certainly -- certainly was the case, and again, you point to another problem is that bureaucratically Turkey and Iraq are on the scene in that NEA handles part of it, Bureau of European Affairs handles it.
We have two different military commands, one of which the Turks have good relations, one of which they don't have -- they don't have very good relations. And we need to -- the Obama administration is going to need to fix that. They're going to need to find some way to have some cross communication here in which you run back and forth between NEA and European Affairs and CENTCOM and UCOM and so on and so forth because otherwise we are going to have this problem that nobody's going to know how to manage because nobody's responsible for it.
I think that the answer for us is to avoid this disaster -- is to continue some of the things that the Bush administration has actually been doing, which has been leaning on our Kurdish allies in a very, very important way that only began in late 2007 but importantly, in talking to them about how it's not in their interests to -- to pursue Kirkuk in the way that they have been pursuing it -- to turning a blind eye to PKK violence in some sort -- and then alternatively we have been talking to in a -- in a constructive way the Turks about how it's not in their interest to break this -- break this fragile egg that we have developing.
And I -- but I think that in order to sustain this we need, as Michelle pointed out in Africa, we need a robust sustaining diplomatic effort that is not just borne of crises. The reason why the Bush administration got interested in the first place was after the Turks threatened to shut down Incirlik because they weren't getting the actionable intelligence they needed to fight the PKK.
We need to think more broadly and strategically about it and recognize that Kirkuk is this extraordinarily important flashpoint that can bring in and can bring disaster. I certainly hope that we will continue. You know, there is a danger of -- of a new administration coming in and doing ABB in the same way that the Bush administration came in and said ABC -- "Anything But Clinton" -- "Anything But Bush." It was such a disaster. But, in fact, we have had some progress. We have been able to stabilize the northern Iraq situation to some extent but it needs a lot more work.
LUTE: Quickly, Michelle, do you see any analogies in solving the Kirkuk problem for Abyei? And this is -- this is the town in Sudan that -- that Michelle mentioned which is on the border between the north and south that has oil resources.
GAVIN: Certainly, in the sense that -- that you need not just an agreement between north and south and you -- and you have one now. You don't have the interim administration for Abyei funded so it's difficult to know sort of how stable this is. But you also need other actors -- multilateral players. Not just the guarantors or the CPA but the Chinese, for example, who have a real vested interest in continuing to access oil from Sudan and still have an interest in long-term stability, and it's flashpoints like Abyei that make the long-term stable scenarios -- that threaten those scenarios. And so I -- I do think in the sense that -- that you need a more focused and multilateral approach to continuing trying to stabilize the situation and not kind of kicking the can down the road repeatedly because it's hard. Well, pretty much all of Sudan is hard. Then there -- I think there's, you know, a prospect for some real constructive diplomacy.
LUTE: Okay. Let me see if I can take two or three questions because there's a lot of hands raised. Yes? No, no, sir -- right behind you. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. Sundaa Bridgett Jones here at the Council. Dan, my question is for you. There been a lot of talk about multilateralism in the next administration -- how we need to have good partners for a lot of these things. And what is the story like for Pakistan? Who are our partners or who will be our partners in that regard?
LUTE: Okay. Yes. Right -- right one over. We're going to take a few questions.
QUESTION: Hi. I'm Ella Goodwin with Americare. You're saying ABB or ABC. I thought you were going to say ADD because with -- with so much going on how, you know, how is Secretary Clinton going to keep up and so what's the role for special envoys, and which issues deserve special envoys and what are their -- what's their first order of business and again to the partnership, who -- who do they bring in as their diplomatic resources?
LUTE: Yes, over here.
QUESTION: Josh Walker, Princeton University. Following on that, I wanted to ask about regional actors and regional players, and not just in the sense of these actors in countries but also kind of the E.U. model of A.U. It seems to me that we basically have gotten to the conclusion U.S. can't do it alone so if it's not the U.S. and it's not the U.N. what's the middle area? Is it potentially the E.U. type models?
LUTE: Okay. I don't know that we've said necessarily not the U.N. In fact, I thought I heard if not the U.S. then the U.N., which was alarming to me but I think, in various ways, these questions are all pressing you to say who are the partners -- what do they do -- how do they help prevent the outbreak, spread, or renewal of violence? I mean, how does the U.S. engage them? I mean, Steven, let's -- let's start with you.
COOK: Well, certainly we have to do a better job -- job of engaging our anchors in the region which have been dis -- talk about ADD they have been flabbergasted by all the changes that have gone on in the region and they've been groping for leadership, and we need to step up and provide that leadership and a strategic vision. And I think a place to start is on Arab-Israeli conflict because I think it will have a salutary effect and we can bring in -- put countries like Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, like Turkey, like Qatar, who have played constructive roles in a variety of conflicts in the region, and this will -- not to say that everything hinges on Arab-Israeli conflict but that when we start moving in that direction it helps us in a variety of other issues including Iran and others.
There's also, you know, we have to rely on European -- the good offices of the European Union that can do some important things that we're unable to do, not just on Arab-Israeli conflict but in other conflict areas of the Middle East. Particularly, I talked about Turkey in my opening presentation. One of the problems that Turkey has had -- one of the kind of sudden instability and I mean that -- sudden instability in Turkey -- has everything to do with the breakdown in relations between Turkey and the European Union. The European Union is clearly an anchor of Turkish reform. You cannot have a Kemalist reformation in Turkey, which is clearly needed, without the European Union playing a constructive role, and we need to work with our European allies to help them think strategically about the importance of a functioning democratic Western-anchored Turkey.
MARKEY: In terms of the partners on Pakistan, actually recently there's been a new group, Friends of Pakistan, which has been brought together -- was on the -- sort of the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly summit here -- here in New York and brought together all the sort of obvious players -- the United States, the Europeans, but more importantly the Saudis, the Chinese, UAE. These are some of the players that I would say are absolutely essential to -- in terms of an influential when it comes to Pakistani development, both the Chinese especially on the military side, the Saudis especially on the domestic politics side.
We don't have really easy relationships with both of those countries. You have other issues at stake. But part of the point of prioritizing a Pakistan strategy would be to perceive our other relationships globally in terms of that strategy. So in other words, when we talk to the Chinese that we do raise Pakistan, not just as a sort of a lower level issue but it raises, you know, rises to -- to near the top of the list. That would be a significant change for us and one that if we're serious about tackling this Pakistan problem we'd want to do. Both, I think, the Chinese and the Saudis are at the top of that list.
Let me just make a really quick point about envoys because there's been some sort of -- some news or leaked ideas about having a Kashmir envoy or a south Asia envoy, and Holbrooke and -- and actually former President Clinton had both been kind of rumored in this. And as soon as this has happened I -- my Blackberry or whatever goes off from India, journalists and others screaming, please don't do this. We are not interested. We do not want your envoy. We will -- we will be polite to anybody you send but we will not do business with this person -- not serious business. You have an ambassador. Your points on Kashmir are plain to the world. We can handle Kashmir. We and the Pakistanis -- and they're correct in this -- have been making progress in that and the tragedy of Mumbai would be if that's really set back.
But they are not interested in our envoy and I'm -- I'm concerned that we will open up a huge -- another can of worms by injecting ourselves in this way, whether by envoy or other sort of high-level outreach on that particular issue, that would be counterproductive. It's not to say we don't care about Kashmir but I don't -- not convinced that that's the way to do it.
COOK: Just one quick thing on the obvious -- sorry, Michelle.
GAVIN: No, no problem.
COOK: The Middle East looks at it slightly differently. They're not so unhappy with the idea of an envoy but they want to make sure that that envoy has the ear and support of the president of the United States so that when they talk to that envoy they know they're talking to the president of the United States, not General Zinni, who was sent out for whatever reason to say that there was an envoy. Someone who really has the ear and the prestige and influence of the president of the United States. Otherwise, it's not worth the time and effort.
LUTE: Michelle, anything quickly on this?
GAVIN: Just, you know, on this issue of sort of regional organizations, I think that the A.U. can be an incredibly important partner on a number of fronts and it absolutely -- it can't be ignored, certainly. But it's a very young organization gaining strength and I would just say that one of the most important things is not to put projects on the A.U.'s plate that it -- it doesn't at this point have the capacity to deal with. It undermines an important institution-building dynamic that's going on on the continent and it's not going to solve any actual practical problem. So incredibly important but also important to just be cognizant of the -- of the limits. And then, you know, some of the regional organizations like Fadak in the case of Zimbabwe have not been terribly helpful avenues for resolving crises.
LUTE: Okay. Thank you. You had a question.
QUESTION: Yeah, Bob Liston (ph). I think one of the most explosive -- and I'm using the word accurately -- issues that has not been discussed is the response of Israel to Iranian development of nuclear weaponry, and I think -- (inaudible) -- and I just left a weekend meeting where it was clear that -- that there's a very strong view among the Israeli military that that just cannot be tolerated and the world "unacceptable" in its real term was -- was defined for all of us.
LUTE: Okay. Let me -- let me take a few more questions. Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Hi. I'm Tony Holmes, the State Department fellow here at Council. I'm really struck by the lack of concrete policy options that have been brought up in the course of the last hour's discussion. Other than a redoubling of diplomatic intensity I haven't heard very much. I'm wondering though about the issue of the U.S. engagement with the International Criminal Court. That question was asked of Madeleine Albright in the first session. But the U.S. isn't party to the ICC and I'm wondering -- we do have the -- the developing case study of the Sudan -- but if the new administration will be likely to try to reverse the U.S. military and Defense Department view about the efficacy and advantages of the U.S. adhering to the ICC and if that will provide a useful tool in a context of very limited resources for the U.S. to become more engaged effectively in some of these areas.
LUTE: Thank you. Right down here. Yes.
QUESTION: Helima Croft, Barclay's Capital. Steven, you mentioned Algeria and the political problems by $40 a barrel oil. I'm just wondering is there other Middle Eastern and, in the case of Michelle, African producers that are facing real political problems by the decline in oil prices?
LUTE: And right here, and then we'll turn to our panelists.
QUESTION: John Temple Swing, Foreign Policy Association. Michelle mentioned it but I'd like to come back to it and that's the problem with Somalia. Somalia is a failed state in the world and has been -- Somalia for so long that we've sort of gotten used to it as being a failed state and yet at the same time perhaps it's an opportunity. Attempts to get the Egyptians in there obviously hasn't worked. The Egyptians are getting tired. We're pulling out. Disaster -- talk about preventable diplomacy and the lack of diplomacy. Who do you have diplomatic relations to when there is no government of Somalia to do something about it? There seems to be -- it even makes me start thinking old thoughts about trusteeship or something -- a role for the U.N. where there is no five-party strong feeling one way or another to try to at least find some stability that'll help Somalia to come back and become a nation.
LUTE: Okay. A few issues on the table and, frankly, I'm going to use the occasion to raise the whole question of the U.S. -- of the American private sector, which none of you mentioned, as a potential tool in this -- in the next phase of U.S. engagement abroad. And so to the extent I can sneak that in --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
LUTE: Pardon me?
QUESTION: They could sell them sub prime loans.
LUTE: We could sell them sub prime loans. I mean, one of the -- people often talk about -- I do peace building at the United Nations -- people often talk about, you know, renewing the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan rested on three things -- stable financial markets, increased production, and open trade. How we liking our prospects in that regard? But let me turn to you. There was a number of pointed questions.
COOK: I'll start with the Iran nukes in the Algeria -- and then let my friends here talk about the private sector. You know, Bob, I think, you know, you spent a lot of time with the Israelis, I spent a lot of time with the Israelis, and I've heard this story over and over again. By 2010, it's unacceptable and we'll take action but in 2006 it was by 2008, and in 2003 it was by 2005, and I think that a lot of this is trying to get the attention of the United States on this very challenging issue.
But I think that in the end what's going to happen is that both the United States and Israel are going to have to live with Iranian nukes because there has been this kind of debate that's been going on about engagement or punitive action towards the Iranians. Well, we've been engaging the Iranians. The Iranians have been engaged on this issue and it doesn't seem that there are carrots out there that are going to lead them to delay their nuclear development, and the consequences for both the United States and Israel of undertaking military action are so dire and so stark that I think that it should give us pause, and I think it does give the United States pause.
And I think, in fact, despite the Israelis' public rhetoric with influential Americans and the American administration I think what they are preparing to do and what they have been doing since their attack on the Syrian nuclear facility in September 2007 is establishing a series of red lines with the Iranians and trying to figure out how to contain and deter the Iranians. That's what that military action was about. It was a -- it was a signal saying, despite what happened in Lebanon in 2006 we still have the capacity to go into a country, target something, and get out before you even know we're there. That's why the Israelis put up a thousand planes in -- or however many they had -- virtually everything that flew in the Israeli arsenal -- over the Mediterranean this summer -- flew them all the way out as far as it would take them and all the way back to show that they can do these things, and the Iranians responded to each one of these things.
So these are two players that are figuring out what the red lines are and how to deter each other. I cannot imagine a scenario in which the United States gives the green light to the Israelis to attack the Iranians where they would have to use Western -- American airbases in western Iraq or even to use its missile forces again. That is crossing a line that I just cannot imagine happening.
Helima, very good question on this -- the falling oil prices. I would say in the Gulf that most of these small Gulf states -- Dubai is running into problems -- but there is no politics in these countries. You know, if you define politics as the -- the competition of the control and distribution of resources, well, up until this point there have been so many resources there really hasn't been much of a competition. We'll see what happens. But the two places where it could actually have a significant effect, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and, you know, it's debatable about how much the Iranians are willing to inflict pain on their own population but they seem to be able to muddle through it.
The Saudis concern me -- not -- not to the extent that I think that the House of Saud is unstable but what the Saudis do in these periods -- these lean times and how they -- you know, it seems to me that Saudi legitimacy is based on two things -- the ability to grease the wheels, pun intended, and religious legitimacy. And when there's not as much grease they tack in the other direction and they give more leeway to the clerical establishment and so on and so forth.
So I think that there are some implications of that. But also recognize that in some of the poorer Arab countries this actually helps. The Egyptians are facing, you know, skyrocketing commodity prices in the spring. People are talking about new food riots, widespread upheaval. The reduction in energy prices is really giving the Egyptians a significant amount of breathing space.
GAVIN: Okay. There's a lot on our plate. On the private sector, I would just say that I think you're right. I think there are all kinds of sort of interesting avenues that a private sector could play an important role, particularly in sort of addressing some of the long-term trends, and this issue of demographics that's been raised in terms of, you know, job creation and maybe working to ensure that it's not an either/or -- are we going to talk about climate change -- are we going to talk about youth. There are adaptation issues certainly for Africa on climate change that require infrastructure projects that are job creating, but you need these private sector partners to move forward. So I do think it's a really important point. It's one that bears further exploration.
On Somalia, I still though would just say that the -- the air of frustration in the question is not unfamiliar to anyone who -- who takes a hard look at Somalia. I think -- in thinking about any scenario for Somalia I guess what I would want to just throw out there is that it's incredibly important not to underestimate Somalia nationalism. It may have been underestimated at the Ethiopians' peril and any -- any kind of arrangement that is perceived to be imposing foreign authority on Somalis I think is -- is a very difficult -- is going to have a very difficult road ahead of it.
On oil revenues, Helima, I'd actually like to ask you the same question because I know you give this a lot of thought and I would definitely defer to your expertise, but it's an interesting thing to think about certainly when one thinks about how oil revenues in, say, the oil-rich Niger Delta have helped state and local government to sort of perpetuate certain patronage networks. And so even as conflict continues and your -- your average citizen sinks into deep poverty there there's a certain stability to it all. There's a certain pattern. What happens when there's less patronage to go around? I think that's a great question I'd love to talk to you about.
LUTE: Dan, quickly, and then I think we -- we can run over so we'll have more round of questions after this.
MARKEY: Just very briefly on the -- on the private -- public/private cooperation. You know, in a country like Pakistan it's very difficult to encourage private partnership because private companies want to make money and they want to operate in places that are relatively stable and secure, and Pakistan is not one of those and there have been relatively few ways to make a great deal of money.
Yet there's one area that has been sort of cultivated a bit and that is the -- the prospect of what they call reconstruction opportunity zones, or ROZs. There's some pending legislation that probably won't go anywhere this session but the idea is essentially to build islands within parts of Pakistan intentionally closer to the tribal belt where items can be manufactured with a lot of local content and local labor and then exported tariff free to the United States to our markets. So it's a way to work with Pakistani producers to open up and provide, you know, profit potential in these areas.
Now, the problem is that these things -- I mean, part of it is is just getting it through Congress. That's a challenge. Now, the other challenge is on the Pakistani side to make sure that these will actually be profit making because these are very difficult places to operate even for Pakistani businessmen. So -- so that's going to be something where I think even if we get it through Congress the next step would probably be to try to inspire U.S. or other partners to also invest in this area, to develop the area around these reconstruction opportunity zones and make them, you know, have greater potential -- roads, communication, housing, and other things that are currently not there to make them actually work.
LUTE: Thank you. We'll take two more questions from the floor and then ask our panelists to wrap up. Yes, sir?
QUESTION: My name is Greg Jackson. I'm pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack, New Jersey. And I'm wondering what your advice would be to the president elect as it relates to understanding religion in developing a so-called robust diplomacy around the world and how important that may be to world peace in the various regions that you represent.
LUTE: That's a really excellent question. And final question right over here.
QUESTION: Cynthia Irmer from the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Stable -- Reconstruction and Stabilization and conflict prevention officer. All three of you --
COOK: That's a long business card. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All three of you have mentioned strategy and the importance of a strategic sense of how and where and when we move, and if it's possible for each of you just to give me a couple of principles of the type of strategy or strategic thinking that you think are critical, I'd appreciate it.
LUTE: And let me press you all in responding to the question about the role of religion. When none of the major monotheistic traditions it appears can control their fringes -- when the challenges that each of you have outlined span the entire region of which you're concerned, and in developing strategies it's -- it's essentially a judgment about the course of action that will yield the kind of results you're trying to achieve, by the way, what are they? And that's especially relevant when you're trying to prevent the outbreak or spread of violence. So in reverse order, Michelle, we'll begin with you and -- and we'll conclude -- we'll give the panelists each to answer the questions and -- and offer any concluding thoughts.
GAVIN: Right. Well, first, to the issue of the -- of the role of religion -- I think it's a -- it's an incredibly important topic that merits its own day-long session and I really feel like I'm not going to be in a position to do it justice in sort of a 30-second response. But suffice it to say that you're absolutely right -- religious dynamics and particularly the relationships between different religious groups within a state, across boundaries, incredibly important to actually understanding underlying grievances and so not just responding to the incident that kind of -- that was the spark for the conflagration but -- but addressing all of that tinder. So a deeper understanding, solid relationships with religious leaders where we're collecting the kind of -- of information in an open and transparent way critical to understanding those dynamics -- very important. A general bit of a mash, but it's so different from country to country it's hard to generalize.
In terms of -- of big strategic issues that too merits its own session. I guess what -- one thing that I would say is that it is important for the U.S. not to find itself in the position, particularly when addressing the counter terrorism priorities in the part of the world that I look at closely, not to get into the position of being sort of regime protector for extremely unsavory regimes that -- that govern in such a way that you're not going to have stability even if you are able to address a potential terrorist threat.
So there's this sort of not -- not repeating some of the mistakes in the region that we made during the Cold War -- a sort of a, you know, a list of let's make sure we're not doing this again. Again, not discounting nationalism. These are -- these are not -- this is not a strategy. These are my -- sort of some principles to think about when formulating a strategy. And then the point I made about being careful not to make multilateral institutions, be it the A.U. or the U.N., sort of the catch-all for every problem we don't actually know what to do with, and then setting them up with a mission that they are not going to be equipped and resourced to achieve because in the end then we have fewer tools in our toolbox to turn to.
LUTE: Thank you. Steven?
COOK: I always get into trouble when I talk about religion, and it's not that I get into trouble with people in the Middle East. I get into trouble with the clergy here in the United States because in specifically thinking about the Middle East when you talk about the fringes of the great monotheistic faiths I don't think that these are really truly religious movements. I think these are political entrepreneurs using a religious vernacular to advance a inherently political agenda, and as a result it's hard to see how authentic religion can break this down because ultimately these are political projects. And there are men and women of good will in the region who engage in interfaith dialogue who try to use the sacred text to advance peaceful negotiation and there are peaceful coexistence, and there are pockets of that.
But to the extent that you have political entrepreneurs using sacred text to advance radical agendas, it makes it extraordinarily hard to think about how the great faiths can really contribute other than in these small pockets where -- where they happen. I've seen too many of these things collapse on -- these things of goodwill collapse because ultimately this -- these are political conflicts. The question about strategy in the region -- I'll make this my -- my --
LUTE: Thirty seconds.
COOK: -- my wrap-up thing. Our goals in the Middle East remain largely fixed to our three or four primary interests in the region -- the free flow of oil, ensuring security, and making sure no outside power dominates the region. The question is how do we match our resources to those goals, and we have limited resources. And so I think what we have to think about in terms of the region is -- is stepping back -- that doesn't mean leaving the region but stepping back, taking a view of this region, how do we triage the region, how do we stabilize the region, and how do we focus on those core interests and the broader secondary interest for a time when we've been able to repair the interest, replenish the financial tank and replenish, importantly, our political prestige.
LUTE: Dan, you have the last minute.
MARKEY: Like Steve, I find religion a treacherous topic. In Pakistan, often the religious issue -- really the rubber meets the road when the question is, how do you engage Islamist leaders who may be also political leaders, and how to interact with them, whether to try to interact with them on their own terms or engage with them and how to do so. One of the best lines I've heard recently is that in order to be effective at this our side also needs to be deeply and carefully schooled in the religion -- in Islam, in this case, in order to understand what we are hearing and make an effective pitch for what we're trying to say -- that the solution is not less religion but, in fact, at least more religious understanding on our side -- that that's -- that's a -- maybe a key to success.
On strategy, in Pakistan the fulcrum of the -- of the project is partnership with the Pakistani people, with the Pakistani military, with the Pakistani state. This is not because we just think they're good and we want to be with them but because the alternatives are worse. The threats that we face from Pakistan I could go on at length, but they are not deterrable, they're not containable, and they're not treatable by unilateral military force by the United States. The only way to get in there and the only way to be effective there is to partner with the Pakistanis and build up their capacity. So that is the strategic centerpiece of any strategy for treating the problems that we face in Pakistan.
LUTE: Well, I want to thank -- to apologize to those for whom we did not take questions. (Applause.) I just want to say something at the end about the Center for Preventive Action and the fact that it continues to hold these meetings and to press on with its work. As you've heard from our panelists today, there are a number of problems that really get no other play -- that get no other forums that consider them in depth and with the seriousness that the Council has. And so I want to thank you, Paul, and thank your colleagues for the work that you do. Please again join me in thanking the panelists. (Applause.)
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