BARBARA SLAVIN: Welcome. Welcome to the council's beautiful new offices for this very, very interesting meeting. Let me ask you all, please, to turn off your cell phones and various buzzing devices so it won't interfere with the conversation or with the recording.
It is an absolute delight to greet once again Madeleine Albright, who I had the pleasure of covering for a while as a reporter. She needs no introduction. But briefly, anyway, for those who have been on Mars for the last 10 years -- (laughter) --
MR. : Or (London ?).
SLAVIN: (Laughs.) She is our distinguished former secretary of State; first woman secretary of State -- followed by two others, yeah? She also has been a busy lady since leaving office, founding the Albright Group, a consulting firm; she has chaired the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Pew Global Attitudes Project; on a number of boards, including that of the Aspen Institute.
She's written three books, the first her memoir, "Madam Secretary"; then "The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs"; and her latest book, "Memo to the President Elect" -- yeah? Or "Memo to the President"?
MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT: We changed the paperback. It's correct there.
SLAVIN: Now it's the "Memo to the President:" -- okay -- "How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership," which is certainly very pertinent to what we're going to discuss today.
Vin Weber is also a very familiar face in Washington. He's a distinguished former member of Congress and member of the House leadership, back in the day when there was the Republican revolution.
He's now managing partner at Clark and Weinstock. He's also involved with many non-profit and philanthropic activities, and is chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy which is --
VIN WEBER: Immediate past chairman.
SLAVIN: Past chairman?
WEBER: Just elected Dick Gephardt chairman, so that we could have a Democratic transition there, as well. (Laughter.)
SLAVIN: Okay. Okay. Just exiting as chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy. And he is also on the board of the Council on Foreign Affairs, and co-chaired a major task force with Madame Secretary on U.S. policy toward reform in the Arab world. So this is an area that he's very, very familiar with.
Now, this particular study, "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations With the Muslim World," I hope you all have picked up a copy. It is a very interesting document, and one has to say that it seems as though the president has read it -- or at least has been briefed on it.
So we'll start with a few questions to Madame Secretary and to Congressman Weber, and then we'll open it up for your questions.
I thought I would begin by talking about the president's first steps. And Madame Secretary, if you could tell us a little bit about your impression of the rhetoric that he's used and also the actions just in the last week and a half -- Has it been only a week and a half? -- (chuckles) -- and whether you think this is going in the right direction, whether this is what you would have prescribed.
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that I do feel as though he's actually read this, as well as my book, and -- which I inscribed to him with "The audacity to hope that you will find this useful." (Laughter.) But -- because I think that one of the things we've talked about in this particular presentation is the importance of presidential leadership and also in terms of communication and delivering messages that would indicate that we are not in a conflict with the Muslim world.
And so I do think that obviously earlier, even during his campaign -- that his Inaugural Address, I think, was really remarkable and the first time that "Muslim" has been used in the address itself, and then the message itself of saying that we would have an open hand and that we wanted to have communication and respect and a different kind of relationship.
Then, I think, following it up with the interview that he did on Arabiya is also very important. And I -- what I think he's done that to me is so important is talk about the importance of understanding that the Muslim community is not monolithic; also that in fact we need to develop different ways of reaching out, but also of standing up for ourselves.
And so I think it's a very good and important message, and, I think, does sound to me as though he has absorbed a lot of what we talked about when we got our group together.
SLAVIN: Mm-hmm. Mr. Weber, what do you think about the naming of George Mitchell right off the bat?
WEBER: Well, one of the things we talk about in the report was the need to emphasize diplomatic solutions in the Middle East over military solutions. So the swift action of the president in naming both Senator Mitchell and Ambassador Holbrooke to their respective assignments and to the possibility of a third emissary, to Iran, clearly highlights the importance of diplomacy.
So it's very much in keeping with exactly what we want.
I think Senator Mitchell's an excellent choice, as is Ambassador Holbrooke. Both of them have very, very difficult tasks. And the only -- my only word of caution is let's not get our hopes too inflated, because they may well be the very best people we could send over to solve those problems, but those are big, big problems.
I wanted to say, by the way, I really do think that -- I want to pay tribute to the project and the directors and the members in the past, of course, that helped us direct this, because you talked about the fact that the president may have -- may have read it. I don't know if he read it or not, but we did make a point of briefing both candidates during the campaign phase and of interacting with the transition so that clearly the Obama administration has, not just for the last several weeks but for the last several months, been aware of what we're doing. I'm happy to say the response from both campaigns was positive during the campaign phase. And the people that have directed it, who are sitting right in front, here, Dave Fairman, Rob Fersh and (Paul Golob ?) have done a marvelous job for us. And we're very proud of the work that they've done.
SLAVIN: No, I enjoyed especially the -- noted a number of very prominent Muslim Americans who were involved in this --
SLAVIN: -- which, I think, gives us just some added weight, as well.
Let me talk a little bit about the current situation, starting with you. As Obama came in, the Israelis were finishing up a very, very punishing offensive in Gaza. The images that came out of that campaign are all over the Muslim world. We didn't see them very much here. How difficult is that going to make his task?
The United States is widely seen as Israel's closest ally. We are -- certainly, Israel's our closest ally in the Middle East. How does the president show that he really does care about the Muslim world and still maintain this relationship with the Israelis?
WEBER: Well, he faces -- I would point out, by the way, as we have this discussion, the good news is our issues are on the front burner. The bad news is our issues are really on the front burner and we have to all be a little careful about what we say and how far we push on this, because we're at very delicate stages on a whole lot of these things.
I think that the president faces the same -- the president and Senator Mitchell and Secretary Clinton face the same difficulty that America always faces. On the one hand, we have to reassure the Israelis that we are guaranteed to their security.
Without that, they will not feel comfortable making the compromises that they're going to have to make. At the same time, we have to reassure the Palestinian people and the broader Arab community that we are indeed going to be honest brokers in pursuing their interests. And, you know, Secretary Albright has actually had to play that role, so she can tell you how very difficult it is. But I don't think that there's an easy solution to it.
It seems to me the president has done a good job. He was very reassuring to Israel in the course of the campaign about his commitment to Israel, that it was not going to change. And now he's reached out immediately to the Muslim world in a number of ways since being elected. That's very encouraging.
It seems to me that one sign that he's got it about right is that, as I'm looking at the Israeli election going forward, we have not yet -- whatever we've done, it hasn't tipped that election one way or the other. And I think we're all painfully aware of the fact that a misstep by an American president or a secretary of State can have an impact, whether they want to or not. And that has not yet, in my view, happened. The election's going to turn out as it's going to turn out, but it won't be because we have misspoken on those issues.
SLAVIN: Madame Secretary, there's a good chance, according to the polls, that Bibi Netanyahu will be the next prime minister of Israel. You've had some experience dealing with him. Does that put the kibosh on the whole thing, or is it possible to move forward with Bibi?
ALBRIGHT: And let me add to something that Vin said. Not only is it a delicate time, but I also would like to just make clear what should be clear, is I speak for no one but myself. I am not a member of the Obama administration. I am here as whoever, but not as a -- (laughter) -- as I have felt, as I look at Walter, I always make the point that I'm not monogamous in my organizational relationships. (Laughter.) Many different things, but not a representative of the Obama administration.
let me say that I do think it was very interesting dealing with Bibi Netanyahu in the time that I was in office. And it's now been 10 years, actually. And I think basically one has to assume that people, whether they live here or there or anywhere, are very much formed by the experiences that they had, but also the situation in which they are. And Bibi Netanyahu is somebody that is a very practiced politician and diplomat and somebody who, if he is elected, will have been elected in a democratic process in the only -- real democracy in the Middle East, and will be representing Israel. And I do think that we have to see what he is like, because as I said, you know, he -- people have gone through various phases. He knows the problems that he had or the successes that he had. And so it will be interesting to see.
But I think, as Vin says, I think we have to be truly careful not to make points that get us involved in that election. We do not like it when people get involved in ours, and I think that one has to be really careful.
SLAVIN: Speaking of not getting involved in people's elections, the Iranians are having elections as well, as you know, for president in June.
And we wrote in my paper this morning that there is a certain concern within the Obama administration about how to reach out to Iran, what to do before that election, a concern that it might somehow tip the balance one way or the other.
Do you think that's a good idea? Do you think that the Obama administration should reach out immediately? And if so, at what level and in what way?
WEBER: Of all the things we're talking about today, that's the one that I've probably got the most concern about, because they hang on every word that everybody says in America. And unfortunately, the election in Iran is not tomorrow or next week, it's not till June.
But I still think we have to maintain a really careful posture to not impact on that election in any possible way. And there's an awful lot going on, with the possible appointment of an emissary there, with speculation that's been accelerating about how close they may be to a nuclear weapon. The term some people in the military use is "just a screwdriver away."
And I think that -- I'm sure that -- I'm sure that that has to be one of the main concerns of the Obama administration. They want to build on and accelerate the dialogue that began ramping up a bit in the Bush administration. President Obama made that clear throughout his campaign. So we know that; that's not anything new. But to do it in a way that sends a signal to the Iranian electorate that we don't want to send would be very counterproductive.
So I just think you have to -- you have to be very, very careful and sort of hold your tongue as much as you can until that election is behind us.
SLAVIN: Well, we reported also in our paper today that Bill Perry has had some meetings with senior Iranians. What about a back- channel? Is that the best way to go?
ALBRIGHT: Can I go back a little bit? Because I had some experience with this, and it has to do with what happens when Americans, or anybody, gets kind of linked or -- first of all, this is the most difficult issue because, as Vin said, they do hang on every word.
But what happened in the Clinton administration was we had begun in a very difficult way with Iran, and then President Hashemi was elected. And it was interesting in a way of how the media played into this, because as a result of an interview that Christiane Amanpour had with Hashemi, he was sending certain signals in terms of respect for American history and culture. And so we decided at that time in the Clinton administration that we would have an opportunity to respond to it.
So if you kind of do a little "kremlinology" on speeches, what happened was I gave a speech which responded to him, that was really almost identical in language in terms of respect for history, et cetera. Then we had hoped that we would be able to meet at ministerial level. And I won't go through the whole story, but there was a lot of back-and-forth.
But the bottom line of getting to this is that because we thought that Hashemi offered opportunities, I think that there are real questions then. They missed some signals in whether the ayatollahs didn't like that. And so I think you have to be really, really careful, as Vin has said, across the board, not to either give solace or to take away from anybody. It is very delicate.
I do think that what is important and interesting is there have been general statements, as Secretary Clinton stated and President Obama has stated, that we want to at some point have a different relationship with Iran than has been there recently.
SLAVIN: If I could follow: back-channel, multilateral, different channels all at once?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I teach a course, and I say foreign policy is just trying to get some country to do what you want. And so I say, what are the tools? And you have to look at multiple tools. I am convinced of that; that there are any number of different ways: bilateral diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy, Track II diplomacy, a variety of ways. And I hope that what is happening generally is that, as the new team looks into the tool box, that they actually see a lot of tools.
WEBER: We have to also be very sensitive to the fact that this is not just a bilateral relationship that we're working on between us and Iran. The relationship between the United States and Iran probably predominates the thinking of almost all the players in the region; certainly not just the Israelis, who obviously are concerned about the threat, but everybody else in the region, too.
SLAVIN: You raise a good point. And then how do you reach out to Iran without, to use a term of art, freaking out the Sunnis, I guess, is the way I'd put it.
WEBER: That's a good term of art.
SLAVIN: Particularly the Saudis and Kuwaitis and others across the Gulf, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, who think that, you know, that the Shi'a are coming, the Shi'a are coming.
ALBRIGHT: Barbara, you are really a great expert on Iran. And so I mean, you've written about it. And it's one of your really major areas.
I think that one of the interesting things is to understand that Iran isn't monolithic either.
ALBRIGHT: And I think those are the interesting questions. And you know a lot about it. Maybe we should ask you. (Laughter.)
SLAVIN: I'm here as a journalist. I'm not allowed to give my views.
(Cross talk, laughter.)
But yeah, this notion of dealing with the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and so on; how do you convince them that they are in the loop and that, you know, they're not going to have an unpleasant surprise when you reach out to Iran?
WEBER: Well, I think, I don't know how you do that, other than constant and intense diplomatic relationships. I mean, we have to keep talking to those people as quietly and as persistently as we can.
I think that that's sort of what the president is indicating by the appointment of Mitchell and Holbrooke, is that the entire diplomatic approach to this whole region is going to be more persistent and consistent than, in his view, we've seen it over the last many years.
There's really no other way, because the tensions, as you well note, because as Madeleine said, you're an expert on this area, the tensions are centuries old between these countries. We're not going to find the magic formula for eliminating those tensions. We just have to work the process again and again and again very persistently.
SLAVIN: Let's move towards -- move a little bit farther to the east, I guess, and talk about the Afghanistan-Pakistan situation, particularly Pakistan; frail civilian governments, Taliban that's on the march, in Pakistan, situation along the border.
What are your best recommendations to the Obama administration on how to handle this?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I have said that Pakistan -- you know, every day, some of us are asked, what is the most dangerous country in the world? And for me, Pakistan has won the lottery because it has everything that gives you an international migraine.
It has nuclear weapons, extremism, poverty, corruption and a very fragile system and is in a very difficult location.
I do think that what is interesting is that the administration, again, by having appointed Ambassador Holbrooke, is -- has -- is seeing the Pakistan-Afghanistan issue as having some relationship to each other. And I was very interested in the op-ed in another newspaper that President Zardari had written, in terms of the interest of working more with the United States and understanding the importance of the closeness -- the relationship, openness. I believe he talked about a series of ways of cooperating on dealing with the issues in Afghanistan. And I think that that is very important.
I do think that there are many aspects to the relationship that have to be looked at, in terms of all those areas that I mentioned.
WEBER: I agree with everything Secretary Albright said.
The only thing I would say -- to refocus us a little bit in terms of our discussion. While the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the Iranian issue are hugely impactful on this issue of our relationship with the Muslim world, even though Afghanistan and Pakistan obviously are Muslim countries, it's a little less impactful on that specific set of relationships.
It's hugely important for other reasons: the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, the relationship with India and all sorts of other -- al Qaeda in the FATA areas -- but it is not really a flashpoint issue in terms of the United States' relationship with the Muslim world, which is what (we've been spending ?) -- we're talking about here.
SLAVIN: One thing that strikes me as ironic -- actually, this is from a gentleman named Dan Byman, who, some of you may know, is an expert on terrorism -- counterterrorism. He said we make such a huge deal out of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the treatment of detainees, but the U.S. goes and assassinates people, essentially, from the air with drones in the tribal areas along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and nobody says anything about it -- except, of course, the Pakistanis, from time to time.
This policy of, really, targeted killings, as the Israelis would call it, or assassination, as others would call it, is something that -- how shall I put it delicately -- should be an issue in discussions here. Or is this just a policy we've all grown to accept since 9/11?
WEBER: Well, both parties, and all candidates in both parties, have made it clear that they're not going to ignore actionable intelligence that might reveal the presence of terrorists who want to do damage to America. And we do kind of know the region there.
The danger is, of course, that intelligence is imperfect, and the result can be, unfortunately, civilian casualties. But I do make a distinction between actively seeking out people on what constitutes, I guess, in the case of this struggle with terrorism in the battlefield -- I contrast that with the treatment of people in a prison. I just -- I don't think that you can equate the two necessarily. It's difficult, because it's not a traditional battlefield, obviously.
But you know, I think -- I don't think that any American president would simply sit back and say we're going to allow terrorists to flourish if we have actionable intelligence that could lead to their obstruction.
SLAVIN: I'm going to ask you one more, and then I'm going to open it up to the audience. And this has to do with something you're both very familiar with -- democracy promotion in various aspects.
We had a situation under the Bush administration where there were elections that brought Hamas to power, legislative elections in 2006. We've seen Hezbollah become much more prominent, and it now has a so- called blocking third in the Lebanese government.
Should this administration change its policy toward dealing with fundamentalist Islamic movements that clearly have proven in elections that they are very, very popular? And you could also apply to that perhaps the Taliban as well. They're not participating in elections now, but you know, it's conceivable in the future that they would be participating in some way in elections in Afghanistan.
ALBRIGHT: Well, we have spent a lot of time on this, in any number of different ways, some because Vin was chairman of the board of the National Endowment -- and I'm chairman of the board of the National Democratic Institute, and democracy is the business we have chosen. And we -- and there have been lots of discussions generally among the democracy community in terms of when is an appropriate time to have an election, what do you do if there are -- certain groups do not eschew violence as a weapon. So we have talked about this.
ALBRIGHT: Plus we co-chaired a Council on Foreign Relations task force that dealt with whether you support and how you support democracy in the Arab world. And some of the members of that are in this audience.
And we spent a lot of time kind of having our own ideas and then also reacting to what had been an early policy of the Bush administration in terms of democracy in the Middle East.
Speaking for myself, I believe in democracy, and I do not think that any group of people is not prepared for democracy. In fact, I think they're not prepared for anything else.
But the question is how you go about it, and NDI and various groups -- I believe in supporting democracy, not imposing democracy. Imposing democracy is an oxymoron. So that creates a problem.
The other thing is that I think that elections are necessary but not sufficient. And so there has to be a whole set of institutional structures that go with it.
But the most important thing is that you cannot allow a group to participate in the democratic process that decides that violence is a continued campaign method. And so I personally do not believe that the elections among the Palestinians should have been pushed at the time that they were, because Hamas had not given up violence as a tool, and they still haven't, and neither has Hezbollah.
But -- and in our Council on Foreign Relations study, we said that we needed to look at each issue case by case, and that it was important, actually, to deal with Muslim-based parties or not decide that you would eliminate parties from competition, but that it was important that they'd give up violence. And I think that is an -- I think that has to continue to be the gold standard in terms of going in.
But I also do think that we need to understand that democracy -- people want to vote and eat, and therefore democracy has to deliver, and there have to be economic programs that go along and constituency work. And frankly both in Lebanon and among the Palestinians the other parties I don't think did as much constituency work and did not seem as close to the people.
So those would be my --
SLAVIN: But we face the reality of it now, so what do we do?
WEBER: Well --
SLAVIN: Do we try to ignore these obviously very important elements --
WEBER: Well, I'm going to back up, look at -- because I want to amplify on what Secretary Albright said. The mistake in -- with Hamas was viewing the election as being the first step in the process. What we talked about in our democracy report and what we've talked about in the report that we're discussing today is really -- these are my words -- the election is the end of the process.
And we should be about the business of developing and building democracy in this country, but that doesn't mean you automatically go to elections, all of that. You have to build what we call the preconditions of democracy: help to build independent media, help economic development, women's rights, effective political parties, an effective civil society. All of those things provide us opportunities to help build societies in ways that ultimately will lead toward elections and democratically-chosen governments. But you have to start there, or you run into the same kind of problems we faced.
The only other point that I would make as well -- and Secretary Albright and I certainly agree, we don't want violent parties, people who haven't forsaken violence, to be recognized. At the same time, we've argued that the United States needs to be prepared to deal with Islamist parties that do reject violence, and that's not always been the case in the past. And it's not very comfortable in many countries which we're dealing with. And frankly, to be candid, you have to be prepared for some outcomes that we're not very comfortable with as Americans. But you should draw the line and continue to draw the line against parties that continue to utilize violence.
SLAVIN: So you would still put the United States in the situation where it can't talk directly to Hamas or Hezbollah; it has to go through other parties? Both of you.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I personally would. But I have to say that in this report, I think this was one of the issues that there was a great deal of discussion on. I mean, I happen to be the person that put Hamas and Hezbollah on the list, and so we were just setting up the terrorist organizational list. And I do think that we need to -- that's my view. But I do think that in this report, I think we are -- we made clear that this was an area in which there was quite a lot of discussion.
WEBER: There is.
SLAVIN: It's your turn. So please state your name, wait for the microphone.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Jim Moody. Hi, both of you -- all three of you.
I was recently in Peshawar, Pakistan, and the responsible parties that I talked to there said clearly that the U.S. is losing far more than it's gaining by these drone attacks -- getting back to the drone question.
You know, you hit a -- hit a house with a high-value target, and then you kill that person. You may kill 12, 14 other people. In that society, the Patan society especially, you now have 14 families that are determined to try to kill you back, or kill some American. So the cost-benefit, aside from the morality of assassinations -- this particular approach has huge downside effects I hope we will weigh.
SLAVIN: Do you have any comments?
WEBER: I only have -- first of all, it's good to see my former colleague Jim Moody here. Always nice to see Jim.
I kind of have a comment which doesn't necessarily answer the question. But my own feeling is, in terms of this issue and others, we have treated, in my view, Pakistan as sort of a subordinate issue to Afghanistan for quite a while now.
And we've asked, how does Pakistan affect our objectives in Afghanistan? I think, obviously, both countries are important. I really think we need to begin thinking a little bit the other way, though.
The central issue -- the centrality of Pakistan to foreign policy and national security concerns of the United States ought to be obvious to us. And it's not that we don't care about Afghanistan; it's not that we don't want to succeed there. But we ought to increasingly think about what we're doing in Afghanistan in terms of how it affects Pakistan rather than the other way. That's a commentary, not an answer, necessarily.
ALBRIGHT: Jim, I think it is a really, really difficult question. Just again to go back on something, the Clinton administration, we were at various times either praised or criticized for the same event, which was how we responded to the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And we launched cruise missiles against camps in Afghanistan because we thought Osama bin Laden was in them.
Then -- so and then at that stage, because it was before 9/11, people were very critical that we'd done any of that. Then afterwards, and I was a lead witness on the 9/11 Commission, we were criticized for not continuing hitting camps. And one of the reasons we didn't was because we didn't have -- you know, people would say, well, they thought they'd seen somebody like Osama bin Laden somewhere, but we also realized that there were civilians in the area and decided that we couldn't operate on the basis of that kind of intelligence. So it is a -- I state this as somebody who was a decision maker. These are very, very difficult decisions.
The other part of this is I have argued that we need to fight terrorism in a way that doesn't create more terrorists. The secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, had said that was happening. But it goes to a point that -- if you're going to call me "Secretary", I have to call you "Congressman" -- is that --
WEBER: All right. We'll just drop both.
ALBRIGHT: -- that basically Pakistan has a responsibility here that it has to help us fulfill in that region. And they have to understand, try to figure out how their military and ISI and everybody can be helpful so that we aren't in this particular position.
But this is really, really difficult because, as we all feel, that if you hit a house with civilians in it, you are actually creating a lot of problems. On the other hand, you can't just let people with impunity try to figure out how to kill all of us.
I think the bottom line here is, we have to, and this report talks about making distinctions between civilian populations, Muslims and murderers.
There are people that are murderers. They are not Muslims, you know, just generally to identify everybody as being part of the problem. But I think you hit on truly a difficult, difficult issue.
I think the greatest boost we have had, for democracy, was the election of President Obama. It has also given a great boost for American democracy. Having said that, I think, we need to be committed to democracy and human rights. But you cannot have elections and militias at the same time.
That's the problem we had in Lebanon. That's the problem we had in the West Bank and Gaza. And that's the problem we have in Iraq. At the same time, we need to be consistent. We say we don't want groups that practice violence to participate in elections.
In Iraq, there are groups that have participated in violence. And we have accepted them. So we have to be really consistent.
ALBRIGHT: I think that one -- again there is -- I say this with respect for people that have been making decisions, for the last eight years, and those who are about to.
It is very, very hard to make these decisions, and that often consistency is a difficult aspect of life. And I just -- I think that it is very important to go forward with the Iraqi elections.
They are elections that are bottom-up. They will make a big difference. And I think this is -- we said it in the Council on Foreign Relations report. We said it in the case by case basis. I think it's a very important part of this.
SLAVIN: I remember, you once said to us, different strokes for different folks. That's the way you put it.
ALBRIGHT: Well, it's very elegant.
SLAVIN: Very elegant. It stuck in my head though.
Yes, the gentleman right here.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Taha Gaya with the Pakistani American Leadership Center.
Just to kind of follow up on Jim Moody or Congressman Jim Moody's question, you know, it has become very popular recently to kind of blame the Pakistani ISI and the military. But at the same time, over the past eight years, we were supposed to deliver 120 helicopters to Pakistan.
Of those, we only delivered 12.
So when we're not providing them the tools that they requested and that we told them we're going to give them, then it's hard for us to then turn around and blame them and say, "Hey, we're -- you're not giving us the cooperation you promised."
And then -- we're talking about imperfect intelligence, and, you know, I understand it's hard to make, you know, these intelligence decisions about when to attack. But there's been about 30, you know, U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. Of those, I don't know how many we can say have killed top al Qaeda leadership. So what we're looking for is to see a ratcheting-up of that threshold before we do a drone attack. I mean, obviously, the U.S. in Afghanistan has had, you know, a history of bombing wedding parties, which is not exactly inspiring and confidence-building.
SLAVIN: Any comment?
WEBER: I think that that's a -- probably a valid point. You know, I just -- I don't know what I can add to what Madeleine said about the difficulty of making these decisions. And I certainly agree we don't want to kill civilians. We don't want to. We suffer, and the cause we're pursuing suffers, when that happens. And we should try to minimize it as much as we can. But if there are people that want to kill Americans, we can't just ignore that fact, either, going forward.
I would say one other -- the only other thing I'd add, in terms of -- I'm aware of we -- that we haven't supplied everything to the military that we want. One of our problems is that when we think of the Pakistani military, we think -- we go immediately to the western front, where we want them to be much, much more active. That's -- as you well know, that's not where the ISI thinks. They think in terms of the eastern front with India. And so we have a constant (set ?) of tensions there in terms of (our working there ?), which is understandable. It's not saying they're necessarily even wrong. It's just that we have a different interest and perceive the military situation (in ?) Pakistan somewhat different than the military leadership there does.
ALBRIGHT: I also think, on that, that there obviously were questions -- at least, certainly, raised in the last couple of years -- about what was happening to the money that was being given for military assistance to the Pakistanis; questions about, you know, where -- not just whether it was being used on the right front, but where it was being used, period.
I also do think -- and it's a point that Congressman Weber made -- is about -- I think there will be a recalibration in terms of looking at how we relate to Pakistan. It is going to, in my opinion, be one of the major relationships. And it has to be looked at across the board, in terms of -- not only in this relationship to Afghanistan, but in terms of what is going on there economically; how the United States -- as I remember, at that stage, Senator Biden was talking about more assistance -- economic assistance to Pakistan, and a variety of things that would help to -- and again, it goes to this -- what's in this report -- of creating an environment where people can live and practice their beliefs without feeling that they have to be aggressive against another group.
And so I do think we have to look at the wider picture of this.
SLAVIN: One other thing in the report -- I'm just curious, since I have a -- we all, as journalists, have a vested interest in this, and that is you recommend much more coverage of the Muslim world beyond simply wars and terrorism and so on. I was wondering if you had any brilliant ideas about we can do that in the current economic environment, with newspapers shutting down foreign bureaus and, you know, drawing back on this sort of thing. Is it going to have to be nonprofits supporting foreign correspondents around the world?
ALBRIGHT: You have to pay your own way. (Laughter.) No, I think it is real problem, because I do believe that -- and actually, as I looked at Walter, I think he and I talk about this a lot in terms of new technology, in terms of how to use the new technology in an appropriate way for us to all learn more.
I think the problem -- and one of the reasons I was very glad to participate in this, and it built on my book about the role of God and religion in foreign policy -- is that the American public is willfully ignorant about -- first of all, they think that most Muslims live in the Middle East, which they don't. And they don't know anything about the difference between Sunni and Shi'a or any aspect of this. And so I think it is an educational process for the United States, which -- American people, which cannot be done without the help of reporters and the help of the media.
Also the other way -- I think this is what we talked about in both these reports, basically, is that there had to be also more coverage in the Arab media or the Muslim media of the United States.
WEBER: Right. I understand the question about the economic environment, but let's not let the media off the hook entirely. They still do devote resources to coverage of this region. And to the extent that that is almost solely focused on covering the violence in the region, it's not helpful. It doesn't give people a textured view of what the Middle East is really like.
And one other thing that -- one other point just related to the media coverage that we talked about in our democracy report, and I think we feel even more strongly about today, is that -- and I think this has helped -- the United States in its approach to media can't decide that they're going to ostracize independent media because they don't like the coverage they get.
WEBER: Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. And we recommended that several years ago in our report for the council.
You know, I don't like -- I don't like the coverage CBS gives all the time. As a Republican, I don't like much coverage anywhere anymore. (Laughter, cross talk.) But it doesn't mean I don't participate with the news media. And that's the attitude we have to take to truly independent media such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
I'm just glancing through the report. You make a number of recommendations that would improve job creation, education and so forth. What are the implications for our own government, for the implementation, execution of this kind of project?
Do -- are you suggesting we need to beef up USAID? Do we need to work more closely at coordinating with other donors around the world? What are -- what changes --
WEBER: Let me just -- let me just --
It may mean those things. Even given our huge economic problems, we're not going to shut down foreign aid and development assistance. But one of the concrete recommendations we make is that the president, in a reasonable period of time, convene a private-sector conference basically aimed at talking about all the different parties that can invest in the Middle East.
That could well include government entities. It could include the World Bank and the IMF. But it also could include, you know, the private sector. There's no way around the fact that we're in a very strapped economic environment for everybody. But it doesn't mean we can't do more to focus economic resources particularly on the poorer regions of the Middle East, which is the majority of the people in the Middle East.
ALBRIGHT: I think the thing that I find very unusual and good in this report is the breakdown at the end of who's supposed to do what. I mean, it talks about the president and the Congress. But it also talks about Defense and military leaders, business and investment leaders, philanthropic organizations, development agencies, educators, faith leaders, media, so that what we looked at was to try to kind of assign various aspects of this and also that we all had to work together.
I think that's really unusual frankly in a report like this, to kind of make clear that everybody had a role to play and that you couldn't depend on USAID to do everything or Congress to vote all the money, that there were other interests, stakeholders to use a previous term, in terms of getting involved in this.
And I really recommend to you to look at the back of this, because it not only has the recommendations, but it divides up kind of who should do what and how they should cooperate.
WEBER: You know, the Aspen Institute -- since Walker's here in the front row -- the Aspen Institute has a project in this area, to encourage investment in Palestine. It's been quite successful. And --
QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)
WEBER: -- excuse me -- and Ziad Asali, right in the front row, who's also a member of this task force. So --
ALBRIGHT: We do a lot of things (together ?).
WEBER: -- successful in difficult circumstances.
ALBRIGHT: And what that is is a public-private partnership with OPIC backing. And it's a very interesting kind of combination of activities.
SLAVIN: There's a gentleman all the way in the back. Yeah.
QUESTIONER: (Name inaudible) -- with Al Hurra TV. The Turkish prime minister urged the United States to reconsider its definition of terrorism in the Middle East, differentiating between groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, from al Qaeda, and recognizing Hamas and Hezbollah as a national resistance movement. My first question is, is that something that you see doable or helpful in, you know, reestablishing the relationship between United States and the Muslim world?
And second question, briefly, is, Hamas -- it's becoming apparent that Hamas is a key player in the peace process or the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. What is (a better ?) approach in dealing with Hamas?
ALBRIGHT: Want me to take the first part of the --
ALBRIGHT: I think that what is interesting, there have been a variety of attempts in the international community to come up with some definition of terrorism. I know that Prime Minister Erdogan has been involved in a dialogue on this particular subject. Kofi Annan tried to do something through the U.N.
There was some hope, frankly, at the -- towards the end of our administration, the beginning of the Bush administration, that we actually had some issues in common with Iran -- for instance, in dealing with Afghanistan -- in perhaps looking at some definition at terrorism. But is not an easy exercise internationally, but there have been attempts to do it in some way so that there is a way to sort people out and not use adjectives that just apply to everybody.
But it's a very difficult exercise because of the various ways that people look at the group.
WEBER: I don't have anything to add to that.
SLAVIN: John Marks?
QUESTIONER: Hi. I'm John Marks, and -- from Search for Common Ground, which, with this consensus-building institute, is the -- were sponsors of this report.
And one thing that we were particularly proud of was that a third of the members of the task force were actually Muslim Americans. In your view, did that make a difference in the way it came out, as opposed to the way such reports often are done? And also, do you see a possibility of Muslim Americans being a bridge between the Muslim world and the United States?
ALBRIGHT: I think it made a tremendous difference. I think that, first of all, we all learned a lot from each other. I thought the discussions were very interesting and useful. And also, it adds a validating aspect to the report. Again, I believe that there really is a role for Muslim Americans, that they can play a very important role.
And I -- you know, most people were very surprised when I came out with my book about the role of God and religion. And I have said I am neither a theologian -- and I haven't turned into a religious mystic. I basically am a problem-solver. And I think that we need to figure out how to get -- one of the things in this report -- everybody knows this -- we had trouble trying to figure out the right --
WEBER (?): Words.
ALBRIGHT: -- words. You know, when you say "moderate Muslims," that doesn't work. Moderate Muslims do not believe moderately. They believe passionately about moderation. But the bottom line is, it's hard to figure out exactly what words to use; nor can you just say "Muslim world."
And so I do think we who are not Muslims need help in terms of sorting our way through this. You're not going to have either the Christian or Jewish world, or Buddhist, or anybody else, changing the thinking of Muslims. It has to come from inside. And I think that that's where Muslim Americans can be very helpful.
WEBER: I agree with all that. And certainly that's been a strength of America in the past. It was a strength for us to have African-Americans and to talk to Africans; Irish-Americans, you talk to Irish. I don't know why we wouldn't feel the same way about Muslim Americans helping us solve the -- some of the problems we have in the Muslim world.
Just a word about the leadership group, though. I -- and I agree with what Madeleine said about how helpful it was, and instructive, to have a group of Muslim voices in that -- but I thought a broader audience should understand we also had a lot of Jewish Americans in that group. We had a lot of Christians, of every stripe of Christianity. And it was really -- anybody that looked at us --
ALBRIGHT: And I (spoke for ?) a number of those categories. (Laughter.)
WEBER: You spoke for almost all of them.
But anybody that thinks it's a group of people that got together that all agreed in advance, that was not the case.
SLAVIN: The lady in the middle there.
QUESTIONER: Hello. My name is Dalia Mogahed from Gallup, and I also had the pleasure of serving in the leadership group for this report.
My question is really to you, Madame Secretary. The choice of President Obama for George Mitchell I thought was a great one, especially considering his experience with the conflict in Northern Ireland. And in that conflict, I think we were dealing with a very similar situation, where there were parties being elected that had a violent wing.
And I wonder if there is an analogy that we could draw between the way that we handled that situation and a way for us to find a creative way to engage all parties involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
ALBRIGHT: I do think that but there -- clearly, whenever George Mitchell is mentioned or the Israeli-Palestinian issue is mentioned and the Irish issue is mentioned all together. I think the clue though is that what happened was that the IRA and Sinn Fein split, and so there was in fact -- Sinn Fein became the peaceful political part that was involved in the negotiating aspect of it.
The other is, and what is so interesting, George Mitchell said -- I can't remember now -- that there were 700 days of failure, and one day of success, and that it's going to require a lot of patience, in terms of looking through all these subjects. And George Mitchell, I think, in so many ways -- I think it's a great appointment, because he does have that stick-to-it-tiveness, the knowledge. As a former congressional leader, he knows what it's like to work his way through various compromises, and ability to hear other people's point of view. And I think he has the whole approach to it.
Now, I think that it'll be interesting, as a political scientist -- I think it's kind of interesting to see how many of the analogies work. In many ways, I think there will be obvious differences, and I think that the problems in the Middle East actually go back further than the problems in Ireland, Northern Ireland. But I do think that there are lessons, and I'm sure that he is the one that can really pick out which fits and which don't.
WEBER: I don't want to be a pessimist, but I do want to keep expectations under control here. (Chuckles.)
One of the other things Senator Mitchell always said about Ireland was that they couldn't have succeeded except for the fact that the Irish got tired of fighting. Let's hope that the people in Israel and Palestine are similarly tired of fighting.
SLAVIN: The last question goes to Haleh Esfandiari, who knows more than most of us about how no good deed goes unpunished.
QUESTIONER: I'm Haleh Esfandiari from the Wilson Center.
Madame Secretary, the president, President Obama has talked about respect, showing respect towards the Muslim world. I would like you to elaborate a little bit. I mean, what does this respect entail?
I mean, the Iranians have a different understanding with respect; the Egyptians, a different one. Indonesia and Malaysia understand respect -- something else.
Is this respect across the world? (Chuckling.) Do you mind sort of elaborating a little bit?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I can't really speak specifically for President Obama, but I do think -- you know what's interesting -- and again, I discovered this in my own discussion -- I don't like the word "tolerance" because "tolerance" means "put up with, tolerate." And that's why a lot of people talk about respect, which means having a sense that what you believe in is something that you're entitled to believe in, not that I put up with. So that would be some way that I would look at it.
I do think that it means, for me, the attempt to understand the basis of your belief, to understand that you believe as strongly as I do, and that I have to learn more about what your motivations are.
I don't think it means accepting everything, but I do think, for me, it's interesting -- I really got so I did not like the word "tolerance." And so we began to talk about generally what "respect" means.
But part of what you said also is we all have -- we have to be able to understand that an Iranian term may be different and that goes back to what (we've now said ?) -- case by case. And it means not lumping everybody together.
And what I thought -- so I do think that President Obama -- one of the things he said is that he has so many different groups of people within his own family of various -- whether they're from Kenya or Indonesia or Chicago or Hawaii, very different kind of sense, and therefore, I think, within him, his DNA, is basically to give people a chance to explain themselves.
And one of the things that I felt -- I'm not proud of every single thing I did at the State Department, but I am really glad one of the things we began to do was to have iftar dinners, to put Muslim holidays on the calendar, to have respect for the fact that not everybody was in the Judeo-Christian tradition and that there were people who worshipped God in a different way.
SLAVIN: Thank you all very, very much. I'm afraid that's going to have to be it. (Applause.)
Thank you very much.
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