tv Nabeel Khoury Bunker Diplomacy CSPAN April 6, 2020 10:03am-11:12am EDT
>> c-span has round-the-clock coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and it's all available on firstname.lastname@example.org/coronavirus. watch white house briefings, updates from governors and state officials, track the spread throughout the u.s. and the world with interactive maps. watch on-demand any time unfiltered at c-span.org/coronavirus. >> many thanks to all of you for making time in your day to join us. our gathering to include ambassadors and prostitutes from across embassies including the ambassador from tunisia. my purpose it is from bahrain, iraq, jordan, morocco, oman, tunisia, turkey, yemen, the netherlands, norway, australia, zimbabwe, slovenia and ecuador. so from the four corners we come to hear you.
we also welcome distinguished board members and selfless fund of middle east programs here at atlantic council john de blasio. finally we welcome u.s. government officials, private companies and nonprofits. i predict a rich and substantive question and answer session following the discussion on the stage. open to everyone. this richins of the discussion will be enhanced by the absolutely superlative interviewer who will draw the kernels of wisdom out of nabeel today. tom friedman needs no introduction but simply for fun i will remind you can read his analysis of foreign affairs in the "new york times," analysis for which he has thrice won the pulitzer prize. tom is the author of several books and one of which was a textbook as an undergraduate. his full bio is available for you and is printed at. let us turn to our man of the
hour nabeel khoury. he's a non-brexit senior fellow fellow at the atlantic counsel's christopher middle east are in addition to his work on our website you can read on his own blog, middle east corner. nabeel retired from 25 years and u.s. foreign service in 2013 with the rank of minister counselor. no small feat. he taught at the national defense university and at northwestern university is less overseas posting nabeel service deputy chief of mission of the u.s. embassy in yemen. in 2003 during the iraq war he served as department spokesperson at u.s. central command. he earned his bachelors degree in political science from the american university of beirut and his masters and phd in political science from university of new york at albany. he has published articles on issues of leadership and development in the arab world, in the middle east journal, journal of south asian and middle eastern studies and international journal of middle
east studies. try to keep them all straight. when he was posted to yemen in 2004 i recall a conversation that they had at the time with the mutual friend of ours, former yemeni ambassador to the united states. i told them use was lucky to send nabeel out because his fluent arabic and his understanding of the culture would smooth the way for his work in country. but abdul corrected me. no, he said. the opposite is true. arab american diplomats in a region have a much harder time because everyone in the country expects the diplomats to do favors for them and make exceptions for them and they don't get the same respect as another diplomat because they say we don't have to listen to them, , he doesn't know any more than we do. he's one of us. and in addition he said when your government do something that the locals don't like, they hope the arab american diplomats personally responsible for not preventing it. so nabeel were eager to hear your thoughts on being an arab
american diplomat in the middle east during an era of volatile and bass vast leading u.s. mide east relations. as a reminder, the ground rules today are as follows. we are on the record. if you like to join the twitter conversation about what we hear use the hashtag acmideast. tom and nabeel, please come to the stage, and tom, the floor is yours. [applause] >> nabeel this is a great audience. it's a treat for me to be here with you. thank you for the great introduction. by this book, okay? the first thing an author has to say for another author and they're on sale after an will autograph it. nabeel and i've known each other for a long time. we stole horses together in casablanca, in baghdad and in yemen. over the years.
i don't know much, i'm not a console on many things but i am a connoisseur on people who know the difference between the garage and the oasis. who know the real middle east. and i was always drawn to nabeel because of that. he really knows the region and it's reflected in this book, and it is a really for me a fascinating perspective of an arab americans perspective on american diplomacy and his work as he is diplomat in the region and particularly and iraq during what was an incredibly heated time. so nabeel, just for starters because everyone here doesn't know know you as well as i do, tell us your story here how did you get from lebanon to senior position in the u.s. state department? >> it was all a mistake. [laughing]
first of all, thank you all for stopping in for lunch and for some after lunch conversation. and really very special thanks to tom for agreeing to engage me in conversation today. something we've done several times over the years, including stealing horses as he expressed it in baghdad. he stop by at least a couple of places where i was assigned, and in baghdad i usually would take him around like an morocco to meet some people, bad guys usually. in baghdad i took him to meet a friend of mine, a very secular cleric shia by the name of -- as secular as they come. he invited as to dinner at his place, but what we did know was he had the grandson of imam
khomeini at dinner as well, so the four of us that they're conversing for a good couple of hours. and tom came back and road dinner with the mullahs -- wrote. and expressed how optimistic he felt that there were such secular people. really thought leaders and provoke verse in a country like iraq, which back in 2003 was hot then and is still hot. the book, the occasion for discussion today, begins with a poetic verse called you have your lebanon and i have mine. he expresses in it that contrast between his vision of the beauty of lebanon and lebanon as a symbol of diversity,
coexistence, harmony. and the reality back then 100 yours ago or more of the secularism, of sectarianism and feudalism and corruption, he might as well have written this yesterday. the situation in lebanon has not changed. in fact, it has gotten worse because the corrupt elite has not only ruined the economy run it to the ground but have run the country to the ground physically. the environment is in terrible shape. anyway, i think if he were alive today he would say wow, all this time and nothing improved. the book also inns with a very short poem by palestinian poet. it's called the post man and he talks about himself as a
palestinian poet in excel and he says he feels like the post man who still as letters and messages to deliver but he no longer knows who they should go to and where. and something as retired diplomat i identify with very much. i'm still engaged. ice to want to have an impact but sometimes you wonder whether you can still play a role and where and with whom with. this is a long way of saying, my coming from lebanon, i was born and raised in lebanon, give me a deep feeling not just from lebanon before the entire region. whenever i worked in any of these countries i deeply felt the issues, and i deeply try to bridge the differences, no matter how wide the gap. in baghdad in 2003 it was
certainly wide. >> so nabeel, you your title "bunker diplomacy" reflects this. you thought transition that i live there as well, an american whose presence in middle east was deeply embedded, open and integrated with societies to an america that hid behind walls basically. it's diplomats and embassies. i was actually therefore the moment when it started -- i was actually there for the moment, it was 1983 and i was in my part, april 13 i believe that 1 p.m. and a blast happened so powerfully knocked the transistor radio off my desk. a transistor radio, kids, was a radio big. [laughing] i also something called a typewriter. it was a role. you hit the keys, create an
impression. and i ran out of my apartment, and i saw a smoke cloud calling in the distance and i ran towards it. as i got closer and closer i said, couldn't be, you know. i turn the corner around and it was the american embassy blown apart in half. i remember asking, i don't know if it was ryan crocker who's been a junior diplomat or someone else, what happened and he said a man drove a truck up the front stairs of the embassy and blew it up in the lobby. and two things i remember about the incident. one is my shock, i said you mean he killed himself? it just seemed incredible to me that someone would commit suicide. at the time how incredible it was. and the other was, there was no
perimeter of the embassy. you could literally walk up to the front door, rang the doorbell and there would be a marine insight he would let you in. flash forward a few years later, that's what i so love the title of your book, i was in istanbul. i don't know been if you have have seen the u.s. embassy in istanbul today, u.s. consulate in istanbul. think fort knox on a more secure, okay? i had gone out there for an interview, and old consulate used to be in the heart of istanbul in an old building, open part of the workplace and what not. i was interviewing a u.s. diplomat and he said, i said, look at this embassy. this is like a fortress. and he said that terrorists who blew up the british consulate in istanbul, they captured some of them afterwards and the interview them and they said we actually wanted to blow up the u.s. consulate, but it's so
secure, they don't let birds fly there. and i wrote a column called where birds don't fly. because were bert stonefly, people don't me, commerce doesn't happen. nabeel, you lived that transition from being open, integrated, a bridge from america to the societies to working out embassies that are bunkers, indistinguishable from military bunkers. what was that like? what are the implications of it? it's so much the theme of this book. >> my first assignment was in alexandria, egypt. it was an open the culture facility, open door. we no longer have those. we used to have them all over the place. it was a nice, beautiful villa. it's still there, and we had just one sleepy egyptian policeman sitting in a kiosk by the door, but nobody ever asked
anybody. people walk in. actually, a hand up of the mosul brotherhood of alexandria which that branch was supposed to be the tough branch, came to one of my roundtable discussions at the center and he engaged a former congressman by the name of paul findlay at the time. and after that, i visited him in his home and he would come by from time to time. the discussions were always intellectual, friendly. it was never any sense of hostility. the only thing was ambassador wisner at the time was, he said i was with president mubarak this week, and he said why is your culture and alexander receiving this bad people? i said well, we are of course
engage in conversation i said john b to stop? he said no, keep doing what you're doing. so this kind of openness and this kind of atmosphere quickly changed, and it partly changes in the region. the is him is changing in the region, radicalism, baptism, arab nationalism, et cetera, at the turmoil that treated. partly the reaction, partly in the region which over the years and never seem to adjust or learn as kirsten was saying. i remember because i was a spokesperson mainly with the pan-arab media and that the reason we open the office of media outreach in london, i became a well-known figure and have never coming back from baghdad to london.
baghdad, sometimes literally i had to carry guns because we would drive out of the green zone and people didn't have time to send protective task force. my friend, colleague at the time working there worked for dod. he would always carry a gun. he would put a gun in between us in the car and he would say this is for you, just in case. and, in fact, we have an iraq veteran here with us who remembers how, an egyptian-american. he took me to the shooting range with him to practice. and you feel what happens is of course diplomacy has shifted picky feel the danger, i was at the hotel when it was bombed, 27 rockets hit that building as i was hiding under my bed, between the bed and the wall.
you become a soldier and you say people don't understand that diplomats, particularly american diplomats, face the same dangers that soldiers on the battlefield phase but they don't have the training. they are not soldiers. they don't have the protection usually. >> what are we missing now is of that? so many diplomats, literally need permission and security to go outdoors and having meeting. it can't be spontaneous. nature for lunch, major for coffee,, and over. >> can't committed in busy to see you without an appointment and without running through security first. you can't go out in those places without having an armed guard. in yemen i used to have not only bodyguard and driver in hard-core, but also yemeni security car with people with guns going behind us.
i have my own personal cars had to take my own security at times and tell them i just want to go up, i want to meet people and don't worry, i'll let you know where i am, et cetera. we used to go out to the villages. i tell some stories about that and i had a british friend, a diplomat, and i would go in her car because their cars were not stopped when you exited, whereas american cars were. the story here is that is something special if you want about american diplomats. because the french and the british and the chinese don't take the kinds of precautions we do and they are not attacked and surrounded and burned like our embassies are. one has to ask, partly it is the region, but partly it's something we do. partly it's the image we project. use an image of stupidity and
arrogance that rubs people the wrong way that they feel let's go after the americans. why not the russians? why not the chinese? why not the french? >> so when reading the iraq section i noticed a certain melancholy, the word, tension, so we things that went wrong, some things that went right. but you ended on note of saying you know the french revolution oscillated between jack and periods and more democratic 150 think that's what we're seeing, that we're seeing an arab world in different ways in different places saudi arabia's you have version of the, morocco you have a version of it, struggling to find its way towards what i would say pluralism. >> i i used that line when i waa spokesperson baghdad because i would face very angry journalists. and personally i didn't think
the invasion of iraq was a good idea. but i did my job. but as a spokesperson and is lucky that way, i never went with official talking points. i hear some here wants to put -- [laughing] i engage them as a person, as human being, i listen and i responded. the academic in the allowed me to go into broader areas and not just a well, this is our policy. and so to me as an arab, the arab in the, detests the fact that most of the arab world is ruled by dictators. the arab in the identifies with the use today that we see in the streets in beirut and in baghdad who want to get rid of this oppressive structure. so i want to get rid of that. i identify with that but at the same time i understand that
american soldiers in baghdad rubs arabs the wrong way all over the region, from baghdad to morocco. there's something about foreign troops marching into an arab capital that you react viscerally to it. so to look on the positive side, as a spokesperson what could i say? hey, we are villain. no. what i would say, think of it in the long term. the arab world needs to revolt against dictators like that. many people, friends and morocco would tell me that they didn't want to demonstrate against the u.s. because part of them said good riddance when saddam was gotten rid of. so i said let's think of revolutions throughout history, think of the french revolution. it goes through a very ugly period. of course in the french case it
was the french. wasn't the u.s. coming on horseback. so whether it's a for some outside or from inside, dating rid of a bad dictator, wilbur like that, it has to be a good thing in the long term. in the short term you're going to go through hell probably. >> what's the difference between the arab spring of 2010 and 2011, and the kind of manifestations we are seeing in beirut and in a dad right now? they are quite similar and they seem to be come have more i would say, felt like the arab spring was more like get rid of the tyrant, whoever that was, the strongman. where this is real content, what kind of pluralistic secular society we want to have. is that a right impression or be reading too much into it? >> it's quite right.
tunisia was a cakewalk, i mean, compared to syria, lebanon, iraq because of many reasons. and partly fitted now the same kind of diversity. but what you have in places like lebanon, we can't talk about syria because of the devastation that has been wreaked upon the syrian people, but in places like lebanon and iraq, you have for the first time a genuine peoples revolt. this is not about nasir. this is not about israel. this is not about the u.s. this is about people linking hands across religious sects. you find them, the sunni-shia, christian, affect the christians are more divided than anybody else right now in lebanon, with a genuine feeling that this
corrupt elite, political elite, they want the whole thing changed. so the positive side of this is that this is genuinely felt across the spectrum. the negative side of it is lebanon doesn't have think dictator like saddam so you can just topple and start fresh. you have 12 mafias who are there, well armed militias, and you can't -- lebanese says get rid of all of them. how do you do that? he put them on the love vote and ship them off to cyprus or somebody? and the problem is the various entries, political interests get in the middle and scuffle what should be, i mean, could be a very serious, very thorough reform plan. but if somebody is white enough in the leadership in lebanon
today, they could adopt a series stand, said wrangling that shiite chair cherub this minisd that is you, that's what they're arguing about. i told some friends of mine in government, i said forget about the person. you could put a jackass -- sorry -- in the position of prime minister. that's not important at the important thing is present the people with a serious plan. this is how you change the system from sectarian, corrupt and feudalistic to a proper democratic republic. that's our plan. we heard you. that's our plan. we will start it tomorrow. unfortunately, they are too wrapped up in, frankly each side benefits materially from the system as is and they don't want to get rid of the advantages that they had. in baghdad, i think the problem is the militias. they haven't solved the problem
of who runs the state and an arrangement at least. if you're not going to destroy the militias that carry weapons, you need to at least have a good political understanding with them. it's a very tough thing to do, especially with iran intervening, u.s. intervening, the whole region intervened in baghdad. so that is a political side to it and i look optimistically in the long-term. i think the arab youth has risen, and they are going to stumble and is going to be, a revolution. what i think they finally get it. it. they finally understand they are being abused by a corrupt political elite that eventually has to go. >> do you have any hope or what should i hope for regarding syria? >> oh, gosh, that is such a sad
story. i mean, syria like some of the other places, like yemen which is a real disaster, started out as a hopeful vote against the assad regime. it could've been helped not within an iraq style invasion but it could've been assisted at the right time. i would say the first six months to a year. it's one of the faults of the obama administration, and i liked obama very much as a person, as a president, there was too much thinking, too much hesitating before acting on something like this. after everybody in the region jumped in it was too late. and then of course the russians, seeing that the americans were not there, jumped in in 2015. after that the u.s. had no card to play. you come to the table, you have
to have something, otherwise you're not invited to the poker game. we have been at the poker game since 2015. i i would say there been a lot f talks and discussions by the russians have been playing us, frankly. i don't know. i mean, assad is very much assisted by russia and iran and lebanese hezbollah. without them he would not have lasted a few weeks really without all that support. so okay, he's asserted himself. could some of the community aspect is going to take time to fix itself for people to be able to just make a living and be able to eat and feed their kids, keep them warm. but then you need to go back to an established assad regime, corrupt, abusive, and try to take it down somehow. if you could do it politically, i would love to see one arab dictator say i've had enough,
and i see, i read the tea leaves. so come in opposition, come in, young people and let's see how we can do this. but it's not happening. >> i have developed, nabeel, some rules in middle eastern reporting and they are so politically incorrect i will publish them post humorously. double of what i will share with you and rule number one is any american general assigned to the middle east should have to take a test, a very short test, only one question. do you think the shortest distance between two-point it's a straight line? if you answer yes, you can go to okinawa, korea, germany. who are the diplomats and military officers who you felt really understood the region, and why rex what was it they had that others didn't? we both met some who were just
completely lost and others who really, the region flowed through them. >> over the years, particularly in baghdad and then again in yemen, i had been civil contact with the military at various levels. also teaching at the marine war college i interact with a lot of lieutenant colonels and colonels. there's usually a positive, fresh look at some of our military officers have that our people and government, elected officials don't have. >> that are middle east studies, not at princeton and spitted on give you one anecdote with a general, , lebanese-american, nt that i'm plugging that, but he was head of centcom when i was attaché at u.s. embassy and he
came over for a visit. i took over, it was 2004 and the war had just started between the houthis in the north. we were waiting outside to go in and see and he said what's going on the north? is a something we should be involved in? i said that short answer is no, not militarily. i said this is an internal matter. they tried to convince us in 2004 that iran was there. we looked up and down and sideways. iran was not there. it's an internal matter, a rebellion of sorts that they should be able to settle through diplomacy. i said we can help, , so it's nt international terrorism. this is not al-qaeda. we can help diplomatically by trying to either mediate directly or invite friends to mediate, or certainly the system
has to work for everybody. otherwise, it the government fights and fails to convince the houthis, then the southerners want to secede. and that no will break apart. it will be worse than afghanistan and the new may have to come in and intervened. he took that to heart. when you came back to washington he lobbied on the hill for us to get more a money for yemen. he was someone who truly understood that force should be the very last resort and that are preconditions to why you and people become radicals in the middle east, and that we should help governments in a friendly way succeed and become more democratic and observe their peoples human rights. the problem has been consistently throughout we never got out of the cold war
mentality, which is get in bed with the dictator, with a military regime, because of the security collaboration that's easy with them, and then we can fight soviet influence later on, other bad guys in the region. up to the minute that he abdicated and signed off on the gcc agreement, some of us in government, and i don't name names, and there were different points of view within the state department and certainly in the white house, we were still trying to convince people who are trying to change the system, change the regime, to keep -- he may go but let's keep the security establishment, most of them run by his nephews and his son. because we work with them again. we were never able to let go. sometimes i think of, when --
certainly this administration, forget it when it comes to understand anything, very narrow vision, but obama, very intellectual man. he certainly i think understood the region and understood the transition in 2011, even before when he gave that famous cairo speech, the need for democracy, what the young people in the region want and he wanted to be of assistance. and yet when they rose, he hesitated. he was afraid to jump in, and use that famous phrase, leading from behind. so it was going behind him, but afraid of repeating the 2003 baghdad mistake. and more importantly, he stayed in bed with all the file security apparatuses in the region. i will never forgive him for what he did to yemen, which is
he handed the yemen files to saudi arabia and he facilitated the siege, the complete siege, and land and sea on yemen, which is starving yemeni children. and spreading disease. and going along with that, instead of realizing that this is not what the young people of yemen want. this is not the direction that yemen should be taking. so now we can blame trump all we want for all what he is doing, but the problem in yemen started with obama. i sometimes think of him as a trapeze artist, you know, who swings from one swing to catch another. you have to let go of one to catch the other, right? and you have to have the trust, the faith that you can leave and reach and grabbed onto the other bar.
it's shifting, it's like that for u.s. policy. you have to drop the bar you been holding onto, which is all the bad guys who claim they're helping your against terrorism meanwhile, they are out creating terrorism, and jump onto a a nw way of dealing with the region, which is trusting the young people working with civil society. when the real positive stories,, tom, and you saw that when you came to visit me in morocco, and in the book, the civil society that i saw in morocco, and this was in the mid-'90s, really inspired me. and when he went to yemen i found reflections of that civil society. that's what we should be encouraging and working with, and look at the budgets and you will see. >> talking before with her colleague, you know, people asked the administration why didn't you invest more in tunisia? he was aimed at the was there is
no terrorism there. we haven't -- [inaudible] >> how do you put, because this is two questions of yemen that one reminds me of the line from the wizard of oz, are you a good witch or a bad which? is this a good galicia or a bad militia? on the one hand, i get it that hey, it's their story and all that, but what gives you the right to take over the central government? i don't understand that story well enough. >> sometimes i am accused by arab friends because i appear in the media a lot and i very harshly criticize saudi arabia, at a don't criticize the houthis enough. so they tell me you are a houthi supporter here just like in each at one time i was accused of
being -- this is not a book because it just happened recently on the way to lebanon. i stopped in moscow and i met with three houthi leaders who live there and can't go back and forth for obvious reasons. and as we're talking about things, i told them come first of all i was there to get to know them. secondly, to see if i can't advise them, point have some positive things they can do to change the situation. they made the first mistake of taking account militarily. it was after that the euphoria and the thinking that they can move on and take the whole country, which was stupid. and this of course provoked the saudis into launching a war. so first mistake it for the houthis. secondly, they have had control of sonata and much of north
yemen for the past five years. they have not ruled well. they've been abusing the rights of the media. there's no transparent system either economically or judicially. i told them where meeting in, the spokesman salma. i said sometimes people accuse me of siding with you too much because i express sympathy at the end of a you are yemeni. you're not a ring is. there is this obsession with saudi arabia and with the trump administration that we're fighting iran and yemen. we are not. we're fighting yemenis. i said, but you have a lot of mistakes and your biggest mistake is your arab and all laugh. i said unfortunately you are willing the air you control like in other arab party, dictator, militia. so they are full of fault.
the end of the day they are not al-qaeda. they don't want to go out and kill americans. it's not to work outside the border. they wanted to control the country, yes, and that's bad because they should understand the tribal structure yemen doesn't allow for that. and they are now being forced into a corner. when they start out there was zero iranian interest in yemen and in the houthis. a lot of members of parliament in tehran didn't know who the houthis were. but as saudi arabia intervened and as the war went on, the houthis had become more and more to iran, and so the assistance there and the longer continues the stronger iran's influence
will be, mainly through hezbollah experts, technicians, iranians don't send many of the own people that they send money. to the extent they can smuggle in some equipment, they smuggle in some equipment but it's not really anywhere near what we give the saudis who are after all invading yemen, and have been an in control between thed the emirates of much of the south and what have they done? is not a success there either. so at the end of the day of houthis good militia, bad militia? they are middle of the road. they are not al-qaeda but they are not the lebanese army. >> was it right for the administration to assess qasem soleimani? >> no. in a word i that there's a very bad idea, very poor judgment. first of all, we forget the line
and imminent threat and all that wasn't the case. this at the end of the day was a political assassination. >> what does that mean? >> a means you pick a personality in a leadership position after i that if you got rid of it, you would improve matters. the fact is you made matters worse i doing that. one, because removing a person as important as soleimani was, doesn't really change the picture. iran is highly institutionalized, and within seconds of his death he was replaced. and they have a good copy the people who can run these organizations, again are good or bad we are not talking value judgment here. we're talking strategy and tactics. what is the goal? if the goal is to change iran's behavior for the better, you have done the opposite by killing him. i think partly they didn't
understand. your point is well made in your piece on he is an overrated general, but the fact is for all his mistakes and for all the bad things that he's done, he is very, very important politically, militarily, culturally. to the people that we consider enemies now will want to sum ud the relationship with. i don't think, certainly i don't think the president understands that, and i doubt the people around him, i mean, the people who gave him this option, then later said we didn't think he would pick it, , why put it as n option in the first place? that is this certain psychological element. i talk about the presence of american troops in baghdad, great on people. killing someone like that who
was, whether we like it or not, very important, almost had a halo around him, for people in lebanon and iraq certainly, certainly and iran. that, that you should understand is going to generate hatred and is going to generate ask the revenge pic and i don't we've seen the end of that. just the bombing of the base there, i think that was just a token come here we go, fire off some rockets. i think we're going to see more acts of revenge. >> before we go to questions from the audience we have been in an hour of conversation and we haven't mentioned the israeli-palestinian conflict once. where does it stand? would you say in the minds of the region right now, in the minds of u.s. diplomacy, in the minds of u.s. diplomats? how we address that problem. >> first of all, as the conflict
between palestinians and israelis, it at a dead-end. and i felt it was at a dead-end ten years ago or more. i don't see any ray of hope over there any time in the near or midterm. as far as the diplomacy, u.s. diplomacy, i always used to, i try to be as honest as possible as a spokesperson, and when people would say what about the u.s. and israel? i would say mea culpa. the u.s. has failed despite many, many attempts to establish peace between israelis and palestinians. if the u.s. has failed, the whole world has failed and the people of the region have failed. said don't just criticize the u.s., and i fully understand, you know, u.s., don't want to say blind support, but unconditional support for israel over these years, and now.
it does not work. and even if arabs are not talk about israel and boston all the time, that doesn't mean they a forgotten about it. >> friends don't let friends drive drunk. >> i think given, if you can call it a peace plan of this administration, it's not a peace plan. it's a joke and everybody sees it for what it is. there are some personal economic commercial interests involved there and that's how it is seen in the region. and, quite frankly, that's how i see it. so i don't take it seriously at all. >> before we go to questions, one last one for me. i've got my lamp, you are the genie. i rub it and i give you three wishes for american policy in the middle east. what would they be? >> american policy in the middle east -- >> you get to be king for for . you get to design, redesign our
policy. what would you -- because that is embedded in this book. give us the ultimate take away. you get to redirect our policy. what should we be doing? >> one of the reasons i started with poetry and ended with poetry in the book is the need to understand, you understand the arab world and the middle east much better through its poetry and through its literature than through the speeches given by politicians. regardless of the color of these politicians. i say one of the strange things i did as a diplomat in the middle east is since cable about silly topics that were considered silly by some. i sent a poem, a poem about palestinian children with songs, and he talks about this hero
seven years old, ten years old standard of two israeli soldiers and tanks. he lambastes the arab regime. i summarize that aniston and a cabled washington called poetry and politics in the arab world. and i said forget that you are speech given by mubarak. read this. because these people, they are the intellectual of the arab world, the poets there they have their fingers on the polls. they understand how people feel. >> listen to this broader -- >> and get into the culture. we had some very good diplomats over the years who really understood the culture, knew the language, read some of the literature. i don't know there are these days, i mean first of all if they are there if they are not being listened to. >> your wishes, quickly.
>> the other wish is to finally abandon the autocrats and the dictators, and understand that the arabs can much like any other people in the world desire freedom, desire democracy. don't listen to racist things like that like the arabs don't understand democracy. they can't deal with it. that's what young people want. they want to live in dignity. and for the large part they are not being treated in a dignified manner by their by the own govs and by the security apparatuses, which we work with. and so when they see us propping up these regimes, their anger is diverted towards us. i wish we could finally make the break and say you know what, we are in with the wrong crowd and we need to cultivate a different kind of constituency and help
the people who genuinely want to improve the record of human rights in the democratic practices, and do away with the corruption, frankly. that is my second wish. >> okay. something that aligns with my second will of the middle east reporting which is always overestimate ideology and underestimate governance. how people are govern on a daily basis, whether theft pay bribes, whether the our views, humiliated, insulated. i'll tell you what was really driven home to me. i come the last day voting in the egyptian election. over time they elected morsi over ten days and the last day i went with her egyptian report and cairo and went to an elementary school. it was all women voting station. we stood outside and we
interviewed women when they came out to everyone of them was covered and everyone of them said they voted for the most brother except one who voted for someone else do i ask each one why did you vote for the most brotherhood? better sidewalks, better streetlights, more jobs, or security, or healthcare. there wasn't one who said if i see another woman in the bikini on a beach in alexandria, i'm going to blow myself up. do you know what a mean? it was a telling a lesson of just what your point is, which is in afghanistan we were aligned with a criminal syndicate. that's how the people saw the government. is there any wonder that we work -- we consistently time and can underestimate the relations between government and covered? it so much important than any ideology and that's actually what comes out in the poetry. >> exactly. that's exactly right. >> let's go to questions. i'll give you number three later.
>> please. >> i'm an intern at the german embassy and i am particularly interested in the situation in lebanon and i would be interested in, first of all, why you think that protests that are so genuine and ongoing and peaceful are so not present both here and in europe? second of all, how do you think the rest could get involved and third, what is your prediction of the situation there is? >> the problem with, when i i s explaining a bit earlier, is that what starts out as the genuine revolt across sectarian lines, against a corrupt,
abusive system that really ought to be changed, it immediately gets pulled in different directions, different parties stender people into the streets. they claim they are with the protest, and then went to get something they want of the protest was about to give them something they don't want, then they pulled the people out. or worse, they send their people in to create chaos. i think there is still a strong genuine desire for change. it's very tricky though. i mean, i have a friend in iraq with telling me before the solomonic thing, the americans have a moral obligation, they should intervene. i said that's the last thing that you want. especially in a country like iraq where thank you very much, we were in charge of the country for ten years, and look at the mess we left behind. look at afghanistan. so in lebanon i think we have to be very careful.
sometimes well-meaning americans in lebanon start holding seminars and give speeches. and here also, don't touch the people in the streets. you have to be very careful. when you approach a hornets nest you should be very careful where you okay. that's enough poking. i think advice certainly behind the scenes, conversations. this is not a place where we should step in strongly. a light touch i think is better. in the end i think come in lebanon definitely you do not want to provoke violence. and i some friends in government, and sometimes we exchange of views and i said last thing you want to do is use force against the demonstrators.
because it will blow up into something far worse than what you have right now. i think as complicated as the lebanese situation is, some people in government ought to have their own think tank or invite some of the young people who are demonstrating, and really put their heads together and come up with a serious reform plan that may take away some of their ill-gotten gains, and everybody in lebanon has ill-gotten gains. but that's the only way out. i mean, it seems to people sometimes, i say if the country really matters to you, you're running it into the ground. you really need to consider how do you uproot a system like that, a feudalistic system, a sectarian system? how do you stop worrying you have enough she in the government or you have enough --
it's a difficult thing but it is doable. the lebanese in me tries to help. i think i do see people and sometimes they listen to me. >> i'm doing a phd in international relations. i want to push back on issue of democracy in arab countries. if i may, i wanted to point out, this is true for persians, too. because when you look at the persian history you always have someone at the top who does anybody you go do this and you could do that. i think in 2020 is still the same thing. i mean, do you really think the middle east is capable of having a western-style democracy as we had in the states, or france or united kingdom, or should it have its own style of democracy?
>> all i can say is go back in history like i told the people about iraq at the revolution. go back to european history, the middle ages and see how western culture used to be there used to be far worse. so we looked at and we say the persians and the arabs, they don't understand democracy. that's not true. they are human beings. .. they need to be given a chance to live with one another and agree on a new social contract and you need
new socialcontracts in almost every arab country . >> i'm just going to goaround the room here . [inaudible] >> one thing you hadn't talked about is economics, job creation, rule of law because when i travel to the region i have not gone to the regionthe last 40 years but the young people tell me i want dignity but i want for economic dignity . i don't want to keep begging. >> absolutely and lebanon again is perhaps as a microcosm, is a good example. and supposedly the lebanese ran out of money and couldn't pay their un dues but after they were denied the post because of two years, somehow
we have some money. they just stayed so now it's been reinstated. there's a lot of money in lebanon but it's in the wrong hands . the middle classes and impoverished, the poor people have been driven almost to hunger. it's very bad but rich people are doing very well and many of them happen to be in powerful positions. what is needed is precisely, i think prime minister hariri was banking on $11 billion from the conference going on in europe that says how to save lebanon. you don't need an injection of cash, particularly in a corruptcountry like lebanon . i used to say that in yemen i said, please don't give them anymoney .
a new project, encourage new industries, new businesses and exactly what you need in lebanon is a more productive economy . what you have is a ponzi scheme written large that, where banks and people who exchange money have been shoveling money around and not producing new jobs. the very basic services, if you do that, if you can provide electricity and the water that people need, it's been years since the war ended in lebanon and they haven't been able to fix that . why? because they don't want to fix it. they can't even pick up the trash and deal with the trash . if you do these basic services and do them well you will be creating jobs and nowadays technical jobs, things that require some thinking and expertise but absolutely. you need to move the economy just moving cash around to producing things, agriculture
industry, business and put the young people who are unemployed back to work . >> thank you. american task force for syria and i'd like to be in agreement with most of what you said but i'm surprised about your analysis of the killing of qasem soleimani and you don't think it is a mistake by the current administration, even though we all know in the iraqi government admitted he was the mastermind behind the attack of the us embassy in iraq a few days later when the demonstration came. his killing gave a boost for the reformist in the iranian government. of course it gives a boost for the syrian people who have thousands of freedom fighters at the hands of the militia of qasem soleimani.
his last trip was meeting in lebanon before he moved to damascus to take the plane to iraq so getting rid of the man is symbolism to a lot of people in the middle east who somehow, it's very ironic that you're talking about the arab dictators are better benefiting from the period that arab spring that started from tunisia through egypt through libya to syria to lebanon are orchestrated and planned by the foreign powers and cia puppets in the usa and all of that and you know very well it's a genuine uprising so i would like, my question to you, how do you think the popular unrest uprising in syria, how will it affect the syrian issues. we've seen how economic the syrian powers, do you think the lebanese, the demonstration will somehow affect positively or negatively on the syrian
regime. >> you can say as much as you want about him or anybody, i'm notarguing if he's a good man or bad man . that depends on where you stand. so your symbol of evil is somebody else's symbol of a way to get to heaven. and part of the problem in the middle east is we all think that god is on our side and we kill each other trying to prove it. so good luck. killing him, maybe he deserved to die. apparently he welcomed it. he wanted to be a martyr so we gave him the opportunity to become a martyr. but i hope it doesn't turn into a bloodbath for everybody else. so just because you think somebody is bad does not mean you kill him. in a war, somebody facing you with weapons is something and when you pick on a person and you say this is an important
leader or these people, i'm going to get rid of him. let's see, does that change around policy for syria. i doubt that very much. you have to know whether you're fighting a war, then by all means but all your resources and go fight the war or are you engaging in diplomacy to try to solve the problem and therefore don't go picking on peoplebecause they can do the same thing to you . and if he comes out or his successor comes after american general of some sort that they consider equivalent, what will happen then. that's a bad way to go. >> this is going to be the last question. we will have plenty of time to sign books. >> open the question of qasem soleimani, now that he's killed what's the feeling in the arab world about his
killing and also what is the positive and negative scenarios in terms of iran's retaliation implications , but what do you see? >> as i was saying if you are on his side the so-called resistance axis which includes a lot of parties, militias, individuals, certainly envelop if not beyond, for those people, it's a tragedy his killing and they want revenge. but the people on the other side who hate him and hate what he represents, it was a great seat but that's normal. that's the environment you're in. you know, the way that the us unfortunately is very polarized right now but actually it's not doing weapons and explosives but politically. and if you're really trump or you really love from you somehow get rid of in a
friendly way, somebody from that side, doesn't change anything similar. >> can you get rid of everybody you disagree with, number you have to find some accommodation way out of it and in the middle east, you would never end if we kept saying you killed my grandfather and i feel your uncle , it never ends. >> one of my lessons in middle east reporting is in middle east as a reporter if you're going to do your job everyone wants to own you and if they can't phone you want to destroy you. no one put their arm around you and says i appreciate your free, frank and honest analysis but iwant to say i appreciate your free , and honest analysis. it's here in this book everyone in a big round of applause and they will be signing books afterwards and if you don'tbuy one, i know who you are .thank you very much. yes.
>> weeknights this month we are featuring book tv programs showcasing what's available every weekend on c-span2 area and i realism, kentucky republican senator rand paul discusses his case against socialism on the history and the rise of nationalist ideology in america. then its current affairs editor in chief nathan robinson, author of why you should be a socialist. after that, economists robert lawson and benjamin powell and socialism sucks about their travels to socialist countries. tv this week and every weekend on c-span2. >> tonight, from the annual state of the net conference internet archive creator rooster tail talks about documenting the internet . >> me collected at about 800 million pages every day.
the total collection isabout 800 million . so it's actually kind of huge and it turns out the only is part of what we do, we also archived television, abc, nbc, cbs, fox but also international television and if you go to tv.archive.org you can search by clips of what other people said and put those in blog posts and the like. the idea is to make it so people can compare and contrast critically about what happened on television. >> what's the communicators on c-span2. >> c-span2 has round-the-clock coverage of the response to the coronavirus pandemic and it's all available on demand at cspan.org/coronavirus. what white house briefings, updates from governors and state officials ,