tv Elliott Abrams Realism and Democracy CSPAN October 21, 2017 2:45pm-3:34pm EDT
they look at the effects of climate change around the world. and 9:00 p.m. eastern the former state department staffer stuart patrick debates whether they can be part of the institutions. they discuss sexual harassment in the workplace. with sally quinn of the washington post. and we wrap up our prime time programming at 11:00. they lead a discussion with feminist writers on the election of a donald trump. that all happens tonight on book tv. forty-eight hours of nonfiction [inaudible
conversations] good evening everyone. i would like to welcome all of you to tonight's on the record meeting. the senior vice president and director of studies here at the council. it is my great honor and pleasure to introduce tonight's guest of honor elliot abrams now i think it's safe to say that elliott is the appended me of the blogger that we love here at the council on foreign relations. elliott's formal title is senior fellow for middle eastern studies. that only begins to explore his great range and depth on foreign policy.
with the practical part of it. they have served in a variety of government positions. they are relevant to our discussion tonight. he was assistant secretary of state. as well as assistant secretary of state for inter-american affairs both during the reagan administration. and he served as deputy deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the george w bush and menstruation. he is also an expert in human rights. he is worked on this over the course of his career. will hear more about that tonight i suspect. elliott has written widely and while i note wide range of topics and he has written in books and articles and blog
post. i will not go through his very long list of publications. elliott is on the most prolific end of the spectrum here. his most recent book is tested by zion in the bush administration. he writes his blog pressure points which you can find here at cfr.org. i have to say i am obligated to say that i'm obligated to say that. to down want to go. tonight we are not your to talk about the last book. or talk about the blog. to talk about elliott's new book. american foreign policy after the error of spring. please join me in welcoming elliott here tonight. first off congratulations elliott.
i know how difficult it is to write a book. it takes a bit of work to conceive it takes a bit of work to market and a whole lot of work in between. and you have done quite well. the book i think reflects tremendous amounts of labor also i think a fair amount of reflection and critical thought. it is certainly a thought-provoking book. i want to begin our conversation with our title. the book is titled realism and democracy i went to college and took my courses in foreign policy. i was told that realism the two shall not meet. it matters what they do abroad and how they behave at home. why are you joining these two together i have always been told they should be kept apart. thank you for the introduction. and thank you for being here. if i say it cfr.org is that the third time.
a couple reasons. first because i think one of the great weaknesses of realism as an academic movement which goes back some decades is that it is merely if you will a theory of international politics. and it accepts the system and there are states in black boxes. it is an unrealistic way of thinking about the world. because states have internal politics which always affect their foreign policy. it is partly meant as a kind of criticism of realism. secondly i want to make the argument in the book is as an argument that to forget about bureaucracy and human rights is an unrealistic way of thinking about the world. end about the promotion of american interest in the world.
to be in different to the internal politics of countries particularly with with we thought of the friends and allies. it's not realistic is not even realistic in terms of american politics. in the need to get public support for our foreign policy. they say in writing a book timing is everything. i want to ask you a question about timing. your making an argument. i don't think of giving anything away. that the united states should make democracy a core part of the foreign policy. it's also safe to say that the president trump doesn't share that point of view. even if you go back to your speech at the end of august justified his policy on afghanistan he said let me call him.
we will no longer use american military might to construct democracies faraway lands where we try to rebuild other countries in our own image. he was fairly consistent back in the campaign that the united states should not be going abroad in search of democracy to create or to improve. so, i take it you think the president is run. i want to hear why. first of all the book was started a couple of years ago in the waning days of the obama administration and then of course as we await the clinton administration. it was not written with trump in mind. i think the president is wrong in a number of ways. first of all in the quote you just read we never have invaded countries to create democracy. that's not why we are at war with germany and japan. that's not why we invaded in gap afghanistan which had to do with the taliban and bands
supporting and harboring al qaeda. in this and why we went into iraq. the question is once we do have invaded a country. as a separate question. the history is wrong. secondly in that speech on afghanistan the president said none of that. then he said of course we demand that the afghans undertake a series of reforms including political reforms and that they govern better some better than we can lead. that's nationbuilding. i think even in the afghan speech you come across he didn't say. a problem that the internal situation and other countries can't be overlooked finally, i think it's just wrong for the united states. it may be okay for some
countries to have an immoral farm for no policy. and while it's true that that may be popular right now i think because of the iraq and afghanistan war in the sense that this nationbuilding stuff that's what got it in there in the first place. knock it off. there had been policies like this before. it may be popular briefly and then i think americans begin to wonder why we are allied with all of these and that we don't support these people. you had been at this a while. i recall when i was much younger and have a full head of hair when i my favorite tv
shows was called you are there. and i thought of it as i reread your opening chapters. you actually take people back and begin with a surviving place for many people. you begin not with what's happening in the middle east right now. a thoughtful recollection of how the democracy promotion policies have evolved in the american political context in the political debate going back to the late 1970s. can you walk us through a little bit of that. i came to washington in 1975 i was an infant at the time and i came to work for scoop jackson who was engaged in a
big debate with the nixon administration into the ford administration and the carter administration. over these questions. the argument with nixon kissinger was in his view. they have essentially a moral foreign policy. when i talk to talked to students they are amazed at this. he gets out of the soviet union and comes to washington and president ford won't see him. that is what jackson was against. very supportive of for example of the soviet movement. i then go to the next stage of the carter administration but jackson and mollohan are very
critical of carter policy on human rights grounds not because there was no attention to human rights but by the way president carter thought that today there is no attention to human rights. they have a feeling that carter and the human rights policy sought as a gift in foreign aid program and we give it were in this way gave it to this country and others. we tended to be up countries that were aligned with us. but carter did not had much to say about castro in cuba. reagan then defeated carter and in the beginning and i go through this there was no reagan's human rights policy.
the beginning was like the beginning of the george w. bush administration there was a feeling like this was a democratic stuff. this was a soft thinking. by the end and certainly by the end of the year and a half when secretary schultz came on reagan and developed the human rights policy conservative policy that ultimately led to the second term to an extremely active democracy promotion policy. and one of the things i think it's very important here is the criticism we made of carter was in part he have a human rights policy he did not have a democracy policy. it's good to get people out of jail. but they can lock them up faster than we can get them out. the solution to this kind of
problem in the soviet union or anywhere else can't be endless american and for intervention. that was what we started to do in the reagan administration. it can't treat less on the individual case and more on the question of democratic systems in this reagan was creating the national endowment for democracy. to promote the expansion of the democratic system. i tried to take it through after reagan through clinton and the first bush and then we end up in the obama administration. i was very critical of.
i think one criticism is there was not much attention to it. as you think of china secretary of state clinton made it clear from the first day that she just wasn't interested in human rights in china and it would be subordinated to a lot of other real american interest there egypt, we have no human rights policy. into the budgets reflect that. it steadily came down. in the obama years. i would argue and i head in the blog that you see in the case of cuba and iran what i would call highly ideological foreign policy the american crimes of the past and largely ignoring the current human
rights violations of those regimes. thus president obama has a weak reaction to the great revolution in iran. let's talk about democracy promotion. i honestly critical of the obama administration. particularly in the case of context of cuba iran and the like. it's one thing to say they should promote democracy it's another thing to say we know how to do so effectively. help us think through. in the context that promoting democracy may be a priority it is not the only priority and when you occupy a decision-making position yet to deal with trade-offs. he can't wish them a way the way you can when you're on a podium like this or on the campaign trail. was the track record of doing effectively there.
none of the things i say in the book and we always had to remember a government is not an ngo. if you work for amnesty and human rights. you are for human rights and democracy. but no government can do that. and that's one of the pap problems and human rights policy. reagan did it successfully as you think about the number of countries that were democratized in that year. here are a few things to say about it. first, i have this wonderful quotation from justice holmes in his book the common-law even a dog, can distinguish between being kicked and being stumbled over. so can a king so can a
dictator in other words, were not saying to people you're no damn good get out. that's a very persuasive argument. what we are saying to people ideally is we are concerned about long-term stability here. if it is a king or sultanate. what he want most of all. you want your son to follow you and then you want his son to follow him. that requires stability. long-term stability. and we are worried about that. is a nice opener for a conversation of course sometimes it doesn't work. there are ways of talking to numb non- democratic leaders that can work. when reagan said the general
who was running south korea we are very concerned about long-term stability and we think it benefits if we begin now the transition to democratic rule. he have a credibility because he obviously did care about long-term stability itself. south korea. there are some things that we can do there's a list of 11 of them. for example. number one it all starts at the top. it's not really a matter of where you spend 3 million or $4 million of programming in country a. it's whether the president and the vice president and secretary of state and other type -- type little level leaders say we care about this. it's also important that we try to help people who are engaged in politics. and by that i mean i think we have a bit too much concentration in the last ten years on ngos and civil
societies. there are countries where there is no politics. none, zero not permitted so there you do whatever you can. there are other countries nondemocratic countries where there is politics. i think it's more important to strengthen them mg is too often had their roots basically in washington and london and new york. it's where their money comes from. rather than have the ritz roots in the society. one kind does have those roots. it's not coincidental that when the new fragile government in tunisia rakes them. it's the trade union movement think it's the parties together and says guys, we can work this out. so i think that concentration
on politics in fact, i like this in adult so let me tell it. we have a senior fellow here. princeton is a wonderful man. was a secretary of state for africa. he tells a story of a group of nigerian civil society people under the military dictatorship they go to see president mandela of south africa to get his support in the hope that it would bring down the regime. surprisingly they said to them. look. it was a political movement.
and if the military regime fell tomorrow you're not ready. you cannot even take advantage of that. basically go home and do homework. that's a very interesting and thoughtful died the goal is to govern. there is a number of other suggestions. what people need to know is the united states is really concerned about this. it may not be the top priority. when george salt met the cement and human rights. they get the point. but he did care.
so he communicated the fact that he and the president really cared. at this point i want to bring the rest of the room into the conversation. if you have a question raise your hand. ask people to wait until we bring you a microphone. will ask you to stand and state your name and affiliation. and then ask a question again. i want to get all of the questions out. so please make it relatively brief. this is fascinating. i'm sure we have both thought about it. but i can't remember that we have ever discussed the issue. of the middle east.
in the gulf countries especially. the essence of this is that the fetal systems of the gulf countries appear to work far better than iraq and what is a solution of this. is there a third way. not only in terms of u.s. alliances but also oil et cetera et cetera. it is an annual survey of what people think of their government. and for a long time now china, and singapore had rated high.
nate thought of them as effective. they get a lot of legitimacy for being thought to be governing while by the people who live in those countries. and it's a critical point to make here. we believe in legitimacy coming from democracy. but it can also come from effective governance and or it can come from monarchy. no monarchy has fallen. the rain is a special occasion. in the others, they have enough legitimacy to have with said the arab spring. what we do about that government. to some degree it is a special
case because they don't really had very many citizens. and it's like 200,000. the tiny number. as a sizable and very young population. i think the conversation we should be having as not you need to go into exile in london and turn this into a republic tomorrow. we are interested in stability. and we think that long-term stability requires building a relationship between more of a relationship between the royal family and the population. particularly in saudi arabia now. it is conducted a kind of white revolution. we are beginning to try. is a relationship going to be. juergen asked the people to make significant sacrifices over several years. my should they do that. i would argue that one of the
ways to make that happen is some participation in that endeavor mints of the country. and they might say you're out of your mind. there is a parliament and georgia. they have elements of representatives with the system. they have the beginnings in jordan and morocco of what may develop into a constitutional monarchy. i think you could have this conversation with them about the rights of non- sunni arabs. it would also mean christians for example. i think there is a way to talk about this. with monarchs and royal families where we are actually talking about long-term stability which is obviously in their interest.
we're talking about the common interest we have. thank you. that is a company called a symmetrical. but they move into different regions. i come from an area like that. critical of the government. there you have a democracy that has become something else. and claims that any attempt to change it is undermining democracy. that is a harder case according to your paradigm. there is a common problem it
is certainly not the first. think of them in haiti. clearly elected freely. it was really clearly elected. it's a common problem. i think one of the things we need to do. start criticizing the minute they go off the track. it was elected with nonsense. it does not mean that he or she cannot turn into a tyrant in the case of venezuela. i think the united states was slow to criticize chavez we are trying more generally
latin american democracy. i wish we have started a lot sooner. we are trying harder. joe on young. my question is when government engage in totally inappropriate almost terroristic behavior against u.s. citizens and businesses. some examples are what happened with the diplomats in cuba. obviously the chinese continuing attacks against our businesses. the cyber attacks.
and what is in today's paper about russian attacks on our nato troops. what really is that bert arsenal and diplomacy. how quickly can be effective. that is a hard question. i think protest is first. and then second is punishment. you don't want those governments to think we can get away from this. let's do more of it. that does not mean tit for tat. it doesn't mean that we are going to engage in illicit activities. it does mean the kind of thing that we have now done. the regime benefits enormously from tourism to stop the tourism. make it really costly to the
regime. i think we are doing some of that. how do you do it effectively when europeans are still free to go to cuba and go there and other in large numbers. the regime clearly wanted the opening with the obama administration and they want an enormous i would say american cruise ships cannot go to cuba anymore. what do we have now. what have they gotten out of it. money has gone to the regime. that would be a lesson. in other cases is harder the russia case the china case. they are much more powerful countries. but we have the ability to impose sanctions and you can say look at the size of the chinese economy.
it is symbolically important as a political statement by the united states that we know what is happening and we do not wish to tolerate it. it will have some economic impact. the alternative is to do nothing or issue a statement at the state department new briefing which is effectively nothing. i think that's the wrong way to go. i would try to impose some costs on the countries that are doing this. go all the way in the back. from front to rear. thank you for mentioning my work in your book. i want to push back absolutely. we are doing it all wrong. i'm interested in the point you made about too much, situation we should be putting
more money into political party work. i have at the programming in jordan and you pakistan. it is a complete waste of time. in the countries that had no free politics it's pouring money down the drain. without any kind of electoral reform the good guys and the three or four good political parties they cannot make any progress. we would have a great point. they tend to become too dependent on us. in places where there is not space you're just wasting your money. you need to have a policy for every country separately. in the and the situations are going to vary. what may be true in 2017 may not had been true five years
ago. and we should be pushing to open the political space. when there is no alternative to working with civil society and ngos what are great organizations. i would still choose among them. if and when some clinical space open. i want to make another point. it's one of the points in the book. they're actually struggling for human rights and democracy. and we don't do enough to support them is something. in the last few years has begun to do. i think it's quickly important including any situations.
people who are in and out of prison. people's families may need a little bit of support. individuals who may have just, a prison and may need a semester. to think and to relax and to be able to live without a secret policeman at the door. it is critical to show direct support for individuals who are so deeply engaged in the fight they are the kind of people who if there is ever politics for the potential democratic leader. these are people who are already engaged in that fight.
and they deserve our support. if i understand you correctly. you want to invest in people you think are going to succeed. are going to be able to govern. how do you know who those people are. i remember talking in the reagan years with the latin american leader and socialist. i said how was the treatment. he said you know, was pretty good. they think i'm going to be president some day. they're treating me okay. how can we tell if someone is 18. first you look for commitment. encourage because in these cases that's unfortunately really necessary. you look for some degree of success in what whatever the individual has been doing is as the man or woman in the
leader has followers. does this person have a network. does he or she had followers what is the kind of organization in which the person is involved. first of all is a democratic in its internal workings. it's not an area where you're going to be looking for introverts. or people who look like you'll make plenty of mistakes. sometimes we will be advised best by the u.s. embassy. just make sure you get to know her. it's an art. a peer at the front?
we will bring you a microphone sir. democracy promotion is one of those exquisite ideas like pure socialism in which all of the experts have a very precise highly nuanced idea of exactly what they mean by the term. here on earth it seldom is found it usually results in disaster. to the average person the opposite of democracy is when an elected president is removed by a military coup. we had two examples of that in the last few years. that were very vivid in the middle east. we have an egyptian president who was removed by a coup it failed because the general staff did not support it.
the question is would we really had been better off if the general staff have supported it in turkey would we had been better off if the general staff so to speak have not supported it in egypt. what do the human beings think with a look at this. democracy is not found on outer space on earth. many including my own is imperfect. and, democracy in different parts of the world don't look like that. they have the legislation. by any standard. i would think.
and we know basically what we mean by democracy and we don't just mean one free election and majority rule. that means there is likely note majority rights. most of the countries think about democracy more or less the way we do. the legal rights and independent justice that's not subject to the ruler. i don't think it is utopian. we have seen democracy spread as i mentioned in the book. after world war ii everybody understood that japan can never be a democracy. in my time in latin america is a combination of the influence.
i would say that about the arab world. it may take generations more but there's no place on earth by which we should say these countries well never be democracies. my experience in latin america they actually succeed when they have a widespread public they feel when they don't. they are failed. they are looking around the country. that's why it did not succeed. in the cases you mentioned i'll dig it was a general staff. they are tired of military coups. that is why the general staff did not back them. they looked around the whole country. so i think what we are looking at here are not nearly just military where is public
opinion in the country. at the moment of the attempted coup. it would've been better in egypt i think very clearly had they been removed through non- military needs. it's easy for me to say that in washington. a lot of my egyptian friends say we never have an election if he would've been you would've been in office a few more years. i'm not prepared to contradict that. let me just say this. you have a problem in the extremism in the is what leads people to say it's too dangerous to opel political systems had democracy. they will never be defeated by policemen and soldiers. it's an ideology. as a set of ideas is a debate about the nature of our country our future religion.
policemen cannot win that debate. and we know this from turkey. time after time this is lammas would form a party and they would win an election and the generals would come in and say this party is disbanded. so they would change the name of the party. it's the walther and welfare and justice party. and they would win an election and they would throw them out. and the problem with that is the people who are not as lammas is lammas extremist the people who have the idea that we hope will when the support in turkey never won the debate. they relied on the general's to save them. we now have turkey where it is today. the general and the policemen are not going to win that debate. only politicians and people who can argue and speak and when votes are ultimately going to win that debate. we had time for one quick
question one more quick question. one quick answer before i take it. i want to remind everybody that this meeting has been on the record i also want to remind everybody that copies of the book are on sale at the back of the room. i will go all the way to the back of the room. thank you for doing this. i want to ask a question about iran. we do not give much more or political support to the green revolution. what if we have. i don't know. i read a book recently called democracy in iran.
secondly he had this view that we would taint them by supporting them. i had not heard that. i've been doing this for a long time. i have not heard -- might have been the middle east, you americans, please shut up and go away. i have never heard them not want to support the american people and american president for big democracy. and how much of this can i prove, none of it. it is a conclusion, it is a possibility the green movement would have grown and spread, and trust. >> host: that is the note to end on. that is why elliott is a charter member.
he has written an incredibly popular book, i encourage you to read it. join me in thanking him. [applause] >> there is food and drink at the back of the room. i encourage you to avail yourself of it. [inaudible conversations] >> booktv on twitter and facebook. tweet us, twitter.com/booktv or post a comment on our