tv Michael Rubin Brian Katulis Seven Pillars CSPAN February 19, 2020 11:12pm-12:28am EST
>> welcome. the scheduling of this book and panel is certainly timely given the rising crisis with iran. we will get to that subject eventually, but the book entitled "seven pillars" and the discussion is to look more broadly and deeply at the drivers of instability of the middle east. from yemen to syria to iraq and now with iran, the region more than ever seems in a permanent state of turmoil if we can't become a land of before and tragically despite decades of intense and often well-meaning intentions into the expenditure of billions of dollars, u.s. policy has more often than not been a failure. maybe the caveat more often than
not is too kind. it's been an absolute failure if one accepts it was a better life for the people of the region. of course the ones ultimately responsible for the success or failure are the people who live there. but the catastrophe of today's middle east raises a lot of questions about whether the united states should continue to be engaged in the region and if so, how. in this regard, the editors of seven pillars, michael rubin and brian katulis and their co- contributors have given a gift. they identify seven factors that affect stability or not and examine what they mean and the role they play. the pillars that they identify art is long gone era ideology by the military, education, economy and governance. i've found many of the authors perspectives to be unique and to
begin looking at al old problemn new ways whether it serves as the basis for a bipartisan approach into the current political environment here is anyone's guess but at least the authors are trying to provide fact-based reality and analysis to encourage the debate is with us today is michael rubin who is a resident scholar and has a phd in iranian history and contributes to the chapter on legitimacy in the region. next is brian katulis, a clinton administration veteran now at the center for american progre progress. prior to joining, he moved to egypt and palestine where he worked on the issues for the national democratic institute. he contributed the chapter on
governance and then we have the fellow for the middle east at the baker institute at rice university. he researches both liberalism and the middle east into the interplay between religious authorities and foreign policy. he contributed a chapter on islam. we are going to try to keep the conversation lively and i will try to keep everybody from going on and on. we will talk for a while and then open to question from the audience. to start, i'm going to start with michael and ask you what is special about this book and what was lacking in the scholarship or the analysis that required this kind of approach? >> if we look at the last half-century of interaction by any metric like you said in the introduction, the u.s. hasn't been successful and it isn't a democrat or republican thing.
we want to get away from the analysis based on the political calendar. it is toif it is too easy and it work but more broadly some of the issues and drivers in the region in terms of legitimacy this common core assumptions that are all about good governance and that is what builds legitimacy but people are willing to forgo so they can have a kurdish national flag over a certain building and its things we hardly talk about in the united states were in the region, the disruptive technology. how is that going to change things, how is foreign aid impacting the legitimacy and one of the broad issues that was most surprising to me personally
when brian and i traveled across the region as many people we asked the question of what represents the most legitimate government in the middle east, people tend to say something like lebanon and its often thought about in the united states and many parts of the middle east as an adjunct disaster so we try to grapple with these from a more academic and less political or partisan approach. >> so, what is legitimacy and why is lebanon seen as more legitimate than other places? >> we need to abandon the notion that one-size-fits-all and that isn't easy for the policymakers to do but ultimately, people wanted legitimacy for whatever, they wanted representation for whatever their identity was. what was clear however is people were increasingly finding themselves disenfranchised.
it isn't just an issue with the anti-iranian protest, but there just seems to be a failure of the traditional middle east which is why they wrote the chapter reimagine or reconsidering all of the ideology that is a play because take for example iraq. 40% were born after the 2003 war. war. more than 60% after the 1991 war which means no one had a functional memory of what life was like under saddam hussein among this swath of youth therefore they are no longer willing to accept h we might hae a problem from some of these sport of table but at least we are not saddam hussein. people are looking at this generation and succeeded many of these other ideologues in the region and saying they don't represent us.
as much as we complain about politics, usually 90 to 95% and in places like iraq at around 12 or 16% and the fact of the matter is people are drifting and that makes it a dangerous moment. >> so, you wrote about governance. the form of governance that have been imposed on iraq since it was overthrown, do you see it working, maybe they have to come up with something else since they had to help iraq come up with something else? >> i first want to highlight the subtitle of the book what causes instability in the middle east, and they are warmongering.
that's a joke. to the question on iraq before this episode, if you see what has happened in the last week and then what was happening just a few months before that, people in the streets of baghdad and major cities in iraq questioned the political order that is in iraq protesting corruption for services and a bunch of things but quite frankly ithat quite fo around the region like we do together and quite regularly, there are the sort of things that impact every country in the middle east. this sort of crushing demographic social economic pressure and to answer the question quite clearly despite multiple elections the system is not helping the people. if you go back to the human development report from 16 or 17
years ago, the structural factors that contribute to stability are quite and in those 15, 16 or 17 years in, they've gotten weaker and i think any place that iraq, and this is something where we do have our differences. he was in favor of the iraq war and i wasn't. he was against the iran nuclear deal. the one thing that we agree upon is to dig deeper and why we want to do this book and the chapter on governance. i talk a bit about iraq but not the national government. i talk about the experiment that actually emerged under the islamic state and i spent a couple of pages on it and it shows you the response of governance into discontent with a government that is not responding plants the seed of the sort oforthis sort of stabie saw happen in iraq under the
previous payment instead of groups like the islamic state exploited and i think we should have learned by now many years after the united states cannot fix these factors but it's important to factor in the fundamental building blocks on what we are going to do next. >> isis is a new phenomenon, and there have been the failure of governance and failure of leaders in the middle east for a long time. why can't this moment did a group like isis have the opportunity to rise and have a profound impact? >> it's the multiplicity factors tied to this transition where you have a bubble and if in places like iraq they are not responding to it, people will
rise up in different forms. the isis model which was short-lived and i don't think it had much legitimacy was created in response to an ineffective government and that there were more tools now in places like iraq there wasn't much of an open space for people to produce change, and i think the theory that was behind the iraq war in 2003 coming and we don't want to go back to that, but the theory was flawed in that we topple regimes and eliminate or decapitate the top then somehow freedom will spread and we know that hasn't happened, and i think why it excavated in particular is that you have a multiple fight going on inside of iraq into civil war first and system of governance that wasn't responding and that is the main point is that those conditions are still there. iraq he's are still looking at the national government with a caregiver government.
>> there's any number of millennial movements whether it would be the grand mosque of 79 or centuries before the. monarchy versus republican and so forth, but what does this mean for the diplomacy if we are still limiting ourselves to interactions with representatives of government who are under siege whether they know it or not, are we missing the broader picture both in terms of diplomacy and intelligence when it comes to the middle east. >> what is the remedy to that. the united states has to deal with the government that is in
power. >> how much time do diplomats spend outside of the wall of embassies versus talking and interacting in the local market as opposed we don't want to bring in the u.s. policy too much, but one of aftermaths of benghazi is the walk down upon which they find themselves. when you go to beirut and we went together, the u.s. embassy is basically living under the same security parameters. >> that's an important and tactical point which i think for u.s. policies they are quite likely at the end of a 40 year period that began with these events in 1979, the islamic revolution irevolution in iran,t invasion in afghanistan and a number of things that led to the
u.s. having its engagements primarily be focused on what our military does and look at where we are today discussing and worrying about the next move and what our military is doing. and to me this point that is important is our diplomats and the diplomatic service as guest in the last couple of years they are our eyes and ears in understanding the societal trend and we are flying a little bit more wind. the last point is i think it opens up questions whether the united states should actually be spending a lot of aid and money and other countries that simply lack the capacity to do this but neither is a strategy for thinking more modestly about the engagement of thinking about the outpost or the relative progress in places like tunisia so maybe a dollar spent in tunisia may ultimately be a lot better than other parts of the middle east, but we don't even have that discussion because we are
reacting to the military moves and not how we diversify the portfolio. >> i want to follow up on that and his religion more important in the middle east today than it was before? >> it is very much so. one of the fundamental miss misconceptions is that we tend to assume that this has been the case of time. but if you go back 40 or 50 years ago what we di see is the dominance of the secular ideology and how the parties and groups were smaller and much more influential in terms of policy making and being able to affect other groups as a society
or how they were acting in the domestic policy. but over the course of the last 40 or 50 years, things have changed dramatically. the iranian revolution. but more importantly, something that was mentioned, the secular ideologies great throughout the middle east and the 1960s and 70s. fundamental issues where economic and they were under promises and the people were expected. this is what precipitated the rising significance of the religious groups and grown more violent extremist groups throughout the region.
it wasn't just her own popularity within the muslim brotherhood 2011, 2012, 30 to 40% but more importantly, i think that they were able to dictate the parameters of the discussion in terms of the policy issues that were ongoing. the rise and influence so much so that they felt the need to bring in religion to their own discussions. they've come to power in 2002 and she's a massive petition that has been successful in terms of changing the political
system in such a way that the secular parties are unable to determine the agenda and to discuss issues in a way outside of the parameters. if we think of this from the framework of religious competition that means you were political actors try to cater to this because people want more currency. >> but he has not been uniformly successful. but he has run into more trouble now and political pushback so do
you see him using islam more as a political tool to advance his political career or do you think this is indigenous to the people of turkey. >> i cannot speak to his personal beliefs beyond my focus as a political scientist. what i can tell you is that religion is an important element of the political discourse and when we look at it over time it changes in terms of the intensity that he emphasizes in the political discourse is the
period until 2001 when the party was first established. religion doesn't play as significant a role that one is political prospects as a result of the corruption scandal and then gone losing elections to some degree that he started actually using religion because he wanted to bring in the more conservative elements. what we see dependent on the time it is possible. but it's for other policies in the region. going back to the issue that was mentioned about tunisia, i fully
agree. what is underlying increase political groups once those issues are addressed first and foremost we are going to see a decreasdecrease that is more th. >> you used this phrase repeatedly and you talk about it in the domestic context of turkey which is spot on to understand that religion and islam and the point i wanted to make it isn't necessarily about
the right interpretation of religion if there is such a thing but it's about power and a second in addition to the domestic use of religion what i see right now is multifaceted and multi-directional competition for power and influence and say saudi arabia that has its own definition of my main point is the first point that this is about power and not the ancient hatred and interpretation of religion. it spills over into the media fights and all sorts of things
and it's something the book doesn't cover itself but we need to understand this is in addition to military moves and the terrorism and the competition in the struggle for power. >> it's how rapidly things are changing and if we look 40 years in the future and you have a complete new set of the majority that hasn't even been born yet, if it is the major is it going to be the mosque were social media and is it going to be for those leaders are populist leaders and if so how are traditional muslim scholars looking at this rise of populism and do you think that the way in which people are going to radically change come up with?
>> some of my research is trying to address this question for a couple of years ago we started a project to look into how the religious authority is distributed across the middle east and primarily muslim leaders and what they found is that there is a couple major findings. the. people still look up to them as religious leaders and they say something really important that has been rising and changing a lot in terms of social media or mosques, that is a change that was precipitated at the turn of the century. it's a little bit different it has a free-market religion.
it doesn't have the hierarchy. what it mean that means is evern be a religious leader if they willingly support or follow this with a group of collective scholars were up until the turn of the 20th century and they were the class as the religious authority but once they started dying off so to speak, there was a big war so this is when we see them early on in the modern world and this is a process for
developing a. it emerge as a form of the hierarchy of authority. >> is a force of stability or not in the region? >> it depends on what we mean by stability. it is an authoritarian way if we look at some other context it would be a force for instability because and push them to try to get more political space or
change policies so it depends on the context. it's different than other religions and it depends on the political context and the factors and the circumstances in terms of what kind of role. in iraq and syria would say tanisha it is a seeming commitment for the democracy and in terms of the muslim democracy. >> one of the things we are witnessing now inside of iraq although it isn't being framed that way in the media is when we look at the most prominent is
cognizant of what the opinion is convinced of thand instead of ld tis toworry about following it e if he goes out to far he risks being exposed to the young people choose to not follow him and therefore we see a caution that hasn't been there since we lived under saddam hussein. >> that is the religious competition. these religious leaders are not blind to what's going on around them. they will cater to those because ultimately what it does for them they may be believers but religion is a tool to.
constituencies here i'm not making a comparison or parallel between the two but when the u.s. did things like the point of irrelevance to slightly unhelpful because i don't think it should be u.s. policy to encourage some sort of free-form it is a religion. it's going to have strands that are more extremist and reformist and its organic playing out. my friends who live here in america or europe they are different ideas of their own faith and religion and i would stay away from that as a use of engagement. there was an idea of muslim and engagement that a lot of my friends in the world sound a little bit offensive.
one of the issues and experiments that is occurring in the region. it goes back over the millennia and when you talk to american officials about what they are doing in the model often times what you hear is its peripheral or irrelevant but intellectually and theologically what happened traditionally it's more than what happened in saudi arabia in
with it, modernity and this is a big issue i think it's a deep-seated issue with the current state of affairs it is very difficult to come to terms with the part of th that part om and something i try to emphasi emphasize. they've been able to change the mindset not only of those considered but also on the secular side if you look at the issue a century ago the muslim world was much more progressive on this particular issue and many other ethnic religious diversity i will argue it was much more progressive century or two centuries ago.
because they were able to reshape the mindset of people in their society a story from one of our troops in research and tu can correct me if i'm wrong we met with officials is one that is give and take and we said what we are here from america and you might find this alarming are interesting but a lot of people are puzzled about america and one woman raised her hand
official stance being critical of what they understand from the debate. iis that education systems where we are able to introduce critical analytical thinking. people in these countries i think it is very difficult. they thought of something like $120 million i think that it would go further back from the
who was killed, he was adept at doing this and as powerful as some elements in the military to understand the social dynamics on the u.s. policy agenda is important and obviously it's been downgraded. that actually started in the process of having as much focus of the diplomats do that started for a number of reasons and they want to pull back because they define the debate about the democracy with interference. i think they said when somebody's in prison we need to
raise our voice and make it part of the conversation and be serious about it. they don't give organic space for people to debate religion or other and of the third point and it's a simple one relates to what you said at the top is the war is actually one of the worst thing and unnecessary war that actually enhance the hard-line interpretations of religion that a new style of engagement so try to learn the lessons from the
last 40 years in this social and political space in understanding what is happening. >> often times when we talk about reform but as the reformed monarchy, the reformed monarchy isn't a democracy and it's for the people of the region are two different things and when there are two different types it can make things a lot worse.
>> what role can the united states played it's important intervention should be created by the way there is so much ingrained in political islam any kind of intervention by the u.s. and european union is going to be deemed as problematic and that's why this kind of interventions into creating those issues should be done really carefully. it's going to make the issue very toxic. whatever it says or does after that point onward.
>> what happened for example in the case of iran when they say they are supportive of this sort of damned if you do and damned if you don't so shouldn't we use our ability to compel the government not to arrest people since they are going to be slandered no matter what they do. >> it should be done in a way that isn't going to undermine the bigger goal. there is a whole chapter in this book on the military which i actually found very interesting and a big point that was made the military in the region attempted 73 cents 1932 and succeeded in 39 of them but the
point being that the military is often a force for instability. it also hinders down the point that a lot of these military suffered for the lack of training and equipment the united states has spent decades training the officer corps is it has weapons to a lot of the countries and is bad for not number two, they are under resourced when it seems like. we've invested a great deal in afghanistan as well and now this
chapter was fascinating so i'm glad that you've highlighted a couple of things that come into play one of the reasons beside from being destabilizing in their own countries it should have a big question. they seldom profess to what they say they are going to do and part of th of that has to do wih differences with regards to shame. ..
>> pakistan in 2007 you have a bipartisan approach the state of american diplomacy should be the military or cia that's although the decades in pakistan with that 7 million-dollar aid package makes it worse because the military which was about to get cut off as a part of the gravy train through the rumor mill through pakistan which was nonsense and also the mechanisms for the one thing that we have to deal with it doesn't make sense to resource the state department but when it comes to the military and egypt and pakistan there is
what i would call a cycle of expulsion that we get money to have the local military fight but at some point the idea that if we defeat the islamic insurgents than we are cut off from the many so if you look at the egyptians, which is it they can't defeat it because they don't want to but it's one or the other and with the military in general we were also in egypt together and you could argue making those corrections they needed to make but instead building a platform for economic development they protected
their own unique interest with the previous decades that means that is just gratuitous from human rights. >> i do agree with what michael said what i was trying to say the last few years of us policy be really need to have a strategic posture to use military aid as a tool of engagement to produce stability and the things we're trying to get at in this book if that makes sense. it has not succeeded in places like egypt. internally it tilts the balance of power against freedom it reinforces which is a state center and the authoritarianism but bigger
picture look across the region and hundreds of billions we have undersold or delivered and this is a serious question because in essence there is a dangerous dysfunctional dependence on the us military just this past week a lot of the militaries in the region themselves look at saudi arabia. how the hell did that happen if we sent them things like this quick so that's the main point there is this episodic and emotional debate it is important and a reflection of a lot of americans but also the tools if we cut it off then we read them the riot act
and i think we need to have a step back from these tools to emphasize the other aspect. because what we have done has not produce stability in the region itself. >> anybody have questions quick. >>. >> with the association of the u.s. army i have a question about the arab-israeli conflict especially in the nineties there was a belief the middle east stability went to the conflict do you see that realignment of the arab and sunni states and what do you see for regional stability today quick.
>> decades remains even that diplomatic posture has altered that doesn't necessarily trickle down to saudi arabia or so forth but i alluded that whenever i travel i tried to do roundtables at universities because i have much less of the filter when i was in iraq i thought it was strange in a three-hour session nobody brought up israel once with a broad up saudi arabia quite a bit but people are focusing on their own immediate problem it doesn't mean that it's important not important but there is a greater respect
than american diplomats have had. >> there is a shift but not realignment. there is a shift that it is not a high priority but i don't see the realignment that what many golf officials would say we have a relationship that's underneath the table with his real. but we will not come out publicly so long as this defense of injustice which i would add the pathway there at all and to the reactions to it our president trumps initiative or goal on heights. and those that condemn this
university of michigan. >> one quick comment and then a question. but when you say while we may be here with the religious extremist against another. you have to remember religion has been adopted as a tool to gain power. not the other way around. but my comment is may be afghanistan. and doing it for purely religious regions. about the question is there are two historic ancient thoughts the religious divide between the sunnis and the shiites and the ethnic between
the persians and arabs. i think i'm not wrong war between more people died between iraq and iran than any other conflict put together in those years. so my question is i think we see a little bit of that now because so in the long term with those two divides do you see ultimately creates more stability or overcoming the other quick. >> first of all the way at this to one - - ethnicity originally was geographic but in the twenties and thirties it shifted to linguistic the point is egypt to morocco was not always considered arab but in the middle east you're absolutely right with the
trying to come up with a political science theory where one-size-fits-all. and then to say i will get that right half the time but the other is that i simply don't know the five. >> with the arab versus sunni but to raise the point to the question of iraq but what's going on inside their. and in some ways they are quite large. and that struggle that is happening and after the two or three years of the arab uprising and then to
structural there's going to be some change. or if that moves in the right direction and then to go back 1000 years. so those tensions and societies without key countries of the region would be the first immediate arena people look to what is most proximate in their roles. that's a big part of the debate.
and so when and curtis stan exists that the current boundaries are shifted to the natural coherent ethnicity --dash ethnicity. >> generally speaking it take a little bit of issue a course you are right when you see a map and you see a straight line that is the artificial border it doesn't mean he's the arbitrary country. so long the coaster along the rivers if you consider egypt in 90 percent of the population living along the nile doesn't necessarily matter where you draw the border. egypt has a sense of being egypt if i have to go back through any of these countries
from 13th century arabic literature and with lebanon or syria long before they became independent so it's a most artificial state of jordan the united arab emirates and kuwait. that many of the others have some basis in legitimacy that won't change much but the kurds are the largest people it's not because world war i but that's what had the iran-iraq border but the problem with the kurds is from curtis stan we have two
romanians to albanians one is from kos of oh. twenty-two arab states so you could see some border adjustments but you won't see wholesale revision of the middle east because it's a lot less silly legitimate than they would have us accept. >> can i add one little point to that cracks i am already seeing some orders whether the turks coming over into the border with the iranians and the russians. who knows what will happen. aside does not have control of his country.
>> and i'm also not willing that is separate from the existing recognized borders and this is the major challenge with air to one but if you look at cypress remains occupied in 1974 looking at northern syria and they were sprouting off i would worry about the romanticism of erdogan and how they respond to that but we have an x-ray here so i will defer. >> the real problem is it has moved on from what it was in terms of the legitimacy and
>> and that said important point so that de facto what's playing out already. they don't talk at all about yemen and what has happened in yemen to be beyond the politicized and with that decentralization and then to understand and how regions do and joe biden tried to do this. that he try to do this for the biden plan in iraq. doesn't translate back to
nationalism. i covered a lot of topics and with social media and the influence and technology and digital diplomacy and he saw through surviving to the military coup and in turkey the influence. can you touch upon how that may contribute to diplomacy i think twitter and facebook revolution to the arab uprising and that is to use as
a policy debate but is not all that useful and we haven't seen a case study and then building political movements and and then to keep people off balance. and those tools were developed now we are in this dangerous moment with china and saudi arabia and to have all kinds of control. and then there are ways to squelch this so to have any
serious role and i hope michael disagrees with me because there's so much wrong with his policy of donald trump but when the protest are in iran and all we really saw is the op-ed for the freedom of the aredia people. and there is no serious move to talk about and then to communicate with each other. and to talk about military regime change.
that to talk about the government and then to have more dysfunctional space it's interesting to talk about to use the broader sectors of society that diplomats should not be behind walls. and iran or saudi arabia we don't see those tools being used in diplomacy right now. weld to have a diplomatic military economic component. the united states it is let's
military. and that contractor out in indiana with those difficult citation numbers and to be kicked off in the local media and then they said we didn't believe the propaganda but maybe there is something there and there is enough to get in the way with our strategy. and we had a conversation early on in the trump administration with a very high level official and basically said when i talk to people in the middle east including principles for administers and so forth. and and with 20th century solution. and when it is hard to change.