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tv   Discussion on U.S. Role in the Middle East  CSPAN  November 22, 2021 5:49pm-6:39pm EST

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former u.s. ambassador to israel martin joined the global affairs for the look of the u.s. role in the middle east. he talked about his book, henry kissinger's approach to middle east . >> it is wonderful to have martin with us today. a special thanks to our members for joining us and for those of you watching on c-span, great to
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have you amongst our audience today. this program is made possible by the leicester crown and his family who are sponsors of the lesser crown center. -- lester crown center. we are grateful to him and his family for his support of the council. who can participate in this conversation by asking questions through our interactive internet capabilities. go to your prize and type in and follow the prompts. with that said, it is a pleasure to welcome you to welcome to today's guest. he was a twice former ambassador to israel he was a secretary of
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state, he was a senior director at the senior security council and he was a senior special envoy on the israeli and palestinian peace process. through two administrations. before he came to the council of foreign relations he was at the brookings where he was executive vice president at brookings and also the founding president and had -- head of middle east studies. that is why he is here with us today. he is the author of a terrific new book, "master of the game: henry kissinger and the art of middle east diplomacy." that will be discussed today. you will find a link to the book where you can purchase it on our website. it is wonderful to have you. congrats on the book. your lifetime work in many ways.
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it is a terrific read. it is wonderful to have you here with us today. martin: i wish we were in person, hopefully it will not be too long until we can do that. i am honored to be appearing again in the chicago council. >> we will do it again in person and next time. let us discuss the book. tell us about how you see middle east diplomacy from both practice and as an advocate and as a scholar. you decided at the end of your career, long time into your career, learning what kissinger had done in the four year. when -- four year period when he was secretary of state that you wanted to write about? .
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martin: there are no shortage of books on henry kissinger, including his own. there is little written about his efforts to make peace in the middle east. even though it was the occupation of his four years as secretary of state. many of the things we noticed opening to china, cambodia, the debacle. the bangladesh and indo pakistan war. that took place while he was the national security advisor. his last four years were almost entirely preoccupied with middle east peacemaking. i went back and studied that. i basically presided over the end of the american lead peace process as we know it. i take no pride in that.
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it is the reality. there has not been a good negotiation -- a negotiation since 2017. it ended then. at that point, i decided instead of writing another book like the first one i had written about why we failed, i got back and look out why kissinger has succeeded. he had succeeded dramatically in negotiating four agreements. two agreements between israel and egypt, one between israel and syria. it laid the foundations for the american lead peace process. i thought there is something we could learn. four presidents from clinton on have tried and failed to resolve these conflicts.
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even though kissinger was focused on the state to state conflict, i thought it was something to learn. there was a huge amount of documentation of that period. 5% of the documents have been declassified. kissinger is a student of history, he documented every conversation, every meeting. every phone call. the israeli archives or open. plus henry kissinger, unlike all of his counterparts in that time, is still alive. he was willing to be very generous with his time and i did 12 interviews with him formally. that together with my own experiences which i could use in the story gave me the ability to triangulate what happened then.
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it the reader into where it happened, because of the regularity of the documentation. try to create that in a way that would only bring to life the middle east diplomacy and the negotiations, but draw lessons for how to and not to make peace in the middle east. ivo: i think that the fact that you have 20 years of experience doing similar things to henry kissinger really enlivens the story in a way that a traditional historian may not be able to be there. you are in the same rooms, with the same people who you knew and worked with in your own service in the u.s. government. it is that interweaving of your
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own story with the story of those four years which makes this not just regular history, but a film almost of those days. it is terrific. the uniqueness of a book like this with somebody like you writing it. interesting about why and how and 40 years of failure coming after four years of success. what was it about henry kissinger, or was it about him? was it the time or other people around it? what allowed him to succeed in a way? since then and since the clinton administration, you served.
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we have not succeeded. was it the circumstances? was it the goals that he try to achieve? >> there is a bit of all of the above. there is some critical factors i would highlight. kissinger's diplomacy, his skill, and guile, we can come back to that. he was dealing with the latest in the middle east. i do not know that is just perspective history or if it -- or if they really were giants. he was devoted to peace. these were leaders who were capable of making decisions and sticking with them. bringing people along, not being constrained in the same way as
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we see today by domestic politics or regional rivalries or those kinds of things. in part it was a lot about the individual kissinger. as i show in the book, he was often one step ahead of kissinger in the whole effort. the other thing about this that i discovered, i did not know this when i set out on this journey, was that kissinger, in fact, was not pursuing peace. he was pursuing order. that makes a difference in terms of what distinguishes his strategy and diplomacy from everything that followed him. he was suspicious of peace.
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he had studied the effort to establish peace. in the wake of the napoleonic wars that had created such destruction in europe at the end of the 18th century. his model for the middle east was the congress of vienna in the european order. it seems kind of absurd on the face of it. he could take a template from 19th century europe and apply it to the middle east. that is what he did. what he had studied, this was his phd. it was published as his first book. the title tells it all, it is a world restored. the problems of peace. there it is, upfront, peace was
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problematic. it was not a solution. it was the problem. he warns on the first page of that book that the pursuit of peace was -- was too much passion and injury could lead to insult or war. that is why he is approached -- that is why his approach was to build a stable order. he did that through kissinger's attention promised to power and the equilibrium between those states' powers who would want to maintain the order and construct it. -- disrupt it. his purpose was to ensure a balance of power in favor of the status quo. that is what he did before the war. it worked for about three years. then it blew up in the war.
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from the war, he realize he needed something in addition to maintain an equilibrium. that was and remains the legitimizing function of a peace process. the peace process gives the states a stake in maintaining the order. it would address their territorial grievances, regain territory that is occupied, and therefore, create a mechanism for stabilizing the order. peace was not an objective, it was an mechanism -- it was a mechanism. that was for me, a real relation. because, we had come in. we had at the beginning of the
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clinton administration, and look like everything was lined up for a breakthrough to an arab-israeli comprehensive peace. our number telling the president in our first meeting, if he put his mind to it, he could end the conflict in its first four years. i did not know kissinger. kissinger would have said, mr. president, that is too dangerous . we have got to try a gradual process. incremental process. we should not try to end the conflict. if you try to do that, you could blow it up. indeed, that is what we ended up doing. we made progress. we ended up trying to end the conflict with camp david in july of 2000. we failed. in that failure, and led to the
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five years of conflict between the israelis and palestinians. thousands of people killed on both sides. the piece we had struggled for eight years to build, was destroyed. -- peace we had struggled for eight years to build, was destroyed. that is the heart of kissinger's diplomacy in the middle east. those who came after him do not -- new what he was trying to do -- knew what he was trying to do. ivo: it takes courage to do that. he takes the reality of what happened. -- it takes the reality of what happens. peace as a means towards order, a central tension in international relations theory
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about stability versus justice. these are the kinds of issues in your first graduate seminar, you debate. let me push you a little bit on this. clearly, what kissinger was doing was working with states. one of whom occupied territory. it was willing to give up occupied territory in this piece for territory resolution -- peace for territory solution. the problem was for palestinians. you cannot negotiate in the same state. how did he deal with the palestinians? once you had peace with egypt and jordan, you had to do with the palestinians. you had to find a way to create order or at least peace?
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martin: if you will let me comment on order versus justice, i think it is important because it leads into the issue. kissinger understood, as a result of the war, they needed to be a modicum of justice. order without some sense of justice by the powers in the region could disrupt the order. had meant that the order would not be stable. -- it meant that the order would not be stable. addressing great fences -- addressing grievances. that could be achieved. at least, a process that address grievances.
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that is the weather he approached the challenge of justice. the palestinians had a grievance, of course. most days, the plo was a straight terrorist organization. on his watch for the murder of two americans in sudan. with the hijackings, the hijackings and explosion of planes and taking hostages. that was pioneered by the plo in those days. the plo had been involved in the attempt to overthrow the king of jordan. kissinger had been involved in that crisis. to bolster the king against them. in those days they were dedicated to the proposition that israel should be destroyed. the plo look like a prime
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participant in kissinger's peace process. he did reach out to them and he did establish a channel with them through the cia. that was designed to keep them sweet, quiet while he went off and did these deals. kissinger really did not know anything about the middle east. he had never studied it, he never wrote about the ottoman empire which was relevant. he never visited the arab world, he visited israel six times before he went into government. not once did he visit the four. he did not know much about it. what he discovered early on was the egyptians and virginians did not -- jordanians did not want anything to do with the palestinians.
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he got the message loud and clear. he could go ahead and do they deals without the palestinians. only one who pushed was the king of morocco. and kissinger kissinger saw thae palestinians did not figure --
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martin: syria was the heart of it. the king had no real weight in the balance of power. his attitude was that israel and jordan should deal with the palestinian problem between them. it was their problem. it did not rise to the level of american preoccupation because they could not really disrupt the order. and of the palestinians or the -- that was the palestinians or the jordanians. do not ask me to do it. as a result of that he missed the opportunity which was there in 1964 -- 1974 of bringing jordan back into the west bank and reestablishing the construct
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in which the palestinian problem could have been solved over time in a jordanian context. it meant within a few months to the arab states, deciding it was the plo that was the representatives of the palestinians. that happened at the end of 1974. thinking of jordan -- the king of jordan has been adamant since then. that is what he did with the palestinians. today, he is a supporter of the two state solution. he believes in states and the international system. he accepts that palestinians should have a state. he liked the process. the oslo process was like
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kissinger's design. he introduced kissinger's notions of an incremental process. oslo had three phases of israeli withdrawal with no endgame, no secret timetable, no reference to palestinian state, jerusalem, refugees. that is what kissinger had in mind as a peace process. it is steps of territorial control, build confidence, exhaust powers until eventually palestinians would accept israel and then israel could talk about giving up most of the territory it occupied in 1967. that was kissinger. he said to me, he was very pleased oslo had adopted that approach.
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he supported that very strongly. as i said, we went to camp david and we abandoned oslo. as a consequence, we blew up the process. now he says palestinians should have attributes of sovereignty. it should be a state in the making. with institutions being built. it is regaining control of the territory and attributes of sovereignty on the way to eventual statehood. it is a two state man. -- he is a two state man. to make the final point here, kissinger's process always involved israel giving up territory. that was what lubricated the peace process.
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therefore, that should apply in the palestinian case as well as well in oslo. i think that his view is, and he says this in a documentary. israel cannot base its existence on the naked use of force alone. if it does so, occupying the west bank forever, it will consume its moral substance. that is a profound statement about the future of israel if it does not find a way to achieve a two state solution. ivo: i want to get back to that future in a minute. i wonder how now that you
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understand kissinger's process in a way that you may not have in your last installment in government. how would you have done what you did in 13 and 14 -- 2013 and 2014. how would you do this process differently than you did in trying to get to a final settlement in those years of 2013 and 2014? martin: i was not involved in the initial stage of setting up the negotiations. given the responsibility to oversee. john kerry did that. single-handedly, and now he surprise obama with his success. he went out to get netanyahu and the palestinian leader to agree to a negotiation of a final
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status issues. from the get-go he was focused on the final status resolution. as was clinton from camp david on through the clinton parameters, as was bush when he came around. protecting it up in his last year with the prime minister. we went for a final deal. -- they went for a final deal. obama tried it in his first four years with kerry. kerry got the final status negotiation going. from camp david on, nobody in the american policy community suggests there is an alternative way to go. well there was a soul voice in -- sole voice in the wilderness
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and nobody listened to him. it was focused on trying to end the process. i came into that. the negotiations or a waste of time. it ended up further apart on the final status issues at the end of the negotiation than they were at the beginning. that told me a lot about the way in which we were going about it. there is a plan for a final status agreement. nobody talked seriously about the incremental process. today, it is the ideal time, not just because of four decades of failure, but because we have an israeli government that is a
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left right coalition. they cannot agree on what the final status should be. one side wants to annex the territory of the other side wants to send the palestinians away great on the palestinian side, the palestinian authority is divided on what they want. one controls the, the other the west bank. they cannot agree. you do not have the ability to move forward. we know what the final deal two state solution looks like. we cannot get there from here. we have to have the incremental process. that is what the israeli government is beginning to do. those steps are economic steps. they are not territorial steps. with the native material -- without an eight territorial component, it will be limited in its effect. i do not feel it will head off an explosion.
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nobody really believes it anymore that it could. the situation is very tenuous. it is like suture before the -- it is like kissinger before the war. everybody believes the situation is stable. until it is not. ivo: in a minute we will get questions from our audience. if you want to ask a question, go to your browser and type in and type in the question you would like to ask. as my last question, this final issue. the middle east is in the palestinian israeli sense, but also in the wider since given what is happening in to golf. -- gulf. a sense of instability and
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withdrawal of the united states. other countries, china, russia, are coming back in. you called in a recent issue of foreign affairs for a kissingerarian approach. you have the opportunity to tell president biden what that would be, how should we go about engaging in the middle east broadly? as well in the israel-palestinian issue? the gradual step-by-step. the instability that is larger now, or potentially larger. how should we do that? martin: kissinger starts with the balance of power. the balance of power is actually on a global scale, is in danger of tipping because of the rise of china.
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the administration has to take care of that problem. less attention and resources in the middle east and more focus on asia. kissinger would agree with that completely. you cannot just turn it back on the middle east. we know what happens there. therefore, the united states has to devise a way of incorporating to middle east that maintains an equal -- maintains an equilibrium. it maintains balance elsewhere. we have to look to our partners and allies in the region to step up as we step back. i think that is a message that they have already received. even articulated clearly by the biden administration.
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egypt, is engaging with israel and gaza in a way that is supposed to calm things down in gaza. jordan and israel are working together with the palestinian authority to calm things down in the west bank. the biden administration and saudi arabia are working to calm things down in yemen. you can see all around, there is an attempt to stabilize the situation. the middle east is not in the headlines. i do not know if you have noticed that, but it is not. it would be easy to sell books if it was. it is not. that is because as the united states focuses elsewhere, our partners in the region recognize that if they want to keep us in support of them, they need to step up and act responsibly.
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iran is the exception. it is the revolutionary power. iran has to be contained and deterred. it has to be done by developing a balance that is maintained by israel and the arab states all who have an interest in the status quo and feel threatened by iran. the united states has to play an active role in that because there is more than just the middle east order at stake. there is a potential for a nuclear arms race in the middle east. i think it is important for iran that the united states takes the lead. you see israel asking -- acting to contain iran.
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the united states is supporting them. i think that is the overall approach. in the israeli-palestinian context, i feel there is a potential for a blowup. we need to find bigger steps by the israelis. bigger steps that have territorial components. there are ways of doing it and i can get into it, essentially, we need to be a little more active in trying to ensure that the palestinians have a stake in maintaining the order as well. it is going to address their grievances over time. ivo: let me go to some of the questions that are coming over. i wanted to start with a big question about kissinger.
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the question is, can you ever imagine there being another kissinger? defined not just in terms of the strategic sense, which he brought to you job. rather than the technical one we have seen prevail. somebody who is so dominant in the foreign policy when it was being executed and dominant even today. even 40 years later, wrote a book about it. is this singular or do you think we will see this again? martin: i will answer but i hope you'll answer too. you have some experience with this. i think that kissinger and brzezinski, i put them in the same class. they are unique. they came out of a strategic environment in europe.
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where the balance of power was really important. that affected their lives through the second world war, they went through the cold war, it was all very strategic. since then, the soviet union collapsed and the cold war ended. the united states have been dominant -- has been dominant. the need for that kind of thinking participated. -- dissipated. we did the one thing that kissinger warned against, overreaching. we got carried away with ourselves. we thought we could reshape the world in our democratic image. there were very few limits. kissinger was all about limits. constraints.
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he was conservative in his approach. in essence, we lost kissinger's plot. i think that people growing up in america, particularly in the environment did not have to think strategically. i come from australia, which is a strategic environment. strategic thinking came naturally to us trillions or thing a prince -- to us trillions. -- to australians. we forget that it took him a while to dominate. the first four years he was engaged in a knockout battle with the secretary of state. much like brezinski was. he was by no means dominant. he was effective in operating in
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hostile white house and president. a state department when he was basically pursuing a pro-israel policy. he had to maneuver with a lot of maneuvering. he was successful in it. when he became secretary of state, he became dominant there. nixon was preoccupied with watergate and had to resign. through the period, he was the president. kissinger was. he did not have any experience and kissinger became dominated because of those particular circumstances. none of those things apply today. part of the reason for writing the book, although it is focused on the middle east is because i
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wanted to resurrect the kissinger approach. i felt there was a lot we could learn from it in an era when geopolitics is returning. competition between superpowers is dominating the international system again. ivo: i think you succeed in doing that. the irresponsibly -- the responsibility of not having to think strategically because we had the strength. figuring out how to manage the white house, the state department's's which kissinger was unique on, when we did it was for the first two years he was national security advisor and secretary of state. that is how conflict only happened in his head as opposed between institutions. it is a key part of it.
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let me go and ask another question. perhaps you have already hinted at it. what role did the cold war backdrop and superpower rivalry play in kissinger's negotiation success? he adds carter as well we have not talked about camp dated and -- camp david. what would kissinger would have done in the same way? martin: the cold war was the critical context in which kissinger was operating. it concentrated his line in the following way.
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the united states and soviet union were competing much like the united states and china are competing today. he decided that he was going >> he decided he was going to take them middle east for america and the out of there. a pretty ambitious goal. he declared it very early on in a press conference he gave in 1969. he called for the expulsion of the soviet union from arab countries. and i asked him where they came from. he said he had discussions with nixon that basically they were -- as long as arab states were dependent on the soviet union, he could never achieve his objective, so he had to show them met on the one hand, soviet arms would never be allowed by
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the united states to achieve a victory for them, but if they turn to the united states, american diplomacy could give them what the soviet union could never give them through arms supports and the fact that the united states said the relationship did not do that, it gave him an advantage. he understood he had the advantage. whereas the state department was trying to work with the soviet union to advance the peace process, his whole approach was the opposite. exclude the soviet union so only the united states can deliver. so that picked up on that. he was willing to work with the united states rather than with the soviet union, give up on the soviet union. kissinger was very surprised by this. he expected that would play the
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soviet union off the united states, a well-developed tactic during the cold war. but he refused to do that. he earned kissinger's great respect as a result of that. because he was committed to the united states, kissinger's job of sidelining the soviet union was much easier to do. the way in which kissinger, step-by-step, tested his proposition and found that the soviet union was incredibly inept at playing the game, he constantly outmaneuvered until, as a result of his peace process, he sidelined them completely. and then jimmy carter comes along and what is the first thing he does? he brings the soviet union back into the game and that is why --
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he was quite horrified. here, he had been struggling so hard to get them out and now carter is bringing them back in so what does he do? he goes off to jerusalem. that was the origin of his trip to jerusalem, the desire to reorient american policy away from cooperating with the soviet union to again giving carter the cards to make a separate peace between israel and egypt and that is how carter was able to get it. the carter administration -- they were quite upset when they heard he was going to jerusalem. that is not what he had in mind at all and they were slow to come out and embrace it. eventually, they bid and ran with it. carter deserves credit for the
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way he negotiated the peace treaty. the essence of it was the exclusion of the soviet union which during the cold war played immensely to america's advantage overall. >> as we think about russia trying to come back into the middle east, being back in, the chinese doing the same thing, reading master at the game. there is one way in which future policymakers can hopefully avoid the mistakes of the past and learn for the future. terrific conversation. thank you so much for writing the book and spending time with us to talk about it. for those of you who want to dig deeper, you can find a link to the book on our website.
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