tv Discussion on U.S. Role in the Middle East CSPAN November 30, 2021 1:34pm-2:16pm EST
>> next a discussion with former us ambassador to israel martin in dagon the us role in the middle east. he spoke at an event hosted by the chicago council of global affairs. >> i'm evil, president of the chicago council for global affairs and it's a great pleasure to welcome you to this interesting conversation . on and reconsiders policy towards the middle east and we have probably the master about the master, the master of the game. martin in date with us. we were colleagues at brookings and served in different times in government together and it's wonderful to have martin with us today to discuss his new book master of the game. a special thanks to our members for joining us and
also to those of you wanting us on c-span, great to have you along our audience today. this program is made possible by the lesser crown and his family who are sponsors of the center. the leicester crown center for us policy program and as usual we are extremely thankful to lester and his family for their amazing support of the council. you can participate in this conversation by asking questions through our interactive internet capability. go to your browser, type in cbg eight live, follow the prompts and we will get to that in amoment . with that said, it's really a pleasure to welcome you today and today's guest to the conversation. martin is a distinguished fellow at the council on foreign relations and was a twice former usambassador to israel . he was assistant secretary of
state for eastern affairs and senior director at the national security council and he was a senior special envoy on the israeli palestinian peace process. through two administrations and in the obama administration. before he came to the council on foreign relations he was at brookings institute where he was executive vice president of the brookings and also the founding president and head of the center for middle east studies and most importantly, that's why he's here for us today. he is the author of a terrific new book, master of the game. and reconsider and the heart of middle east diplomacy that will be discussing today. you will find a link to the book where you can purchase it on our website bsshortly as well. martin, it's wonderful to have you. congrats on the book and your lifetime work in many ways
it's a terrific read. and wonderful to have you here hwith us. >> it's great to be with you. i wish we were here in person but it won't be hopefully too long before we can do that but i'm really honored to be appearing again at the council. >> it's always good to have you back and we willdo it again in person next yotime . but for now let's s discuss the book. tell us a little bit about how you speak in middle east diplomacy in so many ways, both from practice and as an advocate as a scholar decided that at the end of your career, and the long time into your career learning what you have done particularly in that 4 year period when he wassecretary of state was so important that you wanted to write about .
>> there's no shortage of books on henry kissinger including his own books. but it's actually very little written about his efforts to make peace in the middle east. even though it was a preoccupation of his four years as secretary of state . most of the things that we talk about in the soviet union our china, vietnam, cambodia and the overthrow of many days, the bangladesh and pakistan war. all of those things eventually took place whilehe was national security advisor . but his last four years were almost entirely preoccupied with middle east peace. why study that? i presided over the and of the american leadfree's process as we know it. i take great pride in that but just a reality that there
hasn't been a negotiation since 2014 when i provided our israeli-palestinian negotiations and at that point i decided that instead of trying and writing another book, i had written about why we failed i go back and look at why we could have succeeded and he had succeeded quite dramatically in negotiating for agreements for a cease-fire in the war of 1973 and there have been two agreements between israel and egypt, one between israel and syria all of which have been successful and laid the foundations for the american lead peaceprocess . and so i thought maybe there's something we can learn because four presidents from clinton on have tried and failed to resolve these israeli-palestinian conflict . and even though kissinger was
focused on these state to state primarily conflicts there was something to learn from it. so it's a huge amount of documentation of that period. five percent of the documents have been declassified. just the amount of history and as a student of history documented every conversation, every meeting and it's all basically available plus the crossroad but henry kissinger himself unlike all of his counterparts in that time is still alive. he was willing to very generously devote his time and i think did formal interviews and a lot of other conversations so that together with my own experiences that we tried to use to element the story gave us the ability to triangulate
what happened then. to take the reader into the rooms where it happened on those tours cause of the granularity of information and try to re-create that in a way that would not only bring to life what middle east diplomacy and how the negotiations were done but draw some lessons for how to and how not to make peace in the middle east. >> i should let the readers know i think 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 might not be able to be there. you in fact were in the same rooms. you were talking in some places with the same people who you knew and worked with and in your own service in the us ingovernment and it's that interweaving of your own story with the story of those
4 years which makes it not just a regular history book but really a film almost of those days which is terrific. so just to underscore the uniqueness of a book like this for somebody like you writingit . interesting about why and how and sort of 40 years of failure coming after four years of success, what was it about henry kissinger or was it and we kissinger? was it the other people around him? what was it that allowed him to succeed in a way that many in many ways of course carter succeeded in the continuation with the camp david agreements but since then and certainly since the clinton administration we haven't
succeeded in this.what was particular, was it kissinger, was it the goalshe tried to achieve ? >> actually it was a bit of both. but i think there were some critical factors that i would highlight. certainly kissinger diplomacy and his skill and guile was part of it and we come back to that. but he was dealing with giants if you compare them with the leaders of the middle east today and i don't know whether it's just history or whether they really were challenges but that was a visionary devoted piece. it's something he's been more familiar with but offers that these world leaders that were capable of homaking decisions and sticking with them. bringing their people along. not being constrained in the same ways that we see today
by domestic politics for regional rivalries or those kinds of things. so yes, in part it was a lot about the individuals that kissinger was dealing with and kissinger would be the first to say it's those particulars that made him successful. but that was often one step ahead of kissinger in the whole effort. but the other thing about it that i've discovered and i did not notice when i set out on this journey was that kissinger in fact wasn't pursuing peace. he was pursuing order. and that makes a hell of a lot of difference in terms of his what distinguishes his strategy and diplomacy from everything that followed him because he was very
suspicious of peace. he had studied the efforts to establish peace in the wake of the napoleonic wars that have brought such discussion on your r at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century and his model for the middle east was the congress of vienna and european order that the they had established in the early 19th century. it's seems kind of absurd on the face of it but that he can take a template ifrom 19th century europe and apply it to the middle east but that's exactly what he did and what he is studied and this was his phd and he published it as his first book and it's hard to tell, it's a wealth, the problems of peace.
so there he is upfront, peace for him was problematic. it wasn't a solution, it was the problem. and he mourns on the first page in that book that the pursuit of peace was with too much passion could lead to its opposite. in other words war. and that's why his approach was really designed to try to build a stable order. he did that through orders with kissinger and his attention to the balance of power in maintaining an equilibrium and the balance of power between those states who would want to maintain order and those who would seek to disrupt it, the revolutionary states like napoleon and france and so his purpose was to ensure a balance of power in favor of the status quote. that is what he did before the yom kippur war and worked for about three years and
then it blew up and from that war he realized that he needed something to traditional to maintaining an equilibrium and the balance of power which was and remains the legitimizing function of the peace process because the peace process would give the arab states estate in maintaining the order. they would address their territorial grievances, regain some of the territory israel had occupied in 1967 and therefore create a mechanism for stabilizing the order so peace was not an objective, it was a mechanism . the peace process was the means by which he would stabilize and legitimize the order. that was for me a real revelation. because we had kind of come in and i talk about we during the clinton beginning of the clinton administration.
it looked like everything was lined up for a breakthrough to america israeli comprehensive peace and it did. i remember telling president clinton in our first meeting that is he put his mind to it he could end the arab-israeli conflict in the first four years. i did not know kissinger, kissinger would have said not now mister president, that's too dangerous. we've got to try a gradual process, incremental process that we should not try to and the process because if you try to nfdo that you could blow it up. and indeed that's what we ended up doing. we made progress on the peace treaty but we ended up trying to end the israeli-palestinian conflict with camp david in july 2000. and we failed. and in that failure led to the intifada, five years of
conflict between israelis and palestinians, thousands killed on both sides and the whole edifice of israeli-palestinian peace that we struggled for years to build was destroyed. and since then it has never been possible to put it back together again . like humpty dumpty and so that is the heart of kissinger's diplomacy that those that came after him including myself new not what he was trying to do.>> it's interesting on the self reflection is at. and it takes courage to do that. but also it takes the reality of what happened. does this order versus peace and peace as a means towards order of course a central tension in international relations.
about stability versus justice. these are the kinds of issues in your first graduate seminar you debate. so let me push you a little bit on this. because clearly what kissinger was doing certainly after the yom kippur war was working with states. one of whom occupied territory and was willing to give some of it up to my territory away in this piece for territory un resolution 242 which is the basis for doing this. the problem was there were palestinians. and you couldn't negotiate with palestinians in as a same state. how did he deal with the power station palestinians and ultimatelyonce you have peace with egypt and jordan, you have to deal with the palestinians . you have to find a way to create order or at least how
do you do that without actually having peace. how does the palestinian issue sort of complicate this matter. >> if you allow me to contact , comment on justice even though it's s a theoretical thing i think it's important because it leads into the palestinianissue . kissinger understood as a result of the 73 yom kippur war they needed to be what he referred to as a modicum of justice. that quarter alone without some sense of justice by the powers in the region that iocould disrupt the order that the order would not be saved so he recognized thatthere needed to be some sense of justice . some addressing of the grievances. not a total fulfillment of that because he didn't believe that that could be achieved. at least a process that addressed the grievances and
that was his way that he approached the challenge of justice. the palestinians have a great recourse. in those days were talking not about the 1970s, on his watch, yasser arafat had been responsible for the murder of two american diplomats what to speak of a hijacking and i don't know whether many in your audience will remember that but the hijackings and explosion of planes and taking hostages, that was the plo in those days plus plo had been involved in the attempt to overthrow the king of jordan. nvand kissinger had been involved in that process to pick the king against them and in those days they were quite dedicated to the proposition of israel being destroyed so it wasn't as if the plo looked like a crime
participant in kissinger's peace process. nevertheless he did reach out to them and didn't establish a channel with them through the cia. but that was designed basically to keep them quiet while he went off and did these deals. kissinger's sad to say didn't know anything about the middle aleast. he never studied it and amazingly he never written about the ottoman empire which was quite relevant to the what he was writing a lot of the time. he never visitedthe arab world . he visited israel six times 40 went into governance but not once did he visit the arab and he didn't know much about it. what he discovered early on was the egyptians and syrians and jordanians didn't want to have anything to do with the palestinians . barely in those days paid lip service to them and as a result, he got the message that he could go ahead and do
these deals without even worrying about them. the only one that pushed it was the king of morocco. and kissinger was happy to oblige in. so essentially palestinians did not figure in his concept of a new american led middle east order. and therefore when he came to deal with issues of jordan and the west bank, he basically stayed away from them. his focus was on egypt because take egypt out of the conflict you'd essentially and the state to state conflict because egypt was militarily the most powerful state, no other arab states could play war if he succeeded in slipping egypt out of therevolution . so that was his focus. he needed syria to legitimize
that process because syria was the beating heart of panera . jordan, he liked the king but had no real way to affect the balance of power and his attitude was that israel and jordan should deal with the palestinian problem between them. it was their problem. he didn't rise to the level of american preoccupation because they couldn't really the order, not the palestinians. so that's what he kept on telling the israelis. it's your problem. you need to deal with it. but don't ask me to do it and as a result of that he missed the opportunity. which was very high in 1974 of bringing jordan back into the west bank and establishing the construct in which the palestinian problem
could have been salt over time in a jordanian project. his failure to do that at almost immediately within a few months to the arab state deciding it was the plo that sought legitimate representative at the end of 1974 and the king of jordan had basically been out of it. so that's essentially what he did with the palestinians which wasn'tmuch at all. today , he is a supporter of the 2 state solution because he believes in states in the international system and he accepts the palestinians should have a state. he liked the oslo process interestingly because the oslo process was kissinger in
in its design. it introduced kissinger's notions of a step-by-step incremental process. oslo had three phases of israeli withdrawal with no endgame, no timetables, no reference to palestinians, jerusalem refugees so that was exactly what kissinger had in mind with the peace process. you have steps of territorial withdrawal, build confidence, exhaust the powers until eventually palestinians would accept israel and then israel could talk about giving up most of the territory it occupied in 167. that was oslo that was kissinger and he said he was very pleased that it adopted
that approach. so that was hisbasic idea. he supported that very strongly . when raven was successor as i said, we went to camp david and we abandoned oslo and as a consequence, we blow up the process. now he says, kissinger says most indians should have attributes of sovereignty. it should be a state in the making with its institutions being built and regaining control over territory and attributes of sovereignty. all the way to eventual statehood so he's 82 state man and he says to make the final point here kissinger's process realways involved israel giving up territory. that was what lubricated the peace process. and therefore that should
apply in the palestinian case as well. so i think that his view is that and he says this in a book that he wrote about that israel cannot base its existence on the naked use of force alone for if it does so meaning occupy the west bank forever, if it does so he said it will consume its moral substance. and that's a profound kind of statement about the future of israel if it doesn't find a way to achieve a 2 state solution. >> i want to get back to that future in a minute but i wonder how now that you sort
of understand the kissingerian process, how would you have done what you did in 13 and 14 and presumably obama and kerry had understood also understood the kissingerian agenda, how would you do this process differently than you did in trying to get to a final settlement in those years of 2013, 2014 when you were involved? >> i was not involved in the initial stage of setting up the negotiations. >> .. him a nine-month negotiation.
from the get-go he was focused on the issues. as were on camp david to the parameters as bush when he came around to take it up the last with prime minister they went for a final deal. so it was natural that obama tried ined his four years and tn carrie got the final status negotiation. no point from camp david on did anybody in the american policy community suggest there was an alternative of where to go. it's not clear, elliott abrams did a voice in the wilderness and nobody listened to him.
but essentially he's always focused on trying to end it. i came into that and i to say with the negotiations what a waste of time. and the parties themselves ended up further apart on the final status issues. at the end off the negotiation than they were at the beginning. that told me. the way in which we were going about. then donald trump comes along and jared kushner says he's going to do it his way. what did he do he came up with a plan for final status agreement. nobody took seriously the incremental process. today is the ideal time not just because three decades of failure but also because you have an
israeli government they can agree on what the final status should be. on the palestinian side in the palestinian authority divided on what they want. when controls gaza and the other one at the west bank they cannot agree. you don't have an ability to move forward we know what it looks like but we can't get there. we have to have an enter mental process. their steps are economic steps and not territorial steps. without a territorial component. the process will be very limited in its effect. i don't believe it will head off
an explosion which i fear f is coming but nobody really believes anymore then they coul. about the situation. it is very tenuous. it's sort of like the 73 war. israelis everybody thinks the situation is stable until it is not. >> in a minute were gonna go and get questions from our audience and remember if you want to ask a question go cheer browser type and see cga.live and follow the prompts there and vote on a question that you would like me too ask and otherwise ask your own. i would ask my last question to come to the final issue, the middle east as you describe is in the palestinian israeli in the wider sense of what's happening in the golf there is a
withdraw from the united states and other countries, china, russia are coming back in. you called in a piece in foreign affairs the nigerian approach towards the middle east. you are sitting in the oval office. you have the opportunity and a few minutes to tell president biden what that would be. how should weul go about engagig in the middle east probably as well as in the israel palestinian in the gradual step-by-step sense. there is a instability that is larger now or potentially larger. how should we do that. >> first of all is starts with the balance of power and it's actually on a global scale it's in danger of tipping because the rise of china.
the administration has to take care of the problem which means less attention and lessre resources in the middle east and more focus on asia. and kinzinger would agree with octopussy but you can't turn your back on the middle east we know what happened today for the united states has to devise a way of operating in the middle east and the equilibrium of the balance of power even as its focus elsewhere. that means we have to look to our allies in the region to step up. as we step back. i think that is a message that they havees already received evn without it being articulated very clearly by the biden
administration. egypt is engaging with is really 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 in saudi arabia are working to calm things down in yemen. you can see there is an attempt to stabilize the situation. amazingly the middle east is not in the headlights. i don't know whether you noticed that. i noticed it because it would be easier to sell books but it's not and that's because as the united states focuses elsewhere, our partners in the region recognize if they want to keep us in support of them, they need to step up and act responsibly.
iran is the big exception here, though the revolutionary power. iran has to be contained in deterred. but it has tote be done by developing a balance that is maintained by israel in the sunny arab states to have an interest in the status quo because they feel threatenedd by iran. the united states has to play an active role in that because there's more than just the middle east there's nonpolar information, potential for seriously disrupting the effort to achieve a stable order. that's why it's important to iran to make an exception with the united states to take the lead. some options will inform the local players. you see israel acting to containing iran and syria or the nuclear program.
the united states is supporting that. i think that his overall approach and that is really palestinian context where i really do feel that there is a potential for a blowup for bigger steps by the israelis. steps to have territorial component as difficult as that may be their ways of doing it. but essentially they need to be a little more active in trying to ensure that the palestinians had a stake in maintaining the order as well because it's going to address their grievances over time. >> let me go to some of the questions. let me start with the big question about kinzinger and the
question is can you ever imagine there being another kinzinger and defined not just in terms of the strategic sense of which he brought to the job rather than the technical one that we seen prevail in many ways. also somebody was so dominant in the foreign policy when it was being executed in some way dominant even today all and wrote a book about them. is this singular or do you think we might see this s again? >> of course all ad but i hope you will add to. you have some experience with this. i think that kinzinger incurs in cheeky i put them both in the same class are unique because they came out of a strategic environment in europe.
where the balance of power was really r important. that affected them and they came to the second world war and lived through the cold war. it was all very strategic. since then as the soviet union collapsed in the cold war ended. the united states iss been dominant and therefore the need for that strategic thinking i think dissipated and slipped away. instead we engaged in the very thing that kinzinger went against which was overreaching. we were so powerful and so dominant that we got carried away with ourselves. we thought we could reshape the world in a democratic image. there were very few limits that we applied. kinzinger was all about limits and constraints and he was
conservative in his approach. in essence we kind of lost the kinzinger real plot. i think the people growing up in america in that environment did not have to think strategically. i come from australia which is in the strategic environment so strategic thinking can naturally to show you and singaporeans. in the environment has a lot to do, that's part of the reason why we don't have kinzinger now. yes he dominated but we forget that it took him a lot of dominance. the first four years he was engaged in a lockdown battle with william rogers, the secretary of state much likeea krasinski was with vance. he was dominant, he was very
effective in operating and hostile white house and the president and the statehe department when he was pursuing pro-israel policy. he had a maneuver, he was very successful. he became secretary of state and he became dominant. part of the reason of the dominance was because nixon was preoccupied and he had to resign and during that period and once florida became president he was president for foreign policy. nate kinzinger was. florida did not have any experience in kinzinger became dominated because of those particular circumstances i think. none of those things really applied today and part of the reason for writing the book and
a lot of the focus was on the middle east. i wanted to resurrect the rkinzinger in approach becausei think there's a lot that we can learn from it in era when geopolitics is returning and competition between simple powers is dominated the internationalis system again. >> i think you succeed in doing that. the irresponsibility that we had for 30 years and not having to think strategically because we were so dominant. whatever we did had an impact strategic impact and now we have to think about it again. figuring out how to manage the white house, the state department nexus which kinzinger was pretty unique on and one way he did it was for the first two years he was national security advisor and secretary of state which is how it only happened it is head as opposed to the
institutions. >> we will leave this event to take you live to the u.s. senate part of our over 40 year commitment to bring you live coverage of congress. live gavel to gavel coverage on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. a senator: madam president? the presidi i rise today with my friend and colleague from arkansas senator cotton to honor deputy sheriff frank ramirez, jr., deputy ramirez called batesville, arkansas home and was proud to help protectis