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tv   Discussion on U.S. Role in the Middle East  CSPAN  November 22, 2021 8:42pm-9:32pm EST

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communications supports c-span as a public service with these other providers, giving you upfront receipt to democracy. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> cyber officials testified on determining computer network attacks before the house oversight and reform committee. you can watch at 9:30 eastern on c-span, online at, or c-span now, our new video app. >> a discussion with former u.s. ambassador to israel on the u.s. role in the middle east. he spoke at an event hosted by the chicago council of global affairs.
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mr. daalder: we have the master about the master of the game. martin is a good friend. we were colleagues at brookings and served in government together so it is wonderful to have him with us today to discuss his new book "master of the game". thank you to our members for joining us and for those watching on c-span, great to have you among our audience today. this program is made possible by the lester crown and his family, who are sponsors of the lester crown center on u.s. foreign-policy program. we are grateful to the lester crown and his family for their support of the council. you can participate by asking questions throguh -- through our interactive internet capability. go to your browser. type in
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follow the prompts and we will get to that in a moment. that being said, it is a pleasure to welcome you -- today's guest to the conversation. martin is a distinguished fellow at the council on foreign relations, twice a former u.s. ambassador to israel, assistant secretary of state for eastern affairs, senior director at the national security council, and a senior special envoy on the israeli-palestinian peace process through two administrations, the bush and obama administrations. before he came to the council on foreign relations, he was at the brookings institution, where he was executive vice president at brookings and the founding president and head of the center for middle east studies and most importantly, that is why he is here for us today, the author of
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a tradition --terrific new work "master of the game: henry kissinger in the art of middle eastern diplomacy". you will find a link to the book to purchase it on our website and shortly as well as our chat. it is wonderful to have you. congrats on the book. it is a terrific read. wonderful to have you with us today. mr. indyk: thank you. it is great to be with you. you are impressive. hopefully it will not be too long. i am honored to appear, again, in the chicago council. mr. daalder: it is always good to have you back and we will do it in person next time. for now, let's discuss the book. tell us a little bit about how you steeped in middle east diplomacy in so many ways, both from practice and as an advocate
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and a scholar, decided at the end of -- long time and of your career, earning what kissinger had done, particularly in that four-year period as secretary of state. what is so important that you wanted to write about? dr. indyk: there is no shortage of books on henry kissinger, including his own books, but there is very little written about his efforts to make peace in the middle east, even though it was the preoccupation of his four years as secretary of state. the things we know kissinger for our china, vietnam, laos, cambodia, the debacle, the bangladesh-pakistan war. all of those things took place
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as national security adviser in his first four years of government. his last four years were entirely preoccupied by middle east peacemaking. i basically presided over the end of the american-led peace process as we know it. i take pride in that --no pride in that but it is a reality there had been a negotiation since 2014, when i presided over the israeli-palestinian negotiations. at that point, i decided instead of writing another book --my first one i wrote about why we failed --i looked at why kissinger had succeeded. he had succeeded quite dramatically in negotiating four agreements --the cease fire of the yom kippur war, one between
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israel and syria, and one between --to between israel and egypt. they led the foundation for the american-led peace process. i thought there was something we could learn, because presidents from clinton on have tried and failed to resolve the israeli-palestinian conflict. even though kissinger was focused on the state-to-state conflict for arab-israeli, there is something to learn. there is a huge archive of the period. they have been declassified. kissinger is a man and student of history. he documented every conversation, every meeting, every phone call, and it is all basically available to us in the israeli archives, plus kissinger himself, unlike his counterparts
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in that time, is still alive and he was willing to be generous with his time and did 12 interviews. it that, together with my own experience, which i could use to eliminate the story, gave me the ability to triangulate what happened then, take the reader into the rooms where it happened, behind the doors, because of the grain you will arity -- granularity, and try to re-create it in a way that would not only bring to life middle eastern diplomacy and arab-israeli negotiations but draw lessons for how to and how to not make peace in the middle east. dr. daalder: i should let those watching no that i think the fact that you had 20 years of experience doing similar things
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to henry kissinger enlivens the story in a way a traditional historian might not be able to be there. you were in the same rooms, talking to the same people who y ou knew and worked with in your own service in the u.s. government. it is the interweaving with your story with the four years that makes it not just a regular history book but really a film almost of those days, which is terrific. two underscore the uniqueness of a book like this with someone like you writing it. interesting about why and how a nd 40 years of failure coming in some ways after 40 years of success. what was it about henry
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kissinger? was at the times or the other people? what was at that allowed him to succeed in a way that in many ways -- carter succeeded in the continuation of the camp david agreements, but since then and certainly sense the clinton administration you served in, we have not succeeded. what was particular? was it kissinger? was the circumstances? was it his goals? dr. indyk: it was all of the above. i think there were some critical factors that i would highlight. certainly, kissinger's diplomacy, his skill, was part of it and we can come back to that, but he was dealing with giants if you compare them with the leaders in the middle east today, and i don't know whether that is the perspective of
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history, but that was a visionary. these were leaders who were capable of making decisions and sticking with them -- bringing their people along and not being constrained in the same way as we see today, with divisive politics and regional rivalries. yes, in part, it was a lot about the individuals. kissinger would be the first to say that he was made successful. he was one step ahead of kissinger in the whole effort. it the other thing about it that i have discovered -- and i did not know this before i set out on this journey -- was that
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kissinger, in fact, was not pursuing peace. he was pursuing order. that makes a hell of a lot of difference in terms of what distinguishes his strategy and diplomacy from everything that followed him. because he was so suspicious of peace. he had studied the effort to establish peace in the wake of the napoleonic wars. it brought so much destruction on europe at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. 's model for the middle east was the congress of vienna and then european order with the council they established in the early 19th century. it seems absurd on the face of it. he can take a template from
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19th-century europe and apply it to the middle east. that is exactly what he did and what he had studied -- this was his phd and he published it as his first book. it is titled, "a world restored". the problems with peace. there is upfront. peace is problematic. it was a problem, not the solution. he warns on the first page that the pursuit of ph's with too much pat -- peace with too much passion and energy could lead to war. that is why his approach was really designed to try to build a stable order. he did that through his attention to the balance of power and maintaining an equilibrium in the balance of power between those powers who
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would want to maintain the order and those who would seek to disrupt it with revolution -- revolutionary states like napoleon's france. his purpose was to ensure a balance of power in favor of the status quo. that's what he did before the 1973 yom kippur war. it worked for three years and blew up. from that war, he realized he needed something in addition to maintaining an equilibrium in the balance of power, which was and remains the legitimizing function of a peace process. a peace process would give the arab states a stake in maintaining the order. it would address their territorial grievances, regain some of the territories israel occupied in 1967, and therefore create a mechanism for stabilizing the order.
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peace was not an objective. it was a mechanism. the peace process was the means by which you would stabilize and legitimize the order, and that was, for me, a real revelation, because we had kind of come in --i am talking about weight -- we --during the beginning of the clinton administration. it looks like everything was lined up for a breakthrough to an arab-israeli peace. indeed, i remember telling president clinton in our first meeting that if he put his mind to it, he could end the conflict in his first four years. i did not know kissinger. kissinger would have said, "that 's too dangerous. we have to try a gradual process, an incremental process. we should not try to end the conflict because if you try to do that, you can blow it up."
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indeed, that is what we ended up doing. we made progress toward the peace treaty, but we ended up trying to end the israeli-palestinian conflict in kant david in july 2000 and we failed --camp david in july 2000 and we failed. it led to five years of conflict between israel and palestine. thousands were killed on both sides and the whole edifice of israeli-palestinian peace that we had struggled to build was destroyed. since then, it has never been possible to put it back together again, like humpty dumpty. that is the heart of kissinger erie and diplomacy in the middle east. those who came after him, including myself, knew not what he was trying to do. dr. daalder: it is interesting
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and the self reflection is apt. it takes courage to do that, but also, it takes the reality of what happened. this order versus peace and peace as a means toward order, of course, a central tension in international relations theory 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 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 it away in this peaceful teritor --territory u.n. resolution 242, the basis for doing this.
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the problem was palestinians. you could not negotiate with palestinians in the same state --as the same state. how did he deal with the palestinians and once you had peace with egypt and jordan, you had to deal with the taoist any and --palestinians. you had to find a way for order. how do you do that without having peace? how does the palestinian issue sort of complicate this matter? dr. indyk: first, if you allow me to comment on justice versus order, even though it is theoretical, i think it is important. kissinger understood, as a result of the 1973 yom kippur war, there needed to be what he referred to as a modicum of justice, that order alone without some sense of justice by the powers in the region could disrupt the order meant that the
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order would not be stable. he recognized there needed to be some sense of justice, some addressing of the grievances, not a total fulfillment of that, because he did not believe that that could be a change. at least a process that addressed the grievances was his way to approach the challenge of justice. the palestinians had a grievance. in those days, we are talking the 1970's, it was a straight terrorist organization. on his watch, it was responsible for the murder of two american diplomats in the sudan, the hijackings and i don't know if your audience will remember that. the hijackings and explosions with planes and taking of hostages, that was pioneered by the palestinian liberation army -- organization in those days.
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they were involved in the attempt to overthrow the king of georgian -- jordan. kissinger had been involved in the process to bolster the king against them. they were dedicated to the proposition that israel should be destroyed. plo look like a prime partici pant in peace endures -- kissinger's peace process. he established a channel with them through the cia. that was designed basically to keep them quiet, while he went off and did these deals. kissinger, as i said, did not know anything about the middle east. he never studied it. he had never written about the empire that was relevant to the european order that he was writing about. he had never visited the arab world. he visited israel six times
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before he went into government but not once the arab world. he really did not know much about it. what he discovered early on was the egyptians and syrians and jordanians did not want have -- to have anything to do with the palestinians. they did not even pay lip service to them in those days and as a result, he got the message that he could go ahead and do these deals and not worry about the palestinians. the only one that pushed it was the king of morocco and he wanted a channel. kissinger was happy to oblige with that. eseenti --essentially, the palestinians did not figure, in his concept of a new american led middle eastern order. therefore, when he came to deal with the issue of jordan and the west bank, he stayed away from that. his focus was on egypt, because
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egypt --take egypt out of the conflict and you and the state-to-state conflict because egypt is the most powerful militarily. no arab state could go to war if he succeeded in flipping egypt at of the revolutionary product -- column. that was his focus. in syria, to legitimize that process, because syria was the beating heart of pan-arabism. gordon was a small state. he liked the king but it had no weight in the balance of power. his attitude was 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 disrupt the order, neither the palestinians nor the jordanians.
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they kept saying it is your problem to the israelis and you need to deal with it, but don't ask me to. do it. . as a result, he missed the opportunity, which was there, of bringing jordan back into the west bank and establishing the construct in which the palestinian problem could have been solved in a jordanian context. his failure meant almost immediately, within months, to the arab states deciding it was the plo that was the legitimate representative of the palestinians. that happened at the end of 1974. that's essentially what he did with the palestinians, which was not much at all.
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today, he is a supporter of the two state solution, because he is a west alien man who believes in -- he is a westphalian man. he accepts that the palestinians should have a state. he likened the process to a state because the oslo process was kissinger. -- kissingerian in his design. it is a step-by-step, incremental process. oslo had three phases of israeli withdrawal, with no endgame, no timetable, no reference to palestinian state, jerusalem wrecked -- refugees. that is what kissinger had in mind. you do steps of territorial withdrawal, build confidence, exhaust the powers, until
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eventually, palestinians would accept israel and israel could talk about giving up most of the 67 territories. that was oslo and that was kissinger. he said to me -- he was very pleased he had adopted an approach. that was his basic idea. he supported that strongly. when he was assassinated, as i said, we went to camp david. as a consequence, we blew up the process. now, kissinger says, palestinians should have attributes of sovereignty, should be a state in the making, with these institutions being built, and we are gaining control of the territory and attributes of sovereignty, on
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the way to eventual statehood. he is a two state man. he says, i mean, to make the final point here, kissinger's process always involved israel giving up territory. that was what we were hated the process -- that was what lubricated the process. i think that his view is --and he says this in a book he wrote --that israel cannot base its existence on the naked use of force alone. if it does so, meaning occupying the west bank forever, if it does so, he said it would
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consume its moral substance. that's --i mean, that is a pro found statement about the future of israel if it does not find a way to achieve a two state solution. dr. daalder: i want to get back to that in a minute, but i wonder how, now that you sort of understand the kissingerian process in a way you might not have in your last installment in government, how would you have done what you did in '13 and '14 and if obama and carrie had understood -- kerry had understood the kissingerian process, how would you change it? dr. indyk: i was not involved in the initial stage of setting up the negotiations.
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i was given the responsibility to oversee. john kerry did that single-handedly. i know that he surprised obama with his success. he went to get netanyahu and the palestinian leader to agree to a nine-month negotiation. from the get-go, he was focused on final status, resolution final status issues. as with clinton and camp david on through the clinton parameters, as was bush when he eventually came around to taking it up in his last year with the prime minister, they went for a final deal. it was natural that obama tried it in his first full years but with little success and kerry
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got the final status negotiation going. at no point from camp david on did anybody in the americna policy community suggest an alternative way to go. elliott abrams did. he was the sole voice in the wilderness and nobody listened to him. essentially, it was always focused on trying to end the process. i came into that and have to say the negotiations were a waste of time. the parties themselves ended up further apart on these final status issues at the end of the negotiation then at the beginning. it told me a lot about the way in which we were going. then, donald trump comes along and jared kushner says he will do it this way -- his way.
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he comes up with a plan for a final status agreement. nobody took seriously the incremental, kissingerian process. today, it is the ideal time, not just because of the decades of failure, but also because we have an israeli government that it is a left-right coalition that can agree --cannot agree on a two state solution. on the palestinian side, the palestinian authority is divided on what they want. one controls gaza, the other houses the west bank. they cannot agree. some want to make peace and someone to destroy. you don't have the ability to move forward. we know what the final deal looks like but we cannot get there from here.
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we have to have an incremental process and indeed, that is what the israeli government is beginning to do. these steps are economic, not territorial, steps and without a territorial component, the press says it will be limited in its effect. i don't believe it will head off an explosion, which i fear is coming, but nobody believes me anymore about the situation. it is sort of like kissinger before the 1973 war. everybody thinks the situation is stable until it is not. dr. daalder: in a minute, we will go and get questions from the audience. if you want to ask a question, type in and follow the prompts and vote on the question you would like me to ask or otherwise, ask your own.
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as my last question, i would like to come to this final issue. the middle east, as you described in the israeli and palestinian sense, but also in the wider sense given what is happening with the gulf and iran . there is a sense of instability and withdrawal of the united states. other countries, china, russia, are coming back in. you caught in a piece or foreign affairs for a kissingerian approach toward the middle east. you're sitting in the oval office have the opportunity in a few minutes to tell president biden what that would be. how should we go about engaging in the middle east broadly and in the israel palestinian issue with the gradual step-by-step?
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there is the instability that is larger, or potentially larger. how should we do that? dr. indyk: first of all, kissinger starts with the balance of power and the balance of power is actually on a global scale in danger of tipping because of the rise of china. the administration has to take care of that problem, which means less attention and less resources in the middle east and more focus on asia. kissinger would agree with that completely. you cannot turn your back on the middle east, because we know what happens there. therefore, the united states has to devise a way of proliferating in the middle east that maintains equilibrium in the balance of power, even at it is focused elsewhere.
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that means we have to look to our partners and allies of the region to step up as we step back. i think that that is a message that they have already received, even without it being articulated very clearly by the biden administration. egypt, for the first time in engaging in israel and gaza in a way that is designed to calm things down. jordan and israel working together with the palestinian authority to calm things down on the west bank. the biden administration and saudi arabia working to calm things down in vienna. i mean, you can see all around, there is an attempt to just stabilize the situation. amazingly, the middle east is not in the headlines. i don't quote -- i don't know whether you have noticed that
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but it is not. i have noticed that. it is not, and that is because 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, of course, is the big exception, the revolutionary power, and it has to be contained and deterred, but it has to be done by developing a balance that is maintained by israel and the sunni-arab states, all of whom have an interest in the status quo, all of them threatened by iran. the united states has to play in --an active role in that because there is more than just -- there is nonproliferation. there is potential for a nuclear arms raised -- race that could
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disrupt the effort to deter stable order. that is why it is important iran becomes an exception that the united states has to take. some options will involve the local players, with israel acting to contain iran and syria or supporting iran's nuclear program, and the united states should support that. that is the overall approach. in the israeli could palestinian context --israeli-palestinian contacts, where i feel there is the potential for a blowup, we need to get behind bigger steps by the israelis, steps that have a territorial component. as difficult as that may be, there are ways of doing it. essentially, we need to be a little more active in trying to ensure that the palestinians
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have the stake in maintaining the order, as well, because it is going to address their grievances over time. dr. daalder: let me go to the questions coming over, and i wanted -- let me start with a big question about kissinger. the question is, "can you ever imagine there being another kissinger? defined not just in terms of the strategic sense, which he brought to the job, rather than the tactical one we have seen prevail in many ways, but also somebody who is so dominant in the foreign policy it was executed and dominant in some ways even today, 40 years later, writing a book about it. is this singular or do you think we might see this again?"
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dr. indyk: well, of course i will answer. you have some experience with this. i think that kissinger and brzezinski --i put them in the same class --are unique because they came out of a strategic environment in europe. where the balance of power was really important. that affected their mindset. they lived through the cold war. it was all very strategic. since then, as the soviet union collapsed and the cold war ended, the united states has been dominant and therefore, the need for that kind of strategic thinking, i think, dissipated -- slipped away -- and instead, we engaged in the very thing
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kissinger warned against, which was overreaching. we were so powerful, so prominent, that we got carried away with ourselves, and we thought we could reshape the world in our democratic image, and there were very few limits to be applied. kissinger was all about limits and constraints. he was conservative in his approach. and so in essence, we kind of lost the kissingerian plot. i think that growing up in america, particularly in that environment, people did not have to think strategically. i come from australia, which is losing its strategic environment. strategic thinking came naturally to australia. the environment, i think, has a lot to do with it. that is part of the reason we do not have a kissinger now.
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yes, he dominated, but we forget it took him a while to dominate. the first four years, he was engaged in a battle with william rogers, secretary of state, watch like -- much like brezinski was with vance. he was very effective in operating in a hostile white house. he had to maneuver. it was a lot of maneuvering and he was successful at it. it was only when he became secretary of state that he became dominant and part of the reason was nixon was preoccupied with watergate and had to design -- resigned. during that period, kissinger was --
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four did not have experience and kissinger became dominated because of those particular -- dominant because of those events. none of those things really applied today. part of the reason for writing the book, although it focuses on the middle east, was because i wanted to resurrect kissinger's approach, because i think there is a lot that we can learn from it in an era when geopolitics --and competition between superpowers is dominating the international scene again. dr. daalder: i think you succeed in doing that. the air responsibility we had for 30 years of not having to think strategically, because we were so dominant. whatever we had -- did had a
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strategic impact and we have to rethink that. figuring out how to manage the white house and the state department nexus, which kissinger was unique on --one way he did it was for the first two years, he was national security advisor and secretary of state, which is how conflict only happened in his head as opposed to in between institutions. that is a key part nevertheless. let me go and ask another question. and perhaps you have sort of already hinted that it in your last answer. what role did the cold war backdrop and superpower rivalry play in kissinger's negotiations ? we have not talked about camp david. it was the logical outcome of what kissinger tried to do. it was not that kissinger would not have done it in the same way, for reasons you also
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mentioned. dr. indyk: definitely, the cold war was the critical context as we discussed. it concentrated his mind in the following way. the united states and soviet union were competing, much like the united states and china are competing today. he decided that he was going to take the middle east for america and push the soviet union out. it was pretty ambitious. he declared it very early on in a press conference he gave in 1969. he called for the expulsion of the soviet union from air of countries. i --- from arab countries.
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he said that was from discussion with nixon and that was their objective. as long as arab states were dependent on the soviet union, he could never achieve this. he had to show them that on the one hand, soviet arms would ne ver be allowed by the united states to achieve a victory, but a fate turned to the united states, american diplomacy could give them what the soviet union could never give them. the fact the united states had the relationship with israel gave him an advantage. he understood he had the advantage. whereas the state department was constantly trying to work with the soviet union, to advance the peace process, his whole approach was the opposite. no.
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it is clear the soviet union has shown only the united states can deliver. sadhat understood and was willing to work with the united states rather than the soviet union and give up on the soviet union. kissinger was surprised by this. he expected sadat to play the soviet union against the united states, a well-developed tactic during the cold war of non-aligned states, but sadat refused to do that. because he was committed to the united states, kissinger's job of sidelining the soviet union was much easier. i have detailed the way in which kissinger, step-by-step, tested his proposition and found the soviet union was incredibly inept at playing the game.
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he constantly outmaneuvered them, until, as a result of the peace process, he sidelined them completely. then, jimmy carter comes along and what is the first thing he does? he brings the soviet union back into the game. sadat is like horrified. here, he had struggled for a while to get them out and now carter is bringing them back in. what does he do? he goes off to jerusalem. that was the arjun of his trip to jerusalem -- --the origin of his trip to jerusalem, reorienting american policy to cooperating with the soviet union to giving carter the chance for peace between israel and egypt. that is how carter was able to
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get camp david. you know, the carter administration, brezinski and carter, were upset when they heard sadat was going to jerusalem. that was not what they had in mind at all and they were slow to come out. eventually they did and carter deserves credit for the way in which he negotiated the peace treaty. he was standing on kissinger shoulders --kissinger's shoulders. the effort was the exclusion of the soviet union, which, during the cold war, led to america's advantage. dr. daalder: as we think about russia trying to come back in to the middle east and the chinese doing the same thing, reading "master of the game" is one way
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in which future policymakers can hopefully avoid the mistakes of the past and learn for the future. martin, a terrific conversation. thank you so much for writing the book and spending time with us to talk about it. for those who want to delve deeper, and i urge you to do so, you can find a link to the book on our website. buy it, read it. it is a fantastic, wonderful read. thank you for being with us and all of you watching, thank you for joining us. dr. indyk: thank you. real pleasure to be with you always. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> the center for american progress will host a discussion on how technology is changing how quire -- healthcare. watch online at or full coverage on c-span now, our new video app. ♪ >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government funded by
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