This NOW episode featured an evening of focused conversation on the role of Islam in shaping the politics of the Middle East, American perceptions of the beliefs and behavior of Muslims, and Arab views on the role of the United States in their region.
First, NOW looks at the increasingly politicized moderate Muslims in Egypt, historically one of the United States’s most stable partners in the Middle East. Despite their long-time embrace of many aspects of American culture, from fast food to movies, Egypt’s Muslims are increasingly identifying with the Palestinian cause and condemning American policies in the region.
Then, at an Aspen Institute seminar on Islam and the West moderated by Moyers, eight distinguished journalists and scholars from around the world came together to discuss their own reactions to the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and what subsequent events reveal about Islam’s contradictions. In a penetrating conversation steered by many different points of view, the panel draws distinctions between the behavior of Muslims and the teachings of Islam and articulates the difference between terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and fundamentalist political groups. They debate the clash of Islam with a modern world and how the Koran can be reconciled with democracy and a viable economy. You can access the original Web page for this program at the archived NOW With Bill Moyers website.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to this special edition of NOW. We’re devoting the entire hour to America and Islam. Our partner in this program is the Aspen Institute which has long brought together people from different backgrounds and urged them to speak frankly and freely about controversial subjects. Right now the Institute is exploring the great political and cultural collisions of the 21st century. And when they asked me to moderate a discussion on America and the Islamic world, I asked to bring along our cameras. You will be joining a conversation in progress among eight people with strong opinions, our topic – Justice and Jihad.
The Institute brought eight people together with varied experience in world affairs. Several are journalists including a reporter turned diplomat. Some are scholars of religion, philosophy, foreign affairs. One was trained in medicine, another as an architect. They include Muslims, Christians, Jews, even an agnostic or two. All have been thinking about Islam and the West and the role America will play in the world after 9/11.
FAREED ZAKARIA: For a country as powerful as the United States, not acting is itself a policy. So if you act you’re going to be blamed for something; if you don’t act you’re going to be blamed for something. Better, I say, to act with wisdom.
GENEIVE ABDO: You cannot continue to support these oppressive regimes and think that there are not going to be consequences. The problem in the Islamic world is they want the United States out of their lives. And we didn’t learn this from September 11th.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: If you have existential conflict, as between us and Osama, there is no compromise, there is no politics, there is no negotiation. He kills us or we kill him.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Al Qaeda is a terrorist network that has to be dealt with, with all the military legal cultural propaganda means available. I do not believe that democracies can fight theological wars.
KANAN MAKIYA: The next few weeks, in the coming situation in the West Bank… it’s not at all out of the probability that Saddam succeeds in equipping some suicide bomber with anthrax or VX poison gas in one of these explosion suits, and this person blows them up in Israel, killing some three to 4000 Israelis, with VX, anthrax. Almost certainly with Israel in the mood that it’s in today, with Sharon in leadership that he’s in, they would drop a nuclear device on Baghdad.
SEYLA BENHABIB: They would.
BILL MOYERS: We were meeting over a weekend when Washington was debating how to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
BILL MOYERS: Here were rumors of new threats of terrorism in the United States. And on everyone’s mind was the bloody running battle between Israelis and Palestinians. The French journalist and diplomat Eric Rouleau, once his country’s ambassador to Yasser Arafat’s PLO, argued that America’s support for Israel is inflaming the Islamic world.
ERIC ROULEAU: If you travel today … the Arab world … the Islamic world … everywhere you go …
ERIC ROULEAU: Whether it’s a dinner, or a breakfast, or an office of a civil servant … the first thing he will speak to you about is … the … conflict.
BILL MOYERS: The conflict?
ERIC ROULEAU: The conflict between Palestinians and Israelis over territory. What the … makes them … makes them more angry, it’s the support of America, which, in their eyes, in their perception is unconditional.
GENEIVE ABDO: Uh-hm.
ERIC ROULEAU: I mean … Israelis could do anything … any government in Israel would do anything … and they would probably get the support of the … American government.
BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that the Palestinian problem, as you stated, is inflaming
ERIC ROULEAU: It’s … it’s …
BILL MOYERS: … all Muslims?
ERIC ROULEAU: … it’s … it’s the major thing. And then you have … the images … of a bomb attack sui- … suicide … bomber. It doesn’t impress them. Because it says … if the Americans were … were condemning what Israel were doing, we would prepare to condemn the … the suicide bombers. But the Americans always say … this … “Israel is in self defense.” Therefore …
GENEIVE ABDO: Yeah.
ERIC ROULEAU: … justifying all military actions of Mr. Sharon. So … this creates a lot of anger … much more than you think I’ll tell you why. I’ve seen live the bombardments. I mean you’ve probably seen them on CNN … but I’ve seen them on Arab televisions. … they … they have their cameras moving while they … bombing … and the next man would tell you … “Oh, this is an F-6- … 16 … which is delivered by America to Israel.” So there’s a big anger
SEYLA BENHABIB: … Arab solidarity
ERIC ROULEAU: Terrible anger.
SEYLA BENHABIB: So do you believe that there is continuing and … Arab solidarity …
SEYLA BENHABIB: … with Palestine?
ERIC ROULEAU: Let me answer the question because
SEYLA BENHABIB: I mean isn’t that
ERIC ROULEAU: … there’s a confusion in your question. Regimes … Arab regimes have always betrayed the Palestinians. There’s no question of solidarity
GENEIVE ABDO: Yes.
ERIC ROULEAU: But the peoples …
SEYLA BENHABIB: Hm-m.
ERIC ROULEAU: … feel solidarity with the … with their own kin CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER Really? The Kuwaitis who expelled 300,000 … ten years ago?
ERIC ROULEAU: They are supporting now …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Three hundred thousand Palestinians
ERIC ROULEAU: Yes. That’s a good example
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: … expelled from
ERIC ROULEAU: … the Kuwaitis … who hate
MAN And they bleed for the Palestinians
ERIC ROULEAU: … who hate Arafat … the Kuwaitis hate Arafat and the PLO … today they are officially and publicly supporting Arafat
ERIC ROULEAU: … against the Israelis because …
ERIC ROULEAU: … they can’t accept
GENEIVE ABDO: Well, it’s a … it’s an issue of
GENEIVE ABDO: … justice! …it’s about justice.
ERIC ROULEAU: It’s about justice and territory
GENEIVE ABDO: justice.
ERIC ROULEAU: It’s not religion … it’s not race.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I think what you said is … part of it is true. The, the conflict is not racial and in some way it’s …
ERIC ROULEAU: Not religious.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: … not religious. It’s over territory. As long as the issue is the existence of Israel, which is the issue in the war today,
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: America will support Israel as it should … as a mor–, a moral obligation and as a strategic imperative if the price is anger in the Arab world, we have no choice. Because otherwise our choice is to say that we will allow the eradication of a democratic ally, and that America can not do in good conscience.
GENEIVE ABDO: Yeah, we can’t go on. I mean, we’re talking fiction.
KANAN MAKIYA: … equally about the existence of a Palestinian state.
So if you were a Palestinian today and you noticed and observe what’s going on and after what’s happened in Jenin , bulldozers wiping people’s houses, houses falling on people, that’s what we’re seeing on Jazeera television.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Now what happened …
KANAN MAKIYA: Wait. But the issue then from a Palestinian point of view becomes exactly in the terms that you put them, put them, do these people ever really want to give us a state on this little 22 percent.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: They were offered a state in 2000. What do you say to that?
ERIC ROULEAU: Bill, There’s something fundamental …
KANAN MAKIYA: I… I… I think it was a great mistake, I think it was a mistake.
ERIC ROULEAU: Please, we can’t go on before we clarify the question of Camp David.
GENEIVE ABDO: Yes.
ERIC ROULEAU: Camp David is a myth! We, we have now the witnesses … Israeli, American and Palestinian. But forget about the Palestinian. We have American witnesses of Camp David who have told us the real story about Camp David. This is a myth. It’s a big, it’s incredible how it …
GENEIVE ABDO: Yes.
ERIC ROULEAU: … sort of spread through the world. Israel has never been more generous and you just mentioned never made so many concessions. Already the, the language is shocking, is humiliating.
GENEIVE ABDO: Absolutely.
ERIC ROULEAU: What does he mean generous?
GENEIVE ABDO: Absolutely.
ERIC ROULEAU: Does this belong, all this belong to you so that you are being generous? You’re giving it back … something which is yours? Or are you just giving back what other people have a right to?
What is the most important thing which people overlook, they offered not one state. Four Cantons.
ERIC ROULEAU: Four pieces, four … and between every piece of Palestinian, an Israeli military corridor …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Eric …
ERIC ROULEAU: … with, with, let me finish, settlements between every piece. The last thing that I want to mention, the plan of Barak is the most dovish man in the world …
ERIC ROULEAU: … was that Israeli troops would be stationed all around the, the … so-called Palestinian state and within the Palestinian state for 15 years. In other words, that state would be four boxes in a big box and under Israeli protection.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Eric …
ERIC ROULEAU: I mean, no Palestinian or Arafat could accept it.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The story is …
ERIC ROULEAU: So let’s forget about this myth.
GENEIVE ABDO: How do you define statehood?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The problem is …
ERIC ROULEAU: It’s not a statehood. It’s four parts of states.
BILL MOYERS: What notion of statehood, what notion of homeland for the Palestinians would in fact remove American foreign policy as a, as a thorn with the Islamic world?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: You would have to have a Palestinian state that accepts Israel’s right to exist. When you have that, from the American point of view the problem is solved.
ERIC ROULEAU: Right.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And that is precisely what has not happened. Oslo was premised on the signature of the Palestinians. We were, in the first line of Oslo, we recognized the right of Israel to exist, and we have a Palestinian leader today who says, “Jihad, jihad, jihad.”
SEYLA BENHABIB: Well, Charles, you have to address the issue of the settlements …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Wait a minute. All the maps… the, the Israelis offered to uproot 80 percent and to have small blocks of settlements. The Israelis destroyed settlements in Sinai. It is a non-issue. Israel offered to ..
SEYLA BENHABIB: On the West Bank… I’m sorry.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: … abandon them and, and to give them up and to have a Palestinian state and the Palestinians said no without a counter offer, unless they show a willingness to accept Israel you’re not going to have a solution.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Look, there’s, I think something, something much more at stake, also in this question of the settlements. As far as I can see now it’s also two, two visions of Zionism that are clashing with each other. The vision of the Greater Israel and the other was the, the Zionist vision of a viable Jewish state whose borders, you know, do not coincide with this historic, larger Israel. Eric is right. And there is no government at the moment, the Barak government was not strong enough to be able to start the civil war that it would take Israel to dismantle …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Oh, that’s absurd.
SEYLA BENHABIB: … the settlements. No, it’s not absurd. There were …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I’ll tell you why.
SEYLA BENHABIB: … already clashes.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I’ll tell you why.
SEYLA BENHABIB: There were already clashes.
ERIC ROULEAU: They killed Rabin. They killed Rabin.
SEYLA BENHABIB: This is a conflict where the worst elements have hijacked the fate of two peoples. Okay? The Israeli government is being …
BILL MOYERS: The extremes are driving the politics.
SEYLA BENHABIB: The Israeli government is being led by them …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The extremes is an invention. The greater Israel that you speak about is a vision that no longer exists in any significant portion of Israeli society.
ERIC ROULEAU: The whole government is in favor or …
SEYLA BENHABIB: The settlements are there, whether theological or not theological.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: They have accepted the Israel state in principal and in reality, the only question is drawing a line with a partner that will accept a Jewish state. The idea of a greater Israel … died 20 years ago.
BILL MOYERS: Fareed.
SEYLA BENHABIB: I don’t think so Charles …
FAREED ZAKARIA: To answer your question, Bill, which is I think the relevant one, is how much does this … impact American foreign policy, and I think that you can get away from the fact that the Palestinian issue is the burning issue in the Middle East, and in to a certain extent in the, in the broader Islamic world. What would solve this is a Palestinian state that accepted Israel’s right to exist. And an Israeli state that, that gave the Palestinians a real state.
Whether or not we’re close to that, I think we can all agree that if you were able to get there, it would be a major victory for American foreign policy, and therefore I believe at least that the United States should, should keep pushing. I think that there is a lot of talk that we shouldn’t be involved. I think nobody is ever going to fault an American president for trying to make peace in the Middle East, because everyone knows it’s very difficult.
The great mistake that Arafat makes in my view is that he does not say, “I accept Israel’s right to exist. I accept… I renounce claims on Jaffa, on Haifa, on Tel Aviv, I want to live in peace with Israel …
ERIC ROULEAU: I’m very…
FAREED ZAKARIA: … within these borders. He doesn’t make a final demand.
ERIC ROULEAU: Excuse me. I’m very surprised with what I hear, because really … forgive me if I interrupt. Arafat and the PLO have recognized the right to exist … an Israeli state back in 1988 by recognizing officially the way congress, the 242 resolution. Arafat has recognized the right of Israel to exist at Oslo. He signed a document with Rabin …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: No, he signed a 1000 documents …
ERIC ROULEAU: Let me finish, let me finish.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: He signed a 1000 and he tore them all up.
ERIC ROULEAU: Rabin, Rabin signed a document, recognized the PLO as their … as the representative of the Palestinian people, and he signed a paper saying exactly what you say. Arab states, collectively, they …
GENEIVE ABDO: Beirut.
ERIC ROULEAU: Only three weeks ago in Beirut have offered full peace of recognition to the state of Israel in the …
GENEIVE ABDO: Absolutely.
ERIC ROULEAU: What do you want more?
DAVID AIKMAN: Eric, one of the things that Arafat agreed to do by signing the Oslo Accords was not to use violence as a means of political advancement.
DAVID AIKMAN: That was a specific element that he signed and agreed to. If you read the charter of Hamas, Hamas says there should be absolutely no Jewish state in any part of Palestinian. Now that is a declaration based upon a religious and Islamic interpretation, may not be Orthodox Islamic, but it certainly is within the Islamic context and Islamic interpretation of how you resolve the issue.
FAREED ZAKARIA: It’s a territorial interpretation. It’s a territorial claim. What does it have to do with the religion?
DAVID AIKMAN: Well, because if you have a declaration by Hamas in the charter that there should be no Jewish state at all …
FAREED ZAKARIA: But that’s a, that’s a reli–, that’s a territorial claim about that land.
DAVID AIKMAN: I understand that. I, I’m not saying Muslims are against Jews living in … I’m not saying that.
ERIC ROULEAU: You seem to forget something essential.
DAVID AIKMAN: Now let me finish what I’m saying, Eric. We let you speak, so let me speak.
ERIC ROULEAU: Okay.
DAVID AIKMAN: All right? Okay. Now the bombing initiated that the … the suicide bombing initiated in 1990, 1994 and then onwards was always initially by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. People who absolutely rejected Oslo, absolutely rejected any kind of reconciliation between the Jews living in the state of Israel and the Palestinians.
BILL MOYERS: Are you saying that … if Israel gave up the settlements in the West Bank, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two militant groups, would continue …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Of course.
DAVID AIKMAN: Do you know what Arafat said? Well, this is well quoted.
FAREED ZAKARIA: But they can be crushed.
DAVID AIKMAN: Arafat said to Clinton when on one of the big issues at, Camp David, he said, “You want me to give up,” and he was talking about east Jerusalem or parts of east Jerusalem. “I will be dead. Do you want to come to my funeral?” Arafat has repeatedly stated he’s frightened that he will be killed by radical Islamic opponents at any kind of serious reconciliation with Israel.
BILL MOYERS: Does this make you feel hopeless? AKBAR AHMED Uh, Bill, exactly, the discussion shows the amount of passion and intolerance that comes up when we talk about these issues// we talked to Rabin being killed. Anwar Sadat was killed.
AKBAR AHMED: Gandhi was killed in India.
BILL MOYERS: Sadat was called by, killed by …
AKBAR AHMED: Sadat was killed by Islam Bouli captain, Islam Bouli from the Egyptian army. The point I’m making is that people of vision and peace … when these great passions are unleashed do take risks and do move the argument forward. And I think we are caught up too much in two villages will be yours and two villages will be mine. Because even if you do create a Palestinian state and Israeli security is guaranteed, do you think with the amount of hatred that is being generated over the last years that any leader … Fareed thinks that you can just wipe out one, opinion in a, in a society? Do you think any leader can obliterate thinking of hatred in these societies?
DAVID AIKMAN: Yes, I do.
AKBAR AHMED: I don’t think so.
DAVID AIKMAN: Mandela did it in South Africa.
AKBAR AHMED: Wait a minute David, wait a minute. I don’t think Arafat is Mandela.
FAREED ZAKARIA: The Irish are doing it between the Irish and the British. If you solve the political problem…
SEYLA BENHABIB: Because the European Union are solving it for them.
FAREED ZAKARIA: …at the heart of this, the anger will, will cool down.
ERIC ROULEAU: Let, let me just finish this. I don’t agree at all. India and Pakistan was split in 1947. They fought three wars. They’re right now on the verge of a nuclear exchange. The hatred, if you read the press on both sides, is absolutely intense. …
FAREED ZAKARIA: So what is your solution?
AKBAR AHMED: A change of mind. A change of mind has to take place. Without that, without …
BILL MOYERS: Of who?
AKBAR AHMED: With, by the leaders. The leaders have to show some generosity, some compassion, as Gandhi did.
KANAN MAKIYA: So it’s a question of leadership.
AKBAR AHMED: Yes, it is. It is a question of leadership.
KANAN MAKIYA: Well I think that’s what this discussion is about.
ERIC ROULEAU: I’ve been following this for several decades, practically day after day. I think I know a few things about the conflict as I lived them on the field. I’ll give you only one conclusion.
ERIC ROULEAU: I have lost faith in what you Americans believe more than anything else and this is called the peace process. The peace process which was started actually by Kissinger back in the seventies, I don’t believe in it because (a) it has failed, (b) I think the people of Israel and Palestine are ready for peace, not for process.
And here I would quote Rabin, who I believe was one of the wisest men the world deserved. He once said as suicide bombers were killing people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, he made a statement which was very courageous and very wise. He said “I will continue to negotiate as if there is no terrorism and I will fight terrorism as if there are no negotiations.” This is not what is being done. I think we should go straight now to peace. Forget about the bombers, forget about Israel invading, killing Palestinians. I’m afraid we cannot stop it either way. There’s too much passions, too much hatred. Let us go straight to peace between Israel and Arabs.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I can almost agree with you.
BILL MOYERS: Forgetting the who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s memory is best on this, what can the United States do … do to position itself more effectively with the Muslim world?
KANAN MAKIYA: We engage with the Middle East in a big way. You, you, we said the Muslim world? We, Fareed and I at least have been arguing here the problem here is in the Arab part of the Muslim world, which is 17 to 20 percent of the whole Muslim world. But the Arab part of the Muslim world is where these problems
KANAN MAKIYA: …Started have festered and now reached a kind of boiling point, and the United States needs to reengage, and reengage on two fronts. One, the Arab/Israeli one we’ve been discussing. I’m going to put that aside for a moment. But there’s the question of Iraq. There is an opportunity, perhaps, for the United States to engage in a positive way. I talked of failure, some people disagreed with the use of that term. But this is a world in … as my, as I see it, that has lived through failure. A success story is desperately needed to yank it out … of this kind of mood, this kind of situation.
BILL MOYERS: So what would a success story be?
KANAN MAKIYA: Iraq can be, Iraq properly handled in the right kind of way …
BILL MOYERS: Meaning …
MAN: … tricky and difficult and high risk that it is …
BILL MOYERS: The removal of Hussein?
KANAN MAKIYA: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: By military force?
KANAN MAKIYA: Along with Iraqis in a carefully planned out strategic uh… long term operation.
BILL MOYERS: Why would that help matters?
KANAN MAKIYA: Because the … it would be not just about removing him. It’s about regime change, nation building. It’s about a … building in Iraq a non-militarist, secular, pro-Western state that can pay for its own reconstruction, that will meet American security guarantees for a while to protect it from neighbors that have all kinds of, of perhaps designs or interference. This can happen. There is an opportunity here. You had a population that after the Gulf War rose up after six weeks of bombing, the like of which hadn’t been seen since World War II in any part of the world, and the population rose up and asked the very people who had been bombing them to help them get rid of the dictator.
BILL MOYERS: The United States.
KANAN MAKIYA: Yes. This … the allies of the United States at that time. This had never happened in Arab politics, modern Arab politics and it hasn’t happened.
ERIC ROULEAU: How can you consider it as a success story when all the Arab states, all the European states are engaged in … military intervention in America. How can you call this a, a success …
KANAN MAKIYA: I don’t, I don’t call it a …
ERIC ROULEAU: … a success Western story?
KANAN MAKIYA: They, the Arab states are completely …
ERIC ROULEAU: The Arab states are against intervention, the Europeans are against intervention …
KANAN MAKIYA: Fine.
ERIC ROULEAU: … and you call it a Western success?
KANAN MAKIYA: I don’t call it yet, it hasn’t happened. I mean, I, but I want it to happen.
ERIC ROULEAU: Americans then people will be against that for many reasons.
KANAN MAKIYA: Well, it’s my duty, the duty of all sorts of people, to try to convince them that they’re making a big mistake.
ERIC ROULEAU: That’s another question.
KANAN MAKIYA: Okay.
ERIC ROULEAU: But you don’t say that it’s a success story.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Let me suggest something slightly broader which builds on Kanan’s point, which is … if you look at American foreign policy over the last 20 or 30 years, with all our flaws, we have pushed most regimes in most parts in most parts of the world toward economic and political reform. The great exception to American foreign policy has been the Middle East.
DAVID AIKMAN: That’s right.
FAREED ZAKARIA: It has been the Arab world.
DAVID AIKMAN: Exactly.
FAREED ZAKARIA: It is the one place where we have not dared to push for that kind of change that has really been part and parcel of American foreign policy, and the reason is very simple. It’s oil. And I think if we were to be … not do something precipitously, but if we were to just remember that as long as these, this part of the world remains unreformed, remains stagnating in these political dysfunctions, you are going to have this problem of extremism. And, you know, one, one of the ways of doing it is, I believe, solving the Israeli/Palestinian issue, but another one is pushing these regimes.
GENEIVE ABDO: The other reason that the United States foreign policy has not tried to reform this part of the world is, is why we’re sitting here, and that is because they fear the Islamic alternative.
GENEIVE ABDO: Because they …
BILL MOYERS: You push Saudi Arabia, the monarchy, you get the fundamentalist.
GENEIVE ABDO: Exactly. Because …
BILL MOYERS: You get bin Laden.
GENEIVE ABDO: … dictatorship is preferred to an unknown, that would definitely have an Islamic component.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Because that’s precisely why …
GENEIVE ABDO: And that’s … please let me finish.
GENEIVE ABDO: Please let me finish. Please let me finish.
GENEIVE ABDO: It’s, it’s a vicious cycle. So the United States supports repressive governments to avoid the Islamic alternative. Meanwhile, the militant component of the Islamic movement is gaining more and more in power. Their justification for militancy is because of repressive governments. And so we’re now in this vicious cycle. The question is how to, how to … to, to end the cycle.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Can I just voice some caution here? I have some kind of nightmare scenario, and, I want to share it, because talk about foreign policy I think tends to simplify, politics and it gives us a sense of illusory power that we don’t have, particularly in parts of the world where even, it turns out we don’t have people in the foreign and military service in this country who knew enough Arabic to be able to translate the texts of Osama bin Laden.
I agree with, Kanan that Saddam Hussein is a criminal, you know, crimes against humanity. I think there are as many grounds to bring him, before a world court as there were with Slobodan Milosevic. However, I think at this point in time, it might be close to something like the outbreak of another world war.
It might be very close to disaster to try to destabilize Iraq. I’m worried about the, precedent that it would set, for foreign policy, international politics in the world. If there is an injunction, it has to come from the UN Security Council on the basis of all the resolutions that had been passed against Iraq. I think the United States is now in this absolutely dangerous situation of becoming a global Robocop.
ERIC ROULEAU: A global …?
SEYLA BENHABIB: Robocop. In the sense that it is now a colossus.
BILL MOYERS: A global Robocop.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Eric has not seen the movie.
SEYLA BENHABIB: You have not seen the movie …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: You have to annotate all your cultural references.
SEYLA BENHABIB: I mean, what I mean by this is that … it is, you know, a … it’s power without a, a vision or power that’s being, guided by very fractured visions and a sense of self confidence, that is based really upon technological superiority and not necessarily diplomatic know how. But right now, I would say that, one, one really must proceed with a lot of, caution and intelligence and awareness of the complexity of the problems in that part of the world and not simply rely upon the new generation of weapons.
I mean, Americans are getting used to fighting wars without blood, to fighting wars without casualties. But that’s illusory.
BILL MOYERS: On the American side, on the American side.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Yes, that’s illusory. Just because there’s a new generation …
AKBAR AHMED: I think …
SEYLA BENHABIB: … of weapons.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: We’re talking as if the war in Afghanistan never happened.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The same arguments were made in September and early October. The Arab street will rise against us. America is acting, with the power without thinking of the consequences. We don’t understand the cultures. All of these arguments that we heard, and then six weeks later there are Afghans dancing in the streets because they were liberated by the Americans.
SEYLA BENHABIB: I was for intervention in Afghanistan …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And that’s why …
SEYLA BENHABIB: … but not in Iraq. I was.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well, there were also the same … voices who spoke 11 years ago and said that we were going to be in a quagmire in Iraq as well, and the Arab street would rise against us, et cetera, et cetera. Kanan I think has it exactly correctly.
If you’re looking for a way in which we can reinvent American foreign policy in the Middle East, Iraq is precisely the place, because we are being accused of always having supported dictators because of our fear of Islamism or other … forms of populism in the Arab world. Here is an example where we can show that we are not for dictatorships, stagnation, oppression, autocracy.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Charles, how do you propose to do this?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: … in, in other parts of the world.
SEYLA BENHABIB: To drop a couple of bombs on Bagdad? I mean, how do you, how do you propose to take out a …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: What we’re talking about …
SEYLA BENHABIB: … a country with an army and infrastructure, possibly chemical and biological weapons …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: That was exactly what we said 11 years ago.
SEYLA BENHABIB: I don’t, I don’t understand this, you know, this trick of happiness in an extremely complex world. This is …
GENEIVE ABDO: It’s called imperialism.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Well it’s not…
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well, 11 years ago we heard the same arguments about the fourth largest army in the world, the battle hardened Iraqis,… Americans unwilling to take casualties, et cetera, et cetera, and we had a victory in 40 days.
BILL MOYERS: But are you suggesting a land invasion by the United States?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I’m suggesting a campaign modeled perhaps on Afghanistan, which would obviously involve American troops from the south, possibly from the north, but would rely heavily on Iraqis who … the overwhelming majority of whom hate this dictatorship, rose ten years ago and were essentially betrayed by the United States. And we shouldn’t do it again.
AKBAR AHMED: Charles, this is what unanimously the Arab world does not want this to happen and they would oppose this. How, how would this happen?
KANAN MAKIYA: But the Iraqis do.
ERIC ROULEAU: And a lot of the Arabs may want it. A lot of the Arabs may want to, but …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: But who lives in Iraq?
ERIC ROULEAU: … basically everyone is unanimous.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: The Arabs who aren’t living in Iraq.
FAREED ZAKARIA: If you present the Arab states with a feint accompli I think they will do it.
FAREED ZAKARIA: I think that if you want to make Iraq the kind of model … for a new American foreign policy or a, or a … a foreign policy that, that demonstrates its concerns, it is important to do the things Kanan said, I think, which is try to build a coalition, You also have to face the fact, Charles, that if you want to have control of … on the ground and make sure, say, that the Kurds do not try to secede in the process of the war, you will have to have significant American troops. And …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: There’s no question about that.
FAREED ZAKARIA: … I think that, you know, the Afghan model is not going to work as well. I think you will have to have, have the ability to take control …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I said with American troops on the ground in significant numbers. I don’t think anybody in the Pentagon dis–, disagrees with that.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: They’re planning it as we speak.
SEYLA BENHABIB: I don’t want to think about sending people to war. You know, there’s always a moral issue here for me and it should not be sort of … you know, it is not easy to send people to die. They’re just, it really … you know, disturbs, disturbs me. Sorry.
DAVID AIKMAN: Let me just step back a little bit I think if the United States
DAVID AIKMAN: NAME were consistent about the belief, which most Americans share and many other people in the world do, that if you allow people to choose democracy as opposed to other forms of government, they will choose it. And if you encourage them and if you say, “If you start a democratic process, we will do our best to help you make it work,” that viewpoint, if it were properly expressed and if it were formulated in American government policies, I think could significantly undercut the suspicion and resentment in the Arab world of the United States.
BILL MOYERS: But what do you do about Genieve’s point, which is let’s just take the ruling family of Saudi Arabia.
If you started pressing the royal family of Saudi Arabia for democracy, one of two things can happen. One, we have a 1973 oil embargo and … the American economy gets wrecked again, and second, as Genieve said, you have the alternative rising up, the Islamic fundamentalists can take over there. I mean, those are not, either one, attractive options.
FAREED ZAKARIA: That’s why, that’s why nobody’s talking about … democracy overnight in Saudi Arabia or Egypt. The point is … this is a process. Right now, Islamic fundamentalism is the only organized political opposition. It is the language of political opposition to these wretched regimes. So people choose it. But if you created a more diverse plural society and allowed politics to, to have its reign, there will be other voices, and then people … some would choose the Islamic fundamentalists still, but others would choose, you know, other ones and some might even choose the monarch.
SEYLA BENHABIB: But Fareed do you see doing that through military intervention or …
FAREED ZAKARIA: No, no …
SEYLA BENHABIB: .. a kind of …
FAREED ZAKARIA: No, I’m saying …
SEYLA BENHABIB: … human rights policy?
FAREED ZAKARIA: In Saudi Arabia, I’m talking about you push them, whether it’s Egypt or Saudi Arabia, you can push them toward reform in the way we did South Korea, Taiwan, Chile. These were all allies of the United States and we consistently pushed them in the direction of liberal reform.
GENEIVE ABDO: I think that it’s, I think that it’s a bit naive to think that the Islamic current in all these countries only develops because it’s the only political alternative, or it’s the only way to express some political opposition.
GENEIVE ABDO: There are consequences that we’re paying for now in not considering the Islamic alternative as a viable, political player in all these countries. We don’t need to ask the question, “Why do they hate us?” This is why they hate us, and that’s what we’re experiencing.
BILL MOYERS: So what’s the “therefore?”
GENEIVE ABDO: So the therefore is you have to … allow self determination. The, the therefore is you have to allow … I mean, we’re speaking here as if the United States should sit down at a table and carve up the world and decide that so and so … this country should have democracy and this country is, okay, they’re stable enough so maybe their Islamists can be allowed to run elections and … I mean, that’s the problem in the Islamic world. The problem in the Islamic world is they, they want the United States out of their lives. And we didn’t learn this from September 11th. We’re still not learning it, because we wouldn’t be having this conversation if we had learned this lesson.
FAREED ZAKARIA: We will never be out of their lives in that sense. When the United States doesn’t act, as in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, people say, “Why are you not acting?” And it’s a legitimate point, because for a country as powerful as the United States, not acting is itself a policy. So if you act you’re going to be blamed for something; if you don’t act you’re going to be blamed for something. Better, I say, to act with wisdom.
KANAN MAKIYA: The main Palestinian point has been for the United States to act, and Iraqis just want Palestinians want. They want the United States to act also, in a different direction. Now my argument is not the United States should go … I see all the dangers that, that … that you pointed out, both of you pointed out.
KANAN MAKIYA: But my, there is an Iraqi case to be made, an exceptionalism, an Iraqi exceptionalism, and let’s call it that, based on the exceptional nature of the dictatorship that was put in place there, and based on the history of US engagement with that dictatorship. I mean, the United States chose in 1991 to send half a million American soldiers halfway across the globe to deal with this occupation, Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. Once it did, it engaged with Iraq. It acquired a responsibility, and once the outcome of that war took place and the shadowed infrastructure and the sanctions, it acquired a responsibility that perhaps I would understand it did not have before. But it did.
I speak and I have argued for this as any, as a person of Iraqi origin with a kind of patriotic … because I wish the best for the people of that country and I hold my position, I derive my position from what I think is in the best interest of Iraqis, not what’s in the best interest of the United States.
But, there is a case to be made for doing this, for other interest, the strategic interest in the world. Let’s just imagine … the next few weeks in the coming … situation in the West Bank, it’s not at all out of the probability that Saddam succeeds in equipping some suicide bomber with anthrax or VX poison gas in one of these explosion suits and this person blows them up in Israel, killing, say, some three to 4000 Israelis with VX, anthrax, whatever. Almost certainly with Israel in the mood that it’s in today, with Sharon in the leadership that he’s in, they would drop a nuclear device on Bagdad. I mean, it’s not out of the probability at all if an event like that happened. I’m talking about … I’m, you know, you could … certainly it’s a factor. It’s real.
BILL MOYERS: So you’re arguing preventive action against Saddam?
KANAN MAKIYA: Well … it’s, it’s very real. There are, Iraqi defectors have come out, they’ve been coming out in a stream, the most recent effect are coming from within the Prabarate, the section of the Prabarate that dealt with these chemical and biological weapons. His job was to house these things. Has come out with devastating information. Why do you think Powell changed his position? The State Department was dead against the regime changing Iraq.
He changed his position because of new information that came out in December. Since 1998 he has perfected his ways of hiding these weapons, he has developed more types of them. There’s still good reason to think he might be behind the anthrax part. That he might have supplied the anthrax that we still haven’t solved. This … is a scary regime.
BILL MOYERS: This is a scary world. You mentioned in the course of what you were saying, Saudi Arabia should have dealt with bin Laden. Saudi Arabia did not deal with bin Laden. To the contrary, Saudi Arabia’s culture nurtured him. Saudi Arabia’s money finances the kind of schools around the world that preaches the very message that bin Laden put into practice on 9/11. Saudi Arabia has proven itself to be … in my estimation, and enemy of America, an enemy of the west. And yet it is coddled, it is cradled, it is condoned, it gets away with … if I may say so, murder, right.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Saudi Arabia is a … it’s a very difficult case. The Saudi rule … ruling family and ruling elite have made this Faustian bargain. They have found a way to buy cheap legitimacy…
BILL MOYERS: And they are Muslims.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Right, they … they are Muslims.
FAREED ZAKARIA: They have found a way of buying cheap legitimacy by supporting and funding very extreme versions of Islam. It’s a way of saying don’t mind me while I go to Monte Carlo on Friday night, notice that I am funding the most pious priests in the land. But Saudi Arabia is moderate in the sense that it is very good on matters of oil. And everyone here who wants to claim that that’s totally irrelevant, I … you know, I will just ask you what car you drive.
The Saudi’s have been consistently very supportive of American aims, they have been… even after 9/11 they were the ones that flooded the market with gas to make sure the prices didn’t go up. So there is a diplomatic task here. And I think there is some sign that there is a wake up call in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi peace initiative was part of that … of that realization.
SEYLA BENHABIB: I want to go back to something that concerns all of us also in this theme about cultures and globalization. I have to say that, since September 11th what has happened is the language of terrorism itself is not permitting us to make the necessary political distinctions and choices
SEYLA BENHABIB: And alliances and to say yes, we can make alliances with these groups, we can support these attempts but not others. And I must say also the language of the Axis of Evil has not helped. This is not the language of politics, this is political theology and we should not … I think …… be tempted by these simplifications. It’s an enormous burden in a democracy to have to make these distinctions, but we have to.
BILL MOYERS: Politics doesn’t work up against that sort of thing.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Yes, but these are acts that …
DAVID AIKMAN: And they have seen evil. I mean the whole point …
DAVID AIKMAN: I think you have to use issues of moral clarity when any nation is facing a great threat to itself, or any people is facing a great threat. There were times in the history of the 20th century when the whole human community was dealing with leaders and regimes of unspeakable evil. Some of those same types of regimes still exist. I think it is not only correct, I think it’s an obligation for leaders. Now they may not be infallible in doing so, but to point out when certain kinds of regimes and certain kinds of people are doing actions that unquestionably qualify as evil, the word evil has to be deployed. Otherwise we’re dealing with a sort of kind of … a little bit of this, a little bit of that, you cannot do that.
SEYLA BENHABIB: David, let me just come back to this. I do not disagree with you, but … but in politics we have to deal with accountability, consequence responsibility. Our whole legal and political system is based on the possibility of assigning responsibility and … and proving that and establishing guilt. That’s why we established the Nuremberg trials, that’s why when…… Tony Blair got up and as the first western leader tried to prove a chain of evidence… he was doing absolutely the right thing.
DAVID AIKMAN: Right.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Osama bin Laden may be evil, I agree with you as a moral category. But in the political legal realm we have to deal with these cannons, with these categories that we have. That’s why I would be cautious as a political person, to use this term. Because it muddies the water.
BILL MOYERS: I think you’ve taken this in a very interesting direction, and I … politics is my first love, I started in politics in 1960. And I remember walking as a very young man with not a much older John F. Kennedy and asking him what is politics all about, and he said, “Oh, it’s all about negotiation and compromise.” It’s about power, you get power but then you have to compromise. However you know, the suicide bombers, as you’ve just indicated, they’re not about politics. How do you … how do you compromise with people who want to kill you? How do you compromise with people who don’t … don’t practice politics? And I think that’s what’s got America frustrated right now because we are about politics.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: You, you spoke, Seyla, of the use of the word evil as political theology. If the attack on September 11th was not an example of human evil, then the word has no meaning.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And we ought to use the word, use it in the case of Iraq, use it in the case of North Korea. And when you talk about the politics as being the way to approach this issue as opposed to categories of good and evil, I think that is true in domestic society. There’s a confusion here between domestic society on the one hand and the international system on the other. In domestic society you’ve got the rule of law, you’ve got enforcement, you’ve have courts, you’ve got democracy, and you can live in a system of politics and compromise and horse trading. In the international system, we live in a state of nature. There is no enforcer, there is no rule of law…
SEYLA BENHABIB: I beg your pardon, I mean that is a naïve, realist view of human…
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Excuse me, excuse me…
SEYLA BENHABIB: I’m sorry.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I’m in the middle of what I’m trying to say. We live in a system in which countries can live and die, Czechoslovakia in 1938-’39, it disappeared. There are countries that can be wiped off the map, have been, will be, are in danger and no one will save them. When you’re in international society you’ve got to be able to use categories like good and evil in places where you may not have a compromise.
If you have existential conflict, as between us and Osama, there is no compromise, there is no politics, there is no negotiation. He kills us or we kill him. And he … and you use words like good and evil without shame and without embarrassment.
BILL MOYERS: But here’s where I get troubled at where you’re taking us … I’m with you when there was a declaration of war, there was an attack, that was an evil act. It seems to me though the conversation we’re having needs … needs to move beyond that to a distinction, differentiations, to politics, because how do you strike back at evil if you miss and hit someone who’s not evil? Aren’t you also contributing to evil?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Bill, this is not a new issue either in America or …
BILL MOYERS: I know it’s not a new issue, but we’re wrestling with it.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: It’s the just war theory and we struggled with this in the Second World War, also a just war against evil. We killed hundreds of thousands of times more innocents in … in the Second World War because we didn’t have precision weapons and because we had a philosophy of the bombing of cities. If anything, we have shown incredible moral progress in tandem with our technological progress in conducting wars against evil. Our sensitivity to hitting civilians is extraordinary.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Charles, I don’t know … you’re a very learned man, you certainly are familiar with the theories of Karl Schmidt, the Nazi
SEYLA BENHABIB: Political philosopher for whom the concept of friend and foe is the existential divider. I’m not putting this on the table in any, in any incriminatory way, I’m saying these are known distinctions in political thought into which we are stumbling without quite thinking about what we are … the issues that we are …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: You don’t think the al Qaeda is an existential enemy of the United States?
SEYLA BENHABIB: No, I don’t. I think al Qaeda is a terrorist network that has to be dealt with, with all the military, legal, cultural propaganda means available. I do not believe that democracies can fight theological wars …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: You don’t believe …
SEYLA BENHABIB: And the best example … the best example that we have …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: That is not an existential enemy of the United States …
SEYLA BENHABIB: … is precisely the Second World War … forgive me …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: In what sense is it not an existential enemy of the United States?
SEYLA BENHABIB: In what sense is it not?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Is it not?
SEYLA BENHABIB: They themselves describe themselves in … we have to understand … we have to understand the claims that are being made, as we have been attempting for the last two and a half days here.
We have to understand the grievances that we can comprehend and negotiate about. Grievances about the stationing of troops in … American troops in Saudi Arabia, grievances about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is what we have to respond to…
BILL MOYERS: You see them as a political enemy.
SEYLA BENHABIB: The language of evil …
BILL MOYERS: You see al Qaeda as a political enemy.
SEYLA BENHABIB: Yes, I see them … I see them as a political enemy and I think we have to …
BILL MOYERS: Still to be destroyed, but a political enemy.
SEYLA BENHABIB: We have to retrieve politics away from theology.
DAVID AIKMAN: But they don’t want to do that, they want to put politics …
SEYLA BENHABIB: We have to be smart enough and strong enough to do that. And otherwise we should not be in politics.
DAVID AIKMAN: You mean we have to …
SEYLA BENHABIB: We can go and you know, pray, but if you are in politics, have the courage … and to be imaginative.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: But the model is incorrect, the model that you’re employing is a judicial model. Under your model, the day after Pearl Harbor, FDR should have appeared in the congress and said we are going to have a trial of the leaders of the Japanese Navy who attacked us in Pearl Harbor. The legal model applies after the war is over and you’ve killed the enemy …
SEYLA BENHABIB: Pearl Harbor was a war crime.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And defeated them and disarmed them. And then afterwards if you want to have a trial I’m all in favor of it.
BILL MOYERS: But you do not see a distinction in being attacked by a government … … by a government, the government of Japan …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: No, I don’t think it makes any distinction …
BILL MOYERS: And the government of Germany.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER I think if you’re attacked by …
BILL MOYERS: No distinction …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: By any organized …
SEYLA BENHABIB: Well, that’s because you do not have a concept of international law, Charles …
SEYLA BENHABIB: That’s because you think it’s the Hobbesian state of nature …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Excuse me, if you’re attacked by …
SEYLA BENHABIB: For you there’s no international order.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: … an organization … I don’t care if it has a seat in the UN or not, why should that matter?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: If they’re the guys that want to kill you …
BILL MOYERS: If you’re going to retaliate against the head …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Which is what we did …
BILL MOYERS: Of the body.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And our logic is that we …
BILL MOYERS: But we don’t know who the head of the body is.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: We go after substance …
BILL MOYERS: We don’t know when we’ve won this war.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well … we went …
BILL MOYERS: We don’t know who the enemy is.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: We went after Osama and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
BILL MOYERS: Everyone here I think agrees …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: It no longer operates effectively or in the force of Afghanistan.
BILL MOYERS: What now?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well look, you asked who do you attack, the answer is you attack … even if it’s a sub-state entity and you attack it … and it’s being harbored and protected and armed by a state, then you attack that government. That is our new doctrine …
BILL MOYERS: Who … which state though?
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Afghanistan as we did in al Qaeda.
BILL MOYERS: We did … but what now? We’ve won that war.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: We’ve won that war, right now what we’re doing is we’re looking at other states where they are not harbored, where they are outlaws, enemies on the run, and … excuse me …
SEYLA BENHABIB: But the discussion …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Excuse me, I’m in the middle of an … of answering the question. We are going after them in places where they are not harbored … Philippines, Yemen, others, and cooperating with the government. We’re not indiscriminately attacking Yemen and saying help us in going after this sub-state organization. I don’t understand the difficulty that anybody would have with that logic.
AKBAR AHMED: Which is a good point to bring the European perception.
BILL MOYERS: Yes, I was going to ask, you know, at first Eric, at first Europe jumped into the fray with us. I forget who it was, one of your newspapers in France headlined “We are all Americans … ”
ERIC ROULEAU: My newspaper. Le Monde.
BILL MOYERS: Le Monde … it was Le Monde, your newspaper. Is that still true?
DAVID AIKMAN: Are you still an American?
ERIC ROULEAU: In a way it’s true. Again, we have to make distinctions. I think the Europeans and the French felt in full solidarity with the Americans, I think we said it.
ERIC ROULEAU: The French were shocked, traumatized by the thing … but …… allow me to say that the French and Europeans are maybe just more sophisticated than what you’ve heard today.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I would have expected that.
ERIC ROULEAU: In what sense are we more sophisticated? Excuse me, but this is my point of view. We were in favor of a military action and we voted for it in the United Nations I insist, we would not have accepted it if the Americans did it all alone. But the Europeans in general, I don’t think I’m overstating it, are skeptical about using just military means and security measures to quell terrorists. It’s too simplistic. We are … I think they are … both are necessary, military and security measures are necessary. But if they’re not accompanied by a clear cut political strategy to look into the … lets use the wording, sources of evil.
I’m not against using … at this point the word evil. Because even if Americans had captured bin Laden, have captured all the al Qaeda members, which they haven’t … the Qaeda members are up in the mountains in the … even if they had done so, do you really think that we have quelled the terrorist type … of bin Laden’s type, we have quelled it, we have finished? No, because there are reasons, sources, there are causes which we have to deal with. The American government apparently thinks that it can solve everything by military means and by security, which we … we contribute to. But we are trying to find how can we treat the question by political means so that the bin Ladens cannot reappear again as a phenomenon. Not as a man because the man is not important. He can be killed or can disappear.
We would like to see political measures, we would like to have a political strategy with the Americans to see how we can uproot the phenomenon, not just fight the offshoots of terrorists. This is mainly the … the Europeans are not following the American anymore, neither on the Iraqi issue, on other things, we don’t think that everything can be solved by force, of course.
BILL MOYERS: Is there still an alliance, is this still an alliance?
ERIC ROULEAU: Do you know, do you know Bill, that NATO supported the Americans in the Afghani war and the Americans refused any kind of help from.. I know the French government offered over and over again its help, the Americans waved it away, they said we don’t need you. NATO has become … I don’t know what it has become, it has become a kind of political body …
DAVID AIKMAN: French aircraft were used in Afghanistan.
ERIC ROULEAU: Pardon?
DAVID AIKMAN: French aircraft were used in Afghanistan.
ERIC ROULEAU: After a lot of insistence, very little. But the Americans … they are right in a way, because Americans don’t need us. Let’s put it this way …
MAN: That is don’t you think?
ERIC ROULEAU: They don’t need the Europeans, and during the course of the war we discovered that the Americans had such technological advance that we were … you know, we were quite shameful but …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: That’s the answer isn’t it?
ERIC ROULEAU: So I’m not discussing about NATO … NATO has practically no role now. I’m thinking as Seyla has been saying, I think it’s something she said is fundamental, we should not go out from the international system which has allowed us for 50 years to maintain peace in a large way in the world.
The Americans cannot and should not have a unilateral policies by saying, as we heard, if you agree with us, okay, if you don’t agree with us we don’t care about you. This is a very dangerous thing, because it becomes a precedent. Any other country in the world will do the same thing, why should the Americans do it? A small country can attack another country without United Nations support.
I think we should remain very faithful to the system we have. It is not a perfect system, far from that, but it is a system which has imposed law and order in a terrible world we are living in. The Americans are no more respecting the United Nations, and this is what is frightening the Europeans, is that the Americans will go their own way and they may make mistakes, they are human beings.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Let me speak in defense of American primitivism. It was American primitivism that liberated …
ERIC ROULEAU: The term our foreign minister used was simplistic politics…
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Right well, American simplicity liberated Europe three times in the last century. We stumbled our way around lacking Gallic sophistication, liberating your country twice from the Germans and all of Europe once from Communism. … I’m not …
ERIC ROULEAU: Nobody denies this.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I’m not implicating you personally …
ERIC ROULEAU: We’re full of gratitude, thank you again for liberating us.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: And there is a distinction …
ERIC ROULEAU: But we are not talking about this.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well, there was a …
FAREED ZAKARIA: You’d be speaking German right now.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: There was a difference …
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: There’s a difference …
ERIC ROULEAU: But I’m sincere, the French are very grateful to the Americans.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Well, it’s not a matter of …
ERIC ROULEAU: Your role has been very important.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: … gratitude, it’s explaining why we …
ERIC ROULEAU: It wasn’t exclusive, we had other people fighting and dying, but still the American role was important.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: It’s not a matter of gratitude, it’s a matter of explaining how it was that the European sophistication got itself into where it was and had to be liberated by American simplicity. When we talk about September 11th and the Second World War we have a distinction in terms of size. But we don’t have a distinction in terms of evil. We had …
FAREED ZAKARIA: The point that I thought .. .
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: We had a response to evil and I think the American response was as you say, unsophisticated, the military was correct then, it’s correct now.
BILL MOYERS: Fareed.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Bill, I thought the point you were making about whether Americans would have the sophistication to make distinctions was a somewhat different one, at least the way I read … heard you. It wasn’t about … you know, sophistication in the sense of obliterating distinctions between good and evil, but the distinctions among countries and political situations.
We have said that this is a war on terrorism, that you’re either for us or against us. But the question becomes what does that mean in other circumstances around the world where other countries are engaging in their own political conflicts which sometimes involve terrorism. So for instance, we have always prior to 9/11 felt that the Russian government is using vastly excessive force in putting down the Chechens. Now the Chechens practice terrorism all the time against the Russians.
Since 9/11 we have been deprived of a kind of compass as to what we’re supposed to do here because our … our own war on terrorism tells us well, they’re acting against terrorism so they should do whatever they want. But on the other hand, we’ve always thought that that was not the real solution because there’s a real political conflict between Russia and Chechnya that has to be solved. The same with the Turks and the Kurds, and to a certain extent, the same with Israel and the Palestinians.
So that means that self-defense does not become a complete blank check. And I think that’s an area where we have to get … we have to find a way to keep our policy toward al Qaeda and terrorism consistent with our recognition that in various parts of the world the political realities are somewhat different.
AKBAR AHMED: Bill, it’s always dangerous to simplify. We’re living in a very unpredictable, dangerous world after September, and it will continue to become more unpredictable and more dangerous. I do see three items on the agenda, which have to be settled in the Muslim world The first is education. We haven’t discussed this, but without reforming the education system in the Muslim world nothing very much will change.
AKBAR AHMED: We need to be teaching these youngsters what kind of Islam they’re learning, what kind of interpretation of the Koran they’re learning. We need to help them rediscover the compassion, the tolerance within Islam itself. Secondly, democracy. That cannot … we cannot escape the issue of democracy. Sooner or later, that will have to be answered, and it will be answered primarily in Washington and in London and the capitals of the West, which very often support one kind of dictatorship as against another kind of dictator.
Thirdly, the mass media. I believe the mass media have a role to play. They have played a role so far, which has been largely negative, which has fueled the distrust and the hatred, one against the other.
Anything that can be done to promote the idea of dialogue I believe crossing all and transcending boundaries of ethnicity of race and religion I believe is something that should be done in order for us to fulfill the idea of living as a human civilization.
BILL MOYERS: This conversation has come to you from the Aspen Institute.