This panel examined the decisions we make as an international community when deciding whether or not to intervene in conflicts. The panel began the conversation by answering the questions: Do we only select the easier situations, and can states really create moral foreign policy, grounded in pragmatism and principle?
“I don’t think we’re ever going to be in a position where we can say this is the template, this is the checklist, that must be met [for intervention].”
“We set very specific directions helping civilians, enforcing a no-fly zone. This was an issue of restoring an environment where diplomacy and dialogue could take place to create an environment where Libyans could decide their own future.”
“The responsibility is to help and advise what would work…It was the [Libyan] people that did most of the work.”
This discussion focused on the new and historic wave of democratization in the Middle East and North Africa this year, and what the Arab Spring could mean for the world. Also explored was how sympathetic democracies can accelerate progress in these countries.
As we heard, it is harder to escape one’s history than it might at first appear. Building a democratic government, culture and society is slow and laborious, with no guarantee of success.
“There are huge challenges moving forward despite positive dynamics. Countries like Egypt and Tunisia have little chance of collapsing while transitioning, but it’s different in Syria.”
“In the end, we have to complement each other—Yemen needs the [help of] supportive states.”
“There is a moral responsibility from the international community to have faith [in their aspirations for freedom]. The Arab Spring will bridge the gaps in misunderstanding.”
Sound familiar? Participants brought a new perspective to this urgent issue, discussing the financial meltdown in Europe, the debt crisis, and how these events are affecting global markets and our security. The timing of this discussion is especially relevant, occurring just days before the U.S. Congress’ “Super Committee” deadline for voting on $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions. A failure to meet the deadline could trigger massive spending cuts across the board.
“You can see why there might be a notion of dangerous anger with the [Occupy] movement…there is a real danger beneath that, psychologically, where people’s mood toward the system has turned patriotic as opposed to just merely angry, and they may be prepared to embrace new solutions.”
“After the election in 2012, there will be a lot more leeway for consultation that involves more cuts on some new revenue…No matter what the subject is, there is a strong body that says ‘we’re not going to spend any more money.’”
“One thing we’ve seen is that the markets are thriving, or rather reacting to, the uncertainty in the Eurozone…there is no confidence in our ability to get out of [the economic recession].”
“Cuts to defense budgets are already underway…there is now a lot of emphasis starting with the President that we have to build up our capabilities for development aid, resolutions, and getting allies to cooperate more on what needs to be done in the name of security.”
Robin Shepherd, Director of the Henry Jackson Society, hosted a 30-minute discussion with Israel’s Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday afternoon. The Minister shared his thoughts on a number of topics, including the Arab Spring, Iran, Syria, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With the US election season well underway, this conversation focused on political dynamics in the country and potential implications for US foreign policy and security strategy. Senators John McCain and Mark Udall spoke to a variety of issues, as shown by the selection of quotes below.
“The fact that we did not give the demonstrators in Iran our moral support when a young woman named Neda bled to death in the streets of Iran will go down as one of the great mistakes of the 21st Century.”
“Our determination here is to maintain a strong NATO, and even expand NATO, but recognize that counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency are now the highest priorities as we address the challenges of the 21st Century.”
“There are a lot of levels and elements to [China]. We have to stand our ground with China. We cannot let ourselves be pushed around whether it is helpful or not to other parts of the world.”
“Arab Spring is misnamed because it is not just Arab. The Arab Spring will spread throughout the world…a version of it has spread to the United States in the form of the Tea Partiers and Occupiers. I believe the Arab Spring will affect people in the Kremlin and Beijing, and in every country in the world where people don’t have freedom.”
“I believe in climate change. But the American people are not going to pay more taxes because of [it]…We can emphasize sustainability and not raise taxes and costs at the same time.”
“Historians and our grandchildren will excoriate us if we don’t get on top of climate change soon.”
With countries around the world slashing defense budgets—panelists were asked for their perspectives on the meaning of “smart security.” Can democratic nations follow in the footsteps of NATO’s successfully coordinated campaign in Libya, avoid duplication in defense spending, and work together to meet common challenges?
Panelists spoke to military budget items most likely up for cutting, and whether or not a more concerted approach could help countries meet increasingly complex security challenges on a tighter budget.
“The [economic crisis] means that we have to address the challenges and the risks, and we need to take into account the level of resources. Doing better with less means doing it more together.”
“The message has to go out to all the NATO allies: We cannot all have the same insurance without us all paying the same premiums.”
“Development and aid need to be put together, and sent together, to make life better for other people. Even in a small country like ours we send development to one country while sending military to another.”