LOCATION: Elements Dining Room at the Westin Nova Scotian
Panelists disagreed on the role of the West, particularly the United States, in the path forward to establishing democratic systems in the Middle East. There was agreement that establishing democracy takes time and that some degree of patience is required – examples of the unstable paths that America and Europe took towards democracy were cited. Panelists were pressed on American leadership in the Middle East in the context of waning public opinion for U.S. participation in global politics and war weariness, domestic budget constraints and other stated foreign policy priorities, such as “the pivot to Asia.” Given the history of how power is exercised in the Middle East, including the assertion that whoever has power has all the power, unfettered and presenting no alternatives, questions were posed about the effectiveness of conventional democratic electoral systems. The panel analyzed recent events in Egypt, Libya and the Arab Spring and how they relate to the current situation in Syria. Additionally, panelists questioned the focus of the international community on governments and their actions as opposed to the effects of these actions on “the ground” in local populations.
“Political stability in Egypt will never occur only with a roadmap or document.”
“You can’t assume that things are going to be the same in Egypt. You can’t predict what is going to happen next.”
“Every minute, there is blood and every hour means a victim.”
“For more than 40 years, we have been prevented from creating a real political life.”
“I don’t think anyone in the world has any confidence in the Assad regime, in the Iranian regime.”
“We can ignore the region, but the region won’t ignore us – which means we can’t ignore the region.”
“I don’t think we have yet grappled with why it was so difficult to get the American public on board with the notion that the US should take military action to punish the use of chemical weapons.”
“There is not a military solution to this [Syria]; the solution ultimately has to come from the table.”
“We’re not ready for democracy in the Middle East […] we prefer the relative unease of dealing with the dictator.”
“The most important example was how the international community dealt with chemical weapons in Syria. What about the victims, what about the criminal intent, what about the Syrian people?”
Considering recent international involvement and intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and others, panelists diverged on whether or not international action is best facilitated under the leadership of one country or under the rubric of an international organization like NATO or the UN to address ongoing and future regional conflicts such as the one in Syria. In addition, they discussed what kind of action is most effective: direct military intervention or training to build local military and police capacities that create local structures to deter conflict. There was discussion on the development of international law, the responsibilities of abiding by the rule of law and the consequences of failure to adhere to agreed-upon standards. With the recent news about Ukraine’s relationships with the European Union and Russia, panelists asserted that the West needs to continue defending its Cold War victory to protect Western values and interests. A conversation on Afghanistan was ignited when a female member of the Afghan Parliament, from the floor, thanked NATO allies for their continued efforts and work in her country. The session concluded with an exchange on the responsibility to help alleviate civilian suffering in Syria and refugee camps in the region.
“The 20th Century was called the American century for a reason, the world needs American leadership.”
“Syria is a cultured, cosmopolitan, literate nation of people who are not inclined to, and would not receive radical Islam. To think that the Syrian people would embrace a bunch of Jihadists is damned foolishness. Syrian people want the same kind of things that we want.”
“I’m very concerned about Mr. Putin and his ambitions and his behavior.”
“Our values are our interests and our interests are our values; If we betray those values, then we don’t have any reason to have people follow us or respect us.”
“We have to make NATO really fit for the future, but to do that you need to feed it.”
“Projecting values means projecting confidence – if we wait, we are sending the message to allies and enemies alike that we are not prepared to make that difficult decision.”
“It is the transition process to democracy that we need to fund, encourage and support.”
“When you agree to international law, and you say you’ve drawn red lines, and they are crossed, and when they are crossed you refuse to do anything your enemies become emboldened and your allies become less sure.”
“The cold war didn’t end, it was won.”
Panelists began the conversation by discussing the gap between economic and security policies. Regional tensions and conflict in the Asia-Pacific region are underpinned largely by outdated political structures operating within 21st century economic policies. The panelists agreed that no engagement about the Asia-Pacific region can proceed without a discussion on China and the cornerstone of the New Pacific Order remains with the US-China relationship. Panelists discussed the increased, unspoken relationship building that is happening between the US and China in part because of China’s “New Model of Great Power Relations.”
The discussion about China focused primarily on the interest-based relationships that have been developing in recent years and the need to shift the priorities to values-based priorities. Using European history and the development of other dynamic regional structures as examples, panelists suggested that Asia-Pacific nations would benefit from additional regional organizations focused on other matters beyond economic growth and development.
“The world in the future needs American Leadership.”
“We’ve got to make it work in Asia. It’s our place. Last time Europeans came barreling in they colonized the whole place.”
“The peace with China is heavily dependent on the future of peace within China”
“I am optimistic with the future of Africa.”
“We have constructed a good relationship with China based on interests, rather than values […] but at some point we have to figure out how we talk with China, not just about interests, but also about values. This will have a great benefit to the world.”
“You see 2014 as the end of the war, we [India] see it as the beginning.”
“The West has looked at India through the lens of the British Empire.”
“The word that is emerging as most important is not conflict – India does not want conflict […] the new word is containment, not conflict. This is a much more nuanced game. Everyone is going to play all sides.”
“One world order won’t work in diverse Asia Pacific, which has 3 communist countries.”
“The US should put its own House in order.”
LOCATION: Atlantic Ballroom
The panelists discussed society’s access to technology and whether expanded access to technology is beneficial or dangerous and disagreed about the need for government transparency for security technology. Panelists agreed that technology has enabled an increased number of non-state actors to have access to weaponry. The panelists discussed the ability of government institutions to develop adequate policies to control new technologies.
The discussion spoke to the practicality of implementing rules on technology, growth and development because of the vast scope and scale. The panelists disagreed on this point as they spoke about the capability of many countries to develop drone technology and the subsequent necessity to control the use and proliferation of this technology and a disagreement on their use by military forces.
Panelists disagreed on the ability of the government to prevent technological advancements. Interaction and questions raised the issue of the use of lethal force in drones. Questions about increased hostility in the Middle East towards countries that use drones and UAV and the responsibility of members of the military to properly utilize this technology. Increased military accuracy in executing missions and whether this increased efficiency is worth the risk of removing the human element of military tools was also questioned. Panelists discussed whether or not the human element has been entirely removed, as drones are manned by individuals in a separate location. The panelists then wrapped up by projecting where technology would take them in five years and what the state of military technology and the use of drones would be.
“The drones will not change the nature of the world, the human will still be key.”
“Most policy makers are not digital natives and have very little connection to technology.”
The US Congressional Delegation led by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) held a press conference to discuss their participation at the Halifax International Security Forum and American leadership in the world.
Panelists agreed that this session was particularly timely given the announcement by Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel’s regarding the first U.S. Defense strategy for the Arctic the previous day. In the context of climate change, melting ice and new-found access to resources, there was clear consensus among the panelists and participants that cooperation is required in managing activities in the Arctic related to search and rescue, the environment and the economy. It was noted that the first binding agreement by the Arctic Council was on search and rescue in the region.
Panelists pointed to the cooperation at the Arctic Council as a primary reason that the relationships amongst Arctic nations tend to be fairly peaceful. They also noted that the interest from non-Arctic states to be granted observer status on the Arctic Council is a demonstration of the importance the world is beginning to place on the region. The dominance of Russia’s assets in the Arctic, such as nuclear submarines, was raised and questions about the possibilities of a dissolution of peaceful and cooperative relationships remained largely unanswered.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and existing principles in maritime law were raised as crucial components to developing the Arctic. NATO’s role in providing situational awareness was discussed, but panelists did not feel that NATO would have a military role in the foreseeable future. Panelists also agreed that the people living in the Arctic including the Inuit must be brought to the table to provide their expertise on the region and its future.
“We know that the weather is changing and the ice is opening up and that’s why we are on top of it.”
“The area is so vast and climate so challenging, when it comes to an oil spill or a cruise ship in trouble, we will need to work together, all of us.”
“NATO has a role for situational awareness – NATO has some role already, but we don’t foresee a military role.”
LOCATION: VIA Rail Station
LOCATION: Lobby Bar