NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington, D.C. Despite our economic troubles, despite the commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States remains the preeminent military power on the planet. In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama emphasized humanity and restraint in foreign policy, but we also remember that candidate Obama declared that America must lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good. Style has already changed. How much will the substance of U.S. policy change now?
Today, as we continue a series where we invite listeners around the world to talk about issues that affect us all, we ask how you want the U.S. to act now, and we ask that you be specific. Are there places where the world needs a policeman - Darfur maybe, or North Korea? Where is partnership a better option - Iran perhaps or Georgia or the Middle East? Give us a call, we'll call you back. Our telephone number is country code 1-202-513-2008. Again, that's 1-202-513-2008. You can also send us questions by email; that address is email@example.com. And you can call or text us via Skype; username - talkoftheworld. And again, we ask that you be specific.
The comment - this comment came in at our Web site from Peter Keller in Berlin in Germany - NATO exists now only in a formal sense. The WEU, that's the Western Continental European Union, is a new political and military reality in Europe. The WEU, under French domination, may be considered as a new European economic and military superpower, independent and autonomous. American diplomacy should deal with this new political constellation, i.e. withdraw from Europe, keeping only the U.S. airbase in Ramstein in Germany. A strong partnership between the U.S.A. and the WEU would provide prosperity and security, sharing the same values of freedom and democracy.
Well, we're going to put that question to Douglas Feith. He served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the administration of George W. Bush. He's now a senior fellow and director of the Center for National Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute. He's joined us here in the studio in Washington. Welcome to the program.
Mr. DOUGLAS FEITH (Senior Fellow and Director, Center for National Security Strategies, Hudson Institute): Thank you. I don't understand what the questioner meant by suggesting that NATO only exists in some formal sense. I mean, NATO is an active alliance, and in fact, is engaged in probably the most significant military operation of its history in Afghanistan. So I mean, I think that the premise of that question is wrong. I think that NATO remains an extremely important institution.
CONAN: Let me interpolate the question then. Should the United States, Western Europe, Europe - the European Union has a - more people and a bigger economic base than the United States of America does. Why are American forces in Europe under NATO auspices? Should they be removed?
Mr. FEITH: Well, one of the things that the Bush administration did was look at that question that you just posed, but look at it globally, which is - where should we be present in the world in various ways with bases or through exercises or though relationships? And we did a global review of our defense posture. And the reason that we are present in places like Europe and in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere is because we have common interests with those countries. We're only present in countries where people want us, and we're there in cooperation with them to serve - to promote security and the capabilities that serve the interests of both ourselves and our hosts.
CONAN: Let's put this same question to Joseph Nye. He served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration. He now teaches at Harvard and with us from a studio in there. And nice to have you back on the program.
Prof. JOSEPH NYE (Distinguished Service Professor, Harvard University): It's great to be back with you.
CONAN: And what are some of the reactions that you have to the question we got from Berlin?
Prof. NYE: Well, I think that we should welcome a greater European capacity to help in defense and create conditions for its own defense. That's not the problem. The question is, is there still a role for NATO? And is there still a role for American troops positioned overseas? And I think the answer to that is yes. I think Doug Feith gave the right answer on that.
What American troops do is they provide reassurance. For example, look at East Asia, where Americans have troops in Korea and Japan - they're welcome there. They're welcome because it means that there's going to be stability in the balance of power in East Asia. And that in fact means that you can have prosperity and economic growth, which depends upon a stable security framework. So, I think it's - the questioner sort of assuming it's either/or, gets it wrong. There's a role for having an American presence. There's also a role for a greater European capacity.
CONAN: Let's bring another voice into the conversation. Jendayi Frazer, a distinguished service professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the administration of George W. Bush. She just left her job a couple of days ago. Nice of you to be with us here today.
Prof. JENDAYI FRAZER (Distinguished Service Professor, Carnegie Mellon University): Thank you very much.
CONAN: Africa, the place that you specialized in - I think, with the exception of some American forces in Djibouti, there are no American forces on the continent of Africa. Would the place be better off if there were?
Prof. FRAZER: Well, I think that clearly, United States has a role to play in using all of its instruments of power in Africa - economic, political and certainly, security and military. That's why we developed, under the Bush administration, the African Command, which will, in fact, have positions. It'll take over the base that's in Djibouti. And we're looking at the possible location of a forward deployed base some place else in Africa - or offices, I should say, not really a major base. But yes, I think that the United States certainly can contribute to stability in Africa through increased engagement of our military.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. And this is Astrid, Astrid on the line with us from Ireland.
ASTRID (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Yes, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
ASTRID: Hi, that's great. My name is Astrid. I'm in Ireland, I'm originally from Germany. And what I see would be a serious priority, the U.S. should probably, in partnership with NATO, go into Zimbabwe.
CONAN: With the partnership of whom?
ASTRED: Probably, a NATO partnership or in partnership with the WEU, should go into Zimbabwe.
CONAN: So, let's put that again to you, Jendayi Frazer. Should a NATO force led by the United States go in to overthrow Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, where I think at the moment, 2,500 people have died in a cholera epidemic that's been called a man-made disaster?
Prof. FRAZER: Well, we still hold out hope that the situation in Zimbabwe can be resolved through diplomacy and not through the use of military force. But if that were to happen, it would more likely be a regional force or one that involves the United Nations but not NATO. The one area where we looked at a NATO option to go into Africa was actually in Darfur. And it wasn't one that was very welcomed, surprisingly, by the African Union. And so I don't expect that the African Union would ask for a NATO presence to go into Zimbabwe. They would actually probably oppose that.
CONAN: So, even to prevent a humanitarian disaster, the United States and its allies in NATO should not intervene in Zimbabwe, if not welcomed by others?
Prof. FRAZER: I think that we really need to work in coordination and cooperation and partnership with the region. And that's how we - President Bush conducted his diplomacy in Africa throughout the eight years was to work in partnership with the African Union, the sub-regional organizations. And I just wouldn't expect them to welcome a NATO presence, given that the situation in Darfur has led to many more deaths than what we've seen in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is unacceptable, but the situation in Darfur was one in which the government was militarily attacking its population, leading to massive humanitarian disaster and IDPs - internally displaced persons, refugees - and yet, the African Union did not welcome a NATO role.
CONAN: Joseph Nye, let me ask you. During the Clinton administration, there was of course, the genocide in Rwanda. The United States did not act, and since then, President Clinton has said, this is the greatest regret of his time in office. Presented with similar circumstances, as Astrid mentioned, in Zimbabwe or as Jendayi Frazer mentioned, in Sudan's Darfur, should the United States act alone or with European partners, if necessary?
Prof. NYE: Well, I think it's generally agreed that in the case of Rwanda, we could have done more. We couldn't have stopped the whole genocide, but we could have saved a lot of lives. And there are many options between sending in the 82nd Airborne, and in fact providing logistics, intelligence. We could have supported the peacekeeping troops that were already there. But those are mistakes of the past.
I think my friend and former colleague, Jendayi, is correct, that if you're going to go into Darfur or into Zimbabwe, you have to have a legitimacy. And legitimacy comes when you're not doing it alone or not doing it from Europe, which is seen in Africa, for example, as many of the NATO countries, as former colonial powers. It requires the acquiescence and support of countries in the region. So, we have to work a lot more with the African Union and we ought to be trying to use a number of means to try to bolster the South Africans to take a stronger position. They, in fact, could make a big difference.
CONAN: Douglas Feith, let me bring you into the conversation and add this point. Some people would say, none of these areas are in America's vital interest. The United States should not be spending resources in places like Sudan and Zimbabwe, or for that matter, in Rwanda.
Mr. FEITH: Well, it's - there's a great debate about what U.S. policy should be toward major humanitarian disasters, and whether we should intervene in the event of genocide - militarily in the event of genocide somewhere or not. And the reason there's such a great debate is that it's extremely hard to formulate standards. And so, there's no broad agreement on standards, and what you really have is a case-by-case examination of the issue. And sometimes you get exactly the kind of situation you described, where President Clinton, when he examined it at the time, decided that he wasn't going to commit U.S. troops and then later can say that, you know, he has regret for it.
These are extremely hard problems. I mean, we - what we found is there are some cases where you have the combination of a major humanitarian disaster and an American national security interest. And then, when we intervene, some of those interventions are extremely controversial, such as Iraq. I mean, everybody understands that's - it was a major humanitarian disaster in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime. But there was a lot of opposition to our intervention, despite the fact that we were serving humanitarian purposes, because we also were serving what the Bush administration said were important national security purposes in going in.
CONAN: Douglas Feith is with us, he served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration. Also with us from Boston is Joseph Nye, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration. Also with us here in the studio in Washington, D.C., is Jendayi Frazer, who served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the George W. Bush administration.
Today, we want to hear from those of you in our international audience. What role do you think that United States ought to play in Darfur, in North Korea, in Iran or Georgia, another specific area? Call us, the country code is 1-202-513-2008. You can also reach us on Skype, username talkoftheworld, or send us an email, that address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the Talk of the World from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington, D.C. On President Obama's second full day in office, we're talking with listeners from around the globe about the role of the United States in the world now. And we ask you to be specific. Are their places the world needs a policeman - Darfur maybe or North Korea? Where is partnership a better option - Iran perhaps, or Georgia or the Middle East? You can call us, country code 1-202-513-2008, or our username on Skype is talkoftheworld. You can also send us email; that address is talk@ npr.org. And let me also welcome those of you listening on WLE Mondo, in Finland, RTE Radio One Ireland, and on World Radio Switzerland. We want to thank all the broadcasters who carry today's program here in the Untied States and overseas.
Let me reintroduce our guests. Douglas Feith served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the administration of George W. Bush. Jendayi Frazer was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, also in the Bush administration. Joseph Nye served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration and deputy to the undersecretary of state in the Carter administration. And let's get a call on the line from Dublin. Rory is on the line from Dublin, Ireland.
RORY (Caller): Hello. How are you?
CONAN: Very well, thank you.
RORY: Good, good, good. I just wanted to make the point - and I appreciate this. We're coming from around the world on this position, but I think America and obviously Obama as the new president, and there's a lot of hope with what he might do, but I think it has to start by respecting human rights internationally. It has to start - and I think it really must respect democratically-elected governments, such as those of Venezuela, such as - even those which is considered controversial, but it was democratically-elected by it's people, as Hamas.
I think it has to start seeing itself, not as a policeman of the world, not being governed by fear of terrorism or fear of being, you know, of other powers but actually start respecting human rights, respecting other nations. And I think stop intervening in other countries on the basis of what it sees as, you know, power games of other countries, in terms of looking for resources like oil, as ultimately what people have said is behind - was behind the invasion in Iraq, and start respecting other cultures and other nations, because the reality of its policies, such as supporting Israel - you know, it used the - it refused to support the vote that went to the U.N. recently condemning Israel - is actually creating more people who hate what America is, who hate American foreign policy.
And America really needs to, I think, open up to the truth - open up to the truth of what is the result of its policies. And from what I can see in Ireland and see what's happening in America is that there's a great change now, a great mood for change with the election of Obama. And I think Obama really has to try to deliver on this and really - it's seeing America as not a country under threat but a country that can do good things.
But militarily, and I think on foreign policy, it has to apologize and it has to take a completely new direction that stops supporting regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which is one of the, you know, is one of the most biggest human rights, stop invading countries which are, you know, seen as in terms of its power. And I think we really need to promote human rights and human value as the key cornerstone of American foreign policy. And if that could change, I think the world would be a lot safer.
CONAN: Rory, I think we got your point. Let's start with Joseph Nye. Should the United States work with governments that are elected, such as Hamas, governments, that - well, that's a movement that the State Department, I think, still today describe as a terrorist movement?
Prof. NYE: Well, on the Hamas per se, there's question of how it treats Israel and whether it will recognize the right of Israel to exist. But I think the caller, Rory, raised a larger issue, which is the role of human rights in foreign policy. I think it's extremely important, and I think President Obama made that clear in his inaugural address, that we are going to pay a lot of attention to human rights.
But I also think you have to realize that a foreign policy is more than just a human rights policy. For example, should we say that we will not work with Saudi Arabia because we don't like the way they treat women? That raises a lot of difficult questions, such as stability in the Persian Gulf, such as trying to get the Saudis to play a significant role in the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel. So, yes, human rights has to have a higher priority than it's had, but it's not - human rights policy and a foreign policy are not exactly the same. A foreign policy, you try to get as much of as many values as you can, and if all you do is human rights, you'll find that you're interfering with a lot of other values that you care about, such as for example, stability in the Persian Gulf or peace between Israel and Palestinians.
CONAN: Joseph Nye, just to follow up on that, Rory, and perhaps some others, might say that United States' policy on Saudi Arabia, vis-a-vis women, might be much more aggressive, should - if Saudi Arabia were not the largest export of oil in the world.
Prof. NYE: Well, we definitely have an interest in making sure that there's stability in the Persian Gulf because of oil, but it's not the only interest. I mentioned also that we're interested in seeing if we can get peace between Israel-Palestinians. In a peace process, Saudis will play a significant role.
CONAN: Douglas Feith, let's go to you.
Mr. FEITH: Well, I think that Joe Nye is quite right, that people who actually have responsibility for formulating policy understand that there are - there's always a long list of considerations that you try to balance, and lot of these considerations are in tension with each other. And so - and also, there are trade-offs between short-term and longer-terms considerations.
So, sometimes for example, working with countries that are not democratic may be the best way to ultimately promote stability, democracy and greater human rights down the road, rather than undermining an existing government or attacking an existing government that doesn't have as good a human rights record as you want, and then creating enormous instability and you could create war and refugees and a lot of misery. So, these calculations are extremely complex.
I think that the caller, though made it - was using the term human rights in a funny way, because to say that in the name of human rights we should be supporting Hamas but distancing ourselves from Israel shows, I think, a really perverse understanding of human rights. Israel is a country that respects the human rights of its people, and with all the problems that it has, it's fundamentally a democratic country committed to human rights and dealing with extremely difficult tradeoffs between human rights and security, and Hamas is an organization that not only attacks Israel and is trying to destroy but is horribly oppressive toward the Palestinian people.
CONAN: Some people would look at the recent conflict in Gaza and say, Israel, reportedly for self-defense, killed 1,300 Palestinians, half of them women and children, non-combatants, while suffering 13 casualties of its own and destroying a heavily-populated civilian area.
Mr. FEITH: But in another way and I think, a more serious way of looking at it is that Hamas is an organization that is committed in its ideology to sacrificing individuals - ordinary people - for its ideological purposes, and it's wiling to sacrifice ordinary Israelis, and it's willing to sacrifice ordinary Palestinians. And the reason that those casualties were what they were was that Hamas, as part of its operational tactics, hid among civilians to maximize Palestinian casualties.
CONAN: Let's - Rory, thank you very much for the call. Let's go now to - this is Ali, and Ali's calling us from Toronto in Canada.
ALI (Caller): Yes, I do have a quick question. I'm from Somalia, especially a place call it Somaliland. It don't have an international recognition. It has - it's been peaceful since the last 14 years. And it tried to broke away from Somalia. And it was already - I think in 1960, they got better independence. They were a independent state then they united with Somalia. Now, they broke away from Somalia, they're trying to become an independent state. They did all the democratic stuff that an independent state was supposed to do. They had their own elections. They had their own president. They've got - trying to do another election in April. This - by doing all that, they don't get no international recognition and I hope - Jendayi Frazer was there once last year. I do want to ask this question. What the world hold this for Somaliland, please?
CONAN: Jendayi Frazer, I guess that's to you.
Prof. FRAZER: Well, thank you. Ali, I agree with your characterization of Somaliland, that they've really moved down the path of democracy, that different clans have come together in unity. And certainly Somaliland can be a island of stability in the broader Horn of Africa. Unfortunately, we didn't move to fully recognize Somaliland as an independent country. We've tried to look at this issue, and I think it's going to be one that's going to be - that will have to be taken up.
We worked with the African Union and we said - the United States under the Bush administration said that we would follow the lead of the African Union, in terms of recognizing Somaliland as an independent country. The African Union deferred that decision, given the outbreak of continued violence in Somalia, especially after 2006 and 2007. So, it's an issue that is on the table. Not all of the neighboring countries agree that Somaliland should be independent immediately. Many feel that it will lead to further violence in the Horn of Africa especially with - to the south with Somalia. So, we didn't get there, but you're quite right that Somaliland deserves some recognition certainly and some consideration of recognition as an independent state.
CONAN: In the broader situation of Somaliland and Somalia, if you have a part of a country that wants to break away and is functioning pretty well, compared with the chaos that I think we can all agree on is going on in Somalia - an ineffectual government that's controlling very little, in fact, of Somalia and a growing Islamist movement - in fact, why wait for the African Union? The United States could takes steps on its own.
Prof. FRAZIER: The United States certainly could takes steps on its own. It could make that decision on its own. But the way we worked in the Bush administration was to try to work very much in partnership with the African Union and with African countries. And so, we were moving - rather forward-leaning in this question of independence of Somaliland. And we thought the African Union was there with us. But again, as I said, as dynamics developed in 2000 and 2007 - 2006 and 2007, the African Union pulled back and so did we.
CONAN: Ali, let me follow up with you. Are you there?
ALI: Yes, I'm there. And my question is now, since we agree that Somaliland has all the needs to be - Somaliland has done everything that a democratic government was supposed to do, who are we going to blame if this franchise democracy fail because it don't get an international recognition and it don't get all the help it needed from the international society? Who we going to blame if United States don't go first and help them?
CONAN: Well, Jendayi?
Prof. FRAZER: Well, Ali, what I would suggest to the Somaliland authorities that they look at a half-step, and that they - first, currently, the United States does provide assistance to the Somaliland government. We engaged them just as we would other governments. But they may want to try a half-step of getting a seat in international for a, so that, while they're not fully recognized as a independent state, they can have an observer status. And that would move them down the line towards perhaps full recognition.
CONAN: Ali, thank you very much for your call. We appreciate it.
ALI: Thank you.
CONAN: Jendayi Frazier just finished her service as assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the administration of George W. Bush. Also with us, Douglas Feith, who worked as undersecretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush administration, and Joseph Nye, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration and as undersecretary of state in the Carter administration. And you're listening to Talk of the World from NPR News. And let's get another caller in. This is Raul and Raul's calling us from Brownsville in Texas.
RAUL (Caller): Yes, hi. I (unintelligible) Mexico, and I have family in Mexico. And I was wondering, when are we going to step up and help curtail these drug cartels in Mexico that have killed thousands of people in the last couple of years? And to me, would seem more of an urgent issue, being that, you know, it's at our doorstep, that this problem is right in our own backyard, and instead of taking things half a world away and, you know, and helping curtail these devious cartels and the drug flow and the murdering that's going on.
CONAN: Joseph Nye, the number of casualties in the drug war - it's along the northern frontier between Mexico and the United States, now being compared with the Mexican Civil War - continuing unabated. The Mexican government working more vigorously than in the past, in this regard. Nevertheless, these problems continue.
Prof. NYE: Well, I think that's correct. Fortunately, one of the first people that President-elect Obama met with, even before he took the inaugural address, was President Calderon. And I think this is one of the issues that they discussed. It's also worth noticing that Mexico has an excellent president in the form of President Calderon, democratically elected, serious, able man. And I think the hope is that now that with Obama and Calderon working together, we can give higher priority to this really terrible issue of the drug trade along the borders.
CONAN: Douglas Feith, is this something we need to address urgently?
Mr. FEITH: I think that it is an urgent problem, and I agree with Joe Nye that President Calderon is an admirable man and doing an extremely difficult job with a lot courage and energy. I would simply make the general point that Americans, by and large, I think, take for granted a quiet hemisphere. And we shouldn't take it for granted. It's enormously valuable. And we have a tremendous interest in good relations with our neighbors in the hemisphere. And the - what the Mexican government is doing on this drug fight is very difficult and deserves our support.
CONAN: Is the United States doing enough to stop, well, the demand side of this market? Those drugs aren't being consumed, for the most part, in Mexico.
Prof NYE: No, that's the - I think we should be doing what we can to work with our neighbors, work with the Mexicans and work with others in the hemisphere - we have a terrific relationship with Colombia that's made extremely good progress against, you know, its drug and insurgent terrorist problem. We should be focused on the fact that a lot of what we want to do in the world is premised on the idea that we have a quiet hemisphere, and it's very important for us to give high priority to maintaining good relations and security in the hemisphere.
CONAN: But doesn't this speak to the inter-relationship between domestic policy - in other words, doing something to curb drug use in this country - and foreign policy and the disturbance that you point out is so important on that border?
Prof. Nye: Yes, I mean obviously, there are a lot of connections between what we do domestically, not just on drugs but also on the economy. And the free trade agreement that we have that the Clinton administration did was a great accomplishment. The expansion of the free trade into Central America that the Bush administration did was important. I think the agreement with Colombia is important. We should be doing - we should recognize that a lot of what we do domestically - economically relating to drugs and other things - has important effects on the hemisphere.
CONAN: We're going to have to pause just for a moment. Again, we are encouraging callers from the around the world and Raul, thank you very much for your call. Reach us by dialing area code - country code, rather, 1, area code 202-513-2008 or send us an email. The address is email@example.com. We'll be back in just a moment with more of your calls. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the Talk of the World from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
(Soundbite of ad)
(Soundbite of Talk of the Nation preview)
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is Talk of the World. I'm Neal Conan in Washington, D.C. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking the job for her first time today promised a new era for America in the world. She spoke to a group of about 1,000 state department employees and made clear that her focus was on diplomacy and development.
It's too soon to know if any substantive changes will be made under the Obama administration, but today, we're talking with listeners from around the globe about the role of the United States in the world, and we ask you to be specific.Are there places where the world needs a policeman - Darfur maybe, or North Korea? Where partnership might be a better option - Iran perhaps, or Georgia or the Middle East? You can reach us at country code 1-202-513-2008. Our username on Skype is talkoftheworld. You can also send us email. That address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
And let me welcome those of you listening on NRK, Alid nyheter(ph) - I'm probably mispronouncing that - in Norway, through the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and on our many NPR member stations in the United States. And a big thank you to all the broadcasters who are carrying our program today. Our guests are Douglas Feith, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy in the administration of George W. Bush, Jendayi Frazier, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, also in the Bush administration, Joseph Nye, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Clinton administration.
And let's go to this email from Azad(ph) in Bangladesh. The United States, he writes, was not in Rwanda, now, not in Zimbabwe. The U.S.A's vital interest is in wealth and control over wealth, as with any capitalist power. The United States finds the case more appealing in oil-rich Iraq. The killings under Saddam Hussein were made with a U.S. green signal when he was an American ally. We want the U.S.A. to be honest and fair to the world population. Bangladesh is outraged over the U.S. role in past years, so are many countries in the world. With the new administration we are cautiously hopeful.
And Douglas Feith, you spoke earlier about the U.S. intervention in Iraq as at least in part based on humanitarian interests and the terrible situation that existed under Saddam Hussein. There is enormous skepticism in the world over that. Many believe that U.S. purpose was for oil, that if Iraq had been on the Great Lakes district of Africa, the United States would not have cared so much and that the United States has done itself enormous harm around the world in general and specifically in the Muslim world, for example Bangladesh, by its actions in Iraq.
Mr. FEITH: Well, the argument that the United States went into Iraq for oil is wrong, and there's no evidence to support it. I mean, we certainly did not make money in Iraq and there was no way in the world that we were going to make money in Iraq. That was not the motive. We were concerned about the range of threats that Saddam Hussein posed to American interests, and the United States has a long record of fighting wars to defend its interests. And what we have done with the countries that we fought against is not steal their resources but build them up. And you can see that in World War II very clearly with Germany and Japan. We didn't go in and raid and steal their resources. We helped build them up and...
CONAN: Would you say that was true in Vietnam?
Mr. FEITH: Well, Vietnam was a war that we lost, and, you know, that was a disaster. And Vietnam wound up getting taken over by the communists and suffered as a result. The - in Iraq, not only are we not stealing Iraq's resources - and that was never a motive for our military action there - but we've helped lay the foundation for an Iraqi government that's running its own show, clearly operating independently, in fact, giving us a hard time on a number of issues and controlling its own resources. And so - anyway, I think that the whole suggestion of the caller's question is wrong, including the assertion that we gave a green light to Saddam's atrocities. I think that's just absolutely false.
CONAN: Joseph Nye, how does the United States recover from the disaster, at least in public opinion, that its intervention in Iraq has been?
Prof. NYE: Well, first let me say that while I think Iraq was a colossal strategic blunder - and here Doug Feith and I disagree - I agree with him that it was not because of oil. If we were serious about doing something about Saddam Hussein, we should have been doing it within the framework of a U.N. resolution. I think the problem with the way we went about Iraq was we tried just to use our hard military power and didn't think enough about the soft power of legitimacy. And that was something which led to a tremendous loss, in terms of the attractiveness of the United States, throughout the Muslim world.
In Indonesia in 2000, three-quarters of Indonesians thought the United States was attractive. After the invasion of Iraq, that drops down to 15 percent. I think what Obama signified in his address on Tuesday was that we're going to pay much more attention to combining hard and soft power together. As he said, what really will protect us is the power of our moral example, as well as our military capacity. And I think that's going to be a new tone or a different tone, and I think that's what Hillary Clinton was talking about when she talked about the importance of smart power, which is the ability to combine hard and soft power.
CONAN: Here's an email from Abhu Bakir(ph) in Khartoum. In the case of Darfur, Sudan, it will help the situation on the ground if the Obama administration adopts a policy that focuses on the people of Darfur and applies equal pressure on both the government and the rebels. Previous attempts at peace talks have failed in part because all the pressure by the international community has been on the government, while the rebel groups seem to be under no pressure to talk. The deteriorating humanitarian situation doesn't seem to give the rebels, and certainly not the government, enough motivation to bring a timely end to the conflict. Jendayi Frazer?
Prof. FRAZER: Well, I think that certainly the Bush administration put pressure, both on the government as well as on the rebel groups, and certainly when there were three rebel groups, we put significant pressure on them. I, myself, sat in Darfur with some of the rebel leaders trying to bring them together and pressuring them to go to Abuja and negotiate a peace agreement.
So, I think that it's not that we haven't had balanced pressure, but obviously the biggest culprit in the crisis in Darfur is the government of Sudan. The government of Sudan is the one that's flying planes - bombing IDP camps, bombing villages and attacking the rebels. Just last week or so, there was another government attack from the air, including attacks with planes that are painted white to appear to be U.N. planes. And so, they're violating all types of international laws, and the greatest pressure has to be placed on the government of Sudan.
CONAN: During the campaign, there were candidates in both parties who advocated the use of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone by the United States and its allies over Darfur to prevent just such attacks. Is that a practical solution? Is that going to go ahead? Again, something that could be done outside of Sudan itself, outside of its territory - though, exactly where you put the planes is another issue. Nevertheless, would it be acceptable to the African Union?
Prof. FRAZER: It would be not probably acceptable to the African Union, but it'll be very interesting to see if the Obama administration will be able to carry out its pledge to in fact have a no-fly zone. We considered this question very seriously and looked at many options of how to establish a no-fly zone. It's not very easy. Darfur is a huge territory. And moreover, you have to have the cooperation of the neighboring countries. I don't think that you would have the legitimacy of the African Union to establish a no-fly zone, but the Obama administration may want to act unilaterally in any case or act in coalition, if they can get it, with the European countries. We found it to be very difficult.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Khaled, Khaled with us from Peshawar in Pakistan. Khaled, are you there? And I think Khaled has left us. We apologize for that. Let's go instead to Bob, and Bob's with us from Dublin.
BOB (Caller): Good evening.
CONAN: Good evening.
BOB: Shouldn't we not have majority rule in the United Nations? In other words, why should one member of the Security Council have a veto over the rest of the world's wishes? How can such situation be defended? Is it not time for change?
CONAN: There are five members of the United Nations - permanent members of the Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia. Each can veto, with a no vote, any resolution of the Security Council. They are always there. Ten other members rotate on a regional basis. Douglas Feith, should the United Nation be a more democratic organization?
Mr. FEITH: Well, the United Nations was never set up to be a world government and to operate on the basis of just, you know, democratic vote of, you know, one country, one vote. The United Nations was set up by a treaty. It's an international organization that's supposed to serve the purposes of its members. The United States and the other major powers at the time made it a condition to join the treaty that they would have (unintelligible) Security Council. And I think that the suggestion that the U.N. should operate as a world government, you know, based on these democratic principles of each state getting a vote, would be a complete transformation of the idea of the United Nations, and I doubt that it would be accepted by the great - you know, by the leading powers.
CONAN: Douglas, let's go to Joseph Nye on that point.
Prof. NYE: I think it's also worth noticing that there's nothing democratic about one country, one vote. We usually think of democratic theory as one person, one vote. If you had one country, one vote - for example, if we were bound simply by general assembly votes, you would find that the Maldives Islands, with 100,000 people, would have - each Maldivian citizen would have about 10,000 times the voting power of an Indian or a Chinese citizen. So, one country, one vote is not a democratic principle. Well, one person, one vote is. And the world is not yet in a position to be one person, one vote. I don't think you'd find very many people in very many countries who would be willing to accept rule on the basis of one person, one vote.
CONAN: But is it time to expand the Security Council permanent membership to include, for example, Brazil, South Africa, India?
Prof. NYE: Yes, I do agree with that. I think what need to have is less focus on the veto and more focus on representation, so that countries like India, China - well, China's already on the Security Council, but India, Japan, Brazil, South Africa. We could add another set of countries, which would give better representation, whether they had a veto or not. And there could also be policies in which the veto powers could say that they would not use their veto, except in extreme circumstances. So, there are reforms that could be made, but the idea that one country, one vote is reform, which is either good, in the sense of democratic, or feasible, in the sense of acceptable, is not the answer.
CONAN: Bob, thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it. On Talk of the World today, we're getting callers from around the globe to speak with three people who have helped to exercise American power in the past - Douglas Feith, who served in the Defense Department under George W. Bush, Joseph Nye, who worked in the Defense Department under Bill Clinton, and Jendayi Frazer, who worked in the State Department as assistant secretary of state for African affairs under George W. Bush. You're listening to Talk of the World from NPR News.
And we may have left the thorniest issue for last. This is from Mohammad in Iran. How is the new government trying to show it is different when talking with Iran's regime, which has no respect for human rights and the world's demands for a nuclear plan? This is what we Iranians really worry about. Does Obama want to have relations with the people or with the regime in Iran? These two things are different. And, Joseph Nye, why don't we start with you?
Prof. NYE: Well, I think what President Obama has said is that he is willing to enter into negotiations without pre-conditions and have negotiations on a broad range of subjects. And in that sense, I think the problem with some of the negotiations or efforts at negotiations in the past is that they were limited by the preconditions that had been set. I think Obama is correct to say that we will explore diplomatically a whole range of issues.
And that means we have to deal with the regime that's there. It may be that we don't particularly like the regime, but in a world in which half the governments are not democratically elected, we often have to deal in foreign policy with regimes which we may not prefer. But if we're dealing with serious issues, like how to dissuade the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon, how to get their help against the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, how to deal with energy security questions in the future, you have to deal with who's there. And it's up to the Iranian people to try to change the nature of who represents them, not for the United States.
CONAN: Douglas Feith?
Mr. FEITH: I think that the questioner raised a really important question. He said, do you want to deal with the people or do you want to deal with the regime, because there is tension between the people and the regime in Iran. The Iranian regime is basically a very corrupt, unpopular regime that's pretty oppressive, and there are a lot of groups within the society - students and women and others - that would be very happy if that regime left in favor of a regime that was much more respectful of their rights.
Now, the question of how we deal with the Iranians, I think, is not a matter of whether we want to say - it's not a moral issue. It's not the Iranian regime is evil and therefore, one shouldn't talk to it or - nor do I agree with what Joe Nye suggested, which is that you necessarily have to deal with the regime in place. What - the key question is, what are our goals with respect to Iran? What do we want to accomplish? If we want to accomplish, for example, the termination of their nuclear program, so that they don't have nuclear weapons, there's a pragmatic question - what is the most effective way to bring about the change of that policy of the Iranian government pursuing nuclear weapons?
If the most effective way is talking with them, then I would be in favor of talking with them. If the most effective way is pressuring them and isolating them and not talking with them but seeing if you can bring various types of pressure to bear, including isolation, then we're better off isolating them. And, you know, history knows examples of sometimes you're better off talking to people, sometimes you're better off isolating them. In the case of South Africa, it was a major international isolation campaign that led to very important domestic political changes that the world welcomed. That really, I think, is the essential practical question on whether we should be dealing with the Iranian government.
CONAN: Jendayi Frazer, I understand this is not your area of expertise, but I didn't want to leave you out of this. This is a crucial issue that affects us all, and we're going to give you (Laughing) 45 seconds to wrap it up, if you would.
Prof. FRAZER: Well, I think that we, in some sense, between the Bush administration and this new era of an Obama administration, are really creating a false debate, because what the Bush administration did in Iran was to develop a coalition - the five party talks - to work with France and the U.K. and others to try to bring the pressure to bear on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons. And so, it's never a case of just unilateralism or multilateralism. Nor is it a case of using soft diplomacy versus - or soft power versus hard power. We've been doing all of that simultaneously over the last eight years. It's very complex. It's very difficult and you have to work in partnership with other countries to have an effective foreign policy.
CONAN: Jendayi Frazer, we thank you for your time today, appreciate you coming in. Our thanks as well to Douglas Feith, also with us here in the studio in Washington, D.C., and to Joseph Nye, who joined us from a studio at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And thanks to you all. We'd also like to thank all the broadcasters who carried today's program overseas and here in the United States. And we need to thank everybody who called in or sent us email. We apologize that we could not get you all on the air. We'll be back with the next in our series on Talk of the World in about a month. You can find more information on that and tune in at npr.org. This is Talk of the World from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington, D.C.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.