Egypt's Hazy Future Leaves Big Questions For U.S. The anti-Mubarak protestors' victory in Egypt captured the imaginations of millions of Americans. But Egypt's leadership remains in flux — and the political future of one of America's strongest allies in the Middle East may have important implications for the United States.

Egypt's Hazy Future Leaves Big Questions For U.S.

Egypt's Hazy Future Leaves Big Questions For U.S.

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The anti-Mubarak protestors' victory in Egypt captured the imaginations of millions of Americans. But Egypt's leadership remains in flux — and the political future of one of America's strongest allies in the Middle East may have important implications for the United States.

Fouad Ajami, director, Johns Hopkins University's Middle East Studies Program
Stephen Walt, professor, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Related NPR Stories

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Rebecca Roberts in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

Over the weekend, the ruling Egyptian military dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution, two key demands of protestors who forced the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak.

We've seen the hordes of people in the streets, dancing, hugging, lighting off fireworks in celebration. But what does it matter to us here in the United States?

Are you worried about the peace accords with Israel or about the billions of dollars the United States spends on foreign aid to Egypt? Or is it the spread of democracy plain and simple?

Later in the hour, world without Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But first, as you watch the events in Egypt, what draws you to the story, and why does it matter? Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our Website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Joining us now is Fouad Ajami. He's the director of the Middle East Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and is senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He's on the line with us from his home in New York. Fouad Ajami, welcome to the program.

Mr. FOUAD AJAMI (Director, Middle East Studies Program, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University): Thank you very much, Ms. Roberts. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, let me start by asking you the question we want our listeners to answer: Why does Egypt matter to you?

Mr. AJAMI: Well, Egypt matters to me because Egypt matters. There is this great country at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe, as it's said of Egypt. The Arab world, the Islamic world, begins at Cairo. The European world begins with Alexandria. The African world begins at Aswan. A country of 80 million people, the gateway to the Arab world, the home of its modern culture.

And strategically, if you really want to move beyond kind of the poetry of Egypt as a great, great civilization, this is a country in which America is deeply invested, more than 40 years of aid, and it's in our orbit politically and militarily.

We care about it. We care about the peace between Egypt and Israel. We care about our own security. We dont forget that Mohammed Atta, the lead death pilot, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man in al-Qaeda, were Egyptian.

So we care about it on many, many levels.

ROBERTS: So it sounds like you're talking about sort of long-term relationships, history, you know, cooperation among other nations but also short-term security. Is that paramount in your mind?

Mr. AJAMI: Absolutely. I am very worried that if you look back on our relation with the Mubarak regime, we had this curious, odd situation. We befriended pharaoh, that's what I've always called him through this crisis. We befriended the ruler and enraged the population.

And it was a case of a pro-American regime and anti-American population. So I care about all these things because, again and again, our country is deeply invested in Egypt. We are present in the life of Egypt, and we've seen - we've seen even that - I think our listeners may have forgotten him, but we can easily summon him, the blind sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, he used to preach in a small town on the edge of the west Saharan Desert in Egypt. And he came our way and did the deeds of terror that he did in '93.

So it's a long story between us and the Egyptians.

ROBERTS: We're also joined by Stephen Walt. He's a professor of international relations at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, joins us from the studios there. Stephen Walt, thanks for joining us.

Mr. STEPHEN WALT (Professor, Harvard Kennedy School of Government): Nice to be here.

ROBERTS: You recently wrote a column in Foreign Policy magazine titled "10 Reasons Americans Should Care About the Egyptian Revolution," and you've talked about some of these points that Fouad Ajami has brought up in terms of security and history. But you also say the number one reason is money.

Mr. WALT: The first reason I mention, I don't think it's the most important, but it one to remember that the United States has been giving Egypt about $2 billion each year for quite some time. This really all goes all the way back to Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, even a little bit before there.

This was partly a bribe, in a sense, to reinforce the peace treaty, to encourage Egypt to collaborate with us in a number of other ways. But, you know, although $2 billion is not a huge amount, when you're a $13 trillion economy like the United States is, it is one of the things that, as Professor Ajami said, that linked us to pharaoh and was certainly was something that the Egyptian people were aware of, well.

ROBERTS: And if was initially, excuse me, a bribe as you call it, how is that money generally used now?

Mr. WALT: Well, most of it is still military assistance, and it was a way of, I think, keeping the Egyptian military passive and quiet in various ways. It was the bulwark of the Mubarak regime, and we see now today that the Egyptian military is governing the country, and one of the things we, I think, may be able to use to our advantage is the fact that we do have some extensive connections and personal contacts with some of the people who are now governing the place. And it'll be interesting to watch how the United States is able to use some of those connections going forward.

ROBERTS: And Fouad Ajami, in terms of this financial agreement, we're also in the middle of budget issues here in the U.S., it's a time when foreign aid always is a popular chopping block when domestic issues get tight. Would you make an argument that foreign aid towards Egypt is a security investment worth keeping?

Mr. AJAMI: Well, it's a security investment worth keeping, definitely, because, again, we have this long traffic with the officer corps in Egypt, with the military. And indeed in the story, the prominent American role was not played by President Obama. It was played be Secretary of Defense Gates, whose contacts with the Egyptian military were the reason why the Egyptian military, in the end, refrained from firing on the protestors and sided with the democratic revolution in Egypt.

But I insist - again, I have this, you know, this sort of sense of Egypt as this - there is not an Egyptian I have not seen, these is not an Egyptian novel I haven't read. I believe in this. I believe in building a relationship of trust with the Egyptian population, which we haven't done. We have only dealt with the regime. We only dealt with pharaoh. We only dealt with the son. It's high time we acknowledge that we need a change in our relations with Egypt.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call. This is Steven(ph) in Toledo, Ohio. Steven, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

STEVEN (Caller): Hi. I get so infuriated at this, because I hear people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, you know, and Glenn Beck on his show the other night, he said that Egyptians don't deserve freedom.

You know, as a country that was born out of a, you know, a major war with a colonial power, you know, how would we feel back then if we were, oh, gee, oh, Germany doesn't like that these American rebels are fighting the British crown.

As Americans, I think it's - if we do have a role in this world, it's to spread democracy, it's to spread freedom, to spread peace. And I think that we shouldn't even be in this talk. You know, this is their country. They are a sovereign nation. These people rose up and peacefully threw out a dictator who tortured people.

Then - you know, isn't that what we did in Iraq in 2003? I think it's very just like - I'm sorry, I'm - that's my point, and I'll take my answer off the air, thank you.

ROBERTS: Steven, thank you for your call. Well, Stephen, well, you make this point in your column, that not only should we as champions of democracy walk that walk, so to speak, but also it might teach us something about how a dictator can be overthrown, especially in contrast to Iraq, as Steven was saying.

Mr. WALT: One of the points here, one of the reasons we ought to pay a lot of attention, both to what has happened but also what is going to happen going forward, is we want to draw the right lessons from it. And I think one of the lessons here is that democracy promotion, which can certainly happen in the Arab world, and we've seen other movements in that direction in other parts of the Arab world, is best served when it comes from the people themselves.

And what's most remarkable about what we've just witnessed is the fact that this was a grass-roots movement. It was remarkably disciplined, remarkably restrained, did not rely upon violence, certainly did not rely upon terrorism.

And so if we're interested in advancing freedom in that part of the world, the way to do it is not at the point of a gun or with the, you know, 82nd Airborne, but rather it's by encouraging the spread of democratic values within a society, helping grass-roots groups and then helping them, once something like we've just seen happen, does take place.

ROBERTS: Fouad Ajami, do you think that supporting Mubarak stepping down will help America's reputation in this part of the world?

Mr. AJAMI: Well, I don't think it really played such a big role in this. In the end, I mean, the Obama administration was trying to catch up with the raging storm in Tunisia and in Egypt and beyond. This is really the Arab people on their own.

And look, I take a very kind view of the Iraq war. We decapitated a dictator in 2003. We did it. The Americans did it. In 2011, the people of Tunisia and the people of Egypt rose on their own. That's fine. And I think the issue here is, can the Arab world accommodate democracy? Do the Arabs have freedom in their DNA?

And sadly, people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin seem to think that the liberty of the Arabs doesn't matter, that anyway, these people are born for tyranny. It's just, it's an intellectual proposition of tremendous retrogression.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Moe(ph) in Tampa, Florida. Moe, let's -welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

MOE (Caller): Hey, thank you.

ROBERTS: Yeah, you're on the air. Go ahead.

MOE: Why I'm interested in Egypt. I'm originally from Casablanca, Morocco. Egypt, it is the birth of the civilization. This is number one. Even today, Egypt is the place of poets, singers, moviemakers, you name it. I really was confused, and I couldn't explain how the Egyptian has to deal with this regime over 30 years, and Mubarak has to put his son. But hey, I'm coming from Morocco. I know how the system works.

Almost, I mean, it's like Egypt, it's said they have four million or five million police officers. It is the same thing in Morocco. It is the same thing in Algeria. It is the same thing in Iraq. And to see people going peacefully and people, very educated people, nothing was burned.

There is casualties, of course, 300 people were killed. But the way the people, the protest, just unbelievable. So that's why - hey, I'm very attached to these people. I mean, I'm telling you this is a big day not only for Egypt, and believe me, more to come. Algeria is on its way. Morocco on its way, Saudi Arabia on its way. Sooner or later, within two months, three months, 10 years, but hey, when you oppress people, today or tomorrow, you know, a revolution, it's coming...

ROBERTS: And do you think - Moe, I'm sorry to interrupt, but do you think your family and friends back in Morocco are paying attention and might move forward on something using this example?

MOE: Ma'am, ma'am, I'm telling you something. The whole world is paying attention, over 100 percent in my country paying attention. Only the U.S., only 50 percent, according to Al-Jazeera, that know what's going on, you know what I mean? And that's another topic to talk about.

If you go anywhere in the Arab world, in Europe, all different people are watching, Al-Jazeera (unintelligible) satellite TV. So...

ROBERTS: Moe, thank you for your call. We are talking about how the dramatic events in Egypt will affect the United States. We want to hear from you about what you find the most compelling if you have followed the story. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. You can also always reach us by email, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

ROBERTS: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

It's too soon to tell exactly what effect events on Egypt will have across the world, in the Middle East, on the economy, in Israel. But this hour, we're talking about why they matter to the United States.

My guests are Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle East Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

And of course we want to hear from you. As you have watched this story develop in Egypt, what draws you in? Why do you think it matters? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. You can reach us by email, talk@npr.org. Or you can weigh in on the conversation on our Website, npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Fouad Ajami, we were talking about how Barack Obama was sort of playing catch-up in terms of the sentiment in Egypt. Do you think now that Hosni Mubarak is gone, there is something that he or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can do that will put the U.S. in the right place in the eyes of Egyptians?

Mr. AJAMI: Well, I think we just have to do the right thing by the Egyptians. We have to leave them - we have to trust them with their own freedom and their own freedom and their own liberty. We shouldn't second-guess them. We shouldn't assume that this revolution, which is a democratic, peaceful revolution, which really in a way in many ways represents the rehabilitation of the image of the Arabs in the world, rather than death pilots and terrorists and jihadists. These were young people who wanted to build a better Egypt. We should trust them with their liberty. We shouldn't second-guess them. We shouldn't worry about what they're going to do.

We should - what we need to do in terms of hard policy, if you will, we should keep the military because the military in Egypt has pledged to oversee a transition to democracy. We should watch them carefully. We should hold them to the promise because we didn't overthrow this - the Egyptians didn't overthrow the autocrat who looted their country and destroyed it in order to come up and return to a time of military dictatorship.

So we should watch the military, and we should make sure the transition to democracy is secured.

ROBERTS: Stephen Walt, would you agree with that, that we should trust the Egyptians with their own leadership going forward?

Mr. WALT: Absolute, and we have to recognize that that may involve an Egyptian government that is not quite as complicit or not quite as willing to do everything the United States wanted it to do.

A democratic Egypt I think will be a friend to the United States in many ways, but like all other countries, it's going to have its disagreements with the United States, as well, and it may - it may attempt to sort of press those disagreements more forcefully than Mubarak would have.

That's something I think we can easily live with, and it may actually even be healthy in the long run. But we have to be ready for that when it happens. It's not going to be quite as supine, perhaps, as the autocrat was.

One final thing is - and I agree with Fouad about this, as well, the United States should be careful not to claim too much credit for this. There's a tendency for American leaders always to want to sort of claim credit for any piece of good news that happens.

This is something that, again, the Egyptians did. We I think ultimately ended up on the right side of events there, but this is not one that we should be giving ourselves high-fives or anything like that.

ROBERTS: Well, if the U.S. adopts a sort of trusting position and lets democracy play out there and, you know, acknowledges that that might include some more diverse voices and some that are less agreeable than Mubarak was, at what point does the U.S. start to push? Is it when Egypt stops being an ally in the war on terror? Is it when Egypt starts to threaten peace with Israel? At what point do we draw the line?

Mr. WALT: Well, we've clearly drawn some lines already. I think the peace treaty with Israel is an obvious one, and the early signs there are fairly encouraging. I think there's no reason to believe that a democratic Egypt will not continue to cooperate in general on things like the war on terror.

It may not participate in things like extraordinary rendition, which Mubarak's government apparently did, but I think that would be a good thing because those are not good policies, as well.

You could argue, in fact, that this revolution is one of the greatest blows that's been struck against al-Qaeda since 2001 because it completely undermines the idea that the way to bring about political change in the Arab and Islamic world is through acts of terror.

In fact, the most important political change that's occurred in the Arab world now has happened through largely peaceful demonstrations. That's a complete repudiation of everything Osama bin Laden has written.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Amy(ph) in Mount Olive, Illinois. Amy, go ahead.

AMY (Caller): Hello, long-time listeners, first-time caller.

ROBERTS: Excellent. I'm glad you were moved to call. What's on your mind?

AMY: What's on my mind is I think that Egypt is really a cornerstone of what's going to happen in the Middle East. I think a lot of these other uprisings that are going on are going to be significant once Egypt, you know, proves that they can get a new constitution in order and that democracy is really working.

I think it'll take time, but once others see that this is working, they will start to uprise, as well, and try to get everything in line like Egypt does and take examples.

And what also I wanted to comment on is I know that the United States shouldn't take credit, but do you think that we should give kind of examples of how to do a democracy, like kind of some pointers? I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Amy, thanks for your call. Fouad Ajami, let's turn that to you. As, you know, a big, powerful democracy, do we have some lessons to teach?

Mr. AJAMI: Well, we have a lot to teach them, but we also have a lot to teach about ourselves, about our willingness to live with democracy, because, in fact, our posture has been, in the Arab-Islamic world, is to fear democracy and to be comfortable with the autocracies of the region.

We have not trusted the people of the region with their own liberty. We have not insisted that they need to have liberty. And the autocrats in the region have been very sly. They played us well and perfectly.

Take Mubarak. He played American presidents, from Reagan to Obama. They sold us the legend that they are our partners in the search for stability. I rest my case on Mohammad Atta, the death pilot leader, and Ayman al-Zawahiri. These are Egyptians. So in fact, the bargain with the autocrats did not really work.

So we have to be true to our belief in democracy, and we have to trust that democracy will travel to other lands and take many forms, and as Steve said, it will not always sound the way we want it to sound, but this is the uncertainty of the world in which we live and its diversity.

ROBERTS: And Stephen Walt, you mentioned in your piece, "10 Reasons Americans Should Care About the Egyptian Revolution," the question of morality, that, you know, again, if we are spreading democracy around the world and think that that's a valid priority, then this is something we should respect.

So then is that sort of leading by example, or is that actually going in and helping set up elections or some sort of structural, practical help in terms of how a democracy really works?

Mr. WALT: Well, certainly if the Egyptian authorities would like our assistance and the assistance from other democracies on practical guidance about, you know, election systems and things like that, then we ought to be willing to do that.

But I think the United States wants to avoid appearing to preach, as though we know everything there is to know about running an effective democracy. I mean, I think we all know from our country here that...

ROBERTS: We haven't always hesitated to preach in the past.

Mr. WALT: No, of course not, but there are flaws in every country, and the United States, we know, for example, that our democratic system doesn't always operate perfectly, even though I think all Americans basically support it.

So practical guidance, yes. We do have the sort of favorable opportunity here to be on the side of the angels, as it were. The United States does support democratic values. We support basic human rights, and there are times when there are tradeoffs between those interests and some of our other interests.

In this case, I think, there is not a big tradeoff, that trying to build a stable and democratic Egypt in our long-term security interests and certainly consistent with our long-standing commitment to political values.

We ought to recognize, though, that democracy is no guarantee, for example, of rapid economic development, of dramatic improvement in the lives of ordinary Egyptians. We can hope for all of those things, and we can certainly do what we can to try and produce that, but a democratic Egypt is going to have all of the virtues and vices that we know about from other democracies, including our own.

ROBERTS: Which brings up the point Amy made about other nations watching and seeing the successes of democracy. Well, the successes of democracy can take a little while, and it can be messy in the interim.

Mr. WALT: Absolutely. I think what we are going to see, though, is what we have witnessed over the last two weeks, which is the extraordinary pride that Egyptians have taken in seizing control of their own destiny again.

One of the great - you know, apart from the abuses of the Mubarak regime, reliance on torture, things like that, there was also the sense of economic and cultural stagnation in a country that had taken great pride in its role in Arab culture, as well.

I think the sense that they are once again, as one write put it, you know, in charge of their own narrative is going to be very empowering and quite possibly infectious in other places, as well.

ROBERTS: Let's hear from Colin(ph) in Oakland County, Michigan. Colin, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

COLIN (Caller): Hey, I've been a long-time listeners, first-time caller, and I want to comment on this principle that we're raised with here in our country of self-determination, this kind of pull yourself by your own bootstraps kind of philosophy.

And I want to know: What do we have to do as a country to instill self-determination in the Egyptian people? Is it through funding? Is it through diplomatic interaction? What mediums do we have to help them help themselves?

ROBERTS: Colin, thanks for your call. Fouad Ajami?

Nr. AJAMI: Well, I have faith, again, in the Egyptian people. Let's remember one thing. Egyptians who have a memory - that's older Egyptians - they have a memory of the interwar years, when they had parliamentary system, when they had alternation of power. When, in fact, Egypt beat the United States in terms of female suffrage, it introduced female suffrage before the United States did.

There was once a progressive culture in Egypt in the arts, in politics, and what you really have seen now is what the autocrats have done to Egypt 60 years under the three offices or regimes of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak; 30 of them under this looter, under this thief, Hosni Mubarak. They sucked the life out of Egypt. And I think that Egyptians have a memory. They understand what democracy is and what's self-determination is. They need to retrieve it.

I want to just one word about a friend of mine, of a certain age, you know, in his 70s. He said about Egypt, he said: Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak destroyed the love of Egypt in me. I despair of my country, and then, he said, came these young people and marched to Liberation Square in Cairo, and they gave me back my love of my country.

I think the Egyptians have it in their history and have it in their tradition and in their temperament as a people who're really peaceful and really civilized and cultured. They have it in their ability to build good politics, and we should be sympathetic to them.

ROBERTS: Stephen Walt, would you answer that question the same way for someone like Colin who seems like he was inspired by what he's seen in the last couple of weeks? Coming from Cairo, what can an average American do?

Prof. WALT: I think that's right. I mean, the average American should be following these events as closely as they can, partly to learn from them, partly to gain an appreciation of just how significant the set of events this is.

Obviously, there are going to be opportunities for ordinary Americans if they wish to send donations, provide aid to aid agencies that are going to be helping the Egyptian economy.

But I would caution one other thing, which is that, you know, I think Americans, given our role in the world over the last 50 or 60 years, tend to assume that we either can or should be in charge of major events in every corner of the world. We have a tendency to sort of want to go in and tell people what to do, you know, be more like us, instill systems that are just like America.

And this is one where - although there will be clearly some similarities between a democratic Egypt and the United States, this ultimately has to be an Egyptian project. It will succeed if the Egyptian people succeed, not because the United States has either given orders or provided the blueprint here. This is one where we get to let them take charge of their own destiny.

ROBERTS: Stephen Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School. I'm also joined by Fouad Ajami from the Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let's take a call from Todd in Cincinnati, Ohio. Todd, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

TODD (Caller): Thank you. Thanks for taking my call. I got a question that I'd like to ask your guests. As we encourage and support democracy in Egypt and in the region, are we concerned or when will we get concerned with radical Islam gaining power through the democratic process as they realize that their theory of terrorism has not particularly worked very well. You know, when do we get concerned about that?

ROBERTS: Fouad Ajami?

Nr. AJAMI: Well, we have to be concerned about this, but, again, the main work, if you will, of resisting radicalism - Islamism in Egypt falls to the Egyptians. Egypt has eight to 10 million Copts, the Christian inhabitants, the original inhabitants of the land who predated Islam and their rival of Islam in Egypt in the seventh century.

Egypt has a thriving film industry. It has Alexandria. People want to go the beach. They want a modern life. It does have a certain Muslim Brotherhood camp dating back to the 1920s, and I think it is up to the Egyptians to draw the balance in their country between the religious and the secular.

Again and again, I think the Egyptians know that Islamic radicalism or Islamism or Islamic fanaticism will wreck their country and will wreck their chance at a modern life. And what we've seen in Liberation Square the last three weeks or so is a certain attachment to democratic politics and to modernity.

ROBERTS: Although it's a risk, right? I mean, you open up the vote to every voice, you open it up to voices that are not particularly sympathetic to the U.S., Stephen Walt?

Prof. WALT: I think that's right, but I agree with Fouad that there's no reason, I think, to be incredibly fearful of Islamic radicalism in the Egyptian case.

The Muslim Brotherhood got about 20 percent of the vote in the last election, which wasn't a fully free election by any means, but that was 2005. And that - in that election, their share of the vote was almost certainly inflated by the fact that they were sort of the main alternative to the governing party. So people who didn't like the governing party could cast a vote for the Muslim Brotherhood. I would not be surprised if their support, actually, declines as groups previously suppressed who weren't able to organize are allowed now to fully participate in politics.

I think we can watch this one, but I - we'll be surprised if Egypt evolves in a direction. There's no Khomeini-like figure that wants to -that has the stature that he had, for example, when the Iranian revolution took place. And I think there are many social forces within Egypt, as Fouad said, that would be strongly opposed to any such movement in that direction.

ROBERTS: We have time for one more quick call. This is Alfredo in Miami. Alfred, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

ALFREDO (Caller): Hi. How are you guys doing today? Happy Valentine's Day.

ROBERTS: To you too.

ALFREDO: I wanted to talk about a little about the youth and the political activism in the United States. We should pay more attention to Egypt and their youth grassroot movement 'cause here in the U.S., you know, young people have a sense of not believing in government anymore, and this should be an inspiration to us.

And it doesn't seem like it's - it seems like the media is taking different spins on it. This should be motivation for the youth of America to believe that they can do peaceful rallies, that they can do movement to make change in their government, like Egypt did, and I just really look up to it and the youth and the grassroot movement should be given extreme credit between the United States...

ROBERTS: Alfredo, what would you change if you were inspired to make a difference?

ALFREDO: Well, I mean, it's like - I mean, I would just want to increase political activism, you know, just the belief in politicians, to make better politicians, to create better leaders for our country. And there should be political activity to that, you know, to look for better people to represent us in our country, you know, so that they're in position of power, though it's transitory to pick better people.

And I think that's something that we should all fight, you know, to work for. And not just parties, let's get good people in these parties so we can elect, you know, people that we actually want, people that are going to represent us to our full extreme, especially in the youth in the United States.

ROBERTS: Alfredo, you got the last word. Thank you so much for joining us and thank you to Stephen Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle East Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Nr. AJAMI: Thank you.

Prof. WALT: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Coming up, imagining a world without Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page coming up next. I'm Rebecca Roberts. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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