Is democracy the answer for the Middle East?
Dr. Dov S. Zakheim is a vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton where he is a leader in the firm’s global defense business, working with U.S. Combatant Commanders and allied and coalition ministries of defense worldwide.
Former United States government official Dov Zakheim was the Undersecretary of Defense and Comptroller from 2001-2004 in the George W. Bush administration, and was a foreign policy advisor to that administration during the 2000 election campaign. From 1985-1987, during the Regan administration, Zakheim was Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Planning and Resources. An Orthodox Jew, he helped to end the IAI Lavi Israeli fighter program. Previous to his work with the Bush administration, from 1987-2001, Zakheim served as a consultant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and sat on a number of Defense Department panels, including the Task Force on Defense Reform, in 1997, and the Board of Visitors of Overseas Regional Centers, from 1998-2001. During those years he was also CEO of SPC International, a subsidiary of System Planning Corporation. Zakheim is on the editorial board of The National Interest Journal and has published a multitude of articles and monographs on defense issues. Zakheim earned his BA in government from Columbia University in 1970 and his PhD in economics and politics from St. Antony's College, Oxford University. He was an Adjunct Scholar at the Heritage Foundation, and an adjunct professor at the National War College, Yeshiva University, Columbia University and Trinity College, where he was also Presidential Scholar. He has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the United States Naval Institute. Zakheim has received many awards for government and community service, including the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal, its highest civilian award.
Dov Zakheim: Well, it’s certainly not democracy. I don’t think it’s the priority for most people. You know, the average per capita GDP in most of these countries is like, what, 1,200, 1,500 dollars a year? They’re not thinking about democracy. They’re thinking of a job. They want to make a living. They want to feed their families. And they want to bring their children up in the religion that was given to them. Everybody’s been persecuted in the Middle East. The Christians have been persecuted. The Shias have been persecuted. The Sunnis have been persecuted. The Jews have been persecuted. The Zorastrains have been persecuted. I mean you name it. Somebody, somewhere in their history has been persecuted. And so for them it’s freedom of religion, and the freedom to make a living, and the freedom to give your children a better life than you have. Beyond that, then democracy comes. And it’s not so much democracy; it’s representative government. It’s the ability to have your concerns heard by the leadership. Why do these traditional monarchies continue to survive? Kuwait has been around since the 18th century. The Ibn Saud family traces it back . . . to the 18th century because they have this system of . . . where people actually go and see their leaders. I mean ask most Americans who their representative is, okay? And there’s only 500,000 to each representative, and they still don’t know. So representation . . . the ability to be heard, the ability for government not to be corrupt, for the government to respond to your concerns, that’s very important. Can we help there? Absolutely. We can help economically. We can help with education. I mean to me, the best way to break the back of the madrassas is very simple. Technical schools and English. If you wanna get by, if you wanna make a living, you ain’t gonna make it learning the Koran. You might get to heaven learning the Koran, but you’re not gonna make a living technically learning the Koran. So if we can establish . . . And not just us. It can’t just be us . . . help establish literally a competitive school system, I guarantee you at least 50% of the parents who were sending their kids to madrassas so they can get a square meal will send their kids to these sorts of schools. And then you can inculcate values. We can teach more than just how to use a monkey wrench.
Recorded on: 7/2/07
Zakheim lays out his vision for U.S. policy in the Middle East.
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