Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 January 2008
Issue No. 878
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The Mayor's birds of prey

Charlie Hill is the Republican presidential candidate Rudolf W Giuliani's chief foreign policy adviser, and the head of an advisory team the New York Times calls "the hawks". Some of the names in this group give the impression that the neo-conservatives are back, marketing themselves under a new brand. Hill was interviewed by Ezzat Ibrahim

Hill, Giuliani

"The fight against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups will be America's central challenge for years to come. We will achieve victory in what I call the Terrorists' War on Us only by staying on the offence: defeating terrorist organisations and hunting down their leaders, wherever they are; helping Afghanistan and Iraq establish stable and representative governments; aiding the spread of good governance throughout the Muslim world; and defeating militant Islam in the war of ideas." Rudolph W Giuliani

The United States media, especially the New York Times , is attacking Guiliani's campaign and describing it as a hawkish one. How can the mainstream media make such accusations against the leading Republican contender at a time when American foreign policy is facing serious setbacks in its international policies?

This has to be understood in the context of the presidential elections, which started last summer and are continuing this year. You are going to hear stories that exaggerate or take different angles in order to make a political point about a candidate. The New York Times is a leftist paper, as the Wall Street Journal is a right-wing paper. It is to be expected that the Times criticises Republican candidates, particularly Giuliani because of his background in New York. And they know that since the public is unhappy with President Bush because of the Iraq war, if they can make a republican candidate out to be warlike then the public would not be happy with that candidate. They want to portray Giuliani and McCain as militaristic hawks.

But the advisory group includes some real "hawks" such as the controversial Daniel Pipes and the former chief editor of right- wing Commentary magazine.

Those people do not represent the core of Giuliani's advisory group and they are not talking directly to him. All of the ideas that come forward go through me. Even when I put them forward Giuliani does not necessarily accept them because he has his own views. I believe that there are inconsistencies in some media coverage of our advisory group, since Daniel Pipes, for example, is an opponent of the Iraq war, but he is called a hawk anyway because his general approach is strong and harsh. We are trying to get rid of all these labels such as hawks, liberals, realists and neo-realists, because they are all labels from the past, from the Cold War and the Vietnam War, and they do not apply or tell you anything today.

What are the main outlines of Giuliani's foreign policy, especially since he has come out with strong ideas and principles comparing with the others?

Giuliani is the only candidate who understands that everything in the world works by a system; the store on the corner, a company, the city of New York all have got a system. The world has got the international system which involves international diplomatic relations and treaties such as the World Trade Organisation, the Arab League, the United Nations, NATO, etc. All these varieties of institutions and networks are a system. When Giuliani came to New York as a Mayor, he found that the system of the city did not work well and he made it work better. For the White House race, Giuliani has a similar approach: to overhaul the international system which has not been kept up or renovated. After every major war, in the last 300 years, those who won the war came together to fix the international system. Following the end of the Cold War, we didn't pay attention to the system. Either we have bad treaties or no treaties at all. The UN has not been used properly; for instance, the genocide convention, in the case of Rwanda, was ignored. Our campaign's approach is a very practical one: here is how you make the system work, using diplomacy, negotiations, treaties, military strength, military-to- military collaboration, and so on. He wants to make it work in a way that is more beneficial for the international scene as a whole and for the US national interest.

In that regard, being a presidential candidate, does Giuliani have specific plans for the Middle East?

The plan is that the Middle East will become more legitimate and involved in the international state system, because what is going on has been attempts by those who do not accept the international system to put pressure on the governments of the states of the region. For instance, Saudi Arabia, as a state, is a legitimate state in the international system and the UN. At the same time it is getting pressured and attacked from Islamic groups who are saying things such as international law is un-Islamic because it is not Sharia law, that being a state is at odds with Islam because Islam should be under a Caliphate, and that the Saudis in the past were not always in the system of nation states. Indeed, sometimes they go to conferences and behave as a responsible international member and sometimes they fund Islamists, madrasas and terrorist groups that are opposed to the system.

So what is going on in Giuliani's mind is that wherever you look across the Middle East, and also around the world, you can see that there is a dimension of this international system problem at work. Afghanistan was a recognised state, a member of UN within the system. But it lost its statehood, its sovereignty. It was taken over by the Taliban, so it just disappeared from the system and it was used by the Taliban, used by Al-Qaeda, or Al-Qaeda used the Taliban's Afghanistan as an area for training, preparing to run attacks on those who are in the system, whether from the Middle East, Europe or America.

So what is going on is an attempt to bring Afghanistan back to a legitimate, sovereign statehood and that has been done. It got a representative government, it got a government that has a seat at the UN, it got diplomatic relations, but it got a lot of problems too. Still, Afghanistan is no longer a state which is shunned by the world. In fact, Afghanistan has a state now; it's inside the international system, although it has all these problems.

The same is happening in Iraq. Iraq has a government recognised by others, with embassies and international organisations. One of the most important things is to bring law back into that situation.

According to such a vision, how could Iraq return to being a sovereign state and a cohesive society?

It has to stay together and remain unified and it has to have a government that can govern, to have outreach across the entire territory of Iraq and be able to represent people outside the country. In my opinion, that is beginning to happen too. One of the things that is important right now is the PKK situation, because that is a crisis for both Iraq and Turkey and has brought the Iraqi government into a working relationship with the government of Ankara, talking about PKK, which is operating in an essentially ungoverned part of Kurdistan.

Look at the way it was in Afghanistan before the new government or the way it is in Somalia now. If you take that model, you can see that a corner of Iraq is ungoverned territory and neither Baghdad nor the regional government in Kurdistan is able to control that part of the country. What we have there is an ungoverned territory outside the international system, and in that territory a terrorist organisation is running actions against Turkey. In my view, Turkey has the right to intervene against the PKK's sanctuary in northern Iraq.

That is a good example of the difference between being inside and outside the international system. The solution is to get rid of those places like the PKK territory because they set themselves against law and order and the progress of the rest of region.

It is the same vision for the Palestinian-Israeli situation. The state of Palestine is not part of the international state system yet. We need to go ahead with negotiations that lead to the emergence of the state of Palestine and to incorporate such a territory in the international system.

The New York Times has accused Giuliani's campaign of being against the Palestinians and a future independent state. From the above "vision", it seems that you are comparing the Palestinians to the PKK. Is it possible the hawks on your team may push for that?

No. The Palestinians having an authority, negotiations are going on, and the US is involving with the process. If the idea is to achieve the two-state solution, then we are all for that.

Does Giuliani support President George W Bush's peace efforts in Annapolis?

We are supporting such efforts. At the same time, it is a matter that has to be approached with great care because if it goes too fast, then the Palestinian Authority is not going to be ready to become a state. It could result in a "failed state" when it is declared. We want to see what happens from the ground up. The Palestinians need to have the support of the Arab states to make it work. Under the Camp David Agreement, Egypt took on a negotiating role as a state on behalf of the Palestinians. Such a negotiating role was within the international system (state-to-state negotiations which are an important condition to get a successful outcome). After 1985, there has been no Arab state that has taken the role of negotiating on behalf of the Palestinian people.

According to Giuliani's recent article in Foreign Affairs magazine, your camp seems to be against Bush's ideas of getting involved in promoting democracy in the Middle East.

We are for democracy but not for democracy in the sense of just declaring it or saying to another country "you must become democratic tomorrow morning." Democracy is a practical necessity; if you are not moving towards democracy in the sense of satisfying the demands of the people then the country is not going to work. Democracy, in our sense, is not some brand of ideas that everybody should have to sign on to. It is simply the reality that if you do not have reforms and ways in which people can feel that they are part of the government then it is not going to work and eventually it is going to deteriorate. That is the case in one Arab state after another over the years.

The experience of American intervention in the region is not encouraging in the last few years. If you were going to sketch a roadmap for US Middle East policy in the region, what would you advise?

The American message to the regimes of the region for a long time was "if you are not democratic that is your own problem. We do not care as long as we have good security and economic relations." Such a policy, which was carried out by both Republican and Democratic administrations over time, did not work because the situation kept getting worse and worse. Nonetheless, I would say that the United States should not force anybody to be democratic but rather should talk with Middle East regimes to make them understand that "if you do not start to move to more open and responsive governments, then you are going to have radical groups." In that sense, we think that every Arab state is different in its problems and needs from every other Arab country, but they all need to move to better governance.

What is unique about Giuliani's foreign policy?

The uniqueness of Giuliani is that he understands the way the world works. And what I am describing here is the way the world is designed to work. The nations of the world accept the system -- we have states -- and under the system there is a certain equality of states, big and small. All have equal standing. Giuliani is the only candidate who understands the importance of the world system. The others talk about the world as a chaotic place and that all you have to do is to build a strong America that may intervene here or there. They do not have overall comprehensive views or plans on how to use those mechanisms to make a better world. They may use them or not use them but they do not see them as interrelated.

Iraq policy, and consequently foreign policy in general, is fading away in the public discussion in the election year. How do you see the future of the presidential campaigns in the wake of these developments?

Overall, the presidential elections are going to be 80 per cent domestic policy. I do not think the Iraq war will be a decisive element except one dimension -- security. Generally, the presidential candidates are not running on foreign policy. I think the Democrats believe that the coming elections are going to be determined by the Iraq war. In my opinion, that might have been true if the elections were held this year or last year, but what is happening in Iraq is reducing the level of attention of American voters to Iraq and the war. There are signs of progress and success, so the anger of the voters about the war is diminishing. I think the Democrats who thought they had this war issue for the elections have decided that it is not going to work, so they have started to change the subject to domestic issues like healthcare. The one thing that remains that is a foreign policy issue in the campaign is security and terrorism. There is still a strong sense in the American public that you have to be very vigilant and a strong view of how to protect America against any attack. In that sense, many voters think that Giuliani is the best and most prepared, and he is still the frontrunner in the Republican camp because he is a seasoned political campaigner. He goes anywhere he is invited, he speaks to people and voters who believe that he is sincere, and has an idea about what to do. Giuliani, in my opinion, is the real campaigner in the race.

Who do you expect to be the nominee on the democratic side?

Certainly, Hillary Clinton will be nominated in the Democratic primaries unless something monumental and surprising happens.

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