Roundtable: Revolt and Revolution

Richard Haass and Robin Wright on this year's global upheaval.
9:47 | 12/25/11

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Transcript for Roundtable: Revolt and Revolution
It's been just over a year since the dawn of the Arab Spring and the ripple effects and still churning the region and the wild. Gone -- -- of the autocratic regimes of the -- the world Mubarak has been deposed Qaddafi is dead. And what's -- is democracy but also considerable uncertainty for the United States and that's when we Begin our discussion today. Joining me at the table Richard Haass president of the council on foreign relations. And Robin Wright senior fellow of the US institute of peace and also of the new book rock that has -- rage and rebellion across the Islamic well. Thank you being here so let's go right into was really excited everyone and that is the -- pretty. There -- elections going on right now. Political is -- is rising to the school is that necessarily something really scary Richard. A potentially in five disagree with two things you said if -- might. First as I would use the phrase Arab Spring springs last for three months this is gonna last for three decades springs are good this may not -- Second of all I don't think it's fair to say democracy -- -- What we've seen as the overthrow of some authoritarian regimes we don't have the basics of democracy real and a civil society we don't have constitutional is and we don't -- checks and balances. We'll only know -- we have democracy again years if not decades -- So does the pessimistic. Viewpoint realistic -- You -- -- -- institutions have yet to be enshrined. But political Islam was bound to be the first situation wasn't well I think -- -- Arab uprisings are probably the most important story of the early 21 century terms of changing. The last bloc of countries the world's most -- volatile corner. In a way that. We saw elsewhere in the in the late twentieth century and I think the two trends -- the next decade more often for those of us on the west look like contradictions one will be this burst of -- demand for political participation and justice in the end of corruption but also the use of Islam and it's I'm not -- it's always scary I think that we have seen the emergence of a whole new political spectrum with among Islamist parties that you have. Groups of the -- -- -- -- the ones to worry about hardline hardline once who followed the ideology of Saudi Arabia and -- a lot of a whole lot of others who are at various places on the spectrum. Have renounced violence. Understand that they have to not only learn how to pick up the garbage -- create jobs. And that there this will be -- -- -- tell the Muslim Brotherhood is doing well because they have been picking up the garbage and delivering social services so again we should. What does this mean for the United States given that presumably America wants the voice of the -- -- -- -- Which he -- were still going to be working an outright that I think we're gonna have disagreements about democracy again the same fundamental issues we have disagreements about approaches to Israel has the public voice becomes much more pronounced in this part of the world likely to be -- to anti Israeli. We'll probably have some disagreements about working against terrorism the old guard was a real partner these guys -- Also we're gonna wanna -- help them but only on certain conditions we will give you economic help if only you do certain things we will give you political help them democratic assistance but only if you do certain things. I think working that out is going to be real source of friction. -- when it comes to Israel I the interesting thing is that the majority of Arabs don't want another war but they do want in the case of Muslim Brotherhood. Changes to the current Camp David treaty the -- -- don't want the treaty and also that's where the danger lies. But a lot of the dynamics I think -- aren't going to be changed in terms of they're dealings with the outside world and we're gonna have a hard time of course because. These are societies that don't want to be tainted. By -- of new governments that are not going to take. -- on our terms and we're going to be wanting not and I think many people on in congress particular not going to be willing to give. A -- what look like to them Islamic government. This shift to on the news that is still going to be I presume you -- it makes it a big issue full -- the United States administration absolutely Ron has the potential to be the dominant foreign policy issue of 2012. But we've -- president Obama's throughout his administration wants it was -- diplomacy was not gonna go the way he intended. Talk about an unacceptable. Situation in nuclear on and that language has. Somewhat abated using all means an old house of the US to prevention nuclear Iran. Has shifted to now within a try to prevent within to isolate -- -- tacit policy shift that's happening. I don't think so I think there is still a concern about bringing this to a head in a way that would -- spooky international oil markets. -- oil price is two or three times really are which could be the external shock that would cause the double dip. But I do think the administration policy is still to try to -- sanctions. Use clandestine methods to try to slow down the Iran nuclear program they want to avoid the choice Christiane. They want to avoid that choice between either accepting or acquiescing in Iran in nuclear weapons program -- launching a preventive military strike against. And actually they actually trying to I think condition against emissions tracking every time you hear somebody talking about the only good -- but look at the unintended consequences. It would be so bad but sanctions haven't -- is still doing it. What the options now if you really want to -- continued to look their couple things that haven't been done in terms of sanctions one is dealing with the Central Bank is still limited how well that congress is just voted. You know recently hundred to nothing to. Impose sanctions on countries. Companies and -- that do business. Through the Central Bank but. There's also the issue of oil and this is one where with its European Union taking the lead or the United States that's one that's -- the -- I don't think that even though Iran is likely to be the dominant. -- the new big issue of 2012 that were likely to see any kind of military strike by the United States or Israel during that period I think no one. Believes that work at that point that action really needs to be taken and that's true even. Among Israeli intelligence analysts that someone isn't named as one go back to -- containment of Iran does one try to live with a nuclear what is his -- well and the problem is also you can't bomb knowledge and the Iranians have reached a certain point. That. That what do you bomb in what. What can you damage and how much would you set back the program and how much do you actually. Rally Iranians around the idea -- we need a nuclear weapon now because we are being attacked by the outside world so it changes the political dynamics and on that issue as well -- slugger museum on. Going to be for the United States in the next twelve months what's going to be extraordinarily troubling Iran was to great beneficiary of the Iraq War and it's dramatically improve Iran's strategic position higher oil prices improved Iran's strategic position. Some of the events in the Arab world with one important exception Syria. Have in many ways helped Iran so Iran has emerged as a major regional after you mentioned Turkey if before along with Turkey obviously with Israel we'll see what Egypt becomes. So this is now part of the mix and what this also means as US influence is probably down. Where -- situation right now where our interest in this troubled part of the world. Our interest a far greater than our influence. It's never comfortable point for policymakers but I think that's that's the truth that in some ways -- as much bystander to events as we are influence -- Well a New Britain about this reorientation -- America towards this new challenge and it looks to me -- -- would you agree. That the US sort of may be moving away from the Middle East and -- -- -- and moving towards Asia the Pacific is the president is as. -- great strategic sense in the -- look if you look at the world where's the great concentration of wealth. Asia ultimately this wealth is going to be translated to other forms of power China India Korea and Japan what -- decisions is where history in the 21 century. Is largely going to be written how we Asian plays out we'll determine more than anything the character of the coming decades with the Middle East. Still has the potential to to wreck things whether it's to terrorism. And stability. Oil unit and for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Is still the flying and you when we can't we can't ignore we can't move away from it but we -- we can avoid future rock's American forces have just come home. We can avoid future Afghanistan that sort of large scale. American land force investment in the Middle East Bob gates was right those days -- over. What about the other may. Well one of the reasons I think United States is engaging in what's called strategic rebalance. Toward Asia is because the barometer of power increasingly is defined by economics and less and -- by military might. And reflected in the fact that we can't actually achieve our goals in Iraq and Afghanistan militarily takes lot of political muscle but. The fact that we've ignored what's been happening in Asia with it. Reemerge and -- emergence of Thailand and South Korea's fees and as strong economy. But the challenges is looking at Europe and can it survive and one of the things that's. So interesting about the world in the twenty for centuries how we're moving to a global world through regional blocs and a lot of what happens in Europe will influence what happens -- other regions of the world. Can -- unite around whether it's a financial unit or a constitutional or common political goals. And I lost 45 seconds how perilous is what's happening in Europe right now given its largest market for -- -- It is perilous in the politics of lagged behind the economics in the finance and that's not gonna change you're not gonna see it integrated Europe in the fiscal sense that will match the monetary sense I just come back from China. What was interest thing and all my meetings with senior Chinese officials the first question they had was -- They are worried that if Europe goes badly China's ability to export. We'll go down that raises fundamental questions about China China's economic model and hence political stability. She Europe right now with the dominant issue in 2011 want the Middle East. Probably those two issues in the state dominant in 2012. Robin Wright Richard -- thank you so much indeed for joining us and happy Christmas happy holidays.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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