Is There a Policy for Democratic Movements in the Middle East and North Africa?: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH — 2/23/2011

By Kristina

Feb 23, 2011 2:20pm

TAPPER:  Can you articulate a policy that the Obama administration has for the sweeping wave of protests that are breaking out in North Africa and in Middle Eastern countries?  Obviously, as has been said by your administration many times, nobody could have predicted that all of this was going to happen.  But certainly the president and administrations long before this president had been articulating the need for democracy and political reform.  Is there a plan in place here?

CARNEY:  There is a policy, Jake, and we've been very clear about this.  And what is important about this policy is that it does apply to every country in the region.  First of all, violence against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.  The rights, the universal rights of the citizens, the peoples of these countries, must be respected — the right to peaceful assembly, the right to free speech, the right to access of information — to information.  And the need for reform is paramount.  These are principles that the president has enunciated when he's talked about every country in the region that's experienced unrest.

TAPPER: Those are certainly the principles that exist in the United States — – but that's not really necessarily a policy for what to do in this country, what to do in that country.  This country — Egypt, has a functioning military. Libya has a complete vacuum, a lack of infrastructure.  Is there a –is there a policy for not just beliefs that the president holds or America holds, but steps that the country will take given unrest in various countries?

CARNEY:  Well, the principles guide the policy.  And you are right to note that each country is different, and the president has made that point.  Every country is different, every country has different traditions, different institutions, and a different relationship in some cases with the United States.  But it is important that those overall principles guide our actions.

And what I would say is that in each case we are guided by the principles, and also by the fact that the unrest, the demonstration by the peoples of these countries of their desire for greater political – greater access to the political system, greater freedom, fuller rights — we support.  We support those aspirations of those people. And we are — but we are not dictating outcomes and we are not telling the people of any country who their leaders should be or should not be.  That is up for the people of Libya to decide, just as it is up for the people of Egypt to decide.

TAPPER:  Is it fair to call this policy as it's formulated ad hoc, or ad-libbed?

CARNEY:  No, I think quite the contrary.  It's been – there is a very clear set of principles that guide the policy, and I think that when you talk about broad policies in the foreign policy arena, the ones that are not ad hoc are the ones that are guided by a broad set of principles and not situation-specific or country-specific.

Which is not to say, as I said, that how we handle or react or act proactively in that — with regard to the situation in every country doesn't differ depending on the country, because we obviously want — you know, we're looking for positive outcomes.

TAPPER:  Sorry, this one's the final question, I'm sorry.  But just — you guys are prepared — you have a policy for if this were to happen in Jordan, if this were to happen in Saudi Arabia, if this were to happen in Morocco.  You have plans for all of these different countries?

CARNEY:  I'm not sure what you mean by plans, but we would be — without speculating on what might happen, our policies — our policy in the region and towards the unrest we've seen in these countries has been consistent and would apply going forward.

-Jake Tapper

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