NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–February 20, 2011.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for having me.
QUESTION: About Bahrain, big trouble there. The authorities are cracking down. How do you assess Bahrain right now? Is it stable?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Christiane, we’ve been very clear from the beginning that we do not want to see any violence. We deplore it. We think it is absolutely unacceptable. We very much want to see the human rights of the people protected, including right to assemble, right to express themselves, and we want to see reform. And so Bahrain has started on some reform, and we want to see them get back to that as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: You, a couple of months ago, in fact, called Bahrain a model partner, a model of reform. Right now, they are cracking down on protestors as we speak. Will the United States condemn or hold Bahrain to the same standard as we saw them hold Egypt? Will it say what’s happening is appalling? Would it call for transition now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, I think our positions and principles were the same in Egypt as they are in Bahrain. These are individual national events that respond to some of the same but often different impulses. And so we’ve repeatedly said we want to see reform go forward, we want to see it done peacefully, we want to see it inclusive, we want to see countries move toward democracy. And we will keep saying that.
QUESTION: But there are things going on there despite what you’re calling for, which is restraint and no violence. They are actually committing violence. What will the United States do, and will it hold Bahrain to a similar standard as it did Egypt?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We try to hold everyone to a similar standard. But we cannot dictate the outcomes. We cannot tell countries what they’re going to do. We had no control over what happened in Egypt. We expressed our opinion as we want along and we’re working with our Egyptian counterparts so that their transition is peaceful, meaningful, transparent, produces results.
Similarly with Bahrain, as they move toward greater reform, which we have consistently encouraged, recommended, and urged, we’re going to be supporting that and we will speak out where we see them violating human rights and using violence inappropriately.
QUESTION: As you’ve seen what’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt, what do you think will be the end result in Bahrain?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Christiane, I don’t want to predict because we don’t know yet what the end result of Tunisia and Egypt will be. We have seen changes, but we don’t yet have a secure path that has resulted in economic and political reform that is sustainable and durable. And we want to support the processes that the people themselves have started.
And as I said in Doha last December, this was coming. I didn’t predict it would come as soon as it did, but I said very clearly the foundations were sinking into the sand. And we want everyone in the region to begin getting ahead of that.
QUESTION: Bahrainis protesting went from asking for reform at the beginning at the week, and regime change they’re demanding now at the end of the week. Do you think the status quo – do you think the King will fall?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to comment on this, because I think it is truly up to the people of Bahrain. What their process will be has to be indigenous, and we support it. We want to see them get on the path of reform.
QUESTION: What will be the punishment or the consequences for Bahrain if they continue their security crackdown, shooting into crowds?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Christiane, we have been very clear about what we expect. And we want to see transparency, accountability. We deplore violence. And we expect that the government will take the steps necessary to try to restore confidence, to reach out and continue the path of reform that they were on.
QUESTION: As Americans sit and watch and try to make sense of what’s going on in the Arab Muslim world, is what’s happening – is the emerging new order – is it good for America? What should Americans make of it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think in general, Americans are in favor of human rights, freedoms, democracy. We know that ultimately the most progress that can be made on behalf of human beings anywhere is when those individuals are empowered, when they have governments that are responsive. That’s what we want to see. At the same time, we recognize that this process can be hijacked. It can be hijacked by both outside and inside elements within any country. I mean, what a tragedy to see what happened in Iran. There was a great deal of hope and pent-up feeling that the time had come in 1979, and look at what Iran is doing today.
QUESTION: Do you think that will happen in Egypt?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t have any prediction. But what I do know is that there are many ways that these transitions can go right, and there are many ways they can go wrong. And the United States wants to stand with those who are seeking democratic reform, economic reform, who want to protect minority rights, who want to protect women’s rights, who want to build democratic institutions that are going to reflect real results for people.
QUESTION: You want democracy. You speak about democracy. Can you control democracy? Should you control democracy? Or do you have to take the chips and let them fall where they may if you want democracy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that first we have to start from the basic premise as to what democracy means. And democracy is not one election that then whoever wins it decides never to have another one. Democracy requires the building of institutions like independent judiciaries, a free press, protection of minorities. And I think there has been somewhat of a misconception in the last several years about, okay, what do we do to get a democracy? Well, we hold an election and then we can be as dictatorial, authoritarian, oppressive as possible. That is not what anyone wants.
We want to work with those forces within societies that are yearning for change to make sure that they have the support needed, and frankly, the technical assistance, the financial assistance, to be able to make it through to what is a good outcome, what they’ve asked for in their online blogs and in their posters and in their interviews.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you this because it’s an in-depth interview that you’ve done in the beautiful layout. (Laughter.) I’m struck by the imagery, though. You are there beautiful, but in a corner. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what? I just do what photographers tell me to do. It has no metaphorical meaning for me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So I want to ask you: Do you feel in a corner right now or on a tightrope trying to balance the need for stability in countries where you have allies and interests, and your values wanting democracy and all the human rights for the people there? Is that a struggle?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, think it is a challenge. And it is a challenge not only at this point of time in the Middle East. It is an inherent challenge in diplomacy, in America’s effort in the world. We want to advance our security, our values, and our interests. And if there were one template that could be imposed on every situation, I wouldn’t need to have this job and nobody else would have to either. But this is often a balancing act and —
QUESTION: Do you feel you’re at a turning point or at sort of a tectonic shift in trying to figure out where the balance is, where your strategic interests lie?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Christiane, we deal with so many countries around the world, some of whom are closer to our values, who see their interests in ways we do, and some of whom are at the opposite end of the spectrum. We finished a very successful trip from the president of China, Hu Jintao. There isn’t any doubt in anyone’s mind that we have a complex relationship with China. Well, you can substitute the word “China” for many other countries.
QUESTION: In the Middle East, America’s strategic interests have lied with – America’s strategic interests have been with some of these autocratic rulers. They’ve helped you with Israel and peace in the region. They’ve helped you against terrorism. Is your – is there a change in dynamic or a change in paradigm between thinking that that is the strategic interest, or do you believe that a democratic people could be a force for much more stability, longer-term stability?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, ultimately, a really, truly functioning, comprehensive democracy has historically been proven to be a greater force for stability. Navigating through what are difficult choices for societies that are doing that transition is something that the United States encourages, as we did after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and will continue to encourage. At the same —
QUESTION: Will you be encouraging it here in the current sort of revolution?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have been. But at the same time, we are also knowledgeable enough about historical experiences to know that this is not an easy journey for any people to make. There are many threats and problems along the way. Iran is an example that people often raise.
Now, you cannot take one historical, cultural, political experience and superimpose it on another. There are always differences. But we would not be doing our jobs if we didn’t look to see what are the common themes. How did countries in the former Soviet Union make it through to democracy and look at all those, unfortunately, that failed. They have autocratic regimes and they are only democratic in name only. In Latin America, how did they move from military dictatorships to vibrant democracies? So we have a lot of experience in talking about and supporting the right path, and that’s what we will do.
QUESTION: It is beyond dispute that the Obama Administration scaled back their democracy and freedom agenda of the Bush Administration. In Egypt, the funds for NGOs and the like, civil society, democracy building, were cut back, and furthermore were directed, when they were directed, to NGOs that were supported by the Mubarak regime. Was that a mistake? Or rather, approved by the Mubarak regime.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I just reject the premise. I think that there is —
QUESTION: It’s indisputable.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s not. That’s just not the case. There were differences in approach under the same set of goals to try to promote democracy, economic opportunity, women’s rights, labor organizing. There are many different ways that I think all of us – different administrations, different experts – have struggled with. There is no debate that for 30 years Republican and Democratic administrations alike sent the same message to President Mubarak and the regime that they had to change. And we were all trying different ways. I think it’s fair to say that none of us were particularly successful, because we kept running into an absolute rejection that that was not going to be done in Egypt. But we tried many different approaches and we’re going to try many different approaches in different settings as well.
QUESTION: So I’m getting the old wrap now. (Laughter.) Can I ask you three more questions, social media?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll talk as fast as I can.
QUESTION: Okay, you’re doing really well. (Laughter.) You’ve had a blitz in Washington this week. The first thing you did was go and talk about foreign aid. I want to know what you’re telling them on Congress to do with foreign aid and why that’s in America’s national security interest.
SECRETARY CLINTON: First, as Secretary Gates and I together have said repeatedly, we need an integrated civilian-military national security budget. I think if you talk to the Marines or the Army in Iraq or Afghanistan, they will tell you that it’s now so important to have diplomats and development experts working side by side. If you talk to my people, they will tell you they can’t get in to do their work in dangerous places in Afghanistan until they go right in there after the Marines or the Army. So we’re united and we have to have a national security budget. Yet for so many people in our country, somehow only defense is viewed as national security. So I will continue to make the case that in today’s world, we have to have a three-pronged strategy: defense, diplomacy, development.
QUESTION: And particularly in the Middle East?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in everything. But take the three frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In Iraq, our military is drawing down. We will take $45 billion when our troops leave at the end of this year from Iraq, and everyone, I think, in the country celebrates that they are going to be leaving and they’ve done an amazing job under the most difficult circumstances.
However, we in State and USAID need $4 billion to continue the work we’re doing with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government that we agreed to do in the Bush Administration. Too many people on Capitol Hill and throughout the country say, okay, so the military is gone, we don’t need to spend any money, which would be a terrible mistake and, unfortunately, I think would make Iraq even more vulnerable to outside interference from Iran. And if you look at the Middle East, we had for 30 years as part of the peace dividend out of Camp David supported the Egyptian military. And it was one of the best investments that America made, because during the difficult times of the demonstrations over the last month, our relationships between leaders in our military and leaders in the Egyptian military kept an open line of communications so we could constantly be saying we really support your protecting the people, we really deplore any violence, please try to restrain the security forces that were not part of the military.
So these investments – that was civilian money. That came through the State Department. That was not just defense money. Because we have several different approaches as to how we support security, democracy, and good governance and economic prosperity.
QUESTION: And to the UN Security Council this afternoon, will the United States support, veto, abstain from, any vote or resolution that condemns Israel’s building of settlements on the West Bank as illegal?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are not going to telegraph what we’re going to do, but I think it is absolutely clear to say, number one, that it’s been American policy for many years that settlements were illegitimate and it is the continuing goal and highest priority of the Obama Administration to keep working toward a two-state solution with both Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: I know you’re not going to tell me. (Laughter.) The State Department just had an Arabic Twitter account, a Farsi Twitter account this week.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: What do you expect to do with that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Have you been following the Farsi Twitter account?
QUESTION: I’m following it all.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent, excellent. Well, what we expect to do is to be communicating through the new social media with, literally, millions of people around the world, because we want them to hear directly from us what our policies are. We want to use it to rebut some of the falsehoods and accusations that unfortunately are made against the United States. But mostly, we want to be in the mix with this incredible, young, energetic population that is seeking the same rights to express themselves as young people in the United States seek.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.