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Albright: Arab Spring Protestors Want to Govern Their Own Way

Madeleine Albright

From left, Kathleen R. McNamara, director of the Mortara Center for International Studies, Madeleine Albright, Mortara Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, Jennifer L. Windsor, associate dean of programs at the School of Foreign Service, and Rebecca Farmer (G'13) discuss the impact of the Arab Spring.

March 14, 2012 – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently told a Georgetown audience that countries undergoing transition as part of the Arab Spring aren’t necessarily looking at the United States as a model for a governance.

Albright, now Georgetown’s Mortara Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, pointed to a fundamental difference in the ultimate goal of Arab Spring protestors compared to that of Central and Eastern European dissidents in the 1980s and 1990s.

The latter protesters identified themselves with the West and the U.S, she notes.

Basic Differences

“It is unclear what many of those in the various parts of the Arab world want to be part of, but certainly not just flat out part of the West,” said Albright, who was part of a March 12 panel discussion. “That is one of the basic differences.”

But she stressed that the United States still needs to be involved with Arab Spring countries, just not as an international superpower pledging full help.

“It’s a little bit of a different role,” she said. “I think ours is a supportive role there.”

Potential for Change

“I don’t think things can ever go back to the way they were,” she added. “[The Arab Spring brought] potential for even more change in an area of the world that has a very long history.”

The Mortara Center for International Studies and the Office of the Dean of the School of Foreign Service and Georgetown Women in International Affairs (GWIA) co-sponsored the discussion, which took place in the university's historic Riggs Library.

Sense of Candor

Kathleen R. McNamara, director of the Mortara Center for International Studies, Jennifer L. Windsor, associate dean of programs at the School of Foreign Service, and Rebecca Farmer (G’13), a student in the Master of Science in Foreign Service program and co-president of Georgetown Women in International Affairs (GWIA) also served as panelists.

“Madeleine Albright demonstrated her mastery of the wide array of topics involving the Arab Awakening and beyond,” says Windsor. “Her refreshing sense of candor on the topics encouraged active student participation during the question-and-answer period.”

Shifting Energy

Albright noted that each Arab Spring country has a different governmental structure  – except Libya, which she says has none.

“They each have a somewhat different footprint and it’s worth understanding what happened in each of those countries,” she said, adding that Arab countries with monarchies, such as Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have tried to offer reforms as a way to keep their leaders in power.

The former Secretary of State said political parties will need to take the energy from the demonstrations to fix problems in governance.

“It is one thing to demonstrate,"  she said. "It’s another to govern,”

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