Seminar Seeks Insights into ‘Arab Spring’ Phenomenon

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Ger­many, Jan. 20, 2012 — The poten­tial rip­pling effects on regions caused by rev­o­lu­tions in North Africa and the Mid­dle East lead dis­cus­sions here at a Depart­ment of Defense-spon­sored con­fer­ence held at the George C. Mar­shall Euro­pean Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies.

Egypt­ian Col. Ayman Kishar, cen­ter-right, makes a point to speak­er Mag­da Kandil, exec­u­tive direc­tor and direc­tor of research of the Egypt­ian Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Stud­ies, dur­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion about the ‘Arab Spring’ dur­ing a sem­i­nar held at the George C. Mar­shall Euro­pean Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies in Garmish-PartenKirchen, Ger­many. Kishar is one of 97 par­tic­i­pants attend­ing the Jan. 18–26 sem­i­nar. DOD pho­to by Karl­heinz Wed­horn
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“Arab rev­o­lu­tion­ary trans­for­ma­tion — Quo vadis?” unites two of the DOD’s region­al cen­ters — the George C. Mar­shall Euro­pean and Near East South Asia Cen­ters for Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies — as the theme of the Jan. 18–26 Senior Exec­u­tive Sem­i­nar 12–1. Both region­al cen­ters belong to the Defense Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion Agency. Nine­ty sev­en par­tic­i­pants from 47 coun­tries cov­er­ing three com­bat­ant com­mands — the U.S. Africa, Cen­tral and Euro­pean Com­mands — are work­ing to bet­ter-define what’s occur­ring in coun­tries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syr­ia and oth­er nations. Speak­ers include aca­d­e­mics, mil­i­tary lead­ers and oth­ers involved with the change process in those nations.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Kei­th W. Day­ton, Mar­shall Cen­ter direc­tor, said what comes from these dis­cus­sions will be deliv­ered to com­bat­ant com­man­ders and oth­er clients for fur­ther use in region­al plan­ning and pol­i­cy deci­sions.

“The top­ic — ‘Arab Spring’ and how we deal with it — is real­ly impor­tant, not only to Eucom, Africom and Cent­com,” Day­ton said, “but it’s also impor­tant to peo­ple who live in Eura­sia, North Africa, the Mid­dle East and Europe.”

The ‘Arab Spring’ began Decem­ber 2010. There have been rev­o­lu­tions in Tunisia and Egypt; a civ­il war in Libya, result­ing in the fall of its gov­ern­ment; civ­il upris­ings in Bahrain, Syr­ia, and Yemen — the lat­ter result­ing in the res­ig­na­tion of the Yemeni prime min­is­ter; major protests in Alge­ria, Iraq, Jor­dan, Kuwait, Moroc­co, and Oman; and minor protests in Lebanon, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Sau­di Ara­bia, Sudan, and West­ern Sahara.

Well aware of the seminar’s impli­ca­tions, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, Supreme Allied Com­man­der Europe, addressed the par­tic­i­pants via record­ed wel­come, call­ing the sem­i­nar an “extreme­ly impor­tant event.”

“This sem­i­nar brings togeth­er an extra­or­di­nary range of view­points,” the admi­ral said. “So, how do we col­lec­tive­ly under­stand and react to this type of fun­da­men­tal change? Bring­ing all of you togeth­er will afford the oppor­tu­ni­ty to step back … and chart a course for­ward.”

Among the nations rep­re­sent­ed for the event, Bahrain, Kuwait, Niger and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates are first-time atten­dees. In forg­ing bonds here, they will become part of the two region­al cen­ters’ 13,000-strong net­work of alum­ni.

Pan­el dis­cus­sions and lec­tures are con­fi­den­tial, cen­ter offi­cials said, to help par­tic­i­pants open up about what they per­ceive are the chal­lenges in their coun­tries and regions. Retired French Maj. Gen. Philippe Som­maire, sem­i­nar direc­tor for the Mar­shall Cen­ter, said that strat­e­gy has paid off.

“We’ve been get­ting almost exact­ly what we want in frank dis­cus­sions between guest speak­ers and par­tic­i­pants,” he said. “It’s going very well.”

Mag­da Kandil pro­vid­ed an Egypt­ian per­spec­tive on events as a guest speak­er on Jan. 19. Kandil, exec­u­tive direc­tor and direc­tor of research of the Egypt­ian Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Stud­ies, said the sem­i­nar shines the spot­light on unprece­dent­ed demo­c­ra­t­ic trans­for­ma­tion.

“It brings the issues clos­er to the par­tic­i­pants here,” she said. “It’s very impor­tant to give them first-hand infor­ma­tion about what is going on in these coun­tries. We want the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to real­ize how dif­fi­cult the process of trans­for­ma­tion has been.”

Sem­i­nar top­ics touch upon dif­fer­ent aspects of the defense depart­ment, offi­cials said, includ­ing the Nation­al Guard Bureau. Army Brig. Gen. Kevin McNeely is a sem­i­nar par­tic­i­pant who also runs the Pentagon’s State Part­ner­ship Pro­gram. The pro­gram reach­es 63 coun­tries in Europe and Africa, includ­ing Egypt, Jor­dan, Moroc­co, and Tunisia.

“The foun­da­tion of the pro­gram is ensur­ing rela­tion­ships. Get­ting a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the chal­lenges that are being faced by the gov­ern­ments and the mil­i­taries of these coun­tries is impor­tant to our part­ner­ship with them,” McNeely said.

Day­ton said there’s no lim­it to what can be accom­plished dur­ing the sem­i­nar.

“What we want to do at the end of the day,” Day­ton said, “is not only get a bet­ter under­stand­ing by talk­ing to peo­ple at a senior lev­el who come from these coun­tries, but we also want pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions that go back to the respec­tive coun­tries involved so that they can bet­ter deal with the phe­nom­e­non that is prob­a­bly going to be with us for some time.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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