The Cable

Rumsfeld on the Arab revolution: It could go either way

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in an exclusive interview with The Cable, credited the Bush administration's Freedom Agenda with setting the stage for the current wave of revolutions sweeping the Arab world. But he also warned that Egypt and the other countries in the region could easily slip into the hands of repressive groups that have been lying in wait.

"That region does not have a long proud history of free political institutions, free economic institutions, and democracy," Rumsfeld said. "What President Bush has done in Iraq and Afghanistan is to give the people in those countries a chance to have freer political systems and freer economic systems. There's no question that the example is helpful in the region."

But now, several years later, nominally pro-Western movements throughout the Middle East have been defeated by repressive and authoritarian organizations -- a situation that could very well repeat itself in Egypt with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, Rumsfeld said, because those groups tend to be better organized and more vicious.

"So while what's happening is hopeful, all of us have to be realistic and hope the process is one, that unlike Lebanon, unlike Gaza, and unlike Iran, does not end up bringing people's hopes up and then dashed with a repressive regime," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld criticized the Obama administration's mixed messaging during the Egypt crisis, specifically referencing the State Department's decision to send Frank Wisner as an unofficial envoy to Cairo. The Obama administration was subsequently forced to distance itself from Wisner when he publicly called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to stay in power only days later.

"I think it's unfortunate that they appointed Frank Wisner and then within a matter of hours got cross waves between the Department of State, the White House, and their special envoy. Clearly that weakens our voice to have mixed signals," Rumsfeld said.

Regarding the role of the Egyptian military, which now has effective control of the government in Cairo, Rumsfeld said that it may or may not turn out to be a responsible steward of power and the transition to free and fair elections.

"If one had to put some money down, you would want odds, but I would take the odds favoring that [the Egyptian military] would behave in a positive and constructive way," Rumsfeld said. "One has to say that managing this process is not going to be easy."

Rumsfeld said that he believes the tidal wave of change sweeping the Arab world presents the United States with an opportunity to increase its support for the opposition movement in Iran.

"I hope there are a variety of things taking place in our government, in some instances appropriately public but in some instances private ... and that the examples that we are seeing elsewhere in the region, I would hope we would encourage in Iran," he said.

Rumsfeld has over 40 years of experience dealing with Egypt and the Arab world. In his new memoir Known and Unknown, he recounts the first time he met then Vice President Mubarak, in June 1975. At the time, Rumsfeld was serving as chief of staff to President Gerald Ford. "On a personal level, I found him animated, even ebullient," Rumsfeld wrote.

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The Cable

State Department budget request may be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill

The new fiscal 2012 budget request for the State Department and USAID made some tough choices, including ending or cutting foreign assistance to dozens of countries and delaying the goal of increasing the number of foreign service officers by 25 percent for years. But those cuts could be become much more drastic when Congress takes its turn slashing diplomacy and development funding for next year.

"We recognize that these are exceptionally tight times. With the resources outlined in this budget, the State Department and USAID can continue to protect our interests, project our values, promote growth, and above all, serve our national security," Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides told reporters at Monday's State Department budget briefing.

Development advocates praised the Obama administration's new budget request, arguing that it tackled the issue of government waste while still protecting the diplomatic and development programs that are crucial to U.S. national security. But they also warned the request may be dead on arrival in Congress.

"After two years of planning, review and reform, the Obama team has readied itself to make the best case possible for a robust international affairs budget," wrote Anne Richard, vice president of the International Rescue Committee, on the Stimson Center's budget blog.

"The good news: the departments and agencies that run these programs are better prepared than ever before to justify their budgets.  The bad news: that may not matter."

The State Department is comparing its fiscal 2012 budget request numbers to fiscal 2010 levels because Congress has not passed a fiscal 2011 budget, even though the fiscal year began Oct. 1. The government has been running on a continuing resolution (CR) since then, which will expire March 4. The House unveiled an extension for the CR, which would provide funding for the rest of the fiscal year. Under the CR, State and foreign operations would receive $44.9 billion in fiscal 2011.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on the Hill on Monday morning and emerged from the meeting expressing grave concerns about the House's plans to slash fiscal 2011 spending for diplomacy and development in the 2011 CR, which would set a lower baseline for the 2012 budget as well.

"We would be forced to scale back significantly our mission in the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, where we work side by side with the American military. We would also be required to roll back critical health, food security, climate change, border security, and trade promotion efforts abroad as well," Clinton said. "We certainly understand the tight budget environment... But the scope of the proposed House cuts is massive."

In a Monday letter to House Appropriations Committee chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY), Clinton wrote that the proposed cuts, "will be devastating to national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters, and will damage our leadership around the world."

A news release by House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) praised the $44.9 billion figure and said it was a reduction of $3.8 billion, or 8 percent from total 2010 appropriations and a reduction of $11.7 billion, or 21 percent, from the president's 2011 budget request. Granger and GOP congressional leaders are promising to cut Obama's 2012 request even further.

Granger's Democratic counterpart, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), issued a statement on Monday railing against the House Republicans' bill, hammering home the argument that diplomacy and development funding are key to national security.

"Even in these difficult economic times, we cannot afford to enact broad and haphazard cuts to key pillars of our national security. We must not allow our response to an economic challenge to create a national security crisis," Lowey said.

The entire State Department and USAID fiscal 2012 budget request, which can be found here, seeks just over $47 billion, which the Office of Management and Budget notes is a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2010 levels. The president is requesting a grand total of $50.9 billion for U.S. diplomacy and development efforts, after accounting for programs outside State and USAID, such as the Peace Corps, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. That's $3.7 billion -- or 6.7 percent less -- than the $54.6 billion that was requested for the same accounts in fiscal 2011.

Obama is also requesting $8.7 billion in supplemental funding for the State Department and USAID in fiscal 2012, so that they can take on increased roles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. This represents a $2.3 billion increase over the fiscal 2011 request.

"We had to make tradeoffs. We had to cut some things to grow other things," Nides said. "The amount of money we are requesting reflects what we believe are the priorities for this department... This is a national security budget."

The State Department and USAID's plan to increase its cadre of foreign service officers by 25 percent, which was supposed to be completed in fiscal 2012, will now be delayed until at least fiscal 2014.

The administration eliminated or scaled back requested funding for dozens of small foreign assistance programs around the world. The request would eliminate funding for bilateral programs for six countries: North Korea, Tonga, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, for a total savings of $4.5 million. The funds allocated for North Korea -- which was being used to fund non-governmental organizations, not the North Korean government -- could still come out of general funds.

International Military Education and Training (IMET) program funding in the budget was abandoned for nine countries: Equatorial Guinea, Iceland, Kuwait, Madagascar, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the UAE. These cuts represent a savings of under $1 million. Foreign Military Financing was eliminated in the request for Chile, Haiti, East Timor, Malta, and Tonga, for a savings of about $5 million.

"We're trying to move our budget toward less very small programs, because we are going to have less money down the road to allocate and we want to make sure we allocate it to the highest priorities," a State Department official said. "So the savings from these cuts are very small but you have to start somewhere."

Funding requested for Mexico assistance is $335 million, $250 million less than fiscal 2010, $282 million of which is designated for the Merida initiative. $400 million is requested for aid to Columbia. Both of these accounts were reduced because the programs are being transferred to more local control, a State Department official said.

Big cuts were proposed to development assistance to over 20 countries, including many in Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia.

"Countries like Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Cyprus, Poland, are all countries that we think we just can't afford to give the kind of assistance we have in the past," a State Department official said. "We can't fund everything, everywhere, any longer."

The administration requested $1.55 billion in aid to Egypt and $100 million in aid for the Lebanese Armed Forces, both at about the same levels as fiscal 2010.

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