The Hoover Institution's 2005 Spring Retreat, April 24–26, opened with analysis and commentary by scholar Fouad Ajami at a dinner on Sunday, April 24.
In "The Autumn of the Autocrats," Ajami analyzed the status of democracy in countries in the Middle East. After recent extensive travels throughout several countries in the Middle East, including Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, and Jordan, he believes that democracy is taking hold in this region. "There's a healthy debate in the Arab world today," Ajami said.
In Ajami's view, "George W. Bush is the Christopher Columbus of political liberty in the Arab world—like Christopher Columbus looking for a route to India and ended up in new world, so [President] Bush went to Iraq looking for weapons of mass destruction and ending up finding a democracy." Ajami is the Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is also a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report, a member of the editorial board of Foreign Affairs, and consultant to CBS News.
Mixing humor and bracing insight, New York Times columnist David Brooks offered his thoughts on "America in 2050: The World We'll Leave Our Children" before dinner on April 25.
The future begins now, he said, with the population decline in Europe and Russia and its consequences of an aging citizenry and fewer workers. At the same time, economic change whipping through other parts of the world will likely cast China, India, and the United States as the top three economies, in that order, in 2050.
He also offered comments about current and near-term American politics and economics. "We now have the situation where both parties have failed to deal with problems," Brooks said. "The American people will do something, and it likely will be a saner version of Ross Perot or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the next 50 years, I do think we have a country that will be stronger and deliver the good life for its people."
Speakers at the plenary sessions, coming from government, education, and the media, offered knowledgeable analyses of political, economic, and cultural issues.
Former undersecretary of international affairs in the U.S. Treasury John Taylor, a Hoover senior fellow on leave to serve in that post, spoke on the "U.S. International Economic Policy Agenda." He outlined three areas that the United States international economic policy should concentrate: increasing economic growth in the United States and around the world, increasing economic stability, and finally, supporting our foreign policy. Overall, he reported, that the United States is performing well. "If you look at the results there has been tremendous progress, tremendous accomplishments under remarkably difficult circumstances, that is continuing right now, with some challenges ahead" Taylor said.
Recently appointed Distinguished Visiting Fellow Spencer Abraham, who served as U.S. secretary of energy, provided an overview of the "Global Energy Race: Meeting the World's Energy Crises and Challenges." Abraham warned that although energy demands are increasing, the best sources have been tapped. To forestall negative prospects, Abraham suggests including nuclear power in planning to meet increasing demands.
In "Profligacy and Power: America's Strategic Choices," Kori Schake, who recently served as director for defense strategy and requirements at the National Security Council, spoke on the strategic defense choices of the Bush administration. She believes that the Bush administration's choices in regard to defense are "not only good for the country but for international order." In establishing a set of rules that are good both, Schake said, Bush has chosen to place the United States at the forefront, which makes U.S. friends and allies nervous. The president, she said, believes that the United States needs to promote democracy around the world.
The difficulty the executive and legislative branches have in approving judges has been going on for about four years, said former U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese, in his remarks on "Congress and Judicial Appointments." Meese, a Hoover distinguished visiting fellow, discussed the reasons for the delay in the process of judicial appointments. "The key issue that really underlies this whole controversy, and underlies a lot of the controversies, generally, that have to do with the courts today," Meese said, "is, what is the role of a federal judge under our Constitution?."
The state of the world post 9/11 was discussed by Hoover fellow Ken Jowitt in his speech "Democracy, Destabilization, Disintegration." "Perhaps an untidy world, largely unrelated though significant issues, dealt with largely though not exclusively in an ad hoc manner is preferable," said Jowitt "to a world of ideological clarity, military majesty, and a sense of national destiny." Jowitt, the Pres and Maurine Hotchkiss Senior Fellow at Hoover, questioned whether the attempts to create a world of ideological sameness is best. One issue he raised is the difficulty of establishing democracy in countries where the tradition has not existed before.
Andrew Rich, assistant professor of political science at City College of New York, in "Think Tanks, Public Policy, and the Politics of Expertise," examined how public policy centers, or "think tanks," have formed and how they have influenced society. "Conservatives," Rich said, "have defined the agenda."
Calling it a "cautionary tale," Hoover distinguished visiting fellow Diane Ravitch discussed how New York City's mayor Allen Bloomberg's education reforms are failing the city's schools in "Bloomberg's Education Reforms: How Smart Businessmen Can Go Wrong." Ravitch is also a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a research professor at New York University.
Hoover fellows Larry Diamond, Michael McFaul, and Abbas Milani spoke about the future of Iran and its potential to become a democracy. Their concerns include forging a coherent policy toward Iran to halt the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb, to end the regime's support of terrorist groups, and to help the democratic movement in Iran.
Hoover Library and Archives director Elena Danielson announced a new grant from the Earhart Foundation that will fund a preservation lab to support the role of the Hoover Archives in preserving history.
In "An Essential American Reading List (or Let's Make Our Immigrants Read Longfellow)" Wall Street Journal's editorial features editor Tunku Varadarajan offered 12 publications he believes captures the condition and voice of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Paul Johnson's History of American People, the Supreme Court decision Bush v. Gore, Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha.
In addition to the plenary speakers, Hoover fellows and guest speakers presented conversations on a variety of topics. The first set of conversations included Michael Boskin, Hoover senior fellow, on "The State of the Domestic Economic Policy Agenda"; David Brady, Hoover senior fellow, on "President Bush's Legislative Agenda: Prospects in the 109th Congress"; Stephen Haber, Hoover senior fellow, on "Why Latin America Has Turned Left—and What It Means for the United States"; and Robert Zelnick, Hoover research fellow, on "Reporters to Jail: Protecting Sources and the First Amendment".
The next set of conversations included Mary Eberstadt, Hoover research fellow, on "Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes"; Alvin Rabushka, Hoover senior fellow, on "Tax Reform: Reality or Will-o'-the-Wisp"; Kiron Skinner, Hoover research fellow, on "Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Big Achievement: Transforming the Military"; and Paul Sniderman, Stanford professor, on "Affirmative Action and the American People."
The final set of conversations included Peter Berkowitz, Hoover research fellow, on "The Constitution, the Courts, and the Culture of Freedom"; John Cogan, Hoover senior fellow, on "Social Security Reform: Where Do We Go from Here?"; George Shultz, Hoover distinguished fellow, in "A Conversation"; and Steven Weisman, New York Times reporter, on "U.S. Diplomacy in the Second George W. Bush Administration."