Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where were you AMP???

This post is for our pal AMP, because I really missed her today when I attended a seminar entitled: "A Diplomat's Role in the Middle East". Former Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer gave a seminar in the Munk Centre International Studies on diplomacy in the Middle East and I could have used the many insights and running commentary of AMP - political economist extraordinaire. Without a doubt I was the only archaeologist in the room. You might wonder why I went along, but I assure you that it is relevant to my work. I am often told that those in the diplomatic corps collect antiquities, facilitate the movement of material, or receive artifacts as part of their job. I am always interested in making connections with collectors, so I thought I'd go along to "meet" Ambassador Kurtzer (which I did not). Also Yo and I have spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East and in a former life I worked for the Dept of State, so the topic piqued my interest. And finally, I am working on a project with CML on diplomacy and archaeology, so all-in-all it seemed like a good idea.

I am glad I went, Amb. Kurtzer was an engaging speaker and had some interesting things to say. I wish that AMP had been there so we could discuss the Amb.'s comments over martinis - I need some of AMP's perspectives on this seminar. One of the points that resonated with me was that most governments pay little or no attention to diplomacy and they do not use it effectively. Many countries (read the US) jump into war long before they have exhausted all diplomatic avenues, a depressing but true fact. In discussing the current situation in the Middle East Amb. Kurtzer suggested that many Middle Eastern countries do not take responsibility for each other. He said that there is more foreign aid to places like Egypt and Palestine from places like Europe and North America than the Middle Eastern countries like UAE and Qatar. Now if AMP had been there I could have asked if this was true, I have no idea.

I also thought it would have been interesting for AMP as she spent last year in Jordan and is in Egypt on a Fulbright this year, Amb. Kurtzer spent 8 years in Egypt with the US Embassy, he used a lot of Egyptian case studies to illustrate his points. There was a lot of talk about democratization in the ME. He cited the arrest of noted scholar and pro-democracy advocate Saadeddin Ibrahim. Arrested numerous times in the past, Professor Ibrahim is currently not allowed back into Egypt after organizing a conference on Middle East democracy in the Gulf. Amb. Kurtzer suggested that countries could be using diplomatic means - getting Egypt on the Human Rights Watch list, supporting Amnesty International to sway the case of Professor Ibrahim. He suggest that cutting off aid is not always the answer to getting what the West wants in the Middle East - the usual knee-jerk reaction in the West. It would be interesting to get AMP's perspective on this from inside Egypt.

And AMP would be proud, I asked a question about the efficacy of cultural programming (the softer side of diplomacy - exchange programs, educational outreach, cultural programs - archaeology often falls within this realm). Amb Kurtzer related an interesting tidbit when he suggested that in the 1960s the US Cultural Affairs Officer in Cairo who tapped a little-known Anwar Sadat as a participant in the State Department's International Visitors program deserved a President medal for doing more to cement the future relationship between the US and Egypt than anything else. While posted in Egypt Amb. Kurtzer helped to establish a service center for NGOs for capacity building and creation of sustainable projects, perhaps AMP has come into contact with this organization in her research? The subject then turned to the peace process in Israel and Palestine and the upcoming talks in Annapolis, all very interesting for someone who has spent a lot of time in the area, but perhaps not quite a relevant for my research (although regional instability does usually mean an increase in looting). So that was much of my afternoon. This evening I am off to the swanky Arts and Letter Club for a forum on International Art Law - hopefully more relevant for my research.

6 comments:

Sue said...

Us old people need paragraphs you young whipper-snapper.

MMK and YMR said...

Paragraphs are for the weak...

m.garden said...

ooooh the arts and letters club...that IS swanky. I am definitely jealous! Funnily enough I didn't notice the lack of paragraphs but then again, like a true archaeologist, I had been indulging in martinis before visiting the blog...

Sue said...

Hey, what I lack in eye-sight, I make up for with perfectly straight, cavity-free teeth. Weak?? Harumph!

Yorke said...

AMP is off scuba diving and partying in Sinai for the Eid, I think!

AmpiezzaDiVedute said...

Sounds like a really interesting seminar; I wish I could have been there (the martinis are also good bait, as you know)! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Sorry I missed the actual day, I was living in a hut in the Sinai until several hours ago. I could see Jordan across the bay, and missed our fun times this past year! AMP.