Weâ€™ve discussed on this blog the opportunities for greater cooperation between the U.S. and critical countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions that is focused on the shared interest we have in protecting civilians.Â Secretary Chertoff is in Kuwait today meeting with government counterparts, including:
- Assistant Undersecretary of Kuwait’s Interior Ministry for Border Security Affairs Major General Suleiman Al-Fahad,
- Director General of the General Directorate of Security of Land Borders Brigadier Abdullah Al-Mehanna, and
- Undersecretary of the Interior Ministry Lieutenant General Ahmed Al-Rujaib.
The focus of his meetings appears to be on border security and what he called â€œsecurity cooperation.â€Â This is critically important dialogue that can enable the U.S. to demonstrate both our capabilities and our lessons learned over the past five years of having the Department of Homeland Security.Â However, Kuwait is low-hanging fruit in the diplomatic realm.
Working with Kuwait is valuable, but it isnâ€™t exactly difficult to obtain their cooperation.Â (Long history there.)Â However, the same cannot be said about their media. Chertoff sat for a brief media roundtable yesterday (transcript here) in Kuwait City to field some questions. Sure there were some softballs about our airports, but these questions typified the exchange:
President Bush has mentionedâ€¦that the â€¦ U.S. fights terrorism overseas to prevent terrorists from performing terrorist acts in the U.S. What’s your comment on these thoughts and these statements from the President, given the fact that some Arab countries are in contradiction with those statements?
How are you trying to convince Arab countries with this policy, and is that part of your agenda for the trip?
Can you comment on the policy of the U.S. to manage crisis in the Middle East, given the fact that Syria and Iran are in almost a war state?
Is there a list of what’s called the blacklist of people (inaudible) to the U.Sâ€¦?
But this question is the one that we sort of expected:
Since the U.S. announced a launch on a war on terrorism after the event of September 11th, in your assessment is the world a safer place now after all that has been done? Andâ€¦ what is the level of cooperation between Kuwait and the United States in achieving a safer world?
Hmm. Is the world safer? He didnâ€™t ask whether terrorism has been vanquished. Just whether thereâ€™s been any improvement since the several hundred billion dollars have been spent over the past seven years in response to the 9/11 attacks.Â The answer?
“Well, let me answer the second question first — it’s easier.”