Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Unfortunately, Bill Clinton's discussion was "off the record" so I can't blog it, but it was the most intelligent, moving and inspirational presentation I've ever heard. I almost cried afterwards. He's absolutely amazing.

PS : I took notes so if anyone is interested, iChat me. ;-)

Just posted some photos from Aspen. Will post more later.

David Kirkpatrick : "Everything is on the record."

This means I can blog! ;-)

Panelists: Madeleine Albright - the 64th Secretary of State of the US, General Wesley Clark - Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, Paula Dobriansky - Under Secretary for Global Affairs of the US Department of State and Kishore Mahbubani - Singapore's Ambassador to the UN.

Question: "Are we safer now since the war in Iraq?"

Madeleine Albright, "was Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat? No. So we are less safe now than before the attack. Understood the 'why' but not 'why now'. I'm now concerned about where (WMD) they are now. Many people in the US hate the UN, because it is full of foreigners, which can not be helped. (laughs) Support Bush's notion of more democracy in the middle east."

Paula Dobriansky: We are safer. The issue of what brought us in. 9/11. I don't think anyone would have thought that what took place on 9/11 was possible before that. The topic is new world order. We are not safe from a variety of threats. From rogue nations, or terrorists. There was a false sense of security. Then we look at Iraq specifically. 12 years of negotiation. Over several US administrations. Some security resolution. Hundreds of investigators. Inspectors who were on the ground in and out. The uncertainty of our security. The kind of volatility that exists out there. The environment has a great deal of vulnerability. The question is, are we better with Saddam's removal. The answer is "yes".

Kishore Mahbubani, "If you come from outside the US, for the rest of the world, the key question, is 'what now'. what is the impact of the Iraq war on the rest of the world. In the rest of the world, there are more questions being asked than has ever been asked before. Part is due to the Iraq war. "Friends of America" want America to succeed and would like some introspection in America to figure out how to get it right and how to reach out to the rest of the world. "What percentage of the world in their hearts of hearts want American to succeed vs. fail in Iraq." Many allies want American to fail and many others want America to succeed because we need a world order. "Tipping point". What can America do to make sure it doesn't reach the tipping point.

Wesley Clark, A few days after 9/11 Clark went through the Pentagon to check on his commentary. A joke was going around. "If Saddam didn't do 9/11, too bad, he should have, we're going to get him anyway." Those seized on that event to take out Saddam. Going after Sadaam cost us a year on the war terror. 40,000 troops who should have gone into Afghanistan were being held by Rumsfeld for Iraq. "It doesn't matter why, or how it comes out, but we went in there and kicked some ass, and boy they'll respect us now." The UN is not a world government, but it is an important part of creating legitimacy. I am concerned about WMD, but where are they? Not enough intelligence. The impact of instability of the action. There were some erroneous assumptions made. "I" for Iraq. Incomplete and indeterminate. Policy problems, bad planning, slow and cumbersome. We have a threefold problem. Al Qaeda, Iraqis trying to live, the Shia are organizing and deciding what to do. While we are worrying about terrorism and WMD, North Korea has crossed the redline. I'm happy Saddam is gone, but we have a plateful of stuff to do, but I think it's arguable whether we're more safe or not.

Paula : AIDS... After 9/11 worried that heath issues would get marginalized or sidetracked.

Albright : I sympathize for Paula who has to defend uni-dimensional administration policy. Defending the Bush administration is difficult, defending the UN is more difficult. Need for UN has never been greater.

Some quotes...

In America, we have the constitution. If something is socially unjust, Americans say 'It's unconstitutional'. In Islam, the equivalent is, 'this is un-Islamic'.

I regard Osama Bin Laden as the Robin Hood character. If we had a democracy in Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden would run for office.

There was a study that came out in June. The question was how the rest of the world views the US. Bin Laden was one of the top 4 on the list of who could help change US behavior. The approval rating, even in Europe has gone down over the last year.

The American Muslim community can help interface with the Muslims in the rest of the world. The American Muslim leaders and the American Jewish to work on issues such as the Palestinian issue.

Q: What about the role of women in Islam

A: Ideals and realities often have a gap. Even the framers did not really give people equal rights at the beginning. The ideal equality, but it didn't end up that way. The prophet was very much a feminist. The problem was when the Koran was implemented, local culture became law. Over 95% of law in the middle east is not from the Koran. The industrial revolution and the spreading of wealth increased the role of women. You can see this in the Middle East as the countries become wealthier, there are more lobbies to allow more equality for women.

If the Islamic world were more democratic and were more economically healthy, you wouldn't have many of the problems you have now. The rage in the Muslim world is focused on local issues. The war on terror should be focused on creating a light at the end of the tunnel and helping people raise themselves up.

I DID NOT know that. That's amazing. ;-p
Picture taken in Denver airport
Just arrived in Aspen. The day of silence was interesting. It accidentally coincided with the Blogathon, making me an anti-blogathon. oops.

I had to say a few things navigating the airports and other people talking was distracting, but sitting in the plane not watching movies, reading or doing anything except thinking and staring out the window was interesting. What was the most interesting was that after the initial discomfort, I wasn't bored and started exploring a very nostalgic space in my head. The scenery outside the window and the clouds were actually really interesting.

I spent the first hour or so thinking about how I was going to blog this or that thought, then I decided not to think about blogging or really think about anything particular. I tried to just "hang out with myself." Anyway, it was a lot of fun and I should do it more often. A few things to remember next time. Don't drink and eat a lot before the "day of silence". I spent the first half of the day getting my head clear. Although the plane was a good place to be quiet, I would have liked to walk around in the woods or something. Even if you are silent, noisy people around you are distracting.

Anyway, I arrived quietly in Aspen and saw a fox run across the airport parking lot. That was cool. Then I felt dizzy and realized that Aspen is at 8000 feet and that I felt dizzy last year too. Anyway, the conference will start this evening. I hope that have wifi at the Aspen Institute so you can all be there with me. ;-)