Dr. Shafeeq N. Ghabra
Director of Information
Professor Fernea: This is a different kind of workshop. Instead of having three speakers and questions, we're going to have one speaker, who insists he's not going to speak the whole time. We will see! But he's given you this hand-out which he will explain. I would like to talk very briefly about Shafeeq himself, who I've known for a very long time. A very long time.
Dr. Ghabra: Very long time.
Professor Fernea: Shafeeq is currently the Director of the Kuwait Information Office in
Washington, D.C., but he is also a full Professor of Political Science at
Kuwait University, where he began teaching in 1987. He got his Ph.D.
here at UT-Austin, and although he [word] in Political Science, the
influence of my anthropologist husband, Robert Fernea, is quite clear
because guess what the title of it was? "The Family and the Politics of
Survival: Palestinians in Kuwait." He has been a Visiting Professor at
William & Mary in the U.S. and a Visiting Scholar at George Mason's
University Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
From 1996 to '99 he was Editor-in-Chief of Kuwait's Journal of Social Sciences and continues to write weekly columns on political affairs for Kuwait's daily Al Ra'y Al A'am, for Lebanon's prestigious daily Al Nahar, and the UAE's Al Bayan. Although I welcome having him in the United States and I think he's a valuable member of the Kuwait Information Office, I continue to think that his academic and writing skills offer a great deal to us. He's one of the few people I know who writes just as eloquently in Arabic as in English, and I think as an achievement, that's something else.
Shafeeq is very well suited to deal with the issues we're talking about here, issues of international leadership and how to "translate" concepts of leadership across cultures. He has obvious experience, having lived in Kuwait, in Egypt and in Lebanon, in England, and in the United States. He, I think, has some sense of what is involved in these different parts of the world.
He wants to conduct this session, he tells me, in an "interactive" way, and I will let him explain to you how he's going to do it. But before I turn the microphone over to you, Shafeeq, I would like to raise a few questions for the audience, which may already be in your own minds and which may be answered by Shafeeq's observations or maybe the kinds of things you might want to ask him. What do we mean by culture? What do we mean by our own culture and what do we mean by a foreign culture? These are issues that sound very simple when I say them thus, but there's a lot of discussion about "different" ideas and attitudes toward the world which are embedded in different cultures, including our own, and these ideas and attitudes affect leadership and leaders. What do we mean? Is it a simple East and West us-and-them paradigm that we have to face with accompanying underlying stereotypes, or have we gone beyond those stereotypes? I don't think so.
In all the discussion about differences in attitudes - for example, people are always explaining to me that you can always tell whether you are with people of your own culture or another culture in a crowded elevator because people who are like us stand like this, afraid that we will touch someone else with an elbow, and people from other cultures are not as upset about private space in the way that we are. That's a very small and somewhat frivolous anecdote but it indicates the kind of levels of everyday experience that fall into these categories.
When you're talking about leadership, I would like to suggest not only do we think about these questions but what about common attitudes, common human bases for leadership across cultures - are there such things? Are there things we have in common with other cultures? If there are such things, which I hope will emerge in the course of the discussion, we desperately need them in an increasingly global world. I will give, for example, just one. There are no leaders without followers, and the issue of how to keep followers, of course, is the issue for a leader, and I think that's the same in every culture - or is it? Let us see what Dr. Ghabra can suggest to us, given his own experience across cultures.
Shafeeq, do you want to explain how you're going to do this because I don't know?
Dr. Ghabra: All right. Basically, what I want to do is just go over several issues that I think could give a good reflection on the two things of this particular workshop: working in a foreign culture. So last year, Kuwait on the one hand, working in Washington, D.C. - what does it mean? But how does that come to general principles of working in a foreign culture - in this case, you being somewhere there in a global environment, and trying to have an impact in another culture? It works both ways. And if we get some principles on one side, I think they will apply to the other side. So that's the beginning. Then we could go later on to the general principles of looking at leadership in the entire world and hope that we'll be able to get to it. It depends on you and me and the discussion that we will have, and I have no fixed bias to finishing this first or second, but we'll go over the floor.
So let me begin with the prerequisite of leadership in a foreign culture, and let me hear from you. What do you think would be a prerequisite if you were to envision yourself going to a foreign culture and having a leadership test? If you have a test to accomplish a particular mission, you have to lead through, whether you're leading yourself on a mission or leading a few others with you, or many others with you. It could be a school and it could be something bigger. What would you think are the basic things that you need to equip yourself with, that you should be equipped with, that you should know, that you should apply, that you should relate to in order to manager leadership in a foreign culture? Please, go ahead.
Audience Member: Language, the language barriers.
Dr. Ghabra: So, language, okay. Okay, language. I'm not going to write the whole word. Yes, what else do we need?
Audience Member: A broad range of culture issues: gender, customs, religion.
Dr. Ghabra: Of that culture. So gender-
Audience Member: Religion, respect for all the above.
Dr. Ghabra: Respect - meaning here, culture. A broad range of cultural issues that you need to understand. Excuse my handwriting. So culture, respect. What else?
Audience Member: Historical background.
Audience Member: History, yes.
Dr. Ghabra: So a sense of the history of the place and where it comes from, how it has evolved. What else would we look at?
Audience Member: A sense of self in one's own culture.
Dr. Ghabra: A sense of your own. So at the same time you need a sense of your own-
Audience Member: Culture.
Dr. Ghabra: Because how can you compare? How can you relate? You have to be at some level of comfort with your own in order to become at comfort with the other culture.
Audience Member: Absolutely.
Dr. Ghabra: Absolutely. And a sense of comfort to the level of what? If you're very rigid about your culture, would you able to work in another culture? If you're very messianic about it, would you be able to work in another culture?
Audience Member: So it's a critical feeling?
Dr. Ghabra: You have to have a critical feeling. You have to be so comfortable with your own culture to the point where you can critique it, right? Comfort helps in critique. If we're not comfortable-
Audience Member: Well, you have to be secure enough to be able to critique.
Dr. Ghabra: Secure enough. So a sense of your own culture plus a sense of security to be able to critique your own, in order to create that relatively. So you see the right in your culture and you see the right in the other culture, and you see the wrong in your culture and you see the wrong in the other culture.
Audience Member: Or at least the difference. Let's not say "wrong."
Dr. Ghabra: Or at least the difference. Well, anyway, these things are one to ten - yes, at least the difference. Okay. Maybe in a nutshell, are we talking here about, you first have to seek to understand before you even begin to be understood. You need to start by understanding before you try to impose your or to bring about your understanding of events, positions, issues, views, attitudes, et cetera. Anyone have anything else? Did we somehow capture this point?
Audience Member: I think one thing going to a leadership position, it's important to have a sense of how leadership is construed in the society to which one is going and how it is customarily exercised. Is it authoritarian? Is it egalitarian? Whatever model they use.
Dr. Ghabra: So a sense of how the place you're going to operates.
Audience Member: Right.
Dr. Ghabra: A sense of -
Audience Member: How leaders operate.
Audience Member: You wouldn't want to undermine their leadership.
Dr. Ghabra: Okay, a sense of how leaders operate -
Audience Member: In both cultures.
Dr. Ghabra:- in the other place, and a sense for the dynamics of the place. What dynamics? What impact? How does work take place in that place? How do people work, get influence, think? What impacts what are they looking at, what do they seek to see happen? How do decisions take place in that place? How do their managers or leaders make their decisions? How do they respond to inquiries, to questions, to your type of work?
Audience Member: Contracts.
Dr. Ghabra: Contracts, negotiations, how they negotiate - whatever. So basically, it's a whole range. It's quite a homework of understanding. Now, if you tell me you've lived in that place before you do this function, then that is a plus. If you know the language, that's a plus. But before the language and before the living and before the schooling, it's these principles. But then the language is an added point, and it's very helpful to know the language, much helpful. And definitely if you've lived in that place for a while and gotten the feel for things, rather than just jump into the water suddenly - so the more in this context, definitely better.
Okay, well, effectiveness of leadership in a foreign culture. What does that mean? Or maybe it doesn't mean beyond. Can we take it one level more beyond what we have just said in terms of effectiveness in a foreign culture?
Audience Member: What motivates somebody in that culture?Dr. Ghabra: How can you be effective in a foreign culture? If you want to work in a foreign culture, is there something different than working in your own culture? That is, the rules of effectiveness. What are the rules of effectiveness?
Audience Member: Motivation, of course.
Dr. Ghabra: So motivation. So basically we're talking about general leadership principles here: motivation, purpose. What else? Know your objective, know what you want.
Audience Member: General leadership ability.Dr. Ghabra: So how about personal skills at all levels: communication skills, right? Communication skills, interactive skills, skills that relate to how you deal with people. The same leadership skills that we all talk about.
Audience Member: Assimilating to that culture to a degree. Is that [inaudible]?
Dr. Ghabra: Assimilating to that culture to a degree?
Audience Member: Not really.
Dr. Ghabra: Not really. Do we need to assimilate?
Audience Member: Go native? No.
Dr. Ghabra: Come and work in the Middle East, do you really need to assimilate? I mean, if you respect enough, you have empathy, which is very important, to have empathy in this category, right? We can talk empathy but we somehow touch on other issues related to it. I mean, there is a process of where you're able to identify; you're able to be part and not part at the same time. But assimilate could mean cutting loose with your own, and for that, no, we don't need that. But if you mean by assimilation is being able to work in that culture as if you are part of it in a way, then that's okay. That's acceptable. But maybe we need to find another word for it rather than assimilation.
Audience Member: Adaptation?
Dr. Ghabra: Adaptation is great. Full adaptation is needed, yes.
Audience Member: The ability to go beyond or to go deeper than just the culture context into a personal context. That whole idea of a willingness to enter into another person's frame of reference, not just their culture.
Dr. Ghabra: So could we say that this would work well with interpersonal relationships and communication skills, and interpersonal relationships and the ability to relate to others on a personal level?
Audience Member: Yes.
Dr. Ghabra: How about building teams? Building a team. I mean, you can never be effective without a team. It's T-E-E-M, right?
Audience Member: No, T-E-A-M.
Dr. Ghabra: T-E-A-M. Okay, so we cannot be effective building a team - there are many ways to writing the same words, right? An English professor will hang for that! But anyway, teams are very important. You cannot build - you cannot have and accomplish your task and have your work accomplished in any environment today without a team, right? A team that has a relationship, that has the synergy, that has the ability to relate to each other, to understand each other. And the more of this, the better, because the more of this, you have a better group, a more effective group. And the requirements of teams is also communication skills and -
Audience Member: Cooperation.
Dr. Ghabra: - and be serious and on the task, and et cetera. And in some ways, I mean, this is what we try to do in the Kuwait Information Office. We really sat down, a group of us - all of us in the office, from A to Z - and we wrote a mission statement, and that's what it stands for. Where did we borrow this from? We adapted to this culture and we borrowed it from the thinking that's going on in corporate America regarding mission and vision and objectives and goals and teamwork and team-building. And everybody in the office, every employee, did participate in the writing of this mission statement. It took several months to brainstorm and come together with ideas, and everybody wrote their own drafts and then we unified it in one draft. And then every employee, from driver to secretary to program coordinator to everybody, finally wrote this and we agreed on it jointly. And it's put on the walls of the office everywhere you work. So that's how it came, the mission statement, and that helped us really build the team that we want as we continue to work on other things.
So that brings me to this article that you have in the package, which is "Kuwait Embassy Office Breaks Tradition with New Management Style." It starts actually, the article, "Something weird is happening at the Kuwait Information Office," because we are the only, probably, and the first foreign mission that has ever tried to do that, which is basically we've done a whole range of workshops in the office, on-site, on time management, on project management, on building trust, leadership and trust, and what trust has to do with leadership. And we go through exercises doing these: customer service, how you answer the phone, how you engage people, personal skills. They saw that we rented that video, which is great, on "Who Moved My Cheese?" and we had a two-hour discussion on "Who Moved My Cheese?" and change and what does it mean, and how we adapt personally, individually, each one of us, but also as a group and as a team, to change. So all over, it really contributed a lot to the spirit. And in the end, it is spirit. It is spirit over matter. It is spirit that could move things. And it is mind over matter as well that could move things and make things work at a much higher capacity and a much higher level than a [word] group that could call itself a team but it's not really a team because there aren't these communication things.
Think back, as we go through these problems, you discover in people their capacity and their willingness and their vision, and the good parts that could come out of it. And it's just fascinating how much energy they get as a result, and it transforms. It transforms a lot of perceptions and gives them a feeling for the future. Whether they continue to work with you or they move elsewhere, there is a different feeling to who they are and what they want to give you in a sense. So related to all of that in this part of effectiveness, of leadership, in a foreign culture.
Audience Member: But that meant you were adapting -
Dr. Ghabra: Adapting, yes. And it's not an easy price. You have to do a lot of thinking and studying and transformation yourself.
Audience Member: Can I ask a question?
Dr. Ghabra: Please, go ahead.
Audience Member: What made you do that with them?
Dr. Ghabra: What made me do that? I'm a product of Texas, Austin. I did my undergraduate at your site in the '70s. I come back to American in the '80s. Then I go back to Kuwait and I'm back at Kuwait University until 1998. So two years ago, I get this appointment, and I say I'll take it for three years or four years, and that's my intention. And so as I come here, I'm always open to reading and to learning. It's a lifelong commitment on my behalf. So as I come, I realize that there is something going on in the U.S. that I have missed somehow.
So the first thing I did, I got a few books on management. Now I'm in a position of managing a group and I want to be successful in what I do, so that's motivating me in a way to start looking and asking and answering questions. So I seek, and then I start looking at books. You know, managing - leading by the heart. Other books on empowerment. I did Peter Block, fascinating book on stewardship, the empowered manager. And I started to work it through the office, empower individuals and see how that works, so we are all - and then I decided to go attend a few workshops. And I attended and I learned a lot out of them. So it was a slow process.
And then slowly one starts to - and then I discovered that there was a whole world out there that is underlying much of the creativity and productivity in American culture today, and that it's not a world that comes on its own. It a world that is intentionally designed by programs and by training and by exercises and by companies and groups and universities and institutions, that they are pushing for that, and they design them in such a way in order to bring such a result, and there's a lot of experimentation. So I felt drawn to that and learned a lot of out of it and have developed respect for this approach.
Okay, so adaptation, again. So basically let me go to the third. Any questions on these two so far? Are we fine? Did I answer your question? Okay. Not really? I did, okay.
Audience Member: I was just thinking: why don't you come and run our education system in the elementary schools? This is great!
Dr. Ghabra: Well, actually, one additional thing I would tell you is that much of these ideas I would like when I go back to Kuwait and to the region to see how I can inject much of that in Kuwait and in the Gulf region [inaudible] because there we are much in need for all kinds of interventions and help on all levels of interpersonal communication and defensiveness and trust and et cetera that is the basis for group, and probably this has been one of our failures in our culture.
Audience Member: It's certainly a failure here.
Dr. Ghabra: And it's a failure in any place, exactly. So to work on it -
Audience Member: So we'll have to have another seminar in which you can come back and tell us what you've done and maybe we can do it here.
Dr. Ghabra: Okay, maybe bring the whole office actually and they can tell about that. But anyway, that's great.
Problems of interpretation in a foreign culture. This is as we operate in the U.S. and in Washington, D.C. We get all these problems of interpretation. How do you interpret yourself, your culture, your home town, your country, in an American culture that has also its biases and standards on certain issues? So let me put it this way. I mean, as Americans, you would hear this statement on National Public Radio or on the news wire, and it says, "The Kuwaiti Parliament has voted to deny women their right to vote and be elected, and the Kuwaiti Constitutional Court has also denied women that right." When you hear that, what comes to mind?
Audience Member: Why?
Dr. Ghabra: Why? That's number one. What else comes to mind?
Audience Member: Injustice.
Dr. Ghabra: Injustice. What else?
Audience Member: What's the Kuwaiti Parliament like?
Dr. Ghabra: Because you know the Middle East, you ask this question. But for those who don't know the Middle East, they will not ask about what the Kuwaiti Parliament is like. And actually, put it this way, many would come and say, "These Kuwaitis really [word] them in 1990-91? Our women actually go and fight for their country and they deny their women their rights? These - boom - boom - boom." You could get all these. And you could get these in mail to the Kuwait Information Office. So what do we do about it? We have to explain. And to explain - I mean, that's what we do. We basically explain the reality of things. The Kuwaiti Parliament has voted 32 to 30 to deny women their rights. The Kuwaiti Parliament is a parliament that will be voting again on this issue. It's not final. The struggle for women's rights has just begun in Kuwait and that's why you're getting it in the news.
Women are going to the courts. They're taking the issue to grass roots. Women's organizations are very active in Kuwait. Seventy percent of Kuwaiti students at Kuwait University happen to be women. The President of Kuwait University is a female. The Vice President for Construction and Planning and Engineering is a female, a very tough female. Seriously. And the Under Secretary for Higher Education is a female. The person I report to through the Kuwait Information Office is a female, and the one above her is a female, the Under Secretary in the Ministry of Information.
And females, women, are about forty percent of the Kuwaiti labor workforce, the highest per capita in any other Arab country. And women can dress really the way they want in Kuwait. Some cover. Some put the Islamic [hijad] and many choose not to put the Islamic [hijad], including my wife and daughters and et cetera. And many cultures, diversity, persists in Kuwait and people coexist, and there are different lifestyles. And you choose your lifestyle and nobody would interfere in your own lifestyle, whatever it is. And there could be lifestyles from San Francisco lifestyle to Utah lifestyle in Kuwait City.
Audience Member: So what about the Parliament?
Dr. Ghabra: And the Parliament is 32 against women's rights, 30 for women's rights. In Kuwait, the Emir of Kuwait is the one who brought the issue to the table, and this is the first time a Parliament in an Arab country has rejected the orders or the wishes or the law suggested by the Chief Executive.
Audience Member: So it's a problem with leadership?Dr. Ghabra: It's a problem of society divided and still working with the chads.
Audience Member: With what?
Dr. Ghabra: The chads that we had in Florida, you know? I mean, process. In the end, process. You want to go the Supreme Court; they want to go to the middle court; then you want to count and recount; they the lawyers come in and they go on. But at one point, there will be an end to the process with women gaining their rights because this is how things are progressing in Kuwait. Women are so powerful that you can deny them their rights today, tomorrow, after tomorrow, but the day after, they're going to get it because that is a fact of life and the economy. You cannot send that back in Kuwait. This is where the situation is. The Parliament has a strong Islamic representation. Kuwait is democratic in the sense that Parliament is very effective and Parliament can vote no-confidence in any minister. And Parliament, if dissolved by the Emir, can come back after two months if there is no election, and if dissolved by the Emir, there has to be elections within 60 days. Many limitations on the Emir's power. And the press is free, and no censorship on it, but the TV and radio are government controlled. So if you want to have the true story, you read it in the press and it's all over the place.
So that's how we have dealt with this, explaining it in that context. And in many ways, yes, people understood.
Audience Member: So why don't you turn it around and say what National Public Radio in Kuwait would say about the chads?
Dr. Ghabra: That's another thing about interpretation. I would be more than happy to jump to that and talk about it, but if it's okay, before doing that - which I will do in a minute - is to show you a video on some tough interviews we've had in America. Issues on like oil and how you handled that. It's very difficult. When the oil prices went skyrocketing and we were getting - so we'll do that and then we'll go to the other one.
Audience Member: These are videos made in Kuwait or here?
Dr. Ghabra: These are interviews here. One of them is the [O'Reilly Factor], and he's very nasty.
Audience Member: Oh, these are interviews here with you?
Dr. Ghabra: Yes. They're very short, so don't worry about that.
Video: "We're not doing enough to help out in Kosovo where the population is primarily Muslim. Kuwait, for one, disagrees with that. Joining us now from Washington is Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, the Director of the Kuwaiti Information Office. Now, as you know, Doctor, I was critical of most of the Arab world who not only didn't really come out and support NATO verbally in the beginning of this thing. Subsequently, we've heard some [word] sign of support, but in material and in refugee status, really hasn't stepped up to the plate yet. Would you disagree with me?"
"Absolutely. I give an example from Kuwait. Immediately after the beginning of the war, Kuwait took a very strong stand in support of NATO, and then [Renita Accords] moved ahead quickly and immediately. In Kuwait there was a TV live attempt for bringing financial support to Kosovo, and in one night $14 million or $13 million was raised."
"But you just heard the Macedonia Ambassador say that you didn't give him any money."
"The money had been going mostly to the majority of refugees in Albania, but elsewhere it's a lot of relief. But from Kuwait alone, at least 90 or 100 forms of relief have been already sent. Tens of millions have been made..."
"What you guys said ..."
"The same applied to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Imam, in Egypt. Everybody is chipping in. It's a very important subject in the Arab world."
"It is, yes. Are you sending the relief through Tehran or Albania? Is that where you're sending it?"
"Yes, much of it. And the United Arab Emirates has already become operated by them from doctors to individuals to the whole camp. Kuwaitis now are buying houses for housing to get the temporary relief into the housing issue. So there is a lot of work going on. And I would just remind: more people in Kuwait are now in there across the regions. The feeling of suffering is very, very important."
"In the Moslem religion, I'm sure. I mean, that's one of the things that you have to do. You have to help your brothers when they are in need. And in that respect, did you know, Doctor, that not one Arab country has taken one refugee from the area? Not one, according to the United Nations. That astounds me."
"You see, it's not a matter of taking or not taking. Now the question is how to habilitate. How to be able to manage with the refugees that are in the ..."
"Now, wait, wait, wait. The United States has taken them. Germany has taken them. Other places - we're shipping these refugees out so they have safe haven in some kind of, at least, regular food and sanitation. But all the Arab countries in the world, which are closer to the Balkans, nobody has taken anybody?"
"Let me assure you that if there is a request to take refugees into many of the Arab countries, they would not mind it at all."
"But you guys should be assertive in this. You should be saying, 'Here's our plane. Come on. Come on over. We'll take care of you, at least for a few months until things stabilize.' Why are you putting the burden on the refugees to get to you?"
"Because it is very important that the majority of the refugees stay very close to Albania and Macedonia. Let me tell you why. If you start taking these refugees into the United States and into other countries of the world, you're not going to see them return to their country. I would say it is much better to make sure that the refugees get the best facility and the best services possible in Albania ..."
"I understand what you're saying, Doctor ..."
"... for a massive return. And I am optimistic that such a return is possible."
"All right, wait, wait. I understand what you're saying. But you're putting the burden on three incredibly poor countries: Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Those countries have no facilities. They don't have indoor toilets for these people. There are no shower facilities. Come on! You can take them into your wealthy country, harbor them for a couple of months and send them back. I've been in Kuwait. You could keep track of them. You know that."
"If I had some decision, let me tell you. Kuwait could take 500. It could take 1,000. Already Kuwait has many people, many nationalities that are living in it. So does any other Arab country. The question will not be so much by helping Albania itself, Macedonia itself, and as well has been directed to underground. This is the best support and help that can be taken and can be done. And once that is done with the continuous work of NATO, with the possibility of resolution at the end of the road by which the Kosovons can have their right to return safely in the context of international security and support, then maybe then that would really be the best way out."
"Once we have the Kosovons, that's the way to do it. It's not by taking 100 or a 1,000 somewhere else. I mean, that's good; that's fine. But most of the support should be underground because that's where the majority will always be until that resolution occurs."
"All right, Doctor. We respect your opinion and thanks for coming on with us and giving it. We appreciate it. Next, back home."
Dr. Ghabra: That was a very tough guy.
Video: "We need information. Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra is Kuwait's Information Officer in Washington, D.C. Sir, is the price of oil too high?"
"Well, you know, it's very hard to say about anything, high or low. It's all related to a complex set of issues related to supply and demand. It's very difficult to say how high is high and how low is low."
"Well, right now, it's triple the price it was two years ago. It's quadruple too much?"
"Well, it's triple the price it was two years ago but it's not much higher than the price it was four or five years ago, so it really depends how you look at it."
"Well, let me ask you how Kuwait looks at it. Will you pump more oil in order to stabilize or bring down the price, regardless of whether or not it's too high?"
"See, the question is very central. We are already pumping more oil as OPEC. OPEC, including Kuwait, has increased the amount of oil in the market just two month ago by 1.7 million barrels a day, and there is another 600,000 barrels a day that are also being pumped into the market. There's also other amounts of oil that are being pumped. It's not an issue of existence of supply today. The supply is there. There are other factors and variables that are playing into the market price, and OPEC is really producing much above it was producing at much lower percentage rates."
"Just one word, Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, [word] here in London. I'll finally talk about whether it's too high from my own experience because Saudi Arabia said, and OPEC agreed, that it would [word] a basket of prices was to go above $28, they would increase production. It is now at $28.53, I think, this afternoon, so surely you're going to increase production; simple as that?"
"Well, OPEC is already into the issue of increase of production, there is a lot of muttering going on and there is already increase of production going on, probably unofficially, but it is going on and it hasn't affected the market. [Inaudible phrase] ... production and crude that are already in the market."
"Let me ask you finally, with your perch in Washington in an election year, more in our program about the issues: Are you concerned about the American public opinion about the price of oil, regardless of what you think is the actual figure?"
"You see, it's definitely not in the interest of OPEC or the oil-producing countries to have the price of oil go very high. I mean, that would not be comfortable in the long run. It is our belief that the price of oil is going to go down. It's not going to be at that price several months down the line. There is a meeting soon by [word] OPEC in Venezuela, so there are a lot of things going on. But on the other hand, there are more serious problems that we need to look at: refineries and their ability to be flexible. The amount of crude - what kind of crude is in the market? Is it the [sweet] and light crude, but what about when you get the [word] crude and the refineries are not able to do it? And the [word] problem. So all of these issue."
"Well, I can tell there's a lot of them, and we've run out of time. Thank you."
"So, there you have the view from the Kuwaiti and [word] Minister in Washington."
Dr. Ghabra: He made me a Minister. So that's some of the countries' interpretation. I don't know what your reaction to that is, but we do a lot of these. These are samples of some of the things that we come to on national or on local TV across the U.S. So, any reactions? Or should I just go ahead and move to our next issue regarding interpretation from West to East, such as the American elections?
You see, people in the Arab world have the view of the U.S. as an invincible power. Politics in the U.S. is seen by people at the distance as if it is one party, one group. So the greatness of this election is, it helped us explain that the U.S. has many centers of power, that decision-making is not centralized. The way it is done, it takes so much work and so much consensus-building. That there is Congress; there is the White House; there is the law. There are many different levels and courts. There are lobbyist groups. There are grass roots organizations. There are states and states' rights, and they are serious about it, and different laws apply in different states and in different counties and in different areas. And so all of this, adding to the media and its role and power and influence, locally and nationally - you could see this panorama of relationships, mega, of the United States of America. So to explain that was very nice, in a sense that I had all the conditions very helpful for that explanation. There was a dispute over elections and people could not make their minds, and it was complicated, and there were many actors and forces.
So I spent - election night, I had seven or eight or ten interviews all through the night, two or three hours of interviews, until three o'clock. And actually, my last interview with Radio Monte Carlo - I did BBC Radio Monte Carlo, which I give them a weekly analysis editorial - so at that night I stayed with them. And then finally we - the final analysis was based on what the next Bush administration would be doing, because Bush was elected. And goodbye, goodbye; we slept. I woke up in the morning; Bush is not President! And so they called me and said, "Oh, we stopped the whole" - you know, that's it. "What's going on?" So then there was the whole thing. I did a lot of explanation for Kuwait TV and other Arab TVs as well. "What's happening in the U.S.?"
And it was very interesting that Kuwait TV, for instance, will ask questions about the Supreme Court and about the local court and about the high court, and the Secretary of State Harris, right, of Florida. They were very detailed because the whole world was watching and people were getting educated in 101 American Politics. But it was more than 101-
Audience Member: Americans as well.
Dr. Ghabra: Yes, and Americans were also getting educated. So yes, explaining and being a broker in that context was a very nice experience. I always do it, in a way, through my other hat as a scholar and through my articles, which I do regularly all the time. So interpretations keep going. They are part of probably what you end up doing when you are part of both cultures and not exactly part of any. I mean, part and not. I mean, you have your global culture as well, in a way. You become global in a certain way and you feel so at times.
Professor Fernea: If we move onto the next one-
Dr. Ghabra: Move onto the next one, and that's Leadership in the Arab World.
Professor Fernea: Maybe we could have some stereotypes of that?
Dr. Ghabra: Yes. Okay, so - you wanted to say something about that?
Professor Fernea: Well, I just think that the perception -
Dr. Ghabra: And then I'll talk about from where you -
Professor Fernea: No, you should ask the people in the audience.
Dr. Ghabra: I'll ask. Do you want to say something about leadership in the Arab world or ask questions about leadership in the Arab world?
Professor Fernea: Perceptions of leadership in the Arab world. There's one over there.
Audience Member: I think one common perception in the U.S. is that every Arab country has a leader like Saddam Hussein or a very militant leader.
Professor Fernea: Authoritarian.