Is there a future for the war-torn countries of the Middle East and beyond? If so, who will build it and what will it look like?

In an attempt to provide an answer, business leaders and government officials came together last week for an event spearheaded by the White House - the 7th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which was held in Silicon Valley. 

There, hi-tech investors, innovators and political representatives from around the world assembled to exchange ideas, contacts and concepts that, in their mind, could lead to a constructive future.

But how meaningful is the concept of entrepreneurship for those who live with civil war, mass migration and sectarian conflict? And how is the Obama administration responding to critics, including those who work inside the State Department, who feel the White House has been ineffective in dealing with these conflicts?

To discuss all this, we spoke to US Secretary of State John Kerry, the official face and voice of the administration's foreign policy, and Ben Rhodes, President Obama's deputy national security adviser, who led efforts behind the scenes to achieve the nuclear deal with Iran, at the summit in Silicon Valley.

But this kind of entrepreneurial activity will be critical to the rebuilding of Syria, the rebuilding of Yemen, the rebuilding of Libya, and I think that's what's exciting about the possibilities here.

John Kerry, US Secretary of State

They spoke to us about the Obama administration's role in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), the war in Syria, what they hope to achieve in the next six months under the current administration, and why they believe this kind of entrepreneurial summit is a long-term investment critical to rebuilding Syria in the future. 

Kerry underscores the point that entrepreneurs are the "people who create the jobs", and the summit presents a "vision" of the future.

"You have to have a place you want to go, and leaders need to be providing people with that vision. Now, obviously, we have to end the war [in Syria]. We're trying, very hard, working with Russians, with our 66 nations in the coalition - we are trying to find a political path to end the war," he says.

"But this kind of entrepreneurial activity will be critical to the rebuilding of Syria, the rebuilding of Yemen, the rebuilding of Libya, and I think that's what's exciting about the possibilities here."

Kerry says his energy is focused on the now and talking with Russia and other countries about "how we guarantee that we have clarity about a genuine cessation where we know who's responsible for breaking it and people will be held accountable for breaking it, and that's what we're working on".

The pressure to end the war in Syria, he says, doesn't come from the critics. 

"I feel pressure from the children I see getting killed. And the women and the innocent civilians in Syria. That's the pressure. The pressure I feel is what motivated me to go to Vienna last November and begin to put together the International Syria Support Group and work towards peace.

"I mean, five years of war and 450,000-plus people dead and people tortured, and gassed and barrel-bombed - that's enough pressure. That's enough motivation to get something done." 

Kerry says the current administration believes there is ample time to accomplish many things before the Obama presidency ends on January 20, 2017. They are making "steady progress" in certain talks and in the battle against ISIL, he says.

"I'm hopeful that the next six months will actually produce some progress that's definable, tangible, and has an impact, positively," he says. 

Rhodes speaks to us about the Iran nuclear deal and why the administration is investing in a platform for global ideas and innovation where entrepreneurs can come together. 

"In the long term, the question is what is going to rebuild societies. What is going to bring greater opportunity to countries. And in fact, some of the drivers of grievances in countries, has been a lack of opportunity, a lack of opportunity for young people, in countries with huge youth populations.

"And we believe the long-term solution to that is in large measure having the type of environment and the type of value on entrepreneurship that can allow people to build businesses and to connect and succeed in a global economy."

Rhodes also discusses the "diverse set of tools" the US brings to challenges around the world, where, for example, in countering ISIL and the Assad regime, there is military know-how, influence in the global financial system, diplomacy and political leadership, and humanitarian assistance.

In addition to these current tools, he says: "We also are showing people everywhere that we want to connect them to long-term opportunity and the hope is that obviously you want the situation resolved, you want to transition to a new government.

"We would hope that five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, as Syrians are rebuilding, that they are able to benefit from the types of skills, connections and opportunities that are represented here [at the summit]. We know that's not what's going to be most relevant to people in the near term, but it's one part of how we engage people around the world."

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Source: Al Jazeera