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The U.S. Military in a Dangerous World : How Much is Enough?

The U.S. Military in a Dangerous World : How Much is Enough?


Good evening
everyone and welcome. For those of you who are
not from Brown University, welcome to Brown. My name is Rick Locke. I’m the provost here
at Brown University, and also proud to
say that I am also the director of the Watson
Institute for International and Public Affairs. And welcome to this
very special evening organized by Watson’s
Taubman Center for Public Policy, which
has sponsored this event. Let me just make a
few opening remarks, and then turn it over to my
colleague Wendy Schiller. For those of you who are
not familiar with the Watson Institute, it’s a mission
driven organization and the mission is to promote
a just and peaceful world through teaching, research,
and public engagement. We host hundreds of
these kinds of events over the course of
the year, and integral to the mission of
the Watson Institute is to bring prominent
practitioners, like our panelists, our guests
this evening, to campus, to expand and challenge
our understanding of some of the most pressing
challenges that we face today. One of the wonderful
things about Brown, one of the wonderful things
about the Watson Institute, is this kind of integration
between scholarly work as well as practitioners. Issues of national
security have long been a central focus of
the Watson Institute. Early in the history
of the Institute, that focus was on the Cold
War and the immediate post Cold War, especially Soviet
Union, US relationships. Since then, it has
evolved to not only look at sort of grand strategy,
forced mobilization, Cold War dynamics, but also look at some
of the new security challenges, whether those be
at the intersection of environmental
change and security, whether they be on issues of
ethnicity, religion, identity politics and security, or
issues of struggling over some of the most pressing
issues today, like if you think about the
challenge of ISIS or Boko Haram. And what is so interesting
about this long list of issues, you just have to sort of pick
up any newspaper on any morning and it just hits you
on how complicated and how many of these
challenges we face, is to really try to understand,
what is the role of the United States. What is our role at a
time of finite resources? What is our role in the
world, and how do we best fulfil our role at a
time of great complexity, a very quickly changing
landscape, and as I said before, very finite resources. We took up this question
over the course of the year, so it began last
spring where we had a whole session in the wake of
James Fallows Atlantic article. Just yesterday there
was a session at Watson with Admiral Howe, the president
of the US Naval War College, and the Watson
Institute has actually a partnership with the
Naval War College, where we do collaborations
in terms of research, in terms of events, exchange
of students, et cetera. It’s a very important
collaboration with us bringing together,
again, practitioners and traditional academics,
people from Brown and the Naval War College. Tonight’s event seeks to
inform that ongoing work, and we are very honored to have
with us an exceptional panel. And I want to extend
special thanks to the organizers of this
event, to Brown alumni Steve Cohen and the moderator
Jeffrey Robbins, so thank you so much for
bringing this event to us, and organizing. [APPLAUSE] On behalf of all of us
here at Brown, I also want to express my special
thanks to our panelists Senator Levin, General Thornhill,
and I understand that Ambassador Burns is
on his way from Boston. Having done that commute,
especially at this hour on 993, it may take awhile, but
when he arrives as well. It’s going to be a
terrific event where we’ll hear from people who
have really been at sort of the front lines of
these issues talking about, as I said at the
beginning, one of the most important and pressing
issues of the day. With that, let me introduce my
friend and colleague, Professor Wendy Schiller, who is also the
chair of the political science department, who will be
introducing our panelists and then turning it over
to the panel itself. Thank you very much,
Wendy, for doing this. [APPLAUSE] Good afternoon, early evening. Thank you so much for
coming out, particularly in the weather situation. And we have a
fabulous panel, so I’m going to be brief
in my introductions. In terms of protocol, I’m
starting with the Brigadier General and PhD, not that
the Senate is below that, but I’m just hedging my bets. I’m retired and I’m
below [INAUDIBLE] Dr. Paula Thornhill,
and I’m reading make sure I get it right,
directs Rand’s Project Air Force Strategy and
Doctrine Program. She retired from the US Air
Force as a Brigadier General. She served as the
Air Force Institute of Technology commandant in
Dayton, Ohio, the 50th support group commander at Schriever
Air Force Base, Colorado, and special assistant
to the 15th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dr. Thornhill has a DPhil in
history from Oxford University. She’s a member of the United
States Air Force Academy board of visitors, and
an adjunct professor of strategic studies at
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced
International Studies. Welcome, General Thornhill. Thank you so much
for being here. [APPLAUSE] I am going to read Ambassador
Burns introduction to make sure that he’s properly
introduced so he can get started when he gets here. R. Nicholas Burns is a
professor of diplomacy and international relations
at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is faculty director of the
Future of Diplomacy Project, and chairs the programs on the
Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of
Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign
Affairs Policy Board, director of the
Aspen Strategy Group, and a senior counselor
at the Cohen Group. Before retiring from his
career in US Foreign Service, Burns served as undersecretary
of state for political affairs, ambassador to NATO,
ambassador to Greece, and State Department spokesman. OK. Senator Carl Levin, Michigan’s
longest serving US Senator, retired from the Senate in 2014. In his 36 year Senate
career, Senator Levin was greatly esteemed on both
sides of the political aisle for his integrity,
resourcefulness, diligence, and willing to stand up for the
principles that he believes in. In the Senate, Levin served as
chairman of the Armed Services Committee where he
became a leading voice on military
and foreign affairs, and as chairman of the
Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations,
which involved the analysis of complex
financial and tax matters, among other things. Senator Levin received a JD
from Harvard Law School and a BA from Swarthmore College. Our moderator
today– actually I’m going to read the
biography very quickly of Steve Cohen, who helped put
this organization together, this event. He’s an attorney, a publishing
entrepreneur, author and teacher for
more than 30 years before going to law school. He’s a former publisher
at Time and Scholastic, and the founder and CEO of
Brainquest.com, [INAUDIBLE] created with Harvard and
Dartmouth Medical schools. Cohen regularly contributes to
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and
The Daily Beast. He attended the
US Naval Academy, and received his BA from Brown. Our moderator
today, Jeff Robbins, is also a Brown alumnus. He served as chief counsel to
the minority of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee
on Investigations, and as deputy chief counsel to
the minority of the US Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. He was appointed by President
Clinton as a US delegate to the United
Nations Human Rights Commission for two
years, and also served as president of the
World Affairs Council of Boston for three years
with Joanne Robbins. I want to say thank you so
much for taking the time to come here. I think it’s going to
be a fabulous panel, and welcome to Brown. [APPLAUSE] So, first occupation
is that given this is sold out, it’s clear this is the
defense policy wonks version of a Springsteen concert. The format, very
quickly before we begin, is that I’m going
to spray questions around to the two of you,
soon to be the three of you, for about 50 minutes,
and then we’re going to make sure we have
time for 30 minutes for people to answer questions with
that all important question mark, a really good thing to
contemplate as you formulate your questions. The last thing before
we just dive right in is that there are people
here who presently serve in one branch or another
of our armed services and there’s people
here who have served, and it’s worth pausing for
moment and thanking all of you for your service. [APPLAUSE] So with that, the US
Institute of Peace’s National Defense panel last
year, co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense
Perry and by General Abizaid, found that there is a
growing gap, as it put it, between the US military’s
strategic objectives and the resources
required of the military, if the military’s going to
be expected to achieve them. Hello, Ambassador,
nice to see you. How was that for timing? [APPLAUSE] You got a great introduction,
fabulous applause, too bad you missed it. Apologies. And so why do you think
Ambassador Burns was incorrect– [LAUGHTER] So they concluded back
in 2014, last year, that the Navy and
the Air Force needed to be larger not smaller, that
the reductions for the Army that were proposed
were dangerous, and that there was dangerous
readiness conditions, to use the euphemism that they used. And that was before Russia
invaded the Ukraine, it was while we still regarded
ISIS as junior varsity, and it was before this
nuclear deal which will now turn $150 billion over to
the world’s leading state sponsor of terror to
do with what it wishes. Do you agree that there is
in fact a significant gap between US military
objectives and the resources necessary to achieve them? And if you do, do you think
that Americans understand that there is such a gap? Use a number two pencil, take
your time, and good luck. Senator, beginning with you. Basically, I agree
with that assessment. We used to, and they
spent a lot of time analyzing what our current
needs are, our future needs are, what our challenges are now,
what the future challenges are going to be in the world. That’s the kind of
assessment that they make, and then they match and look at
the resources that are assigned to meet the challenges. And they say we
come up short, and I happen to agree with them. But that only takes you part way
because the answer is not just the resources match
challenges and then you analyze– I don’t think we
have time in the answer, although I’d be happy to try
if you want to analyze what those challenges are. These are different kinds of
challenges than we had 20, 30 years ago, obviously. We used to look at how many
wars do we fight at one time, and was it one and a
half or was it two, and we needed to fight two,
one big, one little one. And that’s no
longer the problem, we now have a dozen
challenges out there and we have a lot
of different needs in order to meet
those challenges. A lot of new
capabilities, everything from drones that will be a
greater part of our capability, to cyber capabilities, both
to defend and to attack. That’s the analysis
that they go through, and it is very important
because these are life and death decisions. Where do you put your eggs? In what basket do
you put your eggs? We’ll get back to that,
but there’s a gap? There’s a gap, but that doesn’t
address the question of why. And your second half
of your question is, do the American
people understand it, and I’m not sure they understand
it, but they don’t oppose, everything I can see,
our addressing that gap. That gap is caused,
more than anything else, by what is called the
budget sequestration, for short, which
puts caps, which are totally arbitrary caps,
on both military and domestic spending. I thought we might
get to the budget. OK, well I don’t know if you
want to get to it right now, but that’s really the
issue because there’s not a lot of disagreement on what
the size of the Army should be. It’s plenty low right where
it is right now, at 450,000 I believe. If these caps were– and this
is below what it should be, but nonetheless
that’s where it’s at, down about 100,000 plus from
where it was a few years ago. It’s going to go
down to 420,000, which is way below
what it needs to be, unless we address the question
of sequestration budget caps. All right, so we’ll
come back to that. Let me ask you– If you want to come back, that’s
what the focus ought to be, it seems to me, on more than
anything else, because that’s the big issue that we face. Not disagreement so much
over what our needs are, but disagreement over how do
we come up with the budget to meet those needs. Is there a gap, a
significant gap? Yes. And first of all, I agree with
the comment on sequestration when we come back to that. So the reason that
I would identify the contemporary gap is that
the most recent effort to try to bring down the
size of the military was when President Obama
identified the [INAUDIBLE] back in about 2012,
2013, or whatever. That was pre ISIS
really taking off. That was pre Ukraine, that was
pre Crimea, that was certainly pre Russia moving
forces into Syria, and it was pre building
islands in the South China Sea, which obviously China
has been undertaking. So if you look at it within
those broad outlines, you put sequestration
on top of that, what you’re asking
the military to do on behalf of the nation versus
what it has, there’s a gap. Let me ask you, Nick, a
different kind of a question, a projection of our question. The administration’s national
defense and security doctrine seems to be sometimes
framed in the negative. We shouldn’t do stupid
stuff, with the word stuff a paraphrase. We can’t be everywhere. We can’t be the
world’s policeman. All of these seem true, but what
is the doctrine that you think, and you’re well positioned to
have thought about this given the various roles
you’ve played, what is the doctrine that ought to
guide the American projection of power? Well first of all,
let me say thank you for the invitation to Brown. I’m delighted to be here. How was the traffic? Traffic was the way it is on
the east coast of the United States. I’m going to blame US Air
though for my delayed flight, but thank you. I’m sorry to keep
you all waiting. You didn’t. Good. Good. Happy to be with the
senator, frank as always, and the general. I think the United States–
Bill Clinton said and Madeleine Albright said, the United States
is the indispensable nation in the international system. Professor John
Eikenberry of Princeton says that there is an
international system built up after the Second World War that
has a super structure to it and he defines us, the American
people, as a system operator. So I start from there from a
military and foreign policy perspective. And I think that a doctrine of
the United States should be, we should be forward deployed,
diplomatically and militarily, to take advantage of the
many positive opportunities that are out there to sustain
peace around the world, and to make sure that
we’re powerful enough to be the agent in
charge of world order. That doesn’t mean we use
the military needlessly. I think the bar
should be very high, especially in light
of the problems we ran in to in Iraq
and Afghanistan, but it does require us
to be powerful, to be– Were there problems we ran
into in Iraq and Afghanistan? Excuse me? I said the problems we got
into in Iraq and Afghan wars. And I worry that our capacity
to meet that, to play that role, is being constrained by
the budget, and frankly more than just the budget, by
politicians in both parties who don’t think that we should
play the role that we’ve been playing since 1945. I’m an American
exceptionalist, I’m not embarrassed to say that. I can’t think of
another country that can lead the international
system as effectively, despite our faults, despite
the mistakes we sometimes make, as we do. So I want us to be more engaged
in some parts of the world. I think we’ve pivoted away
too much from the Middle East, from the political organizing
role that we play in the Middle East. I’m not just going to preach
to the choir of young men and women in the
front row, but I think the United
States Navy is going to face a major challenge
to try to maintain American military predominance
in the Asia Pacific region as China begins, as they’re
now doing, to push out. And the general
mentioned, and the senator mentioned, new priorities
in Europe, Putin redividing Europe, in a way, and
the burning Middle East, and the multiplicity
of threats there. So it’s not a time
for us to retire. Bob Kagen wrote a book saying
superpowers can’t retire, and it’s not a time
for us to shrink back as our extreme left and our
extreme right want us to. So you have used a
number of robust phrases, among them forward
deployed, agent in charge, American exceptionalism,
and so forth. The last year’s
Quadrennial Defense Review, this important
planning document, says that we need to,
quote “maintain an Air Force with global projection
capabilities” close quote, “sustain a world class
army capable of conducting the full range of operations on
land” close quote, and quote, “preserve naval capacity
to build security globally, and respond to crises.” Are you completely
satisfied that we presently have an Air Force, a
Navy, and an Army that meets those
requirements and that’s capable of being as
robust and serving a robust foreign policy of
the kind that Nick describes? Senator? No, because we, for instance,
don’t have enough units that are combat ready in the Army. We don’t have enough
flying hours that are available for
training, maintaining skills in the Air
Force, so we’re falling short of where we need to be. And that’s the bad news. If there’s good
news in this story, I think it’s that the
American people are willing to support an approach
which will add strength to our capability to
understand our responsibilities in the world. I’m not sure I would define
exactly the way you just defined them,
because I view more– I think Nick used a term
about bringing together other countries as was
done in Afghanistan, right? With all the problems
of Afghanistan, one of the real strengths
of our effort in Afghanistan was the fact that there was a
robust coalition with support in the region, not just
from around the world, to do what we did,
and including the UN. It strengthened us to
have people with us, and although I don’t
agree with President Obama in a number
of areas, including Syria where I would have acted
in a different way in terms of training and equipping
the opposition a lot earlier, and I don’t agree with his
position in Ukraine either. I would be much
more robust in terms of supporting the
Ukrainian government, nonetheless I give
the president a lot of credit for the
emphasis that he has placed on the importance
of bringing countries together in a coalition, as was
done in Afghanistan. And one of the real differences
between Afghanistan and Iraq, and one of the lessons
of Iraq I believe, was that it’s really
important that if you are going to go militarily,
if possible that you go with a lot of others with
you, including countries that are in the region. It was done in Afghanistan
very, very well and they continue
in Afghanistan if we decide to keep our
presence there after 2016. And I’m going to
actually get back to the partnership issue,
which you are particularly expert in a second, but
it makes sense to pause and ask you an Air
Force specific question apropos of the QDR. A couple weeks ago the secretary
of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, told the New
England council as follows, quote “Today’s Air
Force is the smallest we’ve ever been in terms
of numbers since 1947.” Quote, “We’re the
oldest we’ve ever been in terms of the
age of our aircraft.” Quote, “Half of our
combat Air Force isn’t sufficiently ready in
the eyes of our commanders in the event of a
high end fight,” which I take it as defined
as, a conflict– actually chance to be shot down or have
your aircraft interfered with. That’s now. That’s without a conflict
requiring relatively heavy usage of those aircraft. Do we have an Air
Force general now that’s prepared to play the role
that Americans assume that it’s prepared to play, and
want it to be prepared to play in the event
that there’s a need? So, multiple ways
to answer that. First of all, at the end
of the day for those of you who have either worn a uniform
or are wearing one now, if you are asked to
enter into that fight, you are as prepared
as you possibly can be and you will go. From a specific Air
Force perspective, one of the expressions
that’s always used is, we never want a fair fight. We want to win something
99 to 1, 100 to 1. We don’t want to win
something 50 to 49. What Secretary James
was referring to was, in particular, since
2001, what we’ve done is we’ve taken a
lot of the money, back to Senator
Levin’s comments, we’ve taken a lot
of the money that would have gone to
modernizing the force, and we’ve actually
put it in to the day to day operations of the Force. Which means to your point
about the high end fight, a high end fight is
basically a fight where you’re entering into
combat or an operations with a peer competitor. And so what you would
be talking about is we’d be talking
about a China or Russia. And as you look at how the
Chinese military in particular has been modernizing,
there’s a particular concern about how effective
the United States Air Force would be against that,
given some of the vagaries, if you will, of
the defense budget. So that would be the
narrow Air Force comment that I would make. I did want to throw out,
especially for those of you who are students, back to
your quote of the QDR. I would encourage you to go and
read, if you haven’t read it, Secretary Gates
book where he talks about documents like
the QDR, and he comments that, I never read those. I never saw any value in
them, and now I own them. And I would encourage
you to read that and read those documents
with that in mind. To what extent do these
documents, in fact, serve a purpose,
and do they help us understand specifics in
terms of what you’re asking, military services and
the military writ large. So you mentioned QDR,
and Senator Levin, you mentioned the crucial
nature of utilizing allies. And Nick, as ambassador
to NATO and as Under Secretary of State
among other capacities, there can’t be many people
who are as well positioned as you to assess this. The QDR says that Europe
remains our principal partner in promoting global security. As unrest and violence present
in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe will be critical
in addressing these challenges. You’ve had the job of dealing
with observing the resource constraints in Europe,
the political issues and the other considerations
that make reliance on Europe a challenging proposition. On a scale of 1
to 10, how anxious ought we all ought to be that
where we are, in fact, going to be relying on
Europe increasingly, that they will be there
to play the kind of role that we need them to play? I think before Putin’s
invasion of Crimea and his division
of Ukraine, I would have said I’m at
an eight or nine level of concern
about Europe’s ability to uphold its responsibilities
in the NATO alliance. That’s been 14 months since
Putin did those things. We haven’t seen
a dramatic change in the ability of European
parliamentarians or politicians to say we need to spend more
on our national defense. I think most people
know NATO, for much of its history in the
’50s ’60s and ’70s, said that every member
should spent 3% of its GDP on national defense. We then lowered that 25
years ago, and said 2%. I think of the 28
members of NATO, four or five are
spending about 2% of GDP in the United States,
led by the United States. But some of the big
continental powers, Germany’s spending about
1.3%, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands 1.1, 1.2. The United States represents
75% of all total defense spending in the NATO
alliance, so that’s an unfair burden on
the American taxpayer, on all of us as Americans. And every president,
Republican and Democrat, every member of the Senate,
House, has come out to Europe and tried to pound
on the Europeans. I think what happened,
Jeff, as you know, the Cold War ended
on Christmas day ’91 when the Soviet
Union disintegrated. The Europeans believed
that they were living in a peaceful world for
the first time in centuries. They now know, with
Putin redividing Europe, that’s not the case. So we need leadership in Europe. The person to lead,
is Angela Merkel. She’s the undisputed
leader of Europe now. If we’d been having this
conversation 10 or 15 years ago, we would have looked to
the British prime minister, the French president, and
the German chancellor, probably in that order. Merkel’s the leader. If she can convince her
people to spend more, then I think others
might in Western Europe. The Poles will do more
in Eastern Europe, because they do perceive
the threat from Russia. The Baltic nations
are great allies. They’re spending a lot more
than 2%, but they’re very small. So you do need these large
continental countries to come forward. One more point, this is
an enormous advantage for the United States. I don’t see China,
in Cold War terms, as a country to be
contained or fought, but we are in a competitive
situation in Asia with China. China has no allies. You might think of North Korea
as a millstone around its neck. We have Canada and the
26 European allies, and we have our
alliance system in Asia. Japan and South Korea and
Australia are treaty allies. The Philippines and Thailand
are security partners, and increasingly
India and Vietnam and Malaysia and Singapore
are security partners. So we have an
enormous advantage. I guess the point the
three of us had mentioned, we shouldn’t think about
American security or even defense spending as
an entity unto itself. We should think about trying
to build these alliances, sustain them so that we can
work with other countries. As the senator said, NATO
went in to Afghanistan. Every single NATO country,
and many more countries, are still there with us, and
so that’s a great advantage that we have as the
leader of the free world. And if tires are kicked
in placing to one side spending, Senator
Levin, you’ve talked about how great it was that
NATO was in Afghanistan. You said the same thing. Quite apart from the spending
issue, to what extent can we, in fact, rely upon
European countries to actively play a role
when a crisis actually occurs in places? Afghanistan aside. We used to talk– Only Germany. Right. We used to talk in
NATO, when we had to go– I was ambassador
on 911, and so we quickly had to decide, who’s going
to Afghanistan with us. And then of course
after March, 2003, I think 18 of the 26 allies
went into Iraq with us, not all of them, as you know. We worried about usability of
force, or what kind of forces do you have. Most of the European
allies have conscription, so they tend to
have large forces, but they can’t deploy them. One anecdote, when we
decided that we would all go to Afghanistan after the
initial American and British invasion in October, 2001,
most of the Europeans led by the Germans couldn’t
actually get to Afghanistan. They thought of deployment
in theater in Europe, train schedules,
train deployments, mobilize troops by trains. You can’t get to
Afghanistan by train. We had to rent Russian and
Ukrainian Antonov heavy airlift to take NATO forces from
Western Europe into Afghanistan. But you’re no longer at an eight
or nine of the anxiety meter? I was probably at a 9
and a half at that point. Since then, some of the Allies
have invested in strategic lift and C-17s, for instance. The British have. The Indians aren’t an ally, but
they have the second largest C-17 fleet in the world. So I think countries
are beginning to think not just about counting
the number of men and women in your uniform,
how can I use them. Can you deploy
and project power? And the British, the French,
are better at that now than they were on 911. And many countries have
taken casualties, by the way. It’s not just the budget issue. A lot of our allies
in Afghanistan have taken some significant
casualties, particularly in proportion of
their population. And they’ve stayed with it. So let me ask now, a
sort of ISIS question, or do we know what
we’re doing question. As we mentioned, year ago
or so, the administration referred to ISIS as JV. General Petraeus testified
before your old committee, Armed Services Committee
within the last couple of weeks that our performance and
our strategy against ISIS was inadequate. And General Austin, the
head of central command, testified also within
the last 10 days or so that a $500
million program aimed at yielding 5,400 armed
fighters against ISIS, had thus far yielded, quote,
“either four or five,” close quote, armed fighters. Assuming the more optimistic
scenario, that it isn’t four, it’s five, ought
Americans to be confident that when it comes to fighting
ISIS, we know what we’re doing? Confident in the will? Yes. And the determination? Yes. Confident in the
mechanism that will work in that particular
part of the world? No. Used to be there that the enemy
of your enemy, is your friend. It’s no longer true. The enemy of our enemy ISIS
is in many cases, our enemy. And it’s a very
complex situation. And I myself, as I
mentioned before, have been publicly
critical of our failure to move more quickly,
in terms of the training program for the Syrian
opposition, number one, in terms of the failure
to establish what I would have done, which would be a no
fly zone or a safe zone in the north of Syria, so
that Syrian’s could go there. There would be an
area which would be safe from the Syrian
government and protected. Turkey has allegedly, and I’d
like to hear from Nick on this, because he may know the answer. You may too, General. I don’t want to suggest
you may not know it. But Turkey has
recently indicated that they will
support a safe zone in the northern
part of Syria that would be protected by them. I don’t know what kind of
problems that does create, unintended outcomes
that may result. Now I think the
[INAUDIBLE] base in Turkey is now available to us,
which is a big plus in terms of fighting ISIS. But the bottom line
is that I think we should have been
more aggressive in terms of the training and equipping
of the Syrian opposition. We should have been more
aggressive, I believe, in terms of a safe zone, a no fly zone. Had we done both
of those things, I can’t guarantee that the
outcome would be very different than it is now. I’m very confident that
countries are going to come together against ISIS. We saw that in the
last couple days. Four countries, not including
us, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and who am I missing, Syria are
going to share intelligence. That creates problems
for us, by the way. We’re not going to
share intelligence with the Syrian government,
to put it mildly. So it’s complex. But nonetheless, I
believe over time that the people of that
region who hate ISIS, which is 90% of the
people in the region, will see that it is
in their interest to give up their
lives if necessary, to rid their countries
of this cancer. The figures that I saw seemed
to indicate in the last couple days that the number
of recruits, the people are pouring into ISIS. It’s going the other way. That’s tens of thousands,
I’m talking millions. I’m talking about the millions
of people in those countries. Look at the
refugees, by the way. Those are not just a
few tens of thousands, those are now millions. They don’t want to
live under ISIS, don’t want to live
under Assad either, but they don’t want
to live under ISIS. And they’re going to make
a decision sooner or later, like the people of Afghanistan
I believe made a decision. They’re not going to
accept the Taliban. Does the Taliban
win some battles? Yeah, including
recently they’ve taken over parts of a large
city, but will over time, if we work with our allies,
if we train and equip indigenous forces,
they are determined to get rid of the
Taliban in Afghanistan. They hate the Taliban
in Afghanistan. 90% hate the Taliban. And I think most people, I know
they will, support their army, and give up their
lives if necessary, to protect their values,
which are not Taliban values, including the right
of young women, women, girls to go to school. So I don’t want to be churlish,
but let me ask both of you, can you locate a current
plan that seems promising, a military plan, an American
plan, for dealing with ISIS? And then I want to
ask you as well, after you go first
General, about the Turkey question, the role that
you think Turkey can play. So my quick answer is, I don’t
share the senator’s confidence. I don’t see evidence that
we do know what we’re trying to do against ISIS. The moves that I
see, they tend to be somewhere between 6 months
and 18 months lagging. In terms of a
strategy, I’m assuming from an American
perspective, that we have two major objectives. One is to make sure that
the flow of foreign fighters does not move west and
does not move overseas, and then the other
one is to dismantle the terrorist networks
within the region. I haven’t seen articulated,
either classified or unclassified, a convincing
strategy for either of those. I’m also not
convinced, and this is where I look to the more
experienced folks here, I’m not convinced
this is fundamentally a military problem. And so when you start looking
at– one of the things that’s always interesting
to see comments on is how effective air power
is or isn’t against ISIS. If you don’t know what your
strategic objectives are, I can almost guarantee you,
you’re not going to meet them. And so when it
comes to what we are doing from a military
perspective in this region and how we think about it
within the nested security dilemmas in that region, I’m
not convinced we’re there. Nick? I feel compelled to say, as
a former civil [? servant, ?] I’m accustomed to criticizing
American presidents, that I deeply admire
President Obama and I support a lot
of what he’s doing in domestic and foreign policy. But as a supporter, I look
at the situation in Syria and in the Middle East
in general and say, it’s probably his weakest
area as president. Now he ran for office
in 2004 as a senator, and then again in ’08 and ’12. I’ll get you out of the wars,
and he got us out of Iraq. And the pivot, I think,
was an expression of his. I think he was right to
say the preponderance of our strategic
interest will be in Asia, but the Middle East
is still important. And I don’t think the
administration has put together anything close to a
strategy to defeat ISIS. The rhetoric is, we’re
going to defeat ISIS. The policy is actually to
contain it through air power. I wouldn’t support
tens of thousands of American troops
being put into Syria, I’m not sure anyone
is even advocating that, there may be a few
people, or even back into Iraq. I think, I don’t know, we’re at
4,000 or 5,000 American forces maybe in Iraq right now. What has to happen? The Iraqi army has to
rebuild itself and take back Fallujah, Ramadi, and Mosul. They have to do it. We can help a lot through air
power, through special forces, right, through targeting,
but that’s not our job, shouldn’t be our job. We fought there for a long time. In Syria, I think, to get
at the homeland of ISIS, and [? Raka, ?] and other
places in northern Syria, I think it is a
question of diplomacy more than the military. One of the things that
the United States has been good at for
many decades is, we’re a mobilizer of coalitions. We bring countries together. We help to point a coalition
in the right direction. As all of us have been saying,
we pass the tin cup around for money and arms. And here we can mobilize
Turkey, and [? Qatar, ?] and Saudi Arabia, and
the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, and the Iraqi
government, and Syrian rebels groups. I’m in the senator’s camp. We should have been much more
aggressive in arming them. We should have put
more effort into that. That’s the role we can play, but
all those countries I mentioned are supporting different
competing rebel groups in Syria. So ISIS has been able
to grow because there’s no preponderance of force
on the ground against it. I think that’s what
we ought to try to do. I don’t agree with anything
that President Putin is trying to do. The majority of the
260,000 dead in Syria and the great majority of
the 11 million homeless, that’s half the
country are homeless, have been caused by
the Syrian government. And so President Putin, in
that remarkably, I thought, capricious speech that he
made yesterday at the UN, he put all of his
weight behind protecting Assad, when Assad is at least
half the problem in Syria. So I think our president’s
right on his instincts, that Assad should eventually
go and the Islamic straight should be defeated. We just don’t have a strategy
in place to do that, yet. It’s kind of hard to
both go after Assad and ISIS at the same time. It is. That’s a very complicated issue. But one other thing I think
we ought to add quickly is that the decision is
not just purely military in terms of our activity. It’s not even purely military
in terms of the Iraqi government relative to Iraq
because there has to be a political
decision, which is made difficult in Baghdad, in
terms of bringing in the Sunni community much more, and
the Kurdish community. That’s a political
matter which is critically important to Iraq’s
future, and the regions future. So let me come back to
the military for a second, and in particular, a
military assessment question. The Pentagon’s Inspector General
has opened up an investigation, as you know, into evidence
provided or allegations made by, what, 50
intelligence analysts, that senior central
command people cooked defense assessments
of our performance against ISIS to make
it look as though we were performing better against
ISIS than we actually are. Two Senate oversight committees
have open investigations, your old committee
being one of them. The house has opened up
apparently two investigations. You were critical of
the Bush administration for not being straight on
intelligence assessments in Iraq. Given the experience that we
had with cooked assessments and intelligence and
military in Iraq, and the evidence, apparently
not conclusive, but the evidence at least that there are cooked
assessments being utilized by the Pentagon against
ISIS, should Americans regard everything the Pentagon
does, from procurement to budgets to
operations, with a sort of presumptive dubiousness,
or as fundamentally sound? Well, there’s enough reason
to be skeptical and demand answers. I think that the
people who cooked the books relative
to the intelligence before the Iraq war–
it wasn’t that the books were cooked so much. It’s that the leadership of this
country, particularly the vice president, was saying things
that the books did not support. They should have been
held accountable, from my perspective, OK? I thought that Vice
President Cheney said things before the war which
clearly were not supported by the books. So whoever cooks book, ought
to be held accountable. If the current central command
folks have cooked the books, then they ought to
be held accountable. But my question’s a
little bit different. My question is, whether or
not the cooking that seems to occur administration
to administration, whether the cooking
calls into question whether we can rely on
procurement, budgets, operations, which are
based on assessments. Should we presume that
there’s a certain amount of cooking the goes into
those, or can we rely on them? General? So the place where I would
start is this whole issue of politicization of
intelligence, right? And one of the things that
I remember from a four star that I used to work
for was that, one of the things you don’t learn
as a four star general is you don’t learn exactly how to
look at strategic intelligence. It’s assumed that when
you pin on that rank, it’s just assumed
that you got smarter and you know how to
approach that intelligence. So not knowing what
has unfolded here, and this is why we have
the investigations, one of the things that I
think that you could look at is the issue of leadership. If the leader isn’t asking
the tough questions, and asking them both
on the positive side of that assessment
and the negative side of that assessment, if
that leader isn’t asking equally tough
questions, then you need to hold that
leader accountable. So that’s number one. Number two is, any
of you who have ever been affiliated with
military know that this is a vast, complicated arena. Some people are
unbelievably ethical. Some people are less so. To take any one episode
and to extrapolate across an entire
department, it would be like doing the
same thing with State. It would be like doing the
same thing with the Congress. But, absolutely. Do we need to hold the Pentagon
writ large accountable? Absolutely. Would I extrapolate? Absolutely no. I have the feeling that you’re
scribbling down some stuff, that maybe you want to say
something further about it. What your question
really dramatizes is the need for greater
transparency in intelligence, greater openness,
less classification. The over classification makes
it very difficult for the public to judge. It creates the kind of suspicion
that you made reference to, skepticism that you made
reference to, and allows people to hide things which they
shouldn’t be able to hide, makes accountability
much more difficult. So we do much too
much classification. It was true before the
Iraq war, by the way, where there was an effort
made to declassify some of the intelligence
assessments, which were very different
from what were being spoken about publicly
by the administration at that time. So secrecy is a real
problem, I believe, not so much in the Pentagon as
in the intelligence community. But I don’t start with any
great automatic presumption of misstatements
or cover-ups, just for the reasons the
general just mentioned. There are those instances. We’ve had instances
of bribes in one of the military services on
one of the defense contracts recently. That’s Congress’s
responsibility, in terms of oversight,
to go after wrongdoing, whether it’s
criminal wrongdoing, or whether it’s covering
up intelligence assessments or cooking the
books, as you put it. If, again, if those
books were cooked, I have a lot of confidence
in central command. But if anyone there
cooked the books, then they ought to
be held accountable in any appropriate way. Do you comment about cooking,
baking, frying, broiling or– Stir frying? I just want to say, based
on my own service in the US government in the
foreign service and working very closely
with the Pentagon throughout my career,
I don’t think this is a major widespread problem. The vast majority
of people are trying to do their best, and
especially the senior levels. Government is a
bruising endeavor. People have self
confidence in their views. They’re not afraid to
say what they think. That’s a good thing. If there’s any issue, it’s just
because of the vertical nature of government, the
command relationship. I found when I became a
senior officer, of course I started off as an intern at
the beginning of my career, that I had to encourage
my younger officers to tell me exactly what they
thought because sometimes, I felt, they were telling
me what I wanted to hear. And I said, look, this
conversation’s of no value if you’re simply going
to repeat what I said. Tell me when the government’s
going in the wrong direction. Let me just illustrate
that very quickly. I think if there’s one criticism
that most people would share of President George W
Bush’s first term is that the circle
around the president probably didn’t ask enough
really difficult questions before the invasion of Iraq. Like, what happens
when we topple Saddam? How do we run the place? How do we actually
occupy a country? We weren’t ready for that. In the second
term, when I worked for Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, on several occasions she
said, let’s get together on Friday afternoon
for a couple of hours, and I want you to have
a red team exercise. Let’s take our policy
towards the Middle East peace negotiations. I want you to come
prepared, group of us, tear the policy apart. Tell me everything
that’s wrong with it. Question every assumption. I thought that was a very
healthy thing for the leader of the State Department to do. To show some humility and to
show that she didn’t think she had all the answers. She wanted people
to be critical. And I think that’s
the way, whether it’s business or government
or any human endeavor, that leaders need to be. Let me ask a Iran slash
planning question, then two quick budgetary
questions in effect, and then we’ll turn it
over to the audience. In 1994, President Clinton made
this triumphant announcement about the conclusion of a
nuclear deal with North Korea. Here’s the quote. “This agreement is good
for the United States, good for our allies,
and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the
threat of nuclear weapons spreading in the region. We have completed
an agreement that will make the United States, the
Korean peninsula, and the world safer. Under the agreement,
North Korea has agreed to freeze its
existing nuclear program, and to accept international
inspection of all existing facilities.” That was the announcement
of the deal, didn’t work out quite that way. And 20 years later the QDR,
the 2014, last year’s QDR, cited North Korean nuclear
weapons and the, quote, “challenges that North Korea
poses to peace and security on the Korean peninsula,” and
saying we need to “re-balance” to the Asia Pacific region. That’s the word that they used. The deal which was
heralded with Iran, was heralded in terms
that were rather similar to the
terms that heralded the deal with North Korea. And it provides
upwards of $150 billion to a regime that the United
States itself has for 30 years identified as the world’s
leading state sponsor of terror to use as it wishes,
including, by the way, to purchase conventional
weapons and ballistic weapons after five and eight
years, respectively. And after 15 years,
reduces their ability to break out into
nuclear weapons, according to the president,
to practically zero. Are we going to be
re-balancing to try to meet the threats
associated with Iran under this deal rather shortly? If so, are we prepared
to meet those threats, given the shrinking resources
and the kinds of challenges that we’ve talked about? And does anyone in the Middle
East, especially the Iranians, believe that we’re
prepared to do so? Senator? I don’t agree with your
assessment of the Iranian deal, first of all. Which piece? Well, the piece that just
focused on the shortfalls. In other words, they
now have $150 billion that they didn’t have before,
which were their funds, but nonetheless, were
tied up is one thing. And so I sensed in
your description of the deal, not a balanced
assessment of the deal itself, which then leads to skepticism
about what might follow. Well, no. Assuming that it does,
in fact, eliminate the nuclear threat for 15
years and it does those things, do we have to re-balance
presently or in the short term to deal with the very real, I
think everybody agrees, threats that Iran will
pose, or can pose? I believe that we must be
willing to use whatever is needed to prevent Iran from
getting to a nuclear weapon. And that was the
purpose of that deal, was to prevent them from
getting to a nuclear weapon, or at least to push them further
away from a nuclear weapon by dramatically reducing
the amount of centrifuges and so forth, and uranium. I won’t go in to all the detail. But nonetheless, in
terms of stopping them from getting to
a nuclear weapon, they’re going to
be a heck of a lot further away, if that
is the determination, as a result of this
deal than they would have been without the deal. I’m getting that. I’ll start with that. Now, we have to be willing
to use whatever it takes. Should they break out
of the deal and move towards a nuclear
weapon, we have to be willing to use
whatever it takes, including the possibility
of military force, from preventing them from
getting to a nuclear weapon. And one of the reasons
that I favored the deal was because we will be in
a much stronger position militarily, should
military force be needed, to go after Iran militarily,
if that is needed, because we didn’t destroy the negotiations,
because we participated in a universal, worldwide
group that expressed the determination that
keep Iran from getting to a nuclear weapon. We will be in a
stronger position because we will
have allies, if we need to use military force
in supporting the use of it against Iran, should
they violate this deal and go after a nuclear weapon. So the answer to
your question is, we should obviously be very
cautious, very alert, very skeptical. But I don’t assume that
just because North Korea broke a deal, that Iran is
going to break this deal. I don’t want to make
that assumption, but we’ve got to be
ready in case they do. And if they move towards
a nuclear weapon, to then be able
to bring together a much larger
community of nations to then support what might
be necessary to prevent that from happening, which would
have been impossible had we destroyed the deal. So I’m actually asking
a different question. So to be fair, my
question is this. Over the next 15
years as the funds do flow and the restrictions on
the use of conventional weapons and ballistic weapons
disappear, quite apart from the merits of the
deal, pro, con, whatever. Are we in a position, are
we prepared both militarily and otherwise, to deal with the
threats that an Iran so armed will pose, or could pose,
over the next 10 to 15 years or beyond? General? So my first comment is, when
you asked about the re-balance, and this goes to Ambassador
Burns’ earlier comments, we never left. And at the epicenter
of what’s happening right now in the Middle
East, in fact, is Iran. You can see [INAUDIBLE] force
hands all over the place. When it comes specifically to
the Iranian nuclear deal, to me the really interesting
question is exactly what you’re talking about. What happens in 15 years? My guess is, right now
from a military perspective in terms of what kind
of operational plant you would have, we’re not ready. And one of the things that we
would need to be cognizant of and to think
through is, in fact, what that world looks
like 15 years now, and what in particular you’re
asking the United States military to do. But I go back to, this is not
fundamentally a military issue. And if we approach it as
fundamentally a military issue, then arguably we’re
starting at the wrong point. So from that perspective, no,
I don’t think we’re ready. No, I don’t think we’re
postured properly, but I also don’t think that
that’s the starting point. So, Nick, again. Without regard to
whether the deal’s a good deal or a bad
deal, just the threats that I think
everybody acknowledges Iran will pose even before the
expiration of the 15 years, assuming compliance
with the agreement, with the additional funds
and without the restrictions on the weapons. So, I support the nuclear deal. Is that right? Yes. And I want to just take– and
I want to answer your question, but I want to take
issue with one thing that you said,
with great respect. I see it as a balance
of risks and benefits. I obviously think
the benefits outweigh the risks, but the effective
way, or the honest way to describe it is, there
are downside risks. But it is not correct that
President Obama said publicly that after 15 years when the
restrictions begin to lapse, it leads the Iranians
to have a right to have nuclear weapons,
which is what you said. No. I said breakout time would
be essentially zero, which he said on NPR. You said nuclear weapons. What it gives them
a right to do is to reconstitute a
civil nuclear program. It does not give them a right
to have nuclear weapons. In fact, they forsworn that
right in this agreement, and we would have the right
to use military force should they choose that option. I just wanted to make that
distinction because sometimes that distinction is muddy. I think you’re right to suggest
in the premise of your question that as we implement
the nuclear deal, before year 15, this year,
next year, the year following, we’ve got a major problem. Iran has become, in a way, the
most powerful and aggressive state in the Middle East. It’s the kingmaker
in Iraq, in Syria, and it is supplying weapons
to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon,
and Hamas in Gaza. So they’re pushing into the
heart of the Sunni world. So, yes, as we implement
the nuclear deal, we ought to be arming
the Gulf Arabs, and Secretary Kerry’s had
two meetings with them. The president had them at
Camp David a couple of months ago, building up their capacity
for strategic deterrence in the Gulf,
particularly integrating their air defense, which they’re
not integrated right now. Secondly, we need to
make up with Israel. We’ve had the most profound
political division, open public feud, with
Israel since Suez in 1956. Prime Minister Netanyahu is
coming to Washington, which is a good sign, in November. Why not expedite the US, Israel
Security Assistance Agreement? The last agreement was
negotiated in 2007. It expires in two years. Why not announce
the renegotiation of that agreement, and
ensure Israel’s, what we call, the Senator
worked on this, qualitative military edge. So that as Iran seeks to use
Hezbollah and Hamas, which they will, against the
Israelis, Israel has a chance to defend
itself and to be superior technologically. That strategic deterrence, if
you build up the Gulf Arabs and if you build up Israel–
and you also suggested this, and you were right to do it. We have to have the credibility,
that Iran fears the United States. It fears that if it
gets out of line, we do have a military option. I don’t think the president has
done enough to establish that. He can still do it in his
remaining 15 months in office, and the next president,
Republican or Democrat, will really need
to take that on. I think this whole Iran business
is going to be generational. The young people in the front
row, future Naval officers, they’re going to have
to inherit this mantle, as will future foreign
service officers. It’ll really be the president’s
successor’s successor who will have to make the
big decisions after year 15. Has Iran actually
adhered to the agreement? Can we rest assured they’re
going to live in peace, or not? And so this is, we’ll have
to look at this in a 20 to 30 year continuum. By the way, one other
thing, if I could quickly add in support of
what Nick says, which is to advancing the
coming together with Israel. This will also bring together
Democrats and Republicans in the Congress who
have been split. It’s a pity that an issue like
this, for whatever reason, became a partisan issue,
essentially a partisan issue. That is not good for
the United States, not good for the foreign policy. It’s not good for Israel. It’s not good for anybody that
it became a partisan issue. And if we follow the course,
which I think we will, of advancing even a
stronger relationship than we already
have with Israel, which is very strong,
including militarily. But if we seal the new,
more modern version of a military
relationship with Israel, it’s going to have all the
advantages that Nick pointed out, but also it’s going
to bring together, I think, Democrats and Republicans, which
is really good for the country. So I think I’m going to waive
the scintillating questions I had about base closures and
rate of growth compensation in favor of turning it
over to the audience to ask some questions. It might not be a
bad thing for people to rapidly– there’s a mic,
it looks like, over there, and over there. Quickly say who you
are and what you do, and then see if you can get to a
question as quickly as possible so that as many people as
possible have a chance. Go ahead. Should I wait for the mic? No, do it loudly and if people
can’t hear you, I’ll rephrase. OK. So I’m Peter [INAUDIBLE]
from the Naval War College down in Newport. I’d like to challenge
a fundamental premise you began the discussion with. The premise was that the
American people [INAUDIBLE] US military, that US military’s
inadequate resource [INAUDIBLE] OK. Go ahead. [INAUDIBLE] But it’s got to be a question. It’s a question. Spent a lot of money in
the last couple of decades on the military, underinvested
our domestic economy, critical infrastructure,
education. Why should the
American people worry about challenges that
aren’t necessarily in core US national interests? Senator? [APPLAUSE] Did everybody hear
enough of the question? Yeah. That actually gets to the heart
of the budget [INAUDIBLE]. It gets exactly to the
budget issue, which is now gridlocked in Washington. And this is a partisan
issue, but the Republicans want to do basically
is find a way, which is a kind of an
unauthentic way, to remove the caps from the
military budget, without removing those same
caps which are strangling too many parts of
our domestic budget, including education,
transportation. Read what your great
senator Sheldon Whitehouse said today about transportation. Where does that come from? It comes from the sequestration,
the Budget Control Act, the caps, totally artificial,
mindless, automatic, which were put in place
a few years ago, which should be removed. Democrats and
Republicans both talk about removing those
sequestration caps, which would then help out
on the domestic side to avoid the damage which
is being done to education, transportation, environment, and
those other important elements of our domestic budget. So that is really the issue,
how you can bring together people to remove caps that
are harming both defense, we’ve spoken to that, but also
the domestic budgets which you refer to. I’d be happy to talk
about it, but that’s a little longer
discussion [INAUDIBLE]. I really don’t have
anything to add. I think it’s both. Who else? Who’s next? And that’s what the president’s
insisting on, by the way. That’s what the
battle is all about. The president is insisting on
domestic caps being removed as well as defense caps. The Republicans say,
no, only defense caps. That’s the big gridlock
that you have going on right now in Washington. Hi, my name is Miriam and I’m a
political science student here. So there’s been a lot of talk
about arming and training our allies in regional
hotspots, I’m thinking Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine. In recent years, and
I mean historically, there’s just been
such a bad record of local elites diverting
the billions of dollars that we pour into those regions,
and repurposing the equipment that we supply in
ways that really hurt our regional interests. So I’m wondering,
moving forward, what are some major steps that
we can take to prevent that from happening in the future? Ambassador Burns, any
thoughts about that? Yeah, it’s a really
good question. I think I might just
divide the problem in two and say that, as we build
our military alliances, the ones referred to, the
NATO alliance, the East Asian alliance, we really
haven’t had that problem. The problem is
deficiency in spending, and deficiency and
quality of the technology. So we don’t give this
away to our allies. They’re all healthy economies. They pay for it. But the problem there is,
acquiring new technology. I think what you’re
referring to is these exceptional circumstances
since 9/11 of two major land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And certainly, we have
inspector generals, as you know, in the Pentagon
for both war efforts. And they’ve been issuing lots
of reports, many quite negative, about the way we spent money,
the waste and abuse, and some of it– I don’t know enough
to simply say that I agree with a general criticism
of these programs, because I suspect– I
went into Afghanistan and saw our PRTs, our provincial
reconstruction teams, both in Kandahar and Jalalabad
and Kabul, near Kabul, and saw some good
things being done, frankly with not very
significant funds. Our military units trying
to fuel a small business promotion, trying to help
people in need, Afghans, in their community. So I saw money, I thought,
being spent quite wisely, but I’m aware that there
have been problems. I don’t know if the Senator
has a different view. You’re right. There’s been a lot of
waste, there’s also been a lot of great stuff done. When I went on one
visit to Afghanistan, I went to a little
village and saw where a school was being
built with I think $25,000 that each village had from us. And for $50,000
together, two villages built, with their own
hands, their own material, a school which girls were going
to for the first time, 50% of the kids going to school. And those elders,
they weren’t young, the elders were telling me they
would fight with their lives for that school
against the Taliban. That was with $50,000,
and there’s been many like that, many good stories. One of the problems is, it’s
natural, I guess, it’s endemic, the media focuses
on the negative. And there’s plenty
of negative, and they should focus on it, as we
should and our inspectors general should, by the way. But there’s a huge amount
of positive going on. The difference in Afghanistan
now from 10 years ago is, if not night and
day, it’s dawn and dusk. I mean, you’ve got
hundreds of schools, dozens of universities. You’ve got young
women going to school. You’ve got much better medical
care and life expectancy. It’s a good news
story in Afghanistan, and that doesn’t
mean you shouldn’t go after the waste and
the fraud and the abuse, and there’s plenty of it. It just means that
we have not been given the other half
of the story, which is a positive story
in Afghanistan. You’ll read about this
town, city [INAUDIBLE] hasn’t fallen and will
probably be recaptured, you’ll read about that. It’s huge headlines. If it is recaptured, and I’ll
say when, by government forces, it’ll be a small story. I can guarantee you,
it’ll be a small story. The Afghan people, as I said
before, hate the Taliban. We have built up their army. Huge success story, the buildup
of the Afghan Army, which is extremely popular,
90% popularity, which is about 10 times
more than the Congress has. But to answer, it
takes more oversight on the part of Congress,
takes more IG reports. We got plenty of them, but
we can always use more. But don’t give up. Don’t assume that what you read
negatively is the whole story. It is far from the whole story. So you think that the purported
danger of local corruption has been exaggerated
by the press? No. No, it has not been
exaggerated, it exists. And by the way,
corruption’s a huge issue still in Afghanistan, but
you’ve got a government now that is openly going
out in Afghanistan. It is openly going
after corruption. The previous government was,
I think, much more corrupt, and had a much greater
level of corruption than what exists now,
I believe, because I have a lot more confidence
in the current leadership of Afghanistan than I
did in the last leader. Let’s make sure we
get the next person. Thank you. Hi, my name is [INAUDIBLE]. I’m a former Marine. I’ve been an adjunct here
at Brown for about 27 years. I’m also a CPA full-time. Directly to the General, please. You’ve made a couple
comments tonight in saying that
it’s not inherently a military problem or situation. Can you elaborate on that
a little bit more, please. Sure, I’d be happy to. Most of the problems
that– the military is a very blunt instrument. As a former Marine, you
really appreciate that. And when it comes to actually
making things better, the military isn’t going to be
the crucial component of that. It’s going to be, what the
expression in Washington is, all the instruments
of national power. It’s going to be the diplomats. It’s going to be the Congress. It’s going to be the
economists that are actually going to look at a problem
and look at how you actually make something a plus from
the national perspective. And the military provides
the safe space, if you will, for that to occur. But very rarely will you
see, outside of a World War II or a World War
I, will you see the military be the source of
the solution to the problem that is being faced. And this goes back
to the conversation we had about ISIS, the
conversation we’ve had about Russia and about NATO. The military’s integral
to the fabric of that. It provides sort of the oxygen
to the system, if you will, that allows the
problems actually to be addressed and managed. Sir? I’d like to circle back to
what we were talking about with regards to transparency
and civilian trust when it comes to things
that are coming out of the Pentagon and
the State Department, especially when it
comes to procurement. So the example that I’d
like to use is the F-35. The F-35 at several
different times has been sort of represented
to do things that later it’s clear that it doesn’t do. So for instance,
replacing the A-10 is something it has
been proposed to do. and something else it is
sort of pitched– originally, it was pitched as an
air to air platform. But it’s clear, given the
recent tests that were leaked, that the F-16 is still
a superior airplane. And– So, you’ve got a question? Yeah, my question is when
something like, so the example of the F-16. They wanted to prove that
it was equal to the F-16, that it was a worthy successor. And so in the test they ran the
F-16 with drop tanks against the F-35 and the clean
configuration which, as I’m sure you know, is
a pretty substantial– I know there’s a question. You’ve got to come
to the question. Well the question is how can
we trust the Pentagon when it’s clear, over and
over, that they are trying to push programs
that they are in favor of and wedded to? OK, got it. Senator, how can we
trust the Pentagon? You’ve got to have people who
are engaged in oversight, which is both hopefully inside
the Pentagon, some people, inspectors general. You have to have
a Congress that is willing to engage in oversight
in a bipartisan, in depth, fair way, not for
political purposes, not to make political points. Oversight can be
misused, believe me, as it has been in the
House of Representatives by a committee there of
oversight that has had 20 hearings on Benghazi, OK. You have abuses. You have committees
which use oversight for partisan purposes,
I’m not talking about that kind of oversight. I’m talking about
bipartisan oversight, and I’m proud to say
that the Armed Services Committee and the Senate
has a tradition of that. John McCain surely
is a strong critic of the kind of issues
which you’re talking about, and is not the least
bit embarrassed, nor is Jack Reed, by the way,
another fabulous senator. Thank you, Rhode
Island, for Jack Reed. They’re not shy about going
after this kind of problem. So you need checks and balances. People will almost instinctively
defend and fight for things that they’re working on. Not because they’re
corrupt, because it’s kind of human nature. You’re giving your life
to creating an F-35, the odds are you’re going
to see the good in the F-35. But if you’re an Inspector
General or a member of Congress, you’ve got a
different responsibility, which is to say, is that
program working the way it was supposed to work? And that’s why you need checks
and balances, different parts of government which don’t accept
assessments in the executive but will look after. But again, it’s got to be
bipartisan for this to work. It can’t be for
political purposes, and it can’t be
another axe to grind. If the people who are
fighting for the F-35 have an axe to grind
their project– You have to have people
willing to look at what they’re producing without
presuppositions, without their own prejudices or
their own perspectives, which might not be objective. So that’s what you need. That’s what a balanced
government is all about. Checks and balances. General, you serve
in the Pentagon. How do we trust the Pentagon? So actually, I just want to
go to the F-35 question, OK? And my comment back
on the F-35 question, I talked to some
of the test pilots, and this is obviously from
the Air Force’s perspective. This is a huge
issue because this is what they call their fifth
generation, their next high end fighter aircraft. And the answer that
comes back, not only is checks and balances,
but it’s complicated. When I talk to the test pilots
that actually fly the F-35, they’ll tell you that
what they were flying was an operational
test aircraft. That’s what we would call
the 1.0 configuration. The test envelope
that it flies is very different from an
operational fighter envelope, and so when you look at
what those aircraft actually bring, whether you
deploy them to Europe, whether you deploy
them to the Pacific, I haven’t found a fighter
pilot yet that would say, oh, let me keep my
F-16, you take the F-35. So it is complicated. It’s a very
controversial aircraft. There hasn’t been a
new aircraft brought into the system in
decades that hasn’t been a controversial aircraft,
because these things are expensive. You look at a B-2, and you’re
looking at a $1 billion aircraft taking off and landing. It’s hard to wrap
your head around that. They also, in terms of
this competition that we were talking about
earlier, they’re essential from the perspective
of being competitive, hopefully without encouraging an
arms [? missile ?] on the way. Picked the wrong person
to ask about the F-35. Let’s go over to this side. Sorry about that. I didn’t realize you were there. Senator, personality conflicts
that were dramatized lately between Netanyahu
and Obama, are they irrelevant to how US policy
is ultimately carried out? Was the word, are
they irrelevant? Irrelevant. Irrelevant. I mean, put it in perspective. They are, I would say, mostly
irrelevant because you’ve got a very pro-Israel president. I don’t think anyone
denies that, OK. I don’t think Netanyahu denies
that, by the way, at least he says that this
president has done more. Take a look at the air
defenses, the [? arrows ?] and the other air
defenses in Israel which we have helped to provide. Bottom line, I think
that the personality issue or the differences
that they’ve had could have an
impact, could delay, could have a little influence. But for the most
part, you’ve got a strongly pro-Israel American
public, a strongly bipartisan pro-Israel Congress. You’ve got a
pro-Israel president, who I think has
proven it, by the way, over and over again,
including at the UN. Some of the positions that the
president has taken at the UN are not easy positions
to take, believe me, but he’s taken them. They’re not easy at
the UN because they’re unpopular at the
UN, but he’s taken them very strongly pro-Israel. So I won’t say
they’re exaggerated. I think that probably
there’s a real basis, there’s a real personality
friction there. A lot of people have
personality frictions, but they’re not as important
as the policy agreements that are there and real. Thank you. Nick, I’ll give you an option
of that one, or the F-35. I’m gonna take this one. I don’t think it’s a
question of personality, they have a
personality difference. They’re not close. The more important
dimension of this is they have a profound
ideological difference, and I just think President
Obama has handled Iran very effectively
because he’s built up political capital of
the United States. He went all the way through a
negotiation, arrived at one, ready to implement it. If Iran, as Senator Levin
said, leaves the agreement, we now have moral
authority in the world. Countries would
understand why we had to take military action in
that hypothetical situation. The Israelis, Prime
Minister Netanyahu, I think, never understood that. And I’ll also say this,
I think he intervened in our politics in
the election of 2012 when he came and accepted
Speaker Boehner’s invitation to speak to a joint session
of Congress in March. He did something I’ve never
seen a friendly leader do. He argued for the defeat of
President Obama, our president. I felt offended by that, and I’m
a longtime supporter of Israel. I just thought he was not
wise, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the way he handled
his relationship with us. So to his credit, President
Obama’s putting it behind him. He’s invited the
prime minister, that’s the way it should be because
it’s not about personalities. It’s about the two
countries, and we have to remain dedicated
to Israel’s security. So let’s see if we can do a
sort of a lightning round here. We’ve got three
more individuals, and we’ll see if we can
do this really quickly. Why don’t we go to you. Hi, good evening. I’m Jennifer. I’m a public policy
student here at Brown. My question is about
something that hasn’t really come up tonight, and I was
kind of surprised by that. What role– We were waiting for you. I guess so. What role do you all see cyber
security preparedness coming up in the next, you know, century? I did mention cyber
very, very briefly. It’s major. It’s one of the growing threats,
and it’s complicated too because you’ve
got to not only be able to defend
against the attacks, you’ve got to be able to
use cyber offensively. And how you do that
in a democracy, who’s authorized to do it,
for instance, to take offensive action against
those who attack us, is a complicated issue. But it’s, I think, one of
the major growing threats that exist against us. So you’ve worked on technology
issues to some extent. Anything you want
to say about that? The only thing I would say
about cyber, especially to the folks who are
starting their careers, is a question to you. Is it a fundamentally
military issue? That’s the question
I don’t think that we’ve come to grips with. For those of you
that don’t know, the National Security Agency
is a defense agency, OK. So in terms of
the responsibility and the oversight, how we think
about it, this is something, I think, we have as a nation
[INAUDIBLE] to wrestle with. Ambassador? I think the General
is exactly right. The military’s
established cyber command, so it’s definitely
a military issue. It’s also an economic issue
because private cyber hacking, private hacking rings Russia,
Ukraine, China, trying to steal the
intellectual property of American and other companies
is an espionage issue. It’s interesting that at
the summit last week when Xi Jinping arrived, one of
the agreements that they made was that they both
agreed that cybercrime ought to be off limits. That’s a real concession
by the Chinese, because they’re the
experts in cybercrime. So let’s hope that
they actually do what they said they would do. But there was no mention
of the other domains because obviously we’re in
a competitive relationship with the Chinese. They’re our partners
in the economic realm, but they’re our competitors
in the power realm. Yes? And then we’ll go to you. Georgina [INAUDIBLE], a graduate
student in public affairs. So if we assume that you had the
power and you wake up tomorrow and resources are infinite
and the [INAUDIBLE] is at it’s peak,
how would you change the US military intervention
in the Middle East? How would we change– The US military intervention
in the Middle East. Go ahead. We would need to design
an entire course at Brown University to answer question. But I would say this, I actually
don’t think the problems that we have in the Middle
East are resource based, lack of money. We don’t have a strategy. And as I said before, I think
the particular comparative advantage we have is to be the
organizer of a big coalition, Turkey, the Arab countries,
the European countries, some of the Asian countries,
against the Islamic State, and against the Assad
government eventually. I don’t think the problem
is lack of troops, or lack of money to deploy
or sustain them there. It’s the president,
in this case, doesn’t believe that US
leadership is merited, and that’s where I
disagree with him. [INAUDIBLE] I would disagree with
the last comment. I think he would agree
that US leadership is required, including with Israel
and Palestine by the way. So I think he does
believe in US leadership. I don’t think he has
a strategy, however, I agree with that, which
he believes can succeed. Last question. Thank you for waiting. No problem. Good evening. I’m Adam [? Tallifero. ?]
I’m an army captain studying at the Naval War College,
[INAUDIBLE] Navy. So [INAUDIBLE] I
think, this may be– We’ll get equal time. You guys are Coasties, right? No? ROTC. What’s that? ROTC. ROTC, got it. Where are the Coasties? OK, got it. So as an Army officer, I’m
primarily gonna serve at– Never relinquish
control for one minute. –maybe the West Coast,
et cetera, and I’m going to be around
a military town. These discussions are
great, future policy wants, but I worry about the
military losing touch points with America. Do you feel that
that’s true, and if so, should we be concerned with it? This seems like one that all
three of you should touch on. So, yes, it is a problem. It’s a growing problem. I mean, you know the statistics. You know where the
demographics are in terms of where people come from. I see West Pointer’s
sitting up here, and how many
Americans don’t even know that there is such a
thing as a Military Academy or whatever? It’s a two way street, though. Part of this is
about making sure that the military is connected
to the rest of America, and the other part
is making sure that military is accessible
to the rest of America. And one of the things that
actually I get concerned about, and I see this in particular
now in the courses that I teach, is there’s a sense of
elitism among the military, some military members,
where somehow they’re a little more special. They’ve seen a little bit more. They’re a little more patriotic. They’re just a little bit
better than the other Americans that they’re around. That has got to stop,
and it’s got to stop now. And that only happens, and
that’s why a forum like this is so important, it
only happens when the two cultures come
together and they’re not intimidated by each other. Secretary Burns? Well, I’m a nonmilitary
person, obviously, and I guess I would put
the onus on those of us who are civilians to recognize how
extraordinary the last 14 or 15 years have been since 9/11. We’ve never had, I
think, a generation of American military officers
so constantly deployed for such a long period of time. In my class at
Harvard this semester, I think I have four
military officers. They come to us for
mid-career masters, so they’re Navy captains or
they’re Army, Marine Corps majors and colonels. And if you sit down in
office hours and say, so, tell me about your
career, constantly deployed, many of them four or five
combat tours, in both theaters or other theaters outside
of Iraq and Afghanistan. So I think that we in
the civilian sphere need to recognize
what’s happened to the military, the huge
burdens on their families, as our first lady
and Dr. Joe Biden have been focusing
on military families. And we really owe them, I think,
an enormous debt of gratitude for what they’ve done. I have to conclude, this is
probably my last statement. We’ve established that this
is an ROTC class from Yale. I can’t go back to Cambridge
without saying, beat Yale. Senator? The only thing I would add
is, I don’t see any gap at all in terms of the love,
respect, emotion the American people
have for the military. I think it’s really deep. It’s a huge change
in the last 30 years, by the way, since the Vietnam
years where we obviously fell terribly short, in
terms of supporting our military personally. I’ve been in the
Congress 36 years, and I have just seen how
deep the affection is of the American people
for the military, and military leaders by the way. And I personally had so many
contacts with particularly military leaders, but obviously
men and women in the military below leadership level. There’s not a lot
of knowledge, I have to agree with
both of my colleagues. There’s not a lot of detailed
knowledge about the military and the needs, but if we
fall short of treating a trooper at a
military hospital, not getting the kind of
care that he or she deserves and that appears
in the newspaper, that will produce an outcry, an
outpouring of public reaction. What are you guys doing? Why are you letting
our military down? That person waited six
months for an appointment with a doctor, somebody who
lost their leg in Afghanistan. And that probably
was a true story, but the reaction of the public
is stronger, I would say, on that kind of a failure,
shortfall, than almost anything else. Our veterans, our troops,
have huge respect, and knowledge part,
I can’t say that most of my former constituents,
I hate to say former, but that’s true, are
knowledgeable about budget issues. You’re not going to see
any great opposition if we get rid of
sequestration so we can have an army which
is the right size, which is the issue by the way. It’s not that there’s any
disagreement about what the size of the
Army– yeah, there’s a minor disagreement, but
not a major disagreement. We don’t want it cut further. Nobody, that I know of, wants
to see the Army further reduced, Democrats, Republicans. And when they come
together, hopefully, on a budget which will allow
us to give that kind of support that the military
deserves, you’re not going to see any big outcry. There’ll be obviously 10%
or 20% in the public who will disagree with it. 70%, 80% of the public
feel very, very strongly about supporting our
military and their families, which is really important. And I think they are
aware of the stresses. I think a lot of our people
are aware of the stresses on military families, it
may be not deep education, but it’s a sense that we’ve
got to support those family. So with that, we
should give thanks to Brown, to which
we are ever true. [APPLAUSE] The Watson Institute, whose
people have been unbelievable, simply breathtaking in their
skill and their generosity. To all of you, and to
these amazing panelists. Thank you very much. How about to Jeff for
being a great moderator? [APPLAUSE]


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