tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg January 15, 2017 7:00am-8:01am EST
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: ash carter is here. he is the outgoing secretary of defense. president obama appointed him in december of 2014. it was a capstone for eight decades-long career at the pentagon. he was awarded the defense intelligence metal and the department's distinguished service medal five times. confirmation hearings for the man who will succeed him started in the senate today.
i am pleased it to have secretary ash carter back at this table. welcome. sec. carter: good to be here. charlie: we have done these conversations in office and out of office. i appreciate you coming by. from the time you have been secretary of defense, tell me what you set out to do and what you believe you have accomplished. what was your highest agenda? sec. carter: in the here and now, it was to put us on a path with respect to the principal dangers that we face today, which are first and foremost isil and put together the campaign plan that you now see unfolding towards the destruction of isil. charlie: it and we will discuss that. carter: second, a strategic approach to russia and possible russian aggression, iran, north korea, china. those are our principle here and now problems and put together a strategic approach and get us on the path.
in terms of the other thing is that if you were secretary of defense, your other jobs to make sure that your successor and your successor's successor had what i had, which is the finest fighting force the world has ever known. i have inherited that from decades behind us and i need to pass that on. that is in people. it is in technology. it is making sure we are competitive and ahead of everyone else. those are the two things i have tried to accomplish over the last two years from and you're right, 835-year -- and, if you are right. 35-year involvement with the department of defense. charlie: people look at the world today, 2017, and they use this term. there is a new world order. how has the structure changed? people look at it and say there are three huge powers. russia because of the nuclear weapons it has, certainly china because it is growing, and there is the united states. is the world order changing?
who plays what role? sec. carter: we, that is the united states, still is far and away in terms of comprehensive military power, is the strongest. you mention to whether important ones, russia and china. they are extremely important. there are others. india. japan. europe as a bloc. in addition to our military strength, the thing that sets the united states aside is, and i hear this all the time when i travel around the world. foreign leaders say to me we like working with your people. it is not just that they are awesomely capable. it is what they stand for as well. people -- our values and what we stand for and the way we conduct ourselves, those things. that is why the united states
has not only strongest military in the world, but we have all the friends and allies. most of our major antagonists have few or none. charlie: when you look at the world today and the nature of warfare, is there a dramatic increase in the possibility of cyber warfare and the ability to defend against it? sec. carter: sure. there is certainly a dramatically increased role of cyber in warfare. i'm hesitant to say cyber warfare because it suggest you have a cyber attack response. i think an attack is an attack. and we do not -- it is not our doctrine and it is not our , to limit a response in the united states to the way we were attacked. it is also true our military works on networks. it is one of the things that makes us the best.
our planes, our ships, our tanks, our people are all networked together. if i don't defend that -- that is job one for me, making sure that our wartime network is secure. talking about the next generation, the kids who come in our kids who have been on iphones their whole lives. they are not going to understand a style of operating or leadership that does not involve technology. simply to connect with the next generation, we have to stay ahead in information. we have a lot of different things we do. it is part of warfare, but i always caution people to say warfare is not cyber warfare. it is warfare. cyber is a dimension. charlie: in the national security area, what is the legacy of barack obama? sec. carter: well, he has a number of them. i would say in so far as we are concerned, i have been grateful for his support and approval and
his encouragement. as i put together with the chairman and joint chiefs of staff, general joe dunford, and presented to him over the last 14 or 15 months, step-by-step an accelerating campaign against isil, president obama has approved every step we have asked for and sometimes that is difficult in that environment. charlie: he did not want to be any less aggressive than you wanted to be? sec. carter: he told me early on that he wanted to get rid of isil. i took him at his word and he kept his word. charlie: he gave you everything you needed in terms of -- sec. carter: boots on the ground, that expression. aircraft, money requests from congress, authorities. charlie: everything you have requested he has given you.
sec. carter: he granted every request we made. i am very grateful for that. we have continuously seen opportunities. when you do a raid, you capture a guy. you learn something. that leads to another raid, another airstrike. every time we reached another step or we trained more iraqi forces for what is now, what will be the taking of mosul. we are planning for that. we devised that 15 months ago. charlie: you and i talked about that. sec. carter: we did. we needed to train the iraqi forces. we needed to position them there and support them for the destruction of isil in northern iraq. every step, general dunford and i were saying to ourselves and talking to our commander, how
can we make that go faster? how can we hasten that process? every time we said we could do more, and i said we will do more when we see an opportunity. every time we have asked for more, he has given it to us. i am grateful for that and it has allowed us to come up both in iraq and syria, carry out the plan. i am encouraged. we are on the plan. it is necessary to destroy isil in iraq and syria. because that is necessary to destroy both the fact and the idea that there could be an islamic state based upon this ideology. it is necessary. it is not sufficient because we have to operate against them in other places in the world. of isil arise. our top priority is external operators. that is people who were plotting
attacks on western countries. that we are killing those people as they are nesting up. charlie: that is ratcheting up and they lose territory in iraq and syria. that is the only means they have? sec. carter: they are constantly trying to do more in that area. as they lose their territory, is going to be harder for them to plan and coordinate complicated attacks. that is good. and the narrative that fuels the inspired attacker as opposed to the organized attacker -- organized attackers will have less of a base and a free territory to operate from. that is a good thing. when the islamic state is so obviously destroyed, it means that those who -- the person on the internet who has never been to iraq and syria but gets inspired to carry out a violent act, the expectation is that that inspiration will also go down. that will make us safer as well.
they will relocate from mosul and raqqa. those that we don't kill there. but we will kill the as many as we can. we will pursue them with iraqi and syrian forces elsewhere in the country. charlie: i want to talk about that. as the taking of mosul been a more difficult challenge then -- has the taking of basel then a more difficult challenge they -- taking of mosul been a difficult challeng than military strategists thought
it would be? sec. carter: no. it has gone the way we thought. we thought it would be difficult. charlie: they were dug in. sec. carter: we were ready for anything, simply because as we jump, taking step-by-step, the isil defenses, and over in syria, each of the battles in those cities had a different dynamic. sometimes they fought harder and sometimes they did not fight as hard. we knew they would fight hard for mosul. we knew that mosul's defenses were a set of concentric shells. you saw us in early weeks punch through the first shell and you get to the next. they are now through that. they are on the inner-city now. they are on the eastern side of the city, the igris river and citadel.e is sort of a they are in between that second line and the citadel on the eastern side of the city. then they will go to the tigris river, the left bank of the tigris river, and then cross over. that has always been our plan. it is going for you much
according to plan. charlie: when do you think mosul will -- sec. carter: in war, you don't predict. charlie: plans change. contact.int of first sec. carter: the plan is clear and our plans have not changed. we are pretty much on schedule in our plan but i would rather over-deliver. that is what our commanders have consistently done. let me put it this way. i'm confident of the result. charlie: it is going to take place in 2017. sec. carter: i believe so. yes. absolutely. charlie: and how about raqqa? sec. carter: same thing. i do. that is in the plan. that is every reason to have that expectation. you want to say it is more and the reality and the dynamics of war intervene.
we have the momentum, we have the plan, we have the forces. we are assembling the forces. i'm confident that it will occur. charlie: you think you will capture or kill al-baghdadi? sec. carter: eventually. charlie: do we know where he is? sec. carter: if i knew exactly where he was, first of all, i would not tell you, and second of all, he would not have long. he moves around. i am just confident. i don't want to say any more than that. i would not want to be a senior isil leader. many have died already. the more we do, the more we learn about where they are. so, his days are numbers and that is true of the rest of the leadership. charlie: baghdadi's days are numbered. sec. carter: absolutely. charlie: have the russians given you any help at all?
sec. carter: no. and that's a real source of disappointment only in the sense that they said they would do otherwise. charlie: they said they would come in in part to take on isil. sec. carter: they said they were going to do two things. one is to help end the syrian civil war, which is one of the sources of the thing, by nudging aside bashir al-assad. keeping the structure of the syrian government in some sense intact. but allowing it to be governed with a moderate opposition as well and beginning to put back together a country and a more decent life than that poor, tragically-stricken population has had the last few years. they did not do that. they doubled down on the civil war. charlie: they doubled down on their support of assad. sec. carter: correct, and you see what the consequences are. charlie: what are the consequences? of their doubling down the in support of a sawed in syria?
-- of assad in syria? sec. carter: well, the continued slaughter of people and a continued drive towards extremism among those who oppose assad. that is not what they said they would do. they did something different. the other thing they said is they would fight isil and that is not what they are doing. they are mostly fighting the moderate opposition. it is very hard to associate ourselves, and we have not cooperated with that because it is not in line with our interests. we do have a military to military channel to make sure we don't create incidents with one another. it is very professional. it works very well. in the larger sense, because they have not done what they said they would do, we have not been able to associate ourselves with what they are doing. charlie: it has been argued by diplomats in the state department that they needed more leverage on the ground in order
to have some diplomatic leverage and they simply did not have it. they put together that in terms of criticism of our military presence on the ground. it is said that secretary kerry wanted to do more cooperation with the russians in terms of airstrikes. what can you say? sec. carter: well, these are two different things. there are those, and you read it out in the press, who would have had the united states join the civil war in syria.
we have not gone to war with the syrian regime as a military. charlie: why not? why not? sec. carter: because that is an undertaking and this is a decision the president made consistently. that would be not to try to settle the civil war, but again to try to overthrow the government of syria. that is a very big project, as we have discovered. charlie: and a risk that the united states was not going to take. sec. carter: it is not a matter of risk. it is a matter of where our interests lie. our interests are first and foremost in destroying isil. and that we have managed to do. charlie: that runs against the argument that as long as a sod there, he as assad is is a recruiting tool for isil. sec. carter: well, that does not mean that we don't have to protect ourselves from isil, charlie, even though the civil war is raging in syria. it does mean that syria is going to be a continuing source of tumult in the region. the solution that we have favored, and i think the right one, is a solution where there is a political transition from the assad regime to a government that is more inclusive. not a military conquest or let alone an occupation by the
year we will destroy isil. this year. no alternative that you thought was possible? sec. carter: what we are doing against isil, absolutely not. we had to do everything we possibly could. we added every ingredient we possibly could, every accelerant to the campaign to destroy isil. that is about protecting our people, charlie. and at the end of the day, that is the most important responsibility of the department of defense, is to protect our people. that necessitated the focus we have had on isil and we are on the path to meeting our objective there. that has been job one me and job one for us.
charlie: i have a question and i have asked it more than once. when you look at what happened to aleppo and the destruction of syria from the civil war, it is such a tragedy. if you look at it, is there any sense on your part that may be else we could do that we did not do? or we did not do it in time? sec. carter: us is a tragic situation that the united states did not have other ways to prevent and the ways that i think were attempted. i think the right approach is a political transition. we tried to foster that. that is why you saw secretary kerry trying to do with the russians. they did not go along with that. that was the right approach to take. neither the russians nor assad. i did not expect assad to do that but the russians said they would try to promote that. that was a reasonable thing for was ao do, therefore it
reasonable thing for us to attempt to work with them on but that is not what they did. in so far as the protection of our own people from terrorists in iraq and syria, which is my responsibility, we have done what i recommended in what i thought was necessary and what i think is going to succeed in destroying isil. charlie: what is it do you think drives vladimir putin? what does he want? sec. carter: i don't know. i have worked with the russians, if you don't know, for probably 30 years. including some eras very cooperatively. i was the person who ran the program to control all the nuclear weapons when the wall came down. i negotiated with the russians to get them into kosovo, the
opposite outcome from syria, to settle the kosovo civil war in the balkans in the 1990's. i have some experience with that. at that time, our interests not identical with russia. they are not with any country. what we should be doing always is look where our interests can be aligned with another power, work with them cooperatively. for the first quarter century after the end of the cold war, there were many areas where that was possible. those areas, particularly under putin, have narrowed. charlie: why is that? sec. carter: progressively. i am not the person to ask that. but one way in which they have -- and, by the way, there still
are some areas where we work productively with them. for example, nonproliferation involving iran. charlie: the iranian nuclear deal. sec. carter: yes, exactly. one of the things that russia seems to do under putin is define an objective of thwarting or frustrating the united states and international community, or trying to as an objective in itself. charlie, it is hard to build a strategic bridge to that motivation. otherwise, it is part of military diplomacy to build bridges to common interests where you can and stand strong where you can't. in the russia relationship, we are both strong and balanced, but we have had to emphasize the
strength part, both unilaterally and in nato within recent years. we have now a deterrent strategy for russian aggression in europe. for about a quarter century, we did not have to do that. now we do. we are putting money behind that. we putting forces behind that. we are putting operational plans behind that. charlie: and that includes the baltic states? sec. carter: absolutely. they are nato states. charlie: do you believe the russians have intent to do something about the baltic states other than make those states feel like they are under their influence? sec. carter: we need to be ready for anything that could happen. charlie: militarily, we are ready for anything that could happen? sec. carter: yes, absolutely. there are plans to respond to aggression. not just traditional aggression of the traditional military
sort, but including the kind of what we call hybrid warfare. the little green men phenomenon that you saw in ukraine. charlie: what do you make of hacking by the russians in terms of the american political process? sec. carter: well, i can't add anything to what the intelligence community and fbi have said on that. they did careful intelligence work. they obviously, in a very painstaking way, reported the conclusions that they did and that you heard about a couple of weeks ago. i think that is an aggression upon the united states that we have responded to, but i would say that is just the beginning. my guess is that is the floor and not the ceiling. charlie: henry kissinger went to china in part as leverage against the soviet union. some suggest they would like to see a better relation with russia to thwart the ambitions of china. does that make sense to you?
sec. carter: you are right. there is a long history of expectation, fond expectations by americans, that the russians and chinese will check each other. expect that, really. places, wefferent have a different relationship with both of them. we have with both of them a relationship that has competitive aspects to it, but also cooperative aspects as i said when you asked me before, the ones with cooperative ones with russia have been unfortunately shrinking but we have to be realistic about that. with china, there is a strand, an aspect of chinese strategic thinking which recognizes that
the peace and prosperity of the asia-pacific region over the last seven decades, of which they have been a part, has only been possible because there is peace and security and the u.s. there hasnd role been essential for that peace and security. there was another strain of chinese thinking that goes back long in chinese history that they deserve to be dominant. that is something that not only the united states, as a pacific power, will naturally resist, but all the other countries of the region will as well. what we see today in addition to our own determination to continue improving our
military presence there and every way, making enormous investments. we call it the rebalance. we have shifted a lot of forces to the asia-pacific specifically to make it clear that the united states will continue to play a military role in the asia-pacific. that second strand of chinese behavior, the effect is having is to drive many in the region to our arms, essentially, looking for greater cooperation with us. charlie: if china becomes more aggressive, they feel the need for some partnership and alliances that will bolster them? sec. carter: on top of that, many are in their own rising military powers. india, destined to be a major regional power. even vietnam, which we have such a complex history, i know their defense ministers going back. that is a relationship that you
never would have thought would have gotten where it did today. so it is actually having the effect, this behavior, that is not the reason we wish that to happen but it is having that effect. charlie: about the south china sea, has it been fair to say they have been more aggressive in the south china sea, putting in different kind of military chinaties in the south sea.
sec. carter: there are others, there, too. but they certainly have done more than any other countries. china is done by far more than anybody else. that is part of the reason we have taken the actions we have to continue to fly, sail, and operate. our operations have not changed and will not change. charlie: has it stopped them? sec. carter: no, it hasn't stopped them. i think xi jingping said -- this was intended. this is that second strand of chinese behavior in action. we need to act against it. i don't expect we can only eliminate that strain of thinking. i think we have to take that as a reality to which we need to which we against the to plan and have military capability in the defense department, that is what we are doing. we should continue to do what diplomats have been doing, which is to try to get them to change
course. my job is to make sure we are prepared if they don't change course. charlie: do you believe that as the chinese president consolidates power, he is becoming more aggressive in terms of china and china china as a and global player? sec. carter: i have met other chinese leaders, xi jinping i think it is fair to say he is a stronger and more unitary leader
than either of his predecessors. he is emboldened politically at home. i think he is quite concerned about the economic and demographic prints. there is always a tendency to turn to foreign activities as a way of distracting. i think you see that tendency in chinese leadership. there. that tendency i see all of those things and that is one of the reasons we see that strand in chinese strategic thinking being so distinct. i can't say whether it is growing or not because other factors weigh against it. we take it very seriously. i am ambiguous. say china is one of the
things we are making military operational plans. even as russia is, even as north korea is. those are our principal five. military preoccupations of today. we are making sure each one of those, we have the right military path to go with our strategic path. i am confident in what we are doing. the other thing that is very important is making sure the military of 10 years, 20 years, 30 years from now is also the world's best. we cannot take that for granted. it is a competitive world, as you know, because you do a lot of discussions on this. technology is changing constantly, advancing constantly, and not entirely
american. certainly not entirely governmental. there is a lot of commercial and global technology. when i started out my career, of course, i am a physicist by background. when i started my career, most technology of consequence to military affairs arose in the united states and out of the defense department. that is no longer true. there is technology of consequence and we need to have different relationships. charlie: that is why you have made such a good effort to have a strong relationship with silicon valley. sec. carter: and also why i'm so intent to the generation of the future. many people do not have parents or a coach who served and so i have been very intent upon connecting with the next
generation, inspiring them with our mission, being flexible where we can consistent with the profession of arms. to understand they are different from today's generation, and to try to be welcoming to their things like their technology friendliness. charlie: let me go to north korea. some kind of relationship with china is good and necessary to deal with north korea. sec. carter: it fortunately has not borne the fruit that we all expected. it is very much in their interest. this is a little bit like the russian behavior. you can say what is in somebody else's interest and i it actually believed it, but the chinese behaved in regard to what i believe it is chinese
interest, which is having a war or nuclear weapons on the immediate border. all north korean children are taught that we are the enemy. the devil. so, our ability to influence north korean thinking except through deterrence is not great. therefore, when it came to the diplomatic approach, the theory behind the so-called six party talks of which china was a part, was they could use the historical and ideological history that they have with north korea uniquely to try to reach the north korean leadership. that has not borne fruit. charlie: everywhere i talked to people, they remind me of how
they have elevated the threat of north korea. sec. carter: let me put it this way. north korea has always been -- and i have been doing this for a long time and i remember working on the north korean war plan in 1994. that was a different circumstance at a different time. charlie: it was argued at one time that you were in favor of taking out there facilities. carter: we have spent money and made careful plans to stay one step ahead of north korea. in the sense that we have built missile defenses it in
expectation that they may develop missiles that are longer and longer range. that is why you see us increasing the number and the technological sophistication of the missile defenses of our country in north america. that is why you see us building new defenses in south korea and japan, in guam. charlie: giving them the same kind of defense system we have, the state-of-the-art defense system. sec. carter: operating ourselves or in some cases -- yes, well the south koreans have system for quite some time. we are doing all of that, including with them. it is an alliance decision and capability. the alliance in south korea. so, we have been staying one step ahead in both deterrence and defense. never forget charlie, we have
28,500 troops on the korean peninsula and a major plan to do a major reinforcement should war come. we stand to our slogan on the korean peninsula, fight tonight. we do not want to do that. but we are ready to do that. you have talked about the counter isil campaign, russia, china, iran. in each and every case, we are making investments and have the operational plans to deter. if it comes to conflict, win with respect to those different contingencies, they are all out there. that is a world that faces us. charlie: have they developed all the other technology so that once they have the missile --
they have the size of a nuclear weapon that would fit on the missile? are they that close? sec. carter: that is an intelligence judgment. in anticipation that that could occur, and making sure we will be prepared. that is the reason we began some years ago to build field and then increase in the last four years or so, increasing both the number and sophistication of the missile defenses of north america. we in the defense department are staying one step ahead of it. it is not prudent to wait and see if something happens. staying one step ahead.
potential for aggression. charlie: and it doesn't stop them from developing missiles, does it? ec. carter: no. that is why they are also there in missile defense. we have forces in the gulf for two principal reasons. first is to carry out the campaign to defeat isil. the other is to deter iranian aggression. our ally starting of course with israel, but not limited. charlie: a lot of the sunni arabs are worried. they have worried in the past about american support. that is an ongoing diplomatic relationship. sec. carter: it is more than a diplomatic relationship, it is a
military relationship as well. we have excellent military relationships with the saudis, other gulf states. we do with turkey. obviously, with israel. charlie: when you see the turks and russians cooperating against isil, it is said -- sec. carter: it is said. we do not observe exactly that. with respect to the turks and the counter isil campaign, that is where you are heading, turkey is a member of the coalition, a member of nato. we work well with them. they allow us to use bases in turkey to conduct the counter-isil campaign. they have been doing more every month for the time i have been secretary of defense.
we do have issues with turkey but we do work with them very systematically. we have done that in syria and we have done that in iraq. and our relationship on the ground and working with turkey military-to-military, this is something we work on every day. these are complicated places. iraq and syria are complicated places. my north star is american interests. i don't expect to make simplicity there. i am clear about what u.s. interests are. we are very clear about pursuing those interests. with turkey, we are very effective in pursuing our interests. as always, they are not identical, but they overlap very substantially.
it is not like russia, where the overlap is quite small. with almost any country, you do not have identical interests. my job is not to carry out anybody's national interests but the united states. it would be nice to solve everybody else's problem and every problem in the world. but that is not job one for me. job one is to protect the american people. protect our interests. we know what they are and we can do that. charlie: i have heard you say -- and i have read your memo. your sort of exit memo. you have also talked about modernization in terms of the quality of the men and women and your commitment to them.
sec. carter: innovative military is important as well as a strategic military. i just want to make that point. it is extremely important. technology, people, so that we maintain the best. that is incredibly -- one thing i am so proud of is that it is a learning institution. it is tremendously adaptable. over time, it has been at the forefront of every field. it is important we remain so. and so i spend a lot of my time making sure we continue to think outside the five-sided box of the pentagon and making sure we are constantly looking around for ways that we can do things differently and better. that is actually quite congenial
to the military. people tend to think it is a big bureaucracy. there are aspects of it that are that way. large it is a learning institution. my experience over 35 years is if we set a direction, and my experience is when we set a direction, our military will move into the future faster and better than everybody. that is as important to me and must be to any secretary of defense, as is dealing with the strategic circumstances of the day. i am confident with what we are doing today, but i am confident about the institution and the ability to dominate the future as well. that is not a birthright, but something we have to work out. we have to be competitive. we have to be creative.
and, we need consistent leadership and support in our country and support by our people. not just budgetary support, but support by our troops. charlie: one thing i forgot and i want to bring it up. we have more troops there engaged in battle. i assume that is afghanistan. where are we? sec. carter: i have been at this one for a long time as well. i remember our overall approach their, charlie, is, as always, to protect our own interest and make sure that attacks like 9/11 never originate from there again. charlie: that it is not a haven. secretary carter: yes. our approach has been a number of years.
and you will know this. to strengthen the capabilities of the afghan security forces. they have gotten stronger through two successive fighting seasons as they are called. they have held their own. we are now in the winter cycle where they refresh. so also does the enemy. but, they are getting stronger and stronger in every way. that is pretty much the path we are on. one of the things i recommended to the president along with general dunford earlier this we keep more forces in afghanistan this coming year. these are enablers, people helping train, equip the afghan security forces.
because i thought that we could do that. we had the expertise and the capacity to do it. it gave it an extra nudge to the afghan security forces, a little extra margin of security in this overall strategy. but this is the strategy and i'm not going to deceive you, you know we have been at this for a while. our expectation is we will be at this, which is not substituting for the afghan forces any longer. since they now exist and have growing capability. not only we but everybody else who has been part of this since the beginning is committed to continuing that role. it's important we do that so we don't have a nest of terrorism in south asia. it is also, by the way, not bad
to have a very willing and cooperative security partner. in a dangerous part of the world. i never overlooked that and we have friends and allies that are an enormous asset to our defenses and having a cooperative partner in afghanistan has that upside. charlie: as we leave this conversation and looking at all the things you are proud of, what is it around the corner that you want to say to all of us? i am worried about this and we have to be vigilant? sec. carter: we have discussed pretty much everything. i have to say i have tended to everything i thought was necessary and part of the future. and, i think i have cleared the strategically today and to the improvements we know we need to make in the future. the only thing i would say is this requires persistent effort, particularly to stay ahead of
our enemies. there will be changes in technology, and the strategic landscape, changes in the way our people think about their own future. we need a defense department that is agile. we have that today. i just want to say that i have a lot of admiration and confidence in the innovativeness of the u.s. military. they have dealt with difficult situations in recent history. you have seen and. it has been tough but in each case, we have climbed on top of our circumstance. that is the institution that i lead. i am confident in this future for that reason. i don't confidently predict the
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