tv Book TV After Words CSPAN May 5, 2013 9:00pm-10:01pm EDT
holbrooke, 2009-2011, as part of the special office, special adviser on pakistan and afghanistan. now, special adviser to the secretary of state. there always are other offices one discovers that do the same thing you do, and that's part of the problem as you lay out in the book which is fascinating. other works that you've done, sheer revival, i used in courses i've done, how conflicts in islam shape the future, forces of forchip, the rise of the new middle class and what it means for our world, and in these you tell certain great events that do come. ..
>> host: i guess it's a confession in a way, but i had almost a fatal attraction to reading your book. and in part it's the kind of fatalism that if you've been around and watched, and i have observed many of the inner struggles. for me, this was the revelation, one of the revelations of your book, struggles that go on in the making of policy a few people see. most people like to see that everything is fine, the great minds, the best minds come together, the great leaders. and after careful talking and analysis come to decisions on policy. and i think you and i know that it's not quite that simple, it's certainly not that easy a process. i sometimes tell my students if
you know the old saying, if you like sausage, don't watch it made. if you're interested in policy, you really don't want to know too much about behind the scenes. but, you know, when i think back at the last ten years in particular regardless of administration, we have been watching how sausage is being made. so much has been brought out into the open that it's been, i think it's been, it's made the art of political compromise and negotiation within government let alone to forward a policy much more difficult than maybe it used to be. it's hard to, hard to see that it could have been worse. but i think the point is, it's not always as pretty or as tasteful or as thoughtful as we would like, and it's not always about principles. sometimes it's about something which i think you lay out very clearly, it's about power. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: it's about influence. it's about what the arab world calls wasta.
>> guest: that's right. >> host: it's so much who you know and what you can do in, basically, getting your way. so what i'd like to do in the time we have together is to go through some of these things. i have a long list of questions, of course, that come to mind, and i think there's sort of two parts in a way, because much of the book -- and i think the greatest value and the greatest contribution is on the time you spent as a participant, what you were able to observe in your work with holbrooke and how he worked. the man had a reputation larger than life and was a very forceful actor on the scene. watching someone like that in operation is always important and, i think, is influencing. but it reminds me that, you know, when you watch how policy is made, i don't mean to talk too much on in this, but i did want to start here, that you do have the professionals, the diplomatic corps. you even have generals who are
professionals as diplomats that know how to operate in that environment. and you like to think that the goal is conflict resolution and peace without war, advancing u.s. interests and those of our allies and friends. how to make concessions, how to negotiate. >> guest: right. >> host: and not. and it's not. there's so much in terms of personal satisfaction; the egos of the players involved and their vision and their view is the most important. and sometimes it's where you sit that the power is, and sometimes it's not. and that's the dark side of, i think, a lot of this. i think there's also the problem insiders can be defined in many different ways. you know, the insiders that are around a president or around the secretary of state. secretary clinton, certainly, had her insiders. every secretary of state has. every president has. and sometimes they consult with the professionals, and sometimes they don't. >> guest: right.
>> host: exactly. and sometimes the principles they operate on don't upset anything -- >> guest: that's right. >> host: think about the election. there's always an election coming. think about interest groups that you don't want to aggravate. it makes, it adds that layer which is very difficult to deal with. so let's start with some of these very basic questions if we can. >> guest: sure, please. >> host: you talk a lot about the different influences. there's the military, it's feeding into this picture and the professional diplomatic corps and the friends of the president and his advisers, and you have the intelligence community and certainly i have some choice bits to say about the cia. i'll come back to that, i have a question or two there. and the vice president who also, especially in this administration and in the last one, the bush administration, has insisted on playing a larger role -- whether that's always good or not is not the point.
the point is it's another base to deal with. so tell me, vali, who decides the options? how are these options framed? and who should be? i mean, who really should have the, more of the input, if you would? >> guest: well, very good questions, you ask. when we came to afghanistan and pakistan which was really the big war that the obama administration set before itself, had to manage, it was their war whereas iraq was really president bush's war, ask was president obama's war. he wanted the main issues, and he still there is really the overhang of iraq. so we started, actually, looking at afghanistan not really on the basis of its own merits in terms of what does it need, what our interests are, how do we come to some kind of conclusion and closure in a way that is good for the region and protects us?
we started really from the premise of iraq. so in iraq bush did x, therefore, we should do y. or we cannot do x because bush had done y. and this, i think, was a problem to begin with. and i don't think the administration ever was even going back into the campaign able to craft for the president a national security image which was not constantly measured against iraq. >> host: true. >> guest: so he was the good president because he would do exactly the opposite of bush. i mean, even if you look at it right up til now, the claim to fame is that bush took us into the region, and we're taking it out. so every time you talk about our afghanistan policy, you inevitably end up comparing it to iraq. and i think that's a big problem. the second is that iraq did produce the u.s. military as a two-ton foreign policy elephant. because they're not the ones who
caused the war. the cause was, the war was the decision of the civilian in the pentagon, in the white house and some in the state department. and the way that the war played out that in the end the military became the save or your. and general petraeus ended up being the hero of the iraq war with the surge. the surge ended up being the military's solution to a catastrophe caused by civilians. and the military also, as the expression goes, drank its own kool-aid too much on iraq. so it came out thinking that it deserves all the resources it can get, it has the solution to the problem, it really doesn't need civilians, it definitely doesn't need diplomats, and it doesn't needy proposal si. and it thought that it has reinvented the ending of the war. so, you know, in world war world war ii you go to vietnam, you go
to balkans, you go to varieties of wars around the world. you know, the war fighters fight the or wars, the diplomats end up negotiating the end. and when you look at the balkans or in vietnam, you know, kissinger, holbrooke were in charge. the military was providing them with muscles. so they could go to negotiations in paris or in dayton with the backing of the military. in iraq there was no negotiated settlement. >> host: that's right. >> guest: so general petraeus and his team and the military came to say that the savior of the war was this coin strategy, and it's not only was the savior of the war -- and coin meaning counterinsurgency which he was the architect of -- and it's not only what will end the war, but it actually can be america's global strategy in dealing with terrorism and failed states. and the pentagon, if you would, came up sort of to eat up all of america's middle east and south asia policy.
so you arrive in afghanistan with iraq's overhang. the military has an enormous amount of influence on the strategy for afghanistan. and i think very early on the president succumbed to that. and, therefore, the strategic review according to which he decided to put troops into afghanistan -- first the smaller number in january 2009, then a larger number in the fall of 2009 -- but essentially, he ended up accepting that the solution to afghanistan was to export the coin strategy from iraq to afghanistan. and at that point general petraeus was head of centcom, but largely this was the united states vision for afghanistan. and then at some point general petraeus is put on the ground to literally run the coin operation. so we ended up going into afghanistan essentially taking the military as the forefront
strategy. that put civilians, the state department at the white house, essentially, i would say on a marginal role. and i think within the white house the sensibility of the domestic political advisers with the president was this is a sensible way to go because it's too difficult for a democratic president to argue with success which was the way we had defined iraq. and it was too difficult for a democratic president as young as president obama was to basically tell this sort of triumphant military coming out of iraq that, you know, your strategy may not be appropriate for afghanistan. and, therefore, we sort of succumbed to embracing iraq for afghanistan. >> host: well, he's not the first president to be afraid of dealing with the military directly. if i remember correctly, clinton had similar problems, both of them lacking military experience , careers dealing with the military.
and, again, you think of the old image of the democrats as soft on war, not really good at this. there have been some difficulties in democratic presidents approaching the military. mostly it's been giving them what they want, which clinton certainly did. and i think that obama, too, is reluctant to take them on full bore. but when you're in the middle of a war, you're not really going to argue. and i think the other part of the problem, and, you know, full disclosure having spent the past almost 15 years at national defense university and seeing a lot of the military, um, petraeus had a reputation that almost like a star. >> guest: yes, he was. he was a superstar then. >> host: several, several of our generals acquire this kind of aura of the superstar, and he had this very successful strategy. and i was interested in your description of that, because i don't think that we really -- when we look at the surge in iraq that was so successful, we look at it as our surge.
it was our success. >> guest: that's right. >> host: and yet that's not the whole truth. that's not what really made it successful. and i think of this in part because so much of my life has been looking at things from iraq's side as well that really iraq was ready to make that strategy work -- >> guest: absolutely. >> host: -- in ways that -- >> guest: but here actually, and i do agree with you that president obama's not unique in being pushed by the surge of military popularity and, to be fair, it was quite difficult after iraq and after the way in which the u.s. military in general and general pray chris emerging as heroes that the president would argue with him. but the devil then is in the details. the president could have unleashed the state department and the civilians in ways that could have complemented or provided an additional layer here. in particular, you know, secretary clinton was much more
powerful than the president, i think, vis-a-vis the military. i mean, in situation room events she was probably often the strongest character in the room. and the toughest character. as it was. the only civilian in the middle of a number of, you know, intelligence and security officials which dominate the national security team of the president. she held her own, she was highly respected, she was extremely tough. but i think the way it worked out is that the state department and in particular holbrooke also could have played an important role in balancing the military given his experience in vietnam and his experience in the balkans were put in the position to say your job not to make policy. you're not equal partners here. you basically are there to implement the civilian needs of coin strategy. so, you know, you're not really -- this is not about
global diplomacy. the job of the state department is to look after building afghanistan's agriculture because that's what coin needs. or your job is to go around the world and make sure many more countries send troops and money to afghanistan, and we get support. but your input into america's strategy is not welcome. so it's a period which is not just about war strategy. i think where the balance is lost is that war fighters became america's chief strategist. >> host: yeah. >> guest: that our foreign policy and not just in afghanistan, but largely even in the middle east that we still see this withdrawn argument in the region was, essentially, passed from the hands of the diplomats to the hands of the war fighters. and in many ways the state department fought very hard against it. i think hillary clinton and richard holbrooke tried valiantly to argue that it would
be a mistake for the united states to put all of its eggs in this region on a military solution that the president actually in his heart didn't believe in. and that they should be given a far broad wither berth in terms of thinking about the regional architecture, a peace settlement, a global engagement that would provide for a framework for an end to afghanistan that would enable us to leave with some kind of a political solution. so, i mean, if you look at afghanistan now, we didn't win the war, and we didn't arrive at a settlement. so in a way there's a lot of loose ends there. we just are basically saying the war continues as before except we're just going to let the afghans do it. and the taliban are still in full force, there's still no peace deal, there's no regional or international agreement or consensus on an end game in
afghanistan. we're just sort of going to pass the baton to the afghan army. and if that was the case, why did we surge at all? we could have done the training of the afghan army from day one. and i think, you know, the state department argued very aggressively and part of the fighting that happened, and i describe in the book, was because the white house was highly resistant to the state department making any policy input. they would like them to be the implementers. and if it hadn't been for, i think, hillary clinton who continuously remained a very strong influential voice and was able to single-handedly carry the mantle and also have enormous amount of influence at varieties of points, largely the entire afghanistan issue would have been completely reduced to military strategy, and the
pentagon would have become de facto state department here. >> host: well, if i think, if i put this in some kind of a context, the pattern is not original with obama that much of this, for better or for worse, was the pattern learned or imposed under the bush administration. >> guest: that's right. >> host: w. bush. and that, in that case leading up to the war in iraq and afterwards the pentagon was the source of everything. you want diplomacy? the pentagon's going to set it up. you want strategy? it's the pentagon. you want intelligence? the pentagon will do that. you want aid or assistance? the -- the pentagon was the source of all knowledge and all programs, and they pretty much, and this was rumsfeld and the people working under him, did not see a need to look to anybody else. it's hard to say this, but maybe the pentagon got used to this, maybe this pattern became so hardened that it's hard to
change that. maybe that's part of the problem. i'm not really -- it's not the whole problem, but i think that there's some -- it raises some serious questions in terms of the role you've been conditioned or you have taken and you don't want to concede it. >> guest: you're absolutely correct. and particularly because we came out of iraq with feeling that pentagon saved the day. >> host: yeah. >> guest: very different from vietnam where the military didn't come out with a sense of they have saved the day. the day was saved by civilians in negotiations in paris. whereas in iraq they were the ones who solved the problem in their own mind. and, yes, and i think that actually raises an important question as to whether the obama administration has really actually been able to move away from the bush strategy. and i headache the argument about -- i make this argument in the book when you look at iran, when you look at the drone strategy, it often is bush policy improved and better
implemented. but there's not been a real effort to reinvent american foreign policy. one thing that is important is that the domination of the military did impact america's global image. so when president obama came in, there was a sense that, you know, our image in the region had been tarnished, that our, our global standing had been affected. and i think will secretary clinton did a lot to rebalance that in the sense that, you know, by giving the state department a lot more visibility internationally -- >> host: sure. >> guest: -- by also trying to, you know, even influence the decision making on war in the white house, i think she went a long way of righting that problem. because, you know, under the bush administration during the
powell/rumsfeld clashes the state department lost and then was hugely humiliated. the building was demoralized. and it reached a point where the state department literally was not even respected at the level of policy making in a major way. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: and i think she decided that to rebuild the state department's influence within the u.s. government, it was a tactical diplomacy as well. >> host: yes. >> guest: so so she spent her time, you know, continuously talking to the generals, talking, you know, with the white house staff, finding ways to sort of reverse the attitudes that had been in-built, as you mentioned, about the state department. and i think she left, you know, the state department in a far better position than she found it. i think, you know, even to this day the continuous problem the state department finds is the reluctance to in the white house with the pentagon to accept the
state department's primacy in setting america's global strategy and then being the implementer of that global strategy in every issue other than war. and i think that's a challenge even today. it was a challenge then, and i think secretary clinton probably was in that period and the policies, the keystone there did far better than her two previous predecessors, and i think we will see whether her successor can change this in an important way. >> host: now, those are all important observations, and i think what troubles me as i look at this, i think you're right about hillary clinton. she doesn't tolerate fools easily. she was very clear. she knew what -- she knew what it took to have to be assertive, you have to make yourself heard. and she had to rebuild an institution that had really suffered a lot in terms of its role and the perception of what
its role. the fact that it was not seen as a shaper, but more just an implementer. we'll tell you what the policy is, and your job is just to carry it out. that's not very helpful in materials of building -- in terms of building the institution and supporting the mission. but i think there's a couple other things. i think one of the things that bothered me, and having in my lifetime covered several of these crises including, you know, all of the iraq cry sid -- >> guest: that's right. >> host: watching everyone fight over all of this, that we always used to shudder if there was a hint that the president was going to announce the deadline. >> guest: uh-huh. >> host: deadlines are not a good thing. i never understood exit strategies, why you needed exit strategy. did we have an exit strategy in world war ii? i used to ask myself what is this great urge. but an exit strategy? okay. but if you announce at the same time, for example, with
afghanistan -- >> guest: that's right. >> host: -- you're going to have a surge, you're going to send in more troops, and you're going to announce a withdrawal begins in 2014 or whatever, isn't that self-defeating? >> guest: it was self-defeating. and i can say that from firsthand experience -- >> host: yeah. >> guest: -- of that time period. that, first of all, we had a great deal of difficulty even convincing people that the idea of coin was good for afghanistan. >> host: yeah. >> guest: people in the region were highly suspicious. they would keep telling us iraq is not afghanistan, afghanistan is not iraq. not only for reasons that you mention that the mindset of iraqis was different, but iraq is a flat country. it's much easier to think of coin. the taliban are very different from the insurgency. the taliban also have strategic depth in pakistan which, you know, the iraqi insurgency didn't have it. >> host: that's right. >> guest: iraq has a much more
educated society. its military has more of a fiber because it used to be a real military at some point. so i think there was a lot more to work with. and in the region, you know, when you went to pakistan, you went to saudi arabia, you went to uae, you went to turkey, nobody believed that it was a good idea to ache coin. and then, secondly, they didn't believe that it would succeed. they thought that you're going to end up having another vietnam. that if you actually stayed with it, you'll end up with a 15, 20-year war. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: so to begin with, they didn't believe us. and we argued with them, no, no, no, believe us. we really are going to stand behind our strategy. you should trust in american foreign policy. you should trust in our wisdom. you should trust we know what we're doing, and you should support us. and, you know, they would look at you like, you know, very politely and not say anything, and then literally we went six months back and said, okay, now
in this policy, by the way, there's a deadline. and then they would say so you mean your policy's only good for one year? we say, no, no, we're going to succeed in one year. and then you they would say, but that even makes all of your conclusions and arguments even less credible than before. because we know this is not a one-year game. so how are you going to do? and then as soon as this was done, we ended up going back and saying, oh, we're starting a troop withdrawal, and we're going to be gone by 2014. so what i saw was that, you know, it's almost like we were constantly talking to ourselves for our own media. it was largely american headline-driven. it sounded good here. it never convinced anybody. in fact, by the end what i saw in all of these countries was that they concluded that we are confused, we lack commitment. it's actually very dangerous for those countries to hitch their wagons to the united states because they don't know where that wagon is going. >> host: those are very good points. >> guest: i remember saying,
okay, all right, you're going to be gone by 2014, why don't we just wait for you to go, and then we'll begin to think about our policy and what's going to happen. you saw that even among afghan, afghan actorrings. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: i think actually where we are in this region is everybody is just keeping still until we're gone. because we've announced loud and be clear that by 2014 we're gone. we, as i said, we haven't won the war. we're not interested in changing the political dynamic on the ground by forcing a peace deal and forcing the regional actors to embrace and accept that peace deal and sign on to it. so we're basically just leaving afghanistan the way it is. and they know nothing's been finished. they know the fight is still there. and so by and large we, all we did in the region is to tarnish
our image, tarnish our standing and, essentially, create a situation where everybody has written us off. and then we wonder why we are, our influence is declining. >> host: well if you, again, looking at this, it's just so not about afghanistan in in this sense. afghanistan becomes yet another example of a failing policy in their, in the region's eyes. and the region argued against our policy on iraq. it's too dangerous to get rid of saddam, and then when we did get -- when saddam was removed, it was dangerous to let things drift the way they did. it was dangerous not to insist immediately on a replacement that could be trusted, that could hold things together. what we did in effect, i know you go to the region, i go to the region, and the question always is why did you give iraq to iran. >> guest: that's right. >> host: didn't you think about that? didn't you realize what would happen?
and the sense that we gave up the shah, we didn't stick with him. >> guest: right. >> host: we have given up on iraq and let the iranians take over. we abandoned mubarak. are we going to -- and then we announced the withdrawal from afghanistan. and now what are you going to do next? how much can we trust the united states? so i think that you're right for different reasons these do feed into an overall unease with our commitments, and all the assurances in the world still make it very difficult, because the region is at a time. i know we always say that, but this is a real crisis. and they're facing challenges that they haven't had to face before both internally and what is going on -- is it about just afghanistan? is it about just iran? is it about iran nuclear? is it about -- and i think one of the things that's really tipping the balance is syria.
>> guest: that's right. .. in term of announcing a florida, not sub describing to it. i think if the president told the military from the beginning, okay you're going to get the coin. i'm serious about diplomatic end. it would have had much more of a balancing effect. ic there's something else. that is there's a sense that the united states -- not just
withdprawing from afghanistan and military. it wants to leave the region entirely. that's particularly hard for our allies in the gulf and jordan and morocco who are basically saying you made mistakes. we stuck by you. you know, we stuck by you. now you came in and literally pushed, not only the -- you literally pushed mubarak out, and did nothing for egypt the day after he left. it was almost about just pushing him off. but you have no engagement in democracy building and economic reform. you are perfectly fine with the decent -- to power. and yet you still think you are ally. and maybe self-preservation, almost, puts them in a position to begin to try to protect themselves from us. which is a sort of reverse. and then every time they see
american leaders in the region is talk to americans about syria and egypt just not engaged until the conversations. and they openly tell leaders in the region we're pivoting to asia. we're going to be gone from the region. and i think that's actually encouraging in sense of gloom and doom in the region. leaders are beginning to say we have to look for an option b. it's not that you have a -- america. your not going have any america at all. i think syria, 0 -- to your point and egypt are critical. they are the two most arab countries. they're going to dpdz the future of the region. and somehow sec tact the fact we don't see any wroal
for us or sense of urgency as to whether egypt will sign a critical economic program with imf or the fact that syria could be, you know, destabilize iraq, lebanon, jordan, turkey, be a threat to israel, ultimately, you know, spread to the gulf. that is quite baffling. i think it is actually, in my opinion, is a strategic mistake on the part of the united. you can't blame it on the military or the issues. it's a conscious decision the obama administration has made to downgrade the middle east as a strategic focus. the president goes to the region, doesn't deal with syria. he deals with a israeli issue which is confident neither up nor down. it's been there for a long
time. it's not where the center of issues are. i always think that he went to -- for a six-hour visit to reward the ruler there for letting him agree to an election. he hasn't been to a single arab country that went to the arab spring. it's loud and clear in the region. washington is just not interested in this region. and i think that's a whole new chapter. and we may pat ourselves on the back, but just because you're not in there doesn't mean that the problems are solved anymore. they can will come and bite you at some point. >> host: you have a darker view than i co. -- do. i adopt think it's an excuse for the administration. the problems are incredibly complicated. in a way, the failure here, it's not an intelligence failure as such. it's not a military failure.
it's a failure to be willing to take on difficult problems. if you look at jipt as -- egypt z an camp. maybe we made a mistake in recognizing. we long argued that the muslim brotherhood, we want an oath of political system. all groups should be able in a perfect world, a perfect democracy, if you will to be able to participate. nothing is wrong with that. do we really understand the circumstance we're dealing with? in other words, i don't think we were prepared to deal with the aftermath, the assumption is that, well, look at egypt. it's always been a republic. it's been a more open society. they never had the high hold here. it will be easier to see a flow to a transition, and in to the republic arguing for in the streets. and the first daft
demonstration. that didn't last long. the people who came out in the street disappeared and what we were left with were the remnant of the old regime and the islamist could operate in public for the first time. only the organized body to be able to put together a structure political parties and know to move forward. and it did. to the same story. the other countries. i don't they, you know, we thought we were so far ahead and by saying to new mubarak you have to go. as they call it on the right side of history are. the problem with the egyptians haven't helped us to help us either. >> guest: i agree with you. it's difficult to fix problems. we shouldn't assume that we could fix these if. if we compare america's
transition to the even intellectually engadget with trying to have an influence on the highest level of government we cannot influence egypt's decision making on the constitution. but we could have an influence on the economic decision making. we could coordinate better with saudi arabia so they don't give money to egypt the week before they are supposed to be signing a critical deal with the imf. we could provide better political government for. the engaging the egyptian people through the secretary of state more way than we engage the bra ville january, the polish or the way the germans are -- talk to them you have to make the hard decisions.
the point is that we have a lot of stake here. and also the other part is, i think it's expected the region really, you know, worries about when we do too much and we mess up it's equally worried when we are not engaged. and they were downsized in this one. when we leave to the region -- seasoned for themselves. we adopt have an opinion. money goes to groups in egypt. the united states has no minnesota -- opinion. are getting along with either. >> guest: right. it requires us to be in the middle. it requires us to be talking about egypt.
we have a strategy. tell us if it's wrong or have your input. it's our vision where for where we want egypt to end up. we believe economic reform should come at this level and stage. therefore, we would like your backing and we would like your support. you know, when we want to do out of -- seriously the secretary of state will go to cairo 22 times and jerusalem 23 times and we understood that you have a plan in your head. you keep embellishing it. you create a regional consensus around a particular idea. you shop with the main protagonist, and then, you know, you try to move the -- region forward. it would have been possible to have serious -- around economic reform in the region.
>> host: i think we tebtd to forget every time we talk about economic reform and imf loans ease salespersonly egypt and jordan get worried because those things come with conditions. you're going have to substitute reform and subsidizes, how can you add subsidizes for bread or any other necessity when it was tried in the past and triggered major rites in both countries. so it's probably a cause for concern. and in egypt the fact they have elections coming up. probably before elections the party in power is worried nay won't be in power anymore. it's a complicated. >> guest: it is. i don't think the countries are going do these tough decisions for $5.8 billion without a promise of a road map forward. and the public has to believe this. so, you know, that's not on the
table. it's easier to take $5 billion from libya than imf. >> host: let's move on. these are such great issues. one thing i want to come back to again, and that's what i think you describe and others describe from the book the whole government approach solving big problems. then you see what they want to do in the state department to create an effect what the pentagon has been so successful in doing before them. government as a -- flow from state department and whole group would be the person in charge. and one of the criticism made is in pursuing this, that the hole brooke and the people working for them were carried away. they were so busy in thinking about the problems down to the weeds, down to the smallest that they lost control of the problem. and perhaps, you know, were not
able to push on the bigger issues as hard as they should. what i'm thinking about is it almost likes like what happens with the iraq could one office in the state department. do you think it was intend to be the sole source of our afghan policy or in thinking about the you know what could be needed to be done was that office, your office trying to take on more than it could handle? >> well, very good point. i think the reason people got in to weeds is because that's the way they were pushed to do. i think the state department would have rather have focused on a peace process, and not worry about agricultural and promise poem granite and the small issues.
and the grand alreadity. everything is about village level cooperation between a civilian team and the -- >> host: right. >> this was a vision that is obviously -- it was accommodating sort of the coinings vision. >> host: the prt were military, civilian, advisers on agricultural, had worked effectively in iraq. didn't work as effectively, i think, in afghanistan in part because there were so few. >> guest: there was so few. there was security issues. and as you mention, the nature of the two countries was quite different. and i don't think the clearing of the taliban was ever as effectiving a the clearing of the insurge -- insurgency in iraq. it was created was put in the state department immediately was undercut by rivels in the white
house and the mirl military. the president was reluctant to give him the authority they needed to run. the problem was that not we were focused in too many things. when you came up with anything effective, you ran against the war and it always took the person charm and way of doing things to call up the secretary of agricultural and ask him. you couldn't order, and the white house was unhelpful. if you went to the white house and said can you call the department or that department, it wouldn't do it. in a way, sloption you create the position, and you try to handicap it proactively and everybody around the government very quickly understood that the white house wants to hole brooke at the knees and therefore they began to play the same game. when it worked, it worked really
well. there are times when, you know, in pakistan you had a tragedy of massive floods. the office, because it connected to department part of the government allowed for rapid response. it connected u.s. aid to the navy, to the embassy and -- >> host: it's critical. >> guest: which is critical. it's good to think about whether the kinds of officers work. we shouldn't render judgment based on structure, we should look at whether it makes sense to create them and from day one, put your shoulder to making them fail. because of the personal clashes. >> host: let me ask you one more question before i move to the big question. my lance one, i promise. there's another aspect here. it has to do with the iran policy. there was a quite a bit of a freelancer and the
recommendation -- he wanted to dot own initiative toward iran. i'm thinking back to, i think sometime in 2009. he wants to act on the own. he wants to be with the iranian official which is forbidden. what happens if it just happens. who is to stop me? who is to say i'm not going take it somewhere. i think somewhere was described as typical of his gur riel will tactic. and it might be that the nonwhole brooke side of the government was worried he would take a initiative and take them someplace they didn't want to go. there was a certain amount of unwillingness to perhaps let him out of the building? >> guest: yes. there was definitely that caution. a particularly among, i would say, the president's domestic advisers who didn't want to do too much either on afghanistan or iran.
and they wanted to run a tight ship, which was sort of glolden locks for the re-election. and diplomacy was a -- to them. the objective was not solving problems. it was ensuring the re-election. to that extend, yes, he was dangerous in that sense because he might actually put the united states in a place where he would have to risk diplomacy and the president would have to spend capital on it. it wasn't just on iran. the administration was worried he would push the issue of negotiation with the taliban or political settlement. too far ahead and end up in a circumstance where they have to defend it. thatst what i'm saying. the foreign policy was. even though we were in the big war or spending $100 billion a
month on the war, in the end, our strategy was not governed by finishing the war. the domestic policies which basically said, you know, do what the military wants because then that's popular and the responsibility with them. we don't want to do anything risky where the president has to risk political capital. that's why you need to cage hole brooke or basically shoot down the idea of -- >> host: and they weren't sure easy to control. >> guest: eventually could say no to this and that. and but, you know, he continued to believe that this war the strategy is wrong. he thought that if we search it will exit faster and exit leave the region without anything to
show for the war. it's going to hurt his more. and five years down the road you have another 9/11. it comes exactly from that region and revert back to everything we talked about in 2001, 2002. >> host: we've done a lot of criticizing. president obama and what he's done and the vision or lack thereof. is there anything he's done right? >> guest: look. the purpose of my book was not necessarily to criticize. i think there is vital things the americans have to naibt and look at. i think particularly when it comes to middle east and south asia. we have come to a point where we decided foreign policy doesn't matter. it wasn't part of the 2012 elections. we're sort of don'ting an attitude that doing less in the region is better. and we don't need to sort of
getting in to solving this problem. and we can focus on issues at home. and i think, you know, my aim to problemtize it. we thought sort of debate this much more openly, coherently, and, you know, -- so i think the president has done well in many areas of foreign policy with asia, latin america, and one can say those are success. i think there are two things i want to raise. one, how do we make the foreign policy. how do we balance between civilian and military? how do we actually set forth strategy interest and pursuant. are we at the right place? my sense is that if we're not at wrong place, it's time to get out and take gauge. secondly, we staninged with the middle east quite a 0 lot. over decades. and better part of 2001 to 2009,
we really put it at the center of our global policy and making some radical decisions about the region. about the doing things not doing things. these are some very big decisions which we are doing almost sleepwalking right now. my aim was to put it on the table. do we really want to be this engaged with arab spring? the answer is yes. let really look at it. do we want to go to iraq and think we are done? zero troops in afghanistan and say we are done? do we really want to take our relationship with pakistan completely for granted are we on the right track with iran? i think these are issues that are going to decide a global standing and also, security as we have been preoccupied with for more than a decade. >> the conclusion of your book
took me quite by surprise. i think it's taken many people. because in the end, you say it's a gathering storm and problem issues. but in the end, with a do you see as biggest issue we stro prepare ourselves for? people who have not read your book yesterday are going to be a little bit surprised at what you identify as our greater problem to come. >> guest: our problems are -- i think the biggest problem is global challenge is china. >> host: yes. >> guest: the administration has argued that this is completely separate from the middle east. we have a choice of either middle east or china. the pivot to asia was interpreted in the middle east to -- pivot away from the middle east. if you ask middle east and think about it from ruler to public intelligent -- the americans want to wash their hands from
it. my argument is not so fast. the middle east is still strategically important and vital to us. we have a lot at stake there. it's also not separate from the china issue. it's a mistake. another big mistake to think that it's in asia-pacific. and middle east is completely irrelevant. but rather, i think, middle east would also be an arena of american chinese. the chinese are moving west. i the energy needs from middle east and central asia. they look at the arc from central asia to pakistan as their set of countries that are vital interest to civility of western china. they are looking for markets. for the chinese, middle east is a rising strategic concern and
interest. where we think that these things have nothing do with each other. binary choice the middle east and china. so my aim was to sort of say your focus in china is well played. you shouldn't think of asia as only as east asia. you should also consider sthawr your presence in the middle east than in the middle east. ultimately relevant to your -- [inaudible] with china. and i think also another level it's important. i think people in asia since i have written the book i have heard from many in asia they are looking at us to gauge how trust woat we are and how much stamina we have. if we push mubarak off the pedestal and wash of our hands of egypt. what will it say to allies there who are thinking should we you know go against china and connect ourselves to the u.s. when we refuse to lay red line
on syria and get involved when we shows ourselves to so conflict diverse in the middle east. what signal does it send to china or what signal does it sound to north korea? in america, strategic con thinking we come not to see it as a world. we come think we can have decite policy here. no relationship to policies over there. the it's becoming more integrated. the chinese as they are growing, they are coming out of asia. they are going global. one of the places they are going to is the middle east. >> we that's. especially for the oil energy needs. they are importing more than 60% of the oil energy from the region. they want to build more pipelines through iran from afghanistan. they are -- i think they already built or in the process of central asia pipeline.
and they want more. terrorist true they are buying up farmland in africa. they need food. i find the question is, do they really want to take over. i find it you here. and it seems to me that your recommendation are counter intuitive to where many americans want to go. i don't think the region quite sees china playing the role either. the chinese continue want to play that. we provide security. they get the economic benefit. if we are going to lead and their interest are growing they, a bigger and bigger voice and influence and they the trend in that destruction is not just pipeline. there's a chinese investing in
the middle east and they are investing in china. the consequence of decision come about decades from now. if we are saying to the region we're leaving. if we are reducing our -- we're sort of trying to do less in the middle east, what is going to happen in our. >> host: on that note, vali, it's time close. thank you so much for coming in today. it's been a very, very interesting conversation. thank you, again, thank you for the book. . >> guest: thank you. great being with you. >> host: it's great. that was after words booktv's cig char programs. they are interviewed by journalists with policy makers and others familiar with the material. it airs every weekend on booktv at 10 bm on saturday.
12:00 and 9:00 p.m. on sunday. 12:00 a.m. monday. you can watch it job line. go to booktv.org and click on after words on the upper right side of the page. charles johnson next on booktv. he recounts president calvin cool a.j.'s tenure. this is about an hour. plls i want to thank you for coming here today. it's quite an honor. i'm not ab aloom. i find myself wishing i were. i can take some satisfaction in many of my professors were classmaters or teachers of the teachers the hillsdale college. i wish i had nobody of it when i applied to school many now seems
like many years ago. calvin was our last classically educate president. and i think he would have felt right at home at hillsdale. a school founded on the truth that all are created equal and sent many of the best and bright toast fight and even die so lincoln's home right might -- hillsdale motto pursuing truth; defnlding liberty. for those who understand that those who control the schoolhouse door ultimately control the white house. our subject is education. and what calvin a know collected statesman has to teach us about the contemporary politics in the political order. the late president of the clermont substitute has shown, he wasn't so much -- silent but silenced. the rewrote history to cast cool
age as a villain. the new deal historian had their work cut out for them. he proceeded over one of the largest expansion in economic growth in american history. and he had a lot to say. he gave over 500 press conferences. during the presidency. he ran for office nineteen times and won eighteen times working the way up from city councilman to president of the united states. truly a small arm republic and statesman. the last -- he was the last president to write his own speeches and pen the three collections. he published a thoughtful auto biography after the presidency and wrote a successful internationally syndicated post presidential column. my book is intended to report what he had to say and what he did say in the hope we might restore his views about limited government, american independence, and constitutiis