tv Authors Discuss the Conflict in Syria CSPAN June 1, 2017 3:25am-4:28am EDT
column on hugh hewitt, the radio talkshow host. that's coming up today. people schedule schedule is on book tv .com. now are going back inside to hear from the authors on syria. >> welcome to telling serious stories. my name is jeffrey and i'm a cultural writer for the los angeles times. i've been based in rome and berlin and is a cairo bureau chief. i've written two novels, shadow man and thomas surgeons. thank you for being here. in the strange times, strong journalism with good book and challenging ideas are critical. that is what the los angeles
times in the book possible aspire to and try to provide. after this, we'll gladly take your questions and look for your insights. we'll have a panel panel discussion about ten or 15 minutes after. just as a housekeeping note, please also phoned off. there will will be a book signing with the authors after at area one and no personal recordings of the session, please. now i'd like to introduce the panel. christopher phillips is a senior lecturer in the international relations of the middle east and paid a mere university in london. he lived for several years in syria and often returns to the middle east for research. he is an associate fellow at chatham house middle east and north africa program. his friend for many publications and has appeared on the bbc, and cnn. he's just published a second book, the battle for syria, international rivalry in the new middle east which will be today.
>> alla malek is a civil right lawyer born in baltimore. she's her child's attorney in the department of justice. in the works in the west bank and lebanon. if you a masters in journalism from columbia university. her books include, a country called america, a us history retold. arab life and her new memoir, the home that was our country, about syria. we will be discussing it today. elliott ackerman is the author of green on blue and dark at the crossing. he lives and incidental and covered the syrian wars since 2013. his writings have appeared in the new yorker, east east atlantic and the stories have been included in the best american short stories. he's a former marine and served five tours of duty in iraq and afghanistan where he received
the silver star, bronze star for valor in the purple heart. welcome everybody. [applause] when we think about the arab spring, it's this thing in 2011 that started this glorious fire and it seemed to stir into asia, 18 days of furious energy, and egypt that brought down libya and laid in. yemen and bahrain restless a little bit of saudi arabia and on and on. syria stands alone. 400,000 dead, millions of refugees and displaced and a tide of anguish that has seeped into europe and across the world. still he rules. mocking a broken revolution and defined the world that is left's band. we'll begin with elliott.
in your novel, very powerful, there is a moment when one of your characters a mere is deciding and he's in turkey and deciding do i go back to syria and he doesn't want to. he describes he says he feels that there's no life for them anymore and he gives this wonderful, powerful thoughts on the ideas of the revolution being shattered and turned into a graveyard. he says this to an isis type killer or fighter. could you give us a little context on where he came from? he seems to represent to me so much of what happened since 2011, everyone feels like everyone's dream has been shattered sure.
>> everyone's been trying to grasp what is the narrative to put in this into context. we can look at the arab spring as the event began in 2011 which is obviously we saw the first widespread protest. i started spending a lot of time in southern turkey where the number of activists who been extremely involved in serious on island protests and something that is evident to me early on was the conflict they felt in that experience. any given night, you could go to dinner and start talking politics and i could be with one friend and they would say elliott, you don't understand. the syrian army is viable and only if the west would support them enter into is not that strong. talk about that and whether or not the quest should be further involved in the entrée would come out and we continue to talk. by the end of dinner, they might be stirring the sugar into their
tea and i regret the whole thing. i wish i could take it all back so i could go home. that idea at a very personal, emotional level, how does someone rectify that the event that in some respects their most proud of is also the one that's given them the most sorrow. as a novelist, frankly, i could easily tap into was my experience in the middle east. i am extremely proud of having fought in iraq and afghanistan. at the same time, there's been a huge amount of wreckage was left by those experiences. so, if you were to say to me, elliott, elliott, think of the best days of your life and i would say, there were days that i was in combat, all right, tell me the ten worst days of your life, and it's the exact same dates. what does it say about that experience? i found that present as an afghan veteran and it's more and
more activists who felt they were present in their experience. they felt a shell shock syndrome? did they become disillusioned or is it deeper than that? >> it's like an irrefutable cause. to go out into the streets in 2011 in 2012 engaging in people protest to demand more rights democratic rights and reforms authoritarian regime and see the reciprocal and the destruction of your country and the depth of many of your family members and the fact that you can never return home, there there was a lot of shell shock in that respect. one thing that is always interesting to me, amongst the people like you to know, there was an illustrated generation by where many older syrians who had experienced the massacres of
assad were not as quick to embrace the revolution of the younger syrians were. i had a number of people tell me their parents said to them, don't go out in the streets. don't you believe what i'm doing ? yes, but you don't understand what that family is capable of. we do. we remember. for some of them it's as simple as that their parents were proved right in that respect. >> alla malek your eloquent memoir were not going to call it exactly a memoir but it's a memoir left it eloquently deals with a history of a family, but but also the pain of a country. could you tell us what it was like going back and forth unraveling that country history and that family history against
the context of what's happening today? >> hi los angeles. thanks for having me. it's nice to be here with my gentlemen colleagues. yes, what was it like? part of the difference in my work was i didn't come to the serious story just in the last six years. i always sort of wanted to tell a story about syria for the sake of syria. telling people about a place with interesting characters, people living their life against what has been very tumultuous experience from independence in the late 1940s until today. i did in april 2011 when things began to give in the middle east, when it looked like there was the stagnation that we had associated with the region felt like it might finally be giving way to something else, i decided
to move back to damascus. i felt, i had the opportunity, having been a human a human rights lawyer and journalist these are occupations that are hazardous to your health in syria. i never had an opportunity to be me in syria once i had become an adult with professions. i had been a frequent visitor and for the first years of our life in the united states we always planned on going back so there was a lot of back and forth but there was this opportunity to go and i had a cover story. in syria, 40 years of strong police state that is always watching you. for me as an american as well as the syrian and someone who's been in human rights law and someone who became a journalist, there's a lot of around me. i needed to have a credible and observable reason to the people who are going, as to why i would be there. i was renovating my grandmother's house and the house is the central metaphor through the book. the house that my grandmother
had moved to was a new bride in the country was new in the 1940s and it was a new building and she stayed there until 1970 when she rented it out to a man from the army, within months and the house was taken from us for 40 years until 2010 we were able to get it back. it seemed like there would be a metaphor that restoring a house at the same time the country was being restored. the metaphor crumbled. it was a very different kind of sort. it was frightening because i was working inside. , i wasn't parachuting in. you know, it was devastating because we saw all the things that were being set in motion that we would get to today and it was frustrating because there were constantly and we talk
about fake news here in the united states but fake news started in syria to some extent. in 2011, thousand 11, there's always this country argument those being forced by the regime that always happy was indigenous uprising. that there wasn't peaceful, it wasn't civil society based in the regime was currently putting out the narrative but it was not for people being paid. the things i talk about in the book but it's not big news for the sake of fitness. if the accepted narrative and what will not be accepted is if you are to contradict that narrative, either verbally or in your actions. my first chance to be back in syria as an adult and not being a visitor, not someone who's been asked when will you be leaving again. by virtue of my profession i was always the question about me. it was devastating for, while the metaphor covering, the us
were in search of what do we do with this. comes at a really interesting time in american foreign policy under the obama administration there was more of a retraction of the involvement in the world or how we involve ourselves in the world. the former president drew a line and assad crossed it and then not long ago president trump fired 80 some missiles into syria and the plane still fly in the billion still dive. i'd like to get more into the talk about the larger international question. what is american facing? or is it out of the game at this point? it's an important question. >> people have been asking since we've the peaceful uprising and
it turned into the civil war. the problem from the united states perspective is twofold, really. first and foremost, syria has never been an important country to strategically to the united states. it just hasn't been. it doesn't have oil reserves, history of being a nice ally like egypt. it's ever been a country that the united states has been interesting. starting point. when you look at how the united states reacted to a lot of those reactions were couched in the language of some kind of universal values like we believe in democracy or we believe in freedom of speech and so on. actually, the reaction was often a relationship related to the
utica pertinence of the united states. for example, when the uprising began in egypt that's a problem the united states. egypt is a very important ally in the us is worried that have stability there. when people to the streets after a prolonged period of time the obama and mr. said we need to do something about this and they literally got on the phone to egypt and said something about this. there's a two. we have to create stability. the side of that is bahrain where there's an uprising there that is crossed by the saudi arabians and the united emirates military. the united states did not say anything. they actually wanted to lean regime to stay in power. syria in that role didn't really hit the same buttons.
it wasn't that important. it was an enemy state, enemy of israel so that the united states was not looking at syria and saying we need stability here. actually, for many people the regime change or even a prolonged civil war that much of a problem. that's the starting point. syria wasn't important. the second point about the united states view was that it didn't say much about syria. >> that's not always uprising. [laughter] true. but we didn't know a lot about its allies. we had people to phone and we talk to ? we had a relationship with the guys in the military. there is no such relationship with the united states. we didn't have an investor there in syria from 2,522,011. they did not know this country. what's interesting is we made a
lot of generalizations when i just didn't know the country at all. we went from one position in early 2011 when afghan started in this rebellion and when hillary clinton with secretary of state went on television said he's going to be fine. we trust that he won't help reform and he'll start being stopping aggressive. a few months later, barack obama says tend to stand aside. the announcement at the time was. [inaudible] cereal will fold. they didn't know. they didn't have any other intelligence. i was a desk officer in my entire state department in 2011, they did not focus on this country. that is a starting point.
the second part of this is a country they're not interested in and don't know much about, in terms of geopolitics on the eve of the spring united states united states wanted out of the middle east. after 2003 iraq war debacle they wanted to step back. consciously saying, under obama we don't want to get stuck in middle east mark. temporarily, they abandon that logic when they got involved in libya. very quickly turned sour and it reinforced this idea that getting involved in middle eastern countries is a bad idea. they have these two problems in syria. number one, they have a country they don't know much about or care about. second time, they want to get out of the region back. >> get enter donald trump.
>> despite the strike that he has done he was restrained by the same restraint that barack obama was. that syria is not important to the united states to see lee. it seems to be even more of a mess and it was in 2011 because 11 because the civil war has been going on a long time. donald trump, even more than barack obama, wants to step back and on his campaign trail, at least, he took a took a isolationist and doesn't want to get involved in it. while he might fire a bomb here or there, perhaps there's less precision than the obama administration. i don't see him making a major shift despite. >> what's striking to me is not just america but the west praise for regime change in a place they think is bad and many pieces are bad. they often seem flat-footed by what rises to the top afterward.
it seems to me so often that the tail or whatever on the ground there's this lack of connection between what's happening in real-time and what your position papers back in washington tell you. it's unnerving and quite a lot. what i'd like each of you to do along that line is that so many hands had been reaching into syria. so many foreign hands, the various agendas, different moving point it's memorizing. what would each of you say ? we don't want to go down the hall because be here all day but what are one or two that you feel is most damage to the country? start with you elliot. >> i think his analysis is right on. what i would add to put into context is at this moment the us
disengagement in the middle east you have this ostensibly the end of the iraq war. we can't understand the us international political position because i don't understand the other position. the iraq war was going to quote unquote end and it was very important for the november 2012 election. when we look back ostensibly all us troops had to be pulled out of iraq because he couldn't get an agreement with the iraqi government. we couldn't assure the troops had the protection to stay in iraq. we still have no sofa with the iraqis. we need to understand the political pressures to declare victory in iraq and what we've seen is the vacuum that you have in iraq during the iraq war and during the us pullout where we have a massive pseudo-population
that was disenfranchised and led to the rise of the islamic state. i remember being on the syrian border with turkey, fall of 2013 in a place called tillis, and i remember we were watching the fighting going on. the question was who was fighting out there ? that of the first liberated towns and the northern storm had held it for months and months. it was the islamic state fighting against the free syrian army. it is a time when the islamic state wasn't on anybody's greater and amongst us was a question why are the rebels fighting each other. again, this is their first realization where the goals of the islamic state were not too obviously, toppled assad but to create their own state. what we have in syria is as an over publication believe he
recited for with free syrian army, the regime, an islamic state. the islamic state is a partner partner directly linked to the history of the iraq war. one less point i would make, when i spent time in that part of the world, we we as americans have the sense that we are very very important and we are. whenever i am there, we have the stumbling in so much that we are not, at least not in my bleed, we are not the central actors in this. these are questions that sunni arabs in iraq in afghanistan, these are complex the us needs to figure out the correct alchemy of policy solutions, all these problem go away. this is over. >> is also understanding the nuances of culture. >> in northern iraq, i spent a lot of time in the build-up to
the iraq war and i wanted to go hang out with these kurdish fighters up in the mountains around iran and i'm getting packing up to go and the fixer comes out and says bring a go. bring a goat. why ? because it's a sign of respect and they'll take you in a lot better. it's little things like that that go a lot away. >> i'd like to bring the conversation back to syrians. there's a lot of debate that the us is completely incompetent not knowing enough about -- that's one conversation we can have. the reality is the middle east, seriousness of, found that the world's superpower is incompetent. whether it's true or not is another debate but a lot of people over there think it is by design. that has to be relevant to the conversation were having here and regardless of whether it's incompetence or by design that's
a little comfort to the people on the ground or the people that are living their life against these really simple stick modes of analyses that were throwing out. syria is not just the latest bit players in our analyses of what's going on in the region, what what kind of war it is, whether it's a conflict, i want to remind us that the syrians are living this and how they see this. it should have relevance. >> what do they say to you? >> you have to trust, there incompetent. they don't actually know what the best and they don't know what that means to them. i find it hard to understand. are you telling us the united states didn't want him gone? these are conversations that you have with syrians. >> do they give us more power?
do they give america more power. >> america has a lot of power. just because the united states didn't have an appetite for any further mental listing involvement doesn't mean it hasn't been involved in the syria. they've been involved since the beginning. the two principal players that were backing the regime, whether or not were any conflict today, the chaos you can rest at the doorstep of the regime. all of the things that came after is because of the reactions of the regime and its taxable backers were russia and iran. they were negotiating in massive nuclear deal with iran. i was at the white house. i had conversations was syria questioning something that you are leverage in those negotiations. it was clear that getting the deal was the priority. using that leverage on behalf of syria wasn't. also invaded the crimea and
there were discussions on sanctions. there were ways to play these cards. turkey is a major alley, saudi arabia's major ally, this idea that we were involved is not true. this is what syrians will tell you. whether or not the us is incompetent or wants to be involved and doesn't change the effects of whatever the united states is doing. >> is certainly a stain on global politics or at least global morality to think that let's take that spanned it to a ripple in a pond and we have millions of refugees and we have the rise of right-wing populist we have a great disruption of the world order based on one country yet no one has the willingness to stop it because of entrenched political reasons or changing political reasons. what about that. >> that's correct. it is a stain on everybody, on all of us. that's a discussion for maybe another panel left.
[laughter] having stated in the iraq war and i would sit with many syrians would voice their complete disgust, how is that the united states is asleep at the wheel and allowing this to go on. you they would also voiced their disgust with you destroyed this region when you evaded interact thousand three. at rid of saddam hussein and that any western military would invade a military brings the jihadists. you can ever do that. it's a fair point but at scottsdale that is sign of us. intellect is too cold to competing thoughts in your mind at the same time and not go insane. are we still should bait are we not? he's not going to leave easily and we don't have a partner. >> as a former marine, who's been on the ground by tours,
what was the. [inaudible] for the american public to go in to another misguided adventure. >> that's my point. i'm not going to sit here and pretend that i have the answer but in 2012 when there's the debate if they decide to send the division into turkey that i'll put on my uniform and my metals and ron kovic, mart on the capital. this is outrageous and being in turkey the next year, seen what the reciprocal is about the idea that it doesn't take some type of massive intervention to get rid of assad.
okay it intervened in iraq and in 2011 has not pended well so it is not like anyone can point to an example and say right, okay this is what we need to do in syria that will work, and he said that. repeat every time clemson or someone kale to him with a plan on the rebel or plan to intervene he said give he an example when this works. now people would argue you know that you should do it but, you know, in terms of evidence and looking at past record it is not good. only occasion when you've had, you know, recent intention working and very, very small state is like -- the balkan and sierra leone and large countries more contained too. >> exactly. so you can look at that and say this is great. the other problem obvious point is that the united states is seemingly unaware of the perception of its own power.
united states leaders have got big mouths. and they talk a big talk and aren't wear what when they talk that's how people expect them to act and that whatted and you know, the most notable time this happened first of all was in iraq in 1991. when george h.w. bush said to seven iraqis we'll come and help you so like you know, you just gets crushed and that's what happened and that exactly how the syrians have been treat ared which is so -- when barack obama called on bashar al-assad to stands down he and his advisors think this was sort of policy sort of the right thing to do. and you know, i mean, it was really interest that the day after he made that statement, he went on vacation to martha's vineyard for two weeks not someone who was going into a war front but if he spoke inside syria and regional powers they say regime change is now u.s. policy. so they calculated their views on that and you saw a massive
uptake in people taking up articles in syria after that. it was already happening. but there was a point of like united states will help most of the rebels that i interviewed anyway start ised thinking, you know, best strategy was to prompt some kind of intervention libya from the united states. so there is that point about being a responsible world leader. which is, you know, don't have a big mouth. if you know you don't say stuff just to throw away comment if you're leader of the free world an call on regime to fall and do something about it and call before. >> when you were -- part of your book that i found so eloquent and it kind of picks up on what chris was talking about why why all of this was going on if you're going to do this syrians were suffering and they still suffer. years later but one of the parts that really aloom naitd for me and in the book was this section that drama and you and i talked
about that where a priest comes in and he tells people don't, you know, don't just think about the fear an the pain. dream, try to dream and i just the way you told that was so skillfully done about how can we dream and all of the dreams came out and how they could be mets or not be met. could you talk a little bit -- >> i want to preface it by saying before i talk about secret drive you know there are different questions that we can ask. if question is how do you remove bashar maybe this doesn't necessitate questions about military intervention but the questions that you're asking is how do we keep syria safe and create a state where all have a kind of legal equality and can actualize dream and i think has different discussions. and yeah, leave it at that because i don't to have a debate about military intervention. >> feel about military -- >> that was never the only option.
now you have a ph.d. in international relation and a approximatey war to bring stakeholders to the table and you're going to have to make a deal and if you call yourself the art of the deals guy that's put your money where your mouth is. you know, and deal no deals are not easy. >> but six years ahead -- >> well you be we've lost our critical leverage that we're not stable with iranians anymore. everybody has a price. i don't think you know piewtsen is u, you know, wedded to bashar al-assad e he'll take any siege. by iranians need a sudden war so how to you play them -- if they were a country that we cared about and people resaw as human we would have another solution. but so -- this secret -- [applause] a story i couldn't write about it because i was writing will you it secretly on this book and i did do some anonymous reporting for some venue this
one i just kept. one afternoon, i, my cousin said she's plays piano and beautifully she said do you want to come with me ipts to church but a church in damascus and if i never want to go to church. but she's like no are going want to go to church this time. after service there's a secret drum and i looked it up. i found out it is a kind of group therapy that you use role play to kind of work through your issue so this priest in damascus and this is you know you won't hear about about this only time at the fss syrian army and other kinds is priest in damascus also psychotherapist as priests priest are are i guess and he started this group therapy session. so after mass those who had come for mass went downstairs and then rejoined by all other syrian, muslim, drews, and they sort of did this group therapy session where three --
six people volunteered six, three women all of the time and come up with a scenario, and one of the guys said you know, we are kind of working through a fear and why don't we have a session where we talk about our dreams? and so then there's many and forth what kind of scenario do we have and talking about dreams and heartbreaking and only scenario was they were at a conference so conference is stilted conversation it is not -- it is not real and this isn't a country where conversation has been is happen is roaned by the presence of the the like through police -- [inaudible conversations] so people sort of take on role one woman says be a civil side activist somebody else talking as a parent you know they're talking about what their dreams are. somebody says i'm going to play the role of the regime about and even, though, this is all fake and prengd you know there's kind of like fear descends on the room. and at first there's like a comical, you know, imlation of like the typical regime line.
but then it becomes that the regime guy tells everybody you guys are not capable of dreams we have elite elite will decide your dream for you and then you don't have to dream and the entire dynamic of the conversation changes and everyone is trying to engage them and get some kind of permission for them and exact same way happening outside on streets? syria and those were the kinds of story to come back to telling fear stories that i wanted to tell that is where piewches of syria lice and in the people and not just in actors who choose to -- to, you know, fight. >> ask a couple of more questions and then open it up to the audience. elleot your book is a real sparse duty to this book i think and how it accumulates to your power in this conflicted soul he is, and you know iraqi american, he's an iraqi american and iraq
were and now turkey now going to syria. how did you mention before about your time on the ground how did this inform at all when you were putting this together. >> so many parts about conflict and other things that are told the understated hand of someone with who has been there. >> i think you know what i -- what i'm often trying to do in a novel in most of my work -- you know takes place overseas, or deals with what are, you know, by and large extreme complex events i also have covered war as a journalist. in particularly when you're covering as a journalist they are -- there are so many events that are occurring every did i. there are so many picture yadz groups all was complexities i'm sure out in the crowd you can see all arranged this issue but sort of how do you distill these events down into some type of emotional truth? and how do you tell the story
that can kind of take a readser, you know, who hangt been southern turkey never been into you know iraq, syria those parts of the world and take them on a journey where they kind of experience a similar emotional art? so what -- resonated with me that i already kind of alluded to is so many i had spoken to -- in a day liken their experience with the revolution wanted to kind of fell in love with it. they're going into streets are after growing up under regime and actively protesting they fell in love to the point if their family didn't support them they would turn their back on the family so in many respects, they describe, you know, the revolution as really kind of being almost an adventure of the heart in that way. but in the wake of its failure, they were left heartbroken. and so as i, you know, in the novel and trying to figure out what i kind of call like
emotional equivalency so like in some respect the emotional equivalent of going on that journey in rev louis that is again adventure of the heart? and what had sort of started revealing itself in the the story to me was -- that it was a marriage. you know, you have two people and they areing in their independent world, and as in any marriage when they meet they kind of come together around idea of a share world, and you know in that respect falling in love getting married it is its own sort of have been were very small revolution you change your lives and kind of create this new world together and sometime it is works, sometimes it doesn't. but when it doesn't, you know, that failure people are kind of left to deal with the wreckage. so you know, my novel dark at the crossing in many respects i would say at its most essential it is the story of a failed revolution but it is sold to the prison of a failed marriage and two of the most central
characters of the book told around the solution of their major. >> and christopher is speaking of failure, wreckage let's talk about moscow and tehran, and sort of how this -- its equation right now in syria because, i mean, as washington concern if it is going it deal with syria, two characters. what your book discusses that. but what do you think we're headed with this new president? >> i mean, it is interesting. we're talking about this earlier as well. around in russia all of the key players in sear and national play in syria right now like other sites that is not denying agency to the domestic at all but if you're talking about, you know, i now say when i normally see books i see the war is now been outsourced. and that is because normally in civil wars you get a point of a stalemate a point where the domestic actors not keen fighting and recognize they'll get more out of negotiating than
they will be. that point should have reach that point a long time ago. the reason it hasn't is because both sides particularly the regime have been constantly sported and reenforced by outside act so russian and iranians doing this provide aring on the ground iranian militia, lebanon from malaysia and then russian air force and then huge amount was money and so on pumping into the regime to keep it afloats. so that makes the internal play key. the problem is -- is that point i said that the internal dynamic of the regime from what i can understand still has urgency. this is not a approximatey war. this is not a question of around russia and how high -- and, in fact, actually by there being two powers there he can bounce them off each other, so quite a example when cease-fire
break out and often something that russias russia arranged wih americanings and then regime that doesn't want to cease-fire and doesn't believe in compromise whatsoever basically gets them onboard and says that will break cease-fire and they do. and you get this, you know, this dynamic you know really affecting what's going on on the grounds. and that there means that this relationship in russians and iranians will be key in determines really how this war ends up. the problem i would say two things, firstly iranian and russians are friendm yirks they have same goal but achieving going about it in totally different way and how they're intervening in syria working with different group. iranians already believe in the syrian state so supporting local militia trying to credit a hezbollah to act as their approximatey. russians believe in state and army and they're working with syrian military and they want the syrian states to come
together and where they're working like iranians are interested in damascus and area along lebanese board ep and up around coast in the part of syria because they're interested in their basic in meds and based as well so they're doing things in a different way. trump are i i think naively this you can peel russians away from them that is nonsense not because they like each other but because they dislike the americans a lot more collectively and i think that any strategy that is based on trying to get to break apart doesn't really you know you have a very short-term memory. russian and iranians look at the united states as threat. they're against regime change because they think that if it is successful in damascus or by data it will make moscow they'll share that view and so on. the part is going to be
difficult. other difficult thing is that again, this agency point of the regime, i don't actually believe that either iran or russia is capable of getting rid of al-assad he's played, a very, very monstrous syringe. individual but played a clear clever hand to get future. but slightly russians would like to get rid doesn't make it out. i think only way to get rid of assad is in a body bag. >> they don't care. they will take any. >> but iranians don't care as a individual, but he plays a role for them i think. you know, the issue with them -- is it is very interesting i expect a few people by iranian government and russian government on this. they said the same thing at different time which is is they started off in syria, thinking
that assad was this nobody, a guy with thought to get rid of him. they borrowed deep into it they realized he played a odd central role and not at all but a chairman of the board. keeping all of the of the different fractions inside syrian regime underneath him like agreeing on that. if he goes, they'll not agree on a single compromise king the and it can track uture what's left of the regiming and both sides i think e inside syria are more and more aware. >> argument from all sides. that's the difficult that around both believe that believe at the moment that means getting rid of iowa cads very, very difficult. >> but there's a stwengt city that supports bashar. it is not just -- multicoheernght that includes the -- elite and their interest in the stwengt city is not specifically
are going to have be part of what deal and that's the problem only talking about how do we, you know, how do we topple regime or not topple regime because that -- that doesn't -- that doesn't necessitate the conversation sort of -- incorporate and try to keep this as that metaphor about this house and history of this house over, you know, includes the 40 years that, you know, so the house is taken from us for 40 years and somebody else had this thousands for 40 year and when i wrote the bock i thought you know that -- that person was a principle villain but i realized if i don't include 40 years of the history of that house and this book then i've done the same thing that's done in syria whatever pour is exchanged that we totally negate and pretends that nothing else had ever come before and i think moving forward no matter what happens in the the after there we can't keep excluding parts that we don't like. there will have to be a sort of
all parts have to be includessed. >> okay. so i -- i would urge you to buy each of these books they're quite aluminating and very good. [applause] and they'll be on sale at signing area one. but now let's open it up to some questions. do we have a mic? we have some hands up. here's a gentleman right here. question for elliot. you mentioned earlier in discussion that -- you're proud of fighting in iraq and afghanistan. i'm curious why. >> i am -- i am proud of, you know, what i did with the marinings who i was there with with. one of the thing very interesting about war is this brings out o the best and the absolute worst in people. so the worst is, obviously, the
killing, you know, but at the same time you see i've seen guys very best friends run out in the street when they're shot laying there bleeding going to drag them out you know drag them and bring them safely back home and you start to ask yourself the question why do people do things like that and one of the things i learned in war is that for instance, you know, i saw a lot of very, a lot of courage. and i was afraid a lot. so i like know what fear feels like i bet you do too. you know, fear is a very, very acute emotion. but you know i really don't know what courage feels like sort of what had -- what is the opposite of fear. that you feel -- so i talk about the scene you know things over, eight years as in iraq, afghanistan saying
iraqi soldiers i worked with afghan soldiers i worked with at a personal level is my 20s i was thinking what is opposite of fear and why do these people go out and do these things for one another so you don't feel brave. you feel love. and so i saw a lot of people do some pretty remarkable things to one another and extremely difficult circumstances because they loved one another. when you're asked what i'm proud of i'm the proud of being parts of group of people who loved one another in that way. so you know frankly i was a young man of a certain age and my country was at war and i made the decision that if that was going on when you was 23 years old that you know what i was going to opght in and i wanted to look back and say that i raise my hands and said i was going to go, and you know, i'm sure that people in this room disagree with that decision. but at the end of the day when i was there, you know, and i look
i have kids now i hope they'll never have to have that decision and when they're 23 or o there won't be a war to go off to. but once you're there it becomes much more personal in things that i'm proud of is seeing the relationship that existed amongst us. so that when the time came you know there was sufficient love that people will go in for one another. >> we have a question here in the back. >> thank you for your answer there. i appreciate that i was a combat in vietnam for a year with 173 airborne brigade one of the conclusions they cam to was men in combat the experience these with each other going back to beginning of time and it is irrelevant as to what war you're in you'll have those kiengdz of experiences that if you're in a tight group and under oppression and part of the deal as you've got to kill other people that is not something that is good, bad or drchght but the fact to stay is in. but my real reason to rise up right now, we screwed so bad in vietnam, why on god's earth the
do we have the humor to think we can fix anything in the middle east why the hell are we committing money, and bodies and time and blood over there for the sake of what is this why are we not just on our own country doing something back here instead of sprawling our pride out there and prengding to fix it won't work. what do you guys -- >> anyone want to take on that? allow me on that. it is a very interesting question, and it argument i make it s one british and longer history of messing up the world down there, and in the country all l though you're doing all right so very proud of you. well done. no [laughter] but but i think there's a component of responsibility as well which is that --
i agree with problem they see is especially u.s. policymakers have been making since the end of the cold war is that war is the solution if there's a problem in the world there must be a military solution to it and i think that is -- you know, a real problem in thinking of things about, you know, the power of industrial complex so on and so forth. but i think that one thing that -- the united states should have something better is like alley was saying there are other tools in the box. you can use economic weaponry or sanctions you can use diplomacy rarely is diplomacy used to the extent that this used to be. at the end of the cold war is a shame in that regard because you couldn't just go on everyone because soviet union would react so you have to use and you have to have strong diplomats that would actually fight back and ports and do things, but i think that -- i think that it isn't goods enough.
really for country that have had a big role in messing up a part of the world. so then just turn tail and say right we're not interested anymore. i think britain did that and i think that's the real problem and messed up most of the world, and then at some point said we keact afford it anymore. you're on your own and that cause problems in the middle east and i think united states has responsibility you know been involved in iraq and afghanistan and elsewhere. you know not to fix things militarily but not to say right, this isn't working anymore. there needs to be something -- needs to be some involvement. i would argue that -- about perhaps the two powers of the world would do better to listen to what the people in the parts of the world actually want. [laughter] rather than just sort of assume what needs to be done. but that requires making some quite big strategic confession to most majors aren't willing to make.
>> real quick i think so much more comfortable taking action opposed to taking responsibility. and having any kind of -- thank you. [inaudible conversations] no i don't have power to do that. and we don't. we don't reconcile with our history. i've lived in other countries we were tag about baa we've both lived in italy and how perfect they but americans is not able to recognize imperfection and no slavery let alone what we've done to other countries. [applause] so -- i don't know i think we have to hold ourselves accountable and we've been involved and involved in syria, even before now we've, you know, rendered people during the war in george bush jr. to syria to be tore tortured and
okayed his normalized his father when we wanted him to be part of bush fathers and so it is a long history and we have to be honest about it. and we can't just have memories that that is started yesterday x year ago but we have to be okay with being the bad guy or incomp tengt guy. >> i wongdered if it was lightning the guy about action and how to act and responsibility for it. everyone used to point back years ago to graham greene quiet american, and, however, yowpght to into that but trying to do things well but then that sort of -- became almost caricature perversion of that so more and more involvement came in and as more and more secrets came to light it was like wait a minute there's a lot of stuff here we can't keep saying oh we mean
right and there's an incredible amount of -- humorous way many it that we can do it. we have our friends at work and try it, here just is like we sell dish washing liquid or stuff it is like here take it, it works and it doesn't work and world is full of many different culture and things and it is distressing to see it happen over and over. i think we have time for one more question this gentleman here in the front. >> i appreciate the assad is running a police fate so i'm going to use word normal advisedly but what to intent to everyday control now have normal lives? >> yeah, i mean, that depends in damascus for example or my family still is massive
inthraition, electricity cuts, fuel cuts, cost of food has -- gone up. the syrian which is actually stable yeah. what was it? anyway. one with dollar blown up and that's part of dynamic we talk about in the book because living in a police state or -- because you don't welcome a victim you're a bystander so player that the ym is invested in maintaining that everything is kind of normal. that we're the better look our people are are kind of here, able to because of the rebels so that's damascus. places like -- latakia on the koation and strong hold of a lot of people that make up the the army, and the regime has taken in a lot of internally displaced people so it is kind of happening like
that -- that economy is doing quite well in many ways one of the few places that you know all of these people have come in and they feel that it is safe to say. so these are the principle areas under assad control but then -- where they have retain the control and cleansed it and already start ised planning for reconstruction trying to access reconstruction pungdz and demographically sort of secure their power by who they bring in which is something that the the father did. initially when he came he came from the coast. they built external part of damascus and demographically built and kind of dot same thing. in the areas that have been cleared. >> all right well that brings us to an end. thank you very much for coming.