tv [untitled] May 1, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
iran does not have enough material to create a bomb. it hasn't mastered the component parts of actually producing the weapon. it hasn't tested a weapon. it does not have a nuclear weapon. this is a war of discretion even from the perspective of israel's closest ally. under these circumstances, i don't think the issue is barack and netanyahu overcoming the concerns of the defense. it's about a ram and netanyahu overcoming hair their own fundamental insecurities and uncertainties about the risks voof involved in this operation and the prospects of what return justify those risks.about the rn this operation and the prospects of what return justify those risks. right now an israeli attack is like mowing the grass. the grass will grow back and it will grow back with an intensity and legitimacy and ferocity which will justify every single argument made as to why they
need nuclear weapons. and under those circumstances, if you could even justify those risks, if in fact you could, a, justify the risks of failure, that is to say not succeeding, and the risks of reaping the world, including higher gas prices, royal financial markets, more attacks on americans in afghanistan. so as far as i'm concerned, this is less -- they can say what they want. david is right this is a political decision. but in my judgment, neither ebat to do this. they want to maximize the prospectses that we will do this.his. they want to maximize the prospectses that we will do this.
will this very been brilliant in orchestrating will campaign. ? is part of a plan to force the american president to do exact willy wh ly what he's doing which is to shift from contain tomt prevention.ly what he's doing which is to shift from contain tomt prevention.exactly what he's dos to shift from contain tomt prevention. not even george w. bush on whose watch the iranians laid the basis for crossing the nuclear threshold was prepared to do that. so i think the israeli strategy frankly is working. if the israelis had a strike today, i think they would be hard pressed to justify it. zone of immunity or no zone of immunity, they would be hard pressed to justify it. so let it play out for the next
several months. [ applause ] >> in-else waanyone else want t? i always think it's unseemly when countries play out their domestic poll siitics on foreig soil. which is z exactly rat israelis are doing. would he we've done it, too. and we shouldn't look at this as a great philosophical debate. this is a great debate about who is in power in israel. and who did what to whom. i think your description is absolutely spot on and i'm very glad that you do it. i think the history is less well written. but of course this is also what happens in '07, don't go there, you rotten leader, and was told by the president of the united
states don't do this. don't attack. and he chose to go forward despite objections from his military leaders, his military intelligence, and many more about the costs, the potential risks, look what's going to it happen, the syrian, the heartland the terrorism. yes, the truth is that if you sit down and you calculate the risks, there are always myriad reasons not to do something. and i agree, it there are many, many reasons not to attack iran many reasons not to attack iran many reasons not to attack iran many reasons not to attack iran. the real question is whether the reasons to outweigh the reasons not to. and that's a very difficult c calcul calculus. i do want to, though, make a little bit of an objection to this formula of wars of discretion, wars of choice, and wars of necessity. all wars are wars of choice. the notion that somehow if you're attacked you need to
retaliate doesn't seem to me to be correct, nor does it seem that somehow the legitimacy of a conflict should only derive from an attack on your soil. if a leader is not responsible for protecting his own people from an attack rather than after an attack, i don't know what a leader is good for. but that's just me. [ applause ] >> any further rebuttals you have, let's wrap them into answers to the audience because they've been anxious issue lly . usually we have people lineded up by the microphones. go ahead. >> steve daniels, florida region. how do you think the administration is analyzing the analogies and differences between the libya situation and the syria situation? how are they walking through the
analysis? >> danny, do you want to start? >> sure. anytime you're asked to answer the question about how an administration is thinking, you're guessing. s sense that i have is that the president wasn't that enthusiastic about libya either the president wasn't that enthusiastic about libya either the president wasn't that enthusiastic about libya either the president wasn't that enthusiastic about libya either. it was the beginning of the arab spring, that he felt he was cornered in to it by french president sarkozy, that he was pushed in to it by the weight of international clamor. and that it was a mistake. we shouldn't have done it. yes, the outcome was okay, although that remains to be seen in libya. and that he's not going to get pushed into another one. this is what i understand from friends inside the administration. otherwise honestly i can't see a coherent argument against it. i supported the overthrow of gadhafi absolutely.
i thought it was the right thing to do. but i also think that it's important to manage a mistake that somehow none of us have learned from the mistakes of the previous administration. i also think it's important to actually try and manage what happens afterwards. it's not just okay to say, you know, the evil man is gone, long live whoever else comes, see you later. and that's part of the challenge is that the longer you let those kind of things go, the more likely it is you're confronted with something distasteful to you. i'm sorry, there was one other thing i wanted to say. and aaron, you said that only the israelis are the ones who want to bomb iran. even wikileaks will reveal that in fact former lebanese prime minister, the saudi king, iraqis and others have beaeeen on us o bom iran. they want us to do it, not the israelis, but at the end of the day, i don't think they would be
that picky. >> aaron, why don't you talk a little further about what you were saying about the unfair image of the obama administration as leading from behind in terms of the gentleman's question. >> you know, i think you have an american president who inherited a very difficult foreign policy situation. the first shooting war, he had two since lyndon johnson. and by the way, afghanistan is now obama's war. it's not george w. bush's war. the president made a decision to double down. but he was presented with several different options all involved in addition, not subtraction, with respect to the d deployment of american forces. i think the president had a very -- like his view of domestic policy, like his view of position that he was potentially a great president and he had an opportunity, i argue in my book that greatness is driven by three thing, crisis
of a kind that is so proceed found that it tames the political system, character, the issue that a presidentproceedfo political system, character, the issue that a president dominates the time through not only his personality and capacity, to know what to do. those three cs determine greatness. obama thought he had them all. obama was wrong. the american political system is not right for transformation. his crisis was not as profound as the three great presidents who dominate american history and we misjudged his capacity. the fact that he ran a brilliant campaign which will be studied no decades is not an rx to somehow validate the principle that he knew how to govern. and in this foreign policy, it seems to me initially he pursued the same transformative agenda. largely through receipt error ric rhetoric. and the more he talked, the
wider the gap between his words and deeds. we saw it in the misplaced threat to challenge the israelis. which is not the issue. there are other issues to fight at the right time and at the right praise a right place with a strategy. so i think he's learned. if you compare the current speech and the oslo acceptance chance, there's been a charge. he has the worst economic dislocation since the great depression. he's dealing with debt, poll tir five did deadly ds.tick, four o five did deadly ds. this is not a question of left
or right, it's a question of dumb or smart. and which side of the line do you want american foreign policy to be on. we are coming off of two of the longest warses in american history. we may have overreacted to them, but rather right to overreact, we're right to now look at when you decide to put american men and women, american resources, and american credibility in harm's way. when do you do that, under what circumstances? 20th century has been kind to only one american president with respect to an international con frequent. only one. and you know why it was kind? because the justification of a war of necessity or choice was so clear, the objectives and the victory were decisive and final and it was the only war of the 20th century where america's
internal house was strengthened as a consequence and its influence abroad was strengthened. i'm not holding up withis war, don't have the luxury in the 21st century and it's a good thing, too. my only point is we need to be -- and i'll say -- if i haven't used the words, i'll use them now. we need to be cruel and unforgiving when we decide when and under what circumstances to deploy american mill area power. libya is not syria. and a combination of knee's cons and liberal interventionistsare. libya is not syria. and a combination of knee's cons and liberal interventionistscon and liberal interventionists are convinced -- that's right, it's not libya. it's more important because year is more important, because syria is centrally located, because somehow if we bring down assad, we can somehow bring down the
iranians. i understand all of that. it still doesn't understand the question. you need an effective strategy to bring down the assads. eight months to bring down gadhafi. eight. i'm not against it. i made it clear at the beginning. the president decides bringing down assads is a vital american interest, then let him do it with a strategy and a coalition and a decisiveness that will actually might be it. but do not give me a strategy based on an illusion that if we arm the syrian opposition, if we create a safe zone when which will somehow you'll have to suppress syrian air defense, you'll have to list the turks as a full and willing partner,hen will somehow you'll have to suppress syrian air defense, you'll have to list the turks as a full and willing partner,en wl somehow you'll have to suppress syrian air defense, you'll have to list the turks as a full and willing partner,n which will somehow you'll have to suppress syrian air defense, you'll have to list the turks as a full and willing partner, which will somehow you'll have to suppress syrian air defense, you'll have hich will somehow you'll have to suppress syrian air defense, you'll have to list the turks as a full and willing partner, a campaign that
could take longer than eight month respect don't give me a half baked ill advised strategy based on our eye deal ideals a illusions. because i've seen a much worse variation of this it movie under the previous administration where our illusions and our i've deals drove ust movie under the previous administration where our illusions and our i've deals drove us movie under the previous administration where our illusions and our i've deals drove usmovie under the previous administration where our illusions and our i've deals drove us to at least one discretionary war that frankly, i'm sorry, and i don't want to trivialize the americans who died and who were xwregrieve usy wounded. never would i do that. but you tell me what the results have been to justify what it is we've paid. explain to me and then maybe i'll be more open to deploying american power in these situations now. [ applause ] >> you started withis. >> the wrong subject. >> and i'm going into hiding. can we have a question and i'll give dani a chance. >> jerry axelrod, houston.
first of all, thank you for a very illuminating and informative session. my question for any and all of the four is how do you convince the chinese and russians that come along and say that their interests are aligned with our self-interests? >> on what issue, sir? >> iran, syria, and you name it. primarily iran. >> let's remember when it comes to iran about american credibility, there have been three administration, democrat and republican, that have said that iran will not bend nuclear weapons. what is going to be the future of american credibility if iran is not stopped? who is going to believe america anywhere in the middle east? we've already had a crisis over
the arab spring which i don't want to get in to, which has already led to a certain real sense of discord about american credibility, but who will believe america if we allow iran to go that distance. and obviously i'm not saying my panelists believe in a at all, but if iran is really the number one issue, and if we're holooki at syria, it seems we have to look at it really clearly through that prism meaning could we really be decisive in that war in a very short time table? or do we get mired in something that will be a great distraction from the iranian issue? if danielle is right that it will help us vis-a-vis iran, then it seems to me it's got to be a quick strategy to keep our
eyes on the ball. if aaron is right, that ultimately we're never going to commit enough resources, then it seems to me it will be a big distraction. so i would like a strategy if it really is being seen through the prism of iran to what extent is this a strategy to do something in a very relatively short period of time. that to me is critical. and clearly the russians have been blocking the security council despite having meetings and telling them all sorts things, we're not out to take your arms share of the market, we're not out to take your port access in syria. his response to hillary clinton when she's raised this with him has been, you know what, i believe you, hillary, i'm sure you mean what you say. but the problem is at the end of the day, you don't decide. at the end of the day, the new
regime in syria is going to identify us with the old regime. and we don't have a chance with them no matter what american assurances are. so i think all this effort to flip russia on this issue has not produced. not that we haven't tried. not that we haven't sent saudis and turks to russia, et cetera. on the issue of iran, we've tried to have the saudis talk to the chinese about making up oil production. i think we've had some successes in cutting the chinese oil asp from iran. i think that's good. but we also have to project a sense that american credibility is at stake. because three administrations, republican or democrat, if we say we're going to stop iran and we don't stop iran, we're toast in the middle east. aaron is right, street cr eched serving. there is nobody out it fire bomb tehran whether an american or
israeli. no one wants war. but at the end of the day, if we're serious people, anyone who believes iran with a nuclear weapon is going to make it easier for america's position in the middle east, they're totally wrong and it will be much harder than we've ever seen. israel is not looking to start a war. i agree with aaron that clearly israel's interests would be that the united states deals with this issue as a super power. israel's fear is you don't always get your first choice in life. that the issue goes away peacefully through diplomacy and sanctions. or you get your second choice at life but the united states handles it. they have to worry what if you have to deal with your third choice. and i greagree with danielle isl is not alone. the question is how long you can wait. at which point is it just too hard because the way the sites
are configured. that is the question. and what's happened with north korea and pakistan is that americas has had too early, oops, too lats. that has been the >> is there somebody on that side? >> oh, yes, sorry. in the middle, sorry. >> glen tobias from new york. >> okay, why don't we take a couple of questions. >> assuming a second term obama administration, i would welcome your thoughts as to everything else being equal, which of course it never is, what kind of shifts might occur in the policy s of that administration vis-a-vis the type of issues we've been discussing? >> okay, a question from over there? >> that was my exact question, actually. >> okay, good. so let's get your question. i only have to put two together. >> adam roe of chicago,
illinois. i wanted to know, mr. aaron david miller, why you would say netanyahu would call obama a con man? if i took it out of context -- >> the other way around. >> obama would call netanyahu a con man? >> right. >> if you could provide examples? >> that's my own view and i've written it at least three or four times. i have no evidence -- i have not a shred of empirical evidence to believe that's how the president actually thinks of the prime minister. but having worked for four or five presidents, half a dozen of secretaries of state, knowing what he has been told about the prime minister in his first incarnation from many people, some who are in his administration still, some who are not, i am absolutely persuaded that the president believes that netanyahu is insincere at a minimum. he has no interest whatsoever in pursuing a serious negotiation
with the palestinians. and if the president could find a way to get even with him, stick it to him if he could, which relates to the second question on the second term, i think he would. this is not, i say it again, this is not bill clinton, who is in love with the idea of his israel, who said in his memoirs. this is not george w. bush who was as frustrated with ariel sharon when as any american president has been, yet whose gut reaction when it came to the issue of israel was to bond. there's that famous story of bush as governor in the helicopter ride, he's flying over israel's narrow waist, and the soon to be president says to sharon, we got driveways in texas longer than this country is wide. that's a gut instinct. that's not barack obama.
i'm not saying he's an evil man, i'm not saying he's an enemy of the state of israel, certainly i'm not saying he's an anti-semite. but his capacity to emote, which is hard for him on other issues, is doubly hard here. he sees this as a -- from the interests of the national interest paradigm. he sees it not as a morality play. he sees it as gray, the color of diplomacy. i know much about gray. i lived for 25 years in the world of gray. and a deal is not black or white, a deal is gray. i don't think he'll push for a deal because to me, it's a second-term illusion. presidents make mistakes in their second term, they get tired, they start to think about legacy. thinking about legacy works both ways. just ask bill clinton at camp david in july 2000. so i just think that there are too many constraints, too many
problems. the u.s./israel relationship is simply too resilient, the palestinians too dysfunction at, the arab spring too uncertain. the sun, the moon, the stars aren't there. he may decide to go for it anyway. but -- because he's the president and that's what presidents do. >> thank you. danny, do you want to take up the second part of the question? or the second question as well? what happens in the obama administration in the second term obama administration as far as the middle east? >> i have no idea. you know. everybody made a great fuss about the president being heard on that hot night moment when he was to president medvedev of russia, he said give me more space, i'll have a lot more flexibility after i'm re-elected. it was obviously a foolish thing to be caught saying, but of course the truth is, as the white house very cavalierly said, well, that's true. and it is true. it's true for any president.
so i guess the only question we have to answer is, what does that flexibility in the second term mean for this president? especially if he chooses to go into re-election with a vice president who will not after him seek the presidency? so a little bit liberating in some ways. i don't know, i've been struck by what i perceive as the president's antipathy to israel, but i am, as aaron noted very nicely, you know -- i have much more empathy with people who have empathy with israel, and i think you're right, the president has no empathy, he has no visceral feeling toward them. if you don't, well yes, netanya netanyahu, any israeli prime minister is going to be annoying, causes trouble for us in the middle east, makes our lives more complicated. i anticipate vis-a-vis israel we'll have even less a friendly
relationship. in the rest of the world, i guess if you ar country that doesn't wish to lead, then you are a country that wishes to do nothing or to follow. there are many people in washington, many, and i agree absolutely there is no divide, who wish to us do less in the world, and i think the president is among them. to cede power to regional leaders, the chinese perhaps in the pacific, the russians in eastern europe, and to intervene when there's an imperative national interest, whatever that might be. and so i think that very well could be the shape of a new administration. i worry about it a lot. >> okay. we have to wrap it up -- >> could i just -- >> i was going to say, let's wrap it up with david, then. >> i think the math of expending political capital, the physics of that, is not immune to a second term.
i remember george bush talking about privatizing social security. he decided to put a lot of political capital. it failed. and he lost a lot in the process. i tend to believe that that math is going to be true in a second term too. there's a president who until now has tried to see, where do i use my political capital? and i think if he thinks this is a loser of an issue, that there's no chance. he knows if he deploys it here, he's not going to be able to use it elsewhere. i think that physics remains in the second term. i think where i would differ slightly with aaron on the issue of obama's relationship to netanyahu, i would not use that phrase that he did. i've heard from people who have talked to him that he would say netanyahu does want peace in the abstract, but he's not going to use political capital to make it happen. that you need political vision, then you've got to be able to use that capital. his question about netanyahu is
someone who in principle always talks to him about how much he wants peace, how much he's willing to defy his base. but on any given visit to washington there's a reason why not to do it at this time. so that's a little bit of a difference between the word con man that aaron used. but neither does being a rabin type of person, use willing to have the vision, he'll say he doesn't have a partner on the palestinian side, you'll have a whole debate about that. i think obama has also at this point of his term is different than when he was coming in, that he came in clearly seeing the palestinians as the victims. i think he has been very much feeling that a boss has been very frustrating to deal with and that has stymied him on many different issues and i think he has a more nuanced view there as well. i don't think it's as black and white, i think there's more of aaron's gray that exists than it
did when he started his first term. >> did you want to add something? >> i want to say one last thing. history is replete with instances of people who want to do less, who want to not intervene, who want to suggest why we shouldn't do things. and they found their heyday in the 1930s. but history is also replete with very, very few examples, because that's the opposite -- history shows us very few examples of people who look back and say, i wish we had done less. >> okay. well, thank you very much. i seem to have earned a certain place where people will listen to me, and i've always cared about the country. and the greatest generation right t