tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 30, 2015 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT
i think it could hardly be a better time to discuss the role that the middle east and iran are playing in american politics. i'll go to david first to kick off the discussion. >> well, thank you very much. good afternoon. it's a pleasure to be here. i think it's been observed, the observation i've heard most frequently since i've arrived here is that the center for the national interest has the best bunch buffet of any place in town. and i have to agree with that. i do also want to make a brief side comment before i dive in. several weeks ago, i made a pledge not to appear on any panels that did not include women. unfortunately, i -- fortunately i see that there's one woman at this table. >> there's behind behind. >> well, good. but i think we can do a lot to enrich these -- >> there's three. >> it's true. they should move closer to the
table. okay. well let's -- you know, i hope you're not diminishing my point, which is i think there must be more women out there who are interested in this subject who would enrich the conversation. in any event, you know i think it's apposite in a discussion of the middle east, that we focus on iran, because i think it's central to the situation. but before we get into the iranian vat, we ought to jump off of jacob's point a moment ago. there has never been, in our lifetimes, a situation such as that that we see in the middle east right now. every single country in the region is involved in a military conflict with the exception of oman, i think, every single
country. the analogy to the balkans is not over the top. it may not turn into world war. but we already see it fueling unrest in africa, in parts of asia. we already know that it has potential consequences for extremism and terror attacks in europe and in north america. it clearly has global consequences economically. it is clearly -- you know, we cannot sort of afford to walk away from it. and i think our impulse and the impulse of some in the administration to attempt to do that is one of the contributing factors to the problems we've got here. but since the topic is iran in american politics, i want to zero in on that for a while. then we can open it back out to the rest of the region. during the 2008 presidential
election when barack obama was trying to differentiate himself from hillary clinton, in a debate, when he said the approach ought to be engagement, the questioner he faced said well with whom would you engage? and his first reaction was iran. and in fact hillary clinton responded to that with some skepticism. i do not believe that our interaction with iran over the course of the ensuing six-plus years is therefore somehow an accident. if you look at the chaos that followed in the wake of the arab spring and the changes that have come in the middle east, one country has benefited. that's iran. iran has benefited with greater influence in yemen. it's benefited with greater
influence in iraq, by a very considerable amount. it's benefited by greater influence in syria with its man assad looking now likely to outlast obama in office. it clearly looks to benefit from the upcoming nuclear deal in some important ways. both in terms of sanctions relief and in terms of increased stature. at the same time -- the only country with which there has been a substantial improvement or potential for improvement or thaw in our relations in the past six years is iran.
not only is that the case but our allies, who feel shunned aside or negotiated or distrustful feel that way for a reason. they feel that way because we did not respond to their concerns about the growing problems in syria. they feel that way because they saw us embrace too quickly the morsi regime, not criticize it sufficiently in egypt. then embraced slowly the possibility of the cc era in egypt and what it meant even though egypt is really the anchor tenant of the arab world. our relationship with israel is at its worst in its history in terms of the leader-to-leader relationship. and our relationships with gulf
states, who feel that we have been in the midst of a slow thing with iran, even as, you know, they have had growing concerns, has also deteriorated, although everybody is trying to put a brave face on it. this situation does not look like it's going to improve, despite some optical sleight of hand this week that included general austin saying that he would never have american troops coordinate with shia militias, which is preposterous. we are flying air support for the iranians and the shias in iraq. everybody knows it. if you don't call it coordination, come up with another word, but look it up in the dictionary. the word is going to mean coordination. you know, we're playing telephone through the iraqis or doing it through back channels.
but that was sleight of hand having the shia militias pull out. and then our so-called support for the saudis going into yemen which creates the confusing situation of opposing an iranian-backed group in yemen while fighting alongside them in iraq also does not take away from this, particularly since the big looming issue on the horizon is the iran nuclear deal. and the iran nuclear deal looks very likely not to be anything like the nuclear deal we sought to get. it -- you know, the primary purpose of the deal, from any strategic perspective, has to be, are we going to reduce the risk of proliferation in the region? secondary, also important purpose, is are we going to reduce the risk of threat from iran?
and the reason i put them in that order is because if only iran were to have nuclear weapons, given the american, israeli and other kinds of firepower that's just offshore, the deterrent effect would work. the concern is that iran gets nuclear weapons and other countries in the region seek to counter that, and that increases the risk that weapons fall into the wrong hands. but if you have a nuclear agreement that creates the possibility that iran could go from the day it ceases to comply with the agreement to having a nuclear weapon within a year or a few months, then every state that is concerned about iranian nuclear power is put in a position of having to defend itself and thus the proliferation risk remains. and that's what we went from. we went from seeking essentially zero situation to seeking a one-year buffer. we went from not wanting centrifuges to now accepting thousands of centrifuges
apparently including centrifuges placed in hardened bunkers. we went from what i think was a much more gradual expectation regarding sanctions to i think you'll end up with us giving into some iranian pressure for greater sanctions relief. and we are going to do this in a way via the united nations that is going to improve iranian standing ultimately with a lot of countries that want to deal with them, even if the united states congress blocks this in terms of the places it has power to do so within those set sanctions that require congressional involvement. and so you're going to end up with a less-than-ideal arrangement that will survive. we'll get from an interim agreement. we'll go to a permanent agreement.
congress will not be able to block the agreement. the president will veto any efforts to block the agreement. a lot of it will go through the u.n. and iran will have additional cash. and as iran has additional crash, that will -- cash, that will give it additional opportunities. clearly it has economic problems at home. but, you know, iraq has economic problems. the government of iraq is broke unable to operate its oil fields effectively in the southern portions of the country. and the iranians have put themselves in a sponsorship position with the baghdad government that is unprecedented and is really quite a shocking reversal from dual containment and our policies of the past. sulanani is hailed as the pushback against isis. and if the iranians have the ability to help the iraqis further and we are disinclined
to do so which we are, imagine what that's going to mean in terms of further iranian influence there or syria or places like yemen or places like western afghanistan. and so i think it is highly likely that we will come into the 2016 election cycle with iran being the big middle east winner from the obama administration with the middle east being in the most precarious shape that it has ever been in, that the approaches of the obama administration to the middle east, being seen as egregious failures, even among those who would argue that the bush administration had more egregious failures in its first time. and by that, i mean significant parts of the democratic party. it's pretty dark. perhaps in our ensuing discussion, we will be able to find some rays of light.
but i wanted -- because i know, you know, dov's sunny frame of mind -- to provide, you know, a useful counterpoint so that he can now assume his role, which is to defend what the obama administration has done. [laughter] >> for our c-span viewers, i would like to emphasize that these remarks about the obama administration are coming from someone who served in the clinton administration and would be presumed actually to be sympathetic, but the situation is very stark. i am extremely sympathetic. ask either of my daughters. so i will now turn to dov for his further explication to the
middle east. >> i'm afraid i'm going to disappoint the viewers. i'm not going to defend the obama administration. i'm going to take a perspective that's pretty much the same as david's but expand on it. first, this guy used to sit at the far corner of this room, named deborgraf. he was a leading journalist, leading analyst, a brilliant thinker and quite a character. we're going to miss him. i just wanted to mention that because he really was a regular here and contributed tremendously to the conversations we had. i want to give you some context that goes beyond, in some way what david talked about. you've got to begin not just with the debate with hillary. you've got to begin with the fact that the president, as a candidate, and pretty consistently since then, wanted to focus on nation building at
home. that was his priority. do stuff at home and try to keep the world at a distance if at all possible. so what are his big legacy items? well, obamacare is clearly one that he hopes to preserve. he's still trying to do something on immigration. he clearly has a predilection for pushing the envelope on environmental issues, even if it means alienating our neighbor and very close ally, canada. and so you start from there. then you look at, okay, what has been his approach to the world? and it's essentially been one, if i can keep out of it, i will keep out of it. pull out of afghanistan. pull out of iraq. don't say a word when the mullahs crush an uprising in 2009 in iraq. no ground troops in libya, even if the country falls apart. withdraw two brigades from
europe and not restore them, even as mr. putin flexes his muscles. we sent a company to each of the baltic states. that is not a lot of people. and it's not a major deterrent. only arm the kurds with baghdad's approval. pivot to asia, without more forces except 2500 marines that are further away from asia than they were. and so you see a pattern here. now, how does iran fit into this pattern? what i see essentially going on is an attempt to, on the one hand, create nixon's condominium with the iranians in the region. essentially more than that. the nixon doctrine said hand it off. he handed it off to the shah. in some ways i think mr. obama thinks that maybe the best way to deal with this crazy region that he doesn't want to deal with is let the iranians handle
it. part of that -- and sort of an outcome of that -- is to downgrade the relationship with the israelis. treat them as a secondary power. revert back to the relationship israel had with the united states prior to the mid-1960's. i think that's where he's headed. and if you look at all the things that have been going on it kind of all hangs together. for example, in the case of afghanistan, everybody is noticing that ghani had a terrific visit here. we're keeping more troops in afghanistan till the end of the year. one thing that that does is help the iranians, the last people they need back in kabul are the taliban. they almost went to war with them. so that one favors the iranians. not providing too much support for the kurds favors the iranians because if you give
the kurds too much military equipment and they really feel they can go independent and they have already talked about it in a way that they hadn't as long as recently as two years ago but because of the collapse in iraq they're now talking about it. but if you do that, everybody notices that well, the turks will be very upset but so will the iranians, because the irons have their kurds. so they don't want a stronger kurdistan. obviously, we are -- i'm convinced of this. i was in kurdistan for a conference about three weeks ago. i came away convinced that we are working hand in glove with the iranians, as david says. i had a panel that included the national security advisor of iraq, vice president of iraq, brett mcgurk, our emissary to
fighting isis. and the advisor, the chief of staff to the president of kurdistan. and i asked the panel four times, talk to me about iran. nobody really wanted to. now, i can understand why the iraqis don't want to because they want us to help and they want the iranians to help. i can understand why the kurds don't want to, because they don't want to inflame the iranians. but why didn't mcgurk say a word? nothing. zero. that tells you something. so it's true. obama has a dilemma in yemen. no doubt about it. he is supporting the guys fighting the iranians. but by and large, iran is the direction in which he is headed. look at this deal. everybody has been arguing for ages over how many centrifuges we're going to allow the iranians. turns out it's not just a matter of centrifuges. it's a matter of allowing the
iranians to have centrifuges in fordo. and by the way they were supposed to close down fordo and close down iraq. they're not doing that. we are giving way on the whole question of what they have done until now, which the iaea has been pushing. we're giving way on that. and, you know, for an ancient empire, what's 10 years? what's 15 years? what 100 years in the middle east? nothing. and then what? and then david rightly said look at the reaction in the rest of the region. on the part of people who are supposed to be our friends. okay? i am not as worried about an iranian strike on israel as some people are for the very simple reason, if the iranians try it just work the analysis. the missile has to go off. the target has to work.
none of the four layers of israel missile defense works. and only then might something come through. now, if it comes through, of course, you're destroying jordan, saudi arabia, a lot of other countries. lebanon. syria as well as israel. but guess what? with the percentage, the likely percentage that an iranian missile can actually make it through it's probably -- well if you run the percentages, it's less than one percent. the likelihood that the israelis can retaliate and wipe iran off the map is 100%. if i'm an iranian general, i'm not going to recommend that. but if the iranians have a nuclear capability, as david said, nobody else is going to sit on their hands. if you are sitting in riad, what do you see right now? you see iranians supporting
groups next door. you're constantly suspecting that the iranians are playing in the eastern province, mostly shia dominated. now you see the houthis taking over yemen. it is the classic saudi nightmare, being surrounded by iranian puppets and supporters. now add on top of that an iranian nuclear capability. there's no way that the saudis will not go nuclear. and by the way, i heard from one gulf foreign minister, who told me, i think about a month ago he said, why do you think the saudis have been supporting the pakistanis all these years? what do you think is the quid pro quo? they'll give the saudis the nuclear capability they need and they'll give it to them very quickly. do you think tb the saudis go nuclear, the ua won't? and do you think the egyptians won't? then the turks aren't going to
sit quietly either. and for instance, talk to the others and tell you -- so there you have it. everybody goes nuclear. and in fact, think of a map you will now have a chain of nuclear powers running from the pacific ocean, all the way to europe. and all it takes is one mistake. one mistake and then you've got worse than world war i. so this is what the iranian deal is going to get us. but, again, the way that the administration is going about it is as if none of this matters. now, the one person who has actually helped the administration more than any other is mr. netanyahu. mr. netanyahu should not have come to congress. he should not have further ticked off the president of the united states. his behavior during the election made the president of the united states feel absolutely
justified in ignoring everything he says. and his subsequent back tracking hasn't cut any ice with anybody. now, what did he really do? if there is no override of an obama veto of new sanctions because of this deal, you can thank mr. netanyahu for that. because the democrats were certainly going to override mendez and schumer and all those guys. but now they're in a very tough position. the only reason an override might happen now is because more and more is coming out about this kind of fuzzy deal that gets fuzzier by the day. but it's going to be much harder, thanks to mr. netanyahu. finally, i would point out that if iran were the number one concern of mr. netanyahu, then by definition, a deal with the palestinians isn't the number one concern. and if you want to worry about your number one concern, you
offer something to the palestinians and tell mr. obama hey, look, i'm giving you x. you give me y. he hasn't done that. so he hasn't helped his cause at all, in my view. but objectively, the deal is terrible. the behavior in the region is all of a pattern, even as i say with respect to afghanistan, and the pattern is simply some kind of condominium or less, some kind of offshoring american influence, prestige, in the region, and just simply handing it to tehran. i'll stop there. >> very quick response. then we'll take questions after that. >> i never said the word "quick." but i will -- i will make an effort to be brief. first of all i think we need to look at the response of the
saudis and the gcc states to the houthi gains in yemen. not just in the political context of yemen, nor in the traditional shia-sunni terms. it's also a response to the sense that there are no other stabilizing forces in the region right now and that iran is gaining. it is a message from them that they are unwilling to tolerate or further deterioration of the situation with regard to iran's regional position. and therefore it is of broader consequence than it's typically described to be. now, so far, dov and i haven't disagreed on any point. i'm now about to say something i think he may disagree with.
but i do want to throw it out there, if only to avow your assertion that i was in clinton administration and that in fact i'm a democrat. i am not one of those people that believes that, you know, anything other than a good deal shouldn't be done. i think we should get the best possible deal we can. i think we should embrace the gains that deal gives. but i think that for that to be effective it needs to be in the context of a strategy. and the strategy needs to work with regional allies to allay their concerns and to rebuild a regional alliance that extends from the gulf to egypt and includes all of those who are concerned by the iranians and gives them the assurance that we are standing with them and we will tolerate no deviation from this. it requires a kind of balanced
approach and a long-term view and a strategic framework that we have not seen. and i think one bit of evidence of the absence of a strategic framework is the degree to which the iran deal itself has been overemphasized in the context of iran policy. not only while we are worried about iran gaining nuclear weapons, is iran gaining ground in the middle east, which is a greater threat to the stability of the middle east, but in other areas, there are other disturbing patterns. we are in the midst of a cyberwar with the iranians. they are, as snowden documents and others have demonstrated, regularly attacking private sector targets in the united states. we are willing to negotiate a deal on the technologies of the 20th century and give them sanctions relief while we are
exploring the risks associated with the technologies of 21st century conflict. at the same time. so we may end up rewarding them even as they are attacking us in other ways, even as they are attacking our allies in other ways, everyone as they are destabilizing the region in other ways. this does not suggest a strategy. it suggests a very narrow gauge focus on deliverables, a campaign oriented approach to how to deal with geopolitics. let's get a win. let's get something out there that we can show for it, without putting it into any kind of broader context. the final thing that i would like to say, and this, again may confirm your suspicions that i'm a democrat, is that i don't think it's been all bad. during the first term of the obama administration, when they were getting some good advice
from hillary clinton leanne panetta, bob gates, they were pretty good in imposing tough sanctions on iran. they were squeezing iran. they were gaining benefit from iran. from those sanctions. they were getting themselves in a position to negotiate a good deal. but what's happened since then? not only have those people left, but i have talked to people inside the negotiating process who will say they reached an impasse and then there are other people, more senior, come into the conversation and they say things like, well, how do we solve this problem? and they capitulate and they soften the deal. i spoke to a former senior national security official a democrat, who said to me just two days ago, at this point in the negotiation, from the school of negotiation in which i was raised i would be ordering everybody down into the lobby
with their luggage. and saying we are leaving because only in showing that you don't need the deal do you actually have the leverage you need to achieve the deal that you and that right now our body language, and the iranians know it and our allies know it and grandmas in toledo, ohio, know it, is that we want the deal more than the iranians want the deal. that is extremely dangerous and that is what gets you into a less than adequate deal and that is particularly dangerous when it exists outside the context of a coherent strategy for dealing with iran or the region. >> that was david rothkopf, we will now have a response briefly from dov zakheim. dov zakheim: a couple of things. one area they haven't focused on is missiles. you can't destroy too many countries unless the bombs are
carried in a suitcase, which no one has really tried yet. what you have to do is mate them to missiles. the iranians are moving right ahead and not saying anything about it. we have a problem that you can't resolve even with a halfway decent agreement and that is that nobody trusts us. if you're the saudis, for example, and your ambassador who was beloved by the previous king and highly trusted by the current king was the subject of an assassination attempt in washington by the iranians, you have a lot of trouble accepting that all of a sudden the iranians are good guys. it's just not going to happen. the problem is we haven't been trusted for years. yes, it's true this administration accepted and i use the word accepted advisedly sanctions. those sanctions were pushed by the hill and every single time the administration tried to fight them until they couldn't fight them anymore and everybody
knows that. what is most important is that the people in the region know that. let me be more blunt than david about this negotiation. why do we have an end of march deadline anyway? it's an artificial deadline. we chose to have an end of march deadline. we chose to have an end of june deadline. so we're fighting against ourselves the whole time anyway. and one other point, and this isn't widely understood, but you know, most of the arabs, virtually all of them see us as israel's closest ally. and watch how we treat the israelis. if we treat the israelis badly we're not going to treat them any better. if we are undermining the israelis, they notice that. i was just at the munich conference last month and the
iranian negotiator said in front of everybody -- and i double checked with somebody that was there so i wasn't hearing things -- that the israelis are responsible for the burning of the jordanian pilot and the killing of the two japanese. he said it with a straight face because he does things with a straight face. nobody in this administration said a word about that. and so you have got a fundamental problem of trust here. the israelis we know don't trust them. the arabs don't trust them. you're not going to turn around and cut some kind of deal on an artificial deadline that, as you just heard, even democrats are worried about and then turn around and say, trust me, it will all work out. moderator: our first question will come from the head of the center for the national interests. >> i think that your indictment both of the obama
administration, i certainly would agree with both of you 100%. the best i can say to the administration is that it's supposed to come to an end. the question is not, however how fundamentally flawed this policy is and the way we have handled it as david as suggested. we perhaps would cover for a better deal. we are where we are. so my question to both of you, in particular to you, dov, because you acknowledged that perhaps the apocolyptic threat two years ago coming from iran is somewhat overstated. my question to you is, what is the alternative you would articulate now in the current circumstances, would you reject the deal and suggest that we leave more or less start but
perhaps like david has suggested, making the new strategic approach? or would you contemplate an attack on iran? and you would be in favor of that or at least you think we can live with that, what do you think would happen to the price of oil? what do you think would happen to fortunes. would they use this opportunity to create further mischief in ukraine, far beyond eastern ukraine and russian forces are allegedly are now and where the chinese will be. the question is simple, are we better off rejecting the agreement at this point? dov zakheim: most of these questions were directed to me so i'll start. let me first say that i have written and i have spoken over and over again that i think not only would an israeli attack on
iran be useless, but i think our attack on iran would be useless. there are too many targets, it will take far too long. it's not a one shot deal. we don't have as great battle damage assessment as we say we do. the u.n. will tell us to stop in a few days. the job will not be done within a few days. let's assume that we or the israelis or some combination could take every iranian target out. fine, the iranians now say we're on our own and they get the bomb within a couple years anyway. so i don't think a military strike is the answer. what i do think is the answer is essentially to turn around to the iranians and say, look, this isn't good enough, we have to keep talking. netanyahu said a year ago that the interim deal was a disaster. it's turned out not to be a disaster. in that respect, the administration, it worked.
the iranians haven't moved anywhere as far as they otherwise would have moved and there is still a bunch of sanctions squeezing them. i would just continue talking until there is a new president. i don't trust this president. i think he will grab the first opportunity to cut a deal. but if i had my druthers, we would keep on talking. keep the sanctions that currently exist and do nothing more at this stage. moderator: david? david rothkopf: well, first of all, i agree. i don't think there is any benefit to us from attacking iran and i think in the current situation, the middle east, it would be calamatous. building off of my prior point my sense is that we're going to end up with an interim deal that will turn into a final deal. that final deal will reduce the threat from iran somewhat and
provide for inspection and other kinds of oversight that can ensure that the risks from iran are somewhat less. on the nuclear front. the primary threats posed by iran are not nuclear. the primary threats posed by iran are regional. in terms of instability, the actions of hezbollah, the actions of hamas, the actions associated with their support of the houthis, their meddling in iraq, their support for asaad which runs into the tens of billions of dollars. unless you realize and treat those things as the primary threat, you're missing the point. and therefore take the deal,
enforce the deal and then do two things. repair the alliance with the gulf states, with the jordanians, with the egyptians recognize that they have the responsibility for stabilizing in the region first, that we need to support them, that we need to work with them for movements that can be stabilizing in western iraq. we need to work with them to find a solution that will work in syria. we need to work with them to ultimately get a negotiated settlement that's the best settlement you can get with yemen and primarily that we need to work with them to counter act the two pernicious forces in the region, one of which is sunni extremism which manifests itself in everything from isis to the brotherhood and the other is
iran. one of the big mistakes one can make is cut a deal with iran say everything is fine and move into the mode as if this solved the problem when it only deals with a fraction as dov said, raising the point of missiles properly with a fraction of a fraction of problem. so use it. have your eyes wide open and don't think that this is producing a strategic re-alignment in this region because it's not, our allies don't want it to and it's not going to help, it's going to put us as greater risk. >> our next question is from ambassador bremer. ambassador: i want to first agree with david.
the problem that iran poses is strategic and geopolitical. effectively what he is talking about with the administration explicitly and hillary clinton explicitly rejected was a policy of containment of iran. that may be where we wind up but there are some very important lessons from the containment of the soviet union. first of all, it was a policy that was carried out by 10 presidents of both political parties for a half a century. during that half century, we spent an average of 6% of g.d.p. on defense. we forward deployed hundreds of thousands of troops around the ring of the soviet union, our allies, although they never spent up to 6%, spent 3% of gdp. we had tactical nuclear weapons up against the soviet border. containment is not cheap and it's not easy. and it was bipartisan. i don't see how this administration which has got
itself into a very partisan situation on this particular issue of the nuclear agreement is going to have the ability to produce a strong bipartisan support for containing iran, which is basically what david is calling for. he may be right, that's where we end up, but nobody should be under any illusions that that is going to be easy. it's going to be expensive. we have to put american troops on the ground in the middle east, we're going to have to probably put nuclear weapons on the ground in the middle east. we're certainly going to have put nuclear weapons there if we want the host countries not to get their own nuclear weapons. >> david. david rothkopf: first of all i'm not explicitly calling for containment, i'm calling for counterbalances. if the iranians make real progress, adhere to this agreement, stop doing the other things that they're doing
behave in a more constructive way that they could, you know, grow in international standing in ways that wouldn't be bad provided we were counterbalancing them. so i use counterbalance rather than contain, but it's all conditional on them actually doing those things. they have shown no inclination to do those things thus far. a i think we need to be very beady eyed and very results and evidence-oriented in this regard and you're right, it's become political. having said that, i can't help i but point out that to a large degree, the political problems that we're having -- well, the political problems we're having in washington cannot be blamed on one party or the other. both parties have played a role in creating the most politsized foreign policy atmosphere that we have seen in a long, long time. that's not helpful and regardless of who is elected in
2016, one can only hope that as a centerpiece of their foreign policy will be a willingness to commit the effort at home to rebuild the kind of across the aisle alliances that are essential to have credibility overseas. the current experience with netanyahu illustrates it as well. if we are seen as dysfunctionally polarized, we are not seen as a reliable power in the world. that's a threat to us. we need to find a way around that threat. dov zakheim: let me jump in i briefly. if you want to contain iran, you have to spend money. this administration does not want to spend money on defense. what they have done just now a shows that to you, they came in with a request for more defense
spending than the sequester and the budget control will act will allow. the congress turned around and said we're not going to bust the sequester, you know the administration know you don't will want to bust the sequester. what we're going to do is take a the additional money and put it contingency account. in the administration is opposed to it. so it shows you where they're really coming from. they don't want to spend any more money on defense. containment is a nonstarter for these folks. there is another fundamental problem. the way david puts it is essentially tell our allies in the region, we'll cut a deal with the iranians and then we'll fix it with you. that's exactly putting the cart i before the horse. if you want support for a deal that's questionable, the first thing you have to do is shore up your allies. in you have got to convince them a that you are reliable, that
you have a certain understanding of their concerns and that you're going to act on them because not only after a deal is cut, but before a deal is cut. so when you have a spat with israel that goes well beyond just mr. netanyahu's behavior when you have friction with the saudis, that has nothing to do with the israelis. when you have a cutoff of support for the bahrainies which we have done. we have cut off any kind of military support for them and the bahrainies, of course, are kind of younger brothers to the saudis. they're just across the causeway for those of you who know the region. if you operate in that way, you are certainly not giving them the comfort factor that they would need prior to a deal being signed. we're doing it exactly the opposite way. david rothkopf: let me say one thing in response to that. i agree that the right way to
have done this would be to maintain and then build credibility, listen to our allies, understand where they need assurance, not undercut our credibility with them at every turn, not offer the iranians a and deal on enrichment we wouldn't offer them, not do the things that we have done. i we are where we are. my view on that is if you want to make the best of the situation you're in now, you have to look at those relationships and restore them by actions, not words. and, by the way, you can't restore relationships in a region like this unless you empower your state department to go out and do the work. if everything is done by the white house, you cannot do the day-to-day blocking and tackling of diplomatic relationships that this required. so there are operational issues involved here that are serious
problems. the final point i want to make is we didn't address part of dmitri's question. he raised the point of mr. putin. there are broader geopolitical ramifications of this. when vladmir putin sees our behaving fecklessly or being distracted by situations like this, every single time he takes advantage of it. it is no accident, also, that when he takes advantage of it, people in the region see him as a little bit stronger. and the israelis have turned to the russians more closely and they have better relations with the russians. others in the region have done the same. as i was saying to jerry we got here, there is an ironic twist going on. you may recall a discussion of pivot to asia.
well, we didn't really follow through on the pivot to asia. you know who is pivoting to asia, everybody in the middle east, the people we were supposed to be pivoting away from, the saudis, the israelis the gulf states, the iranians, they're looking to china as a consumer of last resort. they're looking to india as a big buyer of their energy products. they are looking in a different direction for major power involvement in the region because they don't trust that they can count on u.s. major power involvement in the region and i might add, that is compounded by the fact that the notion of e.u. foreign policy is a fantasy because the e.u. hasn't gotten its act together yet to actually have a foreign policy. the atlantic alliance and the deterioration that has taken place in context of that alliance, has contributed to
this weakening in the middle east and the weakening in the face of putin. and that need to be addressed if you are going to address this pivot and the issues in this region as well. dov zakheim: the reason i said we should continue talking is precisely so we can do the kinds of things david talked about shore up the alliances, restore some credibility. there is no reason for us to say as we have been saying if we can't get something done by the end of march, we're going to walk away. that's exactly the wrong thing to say. the right thing to say is, if we can't get something done by the end of march, we'll just keep on talking. the longer we talk, the more time we have to restore our relationships with the saudis, with the israelis, the rest of them to prevent the pivot to asia that david just talked about, to have some kind of credibility with our adversaries
as well and our potential adversaries. it's not just putin who sees us as weak. it's the chinese who see us as weak, everybody sees us as weak. it many trouble seeing where he was the same refrain. we need time to restore that. you do not cut a deal and then try to restore it at all you're going to do then is further undermine yourself. you will approve tell week you are thrown the reasons david gave you. moderator: we are discussing iran and politics in the middle east. richard: as the jacob, you just said, the subject is iran and the american politics.
the terrible message that i am hearing in this discussion is very fundamental to american politics. the question is, are we capable as a country, a country with presumably the most resources economic, military of any country, are we capable of conducting a meaningful foreign policy. and david, you began with pointing out the various ways that iran has been the beneficiary -- you have to take that back to bush. when we eliminated the iraq, saddam hussein challenge we basically stabilized the balance. was anyone thinking about that issue we went to. i see a fundamental, structural question, it is partially related to a generational change occurring in our politics.
the last american president who served in the war was george herbert walker bush. since then, we have had a new generation with a different view of the world and how we should deal with it. we have been cranking through the lack of strategic thinking. the fact that people in the world do not trust us, you used the word weak, i would say people do not look at us as weak, but as not knowing what we are about. what are we trying to achieve. that undermines the kind of trust that is reinforced by the kind of domestic, political dysfunction. >> [indiscernible]
>> under george schultz, one of the great secretaries of state. my point is, i think the situation calls -- not probably in this room, we have people who devoted their lives to security. but as a country. look at the people coming up as potential presidents for the next cycle. almost none have foreign-policy experience. in a world in chaos, or as henry kissinger put it, a period of disorder, i think we have some serious self reflection. >> i don't know if david will agree, i think a point to david made previously, goes to the heart of your concern. our foreign-policy is being run by a small group of people in the white house, most of whom
have minimal foreign-policy experience. they've been doing it for six years, but it is as if it has been six days. regardless of who is elected issue is, does the white house run foreign-policy, or do we leave it to the professionals. people like yourself and others who serve in treasury, state commerce, we have a lot of international agencies, and young people are more interconnected with the world than any other generation. there is no inherent reason why we should be operating the way we are today. the key is, do we rely on our executive agencies to do what the law tells them to do, to the extent that a new administration, regardless of party will default back to executive agencies, i think
you'll see a very different american image around the world. and a lot more credibility. >> there are two groups that make the same points. the roads have become centralized. it makes it impossible to do the job the agencies need to do. it also makes it impossible for the white house to do the strategic planning and implementation for all of it. that needs to be fixed and there are a variety of ways to do that, including cutting down the size of the nsc from 400 to 200. henry kissinger's nsc had 30. we are over 10 times that. but you guys were special. [laughter]
having said that, that is not the full answer. there are two other issues. one is foreign-policy is made in the executive branch primarily by the president of the united states, at the behest of the president. there is no area in which the old maxim of a single man or woman is true. five out of six of the last presidents have had no foreign experience. the american people continue to live under the delusion that foreign-policy is something you could pick up. if that has been demonstrated to not be the case, certainly the past few years have driven that message home, or should have.
you have to elect people who understand this, who understand how the agency's work, who understand the issues, who are not going to do on the job training, and are effective leaders. people who are effective of managing big organizations. united states government is the largest, most complicated organization on earth. the skill set least valued is management skill. this is the one city in the world where people tend to believe if you can articulate, that is the same as being able to get something done. that is not true. we need leaders who are also managers who have clear ideas, and they have to be able to go and do the retail politics of foreign-policy as well as they do the global to -- diplomacy and statesmanship. they have to go to the hill. they cannot maintain campaign mode. they have to engage.
they have to have willing partners. it is not a small thing. the congress of the united states is obstructionist. many of the people in congress do not have passports. they do not engage in these issues. they think penalizing be president on foreign-policy, when it weakens us, it happens. they do not believe in the principles of collaboration and compromise that are essential to functioning democracy. that has to be fixed as well. you cannot fix it all at once. the place you can start to fix it is in the presidential election. you have to pick the right woman or man to be president in order to be able to be in this process of change.
>> if you want someone who is a manager, and my last incarnation in government i was on management side. i saw the price we pay for people who did not know how to manage being in management positions. the managers out there are not senators, they are ceos. ceos who are in politics are called governors. sometimes you will get a senator who knows nothing about foreign-policy and is still pretty good. harry truman. you can have a governor who is pretty good, ronald reagan or bill clinton. it is a function of the individual. if the individual can listen has a good staff, recognizes his or her shortcomings, you will be fine. if the individual has a management background, you will be better. if the individual is convinced hey, i am president and you are not. therefore i know it all and you
do not. it does not matter what their background is. >> running a large agency like the u.s. state department, i figured that was coming. >> two more questions. one for mike from cbs news hour. mike: politics was in the title of this talk. first of all, an election campaign is usually not the best way to articulate complicated issues. you gentlemen have advised presidential candidates. on the democratic side, it seems like the candidate is going to have to distance themselves from the current administration without repudiating it. on the republican side, how to run a effective critique without turning it into a rancid criticism. >> i believe that it is highly
likely, regardless who the candidate is in 2016, they will both in some degree run against the foreign-policy records of the last two presidents. both will seek to identify themselves as something different. as far as democratic candidates, i think they will be able to split the difference that you described there because they will be able to embrace the lot of the president's domestic policies. they will be able to say there was recoveries, progress made in climate. they will be able to say that there was a variety of gains made. they can embrace that wholeheartedly.
i think foreign-policy, they may talk about some of the progress that gets made in climate. they may talk about the progress that might be made. there may be some victories to look at. they will make a mistake if they get too bogged down in the details of defending the obama administration foreign-policy. instead of focusing on the future, i believe that what the american people will look for is someone who will say, i have a different vision as to where we are going to go. i can provide a different character leadership. i can demonstrate that i can deliver that character of leadership, and i can give you a few key ideas of how i will restore america to the traditional leadership role expected of the country both here and overseas. my final point, i think whoever
is elected, will see as one of their central jobs, restoring america's leadership role in the world. in that respect you will see a lot of similarity in some of the rhetoric that is going to come out of both the democratic and republican candidates. zakheim: the obama administration is going to be a target rich environment both on domestic and foreign policy. i agree that will not be enough, there will have to be a positive vision. i think it will be harder for the democratic candidate to fight the bush election again, because it will be 14 years before. it will be difficult. mr. obama has been fighting mr. bush from day one. the reaction gets more and more negative with the passage of time.
i think the sense in the country that things are going wrong overseas means that unlike in the 2012 election when generally, mr. romney did not focus much on foreign-policy here you will see national security as a major issue. probably as major as the 1980 election. who knows what will happen in the next 18 months, but i do not think it will be good. that will be a major issue. the question will be what do we do. either candidate, republican or democrat will have to come up with a viable answer. i don't think claiming credit for climate change as a security issue, which by the way is a major element of the current national security strategy. climate change and the environment. that will resonate with the
american people when you see what is going on in the middle east and elsewhere. it just won't wash. i hope a democrat will oka's on that. >> the next question is from wayne mary. wayne: i am struck with the panel discussion on i run an american politics that there has been no mention of a collective letter from the u.s. senators to the uranian government. there has been only passing reference to the israeli prime minister. the focus of your criticism has been almost exclusively on one end of pennsylvania avenue which i would be happy to join. if you are talking about alliances, i have rarely seen in my professional life, a set of actions by the congress which have attracted such overt public criticism from senior figures of our allies.
i wonder if you would talk a little bit about a positive contribution, a role that you could approve of from the other end of pennsylvania avenue. >> i have been critical in writing, i thought i was critical now. i think congress made a mistake. he could have retreated by the way. senators feinstein and durban had offered to speak separately to the democrats. he could have turned around and said i will do that. an olive branch. he has offered no olive branch. i think it is a reflection of frustration. massive frustration.
he goes to the point of david made. this president has no relationship with the hill on any issue. he is not a favorite of the democrats either. those who knew him when he was on the hill, knew him as a loner who did not ever become part of the club. if you know the hill, and i know you do, if people like you, you can get away with a lot. people do not like you, they will fault you for everything. the classic example of that is ronald reagan and tip o'neill. reagan and o'neill clearly did not see the world the same way. they play golf together, they related, and when things had to get done, they somehow work it out. this president does not know how to do that. maybe he doesn't want to do that. i don't know. you have a degree of frustration. obviously the democrats will be more restrained than republicans. this letter was like a gut that
burst. perhaps a different way to handle congress, stroking people, being nice to people giving them the time of day could have resulted in something else. could have resulted in the president calling in cotton and saying, look, this is not the right way to go. if you had a relationship, he could've done that. >> i think i was explicit. i said they were obstructionist, i said they were blocking things. they are part of the problem. very few things illustrate this as clearly as cosmic. dov is rationalizing it. i don't think it is rationalizable. i think the letter was ill considered and unconstructive.
the kind of thing that ought to be repudiated by both sides. it wasn't. it was embraced by virtually all with a couple of exceptions. in that respect i think it is a symptom of a disease that needs to be cured. the way to cure it is not blame it on the president. who is leading on the republican side looking for solutions? who is leading, being constructive? i mean genuinely. who is taking the initiative on the hill to do that. most of the leadership has expressed one way or another they see their job as to stop the president. to obstruct and to undermine.
certainly the net and yahoo! -- netanyahu invitation was another grotesque example of the abuse of the traditional role. i couldn't agree more with the sentiment of the question. much has to be done on capitol hill. one hopes in the 2016 cycle, what you will get from some candidates, is a return to the traditional values that leaders in both parties have had particularly with foreign-policy. placing national interest first, and placing politics on the back burner. >> [indiscernible] don't you think when you have
the president of the united states, and the bipartisan politics, and consistently ignore the republicans. if you look at his medical reform, immigration reform, the way he dealt with the russians ignoring the will of the new republican majority of congress. he took a position dealing with congress that everything that is not outright illegal is fair game. don't you think under the circumstances, the republicans are not just entitled to
frustration, but they should not continue. if you ignore a branch -- what is wrong with this approach? david: i think it is grotesquely unconstructive. we have reduced ourself to be schoolyard, somehow saying two wrongs make a right. is obama embracing other democrats, no. is he good at embracing the rest of his administration, no. is he isolated, is he combative, yes. i think he is doing all of those things. you are conflating a bunch of things. health care reform, there was a
big battle, people voted, he got his way. that was not forcing it down their throats. that was the legislative process working. there were other cases where he achieved victory. he used executive authority. republican presidents use executive authority. there is always a cry from the other side saying, oh my gosh, imperial presidency. that is how washington works. just as obama has done wrong in terms of not reaching out, mitch mcconnell said my job is to stop obama. he did not say, my job is to make america stronger. he did not say my job is to help the american people through more trade. he took the opposite side. he certainly has not been terribly constructive. some of the party has been worse. they talk about idiocy like in
-- impeachment. you'll have to get a group. -- grip. the republicans have eight done a lousy job. the obama administration has screwed up a lot of foreign-policy. we can either point fingers for the next 10 years and it can get worse, or we can try to reach out across the aisle, find areas agreement, acknowledged its function is not the way to go. i will tell you, i have said this before, dysfunction in washington is a much greater threat to american national security than isis and every terrorist threat. unless we treat it that way, we will not be able to do the things that make the country strong. whether it is producing defense budgets or producing coherent foreign-policy. >> that was a strong statement.
zakheim: talk is talk, but i think the first thing mitch mcconnell said as he is not going to close down the government. he said that in the face of a lot of people who want to do that. i saw no reciprocation from the white house, none. at the end of the day, look who made the offer to play golf. it was not to o'neill. these things have to come from the president. it is just the way it works. it is exactly the same part of the system you're talking about david, you are not seeing that. the question is, who is supposed to start this process? i do not see that happening.
you could argue that mcconnell tried to do that, and got nowhere. i don't see that happening until the next president comes around. i do hope that whoever the next president is, will recognize that you need to work with congress, rather than work against them. david: i'm going to take the last question, because we may not emulate the council on foreign relations in many ways here. we are going to end on time. my question to both of our distinguished speakers is -- i will pull away from domestic strife, and zoom all the way back to the middle east and ask -- we can talk about netanyahu and obama engaging, and that seems like an abstract tool
right now. negotiations are inflamed. let's put aside these arms talks. let's talk about right now and get back to be first question, how close are we to an august 1914 moment in the middle east. forget the iran deal, whether they sign it or not, this region is in upheaval. how close are we to the big countries, like saudi arabia, we know that these wars get triggered by proxy wars. you can get dragged into your proxy, how close are we really. what would trigger a wider, war of complete upheaval in the
middle east, david? david: first of all, i don't know how it could get wider. egypt, israel, syria, iraq jordan, all of the gulf states iran and afghanistan are all involved in conflict right now. the turks have some role to play in all of that too. it is as wide as it can get. can it get worse and deeper? sure. libya is going to get worse. libya is going to become likely as yemen is right now. the egyptians will leave a force into libya. the reason egyptians signed up for this force was to get the license. that is going to make work. i think those countries are coming to the conclusion that the united states and its
reluctance to put any boots on the ground is going to leave it up to them to pick things up. we can breathe a sigh of relief and say, oh that is great. except we lose influence. they may not approach this anyway we think it ought to be approached. they may not approach it in ways that we think it is in the region's interests. i think we need to be careful into falling into the temptation of saying, let them handle it. is it 1914? no, it's 2015. in other words, it will not become world war i. could it last for 10 years?
could it decimate the region? could it play havoc with world energy. included increased are medically the influence of states who did not have influence there before? great young men and women never be able to rebuild or economy for the next 50 years, and create half a century of unrest for this region? condit friend to -- could it spread to africa, and other parts of the world, including pakistan with hundreds of nuclear warheads? yes it could. so i think we need to say, first of all we should not comfort ourselves that we are not in a terrible position yet. we are in a terrible position. we also have to say that the situation is likely to deteriorate before it gets better.
we need to have a strategy that is a long-term strategy. this is not something that is, up with any pointing this description. there is no strategy where the united states can maintain influence where does not have boots on the ground in three situations. the reason that around this game in iraq is because they do and we don't. i am not saying that means another 200,000 troops, i am saying advisors and special forces on the kind of things that send a message to others that you're serious. you have a lot of countries that are effectively committee library for games. we're not doing anything serious because they do not the we are doing enough that a seriously leadership requires getting other people to follow, and it requires an example. we're a long way from that.
i do not worry about a world war, but i do worry about a protracted time of destabilization in a big chunk of the world that could negatively impact u.s. and allied interests for decades. dov: i am pretty much the same. i do not think we can hope to have any influence unless we have some boots on the ground. i think that the president's reluctance to keep troops in afghanistan, now he is saying up to 2015, to the end of the seer aggressively not the way to go. i think the best example and best reason for saying it is not the way to go is if you look at the timeline and rock -- in iraq. mr. maliki becomes a real dictator after we pull out. it is arguable that if you not behave the way he had, the sunnis would not be behaving the way they are.
having that presence there, it is not a massive presence, i totally agree it is very important. we are not it 1914, we in 1912 to 1913. the balkan wars, the wars that preceded the big one. you might say this the spanish civil war, where you proxy war -- have a proxy war. it is not going to be a world war, but it will be released wide war, and will be something like the 30 years war but longer. the 30 years war was a religious worth the end of the day. and however much you want to dismiss it as between sunni and shia. that is what you hear when you talk to sunnis and she has. he was obligated by the fact that the iranians are not as she is, they are persons who look down on arabs and always have. it is an ethnic thing and a religious thing. those things do not go away quickly. the real issue becomes how do
you keep a lid on this? you cannot give a lid on it if you're simply thinking about withdrawing. and if you set redlines not pretty himself by saying that i'm not going to send any boots on the ground. that is unbelievably self-defeating. what is amazing is that we are slowly being sucked in any way. now we are providing air support. what happens when one of our pilots is shot down, god forbid that happens. then what? i'm hearing the middle east sucking sound all over again. it was a briarpatch preview get in, you just do not get out. >> i'm grateful to both of our speakers. thank you very much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, wiich is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
the atrocities prevention board. tonight at 9:00 eastern, today's education ceremony for the edward kennedy institute next to the john f. kennedy presidential library. it was envisioned by senator kennedy before he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008. he passed away the following year. president obama, vice president biden, and john mccain spoke. >> tonight, on the communicators, more from the consumer electronics show as we look at new technology products. >> if there is something you want to capture, just take it off your wrist. it will be very simple to take off your wrist and it will expand. it will be as easy as gesturing.
it is completely autonomous. it's smart enough to know the direction you toss it and if it is a gentle toss, it will stay pretty close. it will compose a photo take a photo and come back autonomously. >> "the communicators" tonight on c-span2. >> c-span has partnered with city life to learn about system -- to learn about oklahoma. >> woody guthrie was born in 1912 in oklahoma and we are very proud to have his work back in oklahoma, where we think it belongs. he was an advocate for people who were disenfranchised, those people who are migrant workers from oklahoma, kansas and texas during the dust bowl in europe who found themselves in
california literally starving. he tells us about that difference between those who are the haves and the have-nots and team their spokesman through his music. >> woody rick corded very few songs of his own. we have a listening station met features 46 of his own songs in his own voice. that's what makes the recordings he did make so significant. >> ♪ this land is your land, this land is my land from keller for you to the new york islands ♪ >> the food and drug it missed ration commissioner spoke at the national press club last week about recent advancements in food and drugs he the and the impact of globalization on the
fda's work. she announced at the end of the work she is stepping down from the fda after six years as commissioner. >> good afternoon and welcome. my name is john hughes and i am an editor for bloomberg first word. that is our breaking news desk in washington. i'm the president of the national press club. the leading professional organization for journalists. we are committed to our profession's future through programs like this. we work for a free press worldwide. for more information about the club, visit our website press.org. to donate to programs, offer to our journalism's institute, visit press.org/institute.
on behalf of our members worldwide, i would like to welcome our speaker and those of you attending today's event. our head table includes guest of the speaker as well as working journalists who are club members. members of the public attend our lunches so it is not necessarily evidence that journalistic objectivity is lacking. i would also like to welcome our c-span and public radio audiences. in can follow the action on twitter using #npclunch. after our guest speaks, we will have a question and answer period. i will ask as many questions as time permits. it is time to introduce the head table. i ask each of our guests to stand briefly as names are announced. from the audience possibly as wright, dr. charles snyderman, health and science correspondent for audiovisual news.
health reporter or the gray sheet. paula dillow, president of politics low and associates and is president of all there is -- paula dillow and associates and former executive of nasw preess. news editor at fears medical devices.com. matthew perrone, health reporter for associated press. dr. beatrix hamburg, guest and mother of our speaker. jerry risky, chair of the npc and former national press club president. skipping over our speaker, doris margolis, president of editorial associates health and science communication and the npc member who arranged the day's program. thank you, doris. dr. david hamburg, guest and father of our speaker. susan heavey, correspondent for writers news.
-- reuters news. sarah riordan, biomedical research and policy reporter for nature magazine. anthony shot, a member of the national press club board of governors and chief strategy officer and cofounder for social drive. [applause] keeping consumers save when they -- savefe when they take prescription drugs or eat food or use medical devices or consume tobacco products or wear cosmetics or get vaccinated. these are not small tasks. and these tasks fall to the food and drug administration. these products are important to consumers and to companies and the economy. so of course there can be controversy when the da plays
-- when the fda plays the role of a referee. for instance, we have heard questions such as, our products safe enough? is the fda taking too long to approve a new drug or device? well, for nearly six years, dr. margaret hamburg has led the fda as its 21st commissioner. no surprise the agency has been the target of both criticism and commendation as it has touched a broad range of issues during dr. hamburg's leadership. for example, three years ago an outbreak of functional -- fungal meningitis traced to a pharmacy resulted in criticism that the fda had not provided adequate oversight. on the other hand, the agency'ws accelerated process which has led drugs to the markets faster have been welcomed by patients and families, as well as the
pharmaceutical industry. dr. hamburg is a graduate of harvard. she has a background in infectious disease bioterrorism neuroscience neuropharmacology, and health policy. before her appointment as fda commissioner, she was the senior scientist at the nuclear threat initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing the risk of nuclear chemical and biological weapons. dr. hamburg will retire next week as one of the longest serving commissioners in fda history. please give a warm national press club welcome to dr. margaret hamburg. [applause]
commissioner hamburg: thank you. i am pleased to be here. i'm delighted to be joined by my parents and many of my friends and colleagues. this is probably my last formal address as commissioner. i thought it would be a nice opportunity for me to reflect a bit on what i have learned about this agency, and what i really want to communicate to you is how firmly i believe, now more than ever, that this is an agency that is absolutely essential to the lives and health of every american, every day. i think it's hard to overstate, really, the unique and vital importance of this agency for all of us. i confess i didn't arrive at the fda with a fully formed perspective. i said yes to the job a little early.
i didn't appreciate the vast scope of fda until i was actually ensconced in the job. it still amazes me that the products that we regulate account for somewhere between $.20 and $.25 of every dollar the consumers spend in this country. the fda is responsible for promoting and protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines, biological products. medical devices, the safety of most of the food supply, the blood supply, and other tissue products, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. most recently, fda is responsible for regulating the manufacturing marketing and distribution of tobacco products. some things might surprise you about some of the products that we regulate. ranging from things like bionic eyes and replacement body parts that are made by 3-d printers.
to the use of medicinal leeches, that was one that surprised me. we oversee the safety of the food the dignitaries needs at government events, like the state of the union, i just learned last week that we are responsible for regulating the waste that is discarded from moving trains. so you can see that wherever you are, the fda is working for you. but is not just the diversity of the products that we oversee that someone might find surprising. it's the way that we bring our enormous expertise to bear. in this age of skepticism about government, it's easy to imagine fda regulators simply as bureaucrats focused on a narrow set of responsibilities. yet nothing could be farther from the truth. what a remarkable group of physicians, scientists, lawyers, policy analysts, and other professionals and support staff
committed to helping people get the products that they need and count on. i am so happy that some of those fda employees are here with us today. i also was really very struck by the fact that fda employees do far more than just use their knowledge and expertise to review applications or investigate safety concerns. they also undertake vital research to advance medical product innovation and improve food safety. for example, scientists made a crucial contribution to the meningitis vaccine by developing a needed conjugation technology. this vaccine has now protected more than 217 million people from what was a deadly killer across the so-called meningitis belt in sub-saharan africa. fda's food scientists help develop sophisticated genome sequencing technologies to more
rapidly identify and stop foodborne outbreaks. during the gulf oil spill, i was surprised but very grateful when another team of fda scientists developed a new laboratory technique that significantly accelerated the testing process that was necessary for detecting certain oil related chemicals in the seafood itself. that enabled the fda and the state to open up the gulf waters to fishing much more rapidly, it also meant that the rather agitated congressional gulf delegation stopped calling me all the time. [laughter] commissioner hamburg: so that was really a worthy undertaking. it was also a surprise to me as the commissioner that during that time, i was ordered by the white house twice to go to new orleans and and eat seafood it to show that it was safe. there are some hardship duties in this job. [laughter]
commissioner hamburg: i want to focus on a few key issues today, issues that i have really been intent to work on since i began, and i believe have really made an important difference in strengthening and reaffirming fda's critical role in american society. i think that most would probably agree that i came to fda at a time when the agency faced considerable difficulties and uncertainties. a series of visible foodborne outbreaks that resulted in disease, nationwide anxiety, and economic disruption. several drug safety crises had eroded public confidence. at the same time, fda was facing serious threats, budgets were tightening with economic crisis. a chronic underfunding had already stretched the agency thin in many critical areas and jeopardized our ability to keep up with inspectional demand, product reviews, and the
evolving science and cutting-edge biomedical products, at the very time that scientific and technological discoveries were revolutionizing medical products. fda's challenges were exacerbated by the increasingly global marketplace for the products that we regulate. the imports of fda related products were growing dramatically. there was a series of serious episodes associated with adulterated products coming from overseas, most notably the imports from china obtained -- of tainted heffron, and the melamine laced dairy products and pet foods that cause deaths and serious illness. these effects, and a constant negative drumbeat from our friends in the media combined with the congressional criticism, took a toll. public trust was flagging. it was clear there was so much good work going on. as i took stock of the agency, its vast responsibilities and it's enormously talented and committed workforce, it was
clear that fda was at a crossroads. decisions made then would matter in fundamental ways and for a very long time. if fda was truly to fill its mission in the modern era, this was a critical time to reposition in several fairly fundamental ways. to do this, i focused on three priority areas. increasing public engagement accountability, and partnership, reinvigorating our scientific base by advancing regulatory science, and underscoring the need for science-based decision-making, and scientific integrity as the foundation for all that we do. lastly, addressing the challenges of globalization, and it's huge implications for health, safety, and security in the products we regulate. six years later, thanks to an extraordinary leadership team at the fda and all of the dedicated employees, i think we've seen
enormous progress and really important advances. we renewed, expanded, and refined our mission and activities, in important and powerful ways. notably as well, congress has given us important new authorities to regulate cigarettes and other tobacco products, to transform our nation's food safety system with a new focus on prevention, and to use more flexible and streamlined approach is bring exciting new medical products to patients in record time. to be effective, fda must do its vital work with input from stakeholders and with the trust and confidence of the public. that is why it was imperative to increase transparency, enhance stakeholder engagement, and strengthen partnerships across sectors, disciplines, and components of government. i really think we have. soon after i arrived at fda, we launched an agencywide effort to make useful, understandable information about the fda more readily available to our
stakeholders. this transparency initiative brought greater clarity and understanding as to what we do how we do it, and why for the general public, for industry for patient and consumer groups, and for other key stakeholders. we also worked to increase collaborative efforts, including establishing many important public private partnerships. we enhance our communications, including listening sessions leaders, experts, and advocates seeking ideas and feedback as well as a focus on patient centered medicine. which involves holding dozens of public meeting with patient advocacy groups for input on specific diseases. with stronger stakeholder engagement, there has been much better information sharing, more predictability, and ultimately a better process and product for the people we serve. my second priority, science, really builds on and reinforces the efforts just mentioned. as a science-based revelatory
-- regulatory agency, our credibility and success depends on our ability to deliver on the promise of science through smart, data-driven decisions that benefit patients and consumers. smart regulation also requires the ability to respond to changing situations, new information, and new challenges. we cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach, but we always must bring the best science to bear. it requires that we advance regulatory science. the knowledge and tools necessary for the meaningful and timely review of products for safety, efficacy, quality, and performance. and to inform a more efficient product of element process as -- product development process isas well. building on greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms of disease and human biology, a robust field of
migratory science can help us leverage opportunities for innovation and more quickly bridge the gap between scientific discovery in the real-world products that will make a difference in people's lives. advancing regulatory science has been a huge priority, not just within the walls of fda, but as an active, dynamic field of scientific research, we are continually working to find new and better ways of doing things. to seize the opportunities of existing science and technology, and to work with industry and our scientific partners in academia and government in a collaborative way to discover and apply new regulatory tools. but what does this really mean? in the food area, using regulatory science, we've taken critical actions that will improve the safety of food americans consume for years to come. importantly, the development of science-based standards to create a food safety system focus on preventing foodborne illness has been key, thanks to the passage of the food safety
modernization act as well as new tools to help us in the detection and rapid response to outbreaks, as i mentioned earlier. we've taken significant steps to make americans make more informed and helpful food choices, including working to reduce trans fats in processed foods, more clearly defining when baked goods and other foods can be labeled gluten-free updating nutrition labels based on current science, and finalizing the rules to make calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines. some of you may be asking where is the science there? believe me, and my deputy for foods knows, these areas are based on sound and current nutrition science, and involve some very complicated analyses. turning now to the medical product domain, we are pursuing such things as enhancing the use of pharmaceuticals and qualified
-- formosa genomics and qualified -- paharmaceugenomics and qualified biomarkers developing innovative critical trial designs which enable clinical studies to be more effective. and to effectively mine large databases to learn more about the issues. as well as such things as how can we identify populations of responders to a given treatment based on certain indicators. these efforts matter in our ability to swiftly and shortly -- and surely review product applications that come before us. they are also essential for reducing the time and cost and increasing the likelihood of success in the product development process itself. in the ecosystem for biomedical product development, fda plays a critical role. because we more fully understand what it takes to translate a good idea into a product with demonstrated safety, efficacy, and quality.
and a product that can be scaled up and reliably manufactured. simply waiting until we see what comes through our doors cannot be the going model. fda is uniquely situated to examine important unmet medical and public health needs, and how they match up with what's actually in the development pipeline. indeed, a growing part of our focus in recent years has been to try and identify what is in the development pipeline provide guidance and incentives to address gaps and to accelerate progress, and to foster the kind of innovation that will make a real difference for patients. also, we've seen how early in continuing engagement between the fda and researchers in the product development plan makes a huge difference in streamlining the process and making sure that the right questions get asked and answered from the very beginning. as you may know, we have now in
place a number of expedited review programs that help to speed the development and availability of medical products that treat serious diseases. for prescription drugs, we have fast-track, priority review, accelerated approval, and now thanks to recent legislation, we have the breakthrough therapy designation. we are seeing both development and review times increased -- decreased significantly with exciting new therapies entering the marketplace much sooner for the patients who need them. last year, we approved the most new drugs in almost 20 years. and more orphan drugs than ever before. 41% of these new drugs were first in class products, resulting in a breathtaking array of truly innovative new therapies for patients, and the majority of these new drugs were approved using some kind of expedited pathway. today, contrary to what many would say, fda approved drugs
faster on average than all other advanced nations, and the vast majority of the time, the u.s. is the first country in the world to approve important and novel medicines. and substantial improvements are being made in the efficiency of medical devices used as well. -- device reviews as well. moreover, we have accomplished this while remaining the world's gold standard for safety and effectiveness. yet we all recognize that despite the successes, too many diseases still await treatments and cures. serious public health needs, such as treatments for alzheimer disease are not being met. in response, people suggest that fda's authority and procedures be fundamentally reconsidered. i strongly disagree. in actuality, regulation, when done right, is not a roadblock.
it's the actual pathway to achieve meaningful and lasting innovation. smart, science-based regulation instills consumer confidence in products and treatments, it levels the playing field for businesses. it decreases the threat of litigation. it prevents recalls that threaten industry reputation and consumer trust. not to mention levying huge preventable costs on individual companies and in fact, entire industries. and it spurs industry to excellence. the fact is, when done right smart regulation allows us to deliver on the promise of science in the service of patients, consumers, and yes even industry. it is foolish and dangerous to believe that reducing regulatory standards will make new treatment intervention appear if the science is not there. alzheimer's disease is a good example. i've heard comments that
something must be wrong at fda because we are not approving as many drugs for alzheimer's disease as we are as cancer. and we certainly are not doing it as quickly. the reality is not the problem of unnecessary hurdles, but rather for the need of medical research to increase our understanding of the underlying disease process, and natural history of the disease, and where are the best targets for therapeutic development. we are working closely with the alzheimer's research community and the patient groups to do everything we can. i hope that in fact we will see meaningful progress soon. of course, there are sometimes tensions between moving new, potentially promising products quickly out into the marketplace and making sure that they have been adequately studied. as fda commissioner, i have been
surprised by how many people ask whether i favor safety or innovation. in fact, at my confirmation hearing, now quite a while back, i was really, i guess a bit of an unknown commodity to both the consumer and patient groups, and industry. they were trying to figure out what perspective i would bring to this new position. i was surprised to learn that someone supposedly went through and counted how many times during the course of the hearing i said safety and how many times i said innovation. this was supposed to be a measure of whether i was going to be consumer friendly, or industry friendly. i'm told it was actually about equal. i never went back to actually check. i certainly don't believe that the two are mutually exclusive. why should we have to choose protecting the public health while encouraging, not discouraging, innovation must be the goal? for us at fda, it is.
innovation is only meaningful as -- difference, a positive difference in the lives of patients and consumers. that's why we must have standards and science to assess the benefit and risks. when it comes to the treatment of disease, we must understand the broader context of use, the nature of that specific disease or condition, the other treatment options, and such things. we must also better understand the patient's experience of the disease and its treatment, their perception of the risks and benefits, and of course, their willingness to accept risk. the balancing of risks and benefits is absolutely fundamental to the fda's role. it's always a challenge. we joke at the fda that we have only two approval speeds, too fast and too slow. we are perceived to approve -- we are perceived as too quick to approve a drug or device when a significant safety is identified once the product is in widespread use.
on the other hand, we are too slow when a drug that has undergone a lengthy development and review is finally approved and provide the real therapeutic benefits. it's a hard task, but the challenge for fda scientists is to strike the right regulatory balance. i also want to speak briefly about the importance of striking the right balance between fact access and good science. in a race for the newest treatment, we must remember that innovation doesn't matter if the product doesn't work. i can't emphasize enough the critical need to maintain the standards of safety and effectiveness for medical products in this country. it wasn't that long ago that companies were allowed to market drugs without proving that they were effective. we've only got to look back at that time to see the devastating
consequences for patients and for medicine. drugs were marketed for thousands of unproven uses. most of them unsupported by adequate research. in the mid-1950's, congress gave fda authority to require evidence of effectiveness, i 80% -- almost 80% of the drug uses the companies were promoting turned out to be ineffective. many of them were also dangerous, for example, before companies had to show that their drugs worked, drug companies widely promoted powerful toxic antipsychotics like thorazine for low-level anxiety. and there was little or no incentive to conduct those research is necessary to find out what were true medical advances. most promotion was based on unscientific studies, or no studies at all. it's important, i think, to understand that fda strongly
supports responsible communication of scientific information. but we do not support an approach that will harm patients or undercut the incentives for the necessary studies to be done to prove that a specific use of a drug product is both safe and effective. history has shown that patients have been harmed from physician reliance on preliminary or incomplete scientific information regarding unproven uses. history has also shown the enormous patient benefits that results when i sponsor conducts rigorous clinical studies and demonstrates that a promising medical products is in fact safe and effective in treating a serious disease or condition. fda's objectives, to strike the right balance between respecting the usefulness of communicating scientific data in certain circumstances on the one hand, and preventing harm to the public on the other. we must not forget that the great leaps forward with
evidence-based methods after a series of disasters involving unsafe and ineffective medical products. those standards have boosted the confidence that americans place in medical products, the world places on the american medical byproduct industry. we must move forward, not backward as a nation. and embrace the opportunities of cutting-edge medical advances and the promises they hold for public health. i want to talk about one other important issue, it's been a priority, globalization. when fda was first established our regulated industries were predominantly local and the volume of imported products was very low. today, however, other nations increasingly produce in whole or