tv Washington Journal James Dobbins Discusses U.S. Foreign Policy Challenges CSPAN July 3, 2017 2:48am-3:23am EDT
sociologist and author william julius wilson. >> every citizen does not fully understand the complex forces that have increased their economic woes. economic insecurities create conditions that are breeding grounds for racial and ethnic tension. >> this week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. >> now a look at the life of a career u.s. diplomat. from austin journal, this is over 30 minutes. -- from washington journal, this is over 30 minutes. the book is titled "foreign service: five decades on the frontlines of american diplomacy." our guest is james dobbins. why did you write the book? guest: for several reasons. important foras people to understand what
american diplomats do and how american foreign policy is and to have some insight at a personal level to what has occurred through presidencies and 13 secretaries of state. the most i ask who was effective and least effective secretary of state? guest: some of it is just opportunity. jim baker was the most consequential secretary of state because he took office at a time of historic change and molded and channeled that change in very benign directions. other secretaries of state have operated under much more difficult circumstances, in the depths of the cold war where there was difficulty to get things done. there were some secretaries of state who found themselves
outmaneuvered politically. host: let me share a couple of excerpts with our audience. james dobbins will be with us for the next 30 minutes. "obama was the most intellectual and probably the smartest but also the most controlling." guest: obviously, that is a caricature and slight exaggeration. but if you think about the way went to war with iraq, we now know there was never an discussion within the bush
administration on whether we should go to war with iraq. , colin powell, george tenet all say there was no point at which the president asked them directly, should we do this? there was clearly a march toward an objective never formally debated in a concerted, structured way. in the obama administration, you had the opposite. and lessn list -- policiesd debates over enacted on slowly, deliberately, or not at all. i think there was a real contrast. i would say bush changed in his second term. surge look at the decision in iraq which occurred in bush's second term, he went through a structured process on
whether to add forces in iraq. he consulted with his principal advisors. overrule aecision to number of his subordinates, that he had listened to them first. i was really characterizing the first time bush and decisions to go into a rock when i made that statement. the wrote --e -- you wrote president nixon gave his secretary of state more scope that obama. guest: i think that is true. obama participated in national security meetings. he sat around the table. when he went around the table, everybody had a chance to say what they thought on controversial policies. but when he indicated the lines of his thought, it became more difficult for his advisors to challenge him.
i noticed the debate would be spirited at the beginning and kind of die out when the president indicated the line of thought. i thought it was better the way it was done in the clinton administration where meetings were conducted at the principal level and chaired by the national security adviser. the discussion was more free-flowing. if there was a consensus that emerged, that was reported to the president. talk to the individuals to see where the differences were and ultimately made the decision. but he did not act in a way that constrained the debate. host: when did you start your career in the foreign service? guest: i started my career in government service in the navy 1963 and inree -- the foreign service in 1967. host: he wrote about nixon in you wrotehouse --
about nixon in the white house, the following. guest: i think that is true. i think there was a shock partly because henry kissinger continued to dominate american policies through the nixon and into the ford administration. i think the shock was minimized in the foreign policy field. it was only five or six years later, after watergate, after the loss of vietnam, that ronald reagan came in and it was morning in america again. host: with regard to the soviet union, you spent a lot of time focusing on russia and the former soviet union.
host: can you explain? guest: we did go through periods in which the administration came under criticism for being too liberal with the soviet union. and in the administration was more hard lined, talk about the evil empire, and came under criticism for being too harsh and confrontational. ,hile there was a strong debate they were not polarized along party lines. there were lots of hawks in the democratic party. people like the senator from e verygton, who wer
critical of the republican administration for being too soft on the soviet union. and there were plenty of doves in the republican party critical of reagan and others who were too harsh. while there was a hawk/dub division in the congress and country, it was not republican/ democratic division. the fact it was not polarized along party lines meant consensus was easier to achieve. host: line was madeleine albright your favorite secretary to work with? guest: i admired the way she operated, the first woman as secretary estate. a woman almost entirely in a man's world. all of her cabinet colleagues were men. all of her colleagues internationally, all of the other foreign ministers were men. i thought she did not try to act like a man. she tried to use her femininity
in a way that enhance her effectiveness. she always had a beautiful brooch on that was topical and matched the occasion she was at. she managed to turn her colleagues, particularly her international colleagues, effectively into suiters. i admired the way she did that. i also admired her determination to make the world a better place. she did that through eight years at the united nations and as secretary of state. host: i want to ask about the current secretary of state in a moment. let's bring in our viewers and listeners. he guest is james dobbins, served under 10 administrations and 13 secretaries of state. let's go to john on the independents line. turn the volume down. go ahead, please. caller: hold on.
hello? can you hear me now? host: please go ahead. caller: thank you for taking my call. i have been trying to get through for three months. of watch this every morning. over 65.ld man, what i am trying to say is president trump, everybody needs to leave him alone, give him time. there has not been another president that has ever paid his own way to become president. and then don't want to take his pay. host: what would you say to john on the truck policy and foreign -- trump policy? reasonableink it is
to scrutinize the decisions and actions as they are taken. i think the media has done that in the case of president trump. that he still has a long time to evolve. new presidentss and new administrations tend to make early mistakes and the longer they are in office, the better they become. we will see if that is the case with this president. host: in reading the book, you seem to marvel at the diplomatic and political skills of henry kissinger. guest: i think i do. i also make pretty clear kissinger was a difficult boss, not an entirely pleasant person, somebody who flew into rages with subordinates, and whose policy judgment sometimes had to be tempered by people who were a little more thoughtful and cautious. he wasre was no doubt
and remains a fascinating character with an ability to articulate foreign policy in interesting and thoughtful ways that is almost unmatched. host: you wrote the following. host: can you elaborate? guest: kissinger thought concessions in one area could yield soviet better behavior in other areas. in particular, settling some of the long-standing differences over central europe, which was the major flashpoint in the cold war, the one area that could have brought the u.s. and soviet
union into a nuclear conflict that would have destroyed both societies. it would eventually also inerate soviet behavior other places where the u.s. and soviet union were engaged in proxy conflicts. those workplaces that were never going to -- those were places that were never going to rise to the level of a superpower confrontation, but they were very disruptive of the societies involved. my judgment was to talk -- détente worked only in the fundamental issues of arms control and peace in europe and it was worthwhile for that reason alone. if it had been sold for that reason alone, it would not have come under such attack. because the soviet union did not in thee its behavior third area, it allowed opponents to argue the soviet union was
not living up to its bargains. host: from kennedy through obama, the presidents you worked under, who do you think was best suited for national security and foreign policy and why? guest: the older bush was the best prepared of the 20th century presidents. he had an unmatched resume. he had been ambassador to china, head of the c.i.a., ambassador vicee human -- u.n., president for eight years, and a war hero from world war ii. nobody else came into office with that kind of resume. he came in during a very historic time. he built a cohesive team. dick cheney was secretary of defense. they worked closely together and affected the unification of germany and the collapse of the soviet union, the liberation of eastern europe, they did it all peacefully.
it was really a tour de force. host: let's go to oklahoma on the independents line. toler: nancy reagan used make me mad when she called you a wimp. she was pretty tough. , i point that gets me today don't believe think democrat and republican means anything anymore. that is why i am an independent. it is like oklahoma. i have business here with my uncle and come here occasionally. they are closing schools. this is run by republicans. trump very well. what i say about mr. trump is this. when things get, he is gone.
i remember when the casinos opened, he made a few bucks and got in and got out. you will be praising me, money will be coming in, doing all this stuff. this is what we have to watch. i do not want democrat or republican to have the kind of power he searches for. he wants total control. watch him and his history. host: thanks for the call. what is your response? guest: i think politics is more polarized today. all of the polling and anecdotal information suggests democratic and republican voters are farther apart on most issues than they have been at any point in our history. i think this reflects the difficulties with the public debate these days. has been a president source of some of his own problems.
clearly, he is touch year and more concerned about his image than past presidents and more quick to leap to his self-defense at times when a greater degree of reserve might have served him better. audience, we radio are talking with james dobbins. his book is called "foreign service: five decades on the frontlines of american diplomacy." steve is joining us from michigan on the line for democrats. good morning. caller: i am a regular viewer. mr. dobbins is one of the more interesting guests you have had recently. i have read george kennan's memoirs and look forward to reading mr. dobbins' book. donald trump ran on issues with foreign leaders, the wall in mexico, and china's currency manipulation and trade problems.
each time when he met them face to face, he would not bring them up. i wonder what will be mr. dobbins' attitude when he meets week,resident putin next if he does not do bring up the issue of hacking. establish the president is kind of -- guest: i don't think anybody would suggest trump does not have a certain degree of courage and willingness to confront people. his own degree of restraint and a policy meeting with foreign leaders even after having made badly contribution to let controversial -- controversial statements. n, i would say he would be best served if he brings up the issue of russian interference in the election and
the use of hacking and other forms of interference in america and other democratic processes. there is business that can be done with russia. i think congress and much of the country do not trust the president on issues of russia because he has not been willing to confront this central point, that the russians interfered in our election and the russians are interfering in european elections all the time and need to be confronted and dissuaded from this kind of behavior. i think until the president confronts that issue and presses it with the russians, he will not be free domestically to pursue the rest of his agenda with moscow. 98-2ote in the congress, on sanctions against russia, that is the first time he sanctions bill precluded the president from any belated or withdrawing this -- manipulating
or withdrawing those concessions -- sanctions. does evidence of congress not have confidence in the president to pursue the agenda with russia consistent with what the congress and many in the country feel is an appropriate priority and the priority backing rush off from this kind of offense -- interference should be at the top of our agenda. host: this is from may of 1989 with first lady barbara bush. guest: that is a picture of my wife and barbara bush. visited and my wife escorted barbara bush around the local school and a few other occasions, meeting with the wife of the chancellor. host: another picture from 1964. guest: i think that is on the deck of an aircraft carrier, if i remember correctly.
i was junior officer on an attack carrier in the pacific. we spent most of our time off vietnam and were in the gulf of tonkin when the incident occurred which sparked american escalation of the war. the two destroyers involved in one of those incidents were under the command of our foreign captain at the time. host: let me ask you about this afghanistan, december 14, 2001. guest: i have been appointed just after 9/11 as the bush administration's special envoy for afghanistan bringing together the various opposition elements and putting together a successful government with the taliban so we would not have to occupy and govern the company -- country. that meeting that occurred in
germany selected the new leader of the afghan government. the picture is of me in the presidential palace in kabul meeting with hamid karzai who had just arrived the day before. host: this on board air force one with president bill clinton? berger and i and a couple of other people are briefing clinton as the plane lands, probably to latin america at the time. chile, visiting brazil, and it was usual before any meeting with a foreign leader that we would give the president a quick review of the papers he already read in case he had more questions. int: we will go to lynn north carolina on the democrats line. caller: good morning.
i would like to say that trump is the one that keeps the new cycle going. he comes out with his big mouth insult and the americans. that keeps the same news cycle going all the time. host: how do you think his team is doing so far? guest: i agree trump certainly is a great boon to the news them, and i suspect all of are in some sense grateful for the amount of attention he garners. i think it is early. i think this administration has been more disruptive than any other in my experience. i think they came into office intending to be disruptive. many in their base of support want them to be disruptive. i think they are succeeding in that regard and many others are
concerned about the degree of disruption. host: we will go to jeff in nebraska. caller: i had the opportunity, i was a radio operator on marine .ne it was interesting the back and forth between james baker and schoolcraft because they were the only two that that interacted with the president when they were on board. especially james baker, when he spoke, nobody else spoke. madeleine albright, do you think she was more of the worst actors with north korea and maybe that is why we are at today? ,ne other thing, sandy berger did he or did he not take the papers out of the national archive? do you have any idea about that?
thank you on the republican line. guest: berger, i think he pleaded guilty. i cannot quite remember the incident where he was preparing to give some testimony and took papers relevant to the testimony. i don't have any reason to think he did not do that. i admired him. i thought he was in a competent national security advisor. intense, strong. andon well with albright the republican who was the secretary of defense under clinton, forged a strong team. particularly during the impeachment crisis with the president and most of the white house were focused on domestic affairs, he kept us on a steady course on the international side.
i don't think albright can be blamed for our problems with north korea. think successive administrations have failed. and have tried to negotiate confront north korea and rely on sanctions. none of this has worked particularly well. problemsk one of the is successive administrations do not follow a consistent pattern. do not know anybody has a good solution for dealing with north korea. host: we should point out sandy berger passed away two years ago. guest: i was sad about that. host: let's go to tennessee on the independent line. caller: i have a question for you. you have been under a lot of presidents. i want to know how the presidents you have ever heard stood in front of the country, and by the way, i grew up in the
valley of death. student from of the country and said -- stoned in front of the country -- stood in front of the country and said a communists president was a great president. host: your response? guest: i agree that comment was unusual. i believe it is true that both reagan and george h.w. bush , buted mikael gorbachev gorbachev was a very different soviet leader than president putin as a russian leader, one dedicated to reforms, democratizing the soviet union, removing forces of soviet foreign policy. i believe the praise for gorbachev was fully deserved. i think today any praise for
putin is probably not deserved. host: in researching this book, what did you learn about yourself? guest: that is a good question. i learned i had a pretty good memory, although i did have to rely on wikipedia and google to make sure i got my anecdotes in the right order. you remember things but you don't maneuver quite what year it was. -- don't remember quite what year it was. lanes a trip down memory and it was satisfying to dredge up these anecdotes and stories and conclusions. certainly, looking back, felt it was five decades well spent. host: a quick call from james from denton, texas. you get the last word with james dobbins. good morning. caller: good morning.
mr. dobbins, i think you are correct america was looking for a disruptor. much of the last cycle that wees -- several decades, have been on a steady course of both parties taking us in a direction where some of our big problems are getting bigger. i will give you an example. health care costs and entitlements are growing. i want to know. do you feel it is a sustainable course with our entitlements? mp or anyink tru other individual is likely to bring a serious debate to correct that? how serious do you think that problem is? host: james, thanks for the call from denton, texas. it is a serious question because we have a $20 trillion debt. debatewe have a national
in the country which is polarized between those who do not want to raise taxes and those who do not want to reduce entitlements. and clearly, this is unsustainable. the solution is a compromise in which some taxes are raised and some entitlements are reduced. the problem is we have an aging and a population that will become more dependent on forms ofre and other safety net as they age and leave the workforce. therefore, entitlements are negatively going to grow to some degree as the result of this aging. the only solution to the aging population is to continue immigration so you bring in more young workers and don't have a population in which the ratio between the working age and nonworking age grows to the point it is unsustainable.
therefore, there are compromises required between those that do not want to raise taxes and those who do not want to reduce entitlements. there are compromises involved in restructuring our immigration policies. and one does not see much progress in terms of the debates taken in congress over the last year or last eight or nine years toward compromise on these basic issues. it is still polarized debate. people are in one corner or the other and not prepared to come out in the middle of the ring and fight this to a conclusion. host: "five decades on the frontlines of american diplomacy." ambassador james dobbins. the title of the book, "foreign service." you can follow him on twitter. he serves as the chair >> c-span's "washington journal"
live every day. the economic policy institute discusses the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage. reports on the lack of security personnel in federal maximum-security prisons. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern. join the discussion. this holiday weekend, monday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, the 1977 documentary about soldiers of the all-black regiment known as the harlem health fighters. error canteens, our rifles,
our army belts, and our helmets. french helmets, french rifles, french ammunition, french canteens. french wine. a pulitzer prize-winning historian talks about how the founders, particularly john adams, valued education, viewed slavery, and persevered in the face of hardship, and how these ideal shaped american society. >> he grew up on a farm while they had -- he grew up on a farm where they had no money. the bible was the only book in the house. they worked hard every day from childhood on. because he got a scholarship to
this little collagen cambridge called harvard and discovered heks and read forever, helped change the world. >> for our complete schedule, go to c-span.org. announcer: president trump spoke saturday night and an event honoring veterans. the celebrate freedom rally was hosted by first baptist dallas church and salman rushdie. this is about 40 minutes. in the book of: psalms, blessed is the nation whose god is the lord. anis absolutely indisputable fact that our nation was founded on a love for god and a reverence for his word, and because of that, we have