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tv   David Petraeus Remarks at Washington Ideas Forum  CSPAN  September 29, 2017 10:26am-10:45am EDT

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the role of the leader is to get folks to find common ground and not find every issue and re-and ours your base -- reinforce your base. we do best when we build policy from the center rather than driving it from the extremes. mr. clemons: 80's and gentlemen, senator mark warner -- ladies and gentlemen, senator mark warner. [applause] >> thank you so much, everyone. thank you, general. trias --rias -- the raeus: i want to start with an issue that is a domestic issue that i wonder what you this of it -- which is debate going on largely led by president trump about players who protest during the national anthem. i ask you because obviously you have decades of military service
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and you are somebody who has -- was attacking you, you were somebody who has felt the slings and arrows of the first amendment. what is your take? gen. petraeus: what i said back then went summit he asked me how did you feel when you open up the new york times because i read newspapers in those days and i was getting ready for what was going to be a very pressure and i remember remember opening it up and i thought about it for a while and my response to the press was i feel very privileged to have spent, at that time i don't know, 30-plus years serving in the military to defend the rights, the freedoms we hold so dear, including freedom of expression which includes being able to buy a full page ad that attacks me
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personally and not just the policy. if you translate this into this situation, i feel the same way. i am just kind of disappointed that now we have politicized mike hayden wrote in a wonderful op-ed the other day, it was the only two hours as a cia director he would go to the games and lose himself. at the end of the game for the spectators, it is a game. i get that it is a tough press that profession, but it brought people together and now we are seeing actions that are dividing them. in that sense, i am disappointed and i hope we can turn the volume in the heat down and let's get back to enjoying football and people not having to make political statements at the beginning of the games. [applause] mr. tapper: the north korean crisis is obviously foremost on the minds of the u.s. military right now. to a lot of our friends in europe and other parts of the
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asld, they see this crisis two erratic unstable world leaders, kim jong-un and president trump squaring off against each other and they are afraid of how it is going to end . is that a fair way to look at this crisis and what do you think of president trump matching, in some cases, the rhetoric we have come to be used to from north korea? a couple items here. it to put this in context and to be fair to this administration, i think you have to it knowledge they are facing a reality no other president has faced previously and that is that this individual, kim jong-un, impulsive at the very least -- i don't think suicidal, and that is an important assessment at the end of the day, but clearly given to extraordinary measures if you remember how his half
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brother was killed with nerve agent to the face at an airport and the maniacal way in which he executed his uncle who was his mentor and was getting too much power. will have the capability to hold at risk a u.s. city at least on the west coast, if not further in with the intercontinental ballistic weapons he is developing and nuclear devices, noting that the one that exploded a couple weeks ago was at least 12 times the size of the bomb that was dropped to end worldnet -- world hiroshima. i think the administration's ought to get not just his -- administration sought to not just get his attention -- i don't think anyone is under the illusion he will stop what he is doing -- i think it is more about getting china's attention and making china realize this is a strategically important of
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element to us and you have got to help us stop this where it is at the very least get to some negotiations and see where we can take it in the future. do you think president trump's rhetoric has been getting president xi's attention more so? gen. petraeus: absolutely. everybody knows they are very ugly to describe them. to theximity of seoul demilitarized zone is much less than it was, almost a 25 million person megalopolis that pushed closer and closer north to the dmz over the recent decades and the thousands of conventional -- this is without nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, just the shear number of artillery rockets and missiles would be devastating in terms of
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losses in the korean population. now we are looking at this kind of range that could actually again hit the u.s. city. this is about china, which controls the umbilical cord that literally keeps the lights on in pyongyang and reducing that and implementing sanctions at the un security council has approved, which are substantial if implemented. china also should keep in mind the strategic implications of this if this is not stopped where it is. when does south korea ask for its own nuclear weapons question mark either the return of hours or its own nuclear program -- nuclear weapons? or itsthe return of ours own nuclear programs. what about the additional defensive measures. china doesn't like the terminal high altitude defense system going into south korea, the newly elected leader of south
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korea halted that deployment at two of the 6 launchers and now additional ones are going in and there will be much more. and then, what happens again with vietnam? do they need a nuclear program? the proliferation aspect to this and the strategic applications are quite stark. as one who very much wants to see proliferation limited rather than expanded because you never know ultimately some extremist is going to get his hands on -- 30 bombit is just a materials, these are individuals that have shown a willingness to blow themselves up on the battlefield to take us with them and what would cause them to hesitate at all using some weapons of mass destruction or the components of it? mr. tapper: and yet it seems as though at least based on china's government documents that they are not limiting trade with north korea to the degree that would change the behavior of kim jong-un and his regime. gen. petraeus: that just came
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out. we have seen the trade numbers for august were the largest since december. not the direction we were hoping to go. we don't know yet. this will play out over months. there will be a lot of intense diplomacy behind the scenes. we do need a strategic dialogue with china about this to understand their redline that you cannot have a hostile power in pyongyang, no reunification of the korean peninsula, no millions of refugees going across the river into china, but they got to understand our red lines and see if then together we cannot figure out a way to get him to halt where he is now and see if we can move forward on -- in a more constructive manner. mr. tapper: president trump took to twitter a few years at -- a few days ago and he tweeted something that related rhetorically to the north koreans that he had declared war
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on north korea. are you ever or -- i know you have great faith in the generals around president trump, mcmaster, kelly, and mattis, but are you concerned president trump may say or tweet something that could seriously escalate this crisis? gen. petraeus: first of all, by the way, i am very comfortable with the generals in the positions. i don't think as a general proposition that is always great -- these generals are really extraordinary. i served with all of them on the battlefield multiple times. john kelly was a division commander during the surge in the marines. h.r. mcmaster with us in the surge and in afghanistan the same with his deputy, a brilliant road scholar, top of his class at west point, two star in the reserves. these are really good people and obviously jim mattis and others. national security team, arguably as good as any in recent minimum -- memory if not
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ever. i think the policy process and the policy outcomes generally are quite rational. there is something to the so-called -- it's actually called the madman logic, if you will. before you get into a crisis, it's not all that bad if the other side thinks you are a little bit edgy. nixon had kissinger go tell the soviets nixon is under a lot of pressure, he had a drink after dinner -- be careful, walk on eggshells around this guy and they sort of did, you avoid getting into a crisis. the problem is, if you do get into a crisis, you don't want to die thinking you have taken the slack out of the trigger otherwise and do something that might be irrational because they may do it to you first to rate a that's where my concern is. the rhetoric has to be modulated and certainly some of the statements are not ones that i
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necessarily would have advised. mr. tapper: i want to ask you about -- [applause] gen. petraeus: great potential as a diplomat. mr. tapper: it was lovely how he said that, wasn't it? we have our own ways of saying it, i suppose. i want to ask you about the president's latest iteration of the travel ban, which is quite different from how it was an unseated on the campaign trail and how it was introduced such illustrated on the campaign trail and how it was introduced such as it was a few months ago. gen. petraeus: the distinguishing feature of these countries is we do not have the confidence in them with either the way they issue passports or biometric data or whatever it may be and so, as has been announced, this list could grow come it could contract depending
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on how countries do in their responsibilities. i think there is a reasonable logic to this. it's not coming that singles out countries cousin of their faith and so -- because of their faith, so we will see how it evolves. i don't think we are taking huge numbers of individuals from a number of these are from countries to begin with. there is some substance to this. mr. tapper: secretary mattis was discussing troop levels in afghanistan. what would you recommend? we have over 10,000 troops in afghanistan right now, i believe, somewhere between 10,000 -- gen. petraeus: it depends on your accounting rules. mr. tapper: right. obviously this is a big decision about what the president should do. has the administration reached out for you -- to you for your advice and what would you do? gen. petraeus: the administration has done what i
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have been calling for publicly. achieve ao sustainable sustained commitment. let's back up. we went to afghanistan for a reason and stayed for a reason. this is where the 9/11 attacks were planned when the taliban ofed the boko -- the bulk the country. we went into ensure that shank sanctuary was removed and cannot be reestablished. our objectives were to get to afghan security forces being able to secure the country to a aod enough fashion to ensure sanctuary like that could not be reestablished and help afghan institutions get to a point where they can cover afghanistan in an afghan way to a good enough standard as well and that will take time. this is a very challenging country and the distinguishing feature here is that we cannot get to the leaders of the
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insurgent groups and that is why i told congress as a central command commander and in my confirmation hearing to be the afghan -- commander to afghanistan that we would not be able to flip afghanistan the way we flipped iraq during the surge . we could not guarantee how long it would take, but we felt if we changed the strategy in the way we did and the surgeon that mattered were -- the most was the surge of ideas, live with the people and take back -- handed back control. an incentive to support the new iraq rather than oppose it. that is what made the difference and drove violence down 80%. weer had any sense that would be able to achieve something like that in afghanistan. a very different situation. the afghan taliban is south of andcountry down in pakistan the taliban andy islamic
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movement -- and the islamic movements are in the heart of darkness. we want to be sure we keep them out of that sanctuary in afghanistan. we now have a policy i believe is sustainable in terms of blood and treasure and i support what the president directed be done and it will enable a sustained commitment. we are engaged in a generational struggle and we need to admit that. this is not the fight of a decade much lest a few years. in a number of other countries in north africa, the middle east, and central asia. anywhere there are ungoverned spaces, extremists will exploit them. las vegas rules do not apply there, what happens there does not stay there. we have to delete it. now we are doing it in a way where we are enabling others to do the fighting. we are advising, assisting, enabling, but not doing the
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fighting on the front lines and that matters because that has to be sustainable and that is what we are starting to achieve. mr. tapper: when you talk about this as a generational struggle? i know you don't mean one generation. do you think the american people and congress need to wrap their heads around the fact that in the same way the u.s. put troops in germany and korea for a generations long struggle against the soviet union and communist china, etc., that is the same way we need to think about the struggle against extremist islamic -- gen. petraeus: those were not hot wars, these are. i see no alternative to us being engaged, advising, assisting, and enabling with the assets we broke out over the -- built up over the course of these wars. we should have a coalition -- the coalition should include muslim countries. this is more of a clash within
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civilization, a fight for the heart of the islamic world of than it is a clash of civilizations as sam hunting talked about. a far more muslims have been killed by islamic extremists than those of other faiths. this will be summing that will during and we need to understand that. that's why sustainability and sustaining elements -- mr. tapper: you can see i am bursting, but i only have a few more minutes. gen. petraeus: rapidfire round. mr. tapper: as the former director of the cia, what crosses your mind when you here about russian interference in the election and the way they exploited our own freedom to influence the election? gen. petraeus: very, very concerning and we still do not know all of it. and are exploring what russia did with facebook to plant ads
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that were divisive. all of this is intended to divide our country rather than -- normal northern democratic processes to work, which can be partisan as it is. it is very, very concerning. there has always been this activity that has gone on and far be it we probably have engaged in that over the years as well although nowhere remotely near what they are doing, not in recent decades. this gets at the very heart of the freedoms, the blessings, the system that we hold so dear and they are trying to take down that system. they see it as a threat to them, and enormous threat and they employed a very innovative and diabolically clever and really quite terrible activities to try to tear down


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