tv Charlie Rose PBS March 15, 2016 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
welcome too the bram, in a remarkable series of into interviews, jeffrey goldberg talked to president obama about his foreign policy and his world view. in 20,000 words he lays out the obama doctrine and we talk to jeffrey goldberg about it. >> there is a caricature of him that he doesn't believe that america is the indispensable nation, he believes that, he learned ate dozen times, from ebola to you name it, anything. but what he is, is a person who is very, very careful about parsing out american intervention in the form of troops, certainly in the form of money, in the form of leadership, in areas where he thinks you can't win. >> rose: also today, president putin of russia announced that russian troops would be leaving sir i can't, we talk of that decision with philip gordon, stephen lee myers and julian smith. >> we will see some of the 30
combat aircraft that he has got on the ground slowly going back to russia, but russia is not leaving syria militarily, certainly not diplomatically, it is going to be engaged, it will be on the sidelines, ready to pounce, to quote save the day, if it feels it needs to do that, we have seen that play before. so thi this isn't the end. >> rose: obama, putin, syria and more. when we continue. funding for charlie rose is provided by the following. and by bloomberg, a prior of multimedia news and information services worldwide. from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose.
>> jeffrey goldberg is here, he is a national correspondent for the atlantic and win ore the national magazine award for reporting. his new cover article is called the obama doctrine, it draws on a series of extensive conversations with the president and others about his hardest foreign policy decision, and the think iing behind them, the atlantic's editor calls it a portrait of a presidential mind at work. i am pleased to have jeffrey goldberg back at this table. first of all, congratulations. >> thank you. >> rose: extraordinary look at a presidential mind. and see how a man has grown as he experienced more of the whole world of foreign policy. >> right. >> rose: did you find him different? >> yes. yes. i think -- i mean, i have been interacting with him from time to time for the last, i guess eight or ten years, even when he was in the senate, and i think, yeah, this president at the end of his presidency has a more
tragic view of certain issues than he did at the beginning, the arab world, most particularly, the middle east. >> rose: and the limitations of american power there? >> he was always sensitive to the limitations of american power. he is entrip. president and following george president george who you could argue was over extend sod he was always in the category of people who were thinking of limitations, but i would with say that he was - dah when it comes to certain issues and certain problems he is not hope and change, right? he is moving to a more fatalistic pose, which is interesting and ironic because only in the last couple of years has he really begun to accumulate international achievement, with the actual building. >> rose: iran nuclear build at the top of the list. >> nuclear deal, burma, there is a lot of stuff there. and if so what is interesting is that has been sort of a core
observation, which is that the fatalism is there, but also the willingness to go to places where you think you can do something and do it. >> rose: i think also you could argue that he now feels like he could express his mind because he is not running for reelection. >> he is not running. >> rose: freedom about that. >> he is on the flightpath and things that frustrated him for years, i mean, from 15 years, you know, for instance, the u.s. relations with saudi arabia which he questioned to some degree, she sligh slightly moree now to sort of argue against certain assumptions we make in foreign policy. >> rose: how you sum it up, is you suggested, as you suggested earlier, syria by history seems to be bending toward greater chaos challenges the greatest challenge to his world view, he was a bluffer and remembered harshly for the things he did in the middle east, obama is gambling he will be judged well with for the things he did not do. >> right. the syria is the cloud, right? syria is the dark cloud that
hangs over this administration, and the differences between the noninterventionist obama and the intervention mist in the foreign policy establishment and the middle east and europe is profound. i mean, he really beliefs and he has reason to believe this, this is not coming out of the air, that one of his primary tasks is to keep america from intervening, from following its impulses and intervening in middle eastern civil war that can't be won. and he believes, i think, that ten, 20 years from now, we will all look back and say, wow, thank god barack obama was there to stand up, thwart, you know, history and say, we are not going. >> rose: this time we are not going to do it. >> this time it is not our -- and there are two other quick observations about that. the first is that he doesn't believe that the middle east is important as it used to be for the united states. the obviously reason is energy independence, right? and the second thing even if it
were important i think he is fatalistic enough, he would say realistic enough, but fatalistic enough, even if it were important we don't have the ability to shape history. >> rose: but that's the limit of power, isn't it? >> that's not only the limits 0 -- that is learning lessons from iraq and that is learning lessons from liberty, i can't and saying just because we want an arab country to be organized a certain way means it will be. >> rose: so you are saying it is his analysis and understanding of that world, not any understanding of america? >> i think it is also an understanding of america. he watched -- i don't think he believes that bush lied us into war out of some malevolent impulse, i think he believes america is not capable andvehe , doesn't have the knowledge to reshape middle eastern societies so therefore the best thing to do when you have this multitiered crazy kind of civil war you have in syria that you had in iraq, is to -- let me stay a little bit away from it
so the gamble is that that decision won't come back to white us. >> ten or 15 years -- >> rose: he also understands and believes that american leadership is essential. he does. >> and here is one of the many contradictions of the barack obama presidency. he -- there is a caricature of him he no longer, doesn't believe america is the indispensable nation, he believes that, he has learned ate dozen times from ebola, to you name it, anything, he believes we are indispensable but what he is is a person who is very, very careful about parceling out american intervention in the form of troops, certainly in the form of money, in the form of leadership, in areas where he thinks you can't win, i mean, he is very political in that sense, he looks at a situation and says, not a lot of upside, so i am going to try to contain it, put it in a box, and then do these other things, he is very, very cognizant also of bandwidth, and the president only has a certain amount of time and a certain amount of
focus that he can use and you can get consumed by the middle east if you are not careful. >> rose: does he regret he has in part become kohn assumed by the middle east in a sense and within iraq, you know, there is a real american military effort. >> right. >> rose: to overtake and provide more than he probably ever dreamed of. >> right. >> rose: in order to do something about isil, but just one with moment amount -- when you make a focus on the middle east when you get involved in the middle east his argument is too that you miss things that you ought to be doing, whether it is young people and, in africa and latin america and china. >> these are quite profound to me, parts of our conversation is when he said, and this goes to the bandwidth idea, he says, i traveled on his trip, the last trip to asia and, you know, his meeting -- and he point out, you know, and vietnam, america is 80 percent approval rating and he literally said, he talked about liking the parts of the world where they don't want to kill us. >> right. >> so he believes that you can spend all of your time trying to fix the middle east which is not
fixable within the limits of his term or you can focus on asia, which is the future, our economic future, among other things, half the world's people are over there, latin america, africa, all of these other parts of the world that really want american enter invention, not military intervention, although in asia you could argue for that, but they want american help and they want american know allow and they want american leadership, so he gets very frustrated i think, logically, that, you know, i can do this or i can do that and if i get sucked into is syrian civil war that's all he would have done. first, for the second term. >> rose: there is also this, though, in terms of the employment of american power. >> yes. >> rose: which with is not one-dimensional, the military power and all designed of other military -- american power but this the face of military power, king abdullah of jordan, who i think someone he respects maybe i want to use american power more than he does. >> right, right, right, right. >> rose:. >> this is a very common feeling. >> rose: in that region. >> by the way --
>> yeah, i mean this is one of the destabilizing aspects of this period has been, the fact that this president has questioned some of the underlying assumptions. >> rose: right. >> of american relations, and, yes in the middle east he has been under pressure for years from our arab sunni allies to do more, do more in syria, do more in yemen, libya, it has been a constant demand and he has resisted that demand so you have a bunch of frustrated air arab monarchs complaining about the way he deploys and doesn't deploy power. from his perspective, again it goes back to this, i can pay attention to things that ultimately matter to america or i can pay attention to things i have judged to be of less consequence, ultimately to america, can't do everything. >> rose: yes. the critical question is a red line early on. >> right. >> in syria. >> right. >> rose: he still, he still defends that nondecision. >> it is not that he defends it, it is he is proud of it. >> rose: exactly. >> that's one of the interesting moments for me, when we talked
about, because i saw that as a hinge moment, he sees it as a hinge moment in his president. >> rose: and fringe fringe moment in the appraisal of him. >> i think he knows that too, and certainly in the foreign policy establishment and in the common area, and certainly oversees people look at that as a kind of a moment when he flinched and he argues, you know, he argues that it is a proud moment because he didn't follow what he calls the washington playbook, country x does something, america has to do this other thing in response. >> rose: yes, but he was even used not to used the term red line. the problem was not 2013, when we walked up to that line and then didn't do the thing, the problem was with 2012 when he issued that statement and he issued that statement in 2012, that red line because he was upset about the use of chemicals, possible use of chemicals weapons and he wanted to throw a brush back pitch, once he made the red line speech, you know, the dye was cast. >> and in part the russians --
gave him an opportunity to say, look, what happened we have the chemicals weapons out of there, and the question with is, if, in fact, they hadn't gotten the chemicals weapons would he still have been hesitant? and my impression from your piece is, yes. >> yes. but again, you know, we are entering, we are going down the rabbit hole of counter factuals and what he argues or what the people around him argue and i think this argument has a lot of merits, and it has been endorsed by benjamin netanyahu, the israeli prime minister, i went without going to war in syria, i got the chemical weapons out, my predecessor, he wouldn't with frame it this way, but this is the way his supporters do, my predecessor went to war in iraq and there weren't even chemical weapons anymore so, you know, all this criticism of my red line debacle, i ended up creating a situation in which the chemical weapons are out, and so what are people complaining about? that's the way i think he looks at it. >> they are complaining about presidents don't draw red lines and --. it is a credibility issue, all about american credibility and, you know, he has this line that
he has used in private encounters, which i learned of, which i think is very interesting line, he says bombing someone in order to prove that you are willing to bomb someone is not a great reason to two bomb someone, it is like the worst reason, in fact, and there is, that has salience to me. >> talk about personalities to and your assessment. >> sure. >> netanyahu. >> not a fan. but more. >> rose: but more than that he gets exasperated. >> he says look i am an african-american son of a single mother who has been elected twice. >> right. >> rose: this is my home, i live in the white house, you know, and you are not taking account of that. >> you are not taking me seriously. >> rose: yes. >> and think i what happens and this is not just with netanyahu but with other -- it is other middle eastern leaders they come to him for years and basically say you don't understand the middle east, and he actually comes back and says he is very self-confident person obviously and he said actually i do understand, and i understand american interest in the middle east better than you do so, with
netanyahu, it frustrates him more than almost anyone in the world, it was, listen, stop treating me in a condescending way. >> rose: is it intellectual confidence or arrogance? >> , you know, you can't be president without a level, certain level of confidence, this guy makes -- he thinks about decision as lot, probably sometimes people consider it too much deliberation, once he goes, he is gone, you know. he made it. >> rose: okay. i want to come back. there is another instance in which powell is in the room and making an argument again, and he basically says for intervention and he says i have read your book. >> samantha -- i have read your book. >> rose: yes. >> yes. fascinating relationship, i mean you could write a book about the relationship between the realist president and the liberal interventionist samantha power,s to to his credit in a way he keeps samantha power around because she never sons arguing for more action. >> rose: right. >> john kerry -- on human rights
issues, on what to do in syria, but ever so often he kind of says, look, i am going down this pathway, i am the president and you are not. that is essential essentially what he is is saying and people to their credit, john kerry in particular always going in there and making the arguments, i think that's a good thing to have a president who is prone to maybe pull back a little bit and a secretary of state that want to go forward, maybe out of that tension something goodwill come of it. >> didn't he finally say i don't want to see anymore proposals except those coming from the pentagon? >> right that's a way to make sure everybody stays in their lane, and what kerry has been doing over the last year, year and a half is saying it would be a lot easier for me to get and negotiate a deal in syria if woarp mossing around with assad a little more. >> rose: get a deal, in fact it looks like i really did have the presidency here. >> there is also that, my reporting doesn't take me quite
there. i think it is true that obama appreciates charity but appreciates him as an action officer, he is, more than as a source of foreign policy theory or organization of the world theory, kerry will tackle any problem and that is his -- and that is his strength, and so obama appreciates that, but at a certain point, i think people in the administration seem to understand obama at all costs wants to keep america out of the syria conflagration. >> rose: one thing he regrets is liberty. >> i can't he does, he says it didn't work, he says that now, fairly openly which obviously has an impact on the wayath
>> rose: with more power? >> yes. and this is your neighborhood. >> rose: right. and this is your problem and the refugees that will come out of this area are going to you, not to me. but we are the superpower, we are the indispensable power. >> rose: we will wait behind you. >> and the truth is, during the kinetics part of, this during the kinetic phase when bombs are falling it is america doing the heavy lifting and he says that to me in a pretty frank way that, you know, the french
president at the time talked to -- talked a lot but it was america doing the -- >> rose: we shot down all of the air defenses so they could come in. >> and drop your bombs and go home and say you solved the had been i can't problem, but it is our capacity to lift you there that has got you there. >> rose: so what about david cameron? what about -- >> it is an interesting moment, because he told me that, you know, one of his -- pause we were talking about why did had been i can't not work? and he has deep reasons, tribal litsch, fundamentalism in the general disintegration of the arab world but he said, look, he said my allies got distracted, he named david cameron and sarco see so that is like sarkozy, so that is like blaming them for the failure of libya, i don't think he meant to blame them but he got upset at one point. >> rose: he is not a euro romantic. >> oh, no,, no he is not a euro romantic. >> rose: his -- >> he was born in the middle of the pacific.
>> rose: in hawaii. >> he didn't come, he really never came to the main man. >> rose: he never spent time vacationing in italy. >> and no romance, no romance about that relationship, the romance that, if there is romance and this is a very cool eyed character, if there is romance it is about the asia future, you know, and if there is a certain amount of regret -- >> rose: he believes it is inevitable and u.s. has to come to grips to it. >> and lead, and there is opportunity, it is not just -- the middle east is just problems. asia has challenges, north korea, obviously, and the rise of china, but it also has huge opportunities, and remember he came in to fix the economy. >> rose: right. >> so where do we sell stuff? it is there. but you are right, i mean, he is not like the -- he doesn't feel like i am the inherit for of the post world war ii alliance harry truman built he knows europe is a stable important platform for america but no romance. >> rose: and then there is vladimir putin. >> and there is vladimir putin
and i always tried to say, you know, you play this game where it is like rank the -- rank the schanls and he always resisted, he is not going to name the top chance, and the second and third but it became clear in talking to him, he sees china as both, you know, the most important bilateral relationship going forward, the biggest challenge, the biggest possible upside and russia he sees as a declining power. you know, he is not one with to generally take potshot as people but he has overtime referred to russia as a quote regional power. >> rose: yes but -- >> which gets under putin's skin. >> at the same time he describes putin as not a caricature, he describes him, as a person he has real serious conversations with, he is not some bully that is demanding and threatening me. >> and he shows up for times on meetings. >> rose: he is not two hours late as he is for some. >> that was touch of that putin that i sort of spent five or six hours talking to was there, was there that sense of, i want to have a serious conversations
about things. >> right. >> rose: i am sure that is what he is referring to, he can have a serious conversation with putin although he thinks he is having a serious mistake. >> not with a dehiewtion halpern. >> rose: or a bul bull he trying to threaten him. >> to be sure -- >> i think he believes putin's behavior is bullying. >> rose: not so much bullying but believes it is wrong, it is wrong for russia. >> right. and no foreign leader wants to hear the american president tell him what is in his best interests and president obama does that. >> rose: but even more than that, he says at g-20, russian influence is not heavily present when we go to the g-20 meetings. >> this is an important observation of the president to he, i really took this to heart,, you know,, how he learned that america is indispensable no one looks to china and russia to organize multinational gatherings, the g-20 or whatever, it is always america that literal he writes the agenda, so he understands putin's place in the world.
>> rose: so many the end you call him a hobbesian optimist. >> yes, yes into. >> well because he has these traits, he that tragic real him of nabor that evil exists and i can't change the world and eradicate evil, that he associates with neoconservative idealism. and so he has hobbes wrap quality, a hobblessian quality to it is that absent central strong government people revert to tribe and fear, hobbesian. >> ever present at the end of the day. >> but also believe the moral arc of the universe is opening but bending toward people. >> rose: the point of optimism right there the moral arc is bending toward freedom. >> we are in the 21st century -- >> rose: the other interesting thing too for me, is that he believes that, you know, for all of this cool intellectual
confidence, to use your word, that the president .. knows that he may have been wiser, to use a certain emotional sense of connection with the american people. >> yes. particularly on terrorism, yes. particularly on terrorism. and you know what? this is a point that has been made over and over again about him is that he is not good at acting a part he doesn't believe in and he does not believe that terrorism is an existential threat to the united states and he believes that we need more resilience and less panic and the problem, and this came up after paris and san bernadino, the problem is before you confront the fear mongering, you have to actually acknowledge the existence of the fear, and deal with it, and so i think he learned out of that experience that, you know, people are really scared, and so i have got to speak to them about that fear. >> rose:. >> but he worries about terrorism, its ability to sort
of distort the mill process. >> rose: the ongoing question, including in your piece, as to whether he thinks terrorism is put out of context. he thinks that he says more people are killed in car accidents and all of this other stuff. >> right. >> rose: that are skilled by terrorism that we need to have that context and he says no one remembers bin laden anymore. >> well that sat political frustration that he feels, he feels that nobody gives him credit for, being, and i call him this frankly i think he is the greatest terrorist hunt her the american presidency. >> rose: drones and everything else. >> he is using all forms of, a lot of forms of power available to him to kill a lot of terrorists, the left understands that because they are critical of it but the republicans certainly don't, they think of him as virtually a pacifist but out there doing the work he is just not bragging about it a in an emotionally satisfying way. >> rose: there are a couple of kulbida agricultural references you use, including bad batman. >> i thought this was fascinating when i heard about
it. he sees -- so -- so -- in in batman returns, gotham is divided up among the different gangs and they are thuggish issue people but a certain kind of order and the way he explains the rise of isis in the middle east, "size is the joker, isis is the joker, the joker comes in in a scene and disrupts the whole setup, and that is why you have to deal with the joker first. and i thought, it is always kind of a dangerous thing for presidents to use pop culture references but he does like movies and he does like tv shows and he goes to them and i think it is a very apt kind of example, and it actually makes sense, by the way, it goes to his very disillusioned view of the middle east. it is just a bunch of bad people, and then worse people and not so great people, and even our al a lies aren't so great, be through is a kind of an order to it, and enough order that i can ignore it for a
while. isis comes in and changes that. >> rose: a fear of iran and all of our allies in that region have? >> no. i don't think so. i think, again there is a caricature he thinks that persian spring is about to happen and that he is going to go there and have flowers thrown at him by the people of iran? he doesn't believe that. i think he has a proper understanding of the supreme leader and how anti-americannism iis the pillar of iranian ideology and also believes things will change overtime and he thinks that the nuclear deal has bought off a lot of time, and maybe at the end of the nuclear deal, iran will be a different kind of place but wrong he is particularly romantic about intliet sometimes it is better to quote than just to pair trays, here is what you said, history has -- american adversaries have situated themselves only on the wrong one, a mace where tribalism, fund meant litsch, sectarianism and militarism still flourish, what they don't understand is
that .. history is bending in his direction. >> that is my interpretation of how he views the world, he looks at a whole iunch of world leaders and says, they don't understand where things are going. i am leading in the right direction. and, you know, and the problem, of course, is that -- >> they don't understand, i understand. >> right. the problem is that they are not as evolved as he, is right? and by the way -- >> rose: and only if they were as smart as i am? >> it is not that, although i think he probably does look at some of them as intellectual infer yours, it is not that, tonight you understand in the 21st century this kind of -- this kind of thinking, fundamentalism and tribalism and all the remember rest it is not doing anything for your people and by the way there is data to show that that is true, i mean, he is not wrong, he is very american by the way, in that kind of view. but, you know, there are certain leaders in the world who don't buy his argument. >> with you buy his argument or not you come away from this 20,000 words saying this is a
remarkable way that a man has come to see the challenge of being president. in 2016. >> right. >> rose: that's a remarkable sentence. a look inside the mind of someone who has to, in a dramatic and fundamental way, deal with these problems, it is not just to talk about them, he has to deal with them in a consequential way and you have to make bets. >> right. >> rose: -- that you are right. >> and he is cool must have to say, i will make this bet and we will see what happens ten or 15 years down the road. i would say one other thing about that. given that sort of tenor of the way we talk about foreign policy in this current election climate, i mean, it is sort of remarkable, it was remarkable to me to talk to a person who is really trying to reason his way through impossibl impossible dit legal dilemmas he may come out to the 3rong conclusion but really the work is going into it and the maturity and the thinking is going into it. and it is really remarkable as a counterpoint. >> rose: so why you?
>> why me? >> rose: why did you this opportunity, this chance to spend all of this -- someone he respected must have to spend all of these hours with to explain himself? >> to explain himself to you? >> well, i asked. if that helps. but the truth, the truth is is that i interviewed him periodically over the years, and i think that, you know, they think the atlantic, in particular, and. >> rose: jeffrey in particular only? >> no, no, they know that we are going to devote the time, energy, resources and thought to not just doing the kind of bumper -- this is a guy who is allergic to bumper stickers, right? so you can't say a 20,000 world story is a bumper sticker, he knows he will get a fair shake and not only a fair shake but quote him in paragraphs. >> rose: and you understand him? >> well, we try. we try. >> rose: thank you. a remarkable piece. thanks very much. >> rose: 20,000 words, the obama doctrine, he how shaped
the world by jeffrey goldberg, back in a moment. >> rose: we queg this evening with syria, vladimir putin announced today he would begin withdrawing troops from the country, he reportedly said russia's intervention largely met its objective, the surprise news came as peace talks resumed in geneva, he has called the latest round of negotiation as moment of truth, joining me now there washington, julian smith of the center for new american security, she was previously deputy national security advisor to vice president joe biden. here in new york, philip gordon of the council on foreign relations and previously a white house coordinator for the middle east, africa and the gulf region and before that at the state department, also stephen lee myers of the morning times, he is the author of the new is sar the czar -- >> i am glad too have all of them here this evening. what do we make of this? >> i don't think any of us saw this coming, timing wise but it
is potentially important because it says that russia is not going to back assad forever, he is not going to let him take over the country. in other words, it gives some hope that these talks have that have started in geneva today can proceed because you have taken away the notion russia is just going to be there and bombing for assad and let him take back the whole country. >> rose: putin said to me in the interview i did with him, you know, we simply going in there to prop up, i don't believe in failed states. and i think sir i can't could become a failed state and that's not what i want to see, i want to see some kind of stability there, i am not sure he got that but he did prop up assad. >> well, i think that he actually did succeed in that immediate goal of showing a regime that, last summer it looked like it was falling, frankly, and with the russian strikes that have come this, you have seen the syrian government be able to take some territory back. by no means is this war over. and even if there were to be a
peace process that emerges you still have a war against the islamic state, which from the beginning was one of his stated goals. he seems to be backing away from that goal somewhat. >> rose: the goal of -- >> >> rose: fighting islamic state? >> yes, exactly. >> what do you think of putin in terms of how far he will go in this? >> well, i think we will see a withdrawal. i think we will see some of the 30 combat, combat aircraft he has on the ground slowly going back to russia, but russia is not leaving sir i can't militarily, certainly not diplomatically, it is going to be engaged. it will be on the sidelines, ready to pounce, to quote say the day. if it feels it needs to do that, we have seen that play before. so this isn't the end. they are not packing it in. they are going to maintain their air and mail presence, their base there, that was part of the objective of going in. and we will see how quickly all of this happens. but i think without a doubt, we will see some military assets going back home.
>> rose: what does this mean for the united states? >> well, again, i see it as a potential opportunity. what difficult the united states say when russian went? it was talk war and embarrassing but what the administration said, a lot of us said was, you know, good luck with that. >> rose: right. >> if you are going in, simply to prevent assad from falling, that might be a goal that you can accomplish. if you are going in to seek to help assad re-establish control over this entire country, which is now held in different kurds, isis, you have a bit of specious with this sort of thing before in afghanistan, it is just not going to work out and therefore russia you are going to need to be willing to work with us on some form of political transition, some form of cease-fire, so in that sense, i think it is a russian acknowledgment that staying in syria forever and trying to re-establish assad's control over the whole country is a bridge too far and i would take it back to what you started with or putin started with, we accomplished what we went in for, if you accept they really
went in to prevent the regime from falling, they have achieved that goal. >> rose: and russia is a player? >> and russia is a player, i mean for me there were three reasons they went in, everyone always speculating but it is pretty simple. they really did not want regime change to happen. they hate the notion that if you rise up against your local dictator nato comes in and gets rid of it they wanted to draw a line. >> rose: libya. >> think liberty, i can't ukraine, think central asia, putin said it is not going to happen. they wanted to stop extremism in assad's wake. early in the conflict when i was still in government, what follows assad? look we with have no love lost for assad , you know, we are not a particular pan of his, but what is going to follow assad? and i if the answer is afghanistan, somalia like comai os and jihad distaking over no thank you and we never had a
good answer to that. >> rose:. >> that's a concern of everybody, what follows assad? >> it should certainly be a concern of everybody. but that is why i think, you know, in a way, this is what they said. they were going in to prevent those things from happening, and i think it is a good thing that they are willing to take yes for an answer, now we have to see what happens in geneva. >> rose: did you read jeff goldberg's piece in the atlantic which is on this same program. >> very much. >> rose: he talks amount his impression of putin. >> obama's? >> yes. we can reason with him and have good conversations, et cetera, et cetera. >> rose: there was no shouting and bullying and -- in the time he had with him. >> sometimes it is easier to exaggerates the tension between the two because they are quite advice hal and you certainly see imamplified on television, especially russian state television. and the russians would say, in the western media and "the new york times" and elsewhere that, you know, the relationship is shown to be more strained than
it really, is they both said they could work together, they could sit in the room together and make deals. that is what putin is very much about, making deals, being a player. >> rose: a transactional guy? >> absolutely. and, you know, we have seen this before, and syria with the chemical weapons in 2013, i think that putin very much wants to be back on, at the negotiating table, as an equal, as partnered with the u.s. and that's certainly how it is portrayed in russia. >> rose: do you think, i will g bring you in on this as well, do you think he would have called the president to tell him, he called assad to tell him. >> uh-huh. yeah, frankly, i think washington is a little bit surprised that they didn't get a heads-up on this, and a lot of initials have noted today it is the first time they have heard about it just over the last couple of hours throughout the day. but i think what putin tries to do in a situation is coúperate where he can and in other cases obviously work against u.s. interests or western interests, and that serves him in multiple ways. one it creates a lot of
uncertainty among our european al highs who have had mixed views on putin being involved in, you know, syria, in particular, obviously, they are disturb to see the military actions there that are driving more refugees toward european soil, but there are also sometimes hopeful that maybe by getting engaged now militarily, putin will now be more constructive in the cease-fire process and political negotiations, so i think putin wants to keep us get guessing along the way, sometimes showing that he can cooperate as he did on the cw issue but other times directly countering our interests for example by going after the forces we supervisor forked in syria. >> rose: any other reasons why he five done this? >> i think there is also a bit of a message to assad in there, you know, he had a strong messages to us going in, but there was also, you know, not a coincidence he did this on the day the talks in geneva start ghood right. >> and i third the message there to assad is -- >> it is not a coincidence, and look, we saved your bacon. >> rose: right. >> we weren't going to let you
fall not because we love you by the way we have our own interests we want to be a player we didn't want nato and americans to take over but tonight think that we are now your air force, and we are going to help you take back all parts of the country. there is a cease-fire in place because our core interests have been preserved and that's what we came in for, so you need to go and work and try to perpetuate that cease-fire in place and maybe have some -- >> rose: that cease-fire has a better chance because of this action by putin? i. >> i think it does there are all sorts of ways in which this cease-fire could come apart but one of the ways in which it came apart if russia decided to reinitiate bombing against the moderate opposition and then it all falls apart, i think in, look, it is still difficult long shot, lots of ways to fall apart but this tells assad, i'm sorry, we are not going to help you take the whole country you will have to find some way to keep this peace. >> rose:. >> people always ask this question, what does putin want? i think it is important -- >> rose: you wrote the book. >> it is important to remember that he acts very tactically, and he will see an opportunity,
people compare it to judo, the sport of his youth, that he sees an opportunity an will seize it. that there was a moment now that he saw to extend a mental both for the peace process and everything, but julian is also prior to that there is, julianne there is not yet a withdrawal and while some troops will come out he will still be very much involved and i think his ultimate goal, while maybe multifaceted was to stabilize the situation to the point where peace talks could happen and assad still remains at the table for those talks. >> rose: yes. he said he would intense "the russian role in the peace process. >> yes. and think about this from his point of view, charlie, if he does withdraw we don't know how this plays out but look where russia was at the start of it, and he will be able to say i became a player this didn't happen without me, i prevented the americans and all of their trends from getting rid of this regime and prevented the extremist mrs. taking power in damascus and now things are going to stabilize on our terms.
if people -- >> rose: adult decisions -- >> hopefully, and also, and i have avoided this quagmire that, you know, is costing me a fortune and leading to sanctions and russia's reputation so there is a chance he can maneuver this from his point of view. >> rose: julie ann, i don't think washington was surprised by this? yes, i think this was a bit of a surprise that we didn't see, phil is right we didn't see we didn't see this particular timing but i think also in washington, some folks are guilty of making putin out to be ten feet tall, i think people were trying to translate his operations in syria into this big grand middle east strategy, where suddenly he was going to be elevating relationships across the region, and it might not be that ambitious, i do think his moves are fairly tactical, and he looks for opportunities and sees on them but, seizes on them .. and he knew it was time to draw back and he can portray himself as saving the day. >> rose: where are we in the battle against "dismiss iraq and
syria? because obviously there is a lot of talk about bringing all the forces they can together to prepare the attack on mosul. >> , you know, i mean, the indicators point in different directions on one hand we made an enormous amount of progress, driven them back, ramadi is taken back, tikrit, in terms of the land they are holding and the core objective of having a caliphate in the state and they are more contained, the finances are sealing less and a under a lot of pressure militarily that is all good, at the same time, so long as you have this war going on in syria, and the tricky politics of iraq and repression of sunnis you are going to have recruits inspired and joining the organization. so you have got these factors pushing in different directions and the organization itself spreading out, it can't take anymore territory earth in iraq or syria, so it doesn't -- it does a paris attack or tries to establish a foothold in liberty,
i can't so really it is hard to contain, my own view is that for all of the appropriate military work we are doing, and we need to keep doing that and the finances and the foreign fighters, so long as you have this war raging in syria, which was just a recruitment vehicle, assad backed by iran bombing sunni muslims every day you are going to have more redriewts the, recruits to isis and you couldn't get a handle on it and that's why i think to be able to extend this cease-fire and calm that down a little bit will do more for the battle against isis than any particular, you know, air strike or forward air controller. >> rose: julie ann, on this program also as i mentioned to jeffrey goldberg who wrote a cover story of some 20,000 words in the atlantic, sort of headlined as inside the mind of barack obama on foreign policy. what is the conversation in washington about this? >> i think people are intrigued to hear the president's thoughts in particular about the red line, the decision not to carry
out air strikes after the use of chemical weapons inside syria. i think there are a lot of folks that feel uncomfortable with that decision, both on the left and the right, an they have made some assumptions about perhaps regret on the part of the white house and on to the part of the president and what i think this article did is to push back on people that are making that assertion, clearly the real estate doesn't have any regrets about that specific decision. he is quite confident in the way in which he took it and still stands behind it. i think others that have served in the administration have since come out, do press, express some discomfort in the way it was taken and we have heard people as high up as cabinet level officials, panetta, in particular, talking about how he felt, like it was the wrong call at the time. so it is creating a moment in washington where we are all revisiting this particular decision, which in many ways has come to symbolize obama's
foreign policy. >> i was struck by a, you have been in meetings with him, obviously, the security council and at the state department, how confident he is that he is right. >> look, he always has been confident. that is partly, you know, how he got to be president. he is particularly confident he is right on these issues, and i think it is more striking because so many people think he is wrong. yes. >> that's -- that came out in the interview. you know, he had this pent up frustration and when you sit in the situation room and actually have to decide what to do in syria, it is just a very different world from, look, you know, i write op eds and go on your show and say whatever i want and go down something else. it is a lot easier to, you know, say we with should do this, and what you discover in the situation room, especially if you are the president, is there are consequences of everything, there are consequences of things you do, and things that you don't do. and especially when it comes to
some of these middle east questions, the consequences are always bad, i mean we would bring the president choices, especially on syria, and they would all be back. >> rose: yes. >> there would be costs and consequences no matter what you did. >> rose: could he ask for more choices. >> ask for more choice goss going back to the drawing board, do it differently i am not happy with that and a lot of smart professional people would keep bringing them, but in situations like i this there is not an easy answer and we have tried, an, you know, i think some of the frustration he is showing and pushing back so hard, we have tried as a country in iraq dealing with these problems by intervening and occupying the country. and it didn't work out at all and the country turned against us. >> rose: some in the country will argue putin took the steps he did in syria because america was not there. that he saw a vacuum and an opportunity and no one was going to come in and in the interest of the state. >> there is a saying in russia that goes something, an old military saying, i just heard it
referred to the other day of leading with a bay i don't know net, and if you hit steel, stop, and if you hit a soft target, go forward. and i sort of feel like that putin has done that, and i do think that that can be exaggerated, because russia is not projecting power all over the middle east. it is projecting power where it feels it has a core interest, that is certainly the case in the ukraine, and -- >> rose: the president recognized that too in this interview. >> i was really struck by what he says about the ukraine, and very clearly, for the president to say that the ukraine was not in your composure but it was in russia's core and that is a huge difference when you are dealing with a confrontation. >> the president has always been very clear in all of this washington exxon census on the ukrainians he asked that question, so what happens when i do? because russians care more than we with do and they will -- you know, we will never win that sceas population battle, but where he was really forceful on the ukraine and
russia i think which with is relevant here was on this credibility point. where he just questioned the notion that somehow putin went into the ukraine or crimea because weaker was absent or weak and on that piece i have to say i agree with him. >> rose: and. >> steve knows this better than any of us. given russian interests in ukraine and russian speakers and the context in which russia gave crimea to ukraine, i think putin was going to go into crimea regardless of who the president was or whether we bombed syria or not. and so i think there too the president was frustrated with the notion that somehow we are attributing russian aggression in the crimea. >> rose: to weakness on america's part. >> yes. when, you know, as he pointed out, they went into georgia during the bush cheney rumsfeld administration, and certainly not because of anything barack obama did. >> rose: exactly. julianne, what dot you think? >> i think that is exactly right, i think what russia tries
to do is to test the ability of the west to respond, and it will do that to any administration, it doesn't matter, as phil noted which administration it is. it is probing right now, over the balance tick states, over and into georgia, it is certainly doing more than probing inside the ukraine. but it does this repeatedly throughout its neighborhood, and frankly, we attribute too much of it to our own policy, so much of the washington conversation right now revolves around this question of whether or not u.s. so-called weak seasons driving this. and i think phil raised a really important point. we have seen these tactics, this type of behavior for years from this regime, and it doesn't seem to be attached to any particular u.s. policy or administration. >> rose: a couple of interesting things is, one, he seemed to have a certain
skepticism about conventional wisdom with dom. >> the president? >> rose: yes. >> that really came across more than anything in the interview. >> rose: yes. >> i think the proudest moment, really, you have to understand or remember how much pressure the president is under from public opinion. >> rose: to act? >> to act. i mean that came across in libya too, i think in liberty, i can't he came in convinced that u.s. military force was not the solution to the problems in the middle's, he was elected more than anything because of the. >> rose: iraq war. >> iraq war, bush legacy, people turned against it and he was convinced that is not the approach. but whenever, again, especially in the middle east, something goes wrong and people look to the united states what are you going to do? and libya was a great example of that, it went against all of his instincts, his instincts are that as bad as qaddafi might have been a u.s. intervention is not the solution, because what do you do when you -- >> rose: and play a role in nation building -- that is not
necessarily -- >> that's right, you could but then you are stuck and how long before the parties start going after each other. and so he let himself be persuaded i think to do libya. >> rose: by the secretary of state. >> not just by the secretary of state. the europeans, the arabs were pushing, the media. >> rose: the secretary of state and as u.s. ambassador bought in on it. >> i don't think he would have done it over their objections but my point is on that and on chemical weapons in syria and on everything that goes wrong in the middle east, it comes to the president. and you are watching cnn and people are dying, and there is an awful situation, and i think that, you know, the president then has to -- and he it is recalls the pressure to act there but it is support for that action disspace very quickly when costs start rides -- rise and things start to go badly and that was the whole context of the whole interview. this feeling that it is easy for everyone to call for all of these things, and it takes enormous discipline to avoid
getting pulled along. >> he i was just going to say i think the challenge for the president is, i understand what -- i think he is 100 percent correct that why should the united states feel pedal to act in all cases? and own it and be responsible for every crisis, every conflict around the world? and i think with syria, i remember discussions that we would have, you know, is this a u.s. responsibility to fix this problem? and our judgment early on was with that it would not be in our interests to get engaged military and -- inside syria. the problem with syria is the way that this conflict has unfolded, the u.s. is still left owning it years later. we are with the ones trying to build a coalition, now to go after isis. we are driving these peace negotiations, the cease-fire negotiations, i think as much as we try to shed some of these responsibilities, it doesn't work at the end of the day. it comes back to haunt us. i mean, i think it was right not
to engage militarily in syria early on but i think this assumption that we can somehow shed some of this has been proven to be wrong as we have seen in the case of syria. the u.s. is very much still turned to either on the diplomatic side or 15 in terms of military strikes, vis-a-vis isis to put together the coalition, to lead that coalition through the strikes, to lead the peace process, so what it has done here in washington, syria, as a conflict is raise all these questions about u.s. leadership, the utility of force, what is america ass purpose in the world? and i think this is really what we are grappling with here in washington but also across the country, to be honest and it is playing out in our election real-time. clearly from this you get the impression and from things he has said that the secretary of state is pro action, as a bias for action. but the president -- but the vice president has a bias for be careful, you don't want to --
you want to be very careful about the deployment of force. >> yes. the senior leaders across the administration disagree and have different thresholds for action and this what has been complicated for this administration, the president as so noted came in with the idea he was going to bring the u.s. out of military conflicts, away from afghanistan, iraq, unfortunately, it hasn't really played out that way. but you have other members of the administration that feel like, okay, while we are simultaneously dealing with those two situations, we do have to get engaged, sometimes military, diplomatically, economically and other ways, in other corners of the world and this played out on libya, where it has been well with documented now that there were serious disagreements among officials at the highest levels, but it is playing out in real-time, particularly on syria and a whole host of other conflicts that are brewing across the middle east, not to mention south china stays and all sort of other issues like russia. >> rose: we started with putin let's end with putin.
what do you think his -- what is on his agenda right now as he announce this is decision and wants to be part of shaping the future of syria? you know, i was just thinking that it is interesting, and probably important to note that putin doesn't have to deal with the squabbling squabbling underlings giving different advice, he goals a small group of people and he doesn't really have to worry too much about public opinion and in fact the reaction on state television and russia today was quite striking because he didn't seem to know what know what to do because they were caught surprised by the announcement, the war in syria has been championed every day on state television. showing it as a great success for russia and suddenly it stops. and i think that, you know, again that goes to putin's tactical sense of timing and surprise and so forth .. i think longer term he will continue to insist both on the sovereignty of the syrian state, the assad
government and in other areas, where we might come into conflict with him. >> rose: stop while you are ahead. thank you, stephen lee myers, thank you, thank you, julianne, smith, great to have you on. thank you. see you next time. visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com for previous episodes. >> captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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