tv Book Discussion on Dont Wait for the Next War CSPAN December 6, 2014 10:45am-11:52am EST
most successful charter schools, the power program schools, the most successful schools we have. >> host: your teacher wars: a history of america's most embattled profession"? >> guest: a lot of recommendations. i asked to boil it down. we have always -- the concession in american politics, education problems i teacher problems so we need to get rid of the teachers and start with a new group. as i explained in the book, we hire 100,000 new teachers in this school year, there is no proven method of making sure the new people would be any better so we must improve the skills such of the teachers we have wind in our schools, their air a lot of collaborative tools we can use.
>> host: dana goldstein is the author of "the teacher wars: a history of america's most embattled profession". >> you are watching booktv, television for serious readers. you can watch any program you see here online at booktv.org. >> in "don't wait for the next war: a strategy for american growth and global leadership," wesley clark lays out his plan to preserve u.s. leadership in the world over the coming decade. during this event by the commonwealth club, general clark is in conversation with the hoover institution. >> good afternoon and welcome to today's meeting of the commonwealth club. you can find us online at commonwealthclub.org on facebook and twitter and our youtube channel. i am the moderator of this
conversation. i was the director of defense strategy and the national security council on the bush administration and senior policy adviser in the 2008 john mccain sarah palin campaign for president but the reason general clark asked me to moderate this discussion was i had this distinguished chair at international security studies at west point, the alma mater of wesley clark and taught economics. he was a soldier in the service of our country for 34 years, graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1966 at west point, was awarded a rhodes scholarship, studied in britain, held enormously influential and important military positions culminating in being a the supreme commander of europe, senior military commander during
the air war in the 1990s and in retirement and investment banker, big shot businessman and author of several good books, one of which he is here today to talk to us about. join me in welcoming wesley clark. [applause] his terrific book, my copy of which i do not have with me, thank you. here we go. don't wait for the next one. the lack of strategy the united states currently has in capacity, really preparing for the set of challenges our country is facing, very nicely,
to talk about his book to maximize his time for conversation with you all but i want to talk to a couple points. the first of which is tell our audience who have not had a chance to read the book the two or three things you most want them to understand from it. >> the title of the book "don't wait for the next war: a strategy for american growth and global leadership" comes because that what americans always do. we always wait for war. when george w. bush was running for office in 2000 he said he wanted to be like a ceo president, but the less ceo we had on this side of the atlantic was george iii and we fought the revolutionary war against him. we don't like strong executive leadership. we have checks and balances in the constitution and we believe politics works best if we get
the issues, interests counteract and ambition counteract ambition in formal institutions we show it all in public and that is the way the american system works, the result is we wait to be challenged. we were fortunate because we had a couple lotions that protected us but the reason i am saying don't wait for the next war is because there is some enormous problems coming our way. is not just isis. it is not just vladimir putin, it is the fact that the culmination of these issues is will threaten our ability to lead the world and manage events the way we have all become accustomed to since the end of the second world war. end the treaty with japan fought wars in core we and vietnam.
ike told us come to get there, there is so much evil out there that if we are not strong, if we don't submerge the differences between democrats and republicans weekend cope with the challenge by the soviet union and was a winning formula. it mostly work for for years, democrats and republicans never got off that well, but republicans are always like let's get some more weapons and be tougher, don't trust these people and democrats are always like can't we have a nice agreement? we could share god, with demand stuff so there was always a disagreement in this, but it worked for the administration, for i, kennedy, nixon, carter, reagan, then we lost the soviet union for ford, we lost the soviet union and when we lost the soviet union we lost our adversary and our strategy. in the 1990s she was working in the joint staff and i came in
from the first cavalry division in fort hood, texas, and was asked what is the strategy. is like a test question. i went to see my boss, with a polish accent, what is our strategy? go find out. so i ended up writing a strategy. it was called the strategy of engagement and enlargement and we thought was a good product. we identified the nature of the challenges facing us in the post cold war environment. it was erudite. the title sounded like an advertisement for a men's pharmaceutical product honestly. but the real problem with it was americans were not engaged in foreign policy. the cold war was over. there was no challenge.
we went our own way and we had a great decade in the 1990s. we created 22 million jobs, and americans never had it so good. i remember when i retired i stood on the parade field in summer of 2000, what a wonderful thing it is to be an american. the investment banking, dot.com, technology, all the things i have been watching and reading about all my life, i was 55 years old, let me out there, coach. we were on top of the world and the armed forces were in such wonderful shade. when i was a battalion commander europeans told us don't come back to europe, not disciplined or aged jaded, it was embarrassing.
there was no question, we were top of the heap and then 9/11 and then it was war and we came together just like that. 80% of the american public wanted to strike saddam hussein including the newspaper. some people said not so fast, maybe doesn't have weapons of mass destruction, didn't do any good. we brush through afghanistan, left a few troops, let osama bin laden go to pakistan and there we were in iraq. now it is 2014 and we are back in iraq. people are asking what is the strategy. that is the problem. we have threats from terrorists all over the world, not just the middle east, we have cyberthreats, jpmorgan just got hit. we invented the internet, we are threatened by our own adventure.
we fixed the financial crisis of 2008 sort of but we really haven't. it is not solidly fixed. is still shaky out there in europe is about to go, caused by austerity in europe and china is said the spending power. never has there been and ascending power that did not cause a war. can this be the first time? can we deal with the country to 4 times larger in population. a totally different system of government, they are not about to come of france a few like democracy, like congress in beijing to help us. they have their own system and finally climate change. everyday we are pumping out more
greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and every day we are moving toward that mark of 2 degrees centigrade, 250 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere pegged as the danger zone. we have big long-term challenges and sharp crises so i wrote the book to try to give you a frame for how to think about it and give myself a frame to think about it. >> one thing i very much like comes from golf which says the question which is the most important shot in golf and the answer is the next one and you use that as a metaphor for anticipating crises and suggest that we need to unlike the historical approaches, we have a qualitatively different approach to managing these problems. can i ask you what you mean in that regard.
or tip one of the five shaping problems we identify and the book and give a concrete sense of what we qualitatively different the need to do? >> let's take the case of china. we grew double digit rates per year. they sent people to get technology back, they ask for western investments, look at the technology, use cheap labor to capture foreign-exchange, using the foreign-exchange to buy up natural resources around the world, building their own educational system, learning from us on how to do it and building up their military. so there goal is to become -- the china that dream, what does
it mean? nobody understands but in the summer of 2013 they published document number 9, the greatest enemy of china is western democracy and the idea you could have freedom of speech and human rights, this could destroy china, so it has to be squashed it every opportunity so the china dream isn't about democracy. is about something like restoring china's historical role in the world, china wants to be the center of world civilization so what we're doing is reacting to everything that comes along so china declares a new what they call a defense identification zone. if you fly through this aerospace you got to report to me. we through a couple bombers through it but it is still there. china says those islands over
revers, those are our island's. okinawa where we got those marine stations, we see this happening and we talk about it but what is our long-term strategy to work it? there has never been an american president giving away a strategic industry to put a smile on the face of a foreign leader. we had president after president go to china and get better relations, we help with your high tech industry, aviation industry. in 2011 ge said there was a ge spokesman his said the future of civil aviation is in china end gene eat will be fair which is great for ge but where is the
>> you can see china's trajectory. you sort of know where they're headed. you see what we're doing here, so what happens? we're going to come to a collision on this. what's our strategy not to collide? i was in china last year and the chinese, one of my friends there in china is, apparently, well connected. he put it this way, he said, we know everything in your companies because 60% of your fortune 500 companies have research and development centers in china, and we know everything in them. we know all about nasa because we have chinese scientists who work there. you think you're going to put your bases in the philippines, but we give the philippines $3.5 billion a month in remittances through hong kong. if we don't give them remit tapses, there'll be no bases there if we don't want those
bases. by 2019 we will have four aircraft carriers in the northern pacific. >> so -- >> so when you lack at this -- look at this, you say this doesn't sound friendly. what's the strategy? that's the problem i'm addressing. >> i want to press you on this a little bit more because i agree that the american government very often doesn't have a strategic perspective, but it does seem to me that their one country on which at least the last five american presidents have had a consistent grand strategy is actually china. and that strategy has been identifying what bob zoellick when he was ahead of the world bank described as a responsible stakeholder. that is, we are in favor of a prosperous china, we are in favor of a strong china provided that that china plays by the rules the united states established. and we had that policy, have had that policy in the expectation that authoritarian capitalism is
impossible to sustain, that as people begin to have their needs met, they grow more demanding of their government. they, that freedom is as the founding fathers say inherent in human life and that everybody yearns for it. not nearly. if i understand what you're saying just here and in the book, you think that's a mistake. and so i want to know the china policy you would advocate. are you saying that we shouldn't be doing business in china? are you saying we shouldn't be educating chinese students? are you saying that we should be more confrontational with the chinese even if our allies in asia are unwilling to? help me see the policy agenda that goes with the strategy you're outlining. >> well, saying that we want china to be a stakeholder, that's -- a responsible stakeholder, that's not a strategy, that's an aim, that's a goal. so when we started this
strategy, we always hoped that china would evolve democratically. as corey said, we never could imagine you could have an effective modern economy without freedom of information and allowing the sort of trappings of the beginnings of democracy. so we saw an evolution toward a more open china. that's what we sought. but as we've watched this emerge, it's not becoming more open, it's becoming more closed. now, we've been a little ambivalent in our own policies because, on the one hand, we've said we believe in constructive engagement, but we've also maintained our defense treaties. now china's neighbors it's not -- china is not always a nice neighbor. when i talk to these countries, they tell me about the chinese ambassadors who come in and, actually, they're pretty pushy, and they're pretty tough on these local countries. so they come to the united states and look for help.
and as corey implied, they don't want a confrontation with china, but they want another shoulder, they want us out there. we have to find a more strategic course with china, one that doesn't assume that they will automatically mirror us and become democratic. they're going to have their own system of government. and to deal with china we, we he to deal from a position of strength because they don't look at personalities. they're not charmed by the best looking presidents or the most, you know, articulate speeches. they're looking at china's long-term interests and how they advance them. so we've operated for 40 years on the basis of hope. it's time to look beyond that and say, okay, we're going to have a country that may have a gdp larger than our own. it's not going to be a democracy. it's going to be after what it
wants. how do we deal with that country. number one, we put our own economy in order. number two, we make sure we talk to the chinese privately, in advance. they're very open about what their intentions are. we knew they were going to claim those islands. talk to them in advance. don't let them get out front. number three, we maintain the effort on both bilateral form and international law. so when they say we want those -- take it to the hague. let's look at the maps. let's go back to international law. and we invest in our military and keep our military strong enough that we can go toe to toe with china in a crisis. they have to understand if they're rattling intercontinental ballistic missiles in our direction -- which they've been doing recently -- then we're likely to come back by saying, you know? that air defense system, antiballistic missile system we put in place in alaska that was supposed to protect against north korea, maybe it should be strengthened. maybe there's another power it should be protecting against.
the chinese have to understand that their actions have consequences and that we have the courage and the means to take those actions that are necessary in response. that's what i mean by having a long-term strategy. that can't be done by a quick visit to china with some favorable headlines. at the same time, we can't expect that we can overturn the chinese government. we don't want to do that. so i know there's a lot of sympathy for the hong kong demonstrators and pushing for democracy, but really the system in china on the mainland, that's their choice. that's not our choice. we don't have the communist party in the united states, but when we push for democracy, we get the mirror image response from china that we're trying to overturn their system of government. so we're going to have to be respectful of their right to
choose as a nation. they're going to have to be respectful of the world that we established at the end of world war ii. and if we want to retain that world, we're going to have to make sure we're strong enough, first economically, and then militarily to defend it. >> so let us move on to the economics, because one of the really interesting sections of your book is about economic power as hard power. and you have several specific suggestions for improvements to the american economy, and i think this california audience would be especially interested in the energy piece of it and in particular how you balance your strong support for energy exploration, energy production in this country with conservation and preservation values. >> we, i mean, are you with me that the american economy's not creating jobs and growing the way it should be? i mean, that's pretty clear after the financial crisis, right? so how can you do it? so i'm in the investment banking
world. in fact, one of my banking partners is here with me now. we're in a company called ugr, and we look across the industry, and we raise money for companies. if you wallet to raise money for companies -- if you want to raise money for companies that they're doing apps for iphones, it's pretty easy. a couple of guys in their mid 20s from stanford come in, we have this great idea, how much do you need? $250,000. done. you come in with real projects that require development and building things and you think about where this country is right now, you realize we're not doing that in infrastructure or in industry nearly as much as we did 50 years ago. so how do we get this started again? well, warren buffett, a guy who's -- everybody, you know, says he must know something about investment, he's made plenty of money. one of his favorite sayings is invest in the company with wind in its sails.
in other words, look at the sectors of the economy that are growing and push on an open door. what's growing is the energy sector, the hydrocarbon sector and the biofuels sector in this country. for 40, over 40 years america's been an importing, oil-importing country. we now have the technology, we know we have the financial resources, and we have the mineral resources and bio resources not to import oil anymore. we're importing between 200 and 300 billion dollars a year worth of oil. that's like a tax. that's like if somebody came to this country and said i want $1,000 from every american, man, woman and child, or you will be invaded, we'd fight. that's like the barbaly pirates, you know? -- barbary pirates.
ever time americans go to the filling station and we fill up the car, some of that is imported. and that import is a tax on the american economy. if you want to grow this economy, the fastest way to grow it in real terms is to aim for full energy independence and go beyond it so that we become the saudi arabia of energy. we could do it. we could do it with, yes, you're going to frack. and you've got to do it in a safe way, and we know how to make it safer. but you can use coal and turn it into diesel fuel and gasoline. you can use natural gas for propulsion. you can do better job on electric power. but in the near term, we need liquid firm because we've got 250 million cars on the road. so if we focus on that, we can really move this economy forward. now, we need to couple it with stronger environmental controls over the oil industry, so i like
the way we do it in the security business. you know, after the depression we set up the -- we did the securities and exchange commission, and we set up something called the national association of security dealers which was an industry self-regulatory organization. you could do the same thing for the oil and gas industry. they have all the technology better than the states do. they can inspect their own wells and certify them and be responsible for them. and if you did that, there's no one in the world that can do a better job of extracting hydrocarbons than americans. we need to follow through on the renewable fuel standard. we can substitute three million barrels a day of imported oil, we could use biofuels for this. so there's a lot we can do, and that's the fastest way to get this economy growing and to give us a leadership position. now, i advocate in addition we need to put a tax on carbon in liquid fuels. and i would peg that tax at just
nominally $25 a ton, that's about 20 cents a gallon for gasoline. the price of gasoline's gone down more than 20 cents in the last three months. so americans would hardly see it. but what it would do, is it would establish america as a global leader in being able to deal with climate change and project our policies forward to deal with in the future. it's a long-term strategy. we know that 30 years from now we don't want to be using all this hydrocarbon. but it's here now in our soil. why don't we use it, strengthen america, put in the right environmental controls and then take the lead in the technologies to get us away from hydrocarbons in a 15, 20 and 30-year time frame going out. so i've mapped in the out in the book. i can show you how to do it, and i've worked in a lot of these industries, so i know it's real. we just have to come together on this vision. now, i would tell you we're going the p -- the opposite way.
right now the oil industry's in trouble in america. it's kind of sad. >> break in on you, but i want to remind our radio audience that this is the commonwealth club of colorado, and we are talking to wesley clark about the news of the day and his new book, "don't wait for the next war: a strategy for american growth and global leadership." i'm corey shock key, your moderator. you can hear the commonwealth programs on the radio. catch up with us on facebook and twitter and see program videos on your youtube channel. before we move on to the great questions that have come in abundance from this great audience, i want to give you the chance to speak about the walter russell mead's critical crew of your -- view of your journal in "the wall street journal" yesterday, because i suspect you will want the opportunity to rebut it. he says, i'm reading from the review, he believes that a strong government closely linked
to powerful firms and the private sector will promote economic development at home and insure national security abroad. the nation, he argues, should maintain strong and capable forces but should avoid combat where possible. mr. clark's propensity to propose federal spending that would benefit industries and interests with which he himself has been closely connected will raise the hackles of many small government advocates. >> well, actually, i'm glad you gave me that opportunity. i don't think that i'm actually proposing federal spending. what i'm actually doing is proposing growth in the economy which will result in a reduction of the deficit. and it will result in enough money that you can do whatever else you need to do and have less impact on the economy. one of the reasons we're in the fight we're in is because the economy's not growing. if the economy were growing 4, 5, 5.5, 6% a year, you wouldn't have these issues. now, could this economy grow
that fast? yes, it can. in 1940 on the eve of world war ii, this economy grew 17% in real terms. in 1941 16%. in 1942 another 11%. that's 44% in real terms. but that took a war. it doesn't take a war now. but if we just go after these energy resources, and these, by the way, these aren't big companies. most of this energy work is done by small companies. these are entrepreneurial folks that are out there. they're not just in oil and gas, they're all across the economy. we just need to turn 'em loose and let 'em go. if we do that and this economy takes off, we'll end up with a greater rate of growth, millions of jobs created, a much lower deficit, we'll be reducing the national debt instead of adding to it, and we won't be talking about cutting social security and medicare. we'll be talking about building
our infrastructure and rebuilding america. that's where we want to be. >> thank you. i am going to go now to questions, and one of the first that comes across is actually about vladimir putin's russia and ukraine. one of the -- you had some particular experience during the kosovo air war that looks to me, actually, pretty similar to the behavior of the russians in ukraine. does it to you? how should we be handling vladimir putin's russia? >> so when i was helping richard holbrooke negotiate the bosnian settlement at dayton in 1995, i went in with the deputy secretary of state to moscow. it was october of 1995, and one of the russian generals said we know what you americans are up to in eastern europe. this is our part of europe, and you're coming into it. and you say you'll be gone in a year, but you won't be. i said, no, no, no, president
clinton's already said we're going to come out of bosnia, troops will be there for a year, and then we're leafing. he said, please. we are russians, we understand you. [laughter] but don't worry, we would do the same thing in your position. so the russians see the world as a chess board, and when we didn't come out of bosnia right away, they didn't like it. when we took action in nato in kosovo, they didn't like it. so we were running the air campaign there, we did 78 days of bombing to halt serb ethnic cleansing in kosovo, and on the 10th t of june we got an agreement in the united nations to stop the bombing and that we were going to get nato forces in there, baa the peacekeepers -- be the peacekeepers, the albanian refugees could return. i could finally relax, i shot my best score in golf that night. the next morning i went in the
office after a good night's sleep, and 8:00 in the morning i had a call from a guy on the ground in bosnia, and he said, sir, the russian troops that were in bosnia, they're pulling out. they're crossing the -- they're on the highway, they're going into serbia. and so we spent the friday the 11th of june with cnn watching this russian battalion driving down the autobonn toward the airport. nato couldn't figure out what to do, there was lots of confusion inside. and the next morning at one a.m. the russians arrived at the airfield that was nato's objective in kosovo. so we followed that with a long series of back and forth. after four years, the russians gave up on kosovo and left. we won, but behind the scenes i think it was vladimir putin who was the intelligence chief who was helping to run this
operation at the time. along with the colonel general who was head of the russian military intelligence, colonel general ivanov who received a big award for running this operation. that was the start of it. a few months later i read that some apartment buildings had been blown up in moscow. they were blaming the chechnyans on this. but when in the third apartment building people found explosives there, it turned out they were all russian official explosives. and people remembered seeing a russian government agency had come and planted those explosives. so they called and said, congratulations, this was a test and you have succeeded in passing the test. you found the explosives we planted. many people believe that it might have been actually vladimir putin looking for an excuse to restart the war in chechnya. he did restart the war in
chechnya, and he then became prime minister and president. so we've seen this play out before. we saw it in 2008 in georgia, we saw it in ukraine. the united states doesn't need ukraine to be a member of nato. but we did enlarge nato because we wanted to help assure stability in europe. we said it was not just in our interest, it was in russia's interest to stop the instability in europe. but the russians never quite believed it. and putin, for a long time, has harbored the dream of reintegrating the soviet space. he wanted ukraine. and so when it, ukrainians decisively decided no, then he took action, seized the crimea. today eastern european leaders are, they're a little uncertain. we've said the right things, but they're not sure. we haven't given the military assistance to ukraine that the
ukrainians have asked for. and they fought a really tough fight to try to regain control of their own territory, ending when there was a massive russian intervention into ukraine. an invasion. ten combat task forces, lots of heavy artillery, big firefight, several hired soldiers killed and then a ceasefire. none of us know what putin's going to do next, but we're all watching. so, yes, ukraine is a problem. putin is a problem, and we don't know whether he'll be satisfied with this. but the last time we saw someone who was in charge of a european country after they had lost territory and felt that they were improperly treated by the world community was in the 1930s, and that leader began very cautiously, he rearmed
carefully looking around to make sure no one really took umbrage when he violated the versailles treaty. he then reoccupied the rhineland. nobody raised any objections. he then took austria, nobody raised any objections. now we're watching putin's move. he's talking about nukes. he's talking about novo rah see ya. we don't know where he's headed. but we do know that we've seen this play before. we don't want it to go any further. so that's our concern. >> thank you. there have been several questions, um, to transition -- and i want to pick one to help us transition from ukraine to the middle east. and the question is that you ran the most successful air war since world war ii, and the question is will air-only be effective against isis? >> no, no, it's not going to be effective. look, the kosovo campaign was an
effort to -- i'd spent a hundred hours with slobodan milosevic, the dictator there. i knew how he thought, i knew he was afraid of nato, i knew he was a lawyer and, honestly, he had big, puffy, soft white hands -- [laughter] and i said, mr. president, what sport did you do as a young person? he said, general clark, i did no sports. my mother wanted me to study. [laughter] i'm sorry. i mean, i went to west point, okay? i mean, we knew we could, we could break his will. but when -- [laughter] when it comes to isis, it's not the will of someone in isis. you've got to actually deal with their capabilities. so everybody says, well, will it take boots on the ground? the answer is, certainly. but boots on the ground and air power, that's necessary but not sufficient. what you have to be able to do to win is to restore governance over that space. governance. and who is going to govern it?
we've already proved we can't. syria's not going to be the 51st state. [laughter] so we can't do it. they have to do it. that's why the idea of going with a regional coalition and especially bringing in the moderate syrian opposition is so vital. because there has to be governance on that space after you put the boots on the ground. >> another question from the audience is turkey's refusal to militarily engage isil on its own border irresponsible in a nato member? >> it's a complicated situation, and i think that if isil takes kobani, there'll be a tremendous shock, and it will be viewed as a strategic and moral victory for isis. but put yourself in turkey's position. so they know that if they go in, they're invading syria. they don't want an unsupported
war with bashar assad. they also know that syria's linked with iran, and iran can give aid to the kurds and restart the rebellion inside turkey. so they're asking for american support. they're asking what will we do to help them. and before we say, oh, we're not going to do anything, it's your problem, remember, turkey's a member of nato. so if they were to engage by themselves with nato's standing back and the kurds then, aided by iran, come in and turkey comes to nato and says under article v, i've been attacked by iran and by syria, nato, i demand assistance, then we're in it. so there's a lot of tough issues here beyond simply those tanks on a hill overlooking kobani.
now, what i would like to see us do is i'd like to see us tell the syrian opposition you're going to become the governors in this space. it's your country. so the turks are going to support you temporarily, we'll put air cover over you for that limited space, we're going to end the problem of kobani, and then we're going to, you know, talk about where we're going from there. and get the syrian opposition on the ground inside syria in a way that they can begin to control the armed groups. i think there's -- if you look at the map of syria and you say which groups in which area, it's like a kaleidoscope. it's the craziest thing you've ever seen. and somebody has to put all that together. it's not us. but what we have to do is we have to make sure where our interests are impacted by what happens in syria, we have to protect those interests. and we do not want isis to
metastasize into a full-blown state that's directed at attacking us with terrorism. so we know we don't want that. so we've got to work with people in the region, we've got to do what we can. but this is primarily their problem. religious zealotry is involved, and you cannot put a judeo-christian army in as an occupying power in this region and be successful. we've proved that. so let's don't repeat that mistake. >> but there are a number of questions about the american military in particular and about military-related issue, and i'd like to move to those now. the first is whether we should reinstitute the draft and whether the public would have a different attitude about our involvement in wars if we had the draft. >> i think the answer to both those questions is, yes. it would be a wonderful thing if americans came together and said we believe we should serve.
but the truth is in this country the draft's never been very popular. and it wasn't popular when it was on. now, a lot of people who have served say, oh, i learned the best lessons of my life peeling potatoes out there with the first infantry division and so forth. [laughter] i'm sure they did. but when you ask young people to give up two years of their life and they don't want to be there, you also degrade the quality of the armed forces they're coming into. this is an issue that does need to be discussed. i can tell you the leadership of the army does not want the draft. it's one of those things that would be great for the country if everybody served and bonded together in this, but people don't want to do this. it would be a tough political issue, and we really closed the door. when we moved the voting age from 21 to 18 and now you want 18-year-olds to vote on whether they should be drafted or not -- [laughter] now, i'm hoping we'll see a candidate in the next election who wants to run on this
platform. [laughter] congressman charlie rangel told me when i was running in 2003 that i should run on reinstituting the draft. [laughter] i just, i didn't think it was the right thing for the military, so i couldn't do it. but i think it's also a really tough sell for america. it's unfortunate because we've asked the armed forces to bear a really unfair burden in this. we did it deliberately. when -- and i was there as a captain when president nixon said we're going to go to a volunteer force. we felt funny about it at the time. it didn't seem right because even though the draft was inequitable, at least, you know, everybody was theoretically on the hook. and president nixon looked at it, and he knew that in the future we'd have challenges. we couldn't afford to have another kent state every time we got in a war where there were hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating and killing and people dying and so forth.
so he thought he could avoid it with a volunteer force. and i think he was right. somehow we have to come to terms with that in this democracy. i just, my heart aches when i see these men and women in uniform at our airports, some of them with multiple tours. they go over there, they suffer danger and stress, they come home, and it's as though the people back here, they just, they don't feel connected anymore to this society. i don't know what we can do, so i hope we'll be able to navigate our way through this without american boots on the ground. and that's why i'm urging we use a moderate syrian opposition to do it. our military is great, never had a better armed force. they're very, very capable, but let's don't put 'em in the game right now. let's give 'em a break. >> another, another person in
the audience asks a recent pew research poll revealed that when americans were asked what trades they were most likely to support in a presidential candidate, 43% responded military experience. any reflections on why that might be? >> well, you know, the military's viewed widely as one of the most successful and admired institutions in america. it normally accomplishes the mission, it has high integrity, it has high standards, and if you look at the ore institutions in -- the other institutions in america, they typically don't. so -- [laughter] well, i mean, what's the approval rating of congress? [laughter] okay? and i'm not going to ask you to name barack obama's approval rating in the white house. but, you know, it's not -- the military is apart from politics. people respect the men and women because of they're laying their lives on the line, and they've been successful. and so that's why they say that.
now, when you actually get into the race, then i want to tell you it's a different matter. my wife told me, she said you think it's going to be like you're a general in that race, she said, but once you become a member of a political party and announce, then 30% of the american people don't like you. [laughter] and i have had a lot of questions about why i'm a democrat as a former military guy. there's a lot of people who don't understand it. >> [inaudible] >> i became a democrat because i was against the war in iraq. that's the simple answer. i knew it was a mistake, i knew we shouldn't go there, i knew it wasn't justified. but i also found in the military that if you want a winning unit, it's about the troops. it's not about the colonel giving the briefing, it's about the quality of the people at the bottom of the organization. their morale, their skill, their determination. i think america's like that. i think if you want a great country, you have to look across america. there's always going to be a
bill gates, there's always going to be a great hedge fund manager. there's always going to be geniuses that come up. they're going to take care of themselves. but what about the ordinary people who work every day, they pay their taxes, they raise their kids, they want a good life? we had a bargain in this country that when america did better, everybody did better. and for at least 60 years, it worked. it's clear it's not working that way right now. so i think we've got to get this country moving again by investing in numbering, but i think we've got -- in energy, but i think we've got to make sure that the gains go throughout the economy, not just the top 1% and one-tenth of a percent. i'm in favor of the troops, and that's why i'm a democrat. [applause] >> so the next question comes from a member of our audience
who is here to honor their mother who died a year ago at 99 and says that you were the mother's favorite politician. [laughter] the question is, why are liberal voices so rare in the military? how did you find yours? i would add the question are liberal voices are that rare in the american military? do you believe that the military's more conservative politically than the rest of society? >> i don't think that -- you know, mostly the military, at least when i was in it, it wasn't anything. we weren't political. i mean, i was in the ford administration as a white house fellow. i went back and forth. i remember going in there a year after nixon had left i showed up, and the guy called me in, i said why are we doing this? he said, clark, if you ask questions like that -- [laughter] you can't work here. [laughter] jimmy christmas. i mean, okay, okay. [laughter] i worked for a guy named jack marsh, i worked around don rumsfeld and dick cheney
occasional hi in the white house, so i saw that part of it. and i was a strong believer in national security. i voted twice for ronald reagan. i believe you can't have a strong country if you don't have a strong national security program. but having said that, i also learned the greatest lesson of my life when i was a captain, and i was, you know, i was in a calculus class in high school. i turned down, i had a national merit scholarship and an honor society scholarship and all that stuff, and here i was a company commander in vietnam, had 116 guys and about, i'd say, two-thirds of them weren't even high school graduates. i mean, they were from all over the country, they had fta on the helmets. i mean, it wasn't my calculus class, okay? [laughter] and so we're out patrolling, and i accomplished the mission, i found the enemy, i was the first guy shot, and i'm laying on the ground bleeding and the bullets are coming in and it sounds like the shootout at the o.k. corral,
and i'm hollering back to the troops get the machine gun up, get the machine gun up! and there's about 15 guys in the jungle with me, and they were teenage gang members. [laughter] they were dope smokers. they were draftees. i mean, maybe one of 'em had a year of college. and when i called, they came. they laid down a base of fire with that machine gun, and after about three minutes i realized there was no more incoming rounds. and i said stand up and assault on the right, on the left shift fire. these guys on the right stood up, they put their m-16s on their hip, and they marched into the jungle firing. i mean, that's america. [applause] i loved 'em.
so i don't know if they were liberals or conservatives, and i didn't care. but what i did learn is that if you care about the people in your organization, they will come through for you. and in america we have to care about every single american. i don't care if they don't have jobs, i don't care if they're sitting in a house and it's in bankruptcy, i don't care if their kids are in trouble. they're or our people, and we need to be doing the best we can for them. so i think if you really went to the heart of the military and you asked the people at the top, they'd all say that. they just don't connect it to politics. they all believe in the troops. the eighth infantry division has a great motto. in 1945 when the eighth infantry division was moving through germany, the commander called on the germans in this fortress to surrender, and the german general said i will not
surrender until you, i see your credentials. [laughter] so the american general, commander of of the eighth infantry division wrote back and said my soldiers are my credentials. i believe that's what america stands for. i think if you really went to the military leadership and asked it in that way, they'd all say the same thing. let's don't get it into partisan politics. the military doesn't have any business in part son politics. when you get out, fine, you can do whatever you want. but when you're in there, just vote and vote your heart but don't get involved in the partisan politics. >> which takes us to partisan politics. [laughter] several of the questions have to do with the practicality of how to get those partisan politicians to support the
program that you advocate in the book. give us your two minute elevator pitch to senator barbara boxer about how to, why she should do the things on energy and other elements in your book. >> well, i'm going to get an appointment with barbara here shortly and actually do this, so this may be good warm-up. barbara, are you listening? so, barbara, we need to get the american economy growing again. we've got the resources we need, the finance, the technology to be energy independent, and i believe we can do it in a way that's environmentally sensitive and puts us on the road to dealing effectively with global climate change. what we need is to bring america together. the question is, senator, are you willing to participate in that effort? will you come together with senator inhofe from oklahoma? will you sit down with him and say we can work together as americans to make this country great and strong? or is each of us so caught up in
our particular interests that we can't come together as a nation? and then i'd say, barbara, don't wait for the next war. because that's what this is about. [applause] >> so to go further down the democratic party politics rabbit hole -- [laughter] there are two questions specifically, about specific individuals in your party of leadership. the first is, first question that an audience member asked is has hillary clinton read your book, and how would she review it, and the second question is about leon panetta and his, any comments on his decision to release his memoir so fast while the president's still sitting? >> well, i don't know if hillary's read the book or not, and i'd welcome her comments on it. but as far as leon's book is concerned, you know, when you get out of office, you have a right to say whatever you want. i probably wouldn't have said it quite that way. i haven't read the book, but i did see in the excerpts he said
a lot of very nice things about obama. it's unfortunate that in washington we like to play the finger-pointing game. this is an inside the beltway discussion. the outside the beltway discussion should be where is america headed. you know, in poll after poll the more than people always say we're going in the wrong direction. it's like 65%, 70%, is america headed in the right direction, yes or no? they always say no, but they never say what direction they're supposed to go in. that's the leadership's responsibility. so i wrote this book to stay out of partisan politics because what i hope is that people will look at it on both sides of the aisle and say, you know, there's a chance to work together on this and make the country better. let's set aside the partisan politics. i think the american people are so tired of partisan politics, and this name calling and the ads that are on television night
after night after night. i mean, they just want us to go in the right direction, do the right things for the country and to work together in a collegial fashion. and i hope we can do that, and i hope this book will provide enough discussion to help spark a little of that. >> and in our last several minutes, i'm going to try and fire off a couple of specific questions that came in to get answers to. the first is about modern conflicts, in particular cyber conflicts. and it's a subject you address at great length in the book. the question is, of the modern conflicts we hear about in the news, there seems to be a growing amount of hacking attacks which the news media often directly identify as chinese or russian. however, i rarely hear about any substantive u.s. response other than a complaint to the foreign entity's state department. in my perception, the u.s. response seems to be casual at best, especially given the level of damage. >> well, number one, we are the most vulnerable country to cyber
attacks, so that's the first thing. number two, we don't have comprehensive legislation in place to defend against it because the congress, the senate has blocked this legislation. it'll be introduced again this year. to make it work, we have to charge businesses a tax so that the cyber command has the resources to protect them. and if you were in business, you probably won't want to pay -- wouldn't want to pay that tax either. so we can do more. but having said that, we also use the cyber, the net to do reconnaissance, to prepare -- i mean, you've heard of stuxnet. and i'm sorry to say that we somehow admitted that we did stuxnet to the iranian nuclear program, and we did it. so we actually went in there and, using the internet, sabotaged a bunch of machines that they had that were
reprocessing or were upgrading uranium. so we started it. and if you went inside the council of government and went to the president and said, prime minister, we have -- mr. president, we have to have an ironclad treaty to prevent this, treat it as an act of war when they come after us, what might happen is some people many government might say to the president, mr. president, if we do that, you're going to block us from doing the things we need to do to provide, to protect america, to acquire sensitive information and to be ready to respond if we're called on to do so. so it's right now it's inchoate. this policy, it's there. last summer the iranians messed up some banks. they shut down their online banking. they didn't actually cause any material damage to the accounts, and i heard three sources of
explanation from the government. explanation one was, well, i thy didn't do any damage, so we didn't do anything. explanation two was, well, it was private property, so we didn't do anything. explanation three was if we'd done something, we didn't know what they'd come back to us with, and they might have come back and do real damage, so i thought we'd -- we thought we'd let it lie. i don't think what the correct explanation was, i'm not inside government anymore, but i do know this: we don't want to be in a position where we cannot defend ourselves in a cyber environment. and that means we do need legislation, and we need to take this threat very, very seriously. >> that, your response affirms the questioner's concern that the government's pretty casual about this given what the nature of the threat. one of the most interesting parts of your book for me was your discussion of the, of the technology industrial complex or the security industrial complex. you or very clearly are anxious
about the extent to which we, for example, that you use in the book is that 60,000 americans die by violence every year, none die by there arist violence. and -- by terrorist violence. and yet we are disproportionately skewing our concern towards the terrorist threat. can you as a final closing statement, can you expound a little bit on how to hit that balance right? >> i don't know how to get the balance right, but i do know this, when you talk to civil libertarians -- and i was at ucla law school last year to do this -- they said we have to get this right. we can't have the nsa in there intruding on everybody. i said, fine. so what is the acceptable number of deaths by accidents on roads? well, i mean, in arkansas where i live every day someone dies on the highways.
mostly in single-car accidents. every day. the legislature hasn't been fired, governor hasn't been fired, we haven't done anything about it, so maybe 200, 300 people a year, it's okay. aunt millie died in a car accident, but it's okay, we moved on. what's the acceptable standard for, let's say, gun deaths? is it one? a hundred? it's like 37,000 deaths a year. is that okay? i guess it's okay because, i mean, you know, gun shows are big business. we like 'em. i've got a bunch of guns in my house too. you probably don't here in san francisco. [laughter] but, you know, i'm from arkansas. you've got to understand that. [laughter] and so the standard is pretty loose. but if you ask what the's the standard for -- what's the standard, how many people can you afford to lose in a
terrorist incident? that guy with the bomb in his underpants, i mean, that practically caused the impeachment of the president of the united states when they caught him. so the standard must be zero. if you say the standard is zero, you're going to have to give up some of your civil liberties. i don't know how to get the balance right, but what we know right now is it's going the other direction. because with isis, with the threats to the united states, is there any one of you if you were in a position of authority who would say don't wake me up in the night, in the middle of the night with a critical piece of information? don't make the final effort to find that bomber if he's in the united states? don't search e-mails and phone calls with people talking to yemen or syria because we might catch some ordinary americans in the process, and it might be embarrassing to them or they might not even know it? but in principle, let those conversations happen, and if he
sets off a bomb in times square and it kills a couple people, so what? we're losing, you know, 60,000 a year to other causes. we're a nation of 320 million, it's no big loss. one of you would say that. every one of you if you were in a position of authority would say do everything you can to keep this country safe. that's the responsibility of the president of the united states. so we've got a huge security industrial complex. until we can work long term against the challenge of terrorism abroad and here, it's probably going to get larger. just have to face it. it's something we should be alert to. we're going to have to work it. eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex, and we've worked it. got to pay attention to this one. >> that is a terrific note on which to end our conversation. my thanks to this wonderful audience who bombarded you with fantastic questions, as they always do at the commonwealth club. my thanks and the commonwealth's
club thanks to wesley clark for his service to our country, for sharing his thoughts so openly and enthusiastically with us and for making a contribution to political tolerance and compromise in our country. >> corey, thanks a lot. [applause] [laughter] >> i want the last word here. [laughter] look, we have to come together as a nation. we've got to stop this dysfunctional politics in america. and if we come together, we can put this country on the right direction. i've laid out a blueprint for it, we should hold our political leaders responsible for coming together. that should be the standard. [applause] >> and on that note, this meeting of the commonwealth club is adjourned! [applause]