tv [untitled] May 12, 2012 10:30am-11:00am EDT
for more information about american history tv on c-span3, including our complete schedule, go to cspan.org/history. and to keep up with us during the week or to send us your questions and comments, like us on facebook. we're at facebook.com/c-spanhistory. >> i had my ambition to walk where john smait and poke honest takes walked. i got to pocahontas. this makes a rectangular space. pocahontas marys john rolf in this church in 1614. so i guarantee you you i'm standing exactly a little deeper than she was, but this is where pocahontas stood when she got married. >> later today on american history tv, tour the jamestown colony with the project discovery. it's yielded more than 1.5 million unique artifacts.
take the tour at 1:30 p.m. and join in the conversation answering your questions live at 2:30 eastern. part of american history tv will this weekend on c-span3. coming up next, the miller somewhere of public affairs at the university of virginia hosts a discussion on george h.w. bush's diplomacy wars and marks the release of transcripts from oral history interviews conducted with bush administration officials. >> let me introduce my fellow panelists. tim got his doctorate in history from harvard. he then went on to teach history
and was recruited to come to the miller somewhere as tcenter as leader of another research project. it brings the secret recordings made in the presidencies of kennedy, johnson, and nixon finally to light in a way scholars can use. emwas t tim was the founding director. after his service on that project, he now holds his job as the director of the richard nixon library. as director, tim has not only been organizing oral history projects of his own, he's actually set precedence in almost setting the model of how to run a presidential library
under the most difficult possible circumstances. and to tim's right is bob strong. i know bob strong principally through his scholarship. bob works in that stranged world where you study american politics by understanding its political history. so bob on some days is a political scientist and on some days he looks line a political his tore i can't btoria historian. he's principally known as a scholar for his work on the carter presidency. i think he's probably the single most prominent and important historian of the carter presidency to published so far. his work on carter's foreign policy is today the standard work that any scholar looking at in a must read. today bob is also at washington and lee university where he's been given deep administrative
responsibilities of his own. he's the provost of washington and lee. to bob's right is robert kemmet, an army veteran, veteran civil servant during the reagan years, the undersecretary of state for political affairs during the bush 41 administration and was ambassador to germany in the latter part of that administration. after that was very successful in private life, working for a number of prominent firms. i encountered him again in government in the bush 43 administration where he was the deputy secretary of treasury. i should add as deputy secretary of treasury had nothing whatever to do with anything that went wrong during the early part of the decade. there were other people at treasury. i know what bob was working on, and it wasn't that. he was one of the principle diplomatic figures of the bush
administration and is well equipped to join us today. both bob here as a policymaker veteran, bob kemmet, bob strong, tim naftali, both of whom helped collect the information. i'm bob zelikow was a young diplomat during the bush 41 administration. i'd like to offer as opening comments as the chair, first a little remark about the significance of oral history, but the telling character of this project, actually about george h.w. bush. oral history and presidential oral history in particular is a species of things that i call basic research in american history. basic research is that research which gathers evidence, gathers data. any serious discipline.
any serious realm of scholarship has to gather evidence or data about its subject. in american history you need to gather evidence about american history if you want to understand it. the evidence really only comes in two forms. documents or other things, but mainly documents and memories. documents and memories. the united states government and other entities devote quite a lot of effort to getting and preserving documents, and sometimes things. you can go to the smithsonian museum and see a bunch of things. and some documents. so we devote some effort to securing and preserving the documents and things. the memories which i think you probably admit from your own life are more interesting than your documents, are not really preserved with any active effort whatsoever. the united states government
spends almost no money to preserve the memories, record any of the memories, least of all from the people who helped run the government of the most powerful country in the world. it simply is not an important effort for the united states government. we don't spend much money on basic research in american history of any kind. in this particular form we spend none as a government, as a country. i mentioned this as background for the fact that the miller center thought this was important. there was an initial effort under my predecessor, the director of the miller center, kenneth thompson who ran a nice effort to do some work on the ford administration in the late '70s, another effort more serious on the carter administration at the beginning of the 1980s. after the carter administration effort money was scarce, oral history work languished. the miller center, for example, didn't do any serious oral history work on the reagan administration and frankly, no one did. it just wasn't done, until actually the miller center circled around to it many years
later. so when i became director of the miller center, oral history work languished for understandable reasons. we made a concerted effort to revive it. the target, the first exam particular for how to revive it would be the work on the bush 41 presidency. you can immediately see the fundamental problem. the fundamental problem is you want to run a serious oral history project. there's no source of funds for it. it's not what undergraduates pay tuition for, so you don't easily tap the college's money to do that. there is no government money available. private foundations aren't interested in it. there's no money for it. so the source of money to do this project actually had to come in this case from the bush library foundation. it's important for viewers and people here to understand the bush library foundation is not an entity of the united states government. there's no taxpayer money here. it's a foundation that gets its money from people who are devoted to the presidency of george h.w. bush and to the
president himself. but understand that you're going to -- here i am as a college professor. i'm running a research project. i want to do this research project on this person you love. i want to do this warts and all. i want to document all i can about him. you don't have any editorial control on this. we get to run this in a completely academically separate way. people will tell us whatever they're going to tell us and we want to preserve it. we want you to pay for that exercise with no control over the out put. you can see on the surface it's kind of a counterintuitive venture. so i wanted to tell you the story because the bush library foundation agreed to those terms. they agreed to those terms tells you a lot about george h.w. bush and about some other people involved in the leadership of the foundation including brent scowcroft and jim zakoni and a few other people and even roman
pompidou and andy card who was very involved in that issue back then. by the way, having done it that way and with the bush library foundation having established that precedent for respecting the academic integrity which no library foundation has ever done before, that precedent then became the exemplar for all the others. in order to sustain the oral history effort ever since on that model, we could use the example george h.w. bush set for all of his successors including, by the way, right now his son whose oral history project is now being undertaken by the miller center with the helpful leadership of jerry be lyles now in negotiating that important agreement..e lyles now in negotiating that important agreemen lyles now in negotiating that important agreement. lyles now in negotiating that important agreemenr lyles now in negotiating that important agreement. the first observation i wanted to offer is on the significance of oral history generally so you don't take it for granted. so we appreciate the effort involved in doing it, but also
to underscore the significance of george h.w. bush's character in seeing the oral history project that we're unveiling to you today. the second thing i wanted to do in my opening remarks is frankly push a little past the image of george h.w. bush that you just heard for the last hour and a half. what i mean by that is this, i served in that administration as a member of the staff of the national security council working for general scowcroft as a then relatively junior foreign service officer. i was spoiled. like most children who are spoiled, you don't realize you're being spoiled when it's happening. you think all these good things just come naturally as part of your life. of course, all policy processes work in such a high quality way like this one. it took many years of subsequent
government work for me to discover how spoiled i had been in those years. but here you have this image of george h.w. bush that's been portrayed to you, i think quite accurately, as this wonderful person. he's all about instinct and relationships. you get this portrait of this guy you absolutely would love to have to dinner and who you would vote to be the president of your rotary club. he's the most genial toast master in town. but you have to -- in a way, you have to push past that image, why was bush's statecraft so successful? it wasn't just because he was such a nice guy and so warmhearted. that's not what made him a successful president. in a way, it reminds me a little bit of how historians puzzled for decades about why was dwight eisenhower so successful. he was this genial, golf playing fellow that everybody seemed to like and respect. about 25 years later guys
started writing books with titles like "the hidden hand presidency," which actually part of that was done here at the miller center. then they began discovering that they really needed to take this person much more seriously than the surface image they had been content to celebrate all those years. so i want to start right away by pushing past the surface image. i want you to note a couple of puzzles and questions we as scholars have to ask. the most interesting things scholars can do is develop good questions. what are the puzzles? what are the problems about this period that evidence like the evidence we're unveiling might help us answer? questions like, well, during these years we heard about the end of the cold war and the iraq war or things you haven't heard about, but i think were extremely important like the brady plan for the international financial crisis which just because no one has ever heard of it doesn't mean it wasn't actually extremely important, or the north american free trade agreement or other things.
but you can ask on questions like that, like the end of the cold war. did the united states actually make a difference? wasn't history pretty much just unrolling more or less that way? if the united states did make a difference, did the fact that george h.w. bush was president make a difference in what the united states did? those are fair questions. i think actually the panel today can shed a little light on that and things like the significance of the iraq war. did the united states make a difference in the outcome of that crisis? if there had been a different precedence would there have been a crisis of a different course and would the fate of politics have been on a different path. or think about the other kinds of puzzles. for example, the puzzle about the fact that a person who i actually believe is characterized as this shrewd, cautious fellow, is actually
deeply, deeply emotional, relied heavily on his instincts. yet this emotional instinctive, intuitive president is running one of the most analytical policy making processes of any presidency i've seen in my professional lifetime. okay. this on the surface presents a puzzle. there may be answers to that puzzle. how about the fact that here's this person who we have been told is superior in his personal relationships, which he was, university liked. yet clearly has some significant problems in his ability as a domestic politician. he is not -- i don't think he's by any means the most gifted politician we've had among modern american presidents. i'm not sure he's even in the middle rank. but then you have the problem, superb relationships weaken his relationships. why the problem? how does he get so much done in foreign policy and even in domestic policy?
little understood. yet his domestic political base and domestic political craft is highly uneven i think would be clear to say. you have more problems than that. you have this image and this is what i'll close with and i'm sure the panel hopefully will help us see more questions and puzzles to ponder on. the supreme image you have of george h.w. bush is, okay, i'll concede he's important some historians say. he was a good student. he inherited a pretty good hand and he played it responsibly. he was a good steward, moderate, cautious, prudent, of course, that signature word. the puzzle here is that the substance of what bush was presiding over were some of the most radical policy initiatives in modern american and world history.
the policy agenda for the end of the cold war was the most radical agenda america has adopted in international politics certainly since the end of the second world war. the united states set as deliberate objectives written down objectives that could be achieved -- we would only associate ordinarily with the outcome of a cataclysmic global war. a large part of europe have its political structures completely changed, possibly the soviet union completely demolished with the borders of russia retreating to those not seen since the age of peter the great. other changes all through the world and the downfall of communism and on and on or in the budget battle of 1990 that would move toward -- if you would ask people at the time it was going on what was the centrist moderate no-risk cautious option that doesn't end
up being the option bush chooses. the iraq war is just the great case of this. if you looked among the pundit class as to what they thought america might likely do about iraq's invasion of kuwait in the first days, the prediction that america will probably send hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the arabian desert where we've never deployed troops in anything of that scale to launch a major war to reverse this invasion, that wasn't even on the chart of what pundits were speculating the united states might do in those initial days. then feature this, it's late october 1990, the president gets a war plan. some of his advisers are uncertain about it. or he calls for hundreds of thousands of troops to be used, a week before the midterm elections. the president and his advisers are unsatisfied with the plan, some of them worry it's not big enough, doesn't look good enough.
president bush in the teeth of tremendous domestic opposition wondering if they should have a war at all. this is a war the senate will end up supporting in january despite overwhelming international support by a margin of five votes. his son's iraq war will get a margin of 50 votes in the senate. this one passed by a margin of five. so huge domestic opposition, and that's the moment at which george h.w. bush, that cautious, middle-of-the-road guy decides to double the size of the american military commitment. these are puzzles you have to think about a little bit. just to give you the example of a gold mine, if you look at this material that's been compiled, you can look at, say, the bob gates interview. i'll just read you a paragraph in which gates summarizes just this one episode, this meeting on october 30th, 1990, in which
basically he writes the blank check. the briefers have said if you want to do more you can pull the whole seventh corps out of move them to the desert. or you could do more than that. here is gates, quote, remember, this is a week before the midyear elections and then the poison pill. if that hadn't gotten him, these other things the army said you could do that were clearly politically untenable. they go on to say this one would. this is gates talking. you'll have to activate both the national guard and the reserves. in other words, you're going to reach into every community in america and take people away from their homes and their jobs. to the day i die, i'll never forget bush pushed his chair back, stood up, looked at cheney and said, you've got it, let me know if you need more and walked out of the room. cheney's jaw dropped, powell's jaw dropped.
cheney looked at scowcroft and said, does he know what he just authorized? and brent smiled and said he knows perfectly well what he just authorized. i think there are some more puzzles that we need to work on for george h.w. bush. tim, why don't you kick us off. >> thank you, phillip. it's an honor for me to be back at the miller center. i want to congratulate phillip for starting this project for governor baliles for finishing it, for russell for being a great steward and initiator and of course, to jim young for having thought through how to do this. phillip's comments spark something i'll add to what i planned to say, which is that part of the answer, i think, and i hope we'll go into more of
this, is that george h.w. bush, who by the way was just george bush when we did this project, i've often found this quite amusing because john adams didn't have to change his name because his son became president. that's a different story. i leave that with you. that's a puzzle for me. george bush follows one of the most accomplished domestic politicians of the 20th century. i believe part of the reason that these are puzzles is that president reagan cast a very long shadow, and many people argue about -- make arguments about the end of the cold war and the role of the united states and think they're talking about ronald reagan but they're actually talking about george bush. i'd like to make four points in the time allotted me. one that the oral histories bring granularity to our
understanding of president bush's national decision making system. despite strong differences amongst the players, the system was flexible and collegial. president bush expected loyalty, secrecy and time, and the system remarkably for contemporary washington gave him all three. he expected these three elements because the bush decision-making process called by some interviewees the listening bush, required that the president have time to kansas the opinions of his top advisers and allies and take advantage of u.s. intelligence. let's not forget that he had benefited and understood the weakness and strengths and has been described in a number of different oral histories as a superb consumer of u.s. intelligence. although an emotional man, and that's a very important point that we do have to discuss today. i hope we will today. george bush knew himself well enough, he knew what he needed and he knew he needed time to make up his mind.
the oral histories, second point, underscore that the first president bush was self confident to surround himself with strong-minded advisors. unlike kennedy and roosevelt who also surrounded themselves with people who disagreed, bush had a secretary of state who was strong minded. in addition to an influential national security adviser as was the case for jfk with bundy, in the case of fdr he didn't have a national security adviser, he had a very strong-minded secretary of war named stem son. at the risk of making another comparison, president bush was actually the decider. it is, therefore, possible to discuss the statecraft of george herbert walker bush because foreign policy in the period of 1989, i focus on through '91, was not corporate. it reflected a personal style. and let's look at how these differences among his advisers played out. the key issue coming in was how to manage the gorbachev phenomenon.
many, including the president, thought that president reagan and secretary of state george schultz had oversold george schultz and were way ahead of events in predicting the cold war. when the advisers began to think through how to deal with the gorbachev phenomenon, james baker, secretary of state and secretary of defense dick cheney defined the extremes in the debate over how to handle gorbachev. baker wanted maximum tactical flexibility to work with the kremlin leader whereas cheney who assumed gorbachev and the system around him would fail, preferred to stonewall the kremlin. general scowcroft was somewhere in the middle and his deputy gates was a little closer to cheney in the discussion, leaving the president as the balance of power. there is no way this system could have worked if president bush was a cipher. it's very important to
understand as you read these oral histories that this system had to have a strong executive for it to function. it is essential to understand this administration. without a central executive this administration would have been at sixes and sevens. the system worked because once president bush made the decision, it was loyally followed. until he made the decision, george bush enjoyed a bubble of secrecy, two things that are again quite rare in contemporary washington. three, you can see bush statecraft in the management of key turning points over a period of 1989 to 1991. i think bob will talk about panama, but i would like to talk about german reunification and lithuania. president bush had a better feel for the balancing act required to manage gorbachev, a collapsing soviet empire and international expectations than any of his advisors. perhaps this was because he was a political man and understood momentum better than the foreign
policy specialists around him. the one other person who, of course, had political background was james baker. he understood momentum, too. president bush combined a deep understanding of international affairs with that finger understanding of politics and international public opinion. the oral histories confirm the work done by my former colleague, professor selico and condoleezza rice that bush was great at sensing the time was right. general scowcroft in his oral history is absolutely terribly honest, wonderfully candid about how he had to be convinced that reunifying germany and putting it in nato was a good thing as an objective and a good thing for the united states to seek. america's german ally helmet cole wanted this and was moving to his own drummer. margaret thatcher counseled caution. of course, gorbachev didn't want it.
so what the president decided was to run the table. we'll get back to that in a moment. that's what philly means about a revolutionary set of objectives. to seek a reunified germany in nato was to run the international table. with regard to lithuania, president bush was ready to take the hit for what was called a second munich, to give gorbachev the breathing room to manage his lithuanian crisis, so the big prize of getting a united germany remained viable and in play. during the march 1990 crisis which has been forgotten, because we forget about things that don't blow up, bush decided he would manage revolution in the baltics differently from revolution in eastern europe. washington muted criticism after the soviets took control of some buildings in 1990 and things got worse when gorbachev placed a partial energy embargo on
lithuania in late april 1990. george famously and unfairly wrote bushism is reaganism minus the passion for freedom. even former president nixon who should have known a thing about keeping one's eye on the foreign policy prize criticized bush for not dropping gorbachev for how he was managing the lithuanian crisis. here, too, president bush received contrary advice from both secretary of defense cheney and scowcroft. but he refused to give up on gorbachev. he understood if he just waited and gave some latitude, he might get the big prize. so what he does, against the advice of his closest advisers, he tells gorbachev privately that future trade relations were at risk. publicly he gave gorbachev a lifeline by promising nato reform without conferring.