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tv   Truman National Security Project Conference  CSPAN  June 18, 2018 4:27pm-5:38pm EDT

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watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. tuesday, the justice department's inspector general michael horowitz testifies before the house oversight and government reform committee on the ongoing hillary clinton e-mail investigation by the fbi and justice department. live coverage starts at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3, online at and on the free c-span radio app. up next a discussion about foreign policy and u.s. strategy in the middle east and a panel on how political candidates can discuss foreign policy issues with voters. this part of the truman national security project conference is two and a half hours. ch. please couple to the stage
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truman's managing director of program and external relations, jen melon. [ applause ] >> good morning, everyone. thank you all for traveling from near and far to spend the next three days with us. on behalf of the staff and board of truman center for national policy and truman national security project, welcome. i would like to take a brief moment before we get started to say a few things to some of those who have helped make this event and much you have or work possible. please join me in extending a thank you to john driscoll and the chairman for national policy, greg craig and those who could not be here, robert abernathy among others. additionally would i like to acknowledge our wonderful
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institutional partners who make this event and all things truman possible. thanks so much to the sandler foundation, open society foundation and the mcarthur foundation, david rockefeller fund, plowing share fund, caldera foundation, and lyft for once again becoming our transportation partner this year. so thank you. [ applause ] truman is the community united in its belief that america is strongest when we stand with our rallies to lead, support and defend a growing global community of free people and just societies. we have more than 1,800 members in 47 states. we share a common vision of u.s. leadership grounded in progressive values at home and abroad, and we believe that america is at its best when we use all the tools in our toolbox, diplomacy, defense, development and a commitment to democracy. since gathering in this very room last year we have faced
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challenges to our vision and values that three years ago most of us would never have anticipated. regardless, we've persevered. we stepped forward time and again with inspiring courage and spirit to defend and uphold the values upon which our truman community was first built. during these times when we must fight for our values at every turn it's essential that we do so as a true community. it's when our voices come together to enhance a shared vision of american leadership on a world stage so we have a chance of seeing this vision come into being. we have a slast speakers who are experts in their national security policy field and all women. this is meant to highlight how a smart, principled vision of u.s. national security painstakingly built by a diverse community emerges stronger thanks to the fact that many hands rather than those of a privileged few are fighting on its behalf. over the next three days we will hear and learn from women who have led the united states through some of its greatest
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periods of change and challenge, and i can't think of a better expert to get us started to get us starting than dr. kathleen hicks, the senior vice president, henry kes jer chair with the center for international and strategic studies. she served on the obama administration as deputy assistant undersecretary of defense for strategy plans and forces and policy. dr. hicks led the development of the 2012 defense strategic department. she's a long-standing and highly respected leader in, a mentor to testimony at truman and a truly inspiring example of what selfless service and commitment to our country can achieve. joining us to moderate is tamra wittes with the brookings institute. before her time at brookings she served as deputy assistant
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secretary of state and served as deputy special coordinator for middle east transitses. anyone who has worked on or whose work had touched on middle east policy, especially in the post- 9/11 years, knows and greatly respects tamra. she's a proven thought leader, friend of truman and committed to mentoring and forming foreign policy and with that i'll hand it over to tamra. please join me in cumming kathleen hicks and tamra wittes to the stage. >> hello. thank you for that lovely introduction and good morning, truman. >> good morning. >> welcome to your trade war. >> don't worry, they are fun and easy to win. i am really, really delighted to be here with you this morning and especially delighted to be here with kat hicks, my friend
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and colleague and neighbor around the corner, brookings institute. we're mere steps away from one another, and we're just going to have a conversation up here for a little while about the range of issues facing the united states in the world and the range of issues facing us as we discuss and debate u.s. foreign policy here at home. i know that a number of you have been kind enough to submit some questions for kath, and we will get to those as well, so thank you for that. kath, let me just start with a big broad question as we wake up to news of european and canadian retaliation for our new steel and aluminum tariffs. this is a moment -- well, it's not been a moment now. it's been a year and a half that we have been watching america's relationships with some of our
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closest international partners become fraught even as we face major challenges that traditionally we would seek to face together like north korean nukes, the challenge of iran, the rise of china, interference from russia, so when you look across that panoply, what worries you most about the present moment, and is there an opportunity that you think we might be missing? >> well, first, good morning to all of you, and a special thanks to tamara for doing this with me and sharing the space up here together. always great to do it with a friend. i think the big question, before i get to the meat of your question, the big question is how durable those years of
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capital that we build up since the end of the second world war, certainly there was some capital before that with allies, with partners, with institutions that -- and domestically, how durable is that ability to come together? i think it's going to be very tested. i think it's proven pretty durable so far, and i'm quite hopeful, but i will not take for granted that we'll be able to endure, so what you see in the responses, whether it's the french and the germans previously with regard to creating -- having an initiative on european security, whether it's the japanese moving forward on tpp 11, along with ten others, without the united states, whether it's paris going forward with -- taking up the mantel to say we're going to move forward in this area, the rest of the participants in the global order are stepping up in
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ways that help i think create that endurance, and that's promising. there's a lot of tension in there, and i think 20 -- you know, here we are 2018, how long can we really count on that, and you certainly see the fraying and how it doesn't stay in its lanes, right, so fraying over trade, it's not going to stay neatly but will go into other areas of nato and et cetera. so plenty of opportunities missed where we could move forward together in the global economy, and look at a rule set for the international system in bolt security and economics that account for the fact that power differentials are shifting had, but, you know, it doesn't throw open the system that, for example, the tariffs do, for example, going outside the wto
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rules set that we've created having a system that we thought was rules-based and we did it for our national security interests because we thought the u.s. companies, uth industry would perform exceptionally well in such a rules-based system, so good news i guess is that others are -- the way in which they are retaliating, at least at first glance for me, appeared to adhere to the rules, even where our approach does not, so, again, a reinforcement that have rules-based order. good news where they are trying to grow, if you will, to use the president's kind of language burden and share more. those are in areas that are very beneficial to us. tpp 11 is an example. we need a positive economic strategy in europe, and in the case of asia where europeans are looking to create better defense that's a good thing but we should not initiate back to the threat side that those step-ins will, first of all, always be
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from allies and partners, that the void are filled by those with a godwill from a u.s. perspective or that the outcome is something that we would like, so here where you see, for instance, north korea, you raised it. you see the chinese, the russians coming in, you know, to sort of fill the void where the u.s. does not seem to have a real strategy, i'm very concerned about the opportunities that they are looking for out of, primary among which is the removal of the u.s. forces from south korea which i think would be disastrous, how they might try to maneuver the president's strong desire for the summit and potentially for a nobel peace prize into things that really hurt us in the long term so i think that's my overall -- you know, i try to be very rational and pragmatic as as you can tell. it's extremely worrisome and we have to get up every day and
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executive foreign policy for the united states. it gets harder every day to feel that the capital is going to be there to build off of, but i hope -- i hope we can be in a position where when we come pack to ourselves to leefld the international system and be a part of the leadership, the international system in a way that accords with our values and interests, that the system is there to work with us. >> okay. so it sounds to me as though you're saying that you see traditional american partners steps up trying to preserve the rules-based order that we once led than with luck we can sort of rejoin it when we're ready. it will still be there, the same rules more or less. >> yes. >> governing it, those rules that we designed, because, gosh, they were to our benefit, right? >> yes. >> i guess i have to come back to the fact that power transition and international affairs are dangerous moments.
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>> yes. >> and we know even if american power is still dominant, other rising powers are relatively speaking are powers facing new challenges, and -- and inevitably that's going to be a risky moment because there are questions about how you respond, but as i look at the way in which china's rising power is being, being exercises or when i look at how russia, perhaps a declining power, but has a lot of resources at its dispose al, the way it's challenging america around the world, i worry we might not be as well prepared to respond as we could be, and i wanted to ask you about this specifically because a lot of the challenges we're facing are asymmetric, right, and in -- in the national security policy space for decades we have
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thought in pretty traditional power terms. we've worked to build up capabilities in cyber and ai and so on, but russia and china have economies that governments -- that their governments can drive, right? >> um mum. >> they are willing to use information operations in ways that we are not, and that means that they can manipulate the environment and deploy tools that -- in ways that we can't. >> mm-hmm. >> so i guess a subsidiary question. >> yeah. >> is how do we meet that asymmetric challenge? >> yeah. >> what i would say is everything that you are said is true, but the u.s. has been i'll call it gray zone. we -- did it doesn't matter what we call it but i'll use the term gray zone. we've been a pretty good gray zone fighter before, and if we -- if we harness and leverage
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the assets that we have, we can be pretty good at this. we're not good at harnessing them. what will do i mean by that? well, the ways in which, for instance, the russians -- let's just take information. russians manipulate information, not only we can't do it, if you will. we shouldn't do it, right, because that's not who we are, and that's not how our -- a lot the term soft power to real works to our advantage. the soft power works to our advantage because we have an incredible vision that we put forward of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our own foundational documents that help other people of in the world see a way for them to move, more lib beingity inducing and free. >> and we also operate on a premise that if you have free and open debates. >> you're going to get a better outcome, that's right. >> you'll get a better outcome.
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>> exactly. that we displayed for example. during the cold war we had an entire agency of the u.s. government that no longer exist. u.s. information agency stood down in the 1990s over some pretty very politicized circumstances, but you also have put outside the u.s. government piece which we need to do better. we now have a global scale center and if you can harness in government that's good and you also have an rirnt in the government where the russians were quite exploiting, and there you have to start to a values-based, and i don't mean that in the sort of the lefty way. you have to look at the consumer and what is it that they value? what is it that they want out of information, and if you can get at that problem which is far
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afield of my expertise in national security and you can get the consumer to value truth, to value fact-checking, all of those things in washington that we've taken for granted, we've used resources of that kind whether in the intelligence community or media, those are the kinds of things that we have to start thinking about much more strategically than we are. public/private, how we think about information in the public sector, yes, offensive cyber prices a those things are important. i think back to the issue of the harnessing, the other areas where russia and china, full, have an advantage if you think about it in kind of tactical means, you know. they have a much more unitary
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actor system, not unitary but it is more so than ours and they can control much more of their tool kit and they have, therefore, greater speed of moving things around. >> and they have imgragts. >> yes. >> exactly. >> so that's where we -- we have known we have had a problem for years, right, well before this administration, well before the prior administration. microsoft, the 9/11 commission i think in the intelligence field was pretty goold about pointing out, you know, we have a problem in terms of immigration. this is solvable. we have the people, we have the skill set, the money in federal terms, gdp, et cetera and we don't do it so it's about integrating the tools within the government and strengthening the tools that are non-military to your point so that they can really contribute where we need them to. i think there is a regrowth in economic craft issues which is really promising, and i see more
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of that in junior scholars, and i think it's about harnessing that with the private sector and our life and partners. >> what do you think? >> so i -- i basically agree with you. i think part of the challenge is that when your bedrock principles. >> yeah. >> are rooted in open competition, open societies, open markets, it's -- you are assuming a domestic cost to certain extent to a degree that you are willing to use the government to shape market force, right? >> right. >> and one way to mitigate that cost is to do it in another group with other open societies and open markets and that's precisely what the xhurnt administration is making more difficult. >> yeah. >> so i guess my worry is not only are we not well-positioned to address these issues, but
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we're actually getting less well-positioned over time. >> yes, i think that's true. i think on some of the tools we're getting stronger correctively so, for instance, the finns have set up a hypercenter of excellence where people have succumbed from a number of alice. they had a small country doing its part and has a lot of lessons to impart on itself with regards to living next to russia, by think you're right. this is more in the opportunity costs. there's so much more we could be doing and we're losing ground while others have gained ground. >> another component that i see as a vulnerability to be frank in framing it that way is -- is something that -- that you described in our article you wrote for texas national security review last fall about our domestic foreign policy, which is that we used to have a consensus on these values and on
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this approach to foreign policy and on american leadership of that approach to foreign policy and that consense why us seems increasingly to have broken down. i -- my own framing of it would be more that we're having a crisis of confidence. >> yes. >> particularly on open markets. look, there is a wide scope and many societies and open markets to have strong welfare systems and social net works and so forth, but we've traditionally been on more than one end of the spectrum compared to some western european countries. there seems to be a more fundamental questioning amongst the american public today about how open we want to be to the world and about how much we want
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to lead a world that's defined by openness. you made the argument in that piece last fall that actually you think there is still a consensus. >> i do. >> in the american people on behalf of an engaged open america. do you want to make that case. >> sure. >> give us some reassurance. >> i do think there is more endurance -- first of all, whenever you look at polling, right, you're already in trouble, so my piece in that case, and in general as i try to integrate tools of our, i do look at a broad range of tools and polling is one of them. not all of them. if you look at pentagon and puig had a lot of very broad questions about u.s. leadership. by and large the majority of americans responding to those questions are saying they want the u.s. to lead in the world. they seem to fundamentally get
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to it is to our advantage to be engaged in the world, to our economic advantage and to our security advantage if nothing else. that said, it is in part how you frame the question. nothing else. that said, it is in part how you frame the question, and then there's a lot left below that level and i do make that point. and piece and i talk about this a lot. we tend to not focus on that. we tend to think about, let's say, iran politics, jcpoa. there's issues that come below that high level of, well, that's nice, how do we do that. and then i think there we're getting much more polarized and it's not necessarily politically polarized, it depends on the issue, but it's polarized in all the ways you know all too well from 2016, urban, suburban,
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education levels, regardless of party, regardless of where you live, regardless of income. it's about obvious demographics, like veteran, non-veteran. your religious background, et cetera, et cetera. ethnic background, women, men. tons of ways in which we're divided. but i think what we have lost is the ability, of course, to come back and realize that fundamental truth of the things that unite us. and it is my nature to frame these things in a hopeful way and i hope not to be pollyannish about it. i wake up terrified pretty much every day, but this is our job. right? which is to find those bridges to, find the ways to bring people together. i'm finishing up a study now with some colleagues at csi that's looking at congress and how internationalist is congress. and using completely different sets of data, that's actually quite promising, that you find areas -- and how about this for a weird area -- foreign aid,
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strong bipartisan support across different demographics, across -- why they're looking at it, whether it's because they believe in international order, whether it's because they have humanitarian interests, maybe it's tied to strong religious views. but that's one example of the kinds of issues that endure as a bridge, you know, that we can start to build other policies on. the administration doesn't play that game. they're not that. period. so i think what you have to do is look at individual players inside the administration and look to congress and to the american people, start to bring the bridges together. and it turns out our allies too as we just talked about. >> so in a way, what you're suggesting is that rather than a bully pulpit approach to making the case to the american people on behalf of american leadership, which is
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traditionally -- >> traditional. and that's not going to happen. >> right. for a long time, the scholars and analysts have said, that's indispensable to have the president making the case to the american people. but you're suggesting there's a way from outside the beltway in -- >> right. >> -- to make this case, whether it's religious movements or humanitarian movements, community -- you know, communities that benefit from international engagement, that members of congress can see that, leverage that, and we can create a new consensus. and the question of the morning, given the tariff announcements yesterday, is, where's congress on tariffs, because the president of course can only set the tariffs congress authorizes him to set. i know in my work at brookings and i expect it's true for you as well, as a foreign policy analyst, yeah, i've always spent time with members of congress and happy to testify in brief, but it was never the major
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audience for our think-tank work. over the last year, i feel as though that's changed, that there's actually a lot more interest amongst members of congress to play a role in foreign policy, precisely because the executive is leaving a lot of stuff, either uncertain, or simply unaddressed. >> i do. i think that's true. i similarly have a long history of working closely with a staff in particular, but also members, you know, think-tankers routinely are pulled over to go brief informally and then to testify, and things of that sort. but i think -- i sense a very strong and i've heard directly, a very strong sense of mission, i guess i would say, that they get, that they, you know, it's now time to prove out article 1 of the constitution. like, it's built into the system. we've been able to operation without them having to -- this is overstated, but pull their
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weight in some of those areas. they could take passes on issues. they still will -- for political livelihood, it's always better to take a pass on any of these issues, if you can, particularly in foreign policy because they don't have a lot of sail yensy with voters. but i get a genuine sense of mission that they get that they need to step up to figure out what it is they think is right and how to make that work. i think what you've seen some members trying to do is work behind the scenes with the white house, and i don't think that's been -- who knows, you can't prove a counter-factual, but i suspect you will see more people trying to work in the open. and by people, i mean republicans, who have been trying to work behind the scenes. so you have a number of members who are leaving and they're much more vocal. we'll see if that, after the midterm, in particular, how that shifts that dynamic. >> right. how that balance shifts.
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>> yes. >> i have to ask you too, because your first long stint in the pentagon spanned the immediate post cold war era, all the way through the early, ugly -- >> 2006. >> -- years of the war in iraq. >> yep. >> that was also a period in which american public opinion swung pretty wildly on american leadership. you know, i remember d.c. in those years of the early '90s, where people really expected a peace dividend. there were debates about removing our forces from europe. there was a big debate over whether we had any interest in the yugoslav wars and the ethnic cleansing and genocide in bosnia. and ultimately, partly as a result of some of those post cold war engagements or non-engagements. bosnia, somalia, rwanda and so on, a lot of questions about
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america's role, and specifically with respect to the use of force. then we had 9/11, a big swing in the other direction, and now we sit here after 15 years of war in iraq and afghanistan. where do you see the present moment in terms of public opinion and public support for, especially american military engagement abroad, as compared to that earlier swing? >> i definitely think there's a much lower appetite. threshold has to be a lot higher for u.s. interest in use of force. use of force is the most polarizing -- again, i don't always mean that politically, but it's where americans divide the most, on foreign policy issues. and rightfully so. right? that's the biggest, lives and treasure question. and we have now lived through that, as you point out, for not only the civil wars there, if you will, of the '90s and
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humanitarian missions and when they go awry. and then this probably much more salient to the forming of most americans' opinions, these 17 years in and counting of conflict, iraq and afghanistan in particular. so i think americans have very little appetite for it. in fact, in you look at the afghanistan troop decision, the president came to, he agreed to the pentagon's -- secretary mattis' preferred outcome, bu he did it in a very grudging way, people may recall. what was interesting to me in that is because of the time we didn't have a functioning state department, it seemed that the president actually was the only one representing in the debate that viewpoint, which is just a curious moment of where you have a guy who, on the one hand is saying fire and fury one second, he's actually manifesting in some ways this view they think
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is a much widely held view of skepticism. right or wrong, i'm not making a judgment about it, but a widely held view about the use of force. >> okay. i'm going to stop you there. >> yeah, please. >> because i think on the one hand, yes, he's manifesting something that exists in the public. >> yes. >> that we see and feel. on the other hand, his attitudes, his hostility to troop deployments abroad, to american alliance commitments, is very long standing, and he's an extremely inconsistent man, but this is one of the few consistencies in his view over the decade. so is he being a man of the people there, or is he just being donald trump? >> i think he's always just being donald trump. let's be clear about that. but i guess it's a coincidence that is of interest that that is the viewpoint put forward because we didn't have the tools, we didn't have the right people in the room to have a broader conversation around
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that. but i think use of force is one where you can see, even in that decision i guess is what i'm saying, and all decisions going forward, even when we make decisions to deploy forces, and i -- you know, that's my world, so i very much believe that there is utility in having american forces deployed abroad, but to include in non-permissive environments where they're doing train, advise, assist, and in some places, in combat roles. so i don't have an issue on where we ended up on afghanistan. we can talk about that. but i do think it's fair to say that the burden is on my community, the defense community, as it should be, to show the value of those deployments and the american public is going to be rightfully a bit skeptical about it. >> so what do you say when you're talking to americans who say we've been out there doing
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counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, using the military as part of a broader tool kit to built state negligence iraq and afghanistan, we've been at this for a decade and a half and we just suck at it. at what point do we admit that this is not something we know how to do well and stop trying? what do you say to that? >> i think the first thing i say is, what is that alternative? again, i'm just as frustrated as anyone when i get up in the morning. but then i put my rational hat on and say, what is the alternative, and what are the costs and risks of the alternative. that's where i can see outcomes and afghanistan is one where you have devised an approach that puts the u.s. behind, if you will, rather than at the front line. it doesn't mean there are going to be no casualties. i'm not a fool. and i hope it's never sold that way. any time we have diplomats or american citizens or certainly
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forces in these complex environments, things are going to happen that cost lives. and certainly cost treasure. but i think you can look at the application of a modest, if you will, level of force, and see a value in it. that said, the problem with afghanistan and iraq is the one you've pointed out, which is, it's not really that. it's about how do you -- what do you do with the advantages you're trying to build on the military side, right? so this is where we -- however you want to talk about it -- but reconstruction and the u.s. failure to integrate, like, we have the talent, we have the people, we have the money. but we seem to not ever be able to get this right. and i guess good news, no one else does either. it's not unique to the united states. you know, in the early 2000s, you mentioned that period, there was this passing absolute fad on
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lawrence of arabia -- >> yes. >> so everyone wanted to be lawrence of arabia. but once they figured out -- >> even lawrence of arabia was not lawrence of arabia. >> it was a good movie. but in the reality, it was not the same. so i do think that's the face where we have a lot left to learn. but the fact that we haven't been able to do it, doesn't mean it makes sense to just stop trying because what is the alternative, are we trying to allow safe havens to grow again? iraq was obviously a searing experience in that. when there was an ability for isis to roll right across the syria/iraq border. you know, i don't want to do that again, and in the end, it resulted in us sending more troops back. so i would prefer to have a sustained and long-term approach. >> i think the one thing about the lawrence of arabia movie that rings very true to me is the sense of that guy, that mid
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level guy out in the field who's been working stuff on the ground for years, who at the end of the movie, feels utterly betrayed by capital, and then goes off and writes a book that says, if only they had listened to me, this all would have worked out fine. >> yeah, yeah. by the way, it's a bit kennon-like as well. if you think of george kennon's angst about, if people would just listen to me. anyway -- >> so as i think about the iraq experience and i wrote this a couple years ago in a piece for "the atlantic," it strikes me that if there was an error or decision point that i think went wrong, it was not necessarily the withdrawal of all our combat forces in 2011, it was the other things we withdrew simultaneously. so we with the surge, had a military victory that created a political opportunity.
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but because of our domestically driven, among other things, desire to withdraw, we -- and i was in government then, you were in government then, right? we were so eager to have an iraqi dw iraqi government after their elections in 2010, that we were happy with any government they could put together, and of course it was a torturous process to form that government. but it was a moment where because our military withdrawal was in sight, because we were already signaling that we were also going to cut our economic assistance, we were also going to cut our diplomatic presence, our leverage to shape the environment that we would leave behind was declining precipitously. >> right. >> and in many ways, it was the withdrawal of those nonmilitary resources -- >> right. >> -- that i think -- >> the death knell?
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>> i don't know if it was the death knell. i don't know if it was determinative. we can't play out that what if. but we certainly weren't exercising maximum leverage to create a situation that would stabilize. and then, of course, after we had removed our forces and had cut our aid and maliki started to destroy the iraqi military that we had worked so hard to build, we didn't have a lot left to work with to try and -- >> we didn't have strong channels on the diplomatic side, to your point about the other levers that you need to have in place. >> yeah. it seems to me that's one key lesson in terms of integrating the tool kit. we hosted at brookings last week the special inspector general for afghanistan reconstruction, releasing their lessons learned report, on stabilization. which was very interesting, because it was a portrait of the
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mismatch in organizational culture, between the civilian state and usaid and military agencies that were actually working together quite closely on the ground, but whether it was in kabul or back in washington, had competing imperatives. >> right. >> and so, as a result, the selection of areas in which to invest, how quickly to invest, how quickly to leave, all those decisions ended up being made in a way that disintegrated the tool kit rather than integrated it. >> i do want to ask you, when you raise the question on use of force and gave that a really good history, the piece that came to mind as you were talking too, is the generational aspects, right? i'm interested in your thoughts on, you know, we have a generation that had grown up with world war ii very much and the aftermath. >> right. >> you know, the causes and the
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aftermath, very much in mind. but we're very distant from that now, generationally. and i'm just wondering your thoughts on whether that's also part of it, whether you call it the war weariness or if it's just the generations growing up with a different construct? >> i don't know that it's war weariness. i do think it's skepticism. and you and i are just about the same age, so we remember the cold war years. >> yeah. >> and we -- >> i feel like the last of the cold war ears. -- years. >> right. 1989 was right when we were at the cusp of a -- >> in college. >> -- it was a defining moment sitting in our college dorms watching the wall fall. >> yep. >> and the peaceful reunification of europe and the expansion of nato, that was the beginning of our foreign policy careers. and so i do think that there's a cohort effect to an extent that younger generations didn't live
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through that period where those big values and system questions were at stake. didn't see the way in which decades of investment of american and allied cultural, economic, diplomatic, and military investment paid off, right, with the collapse of the soviet bloc, and the peaceful -- you know, europe whole and free, which was not a given, right? >> no. >> so, yes, i feel very much that that experience shaped me in a sense of what america can do when we do it right. but i -- i have to keep in mind as well that even for my generation and earlier generations, there are examples of what america couldn't do right or did wrong, namely vietnam. i don't know that the -- at least in my perception, and you are much better placed to comment on this than either of
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us. it's not my perception that the current generation, or the rising generation, believes that the united states is a maligned force in the world in the way that many anti-vietnam activists believe that the u.s. was acting as an imperialist power, using its military to impose. >> right. >> and i think that the iraq and afghanistan experience is more about, god, we just don't seem capable of this. it's -- it's a lack of confidence. >> yeah. >> and maybe that's what, if there's a generational divide, that's what divides us and those younger -- >> yeah. >> so i have to ask you a question about your tours at dod. >> sure. >> because you -- you spent over a decade -- >> yeah. 13 years.
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>> -- in osd and during the post cold war and post 9/11 period, left, went to think-tank, academia, got your ph.d. then came back in the obama administration as a deputy undersecretary and ultimately principal deputy undersecretary. and it was during those years that this shift in public opinion happened, right? which was a tenent with the worst years of the iraqi civil war and the 2008 campaign. >> right. >> right? did it feel -- when you came back to dod, did dod feel the difference in america? >> no. i don't think so. i think there -- because it's such a mission-focused organization, it's a bit heads down on these kinds of cross-cutting winds of public
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viewpoint in general. right? that's why you put in political civilians and others who are there to kinda connect it to the -- >> and that was your role when you came back. >> a part of our role. michelle used to say, we were the ball bearings, there to keep everybody talking to eemp other, and there's a lot of translation function and smoothing that you're doing from the military to the civilian. so that's a big piece of how you have to think of that kind of job. what i would say is that there was a, you know, they felt the same frustration with the seeming inability to achieve outcomes, mixed with that mission orientation of, let's just go push harder, go do more. and that was similar to when i left in 2006. the biggest change was the political change.
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because when i left in sdi2006, left just before rumsfeld left. so we were still, you know, the politics were very different. it was right before bush had kind of swung over to picking gates, to doing the surge, to acknowledging, i think i would say, the need for a very robust hall of government approach, to the extent they ever expressed themselves that way. that was already engrained by the time we got there, and what i would say i found was more the very typical expected fear of the democrats coming in and what they might do with that, what they thought was sort of a new-found, like we might actually have an approach here, are you guying going to throw it all out the window, because the president had campaigned on getting out of iraq. so i felt in the first term of obama, you know, i'm obviously extreme biased, that we did a
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good job of navigating that ball bearing issue and making progress in many of those areas where they feared we would not. and being thoughtful, non-expansionist on the issues of iraq. syria, however, entered the scene. and i think there -- i think we can take a lot of blame in the obama administration. it wasn't the cause that has many -- my view, syria has many mothers and fathers and assad is at the center of that and the u.s. is much further down the list. but i don't think we handled that situation well and we lost a lot of ground with the military, as democrats, to be blunt, over syria. and you saw a lot of that play out, i think if the first year of the trump administration, with some of the actors, all of whom are military, around president trump. so h.r. mcmaster and mattis and dunford. >> saying we need to be there -- >> i just think they had that --
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they're indecisive, they don't -- they don't believe force can be used, you know, it's all or nothing. you know, it's all risk, no reward. so you saw a number of instances where they were attempting to re-establish for themselves that it's better to have a strong deterrent and to enforce, if you will, red lines, and the specific case of syria, we've had two times, although we've had chemical weapons used multiple times, two times where they used strikes, which were juxtaposition to the obama administration's approach. >> and now you have the president saying, are we done beating isis yet because i want to get out. >> yeah. >> so i'm done enforcing red lines. you can date it from tillerson's -- this was january of this year, tillerson gave a speech at stanford laying out the trump administration syria
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policy, saying they were going to keep troops there as leverage against iran and russia, and we're not even six months later and we now have a very different approach. >> even on the first use of the moab if you will, the first u.s. strike, which i believe was spring of 2017, if i have my timing correct in my own head, right before that, nikki haley had given a speech at the u.n., or had generally given a press comment, i can't remember which, in which she essentially said, we're not so interested in syria. then they used chemical weapons. and again, this time around, you see sort of this testing, i think, where there's something said by the administration, assad, you know, pushes on, we see it, plenty of others who do this kind of thing, but in this case, it's assad with regard to chemical weapons and they've pushed back to some extent in
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those cases. so this is also the problem with having really mixed signals, that assad is one thing. if we experience the same kind of green lights, red lines with china or russia as examples, or north korea, it could end, you know, much less benignly. so somebody like me worries a lot about, fine if people want to believe that a mad man theory, i've always started to think of the mad men theory, because it's unpredictable and totally a marketing mad men approach to foreign policy, may have some up sides. and you will hear this a lot from republicans, even in congress, that, well, the president's pressure strategy is getting us further than we would have gotten otherwise. i think the question is, at what cost? and this gets all the way back again to allies. so we have more people who are getting toward 2%. i'm a huge fan of that.
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what was the cost? was it worth the cost? was the way we did that worth the cost? how resilient is the system, whether it's the constant poking with allies, or with adversaries who are not going to respond nicely always to those sorts of pokes that are not predictable and planned and strategic. >> well, and there's another dimension to this forest and trees problem, because the 2% was never the ultimate goal. the 2% was -- >> yeah. >> it was a symbol and part of a strategy. so, okay, you get 2%, but what does 2% get you, when this is the price you've paid for it? so that's another dimension. so i have to say too, i really worry that trump, who came in determined to reverse obama's mistakes, especially in the middle east, is about to repeat obama's serious mistake.
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>> in terms of it not bearing any cost? >> no. in terms of mistakenly -- i think obama's mistake was to believe that this civil war would not impact our interests very much. >> right. >> that it would be self-contained somehow -- >> yes. >> -- and we saw the impacts of that, not only with the degradation of the norm on wmd use, but -- not only with the effect on the rise of isis which is a major effect for the united states, but also on this immense human displacement and the impact that had on the region as a whole, on turkey, on europe, on european politics, and therefore on the -- >> completely. >> so the ripples go way out. and now we have, the mistake trump is repeating is more obama's iraq mistake, which is, you know, i'm gonna withdraw our forces, but i'm also withholding $200 million in reconstruction assistance and i'm cutting off
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all our civilian assistance to areas that are not controlled by assad. which is basically, okay, who's left on the ground? assad, iran, russia, and sunni extremists. >> that's right. >> and what's going to grow there? is isis 3.0? so that's, i think, my biggest worry. let me -- i know we want to actually get to some of the questions that you submitted, but i do -- we had cooked up earlier that we wanted to just talk a little bit about dod and state -- >> oh, yes. >> because kath spent most of her time in the pentagon and you split your time between think-tank world and government world. i spent most of my time in think-tank, but i'm a state baby in the sense that i'm a foreign service brat. so i'm going to give you a chance to tell me the most dysfunctional thing about the
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defense department. >> oh, sure. >> and your favorite thing about the state department. and i'll return the favor. >> i'll go the other way around. my favorite thing about the state department is the patriotism and sense of mission. and all my interactions with state department folks, from my junior years, if you will, all the way up to the most senior people at state, never found a person who i didn't think was in it for the united states of america. and that's under republican and democratic administrations and different personality -- not all political appointees are fun to work for, so i found that regardless of who they were working for at the time. and that sticks with me. and i'm going to cheat and add a corollary, which is they have just an incredible wealth of knowledge and skills that are unique to diplomacy. i'm going to raise that because the one dysfunctional thing right now for dod is sieve mill
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balance. i testified in favor of secretary mattis' getting a waiver from the seven-year delay from retirement in the military. general office of of retirement to serving in the secretary of defense. when i did that, i said, you know, i think a president has the right to put forward -- doesn't mean the senate has to vote in favor of the person -- has the right to put forward someone from private life that they think can do this job. i think the statutory requirements, seven years, is right for a lot of reasons for sieve mill. i think a waiver can be considered appropriate once in a generation and here we have that. i think a lot of secretary mattis. but that said, i also said, if you're going to appoint someone out of military life, or very soon out of military life, they have to go above and beyond. they have to be very obvious.
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and about the degree to which they're going to go outside their network to bring civilians inside the system, and i think that -- by that measure, the department's not doing well. all indicators are that it's relying very little on those career people, also patriots, also people who will do -- capable with a skill set. and that's very worrisome to me. i think what happens in niger, what has happened in terms of, we've had, you know, a naval -- [ inaudible ] -- see real effects of which you do not have a functioning process that brings in fully those viewpoints that the military rightfully is not trained. and they have a specialty too. i am hopeful that with the statement department potentially raising its voice -- again, not getting into the policy, not
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approving of policy viewpoints from secretary pompeo, but i do think secretary mattis has always been respectful of the state department itself, and even if his own civilians, they can't get the sieve mill balance right in the pentagon, i'm hoping his respect for those diplomatic skills and the patriotism of folks from the state department and his mutual respect for pompeo, means that they can at least start to right some of that balance more broadly. but institutionally, inside dod, lot of broken china. it started sfwrafergds aadminis it's going to take a long time to fix. what's your answer is this. >> -- what's your answer? >> ooh, okay, i think one of the things i admire most about the military is how much time and care it takes to learn lessons from its own experience, to study its successes and failures and apply those lessons forward. now, i'm sure you can tell me, you know, lots of instances of
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when that wasn't done well properly, but i think it's built into the system so that learning is a conscious and deliberate activity. and i think that's actually very rare in government overall. and it's an incredible asset. maybe a model for other agencies. when i think about my own home agency, if you will. i have to say, one of the best books i've ever read on what's great about the state department and what's broken about the state department is kori schake's little book "state of disrepair," i think it's called. one of the points she makes there is about how little the state department invests in training leaders. >> right. >> training people on
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leadership. now, there are some amazing leaders in the state department, but they are people who managed to figure it out for themselves, rather than went through any formal process. and it's a bit of a joke in the department, that when, of course, as you ascend the levels and you get to a management position, you're required to do management training, which is good. i believe that, at least when i was there, the required management training was a three-day seminar at fsi. because people didn't want to take three days out of the office, people worked hard at getting out having to do it. so there's a lot of dysfunctional leadership and management at the state department. and the people who do it well, as kori put it in this book, are, people who learned to swim by being dumped into the deep end of the pool and surviving, and so, therefore, they don't
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see the value of swimming lessons, because they didn't need them. >> they did it just fine. >> they did it just fine. and why am i worried about that, of all things right now? because the state department has been running on fumes in terms of personnel and resources for years. dating back to jesse helms and the end of the cold war. and despite efforts by democratic and republican administrations to address the imbalance in resourcing for the civilian agencies versus the military, and over the past year of this administration, the degradations of a hostile white house and a clueless secretary of state who magnified the malevolence of that white house toward the state department, you know, it's almost like a body that's been starving for so long
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that it feeds itself with its own muscle. that's where the state department is today. and so the best people there are the ones, of course, with the most opportunities outside, and they're the ones that are leaving the fastest. >> right. >> and everybody else there who was already so stretched and so exhausted is simply overwhelmed. and so, you know, you said there's broken china in dod and it's going to take jeeyears, i worry that it will take a generation to rebuild the state department. >> i think that's true. i agree with you. >> let's go to your questions. the first on this issue of leadership, the truman project focuses on developing the next generation of security leaders. you have worked with and for many of our most distinguished officials in senior levels of government. so what would you say are the most essential qualities of great leaders? >> i have had the privilege to work for incredible leaders.
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and it's hard to distill just one or two things, but i think i will start with this because i say it all the time. the great leaders never forget they're leaders. there's a cost to pay, if you will, to being a leader. so you have to withhold, you know, maybe some of the things you think or want. and you have to remember you're a leader. and people are looking to you for guidance, they're looking to you for direction, and the best leaders that i have ever had never forgot they were leaders, in front of their teams, with their people, and in engaging with the counterparts. so that to me is a really helpful frame for how you conduct yourself professionally, which in our field is everything. competency is very important. conduct is incredibly important. because we all are here in a relatively small community for a very long period of time. >> can i drill down on that a
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little bit? >> sure, yeah. >> because i think that some might interpret what you said to say that a leader must always seem confident. a leader must always seem like they know what they're doing. >> okay, that's fair. >> we've had a lot of discussions about leadership styles. >> yeah. >> and also about gender and leadership style. >> yeah. >> and whether that vision of a leader as always confident is something that, a, maybe isn't good leadership -- >> yeah. >> -- but b, may have a gendered component that keeps women out of leadership roles. >> let me use a different term because i think confident can -- it's not to project that you know the right direction that everyone should go. i guess i would say it's principled. so that is important, that people see that their boss has some kind of guiding set of principles that help them operate and to remember that.
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and that manifests in lots of different ways for lots of different people. and i don't think there's a perfect style of leadership. i also often tell people, you know, having been a subordinate many times, and a boss many times, not everyone's ideal boss is someone else's ideal boss. everyone wants something a little different from their boss. you have people who want freedom, who want direction, people who want to be close to the boss, you have people who want never to bother them. whatever it is, you know, i think we really create problems for yourself when we think there is an idealized type. so for me, a big piece of it is, does the leader -- is it a conscious call to be a leader, and how do they interpret? can you track how they do that? the other piece is listening. the biggest trap for all leaders is actually the one you are
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starting to watch to, which is the idea that you have to be confident and the smartest person in the room. oh, my gord lolord, no. it's about tiring smart staff and being able to pick winners and losers in terms of ideas, and be willing to get back on the horse and go from there. that's all about listening. what is the mood of the organization? what are the good ideas that are bubbling from the bottom? where are you off, you're just off? because we all are at some point. so those would be my two if i were to keep it limited. >> yeah, i think in many ways, the best leaders are aware of, not just what they're good at, but also what they're not good at, and surround themselves with people who can help build them up in the areas where they are weaker. so self-knowledge. >> yeah. mike says we have five minutes. >> okay. from your perspective, in five minutes, how is climate change affecting the security of our
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forces? >> so, in very real ways, we have installations, assets, but mostly installations that are in real danger from climate change implications. so in areas that are more prone to flooding or they're in areas that will get submerged. this happens more generally speaking with naval facilities because they're closest to the water, but it's not only naval facilities. that's kind of the most direct implication issue for dod. and dod has not waivered for many years on the need to have mitigations in place for climate. and it's worked hard to stay below the political elements of climate, which should not be political for purposes of this. i mean, it's just a fact that we have encroachments and issues that are happening, due to climate. so that's the very direct piece.
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the second order piece in terms of effect on dod are the implications that come from disasters, to which the u.s. military is likely to be called upon to respond. those can be domestic. you saw the huge call-up of forces for houston. a much less call-up of forces for puerto rico. so you can think about how as climate changes and of course i think most people know it's happening significantly in urban areas. often urban areas -- think of manhattan -- these sorts of mass disasters are much more severe disasters that our climate amplified, are going to create demands for the u.s. military. that's just domestic. if you look overseas, you can look at places like lagos, you can think of tokyo, you can think of a lot of areas of the world where the united states might decide it has interests. then you get to the tertiary, which is the biggest set of issues and the least directly tied to u.s. forces, i would
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say, but very important, which are shifting resource basins, how that creates migration flow changes and resource wars, or competitions that, again, create demand for forces. and i think i'd put, i guess in that third category, in the pacific in particular, you have countries that will either be at existential risk and/or very significant risk where we need to be thinking ahead about the geo-political implications of that, let alone the direct military response implications. >> okay, lightning final question. >> all right. >> this administration is providing, let's say, inconsistent leadership and policy guidance to folks in the national security world. what is your advice to national security professionals about how to bring coherence to policy when they get such inconsistent leadership and guidance?
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>> um, know your brief. i think it depends on what you're working on. you'll first start from what your goal is and the issue in your portfolio that your focused on. a term we sometimes use in dod, maybe others use it, bureaucratic ninjas. i think people who are bureaucratic ninjas, hopefully in a principled way, because it can be used for ill for sure, are thoughtful about how to take the landscape as they understand it, and find the avenues, find the slim streams, find the avenues of success, and you have to always do that ethically, you don't run for instance, around your boss to the hill, hopefully if you're inside a department or agency. but if you happen to be best friends with a staffer and you're going out for drinks anyway, something might come up. always be ethical about it, but you need to be thinking very, very thoughtfully about the tools. focus -- it's hard -- very hard in this environment, but focus on the tools you do have.
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focus on what you can do. and i was a civil servant for a long time. and i've always been, as a political appointee, in particular issue sets where there was not advantage in pushing forward. and know when that comes. know when it makes sense to go to ground, you know, it's probably an analogy most people don't like to associate themselves with, but cockroaches survive nuclear winters. so sometimes you gotta be the cockroach. and you're gonna be there at the end, but that's the reality. you have to understand bureaucratically how to advance your issue at the right time and in the right context. >> okay. ladies and gentlemen, kath hicks. >> thank you. [ applause ]


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