tv Bush Presidential Center Leadership Forum with President Bush and Robert... CSPAN April 22, 2019 4:34pm-5:21pm EDT
at 8:30 and watch the correspondence dinner with the featured speaker. >> george w. bush and former secretary gates. this is held at the bush presidential library in dallas. it is 45 minutes. ms. dobrainsky: good morning, everyone. and thank you, ann for that wonderful introduction. i have to tell you will i am thrilled to have this discussion with two leaders patriots, who really have served our country with distinction honor, courage of conviction compassion, and integrity. and i have to say that not only did they serve our country in their former capacities, but they continue to serve our
country. so we have a lot of issues to go to and to discuss about leadership and about foreign policy and strategy. mr. bush: let me just say that after that introduction, we're thrilled that you're the moderator. ms. dobrainsky: indeed. indeed. mr. gates: the check's in the mail. ms. dobrainsky: i want to go first to the issue of america's role in the world. let me preface it by saying that winston churchill had an aaddress at harvard in 1943, and he talked about america's role in the world. he said the following, the price of greatness is responsibility. president bush, how do you see america's role in the world today? mr. bush: first of all, gates is old enough to -- to have been at the speech. [laughter] mr. bush: and i'm proud to be on
the stage with you and bob. you should judge a president by the company he keeps, and i had a fabulous cabinet and bob gates was an integral part of the team and i thank you for your continued service. america, we stand for human decency, human rights, the rule of law, free press, free religion. it is ingrained in our soul, and i think it is in our interest that others practice and open civil society for the sake of peace. if you're one -- one of the lessons of 9/11 is that how others live matters to our national security. a message that seems to be getting lost on the american people as that moment recedes in our collected memory. i believe it is in our national interest and self-interest that others live in free societies, and therefore america's role in
the world has got to be to hear the voices of those who are imprisoned, to hear those that scream for religious freedom, those that want there to be a vibrant press, to hold the powerful to account. if we're not willing to listen, engage then it is unlikely that others will embrace the habits necessary for peaceful societies. ms. dobrainsky: thank you. your freedom agenda underscores that both when you were president and when you were at the bush center. boo-yeah you're right. -- mr. bush: yes, you are right. ms. dobrainsky: how would you see it? mr. gates: i'm an american. i believe lincoln was right when he said that we are earth's last best hope. in a time of rising athor
terrorism -- authoritarianism, it is right to be the defender of human rights. as the defender of human rights and human dignity, there is nobody else left. it is just us, and if -- if we don't stand for those ideals. we are deeply flawed. we have a lot of flaws. but america has always looked to america for leadership despite those faults because we are unique in that we are trying to overcome them and work at them. on a more practical level. i think that the united states is the only significant force in the world for an international rules-based order where it isn't doing eat doing -- dog eat dog and every nation out for itself but trying to figure out how we get along and work together to address a variety of problems.
if the united states doesn't lead, there is no one else to lead. if you look at other democracies, and some of them, like our best friends the british, are even more trouble than we are. we have a unique role in the world, and as the president said it is in our own interest to play that role in the world. just one final historical thought. the notion that we can seal ourselves off from this responsibility i think is very naive. who would have thought the assassination that some austrian arch duke in 1914 would have an affect on us, or the german seizure of land from the czechs in 1948 or ragtag terrorists living in afghanistan in 2001. so the notion that we can ignore the rest of the world and do our own thing is ignorant.
mr. bush: on september 12, 2001, qwazumi calls me, the japanese president, he said we will work to spread freedom as the alternative to the ideology of the murders. it is a remarkable conversation. because years before that my dad chooses not to go to college but to fight against the japanese. i bet in the late 1940's, if they said the united states and japan would stand shoulder to shoulder they would say you are a hopeless idealistic person, naive, yet it happened. it is a vun verse amounty -- a universe amounty to -- universe amounty to freedom. they want to be free.
and the japanese have a japanese-style democracy and an enemy became an ally. it happened throughout history and it happened again. i believe our answer is absolutely. unless the united states says it is none of our business how others live. ms. dobrainsky: let's talk about iraq. mr. bush: okay. ms. dobrainsky: president bush -- mr. bush: thank you. ms. dobrainsky: this is significant. in your book "decision points," you said the most important part of your job was making decisions and chapter 12 was on the surge. that truly was a difficult decision, but it was a wise decision. it certainly was -- mr. bush: i agree with that. ms. dobrainsky: you could not pull troops out of iraq but instead to enhance it. strain it. mr. bush: why? because i thought we could achieve the goal of a
functioning democracy in the middle east and ally in the war against terror. i had great faith in our military to help us achieve that goal. i felt that a with draul during a difficult -- withbd -- with drawal would have dispirited our military. it would have looked like the decision was a pure political decision and that would have been a political decision. i couldn't stomach the idea that people were saying that george w. is trying to save his own political skin by making a strategic decision by weakening our faith of others. the iraqis voted for a new constitution and voted for a government, and it worked. and one reason it worked is because the secretary of defense
gates helped make it work. and so bob came on right -- came on right when the surge had been announced. he slid over from texas a and m he was running the mighty a and m university. we talked about the surge, and he was committed to making sure that america did not retreat from the battlefield again. and, thank you -- that was the right decision, and it worked. ms. dobrainsky: it was a significant part of your book. >> it was a chapter. ms. dobrainsky: secretary gates you implemented it. mr. gates: it was not just a wise decision, it was a courageous decision. most of the senior military didn't agree. there were a handful who did, but -- but most of the senior
most people did not think it was a good idea. just a few points about -- about the surge. first of all i remember the president saying, you know, we're going to need a new commander, and he said you might want to take a look at this general patraeus. and my mom didn't raise an idiot. i looked at general patraeus, and i said, gee mr. president, i think david patraeus would be exactly the right guy for this p job. -- this job. a few days after he made the decision to authorize troops, senior military leaders came in to me and say, we made kind of a serious mistake. we forgot about the enablers. i never heard this word before, the enablers. it is the helicopters, it is the
med-a-vac and a surge of 20,000 became 30,000. to give you a flavor in terms of costs. on average for every 1,000 soldiers you send overseas, it is costs $1 billion. so i'm going back in time the cost of this thing both in men and money is about 50% higher than originally. i told the military, i said, i will go, i will take my head in my hands and tell the president what we need to do but you ever do that again. don't ever for get about the enablers. the second problem was finding enough troops. and this was the hardest decision i think i made as secretary because the army came to me and said, we don't have enough troops with the current deployment rates that we have so
we're either going to have to cut soldiers time at home or extend their tours in iraq and afghanistan. so instead of a year, it would be 15 months. and a young major working for me said, you need to understand, rule you are breaking the rule of twos. because now these soldiers are going to miss two birthdays, two anniversaries, two christmases, two thanksgivings, and so on. it was the hardest decision because i knew how hard this would be on the troops and their families. the final point that i would make is that the democrats in congress were dead set against the surge, and having just taken control of the congress and to have waking hour to reverse it as fast as possible. the first six or seven months of 2007, we fought a constant
reguard action to prevent congress bringing the troops home before most of them had gotten there. during the spring, after consulting with the president, i told patraeus, and then made it public, that i had asked for a report on progress in september because i felt like if we got to summer, then i could tell it was important for us to hold the republicans, especially in the senate, and if we could get the summer i could then told those republican senators, oh, for heaven's sake, give us until september, eight, ten weeks from now to see if this was working. the good news was we already had signs by may the surge was working, and it was having the effect that we had hoped but it was -- it was a tough slog all the way, and, as i say, put a huge burden on our troops and their families. but we also -- we had a battlefield in iraq, but we also
had a battlefield in washington. mr. bush: that's right. one thing i'd like to note is one of the reasons why ultimately the pentagon agreed was because pete pace did a fabulous job of shepherding the military. i know pete is here. he was the first chairman of the joint chiefs from the marine corps. no wonder we were successful. mr. gates: and he was my tutor. he taught me a lot the first time i was secretary. mr. bush: he is now on the board of the bush institute. ms. dobrainsky: your leadership on that issue is truly exemplary. another area where your leadership was also exemplary was certainly with regard to afghanistan. both of you were very vested in afghanistan and ensuring that al qaeda's safe haven was not only obliterated, but you worked to ensure that it won't come back. talk about some of the
decisions. mr. bush: the first decision was after 9/11 i recognized it was a different kind of conflict as opposed to previous ideological conflicts where there was a capital and army and spies. we were dealing with an enemy that could only thrive if they found the soft underbelly of failed states, therefore part of the doctrine had to be in order to protect the home lan, if you -- homeland, if you harbor a terrorist you are equally as guilty as the terrorist. in this case they were harboring al qaeda. when the president says something, he has to mean it, and i meant it. the initial objective was to destroy al qaeda and its safe haven, and -- and we did thanks to not only the military but the c.i.a. and it was an extraordinary effort. the interesting thing as i recall is tommy franks had
trouble getting their troops in and the american american people felt anxious, when are you going to do something, but there was a fog in a part of uzbekistan and -- but once we finally got going, the mission was partially accomplished. then the question is, what is the role of the united states? look, again, i understand that americans are tired and becoming isolationist, and so i say, if you want afghan girls to suffer like they did, then convince congress and the president to withdraw the troops. in my judgment it would be not in our national interest to do that particularly since we're a nation that believes in human dignity and human rights. ms. dobrainsky: absolutely. mr. secretary. mr. gates: most of the tough
decisions i had to make about afghanistan, frankly were in the obama administration. we did have a problem when i first became secretary the taliban had fled to pakistan and had used the years since we had rejected them to regroup and rearm with the help of the pakistanis. and they really came back to try and change the events of 2001. we first saw that really in 2005 but by 2007 they were coming back pretty strong. so we tried to find more forces that we could -- i just described how skis combat forces -- how scarce combat forces were, but we found forces in 2007 to try to deal with this
recurring taliban threat. the two toughest decisions i had to make first in 2009 was the decision to relieve the commander in afghanistan. he was a fine general. he had a great career, but he was not the right fit for the kind of war we were fighting in afghanistan, and that is a very tough decision. it was the first field commander that had been relieved since truman fired macarthur in the early 1950's. the second was persuading the president that we thank the end of 2009 needed a surge in afghanistan, similar to the surge that we had in iraq. the commander had asked for -- crystal asked for 40,000 troops and we debated this for three months in the situation room and we finally got an agreement. the president agreed to send
30,000 additional troops and then we put the arm on our allies for another 7,000 or 8,000, so we came very close to what the commander had asked for. unfortunately, the benefits which -- and they did have significant benefits because these additional forces were able to clear out both helmond and kandahar pretty well. but we were fighting with one harm tied behind us because the president had put a deadline on when we would leave. one of the things that president bush and condi rice and i said that there would be no deadlines as to when we would enthe surge or come out of iraq. you basically tell the enemy is all you have to do is wait us out. that was part of the problem in 2009 when a firm date was
established for pulling the troops out, it sent a message to the taliban that no matter how much we suffer over the next few years, we've got -- if we can hang in there, we've got this thing. ms. dobrainsky: what about the ongoing negotiations with the taliban that is taking place now? mr. bush: you have a guy negotiating on behalf of the u.s. who is close to my administration. he is a good guy. bob and i were chucking because -- chuckling because the afghans are constantly kidding that he wants to be the president of afghanistan, which is not the best position in the world for zahl to be aiming for. bob knows better than i do. all i know is that afghanistan has a democratically elected government that at some point in time has to be a part of any process in order for it to work. mr. gates: yeah, i would say it is really -- i think zahl is a
good negotiator, a good ambassador. he knows the afghans well. he's afghan himself, which is why they worry he wants to run for president. how anyone would think that is a career-enhancing move i'm not quite sure. but i think the key here is sequencing. i don't have any issues with trying to sort out the main issues between the u.s. and the taliban as the first step. but as any part of a negotiated outcome, the afghan government is going to have to be a part of the process and if we could get some basic issues sorted out between the u.s. and the taliban and then bring the afghan government into those conversations because at the end of the day we can't walk away from those people and they have to be part of the solution. we can't just do this over their heads and pretend that it is going to have any good impact
long term. mr. bush: the other point i want to make about both countries is that it is not just the united states. there were like 32 nations and the coalition of the willing in afghanistan, and i think 34 in iraq. in other words, nato is very proud of its decision to join with us in afghanistan and -- so there are other nations there. and we ought to be grateful as a nation that they were willing to do that. ms. dobrainsky: mr. president, this one is just for you on afghanistan. i have to ask this. i have to put this forward. mr. bush: go ahead. ms. dobrainsky: and that is first lady laura bush made history during your administration when we delivered the weekly radio address on afghanistan which was the first time ever that a first lady had done so, and she said on that radio address the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women. she made three trips there. she's the honorary chair of the u.s. afghan women's council. she has been committed to this.
this is about global citizenship. isn't this a perfect example of that. mr. bush: i was trying to give a radio address, i was all poised to speak and i felt a sharp elbow in my side. move over buster. i think -- laura knew she could be impactful as a first lady and she learned first hand how impactful she could be, because after her speech a lot of people wanted to be engaged in helping afghan women and afghan girls, and she gave great hope to people whose rights had been squashed by the taliban, and it was -- it was a defining moment in helping to define how our administration would treat people around the world. and, it was a good one. ms. dobrainsky: she certainly has made a tremendous difference, not only then, but even now.
mr. bush: mr. bush: she is still trying me what to do. ms. dobrainsky: that might be a good thing. we have to discuss russia. i was struck that you met vladimir putin more than 34 times. mr. bush: we became so familiar with each other i called him vlad and he called me w. he changed when he was president. when he was president russia was broke and then oil went up and the real vladimir putin came up. he is playing a weak hand. the demographics of russia are disasterous. he has consolidated power. he has not much pushback. people say, man, he's popular. i would have said i would have
been popular if we owned nbc news. he is a zero-sum thinker. he is not a very good strategic thinker. strategic thinkers think what can we do together to win? he thinks, what can i do to diminish america? and bob, i think i'm right about saying this, bob, is that a playbook out of the soviet era was to foment descent in our democracy by having radical groups and for a period of time the soviet playbook was closed and it seems to be reemerging, and we've got to make two things clear. one, our alliances are solid. imagine being a lithuanian and worried about the u.s. engagement flew nato -- through nato. and there are a lot of russian
speakers in lithuania, and so they are being pressured by russia and they need to knee they have a strong ally -- need to know they have a strong allies with the united states. and that vladimir putin can't influence our elections. anything that interferes with our democracy, there has to be a pushback and a resolve to putin that we understand your game and you're not going to get away with it. ms. dobrainsky: mr. secretary before you give your response, i have to say you have done extensive academic work in russian history and looking at foreign policy. i have been a reader of many of your writings both outside and also when you served at the agency. mr. bush: is that a sleeping device? ms. dobrainsky: no comment. mr. gates: it is a nontechnical pure for sleep apnea.
i think to understand where putin is coming from you have to go back to the collapse of the soviet union. and i think we in the west greatly underestimated the humiliation. it was not just the collapse of the soviet union, it was the collapse of a russian ep pier. russia's -- empire. russia's borders today are what they were before katherine the great became empress. moscow used to rule 3 hundred million people, now it is 140 million and declining. then you had during the 1990's a period of extraordinary did hes using to -- did hes ti using to
gangs reallying keach other -- gangs killing each other and so on. and so this was part of the need for the russia culture to have a strong leader and restore the economy and so on. and that's the backdrop against which putin became president. i think -- i think he from the very beginning had two basic goals. the first, as the president said, was to restore russia to the serve union's -- soviet union's place as a great power and a power that has to be taken into account in dealing with any problems around the world. i think their involvement in syria, in venezuela, in africa, it is a reassertion that we're back and don't mess with us. and the second is the strategy as old as the russia empire, and
that is a buffer of frozen conflicts on their per rifa. we -- per rif gentleman. i thank if the baltic states were not members of nato we would be saying -- seeing it in the baltic states today. i think since the election of 2012 in which he felt or believed that the u.s. intervened against him when he was reelected president, and he -- he regards anything that we were doing in terms of promotion of democracy of civil society and so on which was going on, began really during the bush administration, as interference in their internal affairs, and so i think this newest piece is basically retaliation and the
determination to weaken the west in every way possible through fomenting internal divisions, and not just in the united states but in europe as well. and we have seen it in germany and france and italy. they were involved i think originally in the brexit vote. and to the president's point about the soviet playbook, the problem today is the technologies that are available through social media and the internet and cyber and so on are dramatically important effective than the tools available to the c.i.a. and k.g.b. in the cold war. and putin is using all of these against us to try to create, foment divisions among us, to interfere with the outcome of our elections and so on. i think we will be dealing with him for a very long time. his current term is not up until
2024. i think he will find a way to become like president xi president for life. ms. dobrainsky: it is one of the serious challenges we have before us. last month there in 49 immigrants sworn in as u.s. citizens and you and mrs. bush made comments about the contributions of immigrants, but that we need to also enforce our boards and protect the home lan. mr. bush: -- homeland. mr. bush: if you have never been to a naturalization ceremony, go to one. they are spectacular. people who have taken big risks to come here, people who started their own businesses, people who want their kids to get a good education. they stood in line and have
become citizens. it is a spectacular moment. we had one -- we had two. the first one i still had a little bit of the presidency in me and knew the photograph that would be broadcast across the country, so i had two mexican americans in marine uniforms who had just been sworn in on my side. i was sending a message to the american people that there is a harsh debate, but please don't overlook the contribution of immigrants to the vibrancy to our soul. nothing will be solved until the publics get out of it. it is a political plus for both parties in congress, and it is sad because the problem is fixable. the bored patrol needs to be bolstered, and most americans understand the need to enforce
the bored but most americans are more welcoming than the rhetoric has been thus far. i'm a little discouraged. i have heroically tried and failed to get a bill passed in 2007. i still think it is the right model. i know there's not only a human rights dimension to this issue but an economic dimension to this issue. we know that many jobs that require hard work and, you know sweating away in august in texas, americans won't want to do them, but there are others who will. for the economic vitality of our country, we ought to have a ration worker program. anyway, it is a tough issue, and, you know, it really -- it clouds what's been so great about us as a nation that we're
able to assimilate. i hope it is little and not a lack of confidence in the ability of people to meld together. ms. dobrainsky: secretary greats what is the role of the military in this issue? mr. gates: first of all, when i became secretary we had several,000 national guard -- several hundreds of national guard troops along the bored. these -- border. these troops were there at the request of the governors, and the reason they wanted the federal government involved is frankly then we paid for the troops to be on the border rather than the governors finding the money to pay for them. i think the military can provide short-term assistance where there are civilian shortfalls, whether it is in reconnaissance
or logistics, things like that, but i think it should be considered short term. it is not the mission of the american military to be on the border, to guard our borders. that's why we have the customs and border patrol. and so where the military is filling a role we ought to be strengthening the civilian agencies that are responsible for this long term. so i think if the military is needed, i think that they have to play that limited role. they can't do law enforcement. they can't arrest people. in most cases they don't even carry weapons. and so this is really about providing some kinds of support to fulfill short-term civilian deficiencies and capability. but it takes them away from their training. it takes them away from getting ready for the missions they are
supposed to be prepared to fight. and so i see it as a short-term fix, not as a long-term role. that is not what the mrn military is -- the american military is supposed to do. mr. bush: i agree. we don't want to military advertise our border or send a signal to mexico that they are an enemy. mexico is not an enemy. they are an ally. anyway fine answer being secretary. [laughter] ms. dobrainsky: another area you both spent time on is china. it has been a competitor and condemned for its predatory commercial behavior on behalf of democrats and republicans. what is the right balance for dealing with china? mr. bush: i think you just described it. on one hand there is benefits for trade on the other hand china needs to be held accountable when they steal
intellectual property. what has changed since i was there is ping. there were be -- there would be seven people that would have a check and balance an therefore china was less risk adverse and maybe president xi who has consolidated power which changes the diplomacy. i believe the united states, though must make sure that our allies, japan, south korea, the philippines, and india know that we stand squarely with them if china tries to encroach upon their territories. i happen to believe not joining the trade pacific -- whatever it is called. trading partnership, something like that, was a mistake because by pulling it out of it sent a
signal to our allies that we weren't serious and it enabled china to get a better market share from our allies relative to what we had. so the best policy ought to be to negotiate the best deal we can get and negotiate trade disputes through world mechanisms and strengthen our bilateral alliances. ms. dobrainsky: do you have a reaction? mr. gates: really just to pile on to the president's comments about the role of president xi. the creator of chinese reform had an expression, hide your capabilities, buyed your time -- b id e your time. and it was to prevent the rise
of another mao ever again. so the structures he created, term limits for the president, age limits for other offices were intended to prevent that from happening and it was sustained until xi came along. in the first case what xi has done is go out and say we have an alternative model of governance and the way countries ought to beized -- be organized and our state capital is the way to go. and you see they are paralyzed. and so he brags about what they are going to do about technologies in 2025 and in 2050 and asserting china's military role in the south china sea and things like that that have frankly, alarmed almost everybody. and the second piece of it was getting rid of all of those limits that were put in in terms
of leadership, making himself president for life. this basically destroys the notion of collective leadership and, frankly, it means he is totally responsible for rg that -- for everything that happens in addition to having all the authority. but the problem with that is there's nobody that will come up to him and say you're headed down the wrong path, you're making a mistake. when a leader doesn't have anybody whis perking in -- whis perking in his ear this is a mistake -- it didn't stop the reform from going on, but it made sure that -- that things were held in check, if you will. so i think -- i think what has happened and what's changed since we were in government is that you now have the business community as well as other countries, the business community in this country, as in
other countries, all increasingly concerned about china's approach and a new attitude toward china after 40 years. and the key, i think, for us and for our leadership is figuring out -- i think we have a long-term competition with china ahead of us. in many respects it will resemble the cold war, but we have to make sure to try and channel it into competition and avoid becoming adversaries and with the risk of military confrontation, and that is going to take some adroit leadership both in beijing and in washington. mr. bush: i have two points. ms. dobrainsky: okay. mr. bush: one that that's the reason why it is important for canada and mexico and the united states to find common ground to bolster our respective economy so we can better compete with china in the long term, and secondly china has enormous
demographic issues. remember they had one-child policies and most wanted it to be a male. you have an aging population, a declining population, and a lot of men and very few women relatively speaking, and so there -- i don't think china's to be feared because i believe our future is much brighter than there's, but i do believe, as bob said that -- that we can wisely exploit the consternation rising around the world of china's aggressive policy. ms. dobrainsky: we are nearing the end of our session. but it is about the arrest of julian assa ge.
mr. gates: two words about time. ms. dobrainsky: i -- mr. bush: i don't have sympathy for the guy. ms. dobrainsky: eleanor roosevelt -- i wanted to close by saying eleanor roosevelt said he who is not courageous enough to take risks will not accomplish anything in life. the two of you have taken risks and these risks have benefited the lives of so many. please join me in thanking both the president and secretary gates. (applause) (applause).
>> later today remarks by supreme court justice breyer on the recent decisions of the higher court. live today at 7 p.m. eastern on c-span. >> this week, james lewis at the center for strategic international studies talks about china and russia. >> china has has made illicit -- technological parity. it would be hard for them to give it up. and they continue to siphon off intellectual prapty much as -- property much as they have for the last 20 years, by using the internet.
>> in a look at the primetime schedule. starting at 9:30 on c-span, a hearing on how to combat hate crimes and a look at book t.v. and at 8: on c-span 3 it is american policies. >> william barr will testify before the house and senate judiciary committees on the mueller report on c-span 3 or listen with the c-span radio app. >> president trump is skipping
the annual white house correspond -- correspondence dinner. >> next former epa administrator scott pruitt and ryan zinke. they talk about energy and environmental policies and what it was like to work for president trump. they spoke at a dallas cowboy republican dinner for about half an hour. >> well, praise god. it is so great to be here among so many patriots. it is so great to be back in america after being on the other side of the world for a week. and i'm not going to take much time because we want to hear from these gentlemen and so the first one of them is our epa administrator, scott pruitt. and i'll tell you what we have seen in the last two years