tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera September 22, 2013 10:30pm-11:01pm EDT
♪ . >> wesley clark, retired u.s. army general, former supreme court alley commander in europe. and former democratic party presidential candidate. . but what about regime change. >> there is no realty political al terptive to bashar al-asaad that i can see right now. >> and what about overall u.s. policy in the middle east? >> you can't just expect people to go to the polls and they cast a ballot, and suddenly it is just like california. there's democracy, look at that. >> how is president obama handling the syrian crisis. >> plus, why the general
would like to see hillary clinton as the next u.s. commander and chief. >> i don't think there's ever been anyone in history that is better prepared. >> from san diego, california, wesley clark is our guest on talk to al jazeera. general wesley clark, welcome to al jazeera. let's start with syria, looks like a diplomatic path forward reading chemical weapons. does the threat of the u.s. take military action still need to be on the table. >> absolutely. this is a long and arduous path within you know, we have experience in this, because when we went into iraq, in 1991 at the end of the gulf war, the u.n. create add special commission. and it took them several years to dig through everything, and make sure they had it all. now, if bashar at asaad really wants to cooperate, he will just put all the material out, he will put all his troops there, they will be lined up with for
inspection, all the records will be present, all the manufacturing will be open. but i think that's unlikely. and i think he is going to play a cat and mouse game with the international community. in which he continues to put on conditions and drag this out. that's just the normal sort of thing that people do. >> does taking the diplomatic path let him off the hook? from the u.s. perspective we are seeing the hawkish members criticize this path forward? >> well, it doesn't let him off the hook. it may intangle him fatally into diplomacy and drag russia along our side rather than on his side. it depends on how he handles it. >> president obama has competing audience that he needs to talk to right now, on one hand there's the american public who polls show are very disinterested in any military action. so the president is
trueing to calm the american public, and convince them that he doesn't manage to get embroiled into a big operation, on the other hand, there's the audience of the international community, and president asaad who president obama needs to take the threat of u.s. force serious force, as a very serious possibility. how do you speak to both of those audiences in. >> well, this is always the problem for democracy. because enless you are attack squad there's outrage, when you talk to a foreign leader you freighten your own domestic audience. and that's the case here, that was the case when we went into kosovo, and president clinton has to deal with that issue in the spring of 1999. >> when nato got involved in order to defer into ethnic cleansing. >> that's right. >> and we had exactly the same issue, and what happened was president
clinton had to say, well, this is a nato plan. so nato provided some political cover, let's say, in that case. you can sigh well it is plate toe, it isn't the united states, it is nato. of course the united states is the driving force. but it's still gave him some cover. and then, unfortunately, there was also an incident in denver, with the school where there was a shooting in the school. >> the columbine high school. >> and it completely occupied the u.s. press. so during the latter half of the campaign, there was no publicity in the united states, and president clinton got off easy to be honest in that respect. scout's always a problem, you want to present a strong force. you want to present unbreakable resolve. but when you do so, you frighten your own country or your allies. >> people are paying
attention to the polls right now and the push back it has gotten. >> there is a push back is entirely normal. i would say that what was abnormal was the fervor for invading iraq. in 2003. there was no reason to do this. standing back and looking at it. sue dam hussein wasn't part of the 9/11, nor was he an immediate threat to the united states, and he was being contained. so secretary of state knew this, he just couldn't break through the group that wanted to finish gulf war, and get rid of sudden dam hussein. they viewed iraq as the first in a number of states they would knock off in the region, and
when they didn't find chemical weapons in iraq, they created the idea that they would democracy as the rallying cry. as a clever, clef ploy. because it bridges the partisan divide. but now the american people has seen through this. we understand that you can't just expect people to go to the polls and cast a ballot, and subtly just like california there's democracy, look at that. these people are having debates on television, and aren't they friendly with each other, and they are so nice. and we just sort of transplanted america over there. >> where does that leave the debate? where does that take us today? >> i think the united states has -- the people have turned away from the middle east. as a cause. obviously we are stimworried about the price of gasoline, and that will continue to be an influence in every
american election. but in terms of -- if you go to the american public, they are worried about terrorism, they see it every time they go through the airport, and have to go through the security checks. and they hear about al quaida. but in terms of proses hetizing and bringing democracy and freedom, i think that drum beat is very very distant now. i just don't think we are going to see that. >> we recently hadron paul, former cookman on talk to al jazeera. and he is a big advocate of nonintervention, he says it is not the united states business. what is your response to that? >> well, it is, and it isn't. let's take the case of the use of chemical weapons in syria. this whole international structure was created by the united states. the first time we tried to create it was at the end of world war 1. in 1917 when the united
states joined the britain and france to defend against germany and hungary, and turkey, the united states was the balancing we tipped the balance in the war against germany, & president woodrow wilson went to europe, almost 100 years ago, with the idea this there would be no more wars. we would establish collective security, a league of nations which could react, should any nation choose to be an aggressor, they would be condemned and resisted by every other nation. >> well the world has certainly changed. >> you know what happened with the league of nations, president wilson came back and he was ill, and congress voted not to join it. so we had to recreate it at the end of world war ii, because we had the war that we thought we never have, again, with germany. >> so jump us ahead to now. >> so now, this structure, is our creation.
america's creation, the united nations, the world bank, the international monetary fund, the use of the dollar the idea that you can sign a treaty and it will be enforced the world trade organization. china and rich sha are ben fish yeas of that. they have taken american petro dollars they have invested. so they have a huge stake in this world community. and international trade, and finance, and capitol. >> but the world is a very different place, even when you were the head of nato, we see china as an emerging power, we see russia coming out of that post soviet moment. >> dollars'. >> so it is very different. it is a time for the u.s. to step back. >> it isn't that different. >> why not? >> it runs on the same structure. sit the united nations, still the dollar, still the britain words agreement. still the world bank, the financial community has gotten way out on an edge. we have a cyber challenge we didn't have.
china has grown, enormously since the early 1990's. and i think those of us that followed this closely, and i go to china a lot, we recognize china is not going to become a democracy. >> yeah. china is not going become a democracy. >> when we come back, more on syria, and we will ask general clark to assess how president obama is handling the situation.
hi, my name is jonathan betz, and i'm from dallas, texas, and i'm an anchor for al jazeera america. i started in a small television station in rural arkansas. it's a part of the country that often gets overlooked. but there are a lot of fascinating people there, a lot of fascinating stories there. i like that al jazeera will pay attention to those kinds of places. what drew me to journalism is i like the idea that we are documenting history. al jazeera documents it like none other. and to be a journalist, and to be part of a team like that? that's an incredible blessing. general leslie slacker is our guest. former presidential candidate under the democratic party, also four star general in the u.s. army. gentlemen of the jury
clark, you were talking with us about america's role in the world, well, russian's president has a recent add, where he criticized the u.s. for believing in american exceptionalism. and he took a tone if everything thought we were exceptional, we would be in a lot of trouble, there's no reason for the u.s. to think they are better. >> well, the truth is the united states is an exceptional power. we created this structure of the world community. and if russia won't help us maintain that structure, then we'll have to do what we can to bring others in to help us. russia was there at the creation, russia was ink willing at the creation. and if you go back through the history of the scold war, you see that russia and china were always outsiders. now they are coming in. they want to be part of this, as it suits them, but it is our structure. we put it together. it is to the benefit of
the american people, and we have incredible opportunities because of that structure. so we are going to maintain it. >> does it hurt the united states when they hear that sort of language? and when may look at u.s. policies that haven't always been huge success. you point to the iraq war yourself that was gone into without eyes wide open, does it make us end up looking bad? >> i don't think it makes us look bad. i think it lets us by used by elements who may not support the regime in the particular country they are in. so we're status quo power. we are not a revolutionary power, but we did propose that there would be gradual evolution for democracy in the middle east. so countries are very fearful of democracy. in fact, chinese president just -- there was a release that came out maybe inadvertently
from china about three or four weeks ago that said one of the great great enmies of china is the concept of democracy. so they are not going to be friendly to the idea of democracy. >> all over the world, who they want what we have in america, they want to live in a country of freedom. where a rule of law, in which there's opportunity for people to get ahead, to own a home, and build a business, and send your kids to college, and be judged on your merits not on who your parents were. >> so luking at where the united states has gotten involved in the last ten, 15 years, afghanistan, iraq, has democracy building had a track record of success? >> no. and i would be the first one to tell you that. it was a mistake to go to democracy building in iraq. as i said, it was an idea that was really put forward by president bush as an excuse.
the quite didn't go into iraq to build democracy, the united states went into iraq as part of an effort to restructure the middle east and take away the regime who are antagonistic to us. >> how do you square it? >> i don't square it. i ran for president because i was against the policy in iraq. it is just what we have to live with. but i will tell you that the united states is frying to work around the world to bro mote freedom and opportunity. it's just that in the middle east you can't do it directly. >> what is the best way to do it? >> it depends on which country. so example in cassette stance. and he has been in charge for 20 years. and so it's a gradual process. you can't just suddenly put a polling place down and tell people go in
there and pick your party. we know the difficulties of that. we have a hard time with democracy in our own cub, and it is always a challenge, and democracy is always changing. so you have to be humble when you offer it. but it is the greatest system for bringing out opportunity for people for letting individuals and families grow, and for expression of human talent. >> i hate to interrupt you, certainly sounds like something people around the world would be interested in when you talk about it that way, but if you look at the track record, how does the united states then go to other countries and say way are interested in building demock six when what africa looks at is in your estimation, a poor track record? >> i think what the united states has to do is look at each country's needs. prime minister in lebanon told me once, he said you can't treat the middle east like eastern europe. it isn't about voting in
the middle east, it is really act economic rights. you have to give people an opportunity to have a stake in the country. you need the economic opportunities in those countries. and the chance for people to build businesses, or to create limited liability companies, to have stock exchanges, to grow -- to trade, and to really become part of modern civilization. and then you move more gradually into the political rights. so his start was start with economic rights. >> i want to get back to syria, you talks about chemical weapons you have said that some weapons are simply too inhuman to be used. why is chemical weapons the red line? as oppose sod bombs or other attacks. you lose a loved one in almost attack, it almost doesn't matter how the death was created so why chemical weapons? >> well, someone who has used a lot of different weapons, i would like to have them all declared in
human, and never use any of them again. but particularly, with chemical weapons you cannot discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. and so those 1400 people that were killed were with babies and a lot of innocent people. and it's not only a horrible way to die, but it is a totally nondiscriminatory way to die. the essence of modern warfare, and the essence of all justice warfare, going into! and christianity, is that noncombatants are protected. chemical weapons doesn't protect noncombatants. it attacks them. and they are more likely to die. >> you agree where president obama's red line on that? is that the right place to demark kade. judge how things have gone so far, he talks about strikes, now we are in this diplomatic faze? >> i think the president is in a difficult
decision, because he does understand that the american public wants to come out of the middle east, and indeed, that's why president obama was elected. he was elected to get the military out to finish this. because he believed that the iraq war was a mistake from the beginning. as did i, and i tried to explain that in my campaign. but never the less, you are faired with the circumstances you are faced with. there are three problems in syria. he is looking at the problem of refugees, the problem of the asaad government, which is using force, and murdering people, and the specific problem of chemical weapons. so what this does is address the chemical weapons issue. >> and that's an issue that beyond syria, and beyond -- >> when you were the supreme court commander, there was a much broader
goal, and objective of that. then just ending one aspect of it. in syria, the president had said, we with have a limited objective here. should he broaden out the optative? >> . there's a lot of people who want. >> regime change even. >> sure, and there's a lot of people who want him to use the chemical weapons issue as a handle to unseat bashar al asaad. but i think that doesn't actually work. what does work is the threat of force. to get diplomacy working in the region, and address the chemical weapons issue. that's the issue. for the other issue, i feel really badly for the people of syria. because there doesn't seem to be an end to this. but there's no real political alternative to bashar al asaad that i can see right now. there's a lot of work done. a lot of money that is going into the region, but who is the leader?
who can assure the people of syria that if he takes the place of bashar al asaad that he will protect sunni, schneidt, christian, al lo wyatt, curds, arabs, everyone in the region. and keep syria together, who and -- does that leader command the forces that are fighting? and the answer is no. and this makes syria a very very difficult place in which to find an al terptive to bashar al asaad. >> i want to get another sense of you from kosovo. you talked about president clinton having cover, having the cover of nato. where is the cover now? >> i don't think mrs. a problem, they were incensed about the use of chemical weapons but nato has decided not to do anything, so it is very difficult. i think the arab league
should step forward, but the arab league has always been incapable of coming together and supporting initiatives in the region. they don't mind offering statements sometimes but they can't actually do anything. they need to become stronger and more effective. >> stay with us, we be right back. millions who need assistance now. we appreciate you spending time with us tonight. up next is the golden age of hollywood going golden but elsewhere. why l.a.'s mayor has declared a state of emergency for the entertainment industry there. next.
al jazeera, is generally wesley clark, a retired four star general, also the nato supreme allied commander in the late 1990's. let's look ahead to the next commander in chief of the united states. you have already endorsed hillary clinton for president in 2016. why? >> i don't think there's ever been anyone in american history that is better prepared for leadership. >> why now. >> she has been a first lady. 's been the secretary of state, she has been a senator. she has traveled all over the world, she knows international government, national government, and she is in the business community. >> what would be her toughest challenges in. >> oh, the biggest problems are at home right now i think. going to have to do something to restart the american economy and
really create jobs. we have to look at the distribution of income in this country. can't have everybody working in fast food at $8 an hour. because at that you can't buy things so the distribution of income is now so -- it's the most lopsided it's ever been in american history. >> how do international affairs play into politics. you ran for president yourself, as syria has taken the front seat, all over the country in conversation at americans have asked what should be the steps forward. how does that change the dynamic of the political question? >> it can change it. first of all, pretty much depends on the circumstances but americans are not going to elect a leader who is soft on our enemies. whoa is weak on america. who doesn't stand up for american values and hillary clinton has been a very very strong secretary of state, and a very strong senator. so she has been someone that that the morn people can look back and say
will this person stand up for america. >> co you have political aspirations yourself? >> i am very happy that hillary is running and i would be -- >> i guess we are waiting to see -- >> she hasn't announced her candidacy yet, she can't, and she probably hasn't made the decision yet, in her own mind, but there are a lot of us out here who hope she will run. because we think she is incredibly well qualified. and i'm one of many who is going to try to help her. >> yep clark, what keeps you up at night? >> honestly, we haven't fixed all the issue that caused the melt down in 2008, so if we don't fix finance and it melts down again, we have so much less capacity this time, than we had last time. so i worry about the sangtity, and safety, security, of the international financial system. i worry about cyber security.
and i worry about the rise of china. they are going to have a economy the same size at ours. the military power is waiting, and yet, democracy is his enemy in china. ten what about those 1.2 billion people. >> how do they treat china both as a partner and someone to watch? >> it's been a real challenge for us. i think you have to treat china with a lot of respect, i think you have to be very careful, and automatically assigning china to the adversary column just because they are not democratic. but you have to find a way to work with them. we hold democratic values dear, they don't. they consider them a threat to china. so somehow we have to get two different systems working hormone ousley together. >> general wesley clark, also the former nato supreme ally commander thank you so much for joining us on talk to al jazeera. >> thank you.
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