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tv   The Presidency Evaluating the Iraq Surge  CSPAN  February 10, 2020 12:00am-2:01am EST

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i grabbed an m -- m1. i wondered how any marines we lost in that particular moment. >> you can watch this and other programs on our website, where all our video is archived. that's next, on the presidency, this is the third and last program looking back i george w. bush's 2007 iraq's search decision to increase troop levels. we hear from scholars who responded to previous observations by former bush officials, and who offer
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comparisons to similar decisions by other presidents. the center for presidential history at methodist university hosted this event. ado, it'shout further my pleasure to introduce the chair of this panel, dr. william imboden, who is the director of the center in boston. unique, butnot certainly worthwhile perspective, dual perspective, of being a person who both study decision-making in the white house and been a part of decision-making in the white house. he was a valuable member of making the network connections and the interviews that are the underlying factor, underlying base of this entire project work. i thank you for that. and i turned the mic over to you. [applause] thank you very much, jeff.
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i'm honored to be moderating this panel with four very dear friends and colleagues. there is a concern of foot that, as a moderator, i might try to interject myself into this discussion, so i will beat sitting myself there and come back up during the q&a time. you have the detailed bios of each of the speakers, so i won't repeat those. a few things i want to highlight for the people we are hearing from, the first is professor richard. his bio says he recently retired from temple university. that may be correct. he does not know the meaning of the word retirement. we're close friends and collaborators. he continues to be very active as a scholar and mentor, and as scholarscitizen in the and historians. next to him is professor mel.
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history.other titan in i started reading his books as an undergrad, continued to benefit from his books today. mel is the only one of our four who technically does not have a chapter in this collection, but what i've given too much in the review process, let me just say he played an important role in seeing it came to prince with cornell university. our interloper is dr. cory shockey here, who is technically a political scientist and protege of tom schelling. frankly, cory is a longtime dear friend and colleague from the bush administration, as well, has had many important roles in academic think takes in london, and is frankly, a better historian than card-carrying
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historians. we are honored. ,inally, professor anja preston a canadian by birth, did much of his education and studies in the united states, now a professor in the u.k. at cambridge university, also a dear friend and contributor to the book. with that, we turn it over to our panel. each one will be reading his or her comments. i assume we'll have a q&a time. please welcome our panel. [applause] it's good that the podium is set up like it is, otherwise i'm mic upll had moved the to his level and i will have been jumping up and down to reach it. so, let me begin by saying i'm thrilled to join this project, accept jeff's invitation.
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because of the drama controversy and implications, ongoing implications that attended the bush administrations to go into iraq, and i will underscore the word historian, the subject is really irresistible, making it that much more attractive was the chance to contribute to what really is a first cut at history. morning,cussed this and both sessions, the archival evidence is still classified, most of it. decadel remain so for a and probably more. in fact, if i have one thing to all of you who participated, do everything you can to get this material released. i spend a lot of time with archives and it's becoming increasingly difficult to get
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any material released in any presidential administration. and that's going to be a problem for the future. that, we do have access to the oral testimony of a remarkable number of pivotal contributors of all different levels, which really is virtually unprecedented for this type of project. i also have a more personal interest. i have been starting national security decision-making and policymaking for some four decades. it began back in the 1970's, when i began to observe the policies of the eisenhower administration, which has come up several times, largely because those processes have become legendary even though the assessments of them can often be diametrically opposed.
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i'll come back to that in a moment, but you can understand why a project aimed at drilling down into such a momentous, yet complicated decision, held such great appeal for someone like myself. you can therefore also understand easily why the appeal grew even greater as i poured through the interviews. a consensus quickly emerged, really serviced among contributors, regardless of there --spective, that that their process was outstanding. the adjectives ran from textbook to model to highly effective. and, in fact, the worst that can be said of them is that they were good. indeed, except for a few who lamented that the process took longer and even then, there was an upside to the length that it took. that is discussed today.
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there was really only one dissent. described as strange. itt even in that case, worked in the essays -- in the case that president bush can make a courageous decision, and i think there is ample evidence that that was the case, and though courageous does not necessarily mean wise or right, it certainly was perhaps better than the alternative. now granted, and a number of respects, this was predictable, given the nature and some extent that conception of the project. there's the famous old adage that history is written by the victors, attributed to winston churchill, although historians don't know if, in fact, he did say it. one could make sense that that applies to will -- oral
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histories. and most oral histories. the judgment, in this case, those who were interviewed, and i think again, this was reinforced today, and i'm not suggesting it was wrong, is that the decision was a good one, largely because that the outcome was good, was the right one. this seemed true even to those who were not on board, at least early on, and those like condi rice would be an example of that. she did not come on board until the end, but said she was very proud of how the whole process unfolded. conversely, those who might be called losers, donald rumsfeld, for example, in terms of this context, cannot, through the fault of the project, but they were silent.
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there were not interviewed or agreed to interview, actually were. lee did not agree to be interviewed. sam is george casey and many interviewed -- military leaders. now, till get me wrong in any way. will be learned from the oral histories is originally, highly informative and fascinating. studentrrific for any of national security decision-making. it provides us with a surge beyond anything we prepare vt before, and thus, in my opinion, the book should be used in any course anyone teaches on u.s. foreign policy or u.s. relations. but as i said, it is the first cut, and we have to keep that in ways, it wasmany our appetite for many of the
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story more of the analysis and more documents. i do hope that among those, there will be more that pertain to what scholars often call the missing dimension of international relations, which is intelligence. that was mentioned there. i have a personal interest in this. i would much like to know not only the correlation between the intelligence and decisions, what kind of input it was, but what i think is a fast any question, whether the reforms that took place between 2004-2005 made any effect in terms of how consumers of that intelligence did so. i was interested in peter's' saidnt, in which he intelligence could not guarantee. intelligence can never
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guarantee. all he can do is inform uncertainty. but one of the reforms, which is near and due to my heart, with the intelligence would have different types of scenarios, which wasn't always easy for the consumer, but nevertheless, that was pivotal and required. to me, that's a whole other parallel story, which i would love to be explored. i don't know how and when it might be. anyway, let me circle back to the process itself and reiterate it was my study of eisenhower's national security policies and the architecture that generated them that was the initial spark for my interest in national security decision-making. e i'mny ways, and whil reluctant to use eisenhower as a
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read mynd when will essay, he blasted me for it, and i'm really doing again. waynot suggesting in any that all administrations should make -- mimic that architecture or suggest administrations should not have to adapt their process to the contemporary environment. what we referred to as the interagency process is much broader and much more complex than it was in the next 50's. for that matter, through the end of the cold war. for example, today's national security council dwarfs in size and scope anything eisenhower put together in institutionalized in the 1950's. conversely, i would argue, and this is something to explore in
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the third or fourth volume, the power of the state department, which under eisenhower, remained the core of the process, and whose secretary of state was the unparalleled leader and spokesman of the foreign policy community and god for bid, anyone tried to cross him in the 1950's, the authority and power has receded steadily. even as the pentagon increased. i got to stop pointing. um, and there's situation which is also inortant, which has come up several different context in terms of conversation, that no president since eisenhower, with the possible exception of george w. bush. i have to mention that, since
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jeff is here, not have come close to his reputation, stature, or the experience or political capital. and because of his military authority, i think there was no one class. that was very important. nevertheless, the fundamental pillars of his process are as applicable today as they were then. i'll just mention quickly a which of them, including, are engaging the right people at the right level at the right time, providing an environment conducing debate that cuts across agency line, into which the president is an eyewitness, ensuring they witness all options and scenarios, the success for which requires a custodial manager, advisor who
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walks a fine line between honest broker and policy entrepreneur. some sort of mechanism that ensures once a decision is made and implementation begun, monitors the progress to decide whether or not some sort of change is necessary. to repeat, i'm not claiming that process or architecture are models. i am historian, not a political scientist. every president must be able to devise an architecture he or she is comfortable with. but it will argue that all of those elements should be present in one form or another. now i'll quickly go over my criticism. anythingappy discuss
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during the question and answer. it was not a mechanism to trigger a review or a monitor, and to trigger, eisenhower had an appendage of the national security council called the coordinating board. it never work as well as it was intended to work, but it'd assure that an execution of the policy could not continue indefinitely without some kind of appraisal of that policy. said,ntinually, as fred but it would be at various intervals. in this case, there was no mechanism to trigger that review. sort of automatically. and even though from late 2005 to 2006, many national security officials and entities at
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different levels expressed profound concern with u.s. policy and direction that there wasn't a review. meetings, many meetings, referred to as stylized, but they didn't necessarily get them to where it needed to go. finally, the nfc itself, for its elements really forced a review. covertly, took place clandestinely. i don't know what word you want to include, in which it basically cut out the secretary of defense and many of the service or uniformed military. again, that i really could not have happened. that leads to what i consider one of the strangest episodes in
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decision-making history, that which surrounded the camp david meeting that june, which it was teed up, and the meeting never really got off the ground again for a variety of different reasons. i'm just going to quickly summarize, but my general point is that even though, well, let me just add one more thing to go. then there was the issue that comes up very clearly, that the nfc does conduct its own informal review. you have other ones going on. but it's the nfc that really develops a preference, if that would be the word, or puts on the table the notion of having a double down strategy, which ultimately becomes the surge. it is not generated one of the agencies, so it is difficult. again, that's in violation of
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the eisenhower model, which it would have been put up, it would have had to been mentioned, unless no one thought about it at all early in the process. to the credit of the nfc and the particularly the credit of steve and so many of those that were here, assisting to the other eisenhower principal that the organization, number how good it is, is really only as good as the individuals that are a part of it. so in this case, it was the individuals that negate everything as it because it had been compensated for flaws in the structure, relying on extra governmental inputs, officials outside the chain of command, ceiling deliberations from others or whatever. the nfc did ultimately arrive at a recommendation that enabled president bush to make this
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courageous decision, a decision the nfc wanted to make, and clearly president bush wanted to make, especially for the second half of 2006. it surely was acreage decision. i'll leave it to history as to whether or not it was the wisest decision. the question is whether the system worked. maybe it did. if the fact that the barometer is that the policy ended up where they wanted to be. but i don't think that's the right question. i would like to ask those who were involved in it if they were writing a textbook on decision-making process is whether this is the pathway they would recommend to get from point a to point b. and i think not. and actually, i sort of hope not. thanks very much. [applause]
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>> so first of all, i want to begin by thinking the organizers for asking me to attend today. i think that it was really inspiring this morning and earlier this afternoon, scholar andth as a simply as an american citizen, to listen to the thoughtful reassessment of the decision-making that went into this search. -- surge. i think that it is incredibly impressive for us, as americans, to think that we have had such people, whether we agree with their decisions or disagree with their decisions, making policy in the highest echelons of the white house, the state
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department, and the pentagon, and elsewhere. and i think it behooves us, all of us as americans, to think how different things are today, and how consequential it is that we thoughtful serious, minded people engaged in the process comparable to the ones that we heard today. i also noted to preface my remarks by saying i don't have a stake in this flame. i was not interviewed for it. i was not written an essay for. i was an outside referee. but i also hope that peter fever will take my comments thoughtfully, as an objective scholar, because i did not sign the letter as an ma in 2000 -- as an academic into this into opposing the war, and i think i
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would like to come to the views that i have, in context of going to war and the aftermath. economic, i don't inspired.d opinions know, but 10ion, i minutes i now, i know i will not get your affirmation. but at least, probation now. i want to make some overall comments about the book and the surge. i think it's a wonderful book. the interviews are really illuminating. is seamlessly interviews are brought together in a way to where they
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provide a chronological overview of the decision to surge troops in iraq. i also very much admire the essays. i admire them because they are verse such different perspectives. there's an essay by three of the key policymakers, steve hadley peter,on o'sullivan and one essay from them. and then six or seven other renowned scholars, three of who are on this stage. what's significant about these essays, they make you think deeply about process, strategy, and president bush's overall decision-making. what i want to do in the minutes
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that i have is to talk about the three matters, process, strategy, and overall decision-making. first of all, in terms of process, richard, who you just heard, is very critical of the process. but actually, so are some of the policymakers like philip. nonetheless, in my judgment, steve hadley and peter fever and macon offer a compelling defense essay.process in their they make two really important points. they see the process give the president, most of all, the option that he wanted. and secondly, the big point they make is that even more importantly, the process enabled the president to forge a
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consensus among top officials, which is by no means, and accomplishment. of course, as you heard, richard is not convinced. and what he does in the volume is to compare bush's national security council to ike's national security process. and richard claims to be assisting. richard claims that president bush was not sufficiently involved from the inception of processess, that the was belated, that it was siloed until nearly the very end, and that the outcome was prepared to turn -- predetermined. was interesting, i think, is that steve and peter do not really directly rebut those
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sayicisms, and they don't there process is a model that is a textbook model. they clearly don't make the claim there were trying to emulate eisenhower's process, the process president eisenhower employed so effectively. that's not what was on their minds. but they make the larger point throughout their interviews and throughout their volume, they make the larger point that we've heard this morning, that the process work. that's what counted. the process worked. that's used over and over again. the assertion that the process worked invites examination of strategy, not simply process, but strategy. what does it really mean to say that it worked?
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jervis, onee, bob of the most remand -- renowned scholars in the world, notes man there is much dispute a -- among experts, with it made a lasting difference or whether it was even decisive in the short run. and in part, doug underscored that today and said that there were many ingredients that made this search worth it rather than developments like the sunni awakening, may well have contributed more to the outcome, more to making this surge worked in the deployment of traditional troops itself. that theyly believe
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are far too skeptical of the short-term impact of the surge. in my opinion it did work in the following way. it worked in that it significantly mitigated and insurgentings attacks. in fact, according to the newly published history, the official in the iraqhe army war, a volume that just came out a few months ago, 1300 pages long, it points out that, not only did civilian casualties and deaths significantly decline during the surge and afterwards, but that insurgents are tasked to -- 140 per day in early 2007
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to virtually none on a routine day in 2009. that to me suggests that it worked. at least tactically. but along with bob, richard, josh and other scholars of the volume, i'm inclined to question aether the surge, albeit tactical success, and operational success, was a strategic success. surge, steve the hadley and peter and meghan o'sullivan do a truly wonderful job in their interviews and in the essay explaining how -- how theyumptions explain the changing assumptions that motivated the surge.
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they eliminate how they interrogated previous assumptions and reconfigured them. but what is interesting, both in their essay and in the interviews is that they actually say rather little about overall strategic goals. "omission allude to " but they don't specify the goals question mark in 2000 2003, when the administration invaded iraq, the goals were to rid iraq of weapons of mass destruction and bring about regime change. was to make sure that the iraqi government would not hand off weapons of mass
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distractions to terrorist groups with global and missions. the goal in 2003 was to make would not be aaq threat to its neighbors. those were the goals. however anoals, effort lee achieved by the end -- mostly by confirmation that iraq did not have weapons of mass distraction, and that iraq was far weaker than anyone in the administration had imagined. building democracy and undertaking nationbuilding or mostly after it became clear that iraq did not have weapons of mass deception. and early 2007, when
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seemsurge took place, it that the new goal was to bring that a democratic iraq could "govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself." yet, in the interviews quoted in ,his book, and in the essays there is little discussion of how democratization and toionbuilding related overall u.s. capabilities and strategic interests of both regionally and globally. o'sullivant, meghan says to steve hadley in the decision-making process, "i cannot write a paper about an emerging consensus because "actually, nobody agrees with
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anybody about even foundational issues." i do not see the foundational issues elucidated in a satisfactory way." now perhaps they were addressed. i am not saying they were not addressed, perhaps they were addressed in the actual memos, and perhaps they were addressed in the position papers written for the nsc deputies and for the nfc principles, but those documents have not been declassified and that is a real, real shame, and it constitutes the real obstacle to any final the strategyout and the process behind the surge. but the absence of such documents does not deter some scholars and some policymakers
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from calling for a more favorable overall assessment of president bush as a decision-maker. interviews and several essays suggest that the surge was a courageous choice for president bush. he went against public opinion. he went against his secretary of defense. he went against his secretary of state. he went against the joint chiefs of staff. he went against condoleezza rice, donald rumsfeld, general pace, all of them were initially against the surge. and with the talented assistance of steve hadley and his nsc staff, president bush orchestrated a decision that everyone eventually agreed upon. and over the next 18 months, the
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surge did induce a violence and did reduce sectarian killings. my question, should these generalizations than inspire a reinterpretation of president bush and the iraq war? i don't think so. mid-2006, the prevailing policy was failing. was, double down with the surge, reposition and or carefully withdraw. bush, around president even the opponents of the surge, could face a pull out and acknowledge defeat, whatever that might mean. was the lastption card. the surge. in jarvis explains this
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terms of what political scientists call prospect theory. prospect theory says that people, old -- all people, not just policymakers, are most inclined to be big risktakers when they face defeat. in my opinion, you don't need prospect theory to explain this decision. you only need to know the personality and character of george w. bush. , confident,ud wholligent, stubborn man believed that his credibility and reputation as president would be forever blemished if he "lost the war in iraq." he believed that the credibility and reputation of the united
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states would be forever blemished if the country "lost the war." from you,t to hear bush allegedly said to the joint chiefs, what i want to hear from you is how we are going to win, not how we are going to leave." president bush receives some evidence that the surge could work. he found out that they actually could be made available. he was informed that the brigades could be used in an effective manner in and around baghdad. he learned about the so-called sunni awakening. could work with the iraqi leader. the odds, however, were still low. everyone seems to have thought it was still a real gamble. really gutsy, that is why the
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book is called the last card. so a question is, when dogs are low, when odds are low, does it make sense to take such a risk? this is a really significant issue all the time, not just in this decision. when odds are low how do you know that you should take such a risk? it seems like,it of course it worked out, but the odds going into it were perceived as rather low. make sense to take such a risk? president bush thought so. the disastrous outcomes stemming from withdraw or defeat was far more consequential than the chips he was about to invest. the surge might not work, but if it failed, his reputation and
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record were not be much worse than it already was. the surge might not work, but if it fails, the reputation and record of the united states would not be so much worse than it already was as a result of this in iraq. just -- does the decision reveal a skilled policymaker rather than a lucky one? i don't think so. for the following reasons. actions weresh' terribly belated. since the fall of 2003, if not, in may of 2003, observed this rest that the security situation in iraq was perilous. there were 12,000 civilian
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deaths in 2003. almost the same number in 2004. inr 16,000 civilian deaths 2005 and about 29,000 in 2006. and from the onset, local commanders like general sanchez and civilian officials, like paul bremmer, the head of the coalition provisional authority, as well as pentagon leaders and the army vice chief of staff, general keane, they all warned that there were inadequate forces. president bush was slow to deliver those forces. hamstrung byh was donald rumsfeld, his secretary of defense. rumsfeld's staunch commitment to in earlyrce stifled
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re-examination of policy. president bush left his secretary of defense in office far too long. the secretary of defense was hated by many inside the pentagon, as well as inside the state department. rumsfeld was a vicious and condescending to rice and sometimes nsc staffers. his lines of communication with provisional authority had been terrible. rumsfeld belatedly assumed responsibility for the torture at this place, and he offered to resign. the president bush refused to accept his resignation. the president said no again in 2006. the cost of the so-called revolt of the generals would have made bush look weak.
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but rumsfeld was critiqued because his performance was deplorable. and the president should have fired him. failure to do so was a grave error. augmentush was slow to overall forces. but generals and admirals and the pentagon opposed the surge because it would supposedly "break the force." finally, president bush skillfully garnered their ascent by promising to enlarge troop numbers overall in late 2006. in exchange for support of the surge. then,s was good policy and it emphasize that it was
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very good policy, why was it so delayed? why did it not take place earlier? war,president bush went to and in my view, that decision actually was understandable. when he went to war, president thoughter gave enough to the postwar situation in iraq. the president assented the consequential decisions like the disbandment of the iraqi army without delivered of processes in the spring of 2003. those decisions had terrible long-term ramifications. finally, president bush's definition of interest and strategic goals, like elusive,zation, where grandiose, and ultimately
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unachievable. as some of the commentator said in the previous sentences, americans have to understand the limits of their power, and that was not understood. sayconsequently, i would that the tactical success of by thed 2007 is coiffed strategic miscalculations and bureaucratic dysfunctionality that had beleaguered the bush presidency since its inception. the just published a official history of the army in iraq, and it's about 1300 pages long, citations to real documents and extensive interviews, the just published history of the army was commissioned by this general himself, and approved by the
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current chairman of the joint chiefs of staff before he took that position. concludesal history on the last page in the following manner. "the failure of the united strategicachieve its objectives in iraq was not inevitable. byproduct of a long series of decisions, acts of commission and omission. made by well-trained and intelligent leaders, making what seemed to be reasonable decisions. at one point, in the waning days of the surge, the change of strategies and sacrifices of many thousands of americans and iraqi's has finally tip the scales enough to put the military campaign on a path
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towards a measure of success. not to be as the compounding effect of earlier mistakes, combined with a series of decisions focused on war termination, ultimately doomed the fragile venture." surge,think about the that is the conclusion with which i will concur. thank you. [applause] >> so, my -- i have this civil military chapter in the book. as i was reading through the interviews, the thing that struck me so strongly was how desperately i wished i could've worked in this administration. ,ecause the process was elegant
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i disagree with much of mills criticism, the 2006 decision. it seemed to me an incredibly difficult decision for the president to have had to make, in ahat the process worked way that help the president get to where he wanted. i say i wish i worked in that administration, i actually did work in the bush administration from 2002 to 2005. i had such an be reading these interviews because so much had changed. that is where i disagree with mel because he is acting as though there is a continuum. in particular in the president's own behavior. i have three points i want to make. were not is that there serious civil military difficulties in the run-up to the 2006 surge. there were very serious civil
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difficulties, mostly in the form of the secretary of defense. i want to talk about that. the second thing i want to talk i think a misconception that the process labored under about civil military affairs. and in particular, the way that the principal actors, except for the president, con flayed it how they dealt with active-duty military and how they dealt with seniors, retired, military people speaking out in criticism of the administration. and the first thing i want to talk about is what i called hadley's dictum. steve hadley, in a different context, gave what i think is the fundamental insight about , which is,processes they have to actually suit how
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the president takes on information, and how they make decisions. is so beautiful, and what i and what i envy so much in listening to the interviews from all of these people. because the nsc found a way to make it possible for the president to make a very difficult, very political to rock decision. about talk a little bit the civil civil problem. which is the secretary of defense. i think it came up in several peoples comments. i'd don't agree that the process was clandestine. secretary rumsfeld knew that the review was going on, he declined to participate because he did not agree with revisiting the strategy. in fact, one of the things i was most shocking to me was, in the aftermath of the attack on the samarra mosque, that is the moment of realization for everybody in the administration.
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that the strategy is failing if we proceed on this course it will be pointless. for everybody except the secretary of defense. is that, iton to it is an affirmation of the nature of the struggle, not that the strategy is failing. and i think that is the window rumsfeld wasetary such an impediment to getting strategy to the war right. the secretary of defense fundamental life is translating the president's political ,bjectives into military plans and resourcing their executions. the in my judgment, much of failure between 2003 and 2006 actually sits at secretary rumsfeld seat. condoleezza rice says in the interviews that the plan for the
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invasion of iraq was in a -- in adequately resourced and the secretary of defense was evasive when she and other members of the cabinet tried to press him on things like the stability, if you have a war plan that is apid, how do you create presidents objective of a stable iraq after a regime change? vice president cheney acknowledge is that there is a disconnect between stability and secretary rumsfeld's desire to radically drawdown forces. one point, melce secretary rice in the interview said, i had not really done the kind of red teaming that perhaps we should have done. betweenthe difference 2003 and 2006, and the difference in the outcome.
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after this, the joint chiefs of staff start reviews in theater in the headquarters and in the pentagon. move.ocess begins to again, i wish i worked in that administration. it was an elegance of orchestration to produce a reconsideration. october of 2006, secretary rumsfeld was saying that the strategy -- that the war in iraq was not going as badly as people said, and that more troops would not make any difference. his recommendation into the process was to accelerate the drawdown of troops in iraq. secretary rice says in her point she wasthat national security adviser, she said that the reason they did not discuss the reviews underway in the cabinet was because they
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do not want to provoke the secretary of defense. that is such a colossal failure of a secretary of defense is part.- defense's the second point i want to make about the supposedly a result. civil military relations in the united states are structured the way they are with the unquestionable subordination of the military for the elected civilian leadership. it are structured that way in order to prevent a standing army from becoming a threat to democracy in america. that is why civil military relations are such a big subject, and why the american model gives our military such wide latitude in the making a policy. but that is contingent on the
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unquestioned acceptance that they will do with the elected political leadership decides. i saw nothing anywhere in any of the interviews that suggested there was any difficulty of that. staff,te house understandably, was nervous about the possibility of the military not supporting the strategy. where weecision about are going to get the troops is a difficult one. but i did not see any signs that there was an actual reason to be concerned about subordination of the military. my it's a beautiful thing, friends, be very grateful for it. where i am critical of the decisions is the conflict in -- conflation by many in the white house, with the exception of the president himself, that these retired military officers are speaking out, calling for rumsfeld to be fired and that
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rumsfeld could not be fired for six months because that would be a violation of civil military norms. that is actually just not true. i love that the person who had it right was the president himself. he said, i am not going to do anything different based on what these guys said. he also made the distinction of treating them like just another political actor. which is the right way to treat veterans- to treat when they engage in the political process. they are just another political actor and the president had that exactly right. so treating it as a civil , what actuallynt needs to be done in that. what isthird point,
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different between 2003 and 2006 comes through so beautifully and ,o poignantly in the interviews is that the president took ownership of the president -- process and the president took ownership of the outcome. josh bolten, the white house says, the president i saw at those war meetings was, to me, noticeably different than the one i saw in every other context. this was before the surge. the white house chief of staff says that the president was deferential to the military's views. that he did not have the confidence and the rigor or challenge that he had in other circumstances. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said the same thing. the president was not directive. all of this is before the process that the nsc set in motion.
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agree with the white house chief of staff, josh bolten, that steve hadley actually deserves the credit for making a process and then up a to the him widerto get apertures of information. and megan and peter deserves a lot of credit in this as well. but i struggle to think that a different national security affections,ith would have been able to align the pieces, such that all of these things happened. and, when the challenge came from the chief of staff of the army, that it'll break the army, i thought it was actually really striking. this is not recounted by the president, but it is recounted by several other people in the the president,t when confronted with the chief of staff saying i fear this will
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break the army, the presidents rebuttal to that was, losing a war is what will break the army, which is exactly commander in chief stature. condoleezza rice says, george w. bush was a different president in 2006 and he was in 2003. and that comes through really powerfully for me in the interviews. and let me close with something president bush did say in the interviews, which i think sums up really nicely why this worked as well as it did. which is that the military's job is to figure out how to win. the president's job is to decide if we want to win. and that is what works in 2006. [applause]
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