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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  May 10, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with congressional hearings on benghazi. we talk first to republican representative jason chaffetz of utah. >> there's nothing wrong, if you want openness and transparency, if you want to do what the president told the american people repeatedly he was going to do, that is reveal information as they gain it, then why don't they do that? they won't even release the unclassified information. they won't allow us to talk to the people we want to talk to. they have not been made available to the congress and so it's been a long, arduous process. they should have been done and dealt with a long time ago yet it continues on. >> rose: we continue a look at the investigation into benghazi with margaret brennan, the state department correspondent for cbs news. >> i believe that there is a genuine desire to move beyond this but this is this has become so toxic of a conversation because it's become so politicized on both sides. democrats will tell you when you ask tough questions you're
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republican. you talk to the republicans and ask tough questions and they'll say you're a democrat. people are failing to see the substance here. so i think that's one of the problems with really making a push to get to the bottom of this. >> rose: we conclude with vali nasr, he worked with the late ambassador richard holbrooke on afghanistan and pakistan during the first term of the obama administration. he has a new book called "the dispensable nation: american foreign policy in retreat." >> it's very clear to people in the region that we do not want to lead in this region. we are not engaged with the arab spring, whether it's egypt, whether it's syria, whether it's yemen, libya, we want to do less we want to reduce this region's importance in global politics. the president even compared syria to the congo saying, you know, it's just as important or not important and the conflicts
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in congo. and the message that comes across very clearly is that we don't want to be indispensable in region, and by implication also maybe more broadly. and the region is beginning to look at us as dispensable. >> rose: jason chaffetz, margaret brennan and vali nasr when we continue.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: we begin tonight with libya. this week the white house clashed with house republicans over the september 11 2012 u.s. con sol attack in benghazi. in testimony on capitol hill on wednesday, consulate officials questioned the government's handling of the raid that left four americans dead. the emotional hearing widened the partisan divide and revived disputes over what happened in benghazi. new details about the incident continued to emerge. joining me now from washington, congressman jason chaffetz of utah. he has been at the center of the benghazi hearings. i'm pleased to have him join me on this program this evening. welcome. >> thanks, charlie. >> rose: so tell me where you
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think the investigation is now. >> well, i think we're starting to make some progress although i would remind people that with four dead americans these terrorists are still on the run. there has been nobody brought to justice, nobody captured or killed and we're worried about the hundreds of embassies of and consulates, thousands of people overseas but we did hear, as you pointed out, a lot of new information, firsthand information not from politicos but from people who were actually there firsthand witnesses, three, i think, very credible witnesses with more than 70 years of public service who gave us their account of what happened on that fateful day on 9/11. >> rose: do you believe there was a coverup? >> i think there are a lot of things that the administration has not yet accounted for. i think part of his was covered up. except for the united states congress, this administration would lead you to believe that there was some video gone awry and that a protest happened and
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that's what caused this attack. that never happened. we've demonstrated it. we introduced a memo that we just recently found that was issued on the day after the attack from the state department to senior state department personnel saying it was ansar al sharia with islamic ties, they were the ones that were responsible for that. in fact, we told the libyan ambassador that! so i think the administration has covered up a lot of these fact and why we're continuing to probe. >> rose: but they changed their own acknowledgment of what happened after the events and after the testimony by secretary rice. do you believe they continue to cover up? >> well, four and a half months after the attack secretary clinton came before the united states congress and testified in both the house and the senate and she said that the security decisions weren't made by her but that the security decisions were made by the people on the ground. yet we have the regional security officer, who was the chief security person in libya,
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said "i wasn't able to make those recommendations." i mean, he made the recommendation bus they weren't implemented. it just bigs more questions. then we were also told that will the military did everything they could yet we heard testimony, firsthand testimony, that we had four special forces ready to go in tripoli to go to benghazi and they were told to stand down. so, again, charlie, i think there are a lot of legitimate questions. whether or not every one of those a coverup remains to be seen, but progress that the congress is making new information and a concurrence from the democrats we need more hearings, more documents and more people talking about what happened. >> rose: okay. you went to libya and to benghazi to talk to gregory hicks. >> yeah, i went to tripoli, not to benghazi. just to be clear. >> rose: to the capital of libya. yes. what happens there in the testimony and the fact that the stock market which has a normal procedure for one of its
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officials to be there and to be involved in these hearings was not allowed to be in the room? >> well, this is very troubling, charlie. i went there about three and a half weeks after the attack. i went to tripoli. we invited the democrats to come with us despite what the state department has said since, or at least the person who used to be at the state department democrats were invited to go, they chose not to go. it was short notice but they chose not to go. the state department sent a minder or babysitter or whatever you want to call it which is somewhat unprecedented and we heard testimony from the chief of mission that he was told that the three people within the state department, there on the ground in libya, were not to meet with me individually and i tell you, as a member of congress on the oversight committee he testified, gregory hicks as a 22 year veteran having had a number of congressional delegations come, that had never, ever happened before. and he also testified that when
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we went sbe a secure classification meeting and that minder from the state department was not able to attend because he didn't have the proper security clearances that the chief of staff to hillary clinton herself called and chastised this person. that's without precedent. i've talked to people on both sides of the aisle. that's just not right. that's -- that deserves a little bit more. i felt there was a suppression of information while i was there but we're going to have to dive deeper into this. that's not the way you treat the united states congress. >> rose: will you ask cheryl mills to come and testify? >> you know, it's hard to say who. i would welcome everybody. i wish the accountability review board-- which supposedly did this review-- would come testify to us or at least meet with us informally. we've asked them multiple times to do that. they've always denied it. we are 25,000 documents in eight trufrj that they won't let us have. they've said you can look at an am n camera review which, again,
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means state department gets to watch over your shoulder. even unclassified information, charlie, they won't allow us -- they won't let the congress have. that's just -- that's just not the american way. >> rose: so why do you think they're doing it, if, in fact, they are doing it? >> well, it just -- it sends up a lot of flashing red light, right? if there's nothing wrong, if you want openness and transparency, if you want to do what the president told the american people repeatedly he was going to do-- that is release new information as they gain it-- why don't they do that? they won't even release the unclassified information. they won't allow us to talk to the people we want to talk to. they have been not been made available to the congress so it's been a long, arduous process. this should have been done and dealt with a long time ago and it continues on. >> rose: again, i ask, what do you think their motive is? >> i don't know. because i don't know what the truth is. and as my friend and colleague tray goudey, the congressman from south carolina, like to say there is no statute of limitations on the truth and, again, we've got about a half dozen things that just don't
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appear to be true and we're going to pursue those until we know the truth. >> rose: let's list the things you think do not appear to be true. >> well, first and foremost is that time leading up to 9/11. the secretary of state insists that the security decisions were made by those on the ground. that's not true. the physical facilities were not up to the minimum standards. you remember after the bombings in beirut we had a big congressional study done. i was pretty young at the time but there was a development of what's called the inman standards. the minimum standards by which these physical facilities should be built. those were bypassed. by law the only person that can sign off on those standards is the secretary of state! again, begs the question of how that happened. once the attacks started to happen, why is it that the military could not get there until almost 24 hours after the attack? you can get on a delta flight here at the dulles airport outside washington, d.c. and fly there faster than our military was able to get there. we heard testimony that the
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military had been told to stand down yet we were told that very senior people in the military said, oh, no, we did everything we could to get there, just physically it wasn't possible. well, we have troops and assets in planes that are very close proximity planes that fly at supersonic speed so that still isn't a question. and secretary rice went before the american people and the public for weeks this administration said it was due to a video! that was never true at any time. how did those talking points change? who changed them? and why did they perpetuate those lies on the american them? that's the starting list, charlie. >> rose: okay, did secretary rice say she thought it was because of this video or that the fact that it was unclear at this time and they were investigating to make a determination about that? >> well, again, we uncovered a document that hadn't been seen before yesterday where the senior people within the department of state had said clearly they told the libyans
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that it was ansar al sharia, which is ties to al qaeda. there's a reason why on "face the nation" the president of libya went to benghazi he told in that interview on "face the nation" he told the american people and the world that he thought it had to do with these islamic -- these terrorists. yet susan rice went and undercut him. and that was the reason why the f.b.i. -- think about this, charlie. the f.b.i. couldn't get to that crime scene for nearly three weeks! imagine if that had happened in boston! imagine if we said, oh, well, the f.b.i. can't get there, it's going to be a couple weeks. that's just intolerable. the reason is that the testimony we heard from the chief of mission, our person, on the ground in libya said it's because the libyans felt that we had lied. and he testified, mr. hicks, that his jaw hit the ground. that it was the most embarrassing moment he had ever had in his life. >> rose: you have said that the country was misled at every step correct?
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>> it appears like that. >> rose: you mentioned south carolina lindsey graham, the republican senator from south carolina called benghazi t benghazi situation "worse than watergate." do you think we're looking at that kind of coverup? >> well, i'm telling you, we haven't got to the end of this, but we have four dead americans. we have a kid that was there protecting american interests who's still in the hospital almost eight months later. we have this string of unanswered questions and direct contradictions from what the administration would lead you to believe versus what the people on the ground are now telling us and what the documentation is telling us. so i don't know if i want to categorize it or compare it directly to a former incident, but it don't look good at this point. >> rose: you had an investigation by ambassador pickering and former chairman of the joint chiefs mike mullen and others. did that investigation not satisfy you? >> no, absolutely not. in fact, we found multiple
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errors in it. what we've asked for is please have the senior people at the accountability review board-- this is a board that was appointed by secretary clinton doctors them come share with us the information. they refused to meet with us! that's just unbelievable! doesn't even have to be in a formal hearing although i think at this point we're gravitating to that point. they would never meet with us. we said as the oversight committee in congress, can we look at the same documents? can we talk to the same people that the accountability review board did? the answer has been no, no, and no. that's not the american way. i don't care about republican or democrat. that's not the right -- and you know what? to his credit the ranking member of the oversight committee, mr. cummings of maryland, i think he agreed with this because i asked for this information, he interrupted he asked me to yield him time and he said "i agree with you." and i appreciate him doing that. that's the right answer. >> rose: do you believe that any of the people that were in benghazi or in tripoli part of the state department, have been because they stepped forward and questioned what had happened and questioned the response, have
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been subjected to any kind of internal discipline. >> well, we did hear testimony from the chief of mission, gregory hicks, that he felt like he had been demoated along the way, been mistreated. he had stellar performance reviews every single step of the way including a nice phone call from the president of the united states congratulating him on the great stuff he did. but the moment he started questioning the senior leadership saying "how is it secretary rice made those statements?" his career just went downhill immediately. that's a very serious question and we got concurrents on democrat and republican side that if anybody, any whistle blower is stepping forward was being singled out that we would help shed light on that, do what we could to protect them. but we heard first-hand people saying they felt like that had happened, yes. >> rose: if the administration is stonewalling, i've yet to hear from you what you think their motive is. >> well, i worry that weeks before the election that perhaps
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it was politically motivated. remember, this was five days -- this incident was five days after the democrat national convention where the president had said that al qaeda was on the run and that we were winning this game on terrorism. or this fight on terrorism. and five days later our amount dorr is killed, we have four dead americans and internally i think we flew the get go that it was in part ansar al sharia which has strong ties to al qaeda. i think there was some motivation there to cover some things up. and, look, people make mistakes. we can't protect against everything but it's usually the coverup that gets you in a lot of trouble and it feels like that's where we've been heading. and if we didn't ask hard questions the white house spokesman, jay carney, would still allow us to believe oh, it's just a video gone awry, don't worry, nothing wrong here, folks, keep moving. and that's not the case. >> rose: it's reported former vice president dick cheney met with house republicans today, this morning.
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did that happen? >> he did meet with the group. i wasn't in that meeting, charlie. >> rose: are you aware he suggested-- it has been reported also-- that secretary clinton be subpoenaed? >> i've heard that news report. i have nothing to verify it. i haven't talked to anybody who's been in that room. i wouldn't be surprised. there's been a host of people that want us to just subpoena everybody. one of the shocking things with the accountability review board that was supposed to look at this, they never interviewed secretary clinton. the oversight committee never interviewed her. i would love her hear her perspective because she was involved. in fact, gregory hick, the chief of mission, said he got a telephone call from the secretary of state at 2:00 in the morning. i'm glad she was hands on but i'd kind of like to hear are from her perspective what did or didn't happen that night. >> rose: so you're prepared to vote for a subpoena for the former secretary of state? >> well, we're not to that point. there's a host of people we want to hear from. i would hope she would help us out but so far we haven't had any cooperation with the
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administration. little to none at every single step of the way. >> rose: why do you say you're not at that point? >> well, i've been very respectful of what our leadership has been very method i can. we haven't issued any subpoenas yet and we've taken a lot of criticism from people saying why? why? why? well, for month it is administration said, well, you have to go through the accountability review board process. now that we're past that and we have whistle-blowers stepping up i think we'll have to maybe get more serious about forcing people legally to come in and testify. it shouldn't be they way. they should do it voluntarily. but if that's what it takes i'll be supportive of that. >> rose: congressman jason chaffetz of utah, thank you so much. >> thanks, charlie. >> rose: we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: we continue our conversation about the benghazi hearings. joining me now from washington, margaret brennan, state department correspondent for cbs news. welcome.
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>> rose: thank you, charlie. good to be with you. >> rose: we just heard from a republican member of the committee investigating benghazi and some sense of how he sees it and how republicans in the house see it. how does the state department see the incidents at benghazi and this ongoing investigation? >> charlie, it's hard to find an issue that is more sensitive at the state department or gets people as upset and split that has one does. it has been eight months, there have been no suspects highlighted here but there is a desire to move on. it was just last friday they had a memorial to honor the four who were killed and their stars went up in the state department hall as members of the fallen. but within the state department, the desire, really, sr., as i said, to move on. they're very concerned that people are going to be blocked from being able to do their jobs because of an overreaction on the security side. at the same time there are
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frustrations among career foreign service officers that perhaps they were shut out by some of the political appointees in this process. and there is some concern about whether the state department is addressing some of the issues that were raised in that investigative report, the a.r.b., that came out last december which really highlighted a lot of flaws in the state department's own part in terms of protecting its own. >> rose: and pursuant to that report coming out the secretary said we accept all of these recommendations and we plan to implement them, as i remember. >> that's correct. and john kerry, the new secretary of state, has promised to do the same. he's appointed his own chief of staff, david wade, to be a liaison with congress to continue to answer some of these questions. now, some of the e-mail trails, some of the items that were not necessarily classified here in terms of communication between the state department and the white house have been made available to members of congress simply as political leverage here. i'm talking about the e-mails that were made public because of
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the confirmation hearing of the c.i.a. director, john brennan. some of this information has only come out because of congressional pressure. but that said, within the organization, there's this desire to remain apolitical and to move on. >> rose: is there some sense here that their national security issues they that they can't talk about but they clearly believe are important to protect? >> charlie, that's been one of the issues there day one here. there was a presence in benghazi by the state department, a special mission there. but this annex that gets referred to so often that was the site of the second attack on the night of september 11 is known to be a c.i.a. outpost and there are some who will say to you privately "that's really why we were there and will there's a lot we can't go public about." so these claims by the house republicans and others who say the white house isn't revealing everyone who is on the ground, the more than 30 people who were airlifted out of benghazi the
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next day, the defense on the part of the administration is to say "you know we can't give you that information because of the clandestine activity." but that said, there are some real security issues to look at here that shouldn't be swept away because of the political football nature of the conversation regarding the talking points. >> rose: obviously the republicans wonder if there's some smoking gun, which would be an e-mail that somebody knew who said they didn't know, that kind of thing. or somebody issued an order that they have denied issuing. can you get a sense from the state department? we know that kind of smoking gun doesn't exist and they will continue to search for it but it is not there. >> well, the smoking gun in terms of what's being implied here is that there was a coverup. and that's pretty hard to substantiate here. what you can fault people for and, find an e-mail to back is
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up the failure of management, the systemic failures of management that the investigative committee highlighted in terms of people refusing security that was requested by the ambassador. but when it comes to the smoking gun, so to speak, that's going to be very hard to substantiate. and the political appointees around the secretary at the time you know, they will remain private about that, but, as many know, there are subpoena powers on the hill but a lot of those committees aren't going to go that far until they have something more to substantiate instead of just insinuate that the secretary somehow denies necessary security on that night. >> rose: does the state department acknowledge there was some management oversight that was lacking hear? >> the investigation that was conducted, the accountability review board puts the finger right back at the state department saying there were failures of leadership, failures of management, a lot of this,
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they say, these do with lack of resources and management that was, frankly, scared to spend the money they had. keep in mind, the state department is very small when it comes to the overall budget, less than% of our entire federal budget. they don't have a lot of money dedicated to security. so one of the things that has changed in the last few months is they have gotten more resources to go out and hire more diplomatic security agents and to beef up security at high-threat posts. in hindsight, this post in benghazi would have fallen under that classification. they would have had more diplomatic security agents, probably folks with more experience. probably folks who spoke arabic and could communicate with the backup guards that were sent in. at the time, they didn't have that. >> rose: how did they explain-- and i think this sits at cheryl mills' door-- what the republicans and what some of the diplomats are saying was not only -- way they would treat it, that they were told simply to
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shut up. >> charlie, there's some hard questions about why the secretary of state and her staff did not go out with what they heard from their own people on the ground. i think that is a fair non-partisan question. "why didn't you listen to your own people in terms of what they were telling you? why didn't you listen to the diplomatic security agents who described what happened to them and what they were fighting back against?" that said, when you talk to people around, say, ambassador rice, who was the person who has paid the most political price for this, they'll say it wouldn't be responsible for her to rely on opinion. it wouldn't be responsible for her to listen to just eyewitnesses. she had to go with what the administration was saying at the time which was reliant on the intelligence community. to be fair, there were protests happening around the world at that time that were, you know, about this inflammatory film. but the people on the ground that night in benghazi didn't
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say what happened to them had anything to do with it. and that is going to be a hard question. the issue with cheryl mills you mentioned, the chief of staff to secretary of state clinton has to do with who was in the room when some of these state department witnesses came forward and they can't talk one on one with investigators without their only legal council from inside the agency there with them. >> rose: do you believe the white house wants to get to the bottom of this? and do you believe the state department wants to get to the bolt bottom of this so they can move beyond it? >> i believe that there is a genuine desire to move beyond this. but this has become so toxic of a conversation because it's become so politicized on both sides. democrats will tale you when you ask tough questions you're a republican. when you talk to the republicans and ask tough questions they'll say you're a democrat. people are failing to see the substance here so i think that's one of the problems with really making a push to get to the bottom of this.
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i mean, yeah, the f.b.i. put up three photos on their web site just a week ago. they're not making progress with this investigation and that was perhaps one of the more substantive points that the house republicans have made which is perhaps the f.b.i. shouldn't have been the lead agency on this. they weren't given access to the site for months and months and months. perhaps another agency should have taken the lead there but it doesn't seem like they are making substantive progress at the f.b.i. at this point. >> rose: margaret brennan, as usual, enormously helpful. thank you so much. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: margaret brennan, chief state department correspondent for cbs news, we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: vali nasr is here, he's dean of john hopkins school of advanced international study. from 2009 to 2011-- two years-- he served as senior advisor to the late richard holbrooke, president obama's envoy for pakistan and afghanistan. nasr describes his time in the administration as a deeply
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disillusioning experience. his new book is called "the dispensable nation: am$j$can foreign policy in retreat" zbigniew brzezinski writes about this book "an impressive and sweep regular view of the escalating geopolitical challenge that the united states needs to address more intelligently." i'm pleased to have vali nasr back at this table. welcome. good to see you. >> good to be here. >> rose: you and i have had many conversations at this table so now that you have written this book, you say the following as we continue quoting. >> my time in the obama administration turned out to be a deeply disillusioning experience. so the question is that arises is what were your expectations and why were you disappointed? >> my expectation was that the administration would be serious about engagement, about diplomacy about reversing some of the trends that emerged during the bush period and that it would be serious about the strategic issues that were confronting the united states in afghanistan and pakistan and the
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middle east. and given the turbulence in the region it was necessary for us to take some serious change in our approach and none of these seemed to be in the end on the administration's agenda. >> rose: so you were disappointed? >> i was disappointed largely. >> rose: you make several points here. so i would assume the administration upon hearing you say they would raise that we were not serious? we sent george mitchell to talk to the israelis and the palestinians. we had long reviews of afghan and pakistan policy. we called in a range of experts. we listened to both military and political people. we considered a whole range of options. isn't that being serious? >> no, because on issues like arab/israel issue or negotiations with iran we talked a lot about talking. but there was no real political
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capital or no skin put in the game by the administration. the white house did not back george mitchell. israel did not push either the israelis or palestinians for a peace process. with iran we remain very content with sanctions. we were not serious about an actual negotiating process and i don't think we are at this point either. we're asking iran to give up all of its nuclear program and in return all we offered were aircraft parts even in the last meeting the question is what is it that the united states is offering that actually would make this negotiations serious being serious means you put something around the table that the other can negotiate. >> rose: what would you put on the table? specific sanctions attached to specific things you want from iraq. we want iran to find the additional protocol to the i.a.e.a. what specific sanctions are we
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willing to give in exchange for that if we want iran to suspend enrichment beyond 5% what specific sanctions are attached to that? after all, the sanctions were put in place to bring iran to the negotiating table. the sanctions objective was not to get a full sur render from iran without us giving anything. if that's the objective, we could easily say it will never work. in other words, we have not put on the table something that would capture the other side's attention. as duplicitous and as indecisive or as difficult as iranians may be when they come to these negotiation it is question is what is on the table for them to actually consider? and there isn't. there isn't anything. >> rose: what would you suggest putting on the table? we will lessen the sanctions if you do this. what do you think they would be prepared to do? >> well, then the negotiation actually begins.
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then the actual give-and-take begins. are you willing to do x in exchange for y? is this adequate? would you want? can we give less? that comes the back and forth about negotiation, the nitty-gritty, but in reality just saying that we're ready to talk doesn't mean that we actually are serious about talking. >> rose: so you put more -- you have more criticism for the american position than you do the iranian position? >> well, i think, you know, we charted this course. we said that our strategy is two-track strategy of pressure through sanctions to get them to the table to negotiate. so we have to actually be willing to support our own strategy. they didn't come up with this strategy. they're the subject of this strategy. so we say our sanctions have worked in the sense they're under pressure. there have been four rounds of talks and in these four rounds of talks we have not put anything on the table that would make this -- these negotiations serious.
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so in reality this is not to say that the iranians are easy to deal with or that they are ready to sign a deal but the question is that what do we really mean by the two-track strategy? is it just sanctions for the sake of sanctions? or is it that sanctions would support some kind of a diplomatic initiative? >> rose: do you believe that they have an intent to build nuclear weapons? >> i think increasing -- i think there are days -- at a decision point. i think their national aboutive now is to get rid of sanctions. if they cannot see a way to get rid of sanctions through negotiations they will look at the north korean model and see that they have a lot more leverage with nuclear capability or nuclear weapons than without it. they are watching how the north korean leader is brandishing his nuclear capability in order to exact concessions from the outside and to prevent further sanctions and maybe release
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sanctions. that, to them, would look very attractive. so the key question is at this particular juncture do we encourage iran top think about a possibility of getting rid of sanctions through negotiations or do they come to a conclusion that, look, the americans and the quartet are just not going to lift these sanctions regardless of how many times we go. there's nothing concrete on the table. maybe if we get the bomb they will get serious. >> rose: this is also about american foreign policy. you make a lot of interesting points and i want to read another one. the president had a truly disturbing habit of funneling major foreign policy decision us there a small cabal. cabal is a loaded word. relatively inexperienced white house advisors whose turf was strictly politics. their primary concern was any action in afghanistan or the middle east would play on the nightly news or which talking points it would give the republicans. do you really believe that? that the people who were
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deciding american foreign policy was a small cabal of relatively inexperienced white house advisors? secretary of state did not have, in your judgment, any role in foreign policy? either the priorities or the execution of foreign policy? >> she did, but it was often after fighting or going to the president directly. generally the view of the white house was that policy making would be centralized in the white house in a small group around the president, that he's the chief strategist for all of america's foreign policy and the various agencies of the government, state department, pentagon, et cetera, their job is merely to implement. and policy making coming from the state department was not welcome. i mean, i witnessed that firsthand with afghanistan and pakistan. that was the reason why richard holbrooke had so much trouble with the white house because he wasn't there to just take marching orders from a group of young advisors to the president who had come from the campaign to the white house.
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he actually thought he had something to contribute and every time he thought that that idea that he had to contribute he put forward that was when, you know, the pushbacks came. and the difference was that many others may have basically accepted the way things were. he decided that the he had it -- he had a duty, essentially, to bring his experience and he would push and push and then the secretary defended him and many times they would go directly to the president and some things moved but ultimately the white house was set up organizationally in a particular way that was -- that decisions are made at the very top and then the agencies of the government are there to merely implement it and the state department's job is essentially to implement the policy that's decided in the white house. >> rose: you certainly speak with authority in terms of that because you were very close to richard holbrooke and you were
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one of the committed people he brought in to work with him. an extraordinary staff of enormously dedicated people and you represent the best of those. >> thank you. >> rose: and you're -- your great grief when he died was evident to so many of us. he came to this table and many times expressed the idea that we weren't using diplomacy. that sort of the military was in control of policy making in those regions where he had. and he tried hard in a sense to assert the role of diplomacy. >> that's right. >> rose: do you -- why do you think he failed? >> i think he failed because first of all he'd had to deal with the fact that he really wasn't given access toe the president. >> rose: why was that? >> well, i think that's exactly because as i mentioned the way that the foreign policy approach was set up, he was not one of the inner circle. they were the ones who would make the decisions, were closest to the president, would be the gateways to the president as to
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what options he would consider and holbrook was in the state department and was kept away from the president. i think also there was a sense early on that this is a young democratic president, the military has come out of iraq very triumphant with a strategy of counterinsurgency that ultimately they're going to go with what the military wants in afghanistan and holbrook talking about that maybe diplomacy should be at the forefront and the military should support diplomacy, an idea that the military was not very keen on would be merely unnecessary static. but i also think he failed because the administration is not serious about diplomacy. it's -- it viewed the risks that diplomacy would entail dealing with the taliban, dealing with pakistan and i think it extends to dealing with other issues like iran. it was not something they wanted to spend or they wanted to
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accept those risks and holbrook believed that we should use the military in afghanistan more judiciously. don't put so many troops because the more you put in the faster you're going to withdraw. treat afghanistan as a marathon not a sprint. put enough troops that pakistan, iran, and the taliban would take you seriously but you can also stay there longer and then use the military to get people the negotiating table around a deal. whereas the view of the military and ultimately the white house became that the job of holbrook and the diplomats is to support the war. they're supposed to go around the world, get money and troops for the counterinsurgency and then focus on growing pomegranates and fixing electricity in afghanistan. they didn't really want to go down the path of looking at afghanistan as negotiations with north vietnam and vietcong in paris or as the dayton
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agreement. they really didn't see the diplomat as the two ton elephant that's going to be managing the end game to this war and shaping the regional peace when we leave. they thought that the diplomats should play a secondary role. and i think that became really the reason why he failed. he could not convince the administration that he should be given the same importance as the military commanders of the war and the administration should see the end of this war as happening around the negotiating table and that we should not try to win this war and we actually have come to this conclusion now, that we can't. that we should leave a settle behind us when we leave that would bring all of the region around a deal that would give a semblance of order when we leave. and now we're leaving afghanistan without that. we have not won the war and we
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have not arrived at a peace deal with afghanistan. we simply are handing over a military mission we couldn't finish to this afghan security force we're training. >> rose: some will also argue that the state department effort did not succeed as well as they thought it would be to build up the afghan government, to increase governance, to sort of -- to try to force the karzai regime to deal with corruption. all of those were responsibilities in part that richard holbrooke had to do that. you know that there have been much discussion about his relationship with karzai. you know, according to the book "little america" karzai told his aides that he did not trust holbrook and didn't want to see him again. his aides conveyed that message to officials at the u.s. embassy. this occurred in the middle of the debate over after pack policy. smoo >> yes, karzai could say that because he knew phenomenon they had his back.
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karzai would not have dared whether he liked what holbrook told him or not to pick on holbrook if he hadn't got ample signals from the white house that he's expendable. before holbrook took on karzai, vice president biden said the very same things to karzai and walked out of a dinner, just got up in the middle of dinner and walked out. karzai would not countenance sending a similar message about vice president biden to the -- to the embassy. so partly, you know, holbrooke had a tough job of getting the afghan government to behave. the afghan government very early on understood that you can say no to holbrooke without consequences. many people phenomenon washington liked karzai and they wanted to use that against holbrook. and in reality, the point you make, it is not the job of the state department to be doing governance. that's the sort of lower level job.
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the state department was being pushed -- >> rose: was part of -- let me ask the question now. you can tell us what whether i'm right or wrong. is my understanding that part of richard holbrooke's responsibilities was exactly that. that's what he was trying to do and that's what, by the way, he was good at. >> but with one difference. the state department was put in charge of doing the civilian side of counterinsurgency as a junior partner. but that's not what he really wanted to do and that's not what the state department should have done. the state department should have been in charge of finishing the war on diplomacy, not growing pomegranates, not doing rule of law, not doing governance. these were -- essentially this whole strategy was concocted by the military as -- >> rose: i would assume, vali, the president would hear that and say this strategy was not exactly concocted by the military. the president was pushing for alternatives if you read bob woodward's book he sees the president pushing for alternative options. >> but he was never given
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alternative options. ultimately the strategy is the one that was devised by the military in iraq. it's counterinsurgency. >> rose: okay. >> so ultimately there were two options before the president. >> so replace stanley mcchrystal? >> in woodward's book the president considered only two strategies which is a fully resourced counterinsurgency which is iraq transferred to afghanistan or what the vice president advocated which was called the counterterrorism plus which is we leave the fighting all together and rely on special forces and drones to target al qaeda inside of pakistan's northwest frontier. the a diplomatic option-- which is what richard holbrooke wanted-- was never actually one of the option it is president considered. he could have considered it and rejected it. but -- >> rose: but he didn't consider it. >> he was not -- you read the book. there is no mention of a third
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option which was richard's option with far fewer troops on the ground and aggressively and actively look for a diplomatic solution which would have made holbrooke and secretary clinton the principal actors in managing the end of the war. >> rose: i mean smeshgs had a powerful voice in conversation. so if richard holbrooke's ideas were rejected, that is a rejection and a failure of secretary clinton. >> that is a rejection and failure of -- it's a rejection of the state department, i wouldn't say failure because they did all they could to -- all they could, including direct meetings that they had with the president to put these issues on the table. alternately, it's the national security council that decides the agenda of the meetings and the option that the president has before him. it's also up to the president to tell his staff he's not happy with these options and he wants other options. >> rose: how would you characterize the national security advisor tom donelan?
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>> he wasn't national security advisor, tom jones was there. and it's not only one of them, it's actually a circle of people that i think included also people who were running the campaign who had come from the campaign who were very conscious of how -- the whole strategic review would play out in -- >> rose: we're talking about frame? who are we talking about here? >> it's a whole cabal. >> rose: who are they? >> well, it's from dennis mcdonough to david axelrod to tom donelan to plouffe plouffe, et cetera, that ultimately decided -- >> rose: plouffe was not in government at that time. >> no, but they all had -- but those who were in the white house that day -- that they had the -- they had the decision ultimately as to recommendations that come from the different agencies of the government. ultimately what ends up being an option that the president would consider and then would ask questions for and would then go
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to the relevant agencies and say what would it take to resource this, how long will it take, what are the results? but that wasn't there. as i said in woodward's book, it's very clear there are only two options on the table. >> rose: here's what's important, this book, "the dispensable nation: american foreign policy in retreat" suggesting that no longer are we the indispensable nation, we are in fact, the dispensable nation. american foreign policy in retreat. a lot of people-- and this is a very important point to make. a lot of people who think seriously and deeply about foreign policy, whether the pundit or journalistic side like george packer, who writes for the new yorker, the george -- valis in a sr. the george canon of u.s. policy in the middle east. a renown scholar but practitioner insider who served two years in the obama administration delivers a smart, sharp, sober, fast-paced and riftding critique of the policies.
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ann marie slaughter, a wakeup call by a deeply knowledgeable scholar. anyone interested in the middle east and china or the future of american policy should read it. having said that praise to you -- (laughs) -- tell us what you think we ought to be doing. >> well, i think we ought to take a role in the world and particularly the middle east i think is very critical not only because we spend a decade there and made the middle east essentially the marketer for our global role but i think also many other countries around the world in asia, for instance, where we want to focus are looking athe way we are approaching the middle east, the way we are watching our hands of it, treating this crises as indicator of the direction of our foreign policy, how serious we are, how much investment we're making in porn policy, how much they can trust our strategy. this is something we have to pay
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attention to. when you go to the region, it's very clear to people in the region that we do not want to lead in this region. we are not engaged with the arab spring, whether it's egypt, whether it's syria. if whether it's yemen, libya. we want to do less. we want to reduce this region's importance in global politics. the president even compared syria to the congo saying, you know, it's just as important or not important as the conflicts in congo are. and the message that comes across very clearly is that we don't want to be indispenseable in this region and be implication also maybe more broadly. and the region is beginning to look at us as dispensable. so we packed up and left afghanistan. we surged one year and we withdrew -- started the withdrawal the following year. we are not engaged in syria in a meaningful way, not only
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militarily but in terms of even humanitarian support and diplomatic leadership. we're not engaged with egypt, whether it's economically or politically for. and i think all of this suggests that we are sending a very powerful signal internationally about how do we view our global leadership? i mean, in america people characterize this as leading from behind. but in the region -- >> rose: that's based on one quote during the libyan -- >> i agree but it's become actually more than one quote. it's become the way p.m.c. that we have a wait-and-see attitude. >> rose: what would you have the united states do in syria? >> well, i think we have to take -- send a signal that we are serious about this conflict. that we do see an american interest and a regional interest in this conflict. it's not just an humanitarian tragedy that this is the place where the future of the middle
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east is going to be decided. if the united states even before doing anything sends a signal that it doesn't see the country that's going to be shaping the future of the middle east as something worthy of its attention, that's extremely telling. we could begin by getting very serious about humanitarian support. the size of the refugee problem can cause the collapse of jordanian social order and economy, can deeply impact lebanon. it can impact iraq. it can impact turkey. we are not really providing much support and we're not leading the international community providing humanitarian support. we have to be getting much more serious about diplomacy. even within the syrian opposition the chaos that is between the saudi faction and the ha a tarry faction has completely debilitate it had opposition. we're not taking a position of bringing order to them. we need to work on a no-fly zone not only because of its
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importance to stop assad's butchery but also because it's important for the refugees to stay within syria and not destabilize the neighboring countries. and i think being engaged with the rebels on the ground is important because the direction that syria's going is becoming a failed state with al qaeda fiefdoms within it that ultimately is going to threaten our very security. and we need to take all of these very seriously. i think the very first thing everybody wants to hear from the administration is an articulation of why syria matters to the united states. what is our interest hereor than wanting a dictator to go and aa tragedy of a humanitarian crisis and what is -- how does the united states see its interest in syria? that's not even articulated. and there are also parents of
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the u.s. government that have argued that this is going to be another iraq and we shouldn't get involved. but i think whatever the internal discussion is clearly the message is not coming out that the united states takes this sufficiently seriously or is willing to actually get engaged or has a pathway for ending this conflict or see an end to it. often what you hear is that, you know, americans show up to meetings in the region on these issues but they're not really engaged and they are not leading these meetings. usually the united states is the one that has even despite sfipls resistance on the ground articulated why certain conflicts matter. why it's important for, say, the syrian opposition to get its act together. why it's important for saudi arabia to set aside their rivalries. this doesn't require a major commitment of u.s. troops.
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this is actually fairly low level. it is important if the united states were really right at the forefront of helping the jordanian government provide for the half million refugees which may become a million in that country alone by the end of the year. and -- so, you know, the way this debate is unfolding is that it's either all-- either we're going fortotal war-- or we're not going to even put our toes in the water. and when you put it that way the general tendency is to say okay, we're not going to put our toes in the water, at least not yet. but the cost of syria keeps going up. at some point we'll have to get involved and by then it would be much more difficult and costly to manage it. and then at the same time it's also damaging our standing in the region because increasingly in the middle east and beyond middle east the sense is that countries have to take care of these issues on their own and that can also be dangerous to us.
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i think we should have learned from afghanistan that when you let others give arms to rebels then you lose control of where that arms is going. it would have been much better if we had given arms to the mujahadeen during the soviet union than let the pakistanis doing it and we're making the same mistake in syria. >> rose: "the dispensable nation: american foreign policy in retreat." i invite our friend vali nasr to come back any time. >> thank you very much. >> rose: thank you for joining us. see you next time.
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