tv Charlie Rose PBS September 8, 2014 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
>> charlie: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with the former ambassador to syria, robert ford. >> i would tell the president that, for sure, the options in front of him all are difficult and there's no easy choice but that he should take heart and his administration should take heart that they have had some success in iraq in terms of finding friends on the ground, iraqi militia fighters -- peshmerga -- iraqi fighters, special operations forces, people on the ground we can help, and with a judicious use of american airstrikes, those friendly forces on the ground have been able to blunt the islamic state's advances in iraq. so at the same time the president said there must be a new government in iraq to replace the government of nouri al-maliki, and if they want more
american help beyond what we with're doing, there has to be a political solution to the iraqi political crisis and i would say those elements, mr. president, are good elements, let's take them and apply them into syria. >> charlie: we continue with retired general anthony zeny. this is a crucial moment. the direction n.a.t.o. takes, the definition of what n.a.t.o. is something we haven't dealt with since the end of the cold war. we conclude with an appreciation of joan rivers who died this week at age 81. >> i wanted it more than life itself. >> charlie: why more than life itself? >> i never wanted anything else. the minute i could put a thought together, it was show business. i never wanted anything ever in my life. >> charlie: robert ford, anthony zeny and joan rivers, when we continue.
>> charlie: we begin tonight's program with the ongoing conflict in syria and iraq. earlier today the obama administration announced it had formed a ocean to combat the sunni militants known as i.s.i.s. or i.s.i.l. the coalition members agree their goal is to destroy the islamic militant group, not contain it. joining us is robert ford, who's
had a distinguished career in the foreign service of the united states and last served as u.s. ambassador to syria from 2010 to 2014. resigned in june because he felt he could no longer, as he said, defend america-syria policy. i am pleased to have ambassador ford on this program for the first time. welcome. >> nice to be with you. >> charlie: and i ask this question, the president calls you and says, ambassador, i know that you disagree with some of the things i have done in the past, but i'm in a place -- i'm in between a rock and a hard place here. tell me what you think i need to know and tell me what you think i need to do. what would you say? >> i would tell the president that, for sure, the options in front of him all are difficult and there's no easy choice but that he should take heart and his administration should take heart that they have had some success in iraq in terms of finding friends on the ground,
iraqi mishtd fighters, peshmerga, iraqi army fighters, special operations forces, people on the ground that we can help and with a judicious juice of american airstrikes those friendly forces on the ground have been able to blunt the islamic state's at vans in iraq. so at the same time the president has said there must be a new government in iraq to replace the government of nouri al-maliki, and if they want more american help beyond what we're doing, there has to be a political solution to the iraqi political crisis and i would say those elements, mr. president, are good elements, let's take them and apply them into syria in terms of finding friendly forces on the ground, i would say the free syrian army, let's help them, but let's understand that there's going to have to be just as in iraq a negotiation between the opposition and the assad regime to get a new government that ultimately will
rally syrians to confront, contain and eventually eliminate on the ground the islamic state. >> charlie: the president says to you, mr. ambassador, i hear you clearly, but i.s.i.s. had been stymied in iraq but we know we have to get them in syria and the problem is i can't wait for there to be some agreement on a coalition government with president assad leading the government. this is an emergency and we must stop this now. >> mm-hmm. well, and it makes sense to me, so what i would say is we want to blunt the worst of their advances right now in syria. the people that are fighting the islamic state on the ground and fighting them hard are elements of the free syrian army that are fighting them in places like syria's second largest city. so let's get help to them. maybe that's where some of the airstrikes need to go if that's where we go in syria, but, at
the same time, let's insist that if the opposition is getting this help from us, we in turn insist that they reach out and work for a political deal with the regime. we have to have both. >> charlie: so the president of syria says to the president of the united states, you know, why should i negotiate in a moment of strength for me? i'm doing pretty well here, and i'm not in any mood to negotiate myself out of power. >> well, i'd say two things back on that, charlie. first, in fact, there are lots of people inside the syrian regime that are starting to wonder about where basher al-assad is taking him. many of his fundamental pillar are asking themselves if they want to continue this endless war. there is actually a protest movement developing among assad
supporter ranks, called "cry of the nation." so he's not in a perfect position and, second, i think we can go back to the russians and to the iranians as well through whatever channel is appropriate and say to them, look, we're willing to to do more on the islamic state. we like you need a sustainable solution to. this we need a new government. we all agreed on that with geneva. geneva didn't go anywhere. let's find a formula to get back to a negotiation for a new government even as we work to contain the islamic state now. >> charlie: what if the president said, ambassador ford, i know how strongly you feel about the evils of the assad government and i share that but i.s.i.s. is a bigger problem for the moment and we really have to move rapidly. >> mm-hmm, yeah. well, i think there are steps
they are taking. some of them seem to me to be entirely appropriate in terms of lining up regional support to act against the islamic state, lining up efforts to block the flow of foreign fighters trickling into syria to join the ranks to have the islamic state -- ranks of the islamic state for example, looks exactly spot on. if there are steps regional governments can take to shut off money flows, that also looks spot on, although we have to understand the islamic state has oil wells in syria now and has its own other financing sources, but there are steps that can be taken now to reduce the power, to reduce the influence of the islamic state. by all means, let's work on that now but let's also understand that without boots on the ground and i certainly do not suggest american boots on the ground in syria but without friendly boots on the ground, we are not going to be able to eliminate the
islamic state. it didn't work in iraq and won't work in syria. >> charlie: as you, i think, probably know, i have been having a series of conversations about this, and a couple of people have reached a different conclusion about president assad, one being richard haass, the other ron crocker a former ambassador to iraq. here's what they said this week on this program. >> it's the least bad, potentially the options that are feasible. is it desirable? no. but when you look at the range of options from doing it ourselves to organizing a force to building up a viable resistance anytime soon you may say too hard, and some time of tacit division of syria where we leave assad alone in some areas and work in others with sunnis may be the least bad options available. things deteriorated in the last three years as you know better
than anybody. >> i said from the beginning that simply saying that assad must go isn't a policy. the fact of the matter is assad wasn't going three years ago and he's not going to today. that said, it is a pre pretty horrible regime. that said, i think if we are able to degrade i.s.i.s. in syria to some significant degree, the primary beneficiary would likely be the more moderate elements of the sunni opposition. i.s.i.s. has done more damage to them, frankly, than to assad. it could also create a climate in which many who stand with assad not because they like him -- they don't, they feel the alternative is worse if they no longer saw i.s.i.s. as that mortal threat to them, you could see a dynamic developing within the regime community that could
make change possible, could make negotiation possible and why not be wildly optimistic? could make a settlement possible. >> charlie: there are a number of people making this argument that cooperate with assad now. he's got troops on the ground. i.s.i.s. is his sworn enemy. let's do that now and we can deal with the future later. what's the problem with that argument? >> well, there are many problems with the argument. let's look at what happened in syria today and yesterday. most of assad's military forces are not hitting the islamic state. let me say that again. today and yesterday, most of the time over the last three and a half years, assad's military forces are not fighting the islamic state. they're fighting the free syrian army because assad understands that's where the threats to him politically comes from. so if you're going to align with assad, you would have to overlook the tacit cooperation that he and the islamic state have enjoyed for most of the
last three and a half years. second point, very important, assad's forces are quite, quite tired. that's why they lost three big military bases in north central syria over the past month. that's why they're about to lose a big air base in eastern syria. so the idea that assad suddenly has military forces able to expel the islamic state, i don't see those military forces on the ground. third point, the free syrian army actually is the one fighting the islamic state hardest right now. they have fought them to a standstill, better than any assad forces have done lately, so i think in terms of sheer practicality, helping the people who have been fighting the islamic state daily since january makes the most sense, and i won't even go into, charlie, how if we lined up with assad it would be a blessing to omar baghdadi and his
recruitment efforts because he could say the americans have joined with the devilish assad and irani regimes. we don't want to give baghdadi that card. >> charlie: i hear you. in the end will syria be divided? >> that's not hard to imagine. at a minimum, i would expect whatever, over the very long term is agreed to politically between the opposing sides will involve a high pressure of decentralization and local security. if i was part of the minority in syria i would not want to be -- have sunni arab security forces in my towns. i would want people from my village, from my town in charge of security. you know, these are things we actually hear now in iraq, too. it's what the sunni arabs are saying in anbar and mosul. so these things are not secret,
charlie. the ways forward, the trick is getting people to a table and the trick is getting people to come to deal. >> charlie: what role would you have the russians and the iranis play? >> i would like to make sure we agree the islamic state is a threat and bashar is not the way to. go i think russians still think bashar is the only way to contain the islamic state. i think there need to be more conversations between us about that and i think the russians need to talk to the free syrian army and understand better what the free syrian army is. i always encourage the free syrian army the g to moscow and talk to the russians. they need to do more of that. with the iranians, charlie, myself is they abandoned nouri al-maliki when they understood that he was not the solution to the islamic state problem, and i think they must be looking at bashar assad especially after the loss of the military bases i
mentioned and wonder how long do we stay with this guy. but there was an alternative, abadi was put forth as an alternative. the opposition and elements of the community need to think about alternatives. >> charlie: do most people you know and respect share your views about the possibility and strength of the free syrian army? >> the people who follow this the most closely on the ground, who are looking at reports coming out of arabic social media sites, arabic media and talking to people on the ground agree that the free syrian army is still viable. i was in detroit last week at the islamic society of mark's annual meeting and there was a military analyst there, jeffrey white, very respected, he agreed that the free syrian army is viable and this is the best way forward given the growing exhaustion inside the ranks of the assad regime.
>> charlie: how serious of a threat do you view it? >> i take what the director of the national center for counterterrorism said the other day that they don't have information about imminent trikes or planning but i also read on the arabic social media, i read threats from some of the fighters that go over there and they don't mince words. they say, we're bringing jihad to the united states as soon as we're finished over here. i take them at their word, charlie. so even if we don't have a problem today, i think we will have, so we'll have to deal with it. >> charlie: what have been in a historical sense the historic mistakes of the united states in the arab world? >> i think two things. first, a sense that we could fix all the problems, and we can't. the people who live there on the ground who don't leave, who stay and live there, you know, they have to fix the problems. and, so, we should not have a sense of hubris about what we
can achieve. we have to be realistic about that. but second, when we get involved, again i was talking about before the strategic patience, i am always very impressed with the iranians when they negotiate. they are very patient, charlie, extremely patient. >> charlie: you have lot of conflicts there. one between saudi arabia an iran, the sunni-shiite conflict and others -- i'm just citing two -- can we ameliorate those? >> in some places we can and in some places we can't. you know, the sunni-shia schism dates back 1400 years. i don't think the americans will solve that. >> charlie: yeah. although we certainly don't want to see it escalate militarily. >> charlie: and we have to understand and respect it. >> yeah, exactly. i have to tell you, charlie, in my own career as someone working in the region for a long time, i
underestimated the importance of that schism and it wasn't until i began five years working in iraq that i began to see just how deep and important that schism is. but in many cases i think the americans can play a useful role. look at how we helped facilitate a peace accord between egypt and israel which has served both countries and us. we played a helpful role, for example, with jordan and israel concluding a peace agreement. certainly, we have helped iraqis move forward in the post saddam period developing a constitution and holding elections, and, so, there are things we can do, but, you know, sometimes the cost is very high, and we don't see quick results in any of these places. >> charlie: and if we line up with iran and shia-sponsored militias, does that hurt us? >> again, it goes back to what i said about i don't think his
bisbolah is going to travel. they're recruiting kids 16 years old and they're not happy with that, so i wouldn't depend on them. and the iranians have their hands full with iraq. >> charlie: what do you see as the developing relationship between the united states and iran? >> i think the nuclear issue is a huge obstacle to developing a relationship. in some ways there are interests we share, the islamic state. but if we are concerned about the iranian efforts to be a
regional hedge because of its nuclear program then we won't be able to work with them on other issues. and the administration, and i certainly understand why, has placed a priority on getting a solid, justifiable deal on the nuclear enrichment program. >> charlie: and what role does the absence of any kind of success in creating a palestinian state that doesn't threaten israeli security play in this conflict? >> i would say, in general , the arab palestinian dispute doesn't figure highly in the syrian dispute except the recruitment al quaida and islamic state groups use, they certainly use that all the time that we are the ones liberating palestine, the americans have no credibility, they're in israeli pockets. but beyond that i don't think it figures much. more broadly speaking in the
arab world, charlie, from morocco, there are a lot of people, especially the younger generation, when i would tell them i'm from the united states embassy, even if they didn't slap me over the head, there was an element of dissatisfaction that there had not been the establishment of a palestinian state. i wouldn't say it's their number one concern, i would not, but is it a concern and source of dissatisfaction? absolutely. >> charlie: how concerned are you about libya? >> i don't know that much about libya, frankly, but i think it just shows how difficult it is when these military regimes fall, if you don't have a political process in place, a durable and sustainable political process in place, how bad things can become. so when we think about a place like syria and we compare it to
iraq, in iraq there is a political process. it's not fun to watch all the time, but it is there. right now, iraqis are negotiating a new government and, so, there's a process. if and when assad goes, there has to be a political process in place to develop a new government that brings people together. that's just essential. and i think that's a message we have to deliver clearly to the russians and the iranians. this is not about toppling the assad regime. i have never thought we could topple the assad regime. this is about getting to a negotiation. >> charlie: and you think assad is willing to negotiate? >> no, i don't, but i think people who support him may come to a conclusion that a negotiation will be the best way in this messy war of attrition in which the community only 12% of the population, don't bet on
them in a war of attrition. >> charlie: and people who might be of that view are still in syria and an influence? >> they can't raise their heads high out of a foxhole or the regime will chop them off. the regime earlier this week was arresting a number of young people especially who had been considered supporters of the assad regime and are now voicing descent and were immediately arrested. so the trick of this with the syrian opposition and free syrian army is for them to put forward a proposal that can be looked at in public or private and get a sense that there is a third way out that the choice is not limited to assad or islamic state but there is a third way. >> charlie: you must have been enthusiastic when you saw what happened in tunisia and cairo and there was arab state coming and mistakes made here and there
of how we supported certain rejeenlregimes or didn't support certain regimes, but when history is written about the arab spring, what do you think it will say? >> i don't think the arab spring is finished yet, charlie, and this is a process. you know in tunisia, they've had a lot of ups and down, even political assassinations committed by islamic extremists, yet the largest party the muslim brotherhood backed off, voluntarily gave up the prime minister position and other positions in government and created a new government which has produced a constitution with wide approval, they've agreed on elections and even an election process. so tunisia, later this autumn, will have a new round of elections. so there's something to be hopeful about there. one of the things i think the arab world needs to see is a good success story.
i'm very struck how nowadays young people from morocco to saudi arabia are on the internet, they're on twitter, they're on facebook, they're on other sites and watching what's happening in countries next door and farther down. they pay attention to this, and even a small country like tunisia can have a big impact. i don't say it's easy or fast, remember what i say about streejic patience, but it is possible to imagine step by step the countries will move in the right direction. >> charlie: ambassador ford, i leave it at that, pleasure to have you. >> my pleasure, charlie. >> charlie: we'll be back. stay with us. >> charlie: general tony zinni is here, has served as commander-in-chief of u.s. central command and special envoy of israel and palestinian authority under george w. bush,
retired in 20000 as a four-star general after a 40-year military career. he examines the policies in which we wage war called "before the first shots were fired: how america can win or lose off the battlefield." i am pleased to have gen. zinni back to the table. >> glad to be here. >> charlie: let's talk about the crisis and then we'll incorporate the book. the president is in europe having the conversation clearly about ukraine and then i.s.i.s. >> yes. >> charlie: tell me what you think the president ought to be thinking about and decisions he has to make and what decisions he should make. >> given where he is now in wales and with the n.a.t.o. discussions, this is absolutely a crucial moment. the direction n.a.t.o. takes, the definition of what n.a.t.o. is something that we haven't dealt with really since the end of the cold war and, obviously, because of the things you mentioned, the i.s.i.s. crisis and the ukraine --
>> charlie: and part of nate o's existence was the cold war. >> and it never really redefined itself. putson testing two things, one is how substantial is american leadership in europe now? is it still the same? do we have the same influence? are we still the powerhouse of n.a.t.o.? and i think he wants to push and see to what level that exists. >> he may think and wants to find out whether the united states has the same influence with merkel and other leaders in europe who form the n.a.t.o. alliance. >> exactly and that's the second part of this, what is the degree of european cohesion, resolve and will? so, right now, what comes out of this n.a.t.o. conference will define that for him. if he sees n.a.t.o. as standing strong, they're willing to bolster their military capability -- because it's wained. these countries have not lived up to their alliance, it's
military, not political -- if he sees their strength and solidarity coming out, the united states is still influential, if he sees the countries are willing to back up sanctions in a strong way, there's going to be n.a.t.o. exercises -- there's no military solution to the ukraine but he'll see n.a.t.o. will make a statement through exercising assistance program to ukraine then i think you will see him ratchet down and looking for a way to ease out and then diploim si that allows for face-saving way to deescalate will be key but what happens in the next two days in wales is critical. >> charlie: what do you think will happen? >> i want to be an optimist and say that maybe i.s.i.s. and ukraine have sobered the europeans. might have been without those two crises less apt in this n.a.t.o. meeting to demonstrate this kind of solidarity and renew the commitment. i think maybe that's happening. i'm listening to cameron and
others on the news and seems that there is a realization they have to take a stand and make this commitment. so i'll be optimistic and say it will come out and look strong, make the statements and make the commitments that we need. but i think it's going to be tough to implement this. it sort of has degraded and wained over time. ever since the cold war, it's more of a political alliance. even in afghanistan, there's a lot of problems with its ability to deal with the military side of things, the international security assistance force. >> charlie: has putin played his hand well? >> no, he's an old k.g.b. guy, he's a throwback, he was very heavy handed in this. part of this i think he's playing to his on constituency. in russia there's a sense of nationalism and even bitterness. the entire warsaw pact was stripped away and danced into n.a.t.o. without any reason or
rationale so there's some resentment that still exists that probably is partially a guy like putin was able to rise to power in russia. >> charlie: and the point he's made over and over and is often quoted, the worst day of his life was the dissolution of the soviet 'e empire. >> yes. >> charlie: and he doesn't want to rebuild the empire but wants to regain russian influence. >> russian is paranoid about its flanks. they've needed to have buffer states. >> charlie: for good reason, paranoid. >> yes. and even in central asia, their southern flank, the old british empire, there was a contest, the great game that took place, so it's sort of engrained that you have to have a set of states, even vassal states like in the communist nation, or at least neutral and friendly toward russian and maybe the west both, but to have it right up on your
borders, an entire set of states that are oriented the other way or, in their version the wrong way, is something that's very difficult for the russians to accept is. >> charlie: and now ukraine. now ukraine. >> charlie: and ukrainians talk about, well, let's rejoin n.a.t.o. >> well, we have to be very careful with that because there is an article that says an attack on one is an attack on all. so the president saying this is not an invasion, how you define it, because if there is n.a.t.o. membership, there's a commitment you better be able to say you will stand up. >> charlie: isn't that true about the baltic countries? >> i think that's why he went to assure the baltic nations. >> that if they're attacked by russia, we'll stand by you. >> and he made assurances and is now in wales making sure n.a.t.o. is wanting to live up to this. living up to it isn't just
words, it's committing your budget to defense and your military. that's fallen off since the cold war. the military capabilities, their budgets have been descropping. we think ours have dropped, if you look at the u.k. and other nations in europe, the military spending has gone way down. so this would have to be a major shift in the way they looked at their capability and the rehad been of n.a.t.o. -- the rehabilitation of n.a.t.o. >> charlie: what the united states thought they were trying to do was reduce the pentagon budget, but we find ourselves in a series of circumstances where we're going to have to increase the budget, perhaps, whether ukraine, china, i.s.i.s., whether it's, you know, afghanistan, iraq. >> i think there's two things that are going to have to happen. obviously, we can only afford what we can afford. i mean, i'm the first one to say that as a military person. you know, eisenhower was concerned because over 50% of the federal budget in his time
went toward national security and defense. now it's around 15 prs and 15% g a bit. there needs to be strategic decision where you invest the money, the military capability. more than just amount, is where and where you will not accept risk in this capability. i think the condition in the world in all these kree sees we see will require us to re-think some of the cuts we're taking. one of the things is in ground courses. we seem to be they can be a big bill payer in the boots on the ground. you will have to put boots on the ground in some cases and they better be capable. it isn't just technology. if you control people and terrain as they say in the military, you need ground forces. >> charlie: you're the first i've read who say that the way you do which is we're paranoid about the use of ground forces because to have the losses in iraq and afghanistan and in
other experiences we've had, but you're saying we have to face the reality of ground forces and, in many ways, that is the most expedient way to achieve the objective. >> look at the first gulf war, desert storm. we put overwhelming ground forces on the ground. that was the pow doctrine, the weinberger doctrine. we had 146 deaths of servicemen. we resolved that in a matter of hours. if you're the families of the 146, that's obviously a strategy. but when you look at the numbers and the speed at which we resolved the situation, overpowering ground force. iraq, rumsfeld through away the plan which required 380,000 troops in iraq not to take down the regime and the republican guard, but to seal the borders, protect population, prevent looting -- it had to be a true occupation. you overwhelm it. this is colin powell, casper weinberger, overwhelm it. this is our strength.
it will require a shorter time to regain stability and less casualty. in afghanistan, al quaida got away in tora bora. friends around the world tell you about the president. >> he's viewed as weak, whether a perception or reality. >> charlie: is it reality he's weak? >> it appears that way. we hear from the secretary of state and defense voong statements but not quite as strong from the president. >> charlie: or the vice president. >> or the vice president. the vice president usually comes on stronger. >> charlie: that's my point, this morning, the gates of hell. >> the gates of hell. so that is an element. he seems deliberative. he doesn't seem to exude confidence. you know, as i say in the book, one of the key things is the need to win the battle of the narrative. so whether it's you versus putin, you versus i.s.i.s., because we have different audiences, so the messages may
not be the same, but, you know, the bully pulpit is critical in all this. we've seen masters of that in ronald reagan and f.d.r. and others, the fireside chats, it's what i call the "my fellow american" speech. you have to give it and in clear and concise terms and in a manner in which you appear decisive. i often quote my daughter. she says, in her president, she wants to see her father in the white house -- not me, but she wants the idea of a father in the white house that everything is okay and dad is in charge. >> charlie: she probably wants to see dad in the white house. >> no, i don't think so. i think she's smarter than that. >> charlie: so i.s.i.s., what's the threat of i.s.i.s. and how should we meet the threat and what would you do and recommend the president do? >> the threat is they can destabilize iraq pretty quickly. i don't think they can take baghdad for example but can certainly infiltrate and create enough violence and chaos in
there it would basically affect iraq. i would -- >> charlie: iran wouldn't let it happen -- >> well, not in the shia areas. iraq, i worry about how you're going to put this back together again. the kurds basically have gone their own way. >> charlie: right. still an issue of the sunni provinces and what will happen there. so they have to be pushed back immediately. we can't dither around and -- you know, the atrocities they're committing, the near genocide, what we see on the tv, the beheadings, that requires an immediate response, they need to be pushed out of iraq. this new government in iraq, we got rid of maliki, which is good, but this government has work to do. if those provinces don't feel they're included, if this government isn't included, and maliki wasn't, if there isn't equitable sharing of resources and decisions to get things done, maliki held it tight in
baghdad and it became a shia dominated country, so if they don't make the changes, i don't think you will get the sunni provinces back in iraq. that would be dangerous. >> charlie: that doesn't mean they will buy into i.s.i.s., does it? >> all i.s.i.s. needs or somebody like i.s.i.s. is fear, apathy or support from the population. they've got to give them an alternative or that's going to become a no man's land. i.s.i.s. itself cannot have a sanctuary. syria can't be a sanctuary, so i think we need to carry the attacks to wherever i.s.i.s. is. >> charlie: in what way? i think air attacks. i think obviously intelligence focus so we have good targeting. >> charlie: we have special operations people doing it now, i assume. >> i i think we neat to ratchet up the amount. >> charlie: figuring out who the targets. >> are i think there's some but there needs to be more surveillance and reconnaissance intelligence on the ground and through our technological
capabilities. >> charlie: would you put boots on the ground? >> if it came to it to get them out of iraq immediately. not to go into syria. i would. i would advocate two brigades on the ground and you would have them out lickety-split. >> charlie: how many is two brigades. >> maybe 10,000, with air close air support, fixed wing, the artillery it brings. >> charlie: have them out in two weeks? >> easily. >> charlie: but then they go to syria where they got their training even though they began in iraq, what circumstances would cause you to go into syria? >> i would avoid obviously going in on the ground in there, but -- >> charlie: because? because you're invading the sovereignty of syria or what? >> because the s colin powell pottery barn theory, you break it you own it. i don't want to own syria or the problems in there. >> charlie: syria is where the problem is. >> well --
>> charlie: and the president, the white house is saying they have no strategy. they have amended it saying we have not decided what to do about syria. >> well, let's put this together in pieces. i think the priority now is to get i.s.i.s. out of iraq. second to that is to bolster the peshmerga, the kurdish forces, the iraqi military. we're going t going to revamp te training, the equipment and the motivation. the third thing is the iraq government, a lot of pressure on this new government to become more inclusive, to offer an alternative to the sunnis. you may have to piece this country together in a different form. a loose federation may look like the united arab emirates where the kurds and the shia and the sunni provinces are put together in a less formal way and retain some sort of federal system but a degree of autonomy that goes down. the iranians will take care of the shia side, the west loves the kurds, and maybe the sunni arabs in the region would adopt,
in effect, the sunni area, so we keep iraq in tact under the federal system but they really have sponsors. then the other part is the creation of the coalitions. you need a u.n. resolution. i don't know what we're waiting for. the authorized use of force against i.s.i.s. -- remember, h.w. bush, the first thing he did before we went in to take out saddam was to get the resolution. we created the islamic coalition to work with the khalid under schwartzkov. it's important for stability in the region to isolate problems in syria. we do not need another sanctuary in sir. i can't you have to target i.s.i.s. and have to go for their capabilities through intelligence operations and
strikes in many ways and then encouraging the free syrian movement who's very weak now to fill the vacuum that hopefully you could create with i.s.i.s. if necessary. i have a feeling syria is going to divide up. i think the christian and alowite areas will be what they are, assad will not fall, and i feel other areas will be more contentious because to have the more radical units which we have to help reduce and then the more moderate you hope to take charge. >> charlie: what would you like most of all for the president to read here to look at in terms of the crisis he faces? >> how analysis is done and advice that's given. i did research on how the eisenhowers and trumans and others put the advisors around them, used their cabinet, how the analysis is done, intelligence is weighed leading up to the decision. i think for a president that is the critical moment.
i can go back to george w. bush. i don't think he heard all the voices. i don't think there was a clear analysis of what the potential problems were. eisenhower and the solarrian group (phonetic), he met with the secretary of state when he came in and said i would like to form a small group of heavy thinkers, there were some two-star generals he really respected, they had differing opinions. he said, when we have a crisis, i want this group to meet and debate and argue in front of me. eisenhower never asked a question or made a comment. he didn't want to influence. he took notes. you see other presidents who relied on the individuals, the kissen injuries, the bring ze
kissingers. you see cheney and powell and a strong cabinet that came together as a team. whatever method you choose, first of all, have a degree of expertise that is at a level that can't be topped. real thinkers with a lot of experience. second of all, invite in opposition voices. hear all sides. weigh them carefully. third, and maybe this is the most important i would make, do not try to cherry-pick the intelligence. the intelligence community, in my experience, they'll answer the question you ask. if you ask a question in a certain way, you may not get the best answer. imagine if george w. bush said to george tenet, do you think i will have the justification for this invasion, this act of war in iraq based on w.m.d.? that might be a different answer because george tenet later said we never said the threat was imminent. the inspector said there was no evidence of an ongoing program,
and there was no evidence. but the question is can you give me something to base this on? then they grab at little straws and give you something to answer the question you asked and it might not be the right one. >> charlie: that's intriguing. i have a theory of life that says often the question is more important than the answers. >> absolutely. i have a director of intelligence named bob newnan, i called him in one day when i first had taken over and asked him a question. he said, before i answer that question, sir, can you tell me why you're asking it and what you're going to do with the answer? and, of course, my answer was i have four stars, you have two, give me the answer. he says, you don't understand. he said, i'm your intelligence officer. that may not be the best answer. if i don't know what you're doing and thinking and what this may be the basis for, the action it may take, i can't be very effective for you. that struck home with me. that's some of the best advice i had. there might be better answer. you might not be asking the
right question. and he has to help you frame the right question, you know, as your director of operation or other at the political level. >> charlie: there's also a danger of paralysis, isn't there? >> yes. you know, you could become so cautious, you could become -- >> charlie: and debate till the cows came home. >> well, you know, unfortunately, i think a little bit of that is going on now. >> charlie: that's the point in asking the question. >> there is an old saying a wise general said is shoo is shoot tf on the sled. >> charlie: back in a moment. >> charlie: joan rivers, one of america's great comediennes died thursday, she was 81. she was placed in a medically induced coma a week ago after going into cardiac arrest after a procedure on her vocal chords. she began as a standup in
new york city in 1965, appeared on "the tonight show." johnny carson told her, god, you're funny, you're going to be a big star. he selected her as his host. they had a rift. she worked tirelessly at her craft constantly reinventing herself. she acted, directed and was a regular presence on red carpets. aside from a television series on e, she authored 12 books including a recent memoir called chi riof a mad diva and still continued to do standup. no topic was off limits. she poked fun at everyone from elizabeth taylor, nancy reagan to anne frank. comedy, she once said, is my drug of choice. what pleasure you feel when you keep people happy for an hour and a half, they've forgotten their troubles, it's great, there's nothing like it in the world. she appeared on this program four times and here are moments from those conversations.
what is it about you, you think, that gives you this tenacity to survive and bounce back? >> fear. >> charlie: fear (laughter) >> no, truly, truly! you know this business. tenacity is i never thought i'm so terrific that anything's beneath me. truly, i have never been the one to say that's not my job, or i'm a star, i don't do that. that has never ever crossed my mind. that's number one. number two, truly, i have to make a living, and i go to make a living, and this is what i do, and i'm up for hire. and i love my work. i love my work! i stand on the street when they're filming a commercial and i watch it. i'm still struck. and that's what made me keep in the business. i'll do anything to stay in the business. >> charlie: your phat was a physician? >> yes. >> charlie: so you came from -- >> yes, upper middle class -- the country club, private schools, all that.
>> charlie: no experience in show business at all? >> well, when my father had a patient that was a hooker, she would say, i'm an actress. (laughter) >> charlie: you said to your father, i want to be an actress, he said -- >> he said to my mother, she wants to be a hooker. they looked at me, i couldn't make two dollars. i wasn't attractive enough (laughter) in those days, 1958, 1960, my sister was the only girl in the class to go to law school. if i had said to them, i want to go on and be a rocket scientist! they would have said, here's the money, study forever. but here's a child that's smart saying i want to be in show business, they were hysterical. you can't! you will ruin your life! which i probably would have said to my daughter if i had been my
parents. >> charlie: you're ruining your life. >> do you know who i brought to their house before they knew who they were? woody allen, richard pryor, george carlin. dunes, my mother with her country club ladies, like you to meet my gang! i don't blame them! i don't blame them, looking back. (laughter) but i wanted it more than life itself. i had no choice. >> charlie: why did you want it more than life itself? >> i never wanted anything else. the minute i could put a thought together, it was show business. i never wanted anything ever in my life. >> charlie: you've tried for carson six -- >> seven times. >> charlie: would you actually get out there and not get on or they would just say not yet? >> they would audition you and say, not yet, not funny. >> charlie: would he come?
no, no. >> charlie: well, i don't know! >> no, no. all the others would come. the assistants, the secretary, the talent coordinator. finally, bill cosby got on. we had the same manager. he pushed and said, give her a break! how bad could she be? >> charlie: how bad could you be in four or five minutes. >> they put me on at the end of the show and if i bombed it didn't be long. carson said that night you're going to be a star. >> charlie: how did you feel? you didn't realize what was happening, it was too exciting. the next day i went to the bank to kite a check -- >> charlie: to kite a check? it was the day where is you could say, please hold the check, there will be a check from nbc coming. and the girl behind the counter
said, i saw you last night, you were funny, we'll do it for you, and i knew my life was changed forever. >> charlie: what was it about the marriage to edgar that was so affirmative to you even though it had its ups and downs and you separated and -- >> i can look at it now, good, bad -- >> charlie: find anything you like? >> every now and again, for a moment. >> charlie: yeah. the loyalty. the honor. the friendship. someone you turn your back on and when you turn back again, they're still there. >> charlie: yeah. i never ever thought for a second about my husband not being there in my corner. and that is what i miss more than anything else. >> charlie: you haven't found anyone else like that? >> no, you find affection, fun, people that are darling to go out with, but i'm talking about when the chips are down, he'll be there. >> charlie: when you look at all the things, what's the
biggest regret for you? >> the biggest regret, i don't think i have any. how is that? isn't that wonderful? i really always said, you go around once, and boy go through every door that opens. truly, i have no -- >> charlie: you would have >> and i always did. a couple of people i didn't sleep with. >> charlie: you wouldn't have slept with anybody just for a job, would you? >> no, no... (laughter) >> charlie: what's the best piece of advice in this book? >> two pieces of advice, really. one is make lists about the positive in your life. there's a little poem, a friend of mine who's a minister says, yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery, today is god's gift, that's why it's called a
present. i know that's silly and corny, but i know your life is awful, but you're still wearing shoes, you have an apartment, your husband is still with you, you have everything working -- look at the positives in your life. that's one thing people forget to say is this is okay, god, for the moment. and the second big piece of advice is laughter, laughter, laughter. when you laugh, it makes everything heal. and never go to a funeral and go, don't laugh, shh! thank god you're laughing! celebrate! >> charlie: she is survived by daughter melissa and grandson cooper. joan rivers dead at age 81. >> charlie: for more about this program and earlier episodes visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com.