Roundtable II: Overseas Challenges

George Will, Madeleine Albright, Stephen Hadley, Gen James Cartwright.
3:00 | 03/17/13

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Transcript for Roundtable II: Overseas Challenges
right now, we think that it would take over a year or so for iran to actually develop a to cut it too close. They're not yet at the point I think where they have made a fundamental decision to get right with the international community, but I do think that they're recognizing that there's a severe cost for them to continue down the path that they're on and that's there is another door open. President obama speaking to israeli tv as he sets off for the middle east this week. George will is back along with madeleine albright, stephen hadley and general james cartwright, fovp o -- former vice chair of the joint chiefs of staff. Welcome to all of you. This is a powerhouse roundtable. Secretary albright, let's talk about what this trip is really about. It seems to be about iran, why is he going? I think it's very important. The president, in his first trip of his second term, to go to israel to meet with prime minister netanyahu and his new government and to discuss issues generally in the middle east. There are a lot of things to talk about, iran, syria and the region generally. And I'm sure that the peace talks, or the lack of them, is something that's going to be part of the discussion. It's important, the president also wants to talk to the israeli people, he's going to give a speech to the public. And he's not very popular with the israeli people, according to the latest polls. I think he's more popular than people think. I think they understand the american position. And basically, the united states is there in a relationship with israelis. That's very clear from the president's actions. Mr. Hadley, do you agree with that, is he going over there to really talk about iran? I think madeleine has it right. He'll talk about iran. But I think that the most important part is what he says to the israeli people. There are some messages that they want to hear. That he supports israel as the home land for the jewish people. There are things that they need to hear from him to re-establish the tide between the american president and the israeli people. He can then talk about the peace process between iran and syria. I think the most important thing is really what he says to the israeli people. Let's go to iran, general cartwright, all I remember from last fall is that picture of benjamin netanyahu, in front of the u.N. With that ticking time bomb, and he basically drew the line this spring/this summer, for any sort of action against the nuclear facilities in iran. You heard what president obama said. Do you think israelis have changed their minds about that time line? My sense is there some ambiguity. No one knows what the time line is. One of the good things about this trip is, it's coming without some sort of promise. We're going to listen, we're going to compare our facts. Some sense where we're going both on the iran issue but middle east issue at large. For a chance of the president to reach out. That's very important. That carries a very powerful message, because clearly, nobody knows exactly what's happening in iran. Clearly nobody knows how middle east peace should evolve. There are questions about these issues. I agree that the president is there to establish a kind of trust with the israeli people, but not so that he can move forward with an israeli/palestinian state. Israelis have been living with terrorism. For some 60-some years. He wants their trust so they will give him time on iran. But listen to what the president just said. The president said -- reaching out the diplomacy. He said, they may be a year away, let's not cut it close. A year is close. Given the fallible nature of the u.S. Intelligence. If netanyahu has already made that threat, in a way, holding up that time line, he has to kind of stick to that, doesn't he? From what I understand the israelis now understand that the iranians have slowed down some of their enrichment possibilities and diverted some of them to peaceful uses for medical purposes. That was told to me by israelis at various times. And so, I think they're trying to develop that ambiguity that the general was talking about. I don't think anyone is ready to abandon diplomacy. What you have seen with the peace process, it's a slow discussion, there are negotiations going on. And there are some talk about bilateral ones. General cartwright? My sense is that there is some ambiguity out there. You don't want to have a situation where you're not ready. But you also don't want to rush the answer. This is an opportunity to compare notes. Again, on the theme, his primary audience is the israeli fails and it comes time to do something about iran, I as president of the united states will do it. We're not going to put this on israel and we know that the israelis, in terms of public opinion, they do not want to do something unilaterally, they want to do anything with the united states. I want to move on to another threat, the north korea threat, if we can, and the announcement this week that we are adding 14 interceptors, missile interceptors, because of the north korea threat is so high and they moved faster. Let's listen to secretary hagel. The reason we're advancing our program here for homeland security is to not take any chances. To stay ahead of the threat. We believe that this young lad ought to be deterred by that. If not, we'll be ready. General cartwright, that was a pretty alarming statement to have secretary hagel come out. And say they moved faster than is this alarming? It's alarming in the rhetoric side of the equation here and it has clearly propelled the administration towards a shift in the missile defense program. It is a program that has been labeled as well one that tends to pace the threat. In other words, don't build something until you need it. Clearly, the shift that's going on inside the administration is to reduce the reliance and the focus on the regional capabilities that were put out. These are the patriots. And to start the focus, again, back on the homeland. And these are the ground-based interceptors in california and alaska. Those mobile missiles -- the threat is the mobile missiles potentially which hasn't emerged yet. It's time to make sure we're ready for it. The infrastructure has been put in place in alaska. That's not the problem. Is there more testing that could be done? We're basically seeing a shift off the money side off the regional side to the strategic side. The second key point, at least from my perspective, what is being spewed in the way of rhetoric out of north korea is the focus on, we're going to attack our homeland, we're also going to attack the south koreans. If that's true, if we're worried about that, there's another part of this. You don't want to worry just about a strategic attack, you have to focus on your special operations forces and your border capabilities within the united states to make sure that this is not an asymmetric rick approach to the problem. Secretary albright was there in 2000. The clinton administration had active diplomacy with north korea. We had a conversation in the transition between the two administrations, which was probably less than perfect. Got a commitment from north korea that we would get out of the nuclear business, but of course, in parallel with all of that, north korea was pursuing an enrichment program. Another route to a nuclear weapon that was done covertly and in violation of the understandings that we all had with them. Were chances missed? I believe so. I mean, I had some really jong il. We also were in the middle of discussions with them. They said that they would -- we could leave our troops in south korea, we came back, americans were confused about the election of 2000 and I'm sure that kim jong il was also, and I do think it was unfortunate that the cards we left on the table weren't picked up. But the story on north korea is a complicated one of threats, discussions and diplomacy, you' dealing with very erratic leadership in north korea and what concerns me now is that the kind of language that is coming out of north korea, I think, is well-balanced by what the president decided on the mobile missiles. I'm puzzled by the language coming out of washington. I would like to see struck from the language of our diplomacy "acceptable" and "unacceptable" last week, the following was said the united states will not accept north korea as a nuclear state. Unless I'm missing something, it has been a nuclear state for more than half a decade. What does it mean? Obviously, we have a problem dealing with a regime. That may be a little bit crazy because deterrence depends on the calculations on the other side. Stalin for all of his defects was a rational calculator. We don't know if iran is or this odd fellow who runs north korea is rational. And subject to deterrence. We had another threat this week that we talked about, the worldwide threat assessment, you had the director of national intelligence, james clapper, talking about what he thinks is the biggest threat to our homeland now. When it comes to the threat this year, it leads with cyber. It's hard to overemphasize its significance. The seriousness is increasing on a daily basis. General cartwright, you spent a lot of time looking at cyber attacks. It's taking down a grid, how serious is the threat? What do we do about it? Well, the threat is emerging and it is emerging quickly. It's not just from one actor, it's not just the chinese, it's a threat that covers both industries. The president pretty much pointed the finger at the chinese. He did, and I think that was appropriate. At least what I have said, we have to start talking about not just a pure defense, we have to start to build an offensive capability. What I thought was important about this week's news, we started to have that conversation about offensive capabilities, about there being a price for these kind of attacks. You go after someone else's network, you go after the chinese. That's complicated in so many ways. Would we protect our allies if they're attacked? It is very complicated. But I think -- and general cartwright is right. The announcement this week, keith alexander announced that there would be some 17 offensive cyber teams. If you only played defense you're going to lose. It's just too hard to be able to y every strike. What you need to do is change the calculus, so that those people doing these attacks understand they'll pay a greater penalty than the benefits they get. There are complicated legal issues, policy issues, but unless we get into that space, these attacks won't stop. I want to go to something that you're all familiar, it's the ten-year anniversary of the war in iraq. On this ten-year anniversary, 58% or 6 in 10 americans say the war in iraq was not worth fighting. The poll also shows support for the war in afghanistan is similar with 56% saying the war was not worth it. We have a very short time here, I want to start with you, mr. Hadley, you had a hand in both of these wars, would you do it differently? They clearly took longer, cost more in terms of lives of americans and coalitions. And people in those countries. But we have accomplished something in iraq, we have a government that's not a threat to our national security, that's an ally in war on terror. They're trying to work together for democratic future. It's a big investment, an important investment, and we're risking that investment by sitting our hands, while syria melts down and where syria's violence will destabilize lebanon, jordan, iraq and turkey. You asked mr. Hadley, would we do it differently? The question to me, would we do it at all? If, in 2003, we know what we know now, the absence of weapons of mass destruction, the difficulty of governing, you're going to have a civil war, the answer is I think, no, we would not do it again. But can I say -- we make these decisions based on what you know at the time. We made that decision. I think the american people wouldn't have supported it. But my point is, we did it. We got something of value and we should protecting it and not squandering that enormous investment we made. I can understand why these two polls go together. I supported president bush on afghanistan, because that's where the people who attacked us on 9/11 came from. The bush administration took their eye off the ball to go to iraq for god knows what reason. Now, we're in a position where neither war is being supported. We're worried about what's going to happen next. We have to worry about what infrastructure there is in iraq and the spillover this has on syria. Thank you all for joining us. This was indeed a powerhouse roundtable. Thank you. Secretary albright will stick around to answer your questions for today's web extra.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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