A distinguished panel diagnoses the frightening state of American defenses at Restoration Weekend.
Below are the video and transcript to the panel discussion “Obama's Assault on the Military,” which took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 20th Anniversary Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 13th-16th at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
James Carafano: What I want to hear from your guy's perspective is on all the issues we could be looking at in defense and foreign policy and everything now, what are you hearing and what do you think is important for folks to know. So maybe, Jerry, can start with you.
Jerry Boykin: Yeah, one of the things that I was very concerned about going into this year's election was the fact that there was not enough being said about national security. There was not enough attention paid, and by the way, for those of you veterans who are Marines, I want you to know that I don't use big words so you'll be okay. All right and if you do have a problem with something that I say, just get with one of the Army veterans and he'll translate it for you so. I know I'm in trouble. I was very concerned about a lack of focus on the national security, and obviously we're here to talk about the military and I think that one of the things that people are not paying enough attention to is the destruction of our military. I mean that's kind of the title of our -- our military is being devastated at the same time that all of our enemies, all of our potential adversaries are ramping up. Nobody's coming down but America, so what am I concerned about Jim? I'm concerned about the fact that our military will not be capable of meeting the threats of the future and America is not focused on it and thank God for ISIS because if it wasn't for ISIS there would have been no focus and no attention. I'll say this as a final thing. Our military's been at war for 13 years. Our military is broken. They're tired. Suicide is at an all-time high. PTSD is rampant and families are falling apart at the seams, but we're going to send 4,000 people to fight Ebola. Now, let me just say I don't know what glue our President has been sniffing, but if you really want to protect America, close that southern border and stop the terrorists from coming across.
David Fridovich: Yeah, always a tough act to follow. He is the senior guy here, by the way. Name of the panel with the discussion is Obama's assault of the U.S. Military. That has an underlying assumption that he has a strategy against our military, and I would tell you that, that's probably a falsehood as well because obviously he has a difficult time with strategy and articulating a strategy. The difference between the ways, means and the ends, so what I think we're suffering through is through a series of increments of benign neglect, where we're not getting the attention but still being used. I agree whole-heartedly with General Boykin, with Jerry that you can send people to Western Africa, but you certainly are going to add more advisors, but tie their hands and this has not been a discussion topic. I think this is probably be something very good to take forward, and I think McKinnon said it today that it would be dead on arrival. Congressman McKinnon said today that any more advisors going into Iraq without the proper rules of engagement to fully engage and beyond their advice is going to be dead on arrival into Congress and the same thing with any AUMF, and in terms of applied use of military force. That also, unless it's got the right rules of engagement, these kind of discussions are just on the periphery.
The real discussion is we've been used and used and used well beyond the capacity. We have not recapitalized our force, our equipment manning, and it is now evident, and a systemic break across the force of the suicide rate as Jerry said, and also, I think you've got a combination of substance abuse, PTSD and the other injuries that we don't really know what's happened. I think we talked about it last year a combination of traumatic brain injury being heavily researched, but very little done about so far. That also fits into the PTSD portion, and then the substance abuse just has caused I think almost one veteran a day and I don't know I forgot the numbers. I just heard it, just a phenomenal amount of suicides, not just in the active military force, but also in the veteran force as well. And these are system failures of wanting to use the force, but not wanting to renew the force and this is a conversation. This is both Army officers, all army officers, the force that we love, being used and used and spent. We'll never say no to a mission, but we want to have the right things to do to them and that's a conversation that needs to take place whole-heartedly. Good place to start it is this year, but it's got to be carried back to the people who can help make the decision.
We have opportunity now with the change in the Congress and the Senate, and I hope that we use that wisely. It's our moment.
James Carafano: Yeah, we should get back to that point because I think it's really key as to where we go from here. Because I'd like to take that same question from a different direction, which is part of the reason why the force is stressed out is because of all the things we're sending them to do.
David Fridovich: Right.
James Carafano: So this President's remarkable. I mean he's an incredible strategist. He's managed to make every part of the world less safe for us, which is -- how do you do that?
David Fridovich: Yeah, good way of looking at it.
James Carafano: But actually, one of the things that we've been doing at the Heritage Foundation is if you actually look at, there's two curves. As the world's getting increasingly less safe, but if you actually look at all the documents that the Pentagon has produced consistently since 2010, it all tells you that the world's getting safer and it's all because of Obama and therefore we can spend less, have a smaller military and everything else and we haven't had a real honest strategic assessment --
David Fridovich: That's fair.
James Carafano: -- since the President came in office. It's extraordinary. So one of the things that we've been doing is developing something called the Index of Military Strength, which is every year beginning this year, we're going to issue a report that says this is where we stand today, and part of that is not only looking at the state that your military is in. I want to get to that, but part of it's also looking at the things you have to deal with in the world. Where are the trouble spots you have to go in the state of where your adversaries are? So one of the decisions that we made, when we were doing this, and what would be great, is we said well look, lots of bad things can happen lots of places in the world, but there are three parts of the world that are just absolutely vital, you just cannot get wrong and that is Europe and the Middle East and Asia. And so we really focused on those three, and of course there's no good news coming from any of them, but I'd be interested from your perspective is if you were talking to a new congressman or senator or somebody that was interested in running for President, and they asked you the question what's the most dangerous part of the world, what really keeps you up at night, what do you really worry about? What you'd answer.
David Fridovich: I'm still and probably will be for a long time, I'm extremely concerned about Iran and will continue to be concerned about a nuclearized Iran because what that is going to do to the rest of the Mid East in terms of a potential nuclear arms race. That's what keeps me up at night that we continue to, you know, they buy time with negotiations and that time gives them more time to do whatever they want to do sub-surface, no pun intended. That continues and the mixed message you get from Washington is, hey, this is great. We have, the State Department's wonderful about it, and I think besides the existential threat to Israel, you have got a grander threat to the rest of the Mid East. You're going to have the Saudis, you're going to have Kuwaitis. The rest of them are going to say, if that's what's going to happen over there, we're going to need to deter as well. We can't rely on anybody else we've seen. And that's also part of the witness of the Obama administration establishing red lines that you do not commit to, commit force or anything to, and have those red lines just become pink.
James Carafano: So November 24 is the deadline for a nuke deal.
David Fridovich: It is.
James Carafano: What do you think's going to happen?
David Fridovich: They're going to push it off to the right again.
James Carafano: Yeah.
David Fridovich: I think they will. They'll find some way.
James Carafano: Play rope-a-dope.
David Fridovich: Yeah.
James Carafano: Continue to get sanctions.
David Fridovich: Correct. Because they're happy with that, they can live through the sanctions. They just want to extend the time.
James Carafano: Well, yeah, true, Jerry, because we talked about this because one of the reasons why Iran has to be our friend is they're going to help us out with ISIS. And I know that's an issue that you've got some concern about.
Jerry Boykin: Yeah, I do.
James Carafano: I just ask the questions, folks.
Jerry Boykin: Listen, this whole strategy of shifting our focus to the Pacific Rim, look, China's a problem. China's a huge threat economically more than anything else probably, but we're never going to get out of the Middle East. We're never going to get out of the Middle East first and foremost because we are dependent upon Middle East oil. If we would drill here drill now, build a pipeline, become energy independent, we could get away from that. And that's a huge problem for us, but there's another reason that we're never going to get out of the Middle East, and that's this little speck of land there called Israel. We made a commitment to Israel in 1948 that we'd be there if they needed us. Okay, this President, and I have --
James Carafano: Yeah.
Jerry Boykin: -- and I want you to understand my children are Jewish. Their mother is a Jew, so I am very passionate about Israel, but the idea that this President has not been anti-Semitic is absolute nonsense, and when I discuss this with my Jewish friends, they act like I'm an idiot. We are going to be in the Middle East forever because we have made a commitment to Israel that we must fulfill and Israel is now, every time we ignore the threats of things like ISIS and the Iranian nuclear program and the serious threats coming out of Syria and other parts of the Middle East, every time we ignore that we do that by risking the future of Israel. So I think that we are going to stay tied to the Middle East. We have to stop Iran. We cannot avoid this and this administration thus far has done absolutely nothing to stop Iran. In fact, I think Jim would tell you the same thing. They're actually cooperating with Iran and Iran's going to have a nuclear warhead and when they do, the first target is Israel. The second target is Saudi Arabia and what's America going to do about it?
James Carafano: Yeah.
Jerry Boykin: And the answer is thus far absolutely nothing.
James Carafano: And I mean you can have this thing that they're not disengaged from the Middle East, but, for example, you can think what you want about Benghazi and why those four men died and why it went down the way it did and what kind of response should have been in place, but the reality is today the footprint that the U.S. military has to respond in that part of the world is smaller.
David Fridovich: Oh great --
James Carafano: Smaller than it was on the day those four guys died.
David Fridovich: Yeah, greatly reduced. Right, yeah.
James Carafano: So let's go, let's do that. Let's look at this from the other perspective of because the challenges in the Middle East are only on top of the problems we have with the rest of Russia and a rising China and a proliferating transnational terror threat. Let's look at the capabilities we bring to the table. Let me ask you what part of the force you worry about the most, and for me this is a really personal issue. There's this thing called the hollow force, which is when you have a military and it maybe it looks fine on paper until they actually have to do anything and then people die. So by my account, I've already been through this three times and I count my dad's service. My dad fought in the Korean War, and what we did in Korea was horrific, sending men into battle with sneakers and machine guns that didn't work and ammunition that was rusted shut. We survived that experience. We had this horrific hollow force in the 1970s coming out of Vietnam, Jimmy Carter's military. I used to call it the Okay Army. They were already old guys by then, but that was the one I was commissioned in. Everything was okay.
Jerry Boykin: What? You talking about us?
James Carafano: No, no it really was an Okay Army. I didn't have the troops I needed to train with but that was okay because we didn't have any money to train with, and that was okay because we didn't have any equipment to train on so everything was fine as long as we didn't actually have to fight anybody. Ronald Reagan did this and we all lived through that military, some miraculous effort to rebuild the U.S. military, arguably the finest military that's ever been put in the field, and then under President Bill Clinton, the military was going hollow again. I remember being with the Army Chief of Staff when the senior guys came in to talk about a deployment in Kosovo and they said we have to send 15,000 guys to Kosovo. That's going to break the back of the Army, that was a 15,000-man deployment and we're heading off the cliff when 911 happened, but now if you look what's happened the last 6 years. The threat of the hollow forces is I think a greater than error and the difference between 2012 and 2016.
In 2012, we could have had a different President, could have made different decisions. He could have fixed some alliances. He could have made some investments, we'd have been fine. In 2016, I think it's going to be broken and just being real. So I'd be interested from your perspectives, what part of the force do you worry about the most and why?
Jerry Boykin: There is no constitutional right to serve in the United States Military, it's a privilege, but nobody has a constitutional right to serve, which is why we need to stop all this nonsense we call social experiments inside of our military. We've got to stop it. There's no such thing as fairness in a war. We got to stop it. We're destroying the readiness of our military.
James Carafano: Thanks. So let me turn to the far left of the panel.
Jerry Boykin: Oh my gosh.
David Fridovich: That's painful you know that don't you?
James Carafano: Well, from their perspective he's on the far left.
David Fridovich: I know that I got that part too. Of the more parochial, I'm much more concerned about the Army and primarily because while you do defend sea lanes communication and all that converse and all that, the Navy seems to be doing all right. My parochialism has to do with the land force and the unnecessary requirement to actually occupy and interface with people on the surface of the earth, land, and also because special operations forces draw their force primarily from the Army. If it goes from 570,000 to 420 or less, we won't be able to maintain the two forces, the operational force, the divisions that Jerry talked about and the institutional force that creates and trains and grows young soldiers into older soldiers and capable leaders. Which is also something that I found over the course of 37 years that's unique to our military that we really do look after our middle management and understand that's how things actually get done in the force that those lieutenant colonels and majors and colonels really run the force with that great NCO background that executes the orders. That's unique to us. Foreign armies strive to that, to get there, but they don't have that. That's being broken right now. I also see a U.S. military in the hole that's just kind of handcuffed because of sequestration; we used to be able to say we're going to fight two wars. We're going to do a win or a hold and win. No one can sight -- and then from there you could figure out how many divisions and how many fleets and how many Air Forces you needed to do all that. We don't have a strategy we can wrap our brains around.
I believe the service keys are really handcuffed at this moment. They couldn't tell you, and I think the Army's been beaten up a lot lately about telling their story what they're supposed to look like in the future primarily because we don't have a national military strategy. We don't have a national strategy. We keep coming back to those words that what is it you want us to do. If it's these "eaches," we'll put together forces, but at a certain point you're going to reach into that bucket and they'll be nothing there, or if it's there it's not trained and ready. That goes to your point, Jim, about the hollow force. So it's the point about what is it in the long term you envision this force doing, whether that long term be -- I'd be happy with 6 months from now. I'd be really happy with 3 or 5 years from now, we could build a force not just use a force. And like I said earlier, we have to recapitalize the force itself.
The other part that I think that we're missing is as the youth of the America looks, and I think this is your point about the privilege to serve, what is it that draws them to the military? I think that's a key part. If they see the way the veterans are treated, they're not that much more willing to come, so that's the other part, the end state of how we do on the end in taking care of our veterans, whether they served 3 or 4 years or whether they served 30-odd years, but that's the whole human dynamic to this, but it comes back to what's the direction. And we get our direction, we get the money from Congress, we get the direction from the President, and that's again, that's what's lacking.
James Carafano: Yeah. So I'm going to put one more on the table, which is the state of our nuclear and missile defense forces. And Chuck Hagel came out and said he's very worried about the state of our nuclear forces. Chuck Hagel is a brick.
Jerry Boykin: Yeah, that's true.
James Carafano: If Chuck Hagel is woken up and worried about something, then you ought to be very, very afraid. So we have about 10 minutes. I want to put one more question out there because for me it's really important and then I want to get in as many of your questions as we possibly can, so be ready. So this is a really quick -- so here's my prediction: 2016, everybody running for President is going to be running against Obama's defense and foreign policy. Even if Joe Biden's the candidate for the Democrats, he's going to be.
Because everybody look at this, you look at what's going on around the world today. Nobody can say this is working. Nobody can say our military's better off, so they're all going to find their way to see their thing, which I think'll be a change for conservative Republican candidates differentiating their brand from a sense, from what the Democrats are going to say. Because they're all going to say, we're going to do better than Obama too so just real quickly from both you guys. What would you advise people to say about how they're going to rebuild the American military and our presence to the world?
Jerry Boykin: Well, first of all, we've got to stop these budget cuts, they're devastating our military. Secondly, we've got do what we should have done when we went into this and that is start with an understanding and appreciation of who the enemy is in the future and then what the risks are and determine what we're risking, we're willing to take. So after you've done that we can come up with a reasonable, logical budget to include cuts in the defense budget.
David Fridovich: Right.
Jerry Boykin: But we didn't start with that.
David Fridovich: That's not that difficult. I mean, that's, what you describe is exactly the way it's supposed to happen. What are the threats or the long-term threats? What are the forces that you need to go ahead and manage those threats in, defeat them without apology, defeat them? Unconditional surrender is a very good term and then to take that and say this is the best case and let's say what the requirements are to get the force that we're going to need to do this and it's a total joint force as well.
Jerry Boykin: Let me say this and I'll stop. I could save the Pentagon a $1 billion this afternoon. At 3:30, I can walk down the hall of the Pentagon and anybody's that not in their office, I can fire them and they'll never know they're gone and we'll save $1 billion this afternoon.
James Carafano: Can I get some hands? Some hands, yeah. Questions? Yeah, question over here.
Audience Member: But my concern is for the VA, for the veterans and how they are taken care of at the Veteran's Administration and the care that is given to them, and also I'm concerned about the fact that I understand that Obama put out some type of literature to the veterans and end of life choices so that they would not take advantage of medications and medical equipment to shorten their life. Because the administration realized that, they could save a lot of money if veterans did not enjoy a long life. I'm concerned about that and my question is will Israel do -- I have a shirt that one of my kids came back from Israel that says, "Don't worry America, Israel's behind you." Do we anticipate Israel doing the dirty work for the rest of the world with this wonderful relationship that Obama has built with Netanyahu and so forth? And then and probably will come to pass that Israel has to do this. What do you think?
James Carafano: So let me ask Jerry if you want to just briefly --
Jerry Boykin: Here's what will happen, I think Israel is going to have to strike because America won't and when that happens Iran will try to shut down the Straits of Hormuz. The Saudis will go behind closed doors, open a bottle of wine, drink it and high five each other and then go to the U.N. and condemn Israel.
James Carafano: Yeah.
Jerry Boykin: But they've got to do it, they're reaching a point where there's no, there's no option.
James Carafano: But they'll be a -- there's another question over there and let me ask while we're doing it. Dave, you want to talk give me a brief assessment what you think of the new VA leadership?
David Fridovich: Not much. I mean, I saw the 60 Minute thing and I think this President picks people who are going to get along with him, and not give share bad news. It's just, the service chiefs are like that. I think the VA chief is like that. I think General Shinseki, a man I still admire. He used the military model where he trusted people. He didn't know everybody. It's not the same model, he got caught very short and I think a lot of veterans paid the price because of that. It's a difficult place to fix. It's going to take a long, long time. The effort that you make is a phenomenal effort and all those other organizations, to include, now as a member of a Jewish organization, I appreciate what you do for us as well, all the other organizations but it's a matter of, we're going to have to have a concerted effort. Again, it goes back to what is it you want it do.
And I will tell you, General Shinseki shared this with me, he said, this is well in his first term there, he said that he's got the best job in the world. He loves it because he's taking care of the military. What he didn't realize was, he had been the Chief Staff of the Army, he could take care of that 570,000-person force. Now he's got the entire Department of Defense from World War II veterans all the way to the War on Terror veterans. Population is immense with about a $440 billion budget not enough and here's a man with great skills. It's going to take a concerted effort, so one guy for a couple months is not enough. But it's going to take groups like this asking those tough questions of their legislators and of the President to make sure they stay on task. I'm not going to say you owe me, but I saw you, all the veterans and I know you all, this is a family crowd when it comes to that. That's the thing that stands between us and being a completely different country.
James Carafano: Right. $22 million and second largest federal budget.
Audience Member: Yeah, I was wondering what is your opinion on the traditional lack of leadership to fight for the military by the highest levels of management in the military. The shut up and do your duty mantra, it's repeated over and over by the highest levels, that the generals are so worried about doing their duty, which means keeping my job that they don't fight for the fighting force. There has been no mention of anything about the VA crisis that's been going on for 30-plus years from the generals themselves. Is there any way that they can have their male parts put back on them so that they can fight for their troops?
James Carafano: Well, let me ask Jerry if he still has his male parts?
Jerry Boykin: Yeah.
James Carafano: It's what it says here, I mean. How are you?
Jerry Boykin: I wrote an op-ed yesterday. I don't know if you've seen it, if you haven't go to Breitbart and that was the whole focus on my op-ed and what I said was it is time for some generals and admirals to walk in and lay their stars on the table and tell the President I will no longer preside over the demise of this military. It is time.
Audience Member: But that is the last thing they want to do. They need to be inside the machine to fight. They don't need to pinching out and walk away. Maybe one, but they all just need instead of speaking up and risking their reputation on what they know is right.
Jerry Boykin: Presumably you'd rather have a Leon Panetta that stays there, supports bad policies, and then gets out and writes a tell-all book. No, the courageous thing to do is to standup and say I will not support this.
Audience Member: Fighters fight and they need to fight from the inside in the --
Jerry Boykin: Yeah, that's a copout. That's an absolute copout. That's a copout.
Audience Member: Gentlemen, thank you. Jim, thank you. It's good to see you. The last time I saw Jim was at a congressional hearing, where we testified together, but one quick point and then two quick questions.
James Carafano: But I was innocent though.
Audience Member: That's what they all claim. You mentioned about the southwest border, as a former INS agent, we're leaking everywhere. We'll talk about that tomorrow, but the southwest needs to be secured, but the whole system is permitting terrorists to enter and imbed themselves right now. The two quick questions, No. 1, there's been seemingly a purge of officials within the Army, which I find very disconcerting, so I'd love your comments on that. Item No. 2, apparently, China has done a great job of stealing our technology with their new aircraft and so forth. How do we address that issue? So first, what do you read into the purge and second, how do we deal with this problem with the Chinese stealing our technology? Thank you and thank you for your service gentlemen.
James Carafano: Pick one and I'll give him the other one.
David Fridovich: Give him the other one, he's pretty good.
James Carafano: Which one you want?
David Fridovich: He's pretty good. Stealing technology goes both ways, it does, but what we know from the open source is that we can find it is state sanction. It's state run, and they just give a very good blank face and shrug their shoulders and go, okay. Yeah, we got it. I don't think that new fighter that you're talking about is the one that they, they showed it off, but I don't think that's really the one that they really have is their highest level and I think you're probably aware of that as well, but the technology, we've got to do a better job inside our own military defense industrial complex to secure it, and I think that's a real issue.
Audience Member: Do you think having the students at our school with the Chinese students --
David Fridovich: Absolutely.
Audience Member: They're within the top ten number of students in our schools and I worry about the fact that we're training our enemy.
David Fridovich: Yes, it's a great question and I'm in agreement with you. It's by design when you have that large of a population. You have that large of a population you can almost mandate I want all of 100 million of you take this test. The top 10 percent, 10 million, the top 1 percent of that become those engineers, get visas, go to America, go to Stanford, Cal Poly etc., etc. on the West Coast, MIT, Harvard, the whole area on the East Coast and inculcate and take back and then also get jobs in those places after a while. So yeah, I would say it's by design and because they're generational, they can take their time and do it. They're very patient unlike us. So yeah, I'm in agreement with you. I'd love to talk more about just that, but part of the weaknesses and inherent weakness in our own system.
James Carafano: Yeah, I'm going ask Jerry to address the --- I didn't want to jump on the cyber thing real quick because this is one area where Congress says, oh, we can actually get together and legislate on this. And so there is a potential for legislation in the next Congress and the answer is these are serious threats so be careful what you ask for. The Internet is the greatest engine of liberty and freedom and economic development that mankind's ever created. We don't want to turn it over to the government to control it.
Jerry Boykin: Right.
James Carafano: We don't need an Obamacare version of cybersecurity. We don't need a Dodd-Frank version of cybersecurity, so whatever legislation they pass it should do no harm. I mean, the President's already has policies that tax the Internet, bad idea to have net neutrality, which is nothing about being neutral. It's about empowering some people and disadvantaging everybody else, and about turning the Internet over to the United Nations and countries like China and Russia to run. These are all incredibly bad ideas something we should be very, very concerned about. Michael, we need to do a cyber-panel next time. Okay purges.
Jerry Boykin: The purging, I don't think it's what you think it is. It's not what you see, it's what you don't see. A lot of these generals and admirals needed to go because they'd been involved in some pretty bad behavior so they needed to be fired. Now, that said, there's been a state of people getting into trouble. So you have to ask yourself how did they get into these senior positions? And I think it's what you don't see. What you don't see are those really good young brigadiers and major generals and rear admirals that are passed over because they are considered to be not supportive of the President's agenda and people who will support it are put into those positions and then their real character comes out. So that's what I see as being the bigger concern about the purge.
James Carafano: Yeah, I want to say how often on David Horowitz's panel do you hear about purging and male parts, really? So we have, okay.
Audience Member: Question here, what if anything should we do about ISIS? Do we care if ISIS wins or Iran wins or Syria wins? Anybody who wins is bad anyway, why should we waste our treasure fighting ISIS?
James Carafano: So there's an ancient Chinese saying the enemy of my enemy can also be my enemy and they all need to die, but Jerry?
Jerry Boykin: Well, first of all it's important to understand that ISIS, once they've accomplished what they're trying to accomplish in Iraq and Syria, where do you think they're going to go next? Some would speculate they're going to go into the Persian Gulf, but I speculate their next big target for credibility globally is Israel.
David Fridovich: Is Israel.
Jerry Boykin: So I go back to what I've said, we've got to support Israel. Now, if our blood and treasure, trust me, it means a great deal to me. That said, we either fight ISIS there or we fight them on the streets of America. It's just that plain and simple and when, thank you, but when the members of Congress standup and say as Chaffetz did and who was the other one? Was it Jordan or something? Forget who it was. ISIS is in America.
David Fridovich: Yeah.
Jerry Boykin: We've caught a dozen of them coming across the border. Ask Robert Spencer. They're in America. ISIS is in America and more are coming because they're coming into the South America and Central America and they're making their way up across our border. They're coming across our border. Their Korans, prayer rugs and terrorist training manuals in the -- on the American side of the border. We fight them there or we fight them here.
David Fridovich: Yes, and Dr. Bob, they said that they were coming. They said, I mean they gave us a message. It just said, hey, look we're coming and we're running that play, get ready, and again, like I cited before, generationally, they'll wait a long time, but they'll get here. Make it an away game, kill them there, and be prepared to kill them here.
Ken Timmerman: Generals, Ken Timmerman, I wanted to ask you a question about Benghazi. I spoke to people at Africa Command when I was doing my book Dark Horses: The Truth about What Happened in Benghazi. You know that General Carter Ham has said two things to Congress. The first is that they looked at the possibility of doing an overflight over the annex and they said that it wouldn't make any difference so let's not do it, and the second thing he said, when he was asked by Jason Chaffetz precisely, why didn't you do everything you possibly could have done to bring forces to bear at the Benghazi? His answer was we were never asked. I wondered what your opinion is of General Ham.
Jerry Boykin: Go ahead, David.
David Fridovich: Well, because I do have my male parts, in that situation I'll be honest with you, I don't know. I know him very well. We were brigadiers. We were in the same cohort together, and I would up until that point I'd say, a good man. Obviously, you're getting a mixed message. So am I. I don't know what happened. I know that the part of the force that we come from would have made every attempt to get there no matter who was on the ground doing what. We don't care the odds, the rest of it, we'll get there, we'll get them out. He's lived that. We've all had those get on the helicopter and go moments and you don't second-guess. You have Americans in trouble. I'm getting chills now. You have Americans in trouble, you go, and you take everything possible to get them out. So I don't know what happened and I don't know why the mixed message, but that is clearly a mixed message, so if we're both leaving confused that's the answer. Sorry.
Jerry Boykin: There was, for those of you who don't know, Mr. Timmerman has written a pretty dog gone good book on this, haven't you?
James Carafano: So we have copies out, there's copies in the --
Jerry Boykin: And it's a good book and thanks for your question. I think the military's going to get pinged on this thing. I think the military's comfortable. I think the military could have gone and could have made a difference and they didn't, and this idea that we weren't asked is a hyphenated word for that and in mixed company I won't use it, but I'll just say nonsense. Okay? The military could have gone and the idea that we left those four men there when they, when said look William Tecumseh Sherman said to Ulysses S. Grant in a letter on the 8th of March 1864, when he came out of Tennessee, he said I knew wherever I was that you thought of me and that you would come if I got in a tight spot. That's in American English that's, an American value, violated at Benghazi.
James Carafano: Yeah, so we're going to keep going until Mike gives me the high signs.
Audience Member: Two quick things, how can we address the restrictive rules of engagement for our troops and sort of, what I see as a cultural shift in our military? It's anecdotal but I think that even West Point is much more liberal in its mindset now. Can you talk about those things please?
David Fridovich: The rules of engagement, commanders do have the right to push back on the rules of engagement that they need. So they go into an environment and you're asking me to do X. I mean, I lived this in the Southern Philippines. They said hey, here are the state and we go okay and we would go back and we would get very creative with the rules engagement so much so that when yeah, Paul Wolfowitz showed up to visit us to visit us in the Southern Philippines we briefed him. We were very honest. We're transparent, we said here's the situation and he said okay. I'd wish you wouldn't get as creative as you are to get the work done, but what do you need from me to get that done and we told him what we needed and we got re-written rules of engagement when Rumsfeld was on leave, which was the Secretary Defense. And he signed, I mean that's what happens and he signed the order and shot it out. We were good. It might have been just an afternoon off, but it was enough.
Commanders have the responsibility in the field and operationally to go back and say you're putting these guys in harms' way here's, what I need and keep pushing. And saying, because it's not yes, the President's going to say hey, I'm assuming the risk. He's not assuming the risk. It's that force on the ground, it's that force in the sea, on the air that's assuming the risk and they need to know.
So when we jump out of an airplane, you have two parachutes, a main that's supposed to work and a reserve. You don't ask permission to pull your reserve. If the main's not working, you know what you're supposed to do to save your life. Why would we ever put people in a situation where they don't have that choice, and that's what I believe in and I believe commanders. This is where it gets to the other gentleman's comment, commanders to safeguard the thing that they love, the force, have got to go back and say wait a minute. Here's the situation. We've assessed the ground situation. It's real. Here's what we need to be able to safeguard our force. Nothing you, nothing a commander or even the commander in chief can ever say well, limit the soldiers', sailors', airmen, Marines' inherent right of self-defense, and that's the start point of everything.
James Carafano: I really want to add though that you can talk about culture all you want, this generation of soldiers like every generation of Americans is the greatest generation. They're an unbelievable group of young men and women.
David Fridovich: Yeah.
James Carafano: I remember a couple years ago coming to a Horowitz event and they had Tibor Rubin here, who is an incredible Medal of Honor winner from the Korean War, and you ask how can anybody have that kind of courage and the truth is all of them have that courage. And this generation of kids, they are the best that you could ask for and God bless them the ones that fight for us, they really are.
Audience Member: Yes and thank you. I would just like to submit that everything that's been discussed here is just the symptoms, and that one only need read Obama's own books and then read Dinesh D'Souza's analysis of those books to conclude that this is not an accident. This guy I wish he were incompetent. He is not incompetent. He's the most competent President we've ever had. They just think that you want to go to Los Angles but he's headed for Moscow. This guy is malevolent and somebody like the Heritage Foundation or someone should start telling the truth. This is not an accident. You say foreign policy looks ad hoc, no.
If your goal is worldwide chaos, this guy gets an A plus. If your goal is to destroy America, if your guy -- I spent my whole life in the financial services business. We were dominant, with Dodd Frank, but he's killed it. He's destroyed financial services. He's tried to destroy the energy industry, but it's too hard to control. See the reason too big to fail was to make them all bigger, because you can control five big guys. These oil and gas people, you can't control, that's what his problem has been. But when are we going to face the fact that this is all intentional. This is not an accident.
James Carafano: Yeah. I don't think the panel disagrees, so one last question.
Audience Member: I wanted to ask now that we have - look I was on the board at Visitors of West Point 30 years ago and I used to lecture at the National War College. What's happening in the Army particularly in the military, but the Army most particularly, is really frightening. What I have not seen and I'm going to ask you this question, I've not seen from the House Armed Services Committee, that the Republicans have controlled, and I'm wondering now that the Senate Arms Services Committee will be chaired by John McCain, the man who said that Samantha Power and Ms. Rice were perfect for their jobs.
What do you feel, will the Senate Republicans, will anybody stand up and take on and investigate what is in fact you're describing the hollowing out, the purging of the military, the turning it into -- all bureaucracies have leadership that is -- people would rather get ahead than care about their country or anything else, and we've seen that now presently at the top of the military. When will we, well, do you have any confidence in that? Do you have any belief that we will see that coming out of this newly Republican-controlled Congress?
James Carafano: Jerry on that.
Jerry Boykin: I think that what you will see is you will see a sincere effort to stop the sequestration cuts as a first order of business and think that they are recognizing now that those cuts are way too deep and that they're going to hollow out our military. Now, will they succeed? I don't know. Will Obama sign legislation? I don't know, but I think that you'll see an effort to do that.
Audience Member: That's, my question is, all right, I agree on the sequestering, that's one thing, I'm asking a different question. Will they go into what is a preplanned and clearly being executed effort to hollow out the moral leadership in the military particularly the Army? Besides the sequestering, I want to know when you expect the Republicans, if ever, to standup on this issue and do you have any confidence in John McCain, as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will do that?
Jerry Boykin: No.
James Carafano: Well, let's just poll the panel. No.
David Fridovich: No.
James Carafano: Okay so you're 3 for 3. But actually, you bring up the really the most important point. We always say what is our President doing? What is our Congress doing? And what really matters is what are we doing, all right? So the most famous battle in American history is maybe Gettysburg, and at Gettysburg, the Union stood because one guy at the far left of the flank, who was just a guy. He wasn't a general, he wasn't a President, he wasn't a congressman. He might have even been drafted. He was just a guy and he was standing there, and they said if the Confederates get around you we will fall and if we fall, the army will fall and if the army falls the nation will fall and that person stood their ground.
David Fridovich: Yeah.
James Carafano: So when you ask whose going to save this country? Who's going to make sure that the men and women that defend us have what they need then look around yourselves at the table because we are them. Thank you. Thank you everybody.
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