Top minds in foreign affairs discuss the most dangerous global hotspots at the Freedom Center's Texas Weekend.
Editor’s note: Below is the video and transcript of the panel discussion “A Threatening World,” featuring Daniel Pipes, Bill Gertz, Frank Gaffney, James Carafano and moderator Michael Finch. The event was part of the Freedom Center’s Texas Weekend, held May 3rd-5th at the Las Colinas Resort in Dallas, Texas.
Michael Finch: Quite an honor to be here with these four gentlemen. All four of them have been regulars at Restoration Weekend on and off for many years. So we’re very honored to have all of them up here.
Daniel Pipes: Thank you, Mike.
Well, I have a bifurcated response to Syria. Because on the one hand, I believe that when the President says there’s a red line, he has to do something when the red line is breached, not change the nature of the red line, which is what in fact has happened. First, it was the use of chemical weapons, and then it was the systematic use of chemical weapons. And so what is systematic use, exactly? And nothing so far has happened.
And this has ominous implications for Iran, where there also are red lines. And it could well be that we find all sorts of complex reasons to explain why the Iranians haven’t, in fact, breached those red lines. But it could also be different, because involvement in Syria, polling shows, is deeply unpopular, with some 15, 20 percent of Americans endorsing it. Whereas an attack on Iran is actually quite popular, with more than half of Americans saying that they would endorse that. So it is a bad omen, but not necessarily a telling -- doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t do anything with Iran.
So on the one hand, I’m very upset that the authority of the US government is so undercut by its own leadership. On the other hand, I’m quite pleased to see that we’re not intervening in Syria, because I don’t think we should be helping the rebels. I see the rebels as a deeply malign force, essentially an Islamist force backed by the malign Turkish government, the malign Qatari government, and the malign Saudi government. I have no wish to see them come to power.
On the other hand, the despotism of the Assad regime is horrid, monstrous. There is no good choice here. There are good Syrians, but they’re nowhere near the corridors of power, and they’re not contenders in the current civil war. And so there is no good side here.
And therefore, I draw the conclusion that just as we helped Stalin against Hitler, and we helped Saddam Hussein against the Ayatollah Khomeini, we should -- as Assad is going down, we should help Assad against the rebels. I don’t want Assad to prevail, but I also don’t want the Islamist rebels to prevail. I don’t want the Iranians to benefit from this, I don’t want the Turks to benefit from it. I would rather see them just go at each other. I think we should use what influence we have with the supporters of both sides to get the fighting away from the civilians, so that there is not this horrid humanitarian cost.
But from our strategic point of view, it’s clearly in our interest to have Hamas fighting with Hezbollah. I mean, can you imagine a better scenario than that?
So I think we should stay out.
Turkey you mentioned as well. Turkey has been our longtime ally since the Korean War 60 years ago. Ten years ago, however, the Turks took a serious turn for the worse. They’ve had an Islamist government that has been evermore clearly showing its hand -- an intelligent, subtle Islamist government, but an Islamist government nonetheless. And our government and other Western governments are very slow to pick up this problem. I’ve probably mentioned this five times at various Restoration Weekends. But it is ever more evidently a problem for us.
And I would predict that in the long-term Iran, after the current crises are over, will be quite a friendly country to the United States, and Turkey will be the most hostile and important opponent of the United States, and then really see a switcheroo. And Middle East generally is a very volatile place. Things move quickly, and it would not be surprising to see that Turkey emerges as our most important adversary in the region.
Bill Gertz: Thank you, Daniel.
I’m going to talk about North Korea and China. First of all, North Korea is the nub of the issue. It's a nuclear armed communist dictatorship. It was a communist dictatorship, but now it’s nuclear armed. And the current crisis -- and there are very clearly signs that they were on the verge of war several weeks ago -- began February 12th, when the North Koreans set off their third nuclear device.
They want to be recognized as a nuclear power. They have nuclear weapons. We don’t know the scale or the type, but they have them. And the US and allies will not recognize them. And that’s what set off this latest crisis.
Next -- this is a KNO-8 missile, and it’s on a Chinese-made chasse, so there’s not a disconnect between China and North Korea. But this is a new, long-range ICBM that can hit the United States. Just this week, the Pentagon released its first annual report on the North Korean military. And their summation was North Korea has the capability -- and they tried to weasel-word it a little bit -- has the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a missile that can reach the United States. That is a new and direct threat to the United States, and it’s real.
You know, my brother who lives in California, and my daughter who’s a student at Berkeley, called me when this was a thing. And they said -- should we be worried about this? And I said -- yeah, it’s mostly rhetoric. But the good news is we have a missile defense system.
Next slide -- this is video from a North Korean propaganda video showing New York City in flames from a nuclear attack. Next slide -- this is also another North Korean propaganda showing troops being obliterated in flames. Next -- this is the Taepodong-2 missile. This is the one that can reach the United States. They fired it as a space launcher the last time. But this is what they believe is going to be the one that can reach the United States.
Next -- and the good news is this is a ground-based interceptor test taking off. We can thank Ronald Reagan for missile defense, so that now that a crazy nation like North Korea that wants to attack us, we have missile defenses. The bad news is the Obama Administration has already tried to negotiate away our missile defense in the person of Secretary of State John Kerry. He went to China, he told the Chinese that we would curb our plans to add 14 of these interceptors if the Chinese agreed to help us pressure North Korea. And without consultation -- he was purely freelancing as part of the Administration; Congress wasn’t informed -- it’s a big problem.
Next -- this is Park Geun-hye, the new president of South Korea. And she is a very tough lady. Her mother was assassinated by North Korean agents, so she has a very clear-eyed sense of the North Korean threat. South Korea has been the victim of two military provocations in 2010. One was the sinking of a ship by a mini-submarine from North Korea; the other was a shelling of an island. And she has said that any further provocations -- the South Koreans are not going to stand back; they’re going to take action against them. So that’s what creates the tensions.
Next -- this is exercises which just ended, a joint South Korean US exercise -- Full Eagle, I believe, or Key Resolve -- different codenames. They believe that the North Koreans were getting ready to do something after these exercises ended. They ended at the end of last month. And so they’re on heightened alert. President Park is coming to the United States on Monday, and so they’re very concerned that North Korea will conduct some type of military provocation in the coming days, which could escalate and spin out of control and lead to another conflict.
Next -- let’s move quickly to China. Again, the nub of the issue -- despite its reforms and economic changes, China remains a nuclear armed communist dictatorship.
Next -- this is China’s new aircraft carrier. This represents a step forward in their ability to use coercive diplomacy in Asia. And there’s no question that they’re going to do that. They’re going to pressure the Southeast Asians.
Next -- this is an anti-satellite missile. This is a key weapon that could help China beat the US in a conflict. They tested it in 2007, it destroyed a satellite. And the US responded by shooting down a falling US satellite with a missile defense interceptor. So we can anticipate the next conflict will have a lot of space wars elements to it.
Next -- this is a sign of their missiles. They are building -- the Chinese are building three new types of missiles. At the time that the US is building down its forces, China is building up. And they have three types of new long-range missiles, all of which are going to have multiple warheads. And the US is kind of oblivious to the entire buildup.
We hear a lot about China rising. What we don’t hear about is that China is also working to manage the decline of the US by supporting states like Iran, Syria and North Korea.
Next -- this is the nine-dash line, which shows China’s claims to the South China Sea. These are international waters, and they’re claiming them as theirs. They have lots of oil and gas. This has created tensions.
Next slide -- Senkaku Islands. This is another very hot spot. The Chinese just declared these islands, which are owned by Japan, north of Taiwan and south of Okinawa, as a core interest. The Chinese are declaring this a core interest, which is basically saying they’re willing to go to war over it. They’ve belonged to Japan since the end of World War II. Taiwan claims them. Again, the issue here is not just fishing; it’s large oil and gas reserves underneath.
Next slide -- these are Chinese and Japanese ships facing off near the Senkakus. And things are getting very hot. The Obama Administration was negligent by not invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty with Japan until very recently. And this has led to lots of miscalculation on the part of the Chinese.
Next -- cyber-warfare. This has been big in the news. It's been recently revealed that the Chinese have a massive cyber-warfare exercise program. They have been stealing billions of dollars worth of intellectual property. They are planting sleeper agent software inside defense and business systems. It poses a strategic-level threat.
Next -- last, this is the building which was identified as the headquarters of the Chinese military cyber-warfare unit. And I’ll stop there.
Frank Gaffney: Thank you, Bill.
I’m delighted to be here. Anyplace the Horowitz Center is I am delighted to be. And I’m particularly pleased that you here in Dallas are having a chance to become involved with this really superb institution.
About eight years ago, almost to the day, I had a chance to speak in front of an audience convened here by another superb institution, Hillsdale College, about this threat of electromagnetic pulse. Don’t know how many of you have heard that term, EMP, before. This panel will knock your socks off with things to worry about. This is the thing that really does keep me up at night. Because I think it is the single most serious threat we face, about which we know very little and are doing practically nothing.
What is it? Basically, it is a phenomenon that we discovered through some exo-atmospheric nuclear tests in the 1960s, first by the Soviets and then by us. When a nuclear weapon goes off in space, of course we’re not affected on the ground by the blast, or the fireball and all the rest of it. But it gives off immense energy in the form of X and gamma rays. When the gamma rays interface with the atmosphere, that creates a profound -- I mean, almost unimaginably large -- amount of electromagnetic energy.
EMP -- by some estimates, even a relatively small nuclear weapon can create a million times the energy of the most powerful radio transmission on earth. When detonated at the height of about 300 miles above the surface of the United States, it could rain down this energy through line-of-sight transmission virtually over the entire country; in fact, over parts of Mexico and Canada as well.
And the problem is that very few things in our country which involve electrical devices -- the electrical grid itself, computers, various electronic gear -- have been shielded against such electromagnetic energy. In fact, the lines that connect many of these things, the electrical lines -- most especially the backbone of our electrical grid, about 300 transformers -- huge, very expensive, and not-easy-to-come-by devices -- those electrical lines are perfect conduits for these pulses of three different phases. And they will --according to a blue ribbon commission that was asked to study this by the Congress -- certainly damage, and quite possibly destroy, those transformers and most of the other devices that again rely on electricity for their functioning.
And it may have occurred to you, that’s just about everything in our society -- certainly everything that we rely upon. I mean, think about an infrastructure, and you realize that it all requires electricity.
And to give you a very tangible example of how this works, think of Katrina, or more recently Sandy -- powerful storms that disrupt the electrical supplies and in very short order the other infrastructures, whether it’s water and sewage, or food, or transportation, or telecommunications, or finance -- medical -- goes away.
And to go back to Michael’s point, this isn’t just a question of it going away until we get a chance to reboot the system. It's a question of it going away until we fix the system. And as I said, when you think about these transformers, we don’t even make these things in the United States anymore. Korea and, I believe, Germany still do. But it takes about a year, if you’re lucky, to get your hands on one. And if you need 300 of them, it’s a problem, especially if everything else is broken in the meantime.
What is doubly worrying is that all of our enemies understand our vulnerability to this kind of attack. They understand that perhaps with a single nuclear weapon lobbed by a ballistic missile high over our country, you could transform us practically instantaneously from a 21st century superpower into a preindustrial society. And again, not just for today or for the duration of a Katrina cleanup or a Sandy, but for years.
And in fact, a colleague of mine in the Reagan Administration, Dr. William Graham, was the President’s science advisor under President Reagan. And he was the chairman of this blue ribbon commission. And he opined, based on the study that the commission did, that within one year of such an electromagnetic pulse attack, nine out of 10 Americans would be dead. Not because they’d been killed by the weapon or the blast, but because -- think about it. How many of us, particularly in urban centers like Dallas or Washington or New York, could subsist for any length of time without water, without food, without heat, without telecommunications, finance, the rest of it?
The Russians, of course, learned about this with their tests. The Chinese -- Bill’s given you a short course on them -- they are clearly aware of this and, it’s believed, have operationalized capabilities against us. How about North Korea? Well, experts, including the staff director for that blue ribbon commission, Dr. Peter Pry, have taken a hard look at the tests that the North Koreans have done, three of them now, of their nuclear weapons. Many of them were kind of pooh-poohed as failures because they didn’t generate large blasts and therefore large seismic signals. Peter says -- well, that’s actually the kind of signatures that you would associate with EMP. Not big blasts, but big gamma. And especially if the design is optimized for that purpose, which would mean even more perhaps catastrophic effects, more certainly that’s the kind of thing that perhaps the North Koreans are doing.
Not only that, but they’re partnered up with the Iranians. And the Iranians, we know, have tested missiles in precisely the way that a society that either didn’t have yet long-range missile capabilities or didn’t want their fingerprints on an attack might perpetrate it. [Notably], as this blue ribbon commission pointed out, you could put a relatively short-range missile on a ship and bring the ship close the United States, and launch it from off our coasts.
The Iranians have tested launching missiles from ships. The Iranians have also tested what appears to be the detonation or at least the delivery of something to the apex at which point it seems as though something would’ve happened -- missiles, by the way, that they got from the North Koreans.
We are in short, ladies and gentlemen, I think, on notice that people who wish us ill have figured out that even with just one or two nuclear weapons, if we persist in remaining vulnerable to this sort of attack, they could have a catastrophic effect -- that’s the word used by this blue ribbon commission -- on this country.
So what should we do about it? We should be hard at the business of hardening our grid. It turns out for about a billion dollars, you can protect those 300 transformers. Essentially, it’s nothing more exotic than putting big surge protectors in to protect them, and otherwise shielding them. That would go a long way at least to allowing us to survive, and then to begin the rebuilding process. We need redundancy with respect to the key components that will continue to ensure the operation of the rest of our society.
We need, I believe, nuclear testing to make sure that we have, in fact, put into place the necessary devices and protections. We need an effective deterrent, to the extent we can deter bad guys. That requires a much more serious approach to national nuclear forces than we have been engaged in basically since we stopped testing these weapons in 1992. Very few Americans have any idea -- Bill alluded to it -- that, as every other nuclear weapon and wannabe on the planet is building up their nuclear capabilities, under President Obama -- and frankly, to some extent, under his predecessors -- we have been allowing ours to atrophy. And now he is actually getting rid of the world’s nuclear weapons, starting with ours. Not good for deterrence.
We need missile defense. Bill’s alluded to it. We have some. But frankly, it is not very effective and certainly not what is necessary to deal with these close-in offshore threats -- for example, most especially, from the Gulf of Mexico. We have no defense there at all against Iranian missiles that are being put in Venezuela as we speak -- shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis -- let alone off ships in the Gulf.
And finally, we need to be preparing right now for consequence management. And this requires a level of awareness, of course, but also of [prophylactic] steps, none of which is really even in the national discussion, let alone being undertaken.
So I’ll conclude with just this thought -- this kind of conversation is incredibly important if those of you in this audience not only take it aboard as one of another of a litany of things to be concerned about, but will actually help us engage people -- like, well, for example, Governor Perry -- in ensuring that a state like Texas is doing everything it can to protect itself. And by the way, the grid here is kind of freestanding, and it could in fact be made much more resilient. And we need your help in doing that.
Thanks very much.
James Carafano: I probably should talk a lot about defense. Because here’s something I actually disagree with David Horowitz about -- conservatives are not all of one people on this. Matter of fact, we are completely screwed up. And we are so screwed up that we have allowed this President to literally rot the world’s finest defense.
And so today, one third of the Air Force is grounded. Eighty percent of the non-deployed naval forces are combat unready. Eighty percent of the naval forces that are not at sea could not go to sea. We are in dire shape. And I’d be happy to talk about that.
But I want to briefly use my time to talk about another aspect of defense, which doesn’t get a lot of play. Because I think it’s something you’re all interested in. Because I know there has been a lot of discussion about Benghazi. And we come at Benghazi from a slightly different angle. And the reason is this -- we literally have thousands of missions, consulates and embassies around the world. We have a number of those are what’s called in a high-risk category. That means that the State Department acknowledges that they’re in a part of the world where they can be subject to an attack.
And we have a State Department that actually has been at war longer than the US military, right? They’ve been at war with al-Qaeda before 9/11, if you go back to the embassy bombings in Africa. So they’ve been fighting al-Qaeda for over a decade in some of the most hellish places in the world. I mean, Iraq and Afghanistan -- the State Department was under attack every single day.
And to see somebody that’s been at war for 10 years have a bonehead moment like Benghazi, you just really blink and ask -- what could’ve happened here? I mean, this would be like if the American army was crossing the Rhine, and they were making the same rookie mistakes that they made when they landed in North Africa.
So our issue -- look, we could just end this right now. We know the President just played politics with us from day one. It's all about protecting his presidency and protecting his politics over getting the job done. We know that. And we can continue to hound away to try to prove that.
My great concern is we literally have hundreds and thousands of men and women around the world that don’t have body armor, that don’t have Kevlar vests and helmets and cruise missiles behind them, every day doing our business. And we’re not clear if we’re doing everything possible to keep them safe.
So when I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was very early on in the Benghazi aftermath, I said -- look, I can’t tell you -- because we don’t have any -- I said -- here are the questions that you need to be able to answer to say -- do we know everything we know so we can analyze and [send someone in] to determine if we’re doing everything reasonable to allow our men and women overseas to get the job done and be as safe as possible?
And so I laid out five questions, which were -- what was your threat assessment? What did you think the problem was that you were facing? What was your mitigation? What did you do in the country in terms of counterterrorism activities or other activities to mitigate the threat that you were going to face? What was your risk assessment? What were you thinking, as you were moving people around the country, as to what they might face on a particular day, like the anniversary of 9/11? And then, what was your contingency plan? Knowing that something might go bad, and knowing the [sparsity] of security assets that you actually had on the ground, how did you think you were going to rescue people, or take hostages back, or go back in and seize territory? What did you think you were doing? And then, when you got the 3.00 a.m. phone call, how did you respond to that? You have this entire federal government with people all over the world, assets that you can draw on -- how did you manage that response?
And what I told the committee is -- unless you can answer these five questions, then I can’t tell you if what this tells us about what we’re doing to keep people safe -- if this was one-off, if this is a systemic problem if this is a failure of leadership. So unless we have the answers to these questions, we simply don’t know.
So the stunning thing is, even today, even with the release of this recent report from the Republicans in the House and the recent revelations in The Weekly Standard and others, I cannot sit here answer these five questions for you.
I mean, could you imagine, a year after 9/11, the first 9/11, if the Bush Administration hadn’t been able to tell you everything President Bush did on the day of 9/11? Could you imagine? Do you think the American people would stand for that? Yet, here we are months after this, and we can’t even tell you what the President did. We can’t account for that [in] 24 hours.
This is a horror show. And it’s not a horror show about politics and Presidents and everything else. This is a horror show about -- the next Benghazi may be right around the corner, or worse. And there may have been something that we could’ve learned from Benghazi to prevent that and do it better. And we’re just marching in time and waiting for that to happen.
And I do agree -- it was said earlier -- the only answer that I can conceptualize at this point is there has to be a select joint committee with the power to subpoena, with the appropriate clearances, that can really dig into this. Not because we have to get every piece of data possible to keep Hillary Clinton from being President, which is a virtuous thing, I grant you. But we have to know what happened, so we can make sure that something like that never happens again. And we sit idly by as conservatives, and we don’t beat the table hard enough to say Congress has to stand up in this case and do the right thing.
Michael Finch: Thank you, James.
Solidifying the electrical grid -- is that something that has to be done -- the federal government has to make that decision? Or can a governor in states -- say, in Texas or in Idaho, or someplace -- we’re going to take care of this ourselves, so we have one safe state? Or does this have to be done at the federal government level?
Frank Gaffney: Look, as is usually the case, it would be infinitely easier if there were a national standard and approach. What complicates this problem enormously, as you almost certainly know -- the vast majority of the electrical grid is actually in private hands. And as a result, it comes -- and I’ve had this conversation with executives at top levels of some of these companies. And they say basically -- look, without somebody telling us we have to do this, we’re not going to do it. It would take money out of our, you know, P&L line, and none of our executives are going to do it.
The truth of the matter, as I mentioned, a staggeringly large number -- I mean, not staggering in the great scheme of Washington these days -- but a billion dollars sounds like a lot of money. This could be pennies per month for rate payers if we were willing to make sure that this was distributed. But the truth of the matter is whether it’s done at the federal level, whether it’s done state-by-state, whether it’s done grid section-by-grid section, whether it’s done, you know, at the local level, even -- one of our friends and colleagues by the name of Henry Schwartz is just trying to protect a part of the country where he’s got a business up in Niagara Falls, where there happens to be a lot of electrical stuff going on.
We need the engagement of the public as well as their representatives. And I think this is something that when people understand the stakes, getting that kind of level of engagement is not going to be hard. It's just -- this is a problem we’re not talking about, thinking about, focusing on; and might be one of those things, as you talked about in the earlier panel, that bites us in the butt before it [happens].
Michael Finch: Okay. We have a question for Bill Gertz real quick. Bill, we hear a lot that China’s right now capitalist, all about making money; why would they want to harm their largest customer?
Bill Gertz: Because essentially, deep inside, they remain this collective communist dictatorship that uses strategic deception. They have a plan to become the most powerful state in the world. They’re exporting their system, which is essentially state capitalism, with a Soviet model system infrastructure in terms of the way it’s structured. And they’ve shown no signs of altering their political structure. In fact, they’ve specifically rejected Western-style democracy, which is ultimately the solution for mitigating the China threat. It's to be able to find them some way out of their problem, which is that they have this quasi-capitalist state socialist system economically, but politically it’s a Soviet system. And that contradiction is going to lead to big problems, perhaps even war.
Michael Finch: And Daniel, I have a quick question for you -- did we miss our chance with the green revolution in Iran? Will that moment come again, if not in the next three years under Obama, but under a future President where we have a chance to really have effective change in that country?
Daniel Pipes: The Iranian regime is doomed. The only question is when will it collapse. It is somewhat akin to the Soviet regime in the 1970s -- deeply unpopular. Very few people believe in the ideology that the regime purveys. The question is -- when will people get organized, when will there be some instant that causes them to rebel? 2009 was an opportunity -- it was embarrassing to watch Merkel, Brown and Sarkozy support the street demonstrators and Obama be silent. I don’t think if it happened a second time, and we were coming up to another election next month in Iran, that the Obama Administration will be quiet as it was four years ago.
The key, however, is not us. It's not our policies at this point. It is the Iranians themselves. And it is deeply unsettled and volatile. And there could be at any moment something that sets off a reaction which leads to deep change in Iran. So it’s coming.
The problem is that we have a nuclear buildup that’s coming faster. According to the estimates I get, particularly from Israelis, the Iranians are within weeks -- not even months away -- from crossing the red lines there. And who knows what’s going on behind the scenes? But from what we can tell, it doesn’t seem like much is happening.
So by the time of the November Restoration Weekend, we will know whether the Iranians have a bomb or are bombed.
Michael Finch: And James, I’m not going to leave you out. Just the last moderator question -- we know that Obama emulates, or at least respects, Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey. It seems that with the military -- and I don’t want to overstate this -- by purging certain leaders in the military, he seems to be doing what Erdogan did in Turkey. I don’t want to say eliminate the military as a potential threat, although who knows? Is there -- am I overstating that? Or is he definitely cleansing the military of politically, you know --
James Carafano: The US military?
Michael Finch: Yes.
James Carafano: So I spent 25 years in the army and was a graduate of West Point. So I can tell you the last thing you have to fear is the seven days in May, when the US military takes over the federal government. The exact opposite is actually true. As a matter of fact, the Posse Comitatus law, which is the law that prohibits the US military from doing domestic law enforcement -- that law is often misinterpreted as to prevent the US military from asserting a political role. It's exactly the opposite; the law was actually written to prevent politicians from using the military for political purposes. That’s the good news.
The bad news is when you have an administration which literally puts politics above policy, the military’s not a break on that. They’re not going to stop that. And even generals who even modestly, on very solid military ground, suggest that perhaps you’re doing the wrong course, like General Mattis, they just get very much shoed out the door.
So you have a litany of very honest men and women in the senior leadership of the military. But they’re not going to protect you from this President or these policies. One, they can’t. And two, their inclination is to follow their President, which is their mission. And the President has exploited that to an enormous degree.
Literally, Secretary Hagel, who is -- I mean, Heritage has very rarely ever -- and we can’t as a c3, but we do have a c4 -- part of the army can legitimately lobby -- we very, very, very rarely ever get into nominations, pro or con, ever, just as a matter of policy. And our c4 felt so strongly, based on the assessment given them by the c3 of the competency of Hagel, that we broke a longstanding precedence and said -- making this man Secretary of State is one of the most dangerous things you could possibly do. He is absolutely totally not -- he neither has a demeanor nor the expertise or the competency to do that job. And that’s turned out to be absolutely true. He has the goodwill of the President.
The President is really indifferent to defense, and he has a cadre of close advisors which are not the traditional military advisors. And literally, they are doing what they want, which is how we’ve reached the situation today where we are really literally hollowing out the military, much the way we did under Jimmy Carter. And I often tell people that this is -- you get to see what Jimmy Carter’s second term would’ve looked like.
And that’s all predictable and understandable, and everything else. What bothers me is the point I made before -- I think we as conservatives have really been flat on our back. We’ve seen conservatives stand up and say -- well, you know, the more important thing is sequester; we just have to make sure that we’re cutting government. Just tell them to cut the fraud, waste and abuse out of the military -- and really ignoring our responsibilities as the voice of conscience of providing for the common defense and standing up.
So we can’t blame the generals. We can’t blame the President, because he’s just doing what’s in his genes to do. We can blame us for not being the united coherent voice that we should be, calling out the hollowing out of our military.
Frank, is that fair? I don’t want to be unfair.
Frank Gaffney: No no, I think as usual, you are understating the problem.
Let me just add one example that I think is directly responsive to your question, and we could perhaps have a debate as to whether this is something that they’re being compelled to do or whether they’re simply -- as a result of having been promoted up the ranks, through the vetting and screening and filtering process they’re inclined to do.
But just one example -- and again, I agree with everything that Jim has just said -- but one example that takes it a whole other step -- and I’ve never seen anything quite like this in 36 years of fooling around with this business -- but the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, convened a press conference, six or eight months ago I guess now. And the purpose, it seemed to me -- Bill, you may’ve been there -- the purpose was to publicly eviscerate a military officer, lieutenant colonel, who was teaching at the Armed Forces Joint College an approved elective course -- going back to the topic of the previous panel -- on Islam. And General Dempsey accused him of engaging in offensive pedagogy against Islam and destroyed his career on the spot.
By the way, this is a man whose combat record and his teaching -- and in every other respect, he had been top-rated and would’ve been almost certainly, under a better system, one of the future top general officers of our military. And I just worry. In addition to the hollowing out that Jim’s talked about, in addition to the disconnect between the threats that we’re confronting -- some of which we’ve touched on here -- we do have a politicization of the military that has taken place inexorably. And I think it’s greatly compounding the problem that we’re facing. By no means am I suggesting that all of our armed forces have fallen prey to this. But I do think certain in their leadership have and that it is translating ultimately into a threat to the rest of them as well.
Michael Finch: Sounds somewhat like a purge.
Do we have any questions from the audience? Paul, in the back?
Paul: First of all, I want to thank all four panelists for furthering my drinking problems.
But this question is directed to Daniel Pipes. And one thing that Obama has become an expert at is not only backstabbing our traditional allies but also emboldening our enemies. And one of these countries who is in a very difficult neighborhood, who borders with Iran, is very pro-US, very pro-Israel and, like Iran, is a Shiite Muslim country; is Azerbaijan. And to me, it seems like they’re very underappreciated. And I’m just curious to hear from you what you think of their role, and if truly the US is really using their friendship and anything else to help us against especially Iran and their nuclear ambitions.
Daniel Pipes: Azerbaijan is Turkic-speaking, and therefore connected to Turkey; but Shiite, and therefore connected to Iran. And part of it is in Iran today, and half of it was under the Soviets and is now independent -- complex situation. Independent Azerbaijan is deeply connected to the Azerbaijan in Iran and has generally been quite hostile to the Iranian government, to the Islamic Republic; and has had pretty good relations with Turkey. It's had excellent relations, by the way, with Israel -- just looking for a friendly face in the neighborhood.
We have not been terribly supportive of Azerbaijan, as your question implied. We could do a lot more. But we have in fact -- the US government, under Bush and Obama, have seen Ankara as the address -- this is our friend. Obama hugs them. But Bush has even more responsibility. Because it was a visit that Erdogan paid to the Oval Office in 2003 that precipitated Erdogan’s reaching the prime ministership. So it’s a joint Republican-Democratic mistake. And Azerbaijan is an asset which we are neglecting.
Michael Finch: Bill, you have something?
Bill Gertz: I just want to add, in terms of your drinking problem -- one of the things that I didn’t mention was the shift to Asia by the US. It began as a very innovative air-sea battle concept about how to better use naval and air forces to defeat China in a conflict, based on the weapons and things that they’re doing. That is a positive development. And unfortunately, under the Obama Administration, it has been subverted from a military exercise to a diplomatic and economic one, which is not what the allies in Asia want to hear; they want the US to be strong and confront China directly. But they do have this concept, and they are shifting resources to Asia.
James Carafano: I just got to laugh about the Asian -- look, this week, I had three Japanese delegations, one South Korean delegation and a Taiwanese delegation come in to talk to me. And they all had exactly the same message. And I don’t think they compared notes. They all go -- what the heck are these guys doing? They don’t see any reality of an Asian pivot. They see an administration which is completely at a loss to deal with China, and they’re frankly terrified that this administration is just a bystander in Asia. So if there’s an Asian pivot, the people in Asia haven’t seen it yet.
Michael Finch: Think Michael had a question?
Michael: Thank you very much. Great panel.
I’d like maybe all of you to make us feel better.
Maybe somebody could say something positive about each one of these areas -- Iran, North Korea, Syria, and all the rest of it -- Islam. Just because we’re going to lunch, and I don’t want to throw up.
James Carafano: You know, our film is very inspiring. And you’ll be very inspired to know that the men and women that volunteer to protect us are unbelievable. And that’s the only bright, shining note that I have to offer.
Frank Gaffney: This may or may not qualify as what you’re looking for, but it is a reality. The Journal was decried in the previous panel, but they had a report earlier this week which really got my attention, which is that Japan has invested -- I can’t even remember the number of billions of dollars -- in building an advanced nuclear reprocessing facility at a place called Rokkasho, I believe it is. And it has the capacity to churn out something like 2,000 tons of plutonium -- or, excuse me, 900 tons of plutonium, enough for 2,000 nuclear weapons.
This is what’s going to happen when a phony pivot is engaged in, when vacuums of power are created, when the Chinese, the North Koreans and others are deemed to be a threat that we’re no longer helping to protect against. We’re going to see people who have been allies of us for, what is it, 60 years now, but who are pretty unpleasant adversaries in the past, arming themselves to defend themselves.
And for the moment, I think, at least, they’re interested in defending our interests out in that part of the world, too. And I think this is a moment when, if there is good news, we can make common cause.
But we’ve got to get away from this notion -- it used to be -- you know, I was responsible for nuclear weapons policy in the Reagan Defense Department. This idea that we’re going to rid the world of nuclear weapons -- which, I grant you, President Reagan had some sympathy for, in the very distant future, in a lion-lay-down-with-the-lamb time -- but it was considered a lunatic fringe idea. It's now national policy. And we really are starting with America’s nuclear deterrent.
We’ve got to fix that. And if we do, I think we’ll find partners who are willing to help us preserve freedom.
Unidentified Speaker: That’s your idea of a happy note?
Frank Gaffney: That is my happiest note.
His wasn’t so good, either.
Bill Gertz: I tried to make two points that I think are positive. One was missile defense. It is there, it can be built, it’s possible to work on that. The other is the air-sea battle concept and the idea of confronting China. Those were -- internally, they were major steps forward to getting out of the old culture.
Other than that, it’s far worse than you can imagine. There is nothing good to say. I mean, I’m telling you, from nuclear weapons to policy, we have anti-Vietnam War, left-wing people at the State Department and the Pentagon. We have a President who, after the Boston bombing, didn’t attack terrorism; he attacked the United States for threatening Muslims. And so I think really, there’s just no way -- I mean, it’s actually worse than what we’ve said.
Michael Finch: Daniel has something happy to say.
Daniel Pipes: Well, I actually have made a career of being a pessimist.
So I’ve reformed lately, and I’m more optimistic. And I’ll point to two good pieces of news in the Middle East. One is that the Islamists, as they grow in power, divide among themselves. Look at the Iranians and the Turks, who are now battling by proxies in Syria. Look at Hezbollah and Hamas, as I mentioned before. Look at the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis in Egypt. And on and on -- in Tunisia, in Libya, wherever you look -- as they gain power, the Islamists divide. And I think in the long term this will be their undoing.
And indeed, I draw a parallel between them now and the Arab Nationalists in the 1950s, who seemed to be taking over the region but ultimately fell because they couldn’t agree on the program, and who should be the leader, and what is the exact nature of their political approach. So the relatively good news is that they fall out among themselves.
And the second thing is that our really only strategic ally in the region -- as opposed to tactic ally, Israel -- is doing extremely well, whether it be demographically or in terms of its energy. Get this -- Israel has as much energy, it appears, in its tiny territory akin to the size of New Jersey, as Saudi Arabia, which is United States East of the Mississippi sized. So we have a very strong ally that is doing well in the Middle East.
Frank Gaffney: May I make one just quick other point on the good news? I mean, I really will come up with some good news here, I promise.
The previous panel talked a lot about the Islamist threat, obviously. And I just wanted to acquaint you all, particularly those of you here in Texas, with something that is playing out in real time, right now, that you could be helpful on.
In the state legislature, which, as you know, meets briefly and every two years, we are within three votes in state Senate of getting a supermajority that’s needed to bring a piece of legislation to the floor called -- I believe it’s American and Texas Laws for Texan Courts. And this is the variation here in Texas of a bill that has now been adopted in five other states, most recently in Oklahoma. And it basically will blunt the insinuation of this doctrine of Sharia into the courts of Texas, which is happening, particularly in family courts, as it is elsewhere across the United States.
If you want to do something about this problem -- and it is a real problem, and it needs your help -- this is a place where if you can assist us -- I mentioned it briefly to Governor Perry last night -- we need his help, and we need to find three of those missing legislators to get this American Laws for American Courts variant enacted here. Thanks.
Michael Finch: Thank you. We’re going to go to Bill, and then to Aaron. We got time for the last two questions.
Bill: My first one is very far out. That is -- what are the prospects that Obama actually wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon that can humble the United States? And the second is to Mr. Gaffney -- how come we cannot get [out] the fact that anybody who looks at the world and looks at world history (inaudible) since he has become President, (inaudible) Japan wants nuclear, Saudi Arabia (inaudible), Egypt (inaudible), South Korea will [develop] nuclear weapons -- how come we can’t get this message to the United States -- (inaudible) do you feel safer now than you have eight years or four years ago? How come we cannot -- where is the leadership to speak to the American people and say -- do you realize what’s happening to the United States and the world?
Daniel Pipes: On the Iran question -- I understand Obama as having a profound contradiction within him. On the one hand, he is an anti-American leftist who believes the United States is a force for ill in the world. On the other hand, he is President of the United States and would like to go down as a great President. These are conflicting intensions.
And so when you go to a specific issue like Iran, he in his heart, I would speculate, probably thinks that it’s a good thing that other countries have nuclear arms, that we not be exceptional in that regard. On the other hand, it is his watch, and it’d look bad if the Iranians get nuclear arms and further disrupt and potentially deploy them. So I think he’s deeply ambivalent. And I think the policies that you see -- whether it be in Syria currently or Iran in the future -- reflect that deep ambivalence of he and those who are around him.
Frank Gaffney: Thank you for that second question. This really is a tremendously important takeaway from our meeting. David Horowitz said it brilliantly, as usual, this morning -- national security is one of our most important elements of our platform. Reagan called it, you know, the third leg of the three-legged stool. I agree, unfortunately, with Jim that a number of influential Republicans have lost sight of that.
As a result, it has, I think, sort of become kind of a lost-generation phenomenon, not because we’ve been killed off in war, but we’ve stopped paying attention to this problem of national security. We’ve let -- not, obviously, some of us -- but too many of us, particularly in leadership positions, lack any personal facility with, or a familiarity even with, this. We’re going to be hearing at lunch from one of the few who did and is now a former member of the United States Congress.
But my point to you is this -- Election 2012 was a God-given opportunity to demonstrate what Jim has called, you know, the President’s propensity to put polities over policy -- I would say, politics over public safety, the safety of our country. And you’re absolutely right -- I think he wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon. I think he wants just about everybody else -- for that matter, if they want to -- to have a nuclear weapon. He just doesn’t want us, because we’re the dangerous ones. I mean, that’s the Left, right?
But here’s the thing -- if we don’t get our act together as a movement, as a party -- ultimately as a country -- we will not have the national security we require in a world that, for all the reasons we’ve been discussing, is getting more dangerous by the day.
Michael Finch: Okay. There’s time for Aaron’s last question.
Aaron: You’ve made a very compelling case about this EMP danger, imminent danger. And I was thinking to myself, we have -- television and radio commercials are extremely effective. Who doesn’t remember the campaign, “Just Say No?” Things like that, and those two that fought against Hillary Care? What about if you put together an organization and got the money to make television and radio commercials that educated the public about the risks and the dangers of EMP? And if you told them -- you know what? If you asked your power company to take the steps that are necessary, it would cost you probably an extra dollar a month in your electric bill -- isn’t it worth it? And you could get a groundswell of public opinion demanding that the power companies take the steps to protect themselves and us from this horrible risk.
Michael Finch: Frank, just real quick -- you could demand that people watch the movie “The Road,” and say this is what happens with an EMP attack.
Frank Gaffney: And I guess there’s -- I’m a cultural illiterate, I’m ashamed to say -- I guess there’s a show called “Revolution” here that’s been pretty popular, that talks a lot about this, too.
Look, I’m all in on anything that people would like to do. There are some organizations; we’re working on it, but others are. And I think the Freedom Center has been involved as well. We need help, we need good ideas. Resources are desirable.
We did a spot probably 10 years ago that kind of just shows what happens when this comes down, and the society comes unraveling. And getting it out, getting new ones out, getting more people enlisted, is why we’re here.
Unidentified Speaker: We got to stay at it.
Frank Gaffney: Absolutely. Absolutely right, we’d love your help. See me after.
Michael Finch: Please thank the panel. Outstanding, great job.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.