The NATO Summit And Securing Afghanistan’s Future

MS. DIANE REHM

10:06:56
Thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The next phase of the U.S. transition out of Afghanistan is to shift into a support role in 2013. The following year, Afghans are scheduled to take full responsibility for security. At the ongoing NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama reiterated the U.S. would complete its mission and do so responsibly. But there are many questions about how the plan will be funded.

MS. DIANE REHM

10:07:30
Though many of America's allies pledge support, Europe's financial crisis has many dubious of their ability to deliver. Joining me in the studio: Douglas Ollivant of the New America Foundation, Michael Hirsh of National Journal magazine, and James Goldgeier of American University. I invite you to join the conversation. Take part by calling us, 800-433-8850. Send your email to drshow@wamu.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.

MR. DOUGLAS OLLIVANT

10:08:15
Good morning.

MR. JAMES GOLDGEIER

10:08:15
Good morning, Diane.

MR. MICHAEL HIRSH

10:08:15
Good morning.

REHM

10:08:16
Michael, I'll start with you. Before the NATO summit, there was the G-8 gathering at Camp David. You actually thought something useful might come out of that G-8 summit. Describe what you thought and then the reality.

HIRSH

10:08:36
Well, the reason this was an unusually important G-8 summit, compared to previous ones, was the key countries that have to decide a couple of critical issues were there in an enclosed place, Camp David, and one of those issues was the future of the eurozone with a lot of discussion about the austerity policy that has been championed by Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel who was there with the U.S. and particularly the new French president, Francois Hollande, urging that they shift away from that strategy toward a pro-growth strategy.

HIRSH

10:09:16
So those were very important discussions. In addition, the G-8 countries include the key NATO allies in Afghanistan, not just the U.S. but France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and so the discussions that they had at Camp David over the weekend leading up to the NATO summit, which began on Sunday, were probably at least as important, if not more important, than the discussions that, you know, happened at this very orchestrated event in Chicago.

REHM

10:09:46
And what about the agreement, if there was any, on austerity versus infusion?

HIRSH

10:09:54
Right. We don't really know the outcome of that because frankly that was not an agenda item at all, but, nonetheless, it probably was the single most important topic to come up. I mean, the eurozone is literally hanging in the balance now. Greece may be on the verge of being forced out if the Greek people, as expected, do not support the austerity measures that have been imposed by the ECB, the European Central Bank, and the European governments.

HIRSH

10:10:27
And as a result of that, anything could happen. The whole thing could begin to flap hard if the markets then begin to suspect that Spain, Italy and other weaker -- even though they're larger countries -- are also unable to sustain their commitment to the eurozone. So a lot of this hinges on the austerity policies that have forced Europe back into a recession, and many economists say this is exactly the wrong policy to take right now.

HIRSH

10:10:53
So to answer your question, Diane, we actually don't know. But the fact is that they had those discussions that we will probably see in the coming days whether there's any shift in Germany's position.

REHM

10:11:03
Michael Hirsh of National Journal magazine. Turning to you, James Goldgeier, what is -- what was the chief goal of the NATO summit?

GOLDGEIER

10:11:18
Well, the chief of this summit is for President Obama to be able to ensure that the allies are on board with an orderly transition so that we end up with an end to the combat mission in 2014 and then continuing support by NATO for the Afghan government and security forces to be able to take control themselves. There'll still be a lot to do for the NATO countries in terms of providing that support as the years go on and at least to show at the summit that there is a common commitment to that.

GOLDGEIER

10:11:57
It was the key thing that he wanted to get out of it. Even though whether or not that commitment really holds over the next several years given the budget crisis, we really won't know.

REHM

10:12:07
And doesn't the commitment really depend on just how many Afghan forces are prepared?

GOLDGEIER

10:12:17
Well, it depends -- yes, how many are prepared, whether -- what that preparation means, whether the government in Kabul is really able to maintain control of the situation. But I think, for most Americans and most Europeans, the goal is to get out. The goal really isn't going to be to worry about what happens after that.

REHM

10:12:36
James Goldgeier, he's dean of the School of International Service at American University. And, turning to you, Douglas Ollivant, you agree with the policy of getting the troops out as soon as can reasonably be achieved. What do you think is a reasonable time frame?

OLLIVANT

10:13:03
I think the time frame that the president has proposed is reasonable, but I think we need to be very realistic about what we should expect. We're going to stay on the timeline, but I call it the timeline with cynicism. We're going to come to each goal post, each metric that's been established to transition this piece or that piece. Any objective observer is going to say, the Afghans probably aren't there, but we're going to transition it anyway 'cause (unintelligible) I couldn't agree more. We want to leave.

REHM

10:13:31
And when do you think they will be ready considering what has happened thus far?

OLLIVANT

10:13:38
When you look at the human development index, I think the last I looked, the Afghans are seventh from the bottom, and that's only because we've skewed the index by building so many clinics there. In any natural sense, they'd probably be second or third from the bottom in the company of, you know, Haiti, Somalia. This is not a state that's going to be -- this is not even really a state. It's a government that pretends to control a lot of territory that's not going to be ready in any timeframe that is measured in, you know, presidential election cycles.

REHM

10:14:05
And especially in the eastern region where the Taliban has a (word?).

OLLIVANT

10:14:11
Particularly in the east where the Taliban is strongest, the Pashtun homeland, which just happens to be adjacent to Pakistan, yes.

REHM

10:14:19
Douglas Ollivant. He is senior national security fellow at the New America Foundation, former National Security Council director for Iraq. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Michael Hirsh, talk about Pakistan. Pakistan was a last minute invitee to attend the two-day NATO summit. How come?

HIRSH

10:14:52
Well, there have been virtually frozen relations with Pakistan, particularly since last November when an errant NATO strike killed about 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistanis have wanted an apology from the U.S. which has not been forthcoming, though it has been avidly discussed.

HIRSH

10:15:12
And this kind of came at tail end of a series of really grim incidents from the Pakistani point of view, which began with the U.S. raid on Obama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, which was severely embarrassing to the Pakistani military because this was actually a sort of a military enclave, and there was the world's number one terrorist somehow living among them. And, to a degree, we don't actually fully understand now.

HIRSH

10:15:37
Although there was no real evidence found in the compound that showed Bin Laden was there as a guest of the Pakistanis, it still has created enormous suspicions on both sides. So what you have is a situation where an ally -- "ally" that is critical on a number of levels in terms of overland transport of U.S. equipment and supplies into Afghanistan, in terms of meeting Pakistan to shut down the safe haven that probably is the single biggest danger for the future of Afghanistan.

HIRSH

10:16:09
Once U.S. and ISAF forces leave, we are virtually non-communicative. I was just in Afghanistan, did interview a number of people. I think there's some improvement in terms of border security from what I have been told. But this issue of the Pakistani permission to grant overland transport has not been resolved yet. Interestingly, a lot of it came down to money.

HIRSH

10:16:33
So to answer your question, the U.S. was fairly peeved at President Zardari, the president of Pakistan, and, as result, invited him in hopes there would be negotiations, but he was not nonetheless snubbed because President Obama refused to meet him.

REHM

10:16:48
So, I mean, it seems as though it all got turned around. If they were going to invite him, if they wanted to make some kind of progress, why wait until the last minute?

HIRSH

10:17:05
As I've been given to understand, the invitation itself was supposed to be something of an inducement, to get the Pakistanis to agree to a reasonable deal. What happened was, once the overland routes were closed down, the U.S. began using routes elsewhere in Central Asia and had to pay a lot more money to those countries. And the Pakistanis said, well, why can't we get that amount of money? So they're asking for exorbitant sums per truck to go through, and that really seems to be the issue.

REHM

10:17:35
James Goldgeier.

GOLDGEIER

10:17:37
Well, I think it's a humiliation for President Zardari to come to the summit and then not get a chance to meet with President Obama. But the United States was concerned. I mean, they were concerned before about whether or not they could reach this agreement. They -- as Michael is saying there, they hoped that with his coming to the summit that they would be able to get the Pakistanis to agree to this beforehand, so they could make the big announcement.

GOLDGEIER

10:18:04
It would've been a nice announcement at the summit. But, instead, they weren't able to get it, and they're being, you know, held for ransom for these higher prices.

REHM

10:18:13
James Goldgeier, he's dean of the School of International Service at American University. Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for National Journal magazine. Douglas Ollivant, he is senior national security fellow at the New America Foundation. Do join us, 800-433-8850. I look forward to hearing from you.

REHM

10:20:04
And as we talk about the G-8 meeting that took place over the weekend at Camp David, plus the ongoing NATO meetings in Chicago, where there have been a great many protests and clashes with police in that great city, a number of our listeners are asking, what is the purpose for NATO? Is it time for NATO to dissolve? How do you respond to that, Jim Goldgeier?

GOLDGEIER

10:20:41
Well, it's certainly -- the original purpose is no longer relevant and hasn't been for some time.

REHM

10:20:47
And state that original purpose.

GOLDGEIER

10:20:49
This was an alliance that was designed to protect against the Soviet attack on Western Europe. And that's why its membership is the United States, Canada and the European countries. It was designed as a trans-Atlantic alliance for that specific threat. Over the last 20 years, it's been doing all sorts of other things. We had the war over Kosovo in 1999, the Afghanistan War, of course, Libya last year.

GOLDGEIER

10:21:14
It's also done other things non-military in nature, like the tsunami relief in Indonesia. So, in fact, it's had plenty to do, and one of the reasons it's had plenty to do is because there's no other institution out there that can do these things. So if we didn't have NATO, who would we call when we needed an alliance to do something?

REHM

10:21:33
Douglas.

OLLIVANT

10:21:34
I think he's exactly right. The original purpose, you know, which the wags used to say was to keep the Americans and the Russians out and the Germans down, clearly no longer exists. But NATO is this one multilateral institution through which the United States can work and, quite frankly, doesn't have to worry about a Russian and Chinese veto. So it's the second-tier organization you can go to, not quite as much legitimacy as the U.N., but clearly a broad, multilateral institution through which the United States can work.

REHM

10:22:03
But the mission has clearly changed a lot, and one wonders whether it still fulfills the need, the purpose that it was intended to.

OLLIVANT

10:22:17
Well, the question is, how do you want to have a collective defense, for what reason? The Unites States could certainly do a lot of things by itself. But why would we want to? The United States could do coalitions of the willing, but it's nice to have an organization that's there for you. There are certainly are new threats that have arisen. We're doing counter-piracy in the Indian Ocean. NATO's going to try to get into the cyber game and deal with threats to cyber security that's being developed in the last couple of years.

OLLIVANT

10:22:49
And it's also moving forward on missile defense, which has been announced at this summit in Chicago, the interim capability on the missile defense plan that President Obama first announced in 2009. So there's plenty for it to do. I think a major question is whether or not limiting the alliance to the membership of North America and Europe. There are lots of other counties out there that are important allies of the United States and are important partners for NATO.

REHM

10:23:18
And, Michael, with France saying that it is going to get out a year ahead of the U.S., at the end of 2013, how does that affect the entire approach to Afghanistan?

HIRSH

10:23:38
Really profoundly. It was interesting that this whole process of talking about a mid-2013 handover of most combat operations to the Afghans began with the French presidential election. Nicolas Sarkozy, the defeated president, was very eager to play to the home crowd because he knew his opponent, Francois Hollande, was making this pledge, that he was going to get French troops out -- very unpopular war in France. And so Sarkozy was the one who prodded on Panetta, the defense secretary, to come out with this commitment.

HIRSH

10:24:10
This was, you know, someone's back now. And so what we're now seeing is really the realization of that timetable with Hollande saying, well, we're still getting out by the end of 2012, with Obama appeasing both his own public here in the United States as well as the other NATO allies who are getting increasingly queasy about staying by saying, you know, we're going to be handing over to the Afghans. So to a very great extent, it was the French who really drove this timetable.

REHM

10:24:36
And here's an email from Kevin in Shanghai, who says, "We should leave Afghanistan now before any more of our soldiers kill or wound, or are killed or wounded. American air power can destroy any Taliban or al-Qaida base. We cannot afford to turn Afghanistan into what we'd like America to be." And, Doug, as a recently retired Army officer, I'm sure you have some thoughts on that.

OLLIVANT

10:25:16
I think his sentiment is pretty much right. The question is, how quickly can you move responsibly out? We can all wish that we weren't in this situation. We can look at a number of turning points earlier in this that could have kept us from getting here. But now, we are where we are, and we have to figure out how we move forward from here, and the Europeans are in exactly the same place. This is not the war the Europeans signed up for, particularly the Germans.

REHM

10:25:44
And there are critics of President Obama's Afghanistan strategy who say not nearly enough has been done to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban. Your thoughts?

OLLIVANT

10:26:02
He's getting critiques from all sides. There are those who think he didn't invest enough troops for long enough and wasn't forceful enough about staying however long it took to accomplish the mission. Then he's critiqued from the other side as to, you know, he's not negotiating enough. Look, there are lots of things to critique about how the Afghan war has been conducted. But at this point, we are where we are. We need to move forward. And it strikes me this is about -- you know, without defending any of the decisions that got us here, this is about as good a path forward as we have.

REHM

10:26:33
Michael Hirsh, is there is truly an opportunity at this point to negotiate with the Taliban?

HIRSH

10:26:42
Yeah, that is going on, but it's very troubled. Only last week, yet another top peace negotiator -- Afghan peace negotiator was assassinated. I was just there myself. I came home a few days before that and met with the top Afghan peace negotiators. And they are having some success, not necessarily with the hardcore Taliban, but with other insurgents that have joined them. At the same time, there is this very extensive effort that's been going on since October 2010 to reintegrate Taliban into Afghan society.

HIRSH

10:27:18
It's working somewhat in the north and west where, again, you have less hardcore than you have along the Pakistani border, but some 4,000, I'm told, have already been reintegrated. And that's achieved a kind of hollowing out of the Afghan insurgent Taliban's armies inside Afghanistan because the problem with the peace process of talking with the so-called Quetta Shura across the border in Pakistan is, frankly, the Taliban leaders are fairly comfortable and cared for there.

HIRSH

10:27:45
I mean, the Pakistanis are supporting them, which means that this peace negotiation also involves negotiation and pressure on Pakistan. Again, you always come back to Pakistan as, perhaps, the number one issue here. And so it's not just simply talking to the Afghan Taliban. It's also talking to the Pakistan Taliban and, in particular, putting pressure on the Pakistani military in ISI, the intelligence services there, who have continued to fund and support them.

REHM

10:28:12
James Goldgeier.

GOLDGEIER

10:28:13
Well, I think Michael's exactly right. You know, the original reason we went into Afghanistan, of course, was because we had been attacked by al-Qaida from Afghanistan. But we were able to disperse or go after al-Qaida in a way that they're no longer the main threat in Afghanistan, and so people are rightly asking, well, why are we still there? Well, we're still there because we're worried about Pakistan.

GOLDGEIER

10:28:36
And we're worried about what an unstable Afghanistan would mean to a nuclear-armed Pakistan, which is really the big question in the region. What happens if something goes wrong in Pakistan with those nuclear weapons? That's why the war really has been more about Pakistan than it's been about Afghanistan.

REHM

10:28:54
Would you agree, Doug?

OLLIVANT

10:28:56
To some extent. I think what we have now in the region is kind of policy by inertia. We found ourselves in Afghanistan. We've got all these troops here. And, therefore, Afghanistan becomes the lens through which we're seeing the entire region, and our relationship with Pakistan is predicated on how they're interacting with Afghanistan. Our relationships with the former Soviet states to the north are now almost exclusively, will you let us drive trucks through to get to Afghanistan?

OLLIVANT

10:29:21
Afghanistan, I think, is now entirely out of proportion in Central Asia than the way our policy is oriented around it and simply because we have all these bodies there.

REHM

10:29:32
And before we open the phones, let's talk about the protest going on in Chicago. What's happening there, Michael? There were television images last night of police clashing, using batons on protesters.

HIRSH

10:29:47
Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, it was -- to me, anyway -- somewhat redolent of 1968, which was a lot -- you know, a lot more violent protest occurred, driven by opposition to the Vietnam War. At this time, it's interesting that poll results reflect opposition to the Afghan War that are really about where they were in the late stages of the Vietnam War. According to the latest AP poll, only 27 percent of Americans now support it. Some 66 percent are opposed.

HIRSH

10:30:21
And this, to a large degree, is driving the agenda here and in the other major NATO countries, as we said. I mean, this is a war that everyone wants out of. The American threshold for success has been reduced to this rather tart phrase we're hearing a lot of, Afghan good enough, which is basically we want to leave the country so that the Taliban don't take over Kabul again. And anything else pretty much is acceptable at this point. And that's really what we're going on, and, actually, I think that that may be achievable.

REHM

10:30:54
Do you think that these protests have the same kind of impact that those back in 1968 against Vietnam had, Doug?

OLLIVANT

10:31:07
No. I would say, tongue in cheek, you know, Chicagoans like to get out in the streets. You know, you can compare it to 1968. But I was in Chicago the year the Bears won the Super Bowl, and it looked a lot like that, too. They go out in -- they're out there protesting, and it's a great thing to protest. As Michael said, there's not much support for this war. It's easy to get people out. The Occupy movements have made protesting, you know, fashionable again. But in the great scheme of things, I don't think the protests themselves matter so much as the mass public opinion that Michael referenced that's behind them.

REHM

10:31:42
Do you agree with that, James?

GOLDGEIER

10:31:44
Well, I agree mainly because President Obama is already on a path to get the United States and NATO out of this war.

REHM

10:31:49
But maybe not quickly enough.

GOLDGEIER

10:31:52
Well, it's -- the United States is ratcheting down at a pretty fast pace. And, again, compared to 1968 when there were still many Americans yet to be killed in Vietnam and it wasn't clear where the policy was going, I think this one is going in the direction. President Obama wants to go in the same direction. Maybe it's not as fast as a number of people want, but he does want to get out, just as he wanted to get out of Iraq.

REHM

10:32:19
Could it speed the process, Michael?

HIRSH

10:32:22
It could because, in spite of what we're hearing out of Chicago, a lot of definitive statements about, you know, 2014 departure, a lot of critical decisions have not yet been made. We know that the final 23,000 of the surge troops that Obama ordered will be leaving by September. That we know. What we don't know is on what schedule the remaining 68,000 U.S. troops that are supposed to finally depart by the end of 2014, how quickly they'll be drawn down.

HIRSH

10:32:52
I interviewed Gen. John Allen while I was in Afghanistan a week ago, who's the commander of all the ISAF forces there. And he said that decision is yet to be made both by him and by President Obama. So in that sort of ambiguity -- ambiguous situation, a lot of public protest and, you know, shifting of sentiment could make a difference.

REHM

10:33:15
Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for National Journal magazine. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll open the phones now, 800-433-8850, first to Columbia, Mo. Good morning, Steve.

STEVE

10:33:37
Good morning, Diane. Thank you very much for your wonderful show.

REHM

10:33:40
Thank you.

STEVE

10:33:41
I would like to suggest that part of the reason there's protest about the war right now is that there seems to be this vision of the American empire that we supported for so long with trillions of dollars of money that's all been borrowed and added to the national debt doesn't seem really -- there's an air of unreality about that when you look around and see crumbling infrastructures, social, you know, structures that are falling apart, housing, education, health care all suffering, people being laid off.

STEVE

10:34:11
And even if we pull out of these wars, we're still -- I think we're going to still have a trillion-dollar military budget if they were honest about what they were spending. So I just -- I would like to suggest that it's time to maybe re-evaluate do we need to have so many bases overseas and so many soldiers always, you know, being deployed one place or another? We need to take care of our problems here at home.

REHM

10:34:35
Doug Ollivant.

OLLIVANT

10:34:37
It's hard to disagree with the bulk of that sentiment. At the height of the Afghan surge in 2009 and 2010, we were spending $110 billion a year in simply -- in additional spending, what they call the overseas contingency fund for the military. Now, this is exclusive of the military salaries. That's in the base budget. That's exclusive of everything the State Department was doing. That's another pot of money, $110 billion.

OLLIVANT

10:35:04
For a point of comparison, 'cause I can't imagine $110 billion, the Department of Homeland Security, the entirety -- the Coast Guard, all their ships, the Customs, the Border Patrol, the FBI, everyone who's ever patted you down at the airport -- $57 billion for 2012. So we were spending twice in Afghanistan -- again, just on the additional military spending -- double what we spend for what you could call the entire defensive side of our security.

HIRSH

10:35:34
Yeah. I mean, this is where the intense debate going on that feeds into 2012 presidential politics about deficits, debt. The amount of spending merges completely with the Afghanistan issue. Indeed, the discussion about Afghanistan has been less about U.S. casualties -- which, thankfully, have not been that high -- and more about the spending that counterinsurgency really costs you over a long period of time. So, I think, what the caller sketched out there, I think, reflects very much, you know, the public sentiment that's driving this...

REHM

10:36:02
James.

GOLDGEIER

10:36:04
Well, there is this larger issue -- which we need to have a debate in this country about, and I think we will, to some extent, if foreign policy gets discussed in the fall -- and that is, what is American leadership going forward? What's America's role in the world as you have other rising powers? Is the United States still going to be playing this role where crises arise, issues arise, the United States military is all over the world?

GOLDGEIER

10:36:27
I think there is a real debate to be had. I do believe that President Obama would like to reduce the burden on the United States. But anytime he talks about that, he's going to face criticism from the Republican side that he doesn't believe in American leadership and American exceptionalism and America's status as the number one power.

REHM

10:36:49
Here's an email that says, "What will it take for us to realize we cannot rule the world by military force? The military industrial complex runs this country. Ike must be spinning in his grave." Michael.

HIRSH

10:37:11
Again, I think it -- that's very reflective of what a lot of people are thinking. You had the Ron Paul phenomenon during the Republican primaries, which -- I mean, he had always been a fringe candidate, but he grew in popularity because of these feelings that we really need to cut back overseas.

REHM

10:37:27
Michael Hirsh of National Journal magazine. Short break. When we come back, more of your calls, your email, your postings on Facebook and your tweets.

REHM

10:40:04
And welcome back. Here's an email sent from someone's iPhone, which says, "What will be the litmus test for putting boots on the ground in troubled countries post-Afghanistan?" Douglas.

OLLIVANT

10:40:25
I wish I could say I saw a future in which there's going to be no more of these contingencies, but as a co-author -- and I wrote just a few weeks ago in Foreign Policy -- I don't see that. I think we're going to continue to see demand from both the, you know, what we can loosely call the neocon right and the liberal internationalists/right-to-protect left that's going to drive us to continue to intervene probably not on an Iraq-Afghanistan scale, but continue to intervene in countries because we perceive we have either a national or humanitarian interest there.

REHM

10:41:00
James.

GOLDGEIER

10:41:01
Well, we always like to think that the litmus test is, is this in the national interest? We certainly wouldn't like to see boots on the ground unless there is a sentiment that this is in America's national interest. But the problem is that you have crises arise. There's a call for somebody to do something. And who's there? The United States. The United States has the military that can do things, and it's very difficult.

REHM

10:41:23
Michael.

HIRSH

10:41:24
I think if you look at the debate that the Obama administration had about the Libya intervention, I think that will be a template for debates you're going to see for years to come. It doesn't matter who the president is -- Obama, Romney and whoever follows.

HIRSH

10:41:37
It will be about limiting to virtually nil American boots on the ground, trying to, in the case of Libya, put NATO in front and, above all, to the extent that we will be using American hard power -- and this is little understood about Obama, the extent to which he has reoriented the way we use hard power, that is military power, it will be about special operations in small numbers and drone warfare, which Obama has multiplied way beyond what George W. Bush was doing.

HIRSH

10:42:09
And, indeed, part of the post-2014 plan for Afghanistan will be to have a drone program in Afghanistan that's going to, we hope, take care of the world's bad guys.

REHM

10:42:19
All right. To Fort Worth, Texas. Good morning, Matt.

MATT

10:42:25
Good morning. I'm curious about what role your guests think the TTP, the Haqqani Network and Hizb-i-Islami will play in post-American Afghanistan.

REHM

10:42:35
Doug.

OLLIVANT

10:42:37
All these groups are going to play, particularly the Haqqanis, who are the, you know, the shock troops of the Pashtun movement in Eastern Afghanistan. We could get -- it would me a long time to go through all these groups, but the bottom line is they're all going to play. It's going to be an interesting mixture. It's important that -- you know, the point of the questioner is great. The Taliban is not a unitary actor. There are sub-factions within it which have different goals, different aspirations. And it's not like we can just go to one guy and cut a deal.

REHM

10:43:06
All right. To Newport, R.I. Good morning, John.

JOHN

10:43:11
Hi, good morning, Diane. I'm just curious. In the various meetings that go on around the world with far foreign policy, you rarely see Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton together, and they rarely seem to make joint statements. I just wonder whether there's a bit of rift between the two. They don't seem to appear together ever.

HIRSH

10:43:29
You know, it's a really interesting question. I happen to be wondering about it myself. These were obviously two bitter rivals who became a team when Obama offered Hillary Clinton the top cabinet post. And yet I have been wondering to what extent Hillary has been out there, at Obama's behest, leading American foreign policy. I mean, frankly, I was told she was going to be given the lead. That was what induced her, in part, to take the job. Instead, foreign policy has been largely run from the White House. Doug, you know, may have a different view. I mean, he's seen it from the inside.

OLLIVANT

10:44:09
I don't disagree with that. This White House is very intent on controlling foreign policy, more so reigning in the Pentagon than reigning in the state department, but it's pretty centralized.

REHM

10:44:21
But she has been at the NATO conference.

HIRSH

10:44:25
Oh, yeah, she was there. And because Obama refused to meet Pakistani President Zardari, it was Hillary who sat down with him and attempted to negotiate this understanding with the Pakistanis, which, again, it was inconclusive, as far as I know.

REHM

10:44:40
All right. To Fairfax, Va. Good morning, Greg.

GREG

10:44:45
Good morning. How are you today?

REHM

10:44:46
Fine, thanks.

GREG

10:44:48
As is always the case, as I wait, I find myself becoming more and more a riff on earlier emails and calls. I accept that we are where we are and that we've got to fight the war we have, not the far we want. So, setting Afghanistan itself aside for a minute, if we believe for the future that state-sponsored terrorism is going to be the major threat, maybe we need to think about a different paradigm. Nation-building, particularly democratic nation building, it requires an incredibly high level of sophistication.

GREG

10:45:21
Thomas Friedman, I think, put in one of this books, called -- he referred to a McDonald's metric where he said countries that were sophisticated enough to have McDonald's had never gone to war against each other. You're not going to take a country like Afghanistan and make it a democracy, no matter how much blood and treasure you spend.

REHM

10:45:41
James Goldgeier.

GOLDGEIER

10:45:42
Well, I think this gets back to the earlier issues of why we see so much American military activity. I mean, what do you need to really contribute to nation building? I mean, even though, of course, it's incredibly hard, and it's very difficult to be successful, you need civilian operations. You need more money for the state department. You need more of a civilian core. And we end up not having that. And so, instead, we have a military. And so that's what we end up using.

REHM

10:46:08
All right. To Paducah, Ky. Hi, Jimmy.

JIMMY

10:46:13
Yes, thank you, Diane. My question is I'd like to hear a comment from the panel. Even though we may get out (word?), in the past, on your show, you spoke of not understanding the culture of these countries that we go into. We should maintain some form of presence through the embassy or through NGOs of some form to understand the culture there. And that way we would know if negotiation is the best process or if military action is the best process. We failed to do that in other countries. And if we don't maintain that in Afghanistan, I think it may revert to the way it was before.

REHM

10:46:53
Michael.

HIRSH

10:46:54
Well, I think the caller raises an important point, and I just want to address Afghanistan for a moment because, yeah, I mean, clearly in the early days of Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a lack of understanding, a lack of commitment of the right resources and attention that was needed.

HIRSH

10:47:14
It's important to understand about Afghanistan that, even though this is technically America's longest war 'cause we have been in there since late 2001, it was only really a few years ago that a fairly robust counter-insurgency strategy was mounted in which -- and so something that really could take 10 years has really -- we've only been at it for a few years.

HIRSH

10:47:39
And it took a long time before, I think, American policy makers began to understand the right combination of what was needed in Afghanistan. So, clearly, we need to do better at that. But it's not like we're completely without that capacity.

REHM

10:47:54
And, of course, before Secretary of Defense Gates left, he talked about a smart defense. What did he mean by that?

GOLDGEIER

10:48:06
Well, right now, the NATO Summit, in addition to being about Afghanistan, is also about this notion of a smart defense initiative. And there, the real question is, how do we continue to maintain defense capabilities when everyone's budget needs to be cut because of the fiscal realities? And the idea of smart defense is trying to do more with less, trying to make sure you pool your resources, trying to make sure that you have more efficiency, especially in the European context where a lot is spent on defense. The Europeans are spending over $200 billion a year on defense, but it's not always smart.

REHM

10:48:44
Doug.

OLLIVANT

10:48:45
It's -- couldn't agree more. The buzz words are smart defense and transformation. NATO has a four-star general, aside from the commander, whose job is to transform NATO, and that means they need to get their ideas right, their doctrine right, and then, most importantly, figure out how they construct the capabilities out of all their member states. And what they like to do is have people specialize, so you can go to the, you know, the polls, and they provide a, you know, water purification or port opening.

OLLIVANT

10:49:15
I don't know if that's exactly what they do or not. But come to another country, and they provide a different puzzle piece. And you can put these all together. This, of course, clashes with the national cultures, which want a fully functioning national military. It's -- this is hard to do. It's rocket science, particularly whereas the budgets continue to contract.

REHM

10:49:33
Michael.

HIRSH

10:49:33
But, you know, it's interesting, Diane. This goes back to the question we were addressing earlier about what is NATO for in the post-Cold War period. I mean, one of the other things that was announced at this summit in Chicago was this interim capability that the missile defense system, you know, has achieved. And it kind of raises the question, defense against whom, you know?

HIRSH

10:49:57
The NATO allies have been somewhat ambiguous about hostile actors, that this is intended to defend against. They've talked a lot about Iran. But, meanwhile, the Russians are saying, well, we think this is about us. We think that this is about defending against our own missile capability. So there remains this central confusion about what is NATO for.

REHM

10:50:23
Here's an interesting email from Kurt in Byron, Ill., who says, "I'm a Democrat in support of President Obama. But I like Rick Perry's idea that all foreign aid accounts should start back at zero and make all countries state their case for why they deserve our continued support, especially when you consider we gave billions to Pakistan under Bush 43 and now under Obama. And yet they were harboring Osama bin Laden." What do you think, Doug?

OLLIVANT

10:51:05
Well, we could talk about, you know, zeroing out these accounts. But once you pull out the Israelis and the Egyptians, there's really not a lot of money to be saved there. You know, I don't think the American people vastly overstate or over-think, right, you know, overestimate the amount of money that we're giving to foreign countries, particularly when...

REHM

10:51:24
Well...

OLLIVANT

10:51:25
...compared against the defense budget, it's pennies, fractions of pennies on the matter.

REHM

10:51:29
Well, in foreign aid, which would be less than 1 percent, but if you're talking about military aid, isn't that something else, Michael?

HIRSH

10:51:40
No, it is indeed. And I would hope that Pentagon planners are asking those kinds of zero budgeting questions every time they do a budget or at least a quadrennial defense review. One of the big things that happened over the last year was this reorientation of American strategic thinking toward Asia, where they're viewed to a raising China. Obama traveled there. He talked about putting U.S. troops in Australia. He reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan alliance.

HIRSH

10:52:09
We're even cuddling up to Burma or Myanmar now largely because of this reorientation toward Asia and thinking about China. We're not talking about containment. We don't use that term, but, nonetheless, that's really the thinking. So, clearly, this is going on now all the time in terms of rethinking where our military is. The conclusion, which may disappoint some of your listeners who are opposed to this is that, you know, we're really not going to be cutting back that much. I mean, we still see ourselves as a major international power.

REHM

10:52:38
Do you agree with that, Jim?

GOLDGEIER

10:52:40
I agree and in large part because there are lot of things that Congress will look to cut, but the defense budget isn't one of them. It's just -- it's a lot easier to get the Congress to go for spending on defense than it is for anything else. And so that's why, in large part, you see it, and you don't see the kind of rationalization that you might want.

REHM

10:52:55
James Goldgeier, he's dean of the School of International Service at American University. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Arlington, Texas. Good morning, Ed. You're on the air.

ED

10:53:12
Hi, Diane. I am troubled by the increasing calls for a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan. I believe we're playing into the hands of our critics at the start of this who basically said that, as long as killing the bad guys sells, we'll stay involved. And once that stops selling, we'll quit and leave. And that's exactly what we're doing. I'm also hearing on this show a rather disturbing tendency to conflate the involvement -- our involvement in Afghanistan with our involvement in Iraq.

ED

10:53:46
The war in Iraq probably, certainly, did not need to be fought. The -- our involvement in Afghanistan has been necessary. It was the training ground, the homeland for terrorist groups. And if we allow the Pashtuns and their Haqqani network to resume that role over there, we're going to live to regret it.

REHM

10:54:07
Doug.

OLLIVANT

10:54:09
The perversity -- again, we can agree with your caller that the war in Afghanistan had a very legitimate start and the war in Iraq was, shall we say, more dubious. That said, they seem to be turning out just exactly the opposite, that the war in Iraq has come to a relatively peaceful end and, despite lots of sound and fury about the politics, they're arguing politics, not shooting each other anymore. Afghanistan, on the other hand, I don't think there's any reasonable observer who thinks that we're going to have a very happy ending there.

HIRSH

10:54:38
I just want to say, though, and I agree with Doug, happy ending is not the right term to use under any circumstances. But I will say that the commitment to the strategic partnership, which commits the U.S. to remain there in some fashion until 2024 -- not so much with boots on the ground, although some special operations, drones and a lot of assistance for the Afghan National Forces -- has really changed the psychology there. That's what I saw when I was there, the greatest Afghan fear is of abandonment.

HIRSH

10:55:07
This country, when it was abandoned, was really when it went to -- when it really went downhill fast. And, even if we're only partially abandoned, even if there's still going to be a U.S. presence, plus ISAF and NATO money for Afghan National Forces, I think that could be enough to maintain at least a stable center to the country. That was my impression when I was there. I really think that the outcome may be a little bit more positive than people are saying.

REHM

10:55:33
James.

GOLDGEIER

10:55:34
Well, I find it hard to see a great outcome there in large part because of the kind of government there is in Afghanistan and what that government is going to be capable of going forward. Even if we're there as a presence, we're going to need a strong government that's able to provide security. And I...

REHM

10:55:51
And that's the question. Can they establish that?

GOLDGEIER

10:55:55
I don't see it. And I think that, getting back to your caller, at the end of the day, what we worry most about with any of these countries is, are they places where attacks can be hatched against the United States? And, you know, there are all sorts of places where you've got terrorist groups planning attacks on the United States. And it's not clear why Afghanistan would be more important than places like Yemen or Somalia.

REHM

10:56:19
So you do not have a particularly optimistic outlook here.

GOLDGEIER

10:56:26
I'm very pessimistic both because of the nature of the country, the nature of the government, but, also, I think that American staying power and European staying power is not going to be great.

REHM

10:56:35
James Goldgeier, dean at the School of International Service at American University. Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for National Journal magazine. Douglas Ollivant, he's national security fellow at the New America Foundation. Thank you all so much.

HIRSH

10:56:58
Thank you.

OLLIVANT

10:56:58
Thank you, Diane.

GOLDGEIER

10:56:59
Thank you.

REHM

10:56:59
Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

ANNOUNCER

10:57:03
"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is drshow@wamu.org, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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