What to Worry About in 2021
Anki salmon good morning everyone. I'm delighted to be with you on such an important topic as we enter. Twenty twenty one with a lot of wild cards a lot of fires out in the world that are going to be a threat to the us and our allies. Of course we have this esteemed panel to talk about this all this of course. Cfr's what to worry about in twenty twenty one conversation with michelle flournoy who co founder and managing partner west exact advisers david portray partner in kkr chairman of the kkr global institute and paul stairs General john wbz senior fellow for conflict. Prevention director of the center of preventative action at the council on foreign relations. I am beyond a goal addressing your global affairs analyst at cnn. And i will be presiding over this morning's conversation. So paul i think the best way to begin. This conversation is to talk more about this survey and this year survey in particular. The preventative priorities survey. What stood out to you. In terms of what foreign policy experts said they're most worried about well. Thanks bianca in thanks for everybody on the coal and thickly for those members who filled out the survey this year very appreciative bat. So if i can just take a few moments to sort of get some background on the survey for those. Who may not be familiar about how we do this so for the last thirteen years. We've been a surveying american foreign policy. Experts about potential sources of instability and conflict in the world for the coming twelve months essentially provide them with a list of thirty contingencies which we think are plausible for the coming year and we asked them to assess likelihood and the potential impact on us national security interests. So it's basically a crowd sourced risk assessment we aggregate the respondents and The responses rather and then we saw them into three tiers relative priority. The basic rationale here is that not all foreign policy. Crises equally threatening to us interest in. We need to prioritize where we focus attention results and resources so this year by far the highest source of concern for those who responded to the survey is north korea People are clearly concerned out Renewed tensions on the korean peninsula presumably stemming from resume nuclear weapons related activities north korea resumption of long range ballistic missile testing. I think there's a general skepticism to president. Trump was able to really diffuse this crisis in. It's just a matter of time before is renewed crisis not far behind. North korea is a while three contingencies. What were deemed to be highly likely in the coming year. One was a lapse of the peace process in afghanistan People think that this is extremely vulnerable. And i think we've seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks and a general skepticism. The the The time line if you will of. Us withdrawal draw will be. We'd be met Secondly an intensification of fighting in syria iras President assad reasserts control over syria As the civil war lines down. And i think people think that's going to just get worse can gets any situation in venezuela it's also not improving President maduro has clearly In there and resisted the maximum pressure from the trump administration. So that is is another concern interesting. I think the wanted the one contingency fans out for me in this top tier is is taiwan. And this is the first time it's been what we call a tier one priority in previous hasn't hasn't actually featured a toll i think last year was a to z. And it's leapt into the top canterbury clearly reflecting a general concern about the deterioration in us relations. And these i should say are in addition to what we call the a haughty perennials. Each year potential cyber attack on. Us infrastructure Awesome -bility of mass casualty terrorist attack. Us iran is always on the top on an sort of russian intimidation of a nato member. But they they're the key highlights. This year's so had to say and i told you all off line that i thought was interesting to north korea topped the list in young four years ago we had an incoming administration where president obama the time president trump at. This will keep you up at night and here. We are four years ahead. And we're in the midst of a massive cyberattack act in the us Caused by the russians and yet it does seem that that north korea least for these survey responders is still top of mind for them. So i just found that really interesting are on this survey. I just want to let you know before we opened it up to michelle. I'm david we we about twenty twenty five minutes into this conversation. We're gonna for any participants or want to ask questions. But let's begin with michelle. And i want to start with. Taiwan and tensions between taiwan and china really rising top tier conflict for the first time in. It's really reflecting the heightened concern over growing military confrontation. Tween major powers. We just saw the previous secretary of state is in the final weeks of offense and unofficially changed the wool books with how the us views taiwan in return china were sanctions at trump officials. But i just was surprised by an an alert. I saw this morning. Us sent an aircraft carrier. Strike group into this South china sea. This comes the same day that china smash latest thirteen warplanes including nuclear capable bombers over taiwan. How concerned are you about. An increasing s relation between taiwan and china and obviously the role of the. Us will find. I am very concerned about the risk of miscalculation between us at the us and china given the heightened tensions and given that we tend to fully understand each feather in terms of resolve interests capability and so forth and taiwan really has become the flash point Because it is the number one priority for china but also because as you mentioned the departing trump administration made a number of very aggressive moves with regard to us s. taiwan policy. That we're really a departure from the bipartisan norm of several administrations and really sort of hope china in the eye on this issue and has now sort of increased the tensions in that area but i would also say that the thing that worries me most not only about taiwan but of all the tier one and tier two issues uphill mention. Is that you know what we've been going. Through as the united states The mishandling of the pandemic The incredibly dire economic impacts. That's had on us. And in the internal political divisions that erupted in violence and attacks on our own democracy that that sort of narrative it feeds a narrative of us. Decline which. I don't agree with and i don't think is correct but if you watched chinese television russian television you see the tapes of chaos over and over and over again and if they really start to believe their own propaganda about us that could increase their risk taking behavior it could make them think well the. Us is distracted their week there in decline maybe now is the time to push And try to achieve our interests so that certainly could. I think is part of the context. We have to watch on taiwan but also on the range by the threats that paul mentioned and with china at us relations overall is interesting to hear Tony lincoln say during his confirmation hearing last week that he overall thought that the trump administration was right to to target china's bad behavior in address. It just didn't agree with the tactics that you've been. The situation had taken what what are the more effective tactics that new biden administration could play in addressing some of china's aggressive behavior. Yeah no i agree. I think there is actually a lot of. Bipartisan consensus on the diagnosis of china. Problem china challenge. I think what you can expect to see. From a biden administration is a much more strategic in multidimensional approach that seeks to re engage china and a strategic dialogue to have very frank conversations about our interests what. We're willing to defend where what are capabilities to do that. To try to reset deterrence with china but also to have a channel to talk about the critical issues on which we must cooperate like climate change and non colouration and oh by the way preventing a future pandemic So i think it's going to be a more nuanced approach. I think they'll be very tough But it won't be so transactional and just trades focused. It's really going to be a comprehensive strategy and you see them bringing in old crows. Like people like kurt campbell to sort of orchestrate that whole of government effort which i think is a very good son. General betray us. One of the priorities in the trump administration had been in one of his talking points had been to bring us troops home And and on the heels of that we obviously saw the negotiations with the taliban in the agreement in afghanistan that us troops would be returning home and leaving afghanistan. by as early. As may of this. Year i i know that there were some officials in the biden administration. Who said that. They were open to continue these negotiations and in holler through on them but in your first year perspective is fine. Line is that a is that a rational time line and we expect to see us troops home within a matter of months and can the taliban requested and what's to be made of their relationship with the f. in government right now well first of all let me just say thanks beyond. It's great to be back with the council and great view with paula. Michelle as always and let me make a couple of other comments. If i could before. I address the issue of afghanistan. Although i'll give a hint to that the answer to that would be no no no. We will not withdraw all the troops unless we weren't afghanistan to collapse in no. I don't think that we will see Substantial progress keep in mind that the agreement that does exist between the us and the taliban it basically gives the taliban more of what they want which is less of us They still don't recognize the duly elected government nor the constitution of afghanistan. So there's a long long way to go in the negotiations that have finally begun between the taliban and the actual government or the representatives of afghanistan. But first of all. If i could just note i mean i very strongly agree with everything not surprisingly that michelle has said the big threats to the us actually year home it is the pandemic it is the economic collapse in certain sectors as the huge hyper partisanship in washington. The torn social fabric across our country in these are rightly what the president is already addressing. Focus on i think in the way ahead of. Interestingly i don't understand why north korea's at the top of the list The truth is we made north korea in issue. It was our rhetoric. It was a siemian assumption or an underlying fundamental that was accepted which probably should not have been that. We could not live with a nuclear north korea. Now we may not like that we will not accept it but i think there is a resignation that north korea is nuclear is going to have capabilities. Those will gradually get more range accuracy. And all the rest of this again unless you do want to go to war And i think the conclusion was after the two summits and so forth. North korea wasn't going to give us anything. They certainly weren't going to completely denuclearize before we relaxed sanctions. Which was the negotiating approach. Which of course was not one that was workable If you can get back to some kind of dialogue and you can get back to step by step starting with an inventory with they actually have at this point having not been back on the ground. I don't think in well over a decade. I remember it was. I think the year before. I was the director that was the last time we actually had boots on the ground inside north korea. So i think we're just going to try to manage. That and i think we will try not to overreact. What arguably Might be leveled or rss about what we did before. I am also not concerned about the collapse of the peace process in afghanistan. I'm concerned about the collapse of the afghan national security forces if it turns out that we have drawn down too far down to twenty five hundred troops. That's less than half of what the commander on the ground germ scott miller window. Well michelle knows. Well for many tours in iraq afghanistan during our time in government He assessed that we needed fifty five fifty six hundred a minimum to provide the advise assistant enable for the afghan security forces. And i'm concerned that there could be a point which is crumbling. there has been an erosion security without question. You could see a crumbling and again. The worst case that could come about would collapse. And then you're into a scenario where the international organizations ngos even our own forces and perhaps diplomats are starting to be evacuated from a country that desperately needs all the help it can get. It is not iraq with hundred billion dollars oil revenue. A year that can go on by its own if others forsake it. So that is. I think a real concern. I suspect that will be one. That would be purely near the top of jake sullivan's list to assess and now for the new secretary defense. Of course we michelle. Both know is well. Lloyd austin for multiple tours in iraq and afghanistan. So that is one that i think. Bears careful watching. And it's not the peace process which i don't see even incremental progress at this point in time it's what happens to the security situation on the ground now that we have given the taleban what they wanted at the negotiating table and really didn't give much to us in return. They certainly haven't reduced the level of violence as you look at the assassination and suicide bombing as that are taking place there I really come back to what michelle was just describing and it is. It's all trying all the time. It's the u. s. china relationship which is the most relationship overall and i'm not just talking about the threats to one another. I'm talking about in every aspect. And i agree with michelle. This will be a nuanced policy. Most likely again. You have kirk campbell. Pack tony jake sullivan and others know this very well. It will be engage cooperate. And i did pandemic to the topics that michelle highlighted for cooperation. There will be a competition and of course we have to sort out. What's going to happen. In the technology space which arguably is in a fracturing mode and you know arguably has been described by some as a technology cold war is the relationship overall may not be In obviously there's going to be a deter and if necessary defend and the possible flash points Do include obviously taiwan and white michelle the necessity for clear communication voiding misperceptions miscommunication understanding each other's core objectives and interests. And all. the rest of that in will be. I think coherent comprehensive and whole of governments with an s. on the end so it'll be all of the elements that can be brought to bear together with those of all of our partners and allies around the world as well and of course the biden administration has stressed early on that. It wants to reinvigorate These different alliances and partnerships And again the most important relationship around which that will happen. Notwithstanding issues with russia and the middle east in iran and all the others. That can be managed. I think Is the one was trying to. I think is foremost and again if you think of the. Us the guy in the circus that puts plates on a stick and keeps them spinning The china plate is bigger than all the others put together. And it's the one that matters the most yeah. I was really fascinated. The day after biden's inauguration in his speech The china daily obviously the state run media publication. They aren't the front page. Said biden balanced reenter appearance climate accord. So you look at areas where there could be cooperation between the two and it was interesting that that stood out To the chinese government. As sort of the one i at least positive step in perhaps Trying to simmer tensions between the two countries. Obviously we know that they are heightened. Right now general before i move on with michelle to russia. I do want to ask you about us. Syria policy. Because i don't believe we have heard a specific plan yet from president biden as to. What a us syria policy would look like in whether that includes keeping troops on the ground there in syria. Brett mcgurk is in favor of that. And he's now the media's coordinator at the nfc are you in favor of a us presence remaining in syria. Yes because i'm in favor of enduring defeat of the islamic state And avoiding the kind of comeback of the islamic state that we saw with the comeback of al qaeda in iraq actually in the form of the islamic state after our combat forces left although that was not the cause the cause was the highly sectarian actions of prime minister. Maria volunteer who had been our partner during the search and was a decent artan during that time when we did reconciliation and for three and a half years after the surge having driven violence down by eighty five percent during the surge is michelle recall and then stayed down for three and a half years and it was his actions that actually tore that fabric of society the part again and really reinstated the whole the alien nation and the grievances of the sunni arabs When you went after the senior senior opposition the vice president than minister finance than parliamentarian from our province. But to come back to now this really let me take this out a little bit because this has to do with the whole issue of ending endless wars and. I think it's really important to acknowledge that you don't end endless war by ending. Us involvement in it. You just end. Us involvement in the war goes on And so it's not a question of ending endless wars by pulling our troops out. it's a question of. How do you end the endless war. How you at least drive down our commitment to it. And i would contend that what we should be seeking to achieve is sustainable and sustainability is measured in the expenditure of blood and treasure. The sustainable sustained commitment. Which by the way also will then lead our adversaries to conclude the perhaps they really should negotiate in somewhat. Good faith because we're not going anywhere and we've gotten it down to a point where it is again. Sustainable we can afford. We can easily afford for example. Ten thousand troops in afghanistan. Remember when i was proved to be the commander we had one hundred thousand. Us troops thanks to michelle and dr gates and president obama and fifty thousand more coalition in iraq. We had one hundred sixty five thousand during the height of the search just. Us men and women in uniform and now we have twenty five hundred there in another couple thousand ish in syria that is very sustainable To ensure that the islamic state can't come back and that over time we actually do achieve the enduring defeat of isis which is going to require a number of other activities by host nation partners on the ground which we should support to some degree but we want them to do those for themselves. And i think what you're going to see is a bit of a gradual. I wouldn't say hardening but at least it will some degree of acceptance that there's going to be a us syrian democratic force area of northeastern syria There'll still be that camp. Also down near the border with between iraq and syria and at some point in time when there's a recognition that we are not going away were not taking significant. Cavalry's at all We lost more in training accidents. I think last year then We lost in the battlefield. So this this is a sustainable issue For us a superpower can easily keep a modest number of troops and by the way also in places such as again modest numbers and somalian and so forth. We pulled out smalley by the way in the last few weeks and already al-shabaab is expanding into the areas where we no longer have influence in no longer support the somali forces that we helped to build an obviously maintaining a stable. Us presence around the world only sends a deterrence young message to our adversaries but also since reassuring message to our allies. As what sound -solutely and. I think you can look back in the past where we have not done that. Were perhaps we're our rhetoric outstripped what it was that we were willing to do and suggests that that sent the opposite message. Well this is a time when again deterrence is going to be hugely important in that. Most important of all relationships says it is built And that's how i think you establish deterrence after all is the adversaries perception of your capability and your will employ exactly michelle. One of them. More complicated relationships biden will be have navigates that with russia and britain which in We saw those mass demonstrations over the weekend a in in moscow and one hundred cities route russia's eleven time zones following the arrest of nevada and all of his supporters. They're reacting not only his arrest but also new videos and investigative reports on just the level of corruption surrounding the firmly ladimir puccini and emily's heard strong words from the us. State department's at president biden has vowed to respond aggressively in ways his predecessor have not but my question to you is in addition in strong words and sort of going back in a typical. Us response How else can we affectively navigate or and we at this point effectively navigate sort of two pronged relationship with russia where we cooperate in areas out. We can such as extending new start with which They both seem to agree. On and also Responding to the lawlessness and the aggressive behavior that we've seen over the past few years from vladimir putin. It's a great question. I think one of the things you will see from the new administration isn't approach that puts allies front and center at doing as we can by with and through allies. So you're gonna see them reach out particularly to our. Nato allies have first of all show up second of all have deep consultations with through nato but also bilaterally on this question of how do we assess the russian set of threats. Whether it's you know the the the kind of threats to him human rights and democracy that we've seen recently whether it's their raise on behavior the poisoning of navalny cyberattacks the interference democratic systems in europe. And here and so forth But how do we together assess those threads. How do we Work together to be more effective in deterring them preventing them and when necessary responding to them and so forth But i think the the basic premises were going to be much more powerful and effective if we work together not just as on a bilateral basis. So i think you'll see already. You know president biden has asked the new director of national intelligence to do a deep dive assessing russian behavior across the board. I think that will be the basis for that. Engaging allies to come up with a shared strategy and i do think you'll see them pushback particularly on demain Anti democracy efforts from hooton. But also in we've just had this unprecedented cyber attack The solar winds attack. And i think there'll be a lot of attention focused on how do we shore up deterrence in cyberspace. What kind of cost to impose on on putin and so forth. But russia at is a classic example of this blend of shoring up deterrents reassuring allies mobilizing allies to be to to come alongside us and then engagement engaging with to press where we have issues with russian behavior but also to pursue areas of cooperation like new start. I was very very pleased to see that right out of the box. The administration acted to keep that strategic framework. Which is very much beneficial to. Us interests in place historically would let him a putin's been sort of backed into a corner. He reacts aggressively And we saw that. When there was unrest domestically and twenty eight and two thousand fourteen With the crimean invasion And i'm wondering because i'm reading reports from neighboring countries in particular former soviet republics that are worried that increased domestic unrest. There will sort of put him in a position where he's got to flex and perhaps acting aggressively towards other countries and in a us and logo western response would look like is in fact. That happens right. I mean i do think wait year. You're playing three dimensional chess not checkers vladimir putin then you have to think multiple steps down the road as you craft a strategy and you have to make sure you have alliance solidarity for those multiple steps down the road. I think at the same time we think about additional pressure. We need to think about shoring up deterrence in zero where we think he might go under pressure. My own view is the thing we should be. Focusing on is his use of chemical weapons against nevada. There's absolutely no international disagreement there On the prohibitions. Against that and that was sort of outside the bounds of international norms and air. National laws And i think that there's a strong case to be made about additional sanctions. They're my own view and again. I'm not an intelligence analyst. But i would like to see us more pressure on the people who keep putin power Oaks around him who do have money in the west who do have assets in the west. That are vulnerable the sanction and that those are the names of the list that novon himself summed. It's people did. Did his group finds would be more effective. Union sanctioning purse to The the country as a whole in having citizens they're suffering No issue with the russian people right right in with africa but it gets to putin's decision making not just make the russian people's lives more miserable and to go back to what general jason saying. It's all about deterrence to. He hasn't been to target at this point. I want to end before. We open it up to audience. Participation ripped general the trains and ask about iran. I know this isn't sort of a two minute. Answer but your perspective that you have president rouhani saying the ball is in biden's or president biden's or To return to that the nuclear agreement and lift sanctions. The biden administration has ended that they are very eager to return to the new. The deal. my question to you is How likely is a return. And do you think as many detractors had said with the initial bill that a vitamin straightened actually work a better deal. But clearly that's again what was hinted at When you have the confirmation hearing for tony blinken didn't employ. This is going to happen tomorrow. Or next week. there's going to take some time. The ideal world obviously would be that there could be an effort that is pursued in conjunction with our partners in the region with gulf states in israel So that we're not doing secret negotiations and they're not kept abreast. We'd want to ideally. Get a bipartisan support. On capitol hill so to could actually be a treaty rather than another executive order. Because of course those are not make those can be a bit fragile. If there's a change in the white house the the issues are well known That the agreement of course that was reached and signs. Some five years ago is now. Five years from the first of the sunset clauses And then there are others after that In what iran does that of courses open to question whether they truly do adhere to the additional protocol of the non-proliferation treaty But you know again. What about their malign activity which has continued to be as malign as ever in iraq which they'd like to lebanon is like to use the militias on the street like lebanese bullet for muscle. And then they like to have a blocking veto in the council representatives the iraqi parliament as they do again in beirut There obviously shoring up the murderers showroom acid in syria together with russia and active to varying degrees with these In in yemen among others nine and then of course you have the increasingly threatening missile program with more rain more accuracy And again more reach therefore already certainly able to range our partner israel. So that's the scenario that you have and i. I'm not sure that i that i would assume that. We're just naturally going to say okay if you all return to The conditions of the j. joint comprehensive plan of agreement That you know you get rid of all the medium enrich the twenty percent rich that you've done now. The ninety nine percent of the low enriched once again and Keep the four dow site from being used for enrichment which has been returned to senator etcetera all of which actually were quite good There were many good features about this along with the again the shortcomings of this sunset clauses and the fact that obviously iran then reach tens of billions of dollars of frozen reserves and was able to reenter the global economy to a degree. They never were completely able to come back in because of the looming possibility of sanctions. Once you had the trump administration elected So again i think this is a much more complex issue than it seems than just they Once again adhere to the provisions of the jcp. Oh and we once again. Just lift all the sanctions Because there's other sanctions that are connected to this as well that have some connection. Un sanctions to jcp la that also raise considerable concerns. And i think that the more you get into this in the more. The capitol hill provides its advice and consent That this is going to prove more difficult than perhaps it sounded on a campaign trail in also making this. This is not a bilateral agreement right there other countries and now the other bring most of the other countries would love to see us. Go back to that. I think that's accurate to say. But again i would love to hear michelle's view on this and i don't hear from michelle and then we'll get to sam with them are questions now. I agree i think. The administration feel some urgency to put time back on the clock in terms of lengthening. The time it would her iran to go from materials to an actual weapon and that timeline has shortened substantially with the departure of the trump administration from the agreement. So i think there's pressure to get back into the jc. Oh but i also. They've been very very clear that simply going back to the j. c. p. o. a. as is is not going to be satisfactory because we you know the time will be too short. They need to extend the sunset clauses and there's obviously shared concern among the united states and Certainly our european allies and other ignores to the agreement about iran's ballistic missile program and about their maligned behavior in the region. I also think you'll see this administration. Consult deeply with the key partners in the region who may have a different view about how to approach to ron but again this focus on allies and partners and trying to you know reengaged those relationships and have deep consultations and bring them along with a strategy. I think you'll see that effort beginning. The last factor all mention is iran has elections coming up. You know within six months of that may also affect their ability to come to closure on something new going forward so we'll see how the timing does great sam. When opened it up our first question will be from joe nye. Please remember to state your affiliate commission. Joe nye harvard university. I want to go back to michelle's answer about taiwan I agree with general point. That all of you said that i worry more about taiwan than a debate. North korea But there's a different kind of worry. How do we enhance our deterrence of any prospect. That she jingping thinks he might get away with something and yet not a polka finger in his. I know there's the the difficult question is what concrete steps can we take that enhanced deterrents that are not essentially so provocative that they have counterproductive effects so interested in both the michelle. Dave answer to what specific things they would recommend their joe. It's a great great to hear your voice and it's a great question on berry inciteful is always you know. I think that we need to think in deterrent in terms of deterrence broader than military turns. It's very important that we continue to show up in the region and do our part with allies to reinforce the un law see the serve international norms and rules of behavior A bit of the chinese military in the region. But i think with regard to iran. The important message is The clarifier interests that At that we don't want to see the status quo changed by force and that it's not just a. Us position is the position of the region others in the region and the international community. And i think there's a lot of diplomacy that we can undertake to shore up that message to say if you took the step you would. There would be a response not only from the united states but from the international community and it would not only involve potentially military measures but political measures that china would pay a very very high price that would be disrupted too disruptive to its quest for greater International influence and also highly disrupted disruptive to trade in its economy. So i think we've got a sort of think about deterrence with a full range of not only our tools with those of our allies and partners and really work on a strategy In a way of communicating that consistently to china so that they understand the caught the very real costs they would incur. If they moved against taiwan. You know in a way that was outside that that was unacceptable. Could i add Say a few words hitter. Sure and i will so there is a way you know. Joe races very important. Point about how you to to. China non provocative way and as you. Well no you know. There's two kinds of deterrence deterrence punishment and deterrence by denial. And so there's a way in which we can emphasize the latter which tends to be less provocative to china essentially conveys to than the fact that they would not achieve the objectives sutton in cheaper acceptable way and to me. That is the way you reconcile this. This central Challenges you will deterrence. I think there's a larger question here in michelle touched on it. At the beginning we are now in the long term competition rivalry with china and russia history suggests these rivalries last time in fact if you go back to eighteen fifteen they lost on average fifty five years and the last time the is in a major ivory with a major power Forty three years forty four years so we have to think long term here and we have to reconcile these these dilemmas the central to that kind of rivalry. We gotta figure out a way. We could avoid water in the way we just describe. We got away figure out a way we can compete in a smart way so that we're not engaging in wasteful competition. We got a huge deficit learning deficit other domestic priorities that we have detected. So we've got to figure that out and again as michelle said they outset figure out a way in which we can do all this without compromising prospects for cooperation on major global issues. And i think you know henry kissinger catching it. This the central challenge no better than anybody else in the nineteen seventies when he said we have to find a way to reconcile the need to compete with the soviet union with the need to coexist with them and until we resolve that central dilemma. We're gonna consistently run into problems with china and russia to so we have to think this through. We can't think in terms of short term. Fix says we're gonna think have a centrally a long-term properly integrated strategy and i agree with both of them. Very much joe and as always You have characteristically. Put your finger on the most critical issue. I think That's out there again. Outside of our shores noting all the actions that we need to take it home. This is a case where we clearly wanna be firm clearer. I have one soldier left my command and she is always on patrol at the the combat outpost in arlington virginia but again not provocative Again you'll notice. The need to engage discuss There have to be various efforts again again as should be a coherent. Comprehensive whole of governance with an s. on the end is both have explained There are activities that can be taken quietly to to help. Again with the denial component of this falls is rightly putting forward In addition to efforts were deterrence in other fashion. I should note here in part just because my great respect for the president of the great council actually do disagree with him on what he put forward some months back which was a public explicit declaration that you know an article five kind of public decoration again at the. We're with taiwan. In the way that we are with our other allies around the world. And i think that could be the kind of provocative action That could result in in some kind of undesirable activity and and again captured. Exactly right how do you coexist At this in this kind of very difficult rivalry But taking a lot of steps that can change the calculations a bit While ensuring that there is not a misperception or miscalculation it's interesting to hong kong hasn't been raised at all thus far in conversation is that sort of an indication that that it's unfortunately lost mas at this point. I don't think it's you know. I i wouldn't say it's a lost cause. It's a very very difficult case but here again. I think you know with an administration. Coming in wants to reinvigorate are focused on human rights and democracy wants to reinvigorate working with allies to achieve prominent directives. Again i think there will be an assessment and some policy review to assess whether there's more that can be done to to moderate Some of china's behavior then. But it's a very hard sam when we wanted to the next question. Our next question is from sara lee whitson. Hi this is. Sara lee whitson. I'm the executive director of democracy for the arab world. Now i wanted to talk a little bit about yemen which i haven't heard addressed and i wonder whether you think it might be appropriate or more appropriate to focus on america's own malign activities in yemen Which of course about three dozen Former obama current biden administration officials apologized for forgetting us involved in and war. Five years later were still involved in And wonder whether you have any reflections of reckoning for america's involvement in the score as well as the ongoing malign activities of our own allies For whom were providing Weapons either by sale or by gift and more. Broadly whether you think it's more parade as a priority to focus on ending america's own harmful activities in the region Instead of worrying about The harmful activities of others In other places. So i guess there's a us perhaps component there as well on modern. Show david start on this one in the commander of central command in iraq and afghanistan I i mean just in the region in general We did actually withdraw from ero- and we found that we had to go back in and we didn't want to get engaged in syria and yet we realized ultimately we had to and the reason that we had to do that was because the rise of isis the creation of caliphate That was of enormous size in northern and western iraq in northeastern syria was causing such a massive refugee crisis For our european allies that domestic populism lists the result and it went in. It was gravely undermining again the situation in europe so in a general sense i would just offer that as just one example of what happens if you withdraw completely inactive case in administration that definitely did not want to go back into iraq were go into syria in the first place Ended up having to do just that so i i don't think it's a case of just pulling out and everything will be sweetness and light. In fact i think us pulling out can lead to again us. Having to go back in once we realize the consequences. I would say that if you take the greater middle east the same is true probably extending it to afghanistan and perhaps parts of north africa when it comes to yemen with great respect. Sir i term it this a tiny bit differently because i was a partner for the president of south of honey. And you know he didn't initiate this this fight Who these They attacked a sonata capital. They ran him in his new regime out of Out of that capital city and then they ultimately ran out of the entire country Now that wasn't because of us you could actually argue that. Maybe if we had done something to help him early on and show them. That wasn't going to be easy. That it might not have continued. That's arguable But again there's a lot of blame to go to the other side especially for the initiation of that. They're certainly Blamed for those who have participated since then the inaccuracies of some of the the bombing attacks of whole variety of Shortcomings in issues. But again i don't at all see the who says blameless inness in the lease and an i think you have to acknowledge a bit of that If you're going to have a balanced approach to a situation that clearly is an absolute humanitarian disaster And certainly one. We want to try to resolve And now of course. Iran is very strongly supporting who also arming them with weapons. That are raining down on various saudi cities locations so I the the proposition as it was put is not quite one that i would accept I come at that one quite differently. I'm afraid Having been again the commander underground and having worked with the president of yemen who was actually quite a good partner in the fight against al qaeda in the arabian peninsula at the time which was at that time arguably had the most dangerous individuals in the world. Do i expect a biden administration to sort of reinvigorate the multilateral the mediatek un efforts in to bring a ceasefire of an kalunga settlement. Which which should i agree with it absolutely. I could just jump in you know. I think we have to acknowledge where we are. Which is you know the weather you. Yes they hit the. It should be blamed for starting this but the saudi emirati intervention was has been unsuccessful. It is crew. You know the the war between the two sides has created an unparalleled humanitarian catastrophe. Eight serve as the vice chair of the board of care. And it's just it's it's one of the worst. Humanitarian disasters were vision has ever tried to respond to. It's just an. It's doing to go on with huge portions of the population at risk of famine and dad's just because they they can't get basic supplies to day I think right you know. The uae has acknowledged that the way forward is to try to negotiate a solution. I think the us needs to press the saudis and iran and their you know a backing of the hutus to get to a serious negotiation at the diplomatic cable. But in the meantime i would say at this point. The us should stop supplying weapons to saudi arabia. That have been so Used so dis- indiscriminately. Nfl been responsible for killing so many innocent yemenis And we all of our focus should be pressuring all sides To get to a ceasefire and then to some kind of negotiated solution. This is a war. That's not going to be won on the battlefield and our complicity at this point given all that we know in supplying precision weapons to the saudis. Who are using them for imprecise attacks. That often have way too many civilian casualties. I think that just needs to stop. And we need to focus on negotiated solution and bringing our diplomatic haft and those of our allies and others to bear on getting to out clearly a really complicated issue obviously at another Another one the biden administration to tackle in the months and years ahead Sam i think we have time for a couple more. Our next question is from teddy roosevelt. Thank you all for Participating in like to address a question to general betray us. You articulated very clearly. The need to have continue to have troops remained in afghanistan where the obvious reason Stability to a large extent. Success in this is going to depend on having a partner in the afghan government that has the capacity to deliver reasonable government. Services and corruption is is controllable. All the things everyone on the panel understands far better than i do. How realistic is it to expect that our european partners will provide us with the going support both in aid military advice to help the government. Get debris provide reasonable competent services it will ultimately have the support of the vast aspects of a significant majority of the afghan people. I'm a little more skeptical about our ability to see that emerge. Well thanks dan a great question. Hi to you Look i think. The support of our european and other non-nato allied partners so australia japan others that provide both the boots on the ground training and economic assistance. In fact japan as i recall was number two To the us. During the time that i was privileged to command the international security assistance force. Look they will continue if we continue. It's really quite simple I've talked to some of our european. The leaders of some of our european partners in recent months and again it really does depend on the united states forming the foundation or the basis for all that is done not just militarily although that is essential again without security nothing else is possible. And as i mentioned security has eroded in afghanistan and we've got halt the erosion and reducing forces. Further is not necessarily the way to do that. I'd also just offer. If i could ted that we should remember why we went to afghanistan. And actually why we stayed. The core national interest was to eliminate the sanctuary in which al qaeda planned the nine eleven attacks and conduct the initial training of the attackers at a time when the taliban control the bulk of the country We have stayed because al qaeda has tried to reestablish that sanctuary in eastern afghanistan and sadly now the islamic state hasn't affiliate in pakistan in afghanistan. And they would love to do the same. There's something very attractive about eastern afghanistan to of them Obviously we want to get to a point. Where the afghans can secure the country the fact that we have been able to reduce from again hundred thousand men and women uniform fifty thousand allied down to where we were before. This final reduction was really quite significant. and the afghans are absolutely fighting and dying for their country. Doctor ashraf ghani is a very good partner. He's the first to acknowledge the various challenges that they have but at the end of the day. Ted i think it comes back to the point that i made up front. Which is that. Our european and other allies and partners around the world will stay engaged and will continue to support If we are leading that particular effort and the question i have is just. How low can you go. What is the sustainable sustained commitment That would be ideal for afghanistan. Our next question will be from. Jane harman hygiene. Hi everybody lovely to see you all so listening to this. I agree with almost everything but what is missing. At least it seems to me is what is our overall strategy new strategy for the middle east. I would argue. Trump really didn't have one. He focused on israel a bit. I would argue. That obama didn't have one either. Bush had one with respect to going into iraq and the domino theory. But most of what you're saying tactical and so is there an obama doctrine. Excuse me is there. A biden doctrine. And if there isn't one do we need one. Quick question who wants to snap out of the show was the policymaker can michelle. I think it's a fair criticism. jane That and it's a very tough Region but i do. I do think that this is a crowd of folks who would probably come into office sharing that critique in a bit in a way i also think that things have evolved since the period of the obama administration. So i think you'll see a fresh strategy review that really goes back to first principles about what our core interests are And they certainly go back to present. You know preventing any kind of attack fraught coming from the region against terrorist attack against the united states or our assets or our interests around the world. But it's also broader than that. I think they'll you know there's a there's a very important opening that's occurred and this is one of the few places where i think you'll get democrats acknowledging that the trump administration made a positive step abraham accords to really strengthen the cooperation between israel and the gulf states. I personally think there will be limits to how far that can go without some addressable. Some addressing of the israeli palestinian problems and the issuer. A two-state solution. But i do think it's worth supporting And then i think the third element will be trying to end Some of these wars whether it's yemen whether it's negotiated solution in afghanistan and so forth but then figuring out what kind of regional posture do we need both diplomatically and militarily to try to contribute to stability without you know Believing that we can have a large without pursuing large-scale military interventions. Which i think history has taught us again and again are not going to turn them. You know the middle east into a set of democracies are not going to be Successful um to transforming the region. So i think it's going to be a more humble approach. It's going to be a more clear eyed approach. But it's gonna use all instruments to try to get after objectives even as we also try to free up bandwidth both for focusing more of our tension relatively on the asia-pacific and of course the most important thing is for competing effectively is reinvesting at home re reinvesting in the drivers of american competitiveness. An influence here at home Which gets back to our technological edge. Our economic recovery in vitality and so forth. I strongly agree with that I do think again that you've gotta have in the back of your mind. This concept of again a sustaining sustainable commitment because of the national interests that we still have their Whether it is the nexus with islamic extremists or the free flow of energy resources are just sheer stability in the region And also noting recalling michelle's coming up at mach rec- recalling burn louis great prince stony said that democracy was strong medicine it should be taken small doses at a time in the middle east. And all of that. I think does lead to again a humbler approach to some of this and i think we have certainly learned a lot of art lessons over the past two decades that would council in that direction but would also council That you don't again end endless wars by ending our involvement There has to be some kind of durable formulation that allows you to do that without also say thanks jane for your eighteen years on capitol hill on your ten great years of the wilson center. Which i know we're coming to an end and a month or two year. We're all big jane yuba. We are at the eleven o'clock mark. And i knew we wanna stay on time. If i could just end by asking a question to the panel that you all began addressing at is the issue here domestically at home And and what. We've seen transpire over the past few months and weeks. No doubt was a big stress test on our institutions. And we you know. I wouldn't say we passed with flying colors when you have former defense secretaries than public letters stressing that the current defense secretary and the troops not getting alton artem paddock. Electoral process went from a global perspective. What is the reaction in. What what what harm has that done to are standing globally and in what needs to be done to to restore That standing the way you know many have you the. Us prior to past few months and years. Though if i go. I i think he's done tremendous And clearly repairing the social and political fabric of this country is is priority number one song obviously bringing the pandemic under control and i think we have to work to a sustained period of normalcy and act to a business as usual in in washington without majority of sense that times often use was associated with end. We really have to rebuild at l. standing in the world as a result of what's happened over the last two or three weeks old for years occupied and and that really is is a central goal. But we have to work on now. I would just add. I think that's right. I think we have to rebuild and also sustain that you know. I think it'll take a few election cycles or our allies to really trust that we have reset from the last four years and from you know a presidency that brought us to the point of insurrection But i do think i have. I mean till end on an. I'm an optimist by gene gene genetics. Whatever so to an animal positive note i really do believe in the american The resilience of the american system. The american people and i do think that we will if we play our cards right. And we invest in the drivers of our economic competitiveness research and development. He technology areas higher education. Smart immigration policy twenty-first-century infrastructure. And we get this country moving again. That's an play huge dividends to to reset the perception of the united states. And to give us much more influence and To to be a force for good in the world going forward but that you know. I do have faith that we can do that. I have a lot more faith in this administration than the last one in terms of having strategy to do that. But it's gonna take some time and it's gonna it's gonna take a lot of effort and this is. I do hope that we can rally around this as a country Going forward. look. I would echo. I paul said you know. It's hard to be shining city on a hill. The hill is under assault In that really was the case. Needless to say but i'm also hopeful We have weathered those challenges the immediate challenges. We have gotten through that. Obviously there are many many more that lies ahead. But i hope that the start nature of what we saw. Proves to be a moment of real reckoning and clarification in that we can once again proved the resilience that michelle highlighted rightly. Because i also believe very strongly in that. I'd like to think that for thirty eight. And a half years of government service that was those were among the values that we were seeking to To preserve and protect and that ultimately we will once again validate winston churchill's assessment that you can always count on americans to do the right thing. After all the other things i i would agree with that as well. I'm an optimist. I'm a political refugee from the former soviet union russia constitution. It's not a bad one but you know it's meaningless so at least hopefully this has been a reminder that it's to uphold our Our constitution as well. We all have work to do on that note. Let let us in this conversation. I think it's been riveting. Thank so much for your insights. General betray us and shall born on all. Thank you so much. Thank you to our members and thank you see. Offer having me host this conversation. Everyone thanks my.