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tv   Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Public Service  CSPAN  November 29, 2021 1:28pm-1:59pm EST

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where we hear your voices every day. c-span now has your you covered. download for freetoday . >> defense secretary robert gates joins the washington post for a discussion on public service and the need to recruit young people to help reform government agencies. >> welcome to washington post live, i'm david ignatius. today we're going to focus on public service with two people whose served our country significant ways. first bob gates, former cia director of defense secretary spent a half century and public service and later in our program we will talk with doctor stephanie tompkins, director of dark but let's start withsecretary gates. welcome back to the washington post live, good to see you . >>it's great to see you . >> secretary, you started working for the cia in 1966
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while you were still in indiana university . then you came back to the cia. tetell us what you to public service in the first place. >> i was with the russian and east european institute at indiana university earning a masters degree at the cia recruiter showed up on campus that back in the day when that was still possible. happily we are back in better days but had to tell you the truth i'm with the recruiter mainly as a lark in the hope of getting a free trip to washington dc. but when they actuallyoffered me a job , i think because i was had been studying in the soviet union and this was at the height of the cold war. i decided i would try that for a while and perhaps do my bit in the cold war and the
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struggle against the soviet union so it really was an outgrowth of my academic focus. i thought i would teach in college but when the opportunity came to work for the agency i agreed to do that. and they were really anticipating it would be a career to tell you the truth. but oit was so interesting and they just kept offering me interesting jobs and all of a sudden and all of a sudden it was a quarter century later. >> tell our audience the cold war is long past thank goodness. the motivation you felt as a young man isn't present in the same way. what would you say to young people in terms of what would motivate them today to think about a career inpublic service ? >> the struggle for chrissy, particularly in the foreign policy arena the struggle for democracy is still as
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important and clearly as needed today as it was in the mid-1960s so partly there's the idealistic aspect of first of all how can i protect democracy here at home, how can i advanced democracy and human rights abroad . but there is also the other side of it is the opportunity to serve thiscountry and to advance our interests. we've got a lot of divisions today, a lot of polarization even process . but the fact is most people would not choose to live in any other country. and so how do we protect our own interests? how do we protect our own democracy. these are all theidealistic reasons for going into public service . in addition to the more personal aspect of it that is actually just a very gratifying and personally satisfying way to spend part
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of yourlife . >> let's talk about the cia for a minute where you spent so much of your career . how you think the agency has done in holding onto its service egos and in particular mister secretary i have to ask what you felt when you heard president trump and people around him attack the cia as part of a deep state that they were arguing peopleshould be suspicious of . what would you say inresponse to that ? >> -through, i like most career people cia have been through many y ups and downs. the investigations of the mid-1970s, cia has never shall we say great press in this country at least in the last 40 years or so. most people who work for the
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agency are accustomed to those ups and downs andpublic perceptions . the truth is it never hurt our recruiting and but what really mattered was in terms of more out was whether or not what we were doing was valued. and although we would get bad press and although there would be congressional investigations and so on the fact is most found the agency and the work that they did both the analytic work and espionage what was going on around the world as well as the clandestine parts and covert action to be of value and as long as the president thinks what you're doing is important and of value , then some of the external ups and downs really are less important. and to the people who worry about the deep state with the intelligence agencies at the center of it,what's the bob gates answer ?>> the bob
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gates answer is i think part of those organizations for a long time the notion that they could conspire or collaborate with wione another both within a single agency and between one agency and others is laughable on its face. as cia director and then the secretary of defense i heard a lot about conspiracy theories and so on and i always thought it was laughable because first of all no one in washington can keep a secret. if it was actually a conspiracy or sometimes kind of deep state trying to program work plan something the notion that women's league is totally contrary to every experience of the last half a century . either somebody leaks it because they didn't want to be part of it or somebody would think there was a lot of money in being able to write anarticle or a book about it . i think i in fact wish that there were better collaboration and cooperation among the agencies of the
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federal government, particularly those dealing with foreign threats and with domestic threats. the fact is one of thereasons for 9/11 was the absence of such collaboration between domestic and foreign policy agencies . >> i want to ask about questions in the news which are the sort of things people think about when they're considering working for the government and let's start with afghanistan. you were yesecretary of defense for five years of that war and i remember traveling as a journalist with you a bunch s of times to afghanistan. i remember your comments. i want to ask you what you felt in august with the fall of the afghan government and the taliban taking over and are somewhat chaotic retreat. you lived this war as secretary of defense.
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what how did you feel d watching that? >> the particularly the events surrounding the kabul airport left me feeling pretty low. to presidents made the decision elected by the american people and made the decision was time for the united states to leave. we can argue about whether leaving 2500 or 3500 soldiers in kabul or in afghanistan for protracted time might or might not have been the right policy for us to follow but here you have to presidents of different parties that have made this decision. what was unnecessary in my view was the way it turned out. it didn't have to end that way and beginning with president trump's decision or his deal with the thailand in february 2020, the planning for any and evacuation not
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just of the americans but the afghans who had helped us should havebegun). in terms of makingcontact with these people, getting their contact information . perhaps sgetting biometrics on them . getting visas prepared and then figuring out contingency plans where you can have multiple evacuation points so we were limited to the airport in kabul so there was a lot of time where planning should have taken place because it doesn't take great intelligence just plain common sense to understand that if we announce we are leaving altogether and we're taking with us for maintenance, the logistics and so on, all those capabilities that had enabled the afghans military, the notion that there would not be, things would know not go downhill pretty quickly i think is nacve. and whether it took two weeks or two months or a year it
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was pretty clear the direction evans were going to go in afghanistan and we should have prepared for that and we had a lot of time to prepare . >> under two different presidents. a question that very much on our minds this week is russia and russian troops poised on the border of the ukraine. russia was an area of your specialization in as a cia analyst. you know russia as well as anybody. what's your reading of the situation. what do you think putin isup to and you think a russian moving ukraine is likely ? >> i think clinton loves keeping the west and the united states in a state of two point from mel brooks high anxiety. and he loves us not knowing what he's going to do next. he loves us getting all agenda and worrying and
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making lots ofpublic statements about things where it's not clear what we would do even if they did . whether or not they will move into eastern ukraine i think i would be surprised becausei think that have significant consequences. for russia particularly on the economic side . but i know our military is very concerned about the presence of a 100,000 russian soldiers still on the border of eastern ukraine andthe capabilities they have . and the afghan army about half the afghan army is pretty forward deployed about 50,000 people and the ukrainian army i'm sorry and is forward deployed and a pincer movement could do some serious damage there so i think our military is very concerned. if you decide toact , what he would be able to do but i
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think he also sees this as a way of continuing to general nationalism in the ukraine. he points to us and british and other naval activities. the black sea and us helping ukraine and so on. so he uses this at home to try and justify both his repression at home and his behavior towards the west. and whether it's going along with the deletion leader lukashenko with creating problems on theborder , whether it's pressuring the baltic states, he as i said at the outset likes to keep the west in a state of high anxiety aboutwhat he is trying to do . what he has up his sleeve. at the end of the day go he's a classically and we haven't quite figured out how to push
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back on him. and how to make him understand that there are consequences for him as well as for russia. of his aggressive behavior and so i think the worry about the ukraine is justified. the question is whether he actually pulls the trigger and frankly i think a major military move into eastern ukraine, i would say the odds are against that i wouldn't bet a lot of moneyagainst it . >> really helpful again as no one's judgment is more useful than secretary cases. before we returned directly to public service and other issue that young people think aabout that the us relationship with china that president biden this week at a zoom summit with xi
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jinping. i'm curious whether you are worried that china under president xi jinping may move soonerrather than later to try to reunify taiwan . he said he doesn't want to do it by soforce but he is clearl determined to do it . do youthink that's something we could address better than we're doing now ? >> the likelihood of a full-scale invasion of taiwan , the odds of that are pretty low right now. first of all the chinese have a verylimited amphibious capability . they've barely exercised it. this would be an operation on the scale of d-day. there's so many other tools that he has available to him to bring pressure on taiwan that do not involve a high risk of war with either taiwan or the united states or both and by the way da large scale war would very
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likely bring in the japanese, the australians and other countries as well so it wouldn't necessarily just be the united states but he has the cyber capability essentially to cripple taiwan . he has the ability, economic ability to bring pressure to bear because of the extensive economic connections between taiwan and the mainland. he has the ability to bring pressure to bear. if you want to be even more aggressive he could potentially seize one or more small taiwanese islands that are actually quite close to the chinese coast. the united states taiwan i suspect would go to war for those but it would be what i call a nibbling strategy that would send a signal on we are coming. but very low risk of conflict or if you want to be aggressive he could impose some sort of quarantine, a naval quarantine around taiwan and there the united states could break it . in other words it would be the united states putting the conflict by blchallenging
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economic blockade so there are a number of tools short of an upright invasion that he has available to him with the economic pressures that he is beginning to deal with at home with the olympics coming up and so on i think a risking a major war is pretty low on his prioritylist but there are a lot of ways in which he can bring a lot of pressure to bear on taiwan . >> let's go back to our main subject today and that's public service. as you said at the outset mister secretary, it's a time of great polarization in our country. washington is unpopular toput it mildly . so in a sense it's a period when there's a disinclination to come work for the government. you lived through other period's when there was similar turn away from the government after the vietnam
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war. after watergate. we recovered from those. what do you see as a path towards makinggovernment service, making washington more attractive idea for young people . >> i think the message has to start at the top david. the last 10 presidents just to actually encourage young people to go into public service. president kennedy's eninaugural address where he talked about ask not what your country can do for you what you can do for your country. that inspired me and then george hw bush and his consistent message that public service as he put it was a noble calling. most other presidents had actually run against the very government that they will leave so a message from the president that public service is important. that serving your country is
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important and not just inthe military . they often will say that in terms of the rest of the government whether it's the state department, intelligence community, the domestic agencies, law enforcement agencies and so on the message needs to come from the top. the same is true of members of congress. when was the last time you heard a member of congress about the importance of public service and of young people coming to serve their country and their fellow citizens. i think the message needs to start at the top and i would also say that the leaders of various agencies have the opportunity to entice young people to come to work in those agencies by showing that they know these institutions need to change. need to reform. i'm a big advocate of institutions. i talked about that in another interview a wild back . but all government agencies
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need to reform. they are all in need of change and adaptation and becoming more efficient, better serving people and that's a message that can be sent to young people income be part of this process . come help us figure out how to serve the american people that are . and i think that's a message of change and reform that is coming part of that and i think that that's an enticing message rather than as my friend the former secretary of state would put it, come stamp visas for three years. so i think there are opportunities for young people. i think young people bring a lot of fresh ideas and a lot of energy. the sad thing is david, right now only six percent of the federal workforce are under the age of 30.
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nearly half of the workforce is over the age of 50. so something has to be done to change that demographic andour leaders need to , our political leaders need to figure out a way how you make public service and a role in the government more attractive to young people and i think one of the e messages is tthe inspirational message wecan do this better. come be a part of it . >> let me drill down on one thing that i hear from young people when we're talking about this issue and that is that the rules for service can be so stringent. the scrutiny sometimes the humiliation that it's just not attractive to some people so the question i'm curious about is how do you hold servants accountable to do the public's business and still make this an attractive area where people want to serve and think it's fun. don't think they're going to have their lives raked over thecoals .
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>> first of all i think realistically that kind of treatment which i guarantee you i know firsthand really doesn't come along for. >> sometime in your career. i advised young people you know, if that's the kind of ngthing that worries you for the first 10 years of your career you're not going to have to worry about you're going to be doing hard work whether you are in the military or the state department or intelligence community . your going to be focused entirely on doing what it is that you wanted to do when you joined that organization. and the politics that take place outside of that environment really are not going todirectly affect you.
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it will affect you when you read yourwashington post in the morning and it may affect your route about what you're yo doing but in terms of your personal life , until you become a relatively senior person , you're not going in to the newspapers. you'renot going to end up in front of congressional hearing. it would be nice if congress would treat the civil servants who come to testify in front of them , senior civil servants and public servants with a little more respect but i started testifying in front of congress probably 35 years ago and there are some things that just don't change. and you just get used to it and you do have to get something of a thick skin but for young people that's not going to be an issue for them and they don't need to worry about that. what they need to focus on is what can i do to help and the truth is a lot of young people today will come into government and served for five or 10 years then go sodo something else so this will never actually come on to their radar screen and a personal sense. i tell young people don't worry about that. more senior, if you want to be a cabinet officer or a
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subcabinet officer yes, that point in your career you're going to have to face that reality and it is a reality it's not going away. but for most of your career, you're going to be focused on i think doing what you signed up to do in the first place and not have to worry about these extraneous things and frankly in terms of the rules and so on i don't think that there are any more onerous than youwould find in the private sector or a university or anyplace else . >> last question, you famously said in your memoir duty back in 2014 that joe biden had been wrong on nearly every major issue. but i want to ask you you wrote that a while ago. how do you think he's doing as president? what would you say about his performance? >> i would say it's mixed.
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i would applaud his continuation on the emphasis o of the quad in terms of asia's energy, the relationship with anindia, australia and japan. that's very important. the move with australia in terms of the nuclear submarines is a strong long-term strategic plus. i think that was a good decision. i think maintaining the top line on both russia and china has been the right thing to do. i think afghanistan was poorly handled. to put it mildly. the exit from afghanistan, i think that the diplomacy surrounding the australian submarine deal was unfortunate and probably wasn't unforced error that we could have probably done that in a way that didn't offend
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the french so deeply. i think the rhetoric of the administration towards our allies and reinforcing the notion that our alliances matter this is a huge advantage for the united states is important but from the allied standpoint it's also important that your actions match your words and the way the australians some deal was handled, the way the afghan evacuation was handled i think left a lot of our allies feeling like the rhetoric may have changed but the basic policydecisions making hazards. so i think it's a mixed record i think that there , the key one of the key things going forward is going to be the china strategy and getting that out and having it be a comprehensive strategy isn't just military is also economic and focuses on repeated communications and all the other instruments of power.
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>> mister secretary is always great to have a chance to talk to you. get straight answers to questions so thank you for joining us today on washington post live. >> this week on the c-span network congress returns at three eastern with the senate continuing work on the defense authorization bill . once the senate live on c-span2 live on c-span 3v circuit court of appeals hears argument in trump versus thompson concerning the january 5 committee's request for the national archives to release former president trumps call logs and other recordssurrounding the attack . and live coverage of two hearings on the mobile. the senate commerce subcommittee hears from consumer safety advocates on holiday product safety concerns such as counterfeit toys and malfunctioning decorations.
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also treasury secretary janet yellin and federal reserve chair jerome powell testified before the senate banking committee on their agencies use of the funds. they returned to capitolhill wednesday at 10 am eastern to appear before the house financial services committee . will also streamline also wednesday at 10 am on c-span3 the supreme court hears oral arguments in dobbs versus jackson women's health organization, a case on the constitutionality of the mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. watch this week on the c-span networks for watch our free coverage on c-span now and also head over to to stream videolive on demand any time . c-span: your unfiltered view of government.
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>> sunday on in-depth historian and conservative commentator victor davis hanson joins us to talk about war, politics and citizenship in the united states . his book titles include the father of us all: the case for trump and the dying citizen in which hesays the idea of american citizenship and its ideals are disappearing . joining the conversation with your facebook comments for victor davis hanson sunday at noon eastern on in-depth on book tv and before the program visit to get your copies of victor davishanson's book . stay up-to-date on the latest in publishing with tvs no publishing podcast about books. we look at trends and insider interviews aswell as reporting on the latest nonfiction releases and bestsellers . find all of our podcasts on the app or wherever you get
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yourpodcast. you can also watch about books sunday at 7:30 p.m. . for online anytime apple >> you'll hear about the civil rights act, 1964 presidential campaign, the march on selmaand war in vietnam . not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries new. because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and there's. >> you'll also hear blunt talk. >> how are the number of the
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people assigned to kennedy on the day he died and thenumber assigned to me now . if there are mine i want them less. i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't go. i promise i won't go anywhere, i'll stay behind these black gates . >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span mobile appor wherever you get your podcasts . >> every saturday you'll find events and people that explore our nation's past on american history tv and on sunday tv brings you the latest in nonfiction books and authors. it's television for serious readers. learn, discover, explore. weekends on c-span2. >>


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