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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 16, 2014 11:30pm-12:01am EDT

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. good evening from los angeles, tonight, a conversation with retired four-star general wesley clark, he was with the joints chief of staffs and the supreme allied commander and commander in chief during the kosovo war, his latest book is "with don't wait for the next war," which is a compelling argument for new american leadership, but not necessarily military action. we are glad you are joining us with general wesley clark, coming up right now. ♪ ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station and viewers like here we go. retired four-star general wesley clark has seen war first hand. he has been as supreme allied commander and commander in chief during the kosovo war. he has written his fifth book, it's called "don't wait for the next war," as always, good to have you on the program. >> thank you, very much tavis.
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>> before i get in to the text, the book requires unpacking. when you say, as a title, don't way for the next war. you know where i'm going, right? it suggests to my mind that war has become so much of a part of our world and our way, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, you have a general, wesley clark saying, don't wait until the next one, as if to say, there's another one coming. >> that is not really what i wanted on say by the title. it's wiabout the fact that americans go their own way. we have a hard time thinking strategic in this country. we don't have a really strong president by constitution. it's checks and balances and separation of powers and so,=$ it's not like our president can sort of set out a direction and everybody lines up like maybe a
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monarch would or something. and so the result is, americans typically, they don't come together unless there's a war. and what i'm saying in this book is there's issues out there that are so powerfully impacting us now we have to deal with them with more unity. we can't continue the disruptive politics. we have to come together ask a country, we can't wait until a next war to do it. >> i'm not suggesting that you are declaring that there's going to be another war. i guess what i'm getting at is maybe -- that war is a way of life these days, given the world that we live in and the terrorism that we are with up against. is that a conclusion that we can. it not something that i want to acknowledge to myself, but is that something that we need to coeç:zuz terms with? >> we have five long-term challenges, one of them is
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security of the financial system, assent of china and climate change. we have to work on a that on a continuing basis. we have to use military forces against terrorist, like with we are against isis, may have to do more against isis is, we have to get a grip on cybersecurity in this country. and by the way, you know, the stock market has been acting kind of crazy lately. and it reminds us that the financial crisis even though it happened in wou ed -- happened e never really quite recovered from it and we don't know how stable the financial system is, but we know the federal reserve has for debt and that means less dry powder to handle the next problem. and then there's china, every year, china gets bigger and armed forces get better. they have drawn a nine-dash line in the south china is sea that takes up ocean that belongs to other countries. it almost touches the borders of the other countries.
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it's what happened to our law of the sea, we are supposed on have the seabed, just off shore and and chie na has taken it. most of the problems cannot be resolved by the military. we have to go a long way beyond that. >> i have the full show with you, we will get to that in a moment. i want to finish unpacking the title. it suggests american leadership and global growth. what do you mean in this economy, in this world, american growth and then come to the leadership question? >> i mean, we have to get the economy growing, so it grows faster and the distribution of income is more equitable. we have to be create cing jobs peep. not part time jobs. real jobs. and we have not been doing that in this economy. >> and then, finally when you
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say global leadership, what does a that mean and how do we achieve in this world, global leadership without one having to be the world's policeman as some may put it or number two, doing it with a arrogance because we are the american empire? >> i don't mean that we are the only global leaders, but the structure that we have now, all of it came out of the u.s. led victory against theñp enemies i world war ii and we defended it during the cold war and russia and china, who when they were communist adversaries, they were not participating with us. but they are participating now. we are trading oil and so forth, all those things are -- they rest on the foundation of the structure of the global world. we know that if if you buy
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something, the money gets transferred and paid for and so forth. all of that has to be protected. and we want to make sure that we are able to do it. so, that's what i mean by global leadership. trying to keep the structure, what the architecture of the modern world in place. >> i want to go back to sh something you said earlier in the conversation and then well go right inside the book to what the strategies are. you said earlier and i take your point and i think you are right, obviously. that we are not a monarch and that we don't necessarily have the strongest system that gives all the power to the president. and that's a good thing. i'm glad we have the approximate balance of power. the separation of power pas in washington. and yet, the white house has a unique way of pulling power toist side of the equation and every president of course tries to grab more power. >> right, right. >> for the next president. and one of the things to my mind that we have not debated and it happened on your watch, while you were still serving.
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was the so-called bush doctrinì& that said, if we think you are going to hit us, we hit you first. that was put in existence by president bush and vice president cheney, there's been debate about it, it has not been debated in congress or among the american people. that again, got put in existence. this notion of a doctrine. president approximates are n -- presidents are not all powerful. but they have a an impact. how do you feel about us operating under that theory, notion and strategy and it has not been debated in the ameriam public? >> it's caused us problems. take libya. we were suddenly bombing stu is libya and they said that we were not intending us to do that. we took the security council and
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pushed it hard. when you bloef there's a unique right you have as americans to see the world the way you want to do it, then, other people start to get nervous about that. so, we have to be a little more careful in our foreign policy. i know that we said we were not going to wait and be struck by terrorists. you know, before president obama could do that military action he is doing now against isis, in syria, he had to make sure that was within the context of the law congress had a chance+w to vote on that and congress chose not to vote on it and they went along with it. so i think it's important that not only the president will of course try to have more power. because he is trying to solve problems, but the congress has to take responsibility and in this case, they did not want to. >> since you raised that a few times, what do you make of the way that this president is dealing tdeal ing at the moment with isis? >> we have not seen the full
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lay-out of what is going on behind the
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isis. they will say, we are fighting the infadels and the americans. they will have more recruits and we will make them stronger. it's like putting gasoline on a fire. i'm behind the president's effort to keep americans ground troops out. here's the trick. we are focused right now on iraq. we haven't yet come to steyria d syria is difficult, why? couple of reasons, turkey is a nato member. if turkey gets attacked we have to help defend turkey. and russia is helping assad, president doesn't feel that assad is legitimate. when you go against him and put the power in against them, what if russia a said is, no, we are supporting him. are we going to take out russian anti-aircraft systems? what if they have russian technicians in there. what if the russians reenpors it. so suh have to be prepare dodd this. if you involve turkey in it,
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then what the if turkey, you know, is bored by iran. i ran is an ally of syria, what if iran says to turkey. since you are trying to mess with syria, we are going to cause trouble for you inside turkey with the pkk. you could have a lot of complicating fact toors in theri think they are trying to sort through it now, what i would like to he see us do, i would like to see us remember, to win, youo destroying isis, assad will take back the country. we don't want that.
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so what is the alternative? we have not been inviting the syrian opposition to participate in the meetings. so, we say we are all interested in states we are not interested in groups like the moderate syrian opposition, if it's not them, who is it? if it's not us, we are not going make seyria the 51st state. it has to be the local people, but who? >> i asked a question and you deserved a question to answer it. you said so much i want to go back and get now. in no particular order, number i heard you talk about the moderates. stieps we end up backing remember hes and we don't know who the heck we are backing in the first place, do we know who we are backing in syria? >> that's the problem. when the rebellion started it was not politically coherent. it was not like a powerful
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leader that said, everyone wants hip. throw out the other guy. it was a buchb of different local groups. all of whom decided around the same time that they were sick of assad, so they had no unity or political mandate, they had nothing that they were aiming for. some of them said no we want western law, and others wnt democracy and others wanted something else. so the moderate syrian opposition came on top of that. and afterwards, and it has had a hard time reaching out to the groups of fighter and try to bring them under control much they are fighting, but what are they fighting for. that's what is not clear. now the top of it, we know those people and pretty much with we know what they stand for. but we don't know if they are competent. because they have not done it. when i met with them, i met with them a couple of times. i said you need to be on the ground in syria. stop running around in paris and
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asking us a as americans to bomb for you, you get in there. it's your country. they have not done that yet. they need to do that. if they did that, we might have more confidence in them. >>? back up to the points that you made and back to where you began. the point prior to that was you're raising this issue of russia and to my mind, ukraine, i want to ask you, how serious, we are talking about isis for the last couple of minutes here. how serious and connect or dis connect do you see the challenges for lack of a better word that4c ukraine or%c% being presented inside of ukraine? >> it's very serious and i will tell you why, for the united states to be a global leader, we have to have a very tight relationship with europe. and we have held that relationship since the 19 -- since is 1949, when we established the north atlantic treaty organization. nato is the bond. it's a security bond. ukraine is not a member of the
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nato. but their members are a member of nato. when they see putin saying he wants to cop in and protect russian people to come in there. and using mill tear i force and sneaking in these sniper and other things to take those buildings and he created all this. europeans, they have been around the block a up couple of times. they have seen this movie before. they know and they go back, you know, in history and they say, well, this is kind of, sounds a lot like hitler. this is where hitler got started. he got started by he is very cautious. circumspect, built up the army and wanted to protect the german speaking people in france, and then next thing, appetite got bigger. people are worried about what it means for the rest of europe. putin has been threatening the baltic states and and casually mentioned nuclear weapons.
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well that is a total no-go. >> to those that think, to those that think they just heard you, if ever so subtly compare, putin hitler, what do you say? >> hitler, that's a strong -- >> let's not find out. we don't know what he may become. we don't know if he will try to take a country next. he has set the process in motion where he could. they are both members of nato. and if he moves against them, that is a declaration of war against nato that involves the united states and we would be at war. so this is a very serious case. the administration has tried to, tried to handle it without gvolving directly the u.s. military. but the europeans look at it and
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they say, does the administration really, are they really committed to defend europe through nato? president obama made a strong speech at the nato summit in wales can and visited astonia, it was well received, but still the europeans, they have had a long experiencea russia's there a and america is over here and they are nervous. >> to even subtly, even subtly put putin and hitler in the same sentence, raises not only the question i just asked a moment ago, were you making a direct comparison, it raises a second question, if we think it could be possible and we don't know what it is, and to your point, we don't want to find out, what responsibility does it put on you us then to handle this situation, that is with putin, differently than we have been handling it. one of the smujs, one of the black marks on our record as americans is that we didn't move fast enough when hitler started
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his nonsense. and the record indicates that. not just us, a lot of countries did did not do what they should have done it when they could have done it to save lives. what then does that do -- what then -- what responsibility does it put on us to respond differently than we have? does that make sense? >> it's a great question. the answer is we have a responsibility through nato and if we believe in the world we believe in, we have to make sure that putin does not get the wrong idea. we cannot say, we are too busy in the middle east and you handle europe how you want. absolutely not. >> we have not been tough enough as of yet? >> it's not clear. there's a>y cease fire that is the process of being negotiated, the negotiations are not finished. the ukrainians do not have the ability to stand up to russia a mill tearily. we have not helped them
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militarily either, and they are running all over trying to buy stuff, and nobody will sell it to them because they are saying why isn't america helping? and the president has elections on coming up the week after next and he is concerned who is going to be in the parliament, because he does not have a par liament behind him, he does not have the strength and reinforcements that if everything falls apart in the cease fire that he can hold his own. >> last five minutes i want to talk about the book and talk about solving the mess that he we have been talking about for the last 30 minutes t other question that you raised and i want to get to, was your statement that president obama has said, that he doesn't want to use ground troops in the fight against isis, he didn't just say he didn't want to, my ears heard him say he is not going to put ground troops in this fight, in harm's way. saying i'm not wanting to and
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not going to are two different things. because he said he is not going to. there's another side that other voices believe that the president is not going to be honor that for too much longer how do you feel if he can honor his statement to not use ground troops? >> i think he can honor that. i hope he can honor that. when you make statements that are too big, it's difficult. it's not a can handle. it's a evolving circumstance. i was looking at the situation around the baghdad airport and you have to ask yourself, okay, general dempsey said in his recently he does not see us losing baghdad airport because the iraqis are at good strength. good, i hope that is right. let's think for a second and i would not do it if i were in office, let's say it starts to crumble and we are in danger of
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losie airport. you have 5,000 or so americans in baghdad, you have the embassy and military reviadvisers, what you say? we are driving to tehran and we are going to ask the iranians to fly us out. or go to basra and evacuate by ship. and have a convoy people fleeing 200 miles long. or do you call for he close air support, and would you do what you is have to do to hang on to the airport n that case, i probably would do what i had to do to hang on to the airport. that's why i say, i know he doesn't want to, but he wants to, he knows it's not, you can't win with u.s. ground troops. you may have to avoide0 losing.
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>> i have been backing up in this conversation. and giving the first answer that you gave and all the points i want to follow-up on. with that notion, you raised that we do not live under a monarchy, we live in a democracy. how do we create a strategy for american growth and global leadership? >> first of all, we have to have people talking about a strategy. so you have to stop the lurch from crisis to crisis, to crisis, of course, the news organization, and tavis, there's a sign on this building that says digital media. i cannot exclude you on that. but news organizations thrive on what's the latest thing. that is what drives the news media. but a country can't drive its policy that way. so somehow in our election process and talking to people, we have to keep in mind, what's
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the big picture. where are we going? and i wrote this book in an effort to take a crack at the big picture and try to offer a frame work in which every little headline and every crisis you could sort of plug it in and see where it fits. what we have to do in america, we have to rebuild the economy, we have to create good jobs for people. we have to make sure that america's middle class is strong and growing. not hurt and today. and if we do that, and we keep our university systems alive, keep our national security strong and we will be the global leaders, if we don't, if we let it slide away. then the world will not look like we want it to 30 or 40 years from now. >> the book from general wesley clark is "don't wait for the next war a strategy for american growth and global leadership." general clark, an honor to have
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you and share your insights. >> thank you. >> thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. ♪ for information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at >> join me next time for a conversation with aerosmith's guitarist, joe perry, that is next time. we will see you then.
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and by contributions toí your s station, and by viewers like you, thank you. be more, pbs.
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>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with the economy and martin wolf of "the financial times". his book is called the shifts and the shocks: what we've learned and still have to learn from the financial crisis. >> i think we were blinded by ideology. and i was part of this, in an important way. and so partly the book is my recognition of what i got right and what i got wrong. the macroeconomic side, the stress has been created by rising leverage, rising is capital flows into the u.s., being wasted in housing. that was clear. but i think we came to the view which widely shared by economists, not all, but by economists, by policymakers, in the finance ministries and central banks, that


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