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Barnes and... A Conversation with David Sanger

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HELLO, EVERYONE. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR JOINING US. DAVID SANGER JOINED THE STAFF OF THE NEW YORK TIMES SHORTLY AFTER GRADUATING HARVARD UNIVERSITY, AND IN THE QUARTER CENTURY SINCE HAS SPECIALIZED IN NATIONAL AND GLOBAL SECURITY ISSUES, MILITARY AND ECONOMIC, AND WITH THE NEW ADMINISTRATION TAKING OFFICE, DAVID SANGER HAS PREPARED A NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE FOR THE GENERAL READER. IT IS CALLED THE INHERITANCE, AND AS WE GO TO PRESS, SO TO SPEAK, IT'S NOW IN ITS THIRD PRINTING. DAVID SANGER, THANKS VERY MUCH FOR MAKING AVAILABLE THIS TIME.

THANKS. WONDERFUL TO BE HERE.

AND THANKS TO THE CLINTON LIBRARY, BY THE WAY, WHERE YOU ARE LECTURING, FOR MAKING AVAILABLE THIS SPACE TO US. IT IS A FRIGHTENING INHERITANCE.

IT'S A BIG INHERITANCE, AND IT'S A COMPLEX WORLD AND A LOT MORE COMPLEX THAN THE ONE THAT GEORGE BUSH TOOK OVER FROM BILL CLINTON IN 2001.

THE PERILS ARE SO MULTIPLE AND SO PROFOUND THAT ONE SCARCELY KNOWS HOW TO BEGIN. BUT IN THE TEXT YOU SEEM TO ARGUE -- OR ARGUE THAT MUCH OF IT, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, HAS AT ITS CORE THE WAR IN IRAQ.

IT DOES, NOT THAT IRAQ CAUSED ALL THESE PROBLEMS. MANY OF THE PROBLEMS I DISCUSS IN THE BOOK -- AND MOST OF THEM ARE NATIONAL SECURITY PROBLEMS THAT RANGE FROM IRAN TO NORTH KOREA TO LIES OF CHINA TO, OF COURSE, DEALING WITH AFGHANISTAN AND PACK CAN I STAND. ALL OF -- PACK STAN. ALL OF THEM -- PAKISTAN. ALL HAD ROOTS, OF COURSE, LONG BEFORE IRAQ, LONG BEFORE BUSH WAS PRESIDENT. BUT THE CENTRAL ARGUMENT OF THE BOOK, STEVE, IS OF THE MANY CAUSES OF i -- MANY COSTS OF IRAQ -- IT WAS A WAR THAT CAUSED 4,000 AMERICAN LIVES, GRIEVOUS INJURIES TO THOUSANDS MORE, $800 BILLION, PRICE TAG IS STILL CLIMBING, BUT THE BIGGEST COST IS THE ONE THAT WE LEAST DISCUSS, WHICH WAS AN OPPORTUNITY COST. IT WAS AN OPPORTUNITY COST BECAUSE WE FAILED TO FACE MUCH BIGGER THREATS THAN SADDAM HUSSEIN COULD HAVE EVER POSED TO US. AND WE FAILED TO EXPLOIT MANY BIG OPPORTUNITIES, CHINA, INDIA, MANY OTHERS, THAT WE HAD SITTING IN FRONT OF US, BUT WE SIMPLY COULDN'T FOCUS ON THEM BECAUSE THE ATTENTION OF THE TOP LEADERSHIP OF THE UNITED STATES WAS FOCUSED ON A WAR THAT THEY THOUGHT WOULD LAST SIX MONTHS AND IT, IN FACT, LASTED MORE THAN FIVE YEARS AND WAS CONTINUING AS PRESIDENT BUSH LEFT.

WE HAVE -- AS YOU MENTIONED, UNDER THE RUBRIC OF, I GUESS, THE MIDDLE EAST -- WELL, THE MIDDLE EAST, THE NEAR EAST, THE FAR EAST, CHINA, WHAT TO MAKE OF RUSSIA. IS THERE A PRIORITY FOR THIS NEW ADMINISTRATION?

THERE ARE SOME PRIORITIES THAT ARE GOING TO BE FOISTED ON THEM.

[OFF MICROPHONE]

RIGHT, IN ALMOST ALL RESPECTS. THE FIRST PRIORITY, OF COURSE, IS THE NATIONAL ECONOMY. NOT ONLY BECAUSE IT'S THE BIGGEST ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL CRISIS THAT ONE COULD IMAGINE A NEW PRESIDENT FACING, BUT BECAUSE IT GOES TO THE CORE OF OUR NATIONAL STRENGTH. YOU CAN'T BE A STRONG NATION ABROAD IF YOU ARE WEAK AT HOME. IF YOU ARE PERCEIVED TO BE WEAK AT HOME. YOU KNOW, YOU THINK BACK TO ALL THE COMPARISONS THAT WE HAVE BEEN MAKING TO 1933 IN RECENT TIMES, THE GREAT DEPRESSION WHEN UNEMPLOYMENT WAS FAR HIGHER THAN IT IS TODAY, WITH 25%, WHEN FDR CAME IN. BUT YOU ALSO HAVE TO THINK ABOUT HOW THE WORLD WAS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL AT THAT TIME, IN PART BECAUSE IT WAS A PERCENTAGE OF GREAT WEAKNESS IN AMERICA AND THE WEST. IN THE CASE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA, THOUGH, THERE ARE A SERIES OF OTHER PROBLEMS THAT THEY'RE FACING THAT ARE PART OF THE INHERITANCE ON WHICH THE CLOCK IS TICKING. LET ME JUST START WITH ONE, IRAN. AS PRESIDENT OBAMA TOOK OFFICE, IRAN ALREADY HAD THE TOOL TO PRODUCE IF THEY DECIDED TO DO NUCLEAR ENRICHMENT. YOU DON'T GO OFF AND BECOME A NUCLEAR POWER WITH FUEL FOR JUST ONE NUCLEAR WEAPON. BUT THEY WERE RAMPING UP AT SUCH A SPEED THAT YOU CAN IMAGINE THAT WITHIN A YEAR OR TWO, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO DO WHAT THE NORTH KOREANS DID A FEW YEARS AGO DURING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION, WHICH WAS BREAK OUT OF THE NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION TREATY, CONDUCT A NUCLEAR TEST, DECLARE THEMSELVES A NUCLEAR POWER, SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED IN THE EXACT WEEKS AND MONTHS THAT WE WERE GOING INTO IRAQ. SO ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES OF PRESIDENT OBAMA IS GOING TO BE STOPPING IRON FROM BEING A REPEAT OF THE NORTH KOREA FIASCO.

HOW TO DO IT.

WELL, A COUPLE OF POSSIBILITIES. THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION WENT THROUGH A FEW DIFFERENT ITERATIONS. FIRST --

LET ME BACK UP. IT'S POSSIBLE, DAVID, FOR HIM TO DO THIS? YOU THINK IT'S REALISTIC?

I THINK THE CHANCES AT THIS POINT ARE VERY SLIM OF STOPPING IRAN FROM BEING A NUCLEAR-CAPABLE NATION, IN OTHER WORDS, BEING ABLE TO SAY WE CAN BUILD A BOMB AT ANY MOMENT. THERE MAY BE A BETTER CHANCE OF KEEPING THEM FROM ACTUALLY BUILDING A WEAPON. THE DISTINCTION THESE DAYS IS A PRETTY SMALL ONE. BUT JUST TO TAKE YOU TO ONE OF THE BIG PIECES OF NEWS THAT'S IN THE BOOK AND SORT OF ILLUSTRATES THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM AND PERHAPS WHERE WE'RE HEADED ON THIS, IN THE SPRING OF 2008, LESS THAN A YEAR AGO, THE ISRAELIS CAME TO PRESIDENT BUSH SEEKING [INAUDIBLE] BOMBS, REFUELING CAPABILITY FOR THEIR BOMBERS, AND PERMISSION TO OVERFLY IRAQ TO HIT NATOMS, WHICH IS THE MAJOR NUCLEAR ENRICHMENT SITE IN IRAN. CURIOUSLY, THE PRESIDENT WHO MADE PREEMPTION A DOCTRINE, THE PRESIDENT WHO SAID HE WOULD NEVER ALLOW IRAN TO BECOME A NUCLEAR POWER, TURNED THE ISRAELIS DOWN, AND HE DID IT BY SAYING, LOOK, WE HAVE JUST STARTED UP A MAJOR COVERT PROGRAM THAT WE MOPE WILL ACHIEVE THE SAME ENDS OF STOPPING THE IRANIANS FROM GETTING A WEAPON, AT LEAST OUT OF THE NATOM FACILITY. AND THE ISRAELIS BACKED DOWN. BUT YOU KNOW THAT THEY ARE COMING BACK TO PRESIDENT OBAMA. I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S THREE MONTHS FROM NOW, SIX MONTHS FROM NOW, A YEAR FROM NOW. THEY'RE GOING TO BE BACK, AND PRESIDENT OBAMA IS GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE SOME BIG DECISIONS. HE HAS ALREADY PROMISED TO ENGAGE THE IRANIANS IN A WAY THAT PRESIDENT BUSH NEVER DID. WHETHER HE DECIDES TO CONTINUE THE COVERT PROGRAM, WHETHER HE DECIDES AT SOME POINT THAT HE CAN'T STOP THE ISRAELIS FROM TAKING MILITARY ACTION, THAT WILL BE ONE OF THE BIG DECISIONS OF HIS EARLY PRESIDENCY.

THE DISTRACTION, IF YOU WILL, OF THE WAR IN IRAQ, NOT NECESSARILY THE WAR ON TERROR, BUT THE ACTUAL GROUND GAME IN IRAQ, THE HOSTILITIES AND WHATNOT, SUCTIONED, VACUUMED ALL THE AVAILABLE RESOURCES -- YOU WRITE -- AWAY FROM AFGHANISTAN, WHICH IS ACTUALLY WHERE THE 9/11 ATTACKS WERE CONCEIVED AND PLANNED AND WHERE, PERHAPS, THE FOCUS ON THE WAR ON TERROR SHOULD BE. IS THERE NOT -- HOW CONCERNED ARE YOU THAT AFGHANISTAN COULD SIMPLY BE IRAQ WRIT DIFFERENTLY IN TERMS OF --

WRIT DIFFERENT AND WRIT LARGER. AND PERHAPS NOT WITH AS GOOD AN OUTCOME. LOOK, WE WERE -- NOBODY EVER WINS IN AFGHANISTAN, BUT WE WERE DOING AS GOOD A JOB AT WINNING IN THE MONTH AFTER PRESIDENT BUSH ORDERED THE OUSTER OF THE TALIBAN AT THE END OF 2001 AS WE COULD GET. WE HAD, WITH A VERY SMALL FORCE OF CIA OFFICERS WHO HAD ENLISTED A MUCH LARGER FORCE, THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE, TO COME IN AND BEGIN TO RETAKE THE COUNTRY. THEY DROVE THE TALIBAN OUT. BUT THEY DIDN'T RETAKE THE TALIBAN. THEY JUST PUSHED THEM 50 OR A HUNDRED MILES EAST OVER THE PAKISTANI BORDER. AND THERE WAS THIS ENORMOUS MOMENT OF [INAUDIBLE] IN THE BUSH WHITE HOUSE AFTER THIS HAPPENED, MID-2002, WHEN THEY THOUGHT, YOU KNOW, WE CAME BACK FROM 9/11, AND WE TAUGHT THOSE GUYS. WHEN THEY NEEDED THEIR BIG TROOP PRESENCE WASN'T IN PUSHING THE TALIBAN OUT. THEY NEEDED IT IN SECURING AFGHANISTAN. AND PRESIDENT BUSH GAVE A FASCINATING SPEECH DOWN AT THE VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE IN MARCH OF 2002. HE CHOSE VMI BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE GEORGE MARSHAL -- OF COURSE, SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER TRUMAN AND, OF COURSE, HAD BEEN THE COMMANDER FOR EUROPE -- I'M SORRY -- THE COMMANDER IN THE U.S. DURING WORLD WAR II.

CHIEF OF STAFF.

CHIEF OF STAFF. HE HAD DESIGNED WHAT BECAME KNOWN AS THE MARSHAL PLAN FOR EUROPE, WHICH HELPED REBUILD GERMNEY, THE REST OF EUROPE. PRESIDENT BUSH WENT DOWN TO VMI, AND STANDING AROUND ALL THIS MARSHALL PARAPHERNALIA, SAID WE WERE GOING TO DO THE NEW MARSHALL PLAN, AND WE ARE GOING TO DO IT FOR AFGHANISTAN. IT WAS A GREAT SPEECH. NOBODY IN THE U.S. PAID ATTENTION. WE WERE STILL IN SORT OF POST-9/11 SHOCK. EVERYONE IN AFGHANISTAN PAID ATTENTION. THEY WERE SORT OF LOOKING UP IN THE SKY WAITING FOR THOSE BIG CARGO PLANES TO LAND. , THEY NEVER LANDED. THERE WAS NO PLAN BEHIND THE SPEECH. IT WAS AN EXTENDED SOUND BITE. AND OVER TIME, AS THE PLANS DEVELOPED TO GO AFTER IRAQ, WHETHER YOU THINK THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA OR A BAD IDEA OR A GOOD IDEA BADLY EXECUTED, WHAT IT RESULTED IN WAS THAT WE TOOK OUR EYE OFF THE BALL AND MOVED RESOURCES OUT. NOW, UNTIL A YEAR AGO, AS I WAS REPORTING THIS BOOK, MANY PEOPLE IN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION DENIED THAT THEY HAD EVER LET AFGHANISTAN DEFEAT IRAQ. BUT AS I WENT OFF AND DID THE INTERVIEWS, INTERVIEWED ALL THE AMERICAN AMBASSADORS TO AFGHANISTAN, ALL OF THE AMERICAN COMMANDERS IN AFGHANISTAN, JUST ABOUT ALL OF THE SENIOR CIA OFFICERS WHO HAD SERVED THERE, THEY ALL TOLD VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY, THAT THEY LOOKED AROUND FOR THE RESOURCES THAT THEY NEEDED OR WERE PROMISED, AND THEY WERE GOING TO IRAQ. AND THEN THE WAR IN IRAQ BECOMES A MUCH BIGGER DEAL, SUCKS MORE RESOURCES, AND THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW, THE TALIBAN IS BACK.

YEAH, AND WHO IS WATCHING KOREA DURING ALL THIS TIME, AND FRANKLY, WHO IS WATCHING CHINA, DOING BUSINESS WITH CHINA --

TWO DIFFERENT PROBLEMS. KOREA IS A REALLY INTERESTING ONE BECAUSE, AS I ALLUDED TO BEFORE, THEY LITERALLY MOVED THE FUEL THAT HAD BEEN UNDER INSPECTION SINCE AN AGREEMENT WITH THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION IN 1994, THEY LITERALLY MOVED THAT OUT UNDER FULL VIEW OF OUR SATELLITES ALL FOR REPROCESSING INTO WEAPONS FUEL IN JANUARY, FEBRUARY, AND MARCH OF 2003, AS WE WERE GOING INTO IRAQ. AND I WAS WRITING FRONT-PAGE STORIES IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ABOUT THIS. AND WE STARTED GETTING COMPLAINTS FROM THE BUSH WHITE HOUSE. DAVID, YOU'RE ON THE WRONG STORY. DAVID, THE STORY IS IN IRAQ. SADDAM HUSSEIN AND HIS POTENTIAL FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS IS THE BIGGER PROBLEM. HE LIVES IN A WORSE NEIGHBORHOOD, CONDOLEEZZA RICE SAID TO ME. WELL, HE MAY HAVE LIVED IN A WORSE NEIGHBORHOOD, BUT IT TURNED OUT HE DIDN'T HAVE THE WEAPON. AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION SPENT THE NEXT SIX YEARS TRYING TO TALK THE NORTH KOREANS OUT OF WHAT THEY HAD GATHERED IN THOSE THREE MONTHS WHILE WE WERE ELSEWHERE. YOU KNOW, DURING THE REPORTING ON THE BOOK, STEVE, I WENT BACK AND DID A NUMBER OF INTERVIEWS. BUSH ADMINISTRATION ACTUALLY ALLOWED ME IN TO TALK TO A FAIR NUMBER OF PEOPLE EXCEPT THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF, AND I REMINDED ONE OF THE PRESIDENT SENIOR ADVISORS OF THIS INCIDENT WITH THE NORTH KOREANS. HE LOOKED AT ME AND SAID, DAVID, REMIND ME WHEN THIS WAS? GEE, IT WAS JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH OF 2003. WE WERE A LITTLE BUSY THEN. WHICH, OF COURSE, IS THE POINT.

LET ME -- YOU ARE -- FAIR TO SAY -- PRETTY TOUGH ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION. I'M NOT SAYING WITHOUT -- BUT YOU WRITE MR. BUSH ENTERED OFFICE -- QUOTING FROM YOUR -- MR. BUSH ENTERED OFFICE WITH MUCH CERTITUDE BUT LITTLE COMPLICE, ACCOMPANIED BY ADVISORS WHO VIEWED DISAGREEMENT AS A FORM OF IGNORANCE AND BETRAYAL. CERTITUDE BUT NO COMPLICE. FORTITUDE WAS NOT THOUGHT TO BE HIS STRONG SUIT WHEN HE CAME TO OFFICE, BUT SOME PEOPLE WERE COMFORTED BY THE FACT THAT HE HAD THE OLD SORT OF LONG IN THE TOOTH, SOME GRAY BEARDS THAT CAME WITH HIM.

THAT'S RIGHT. HE HAD DICK CHANEY, WHO HAD BEEN SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, HAD BEEN CHIEF OF STAFF IN THE WHITE HOUSE, HAD BEEN IN CONGRESS, HAD BEEN AROUND FOREVER. HE HAD DONALD RUMSFELD, WHO HAD BEEN SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ONCE BEFORE DURING GERALD FORD'S TIME. HE HAD CONDOLEEZZA RICE WHO HAD BEEN IN THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER PRESIDENT BUSH'S FATHER. THESE WERE NOT INEXPERIENCED PEOPLE. IT'S WORTH REMEMBERING WITH THE OBAMA TEAM, AS THEY HAVE BROUGHT IN MANY FROM THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE SAYING WELL, YOU KNOW, WE'RE BUYING A LOT OF EXPERIENCE -- WELL, THEY WERE BUYING A LOT OF EXPERIENCE, BUT EXPERIENCE ALONE DIDN'T KEEP THEM OUT OF RUNNING OFF OF A FAIR NUMBER OF CLIFFS HERE. AND IT COMES OUT OF THAT ISSUE OF CERTITUDE. THE THEORY OF THE IRAQ WAR, STEVE, WAS IF WE WENT IN AND KNOCKED OVER A VERY HORRIBLE DICTATOR -- AND I'M NOT HERE TO ARGUE FOR A MOMENT THAT HE WASN'T A VERY BAD PERSON -- THAT IF WE DID THAT, THE NORTH KOREANS, THE IRANIANS, OTHERS WOULD SOONER OR LATER LOOK AT IT AND SAY DO YOU GUYS HAVE A PO BOX WE CAN MAIL IN OUR WEAPONS TO? BECAUSE WE SAW WHAT HAPPENED TO SADDAM, AND FRANKLY, WE DON'T WANT TO BE NEXT. ONE COUNTRY DID THAT, LIBYA, WITH HAD ITS OWN -- OWN SET OF MOTIVES. THE IRANIANS, THE NORTH KOREANS, THEY TOOK A DIFFERENT LESSON FROM IT. THEIR LESSON WAS SADDAM HUSSEIN'S BIG MISTAKE WAS HE DIDN'T HAVE ANY NUCLEAR WEAPONS BEFORE HE MESSED WITH THE UNITED STATES, AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE THAT MISTAKE. AND THE CHINESE LOOKED AT IT, THEY TOOK AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT LESSON. THE CHINESE I THINK TODAY PROBABLY VIEW THEMSELVES AS THE GREAT VICTOR OF THE IRAQ WAR BECAUSE THIS GROUP AROUND PRESIDENT BUSH HAD COME IN REALLY WITH CHINA IN THEIR SIGHTS. THEY THOUGHT WE HAVE TO CONTAIN THIS RISING POWER, MILITARILY, ECONOMICALLY. AND THEN WE GO OFF AND DISTRACT OURSELVES IN IRAQ, AND WE LEFT THE FIELD OPEN FOR THE CHINESE. YOU WENT TO CHINA, THEY WEREN'T TALKING ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR. THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THE EXCLUSIVE DEALS THEY WERE SIGNING UP WITH LATIN AMERICA AND AFRICA. THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THEIR SPREAD OF INFLUENCE AROUND ASIA. AND THEY WERE LOOKING AROUND AT US, AND THEY WERE ASTOUNDED TO SEE WE WEREN'T EVEN FIELDING A TEAM. THEY COULDN'T BELIEVE IT.

IN AN OVERALL, I THINK, FAVORABLE REVIEW OF MR. KAPLAN IN THE TIMES SEEMS TO TAKE A TINY BIT OF ISSUE WHEN HE WROTE THAT BASICALLY THE BOOK FOREIGN POLICY, WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, WHETHER WE HAVE KNOWLEDGE OF IT OR NOT, WAS MORE THAN WE WISH TO ADMIT A KIND OF CONTINUUM OF AMERICAN POLICY. WOULD YOU TAKE ISSUE WITH THAT? IN THE SENSE THAT MR. KAPLAN SEEMS TO BE SAYING HE SEES THE UNITED STATES THAT IT CONTINUES TO BE JUST LUMBERING ALONG, PROPPING UP ONE MORONIC THUG AFTER ANOTHER. TEMPORARILY USEFUL.

THE WAY I READ MR. KAPLAN'S REVIEW WAS THAT BARACK OBAMA WOULD BE HIGHLY CONSTRAINED BY MANY OF THE CHOICES THAT GEORGE BUSH MADE, AND I MADE THAT ARGUMENT MYSELF IN THE EPILOGUE OF THIS BOOK. A LOT OF THE THINGS THAT PRESIDENT BUSH DID ARE NOT GOING TO BE EASY TO UNWIND. AND SON-IN-LAW OF THEM YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO UNWIND. AND WHILE THE BOOK IS, I THINK, OVERALL HIGHLY CRITICAL, IT ALSO IS VERY COMPLIMENTARY OF PRESIDENT BUSH FOR HIS WORK ON AIDS, HIS WORK IN AFRICA, THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE ACCOUNTS, WHICH WAS A FORM OF FOREIGN AID THAT REQUIRED THAT COUNTRIES MEET A CERTAIN SET OF STANDARDS BEFORE THEY GET ACCESS TO MORE PRIVATE CAPITAL. BUT MANY --

SIX PARTY TALKS.

THE PARTY TALKS, WHICH WERE THE CORE OF DEALING WITH NORTH KOREA, WHICH PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS SAID ALREADY HE'S GOING TO CONTINUE. AND LOOK, I WAS AN EARLY SKEPTIC. I'M SOMEBODY WHO, YOU KNOW, HAD GROWN UP AS A FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT IN ASIA, I DIDN'T BELIEVE YOU COULD GET SOUTH KOREA, JAPAN, TWO COUNTRIES THAT ARE OFTEN AT EACH OTHER'S THROATS, THE CHINESE, THE RUSSIANS, TO ALL SIT DOWN AND DEAL WITH NORTH KOREA. PRESIDENT BUSH DID IT. BUT WHAT HE'S LEFT US IS A VERY USEFUL PROCESS. UNFORTUNATELY, THE OUTCOME WAS THAT NORTH KOREA ENDED UP WITH SIX OR EIGHT NUCLEAR WEAPONS, AND IT'S GOING TO BE VERY HARD TO GET THEM BACK.

I HEAR YOU ASSERT IN THE CLOSING PAGES OF THE BOOK THAT -- IF I COULD PARAPHRASE -- THAT THE UNITED STATES, IF EVERYTHING GOES RIGHT -- THE UNITED STATES CAN CONTINUE TO BE NUMBER ONE, BUT IT WON'T BE THE ONLY ONE. AND WE HAVE IT V TO RECONCILE OURSELVES TO THE FACT THAT THE REST -- THE DEVELOPING WORLD IS DEVELOPING A LOT FASTER THAN --

SURE. YOU KNOW, THIS IS THE RISE OF THE REST ARGUMENT THAT FAREED ZACHARIA AND OTHERS HAVE ALSO POINTED OUT, HARDLY UNIQUE TO ME. YOU SAW THIS HAPPENING BACK IN THE CLINTON DAYS. IN THE BUSH DAYS YOU SAW MORE DENIAL OF IT. THERE WAS A SENSE AFTER 9/11 THAT IN OUR NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY, WHICH PRESIDENT BUSH PUBLISHED IN 2002, HE WROTE EXPLICITLY THAT THE UNITED STATES COULD NEVER ALLOW THE RISE OF ANOTHER PEER COMPETITOR. BY THAT HE MEANT THE RISE OF SOMETHING SIMILAR TO THE SOVIET UNION THAT WOULD RISE UP TO CHALLENGE US. WELL, I'M NOT SURE WHERE WE'RE GOING TO SEE THE RISE OF A SINGLE COMPETING SUPERPOWER. MAYBE CHINA WILL MAKE IT ONE DAY, BUT THEY'RE CONSUMED BY THEIR OWN DOMESTIC PROBLEMS. BUT WE CERTAINLY ARE GOING TO SEE A WORLD IN WHICH MANY OTHERS DEMAND A SEAT AT THE TABLE, AND YOU KNOW, YOU SAW THIS IN THE LAST MONTH OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION. AS THE FINANCIAL CRISIS GOT WORSE AND WORSE, REMEMBER, THEY GATHERED TOGETHER IN WASHINGTON A MEETING OF THE G20. NOT THE G8, NOT BRITAIN AND FRANCE AND GERMANY AND ALL THE USUAL SUSPECTS. BUT A MUCH WIDER GROUP THAT INCLUDED INDIA AND CHINA AND BRAZIL AND COUNTRIES THROUGHOUT EUROPE, AND IT WAS A RECOGNITION OF THE FACT THAT THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US AND EVERYBODY ELSE IS CLOSING. AND YOU KNOW, WE SHOULDN'T SWEAT THAT. IT'S A GOOD THING. THE QUESTION IS CAN YOU SHAPE IT? YOU CAN'T STOP IT. IT'S LIKE STOPPING THE TIDES. AND WHAT WE'VE DISCOVERED IN HISTORY IS EVERY COUNTRY THAT TRIED TO STAFF IT AND HOLD IT OFF, THE BRITISH, BEFORE THEM THE PORTUGUESE, IT DOESN'T END WELL. SO THE TRICK HERE IS HOW DO WE LIVE WITH IT?

BUT WE'RE KIND OF SLOW -- WHEN I WAS READING THE BOOK, DAVID, I KEPT HEARING AN OLD ARKANSAN NAMED FULBRIGHT, TALKING ABOUT OLE MISS AND NEW REALITIES AND THE CRIPPLE GIANT LUMBERING THE UNITED STATES, OVERPOWERED WITH ITS OWN CHAUVINISM, AND YOU ACKNOWLEDGE IN THE BOOK THAT ONE OF MR. OBAMA'S GREAT OBSTACLES IS THE EXPECTATIONS OF SO MANY AMERICANS AND, INDEED, THE ENTIRE WORLD COMMUNITY THAT HE CAN REMAKE THE WORLD.

OR EVEN REMAKE AMERICA. THAT'S RIGHT. YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT THAT'S A PROBLEM WITH ANY PRESIDENT WHO COMES IN. IT'S PARTICULARLY A PROBLEM WHEN YOU COME IN THE WAY BARACK OBAMA HAS. YOU KNOW, FOLLOWING A PRESIDENT WHO WAS ENORMOUSLY UNPOPULAR EVEN WITHIN HIS OWN PARTY BY THE TIME HE CAME IN. HUGE EXPECTATIONS. ENORMOUS PROBLEMS. THE BOOK OPENS WITH BARACK OBAMA GETTING HIS FIRST BIG NATIONAL SECURITY BRIEFING, AND ONE OF THE FIRST REVIEWERS OF THE BOOK WROTE, DESCRIBING THIS SCENE, THAT IT WAS AMAZING THAT OBAMA DIDN'T TAKE THE ELEVATOR DOWN TO THE FIRST FLOOR, GO OUT ON THE SIDEWALK, AND SAY FORGET IT. I'VE RECONSIDERED. I'M DROPPING OUT OF THE RACE. YOU KNOW? [LAUGHTER] HE DOES FACE ENORMOUS PROBLEMS. HE ALSO FACES ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITIES, AND I TRY TO TALK ABOUT SOME OF THOSE WITHIN THE BOOK. GIVE YOU ONE EXAMPLE. IT'S WITH CHINA. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT ASTOUNDED ME ABOUT OUR DISTRACTION FROM IRAQ WAS THAT IT KEPT US FROM THINKING CREATIVELY ABOUT THINGS THAT WE COULD DO WITH OTHER COUNTRIES, AND CHINA IS A GREAT EXAMPLE. CHINA IS, RIGHT NOW, THE FASTEST-GROWING EMITTER OF POLLUTION, PARTICULARLY CARBON-BASED POLLUTION. IT'S ALSO THE FASTEST-GROWING CONSUMER OF FOSSIL FUELS. YOU SEE THESE PROTESTS BREAKING OUT IN CHINA, HUNDREDS OF THEM EVERY YEAR AGAINST THE COMMUNIST PARTY. IS IT ABOUT COMMUNISM? NO. IT'S ABOUT WHAT'S BEING POURED INTO THE RIVERS AND THE STREAMS AND THE WELLS. IT'S PEOPLE NOT WANTING THEIR KIDS TO BE POISONED. THAT'S PROBABLY THE BIGGEST SINGLE THREAT TO THE COMMUNIST PARTY IN CHINA RIGHT NOW. WE HAVE A HUGE OPPORTUNITY WITH THE CHINESE TO GO TO THEM AND SAY, LOOK, WE HAVE THE EQUIPMENT TO HELP CLEAN UP YOUR COUNTRY. BECAUSE WE'VE DONE IT IN OUR COUNTRY. YOU'VE GOT A HUGE TRADE DEFICIT WITH US. WE HAVE A TWO-FER HERE. WE CAN HELP YOU CLEAN UP, YOU CAN CLOSE THE TRADE DEFICIT, AND BY THE WAY, YOU'LL PROBABLY EXTEND THE RULE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY ALONG THE WAY, WHICH IS A WAY TO GET THEIR ATTENTION. YOU MIGHT NOT WANT TO MAKE THAT POINT SO EXPLICITLY HERE. YET WE COULDN'T BRING OURSELVES TO HAVE A SERIOUS CONVERSATION ABOUT ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT WITH THE CHINESE BECAUSE OF THIS FEAR THAT WE WOULD REACH AN AGREEMENT THAT WOULD SOMEHOW LIMIT AMERICAN INDUSTRY.

FOR ALL THE PERILS MR. OBAMA AND THE NATION FACE, YOU END ON A NOTE OF OPTIMISM. THERE'S SOME OPTIMISM IN YOUR VOICE THAT, YEAH, WE CAN DO THIS. WE CAN MANAGE THIS. THIS CAN BE DONE.

WE'VE BEEN THROUGH WORSE. WE CAME OUT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION. IT TOOK WORLD WAR II TO END IT, BUT WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH THAT. WE CAME OUT OF SOME REALLY HARD TIMES IN THE 1960. DO WE HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO DO IT? YES. HAVE WE LOST TIME ON A LOT OF THESE PROBLEMS? ENORMOUS TIME. AND WHAT'S MISSING NOW, I THINK, IS A SENSE OF URGENCY ON SOME OF THESE THINGS THAT WILL COME BACK. I MEAN, YOU KNOW, THE DAY THE IRANIANS MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THEY ARE RACING TO A BOMB INSTEAD OF ARGUING JUST TRYING TO DEVELOP NUCLEAR POWER, IT'S GOING TO BECOME PRETTY UGLY. IF OTHER COUNTRIES BEGIN TO GO NUCLEAR, AS MANY I THINK WILL, SOMETHING JOHN KENNEDY PREDICTED IN THE 1960s PREMATURELY, THE CRISES WILL BE EVIDENT. AS CHINA'S ECONOMY GROWS AND EVENTUALLY, YOU KNOW, BEGINS TO CHALLENGE OUR OWN, THOSE WILL BE EVIDENT. WE HAVE LOST TIME, AND I THINK THE BIGGEST PROBLEM THAT BARACK OBAMA FACES RIGHT NOW IS HE'S GOT ONLY FOUR OR EIGHT YEARS.

NOT A LOT OF TIME.

NOT A LOT OF TIME.

WELL, THANK YOU FOR THIS TIME.

. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME HERE AT ARKANSAS.

ALL RIGHT. ARKANSAS.

ALL RIGHT. AND WE'LL SEE YOU NEXT TIME.

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