Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007 | 6 a.m.
The next president will have to grapple with daunting geopolitical challenges in the Middle East, Far East, Russia and other hot spots while trying to enhance America's tarnished international reputation, foreign policy experts from past Republican and Democratic administrations told a Las Vegas audience last week.
At a forum at UNLV Friday hosted by the Brookings Institution, a respected Washington think tank, in partnership with ABC News, panelists discussed some of the major national security and foreign policy issues that will confront the next president. The Sun cosponsored the event. Sun editor Brian Greenspun is a Brookings trustee.
The following is a transcript of the forum's discussions.
Chalian: We have a very, very distinguished panel here of foreign policy experts, and you all are very lucky, as am I, to hear their thoughts about major driving issues of foreign policy and how they are affecting the presidential race and how they will sort of drive both in the nomination fights and in November of 2008 what the country is looking for and what the candidates are presenting vis-a-vis foreign policy.
Let me introduce them. I will start closest to me with Peter Rodman, who is a Brookings senior fellow in foreign policy. He is an expert on regional policies relating to Europe, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Persian Gulf. A former assistant secretary of defense and advisor to the National Security Council and State Department, Rodman held posts in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Next to Peter is Zoe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, a private philanthropy that focuses on using information and communications technologies to address critical public needs, particularly in the areas of health care and national security. She was associate counsel to President Jimmy Carter and an attorney in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Next to Zoe is Martin Indyk, a Brookings senior fellow in foreign policy. A former ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state for near east affairs during the Clinton administration. Indyk directs the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.
And then finally all the way on your left and my right, Carlos Pascual, a Brookings vice president and director of foreign policy at Brookings. A former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and senior director of the National Security Council staff, he focuses on post-conflict stabilization, international security policy, nonproliferation and economic development. Pascual served under presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush.
Let me begin with you, Peter. I guess I want to pivot off one discussion, one question we got was about America’s reputation in the world. We see it in our polling all the time that that is something of critical importance to both Democrats and Republicans right now and obviously Iraq has been a driving issue and as Ken just alluded to, Iran depending on what happens in the next several months, could be a real galvanizing issue in the campaign, wanting to take that from there, and let me know if you agree that would be a galvanizing issue and how that plays into America’s reputation around the world.
Rodman: Thank you David for the introduction. I’m happy to be here. I’m the Republican in this group and I’m here to offer some friendly unsolicited advice to the candidates, all of the presidential candidates, about what I think, what I venture to predict the foreign policy of the next president is going look like, whether he or she knows it or not. And secondly, what I think the world expects from the United States in the foreign policy of next president, because I think there are some clichés being bandied about which I disagree with about what the world wants from us and expects from us. Now on the first point I venture the shocking prediction that the foreign policy of the next administration, whoever leads it, is going to be amazingly similar to the present foreign policy of President Bush. I emphasize present because I think we know what the great controversies were three or four years ago but the reality of the day to day foreign policy right now is driven by the national interests and I think the next president, whoever he or she is, is going to find that these national interests don’t change 14, 15 months from now. Let’s take Iraq. I think whatever the desire, the impulse we saw in the Democratic debate, the next president is not going to be able to do something precipitous to pull out of Iraq without regard to the consequences, because the stakes are too great, the vital interests of the United States is too much engaged, so the job of the next president will be to find some way of controlled disengagement to reduce our involvement there to turn over responsibility to the Iraqis in a way that preserves very important national interests in the region. And that what confronts the next president, whoever it is.
Just to go around the world. I dealt a lot when I was in the government with the Far East. The big phenomenon in the Far East is the rise of China. That’s what’s on people’s minds. Now this administration has managed a fairly constructive relationship with China, as have several past presidents and I think the next several presidents. But at the same time, particularly when I was in the Pentagon and we would deal with the countries around the periphery of China, all of them are concerned about China and have been tightening and strengthening their defense cooperation with the United States. India or Japan or Australia or even Vietnam. Singapore, Indonesia, Mongolia, what these countries want is American strength. They count on us and that’s not going to change. Now Europe, Europe is where we had all these controversies a few years ago. But if you look, new leaders in Germany, new leaders in France, good relations with Britain, our relations with Europe are what they should be. And as Russia is on the rise, and as Russia gets back on its feet again, I think you’ll see a further strengthening of U.S.-European relations. So that gets me to the second point: What is it that the world expects from us? Listening to the Democratic debate, you get the sense that the world is waiting for the next president to apologize, or to humble themselves, and a great orgy of self-flagellation and self-abasement. That is not what the world wants from us. The world counts on American strength. And any kind of strenuous exertion of self abasement is going to be profoundly unnerving to the countries all over the world, who count on us to be strong, who want to know that the next president is going to be committed to America’s defense, I mean to the defense to America’s allies and interests. And I worry that our domestic debate in the last year has gotten a little too rambunctious. And I know in the Arab world, for example, where in the Middle East our Arab friends and our Israeli friends are all worried about the threat of Iran and they look at Iraq in that context. They want to know, is the United States collapsing in the Middle East? They want to know that we are strong, that we are taking the lead on the Palestinian issue, which I’m sure Martin will talk about. But most fundamentally, they want to know that America is not going to abandon the region and collapse in Iraq, because they see that as a test of our credibility. So that’s what America will want the next president to demonstrate, courage and strength and commitment. And again, it’s true whoever takes office.
Chalian: Let me just press you very quickly, in the presidential candidates, the potential presidents, the major front-running candidates, do you see anyone who doesn’t have the ability to project that strength and courage?
Rodman: Well, no, I don’t want to get into individuals. I tend to discount campaign rhetoric anyway. I think whoever is in the Oval Office will confront reality and campaign rhetoric will be relegated to the dustbin and reality will impose itself.
Chalian: Let’s go to Martin about the Arab Israeli conflict. We have this Annapolis session coming up, potentially where there will be a great meeting on the Arab Israeli conflict, although I don’t think a date has been set yet. I guess what I think about when I listen to the candidates I don’t find they discuss the Arab Israeli conflict very often on the campaign trail, and I’m wondering if there’s a way to have a discussion on it in the campaign, while Iraq is still what Iraq is a central dominant foreign policy issue, or does Iraq just overcrowd the Arab-Palestinian-Israel conflict in a way that we won’t be able to get to that issue until Iraq is cleared to the side a little bit?
Indyk: Thank you David, and thank you to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for hosting Brookings here today. What struck me last night and I don’t know whether you felt the same way, Iraq really wasn’t much on the agenda, it was brought into the discussion by one of the candidates, but I think as Ken Duberstein suggested, Iran is much more, but by the way Arab-Israeli issues, peace process issues, are not likely to be on the agenda, they probably won’t get on the agenda until the candidates head into the New York primary, that’s just the reality. Then they will have to kind of lay out their position on the Israel issue because of the large Jewish constituency in New York. Before that, it’s hard to see that becoming an issue and I think part of the reason for that is a certain attitude on the part of the American public more generally, that it’s all hopeless when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First of all, there was this effort seven years ago, end of Clinton administration, a major effort by President Clinton that failed, and then for the last seven miserable years we’ve had violence, terrorism. That sort of turned people off and they said they’re never going to be able to resolve it. And I think people are kind of, have a question mark about why the Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, is actually putting so much energy into what to the general public seems like a Mission Impossible. It’s part of the reason it is not there. To say more broadly and to respond to what Peter says, diplomacy did come up in the debate last night. Hillary Clinton talked about aggressive diplomacy, which was her way of making clear you can talk about diplomacy without appearing to be a wimp, because essentially diplomacy had gotten a bad name during the Bush administration. It was seen as a weak response. Now, I think that generally, certainly on the Democratic side of the political spectrum, diplomacy is seen as the panacea, the answer, that Winston Churchill used to say, “It’s better to jaw than war war.” Well the Bush administration tried war and we saw where that ended up. So now there’s a tendency to believe that jaw jawing is the only way to go. And there is a strong view on the Democratic side that we need to be doing more diplomacy. I think in the reality, leaving the politics aside for the moment, and look at the policy the Bush administration itself has come around to diplomacy whether it is North Korea or on the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab-Israeli front, or actually on Iran where Condoleeza Rice has actually tried, has actually actively tried to get negotiations going. And that, I think, reflects two things. One is a recognition on the part of the Bush administration that diplomacy has its uses. And, secondly, a decline in the ability of the United States to get its own way, which I would say after 9/11 was very high, but it produced a hubris, an arrogance, an attitude of “It’s my way or the highway,” that President Bush himself manifested so many times. And that basically didn’t work. And as a result, America’s reputation has suffered, America’s ability to influence the situation in any of these particular crisis areas has also suffered, and now it becomes important for the United States to work with our allies and potential partners in any particular diplomacy, and so, what I would add to what Peter said, there needs to be, yes, American strength, and people around the world do count on American strength, but there also needs to be humility. And that combination can be quite effective. The fact that the Bush administration is come around to diplomacy now, particularly in the Arab-Israeli arena, after their default position was not to touch this issue, to just sit back and let the two sides kill each other. Now their active engagement actually has the potential not for a break though to peace but to put the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process back on track. What Annapolis will do, and they haven’t set a date, but it looks like it will be at the end of this month, very soon. If it succeeds, and I think it will, it will put the final status of the negotiations with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back on track. It will launch and bless a final status negotiation. And if Condoleeza Rice can actually succeed in doing that, it will be an important contribution, because then the next president, Republican or Democrat, can and should pick it up quickly at the beginning of her term, or possibly his term, and there is a good chance that, in fact, with that combination of strength and humility, and the influence we can still bring to bear in the Middle East, that we could achieve an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the next administration.
Chalian: Carlos, we were talking a little bit earlier about this concept of America’s reputation in the world. Do you think that just the change of president and administration, irrespective of party, can actually instantly alter America’s reputation in the world and how we’re seen?
Pascual: David, thanks, that’s a great question, and thank you for joining us here and thank you to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for hosting us in this exchange. No, absolutely not. Just simply a change in leadership, whether it’s Republican or Democratic office is simply not going to change perceptions of American leadership. And, I’m glad you raised that, and one of the questioners earlier raised the question about American leadership. I think for the next U.S. president the biggest central challenge is going to be to restore American credibility and leadership in order to establish effective global and international partners. And that is going to be fundamental to securing American national security interests overseas. And it’s not for the purpose of unilateral American action, but it’s in fact, to be able to have the leadership that is necessary to build the partnerships that are necessary to advance our interests. Let me tell you why. Whoever the next president is, is going to face a series of crises: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Middle East peace process. Pakistan. They’re going to face a whole series of geopolitical challenges. The rise of India and China. Russia being resurgent and more authoritarian. Questions related to Turkey, for example. The structural military issues that were raised earlier in the discussions. Then there is a series of wider, almost existential structural systemic questions that we face in the world that we live in today, issues of energy security and climate change, non-proliferation, proliferation of nuclear weapons in particular, transnational terrorism, global poverty. And there is no way the United States alone can deal with these issues. The only way we can do this is to effectively establish the kinds of partnerships with an international community that trusts one another and works by a rule-based system. So in order to do this, and coming back specifically to the point that you raised, it’s not an issue of self-flagellation, I would disagree with Peter here, I don’t think that the Democratic party or the candidates are engaged in self-flagellation. They are raising the question of what has to happen to restore America’s image and commitment to a rule-based international system and to restore the credibility that we actually abide by values in the way we conduct our foreign policy. And so I think that whoever that president is, they’re going to have an aggressive agenda that demonstrates a change in American behavior. That we’re willing, to say, close Guantanomo, that we’re will stop flirting with a definition of torture, that we will uphold the Geneva conventions, that we will seek the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, that we will advance a strong and aggressive agenda on climate change, because it is by acting in a way that starts to demonstrate that the United States, one, has values, and two, is committed to a rule-based international system that we’ll start to convince the international community that we are not unilateralists, and that we are, in fact, that we’re committed to a global international system, where we’re not just looking after America’s interests, but we’re recognizing that the best way to look after America is to look at effective partnerships with others.
Chalian: One of the topics that gets talked about a lot among political reporters is the intangible unexpected event that, you know, could affect a presidential election, such as another terrorist attack on the country and that, always talk in crude political terms, who that would benefit and how that would play out politically. And Zoe, I wonder, in this campaign, we’ve seen in the past, if we’re attacked, there’s a rally around the flag effect in the country, but I wonder if we were attacked now, with the president and his standing and with the Democratic Congress investigating so many different things about wire tapping and intelligence..
Moderator: And then again, god forbid, we were attacked but that the, the connecting of the dots and the intelligence ah system would actually get far more scrutinized than it did perhaps after the 9/11 attack. How do you think that might infiltrate the political debate?
Baird: That's a very interesting question.
Let me first say that it's terrific to be here in the West. I grew up in the West in Washington State and went to one of the great land-grant colleges out here and it's really wonderful that you have this engagement in the political process 'cause those of us who live in the East aren't sure that anyone outside of the East coast cares. It's great that there is this deep passion for these issues, which we're hearing and the students' questions and certainly heard last night from the undecided voters when they were questioning the candidates. We forget that often in the East.
Let me just point out that 12 years ago after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Congress set up a commission and the leaders in Congress were members of this commission to look at the future roles and missions of the intelligence community. What did we need intelligence for what kinds of dots were we trying to connect?
In that charter there was not a single mention of terrorism. I point that out because 12 years is a very short time in the lifespan of government. It's my son's entire lifespan but it's a very short time in the lifespan of government. In that period of time we have figured out that terrorism is one of the great national security threats we have figured out it's a threat abroad but we have learned to our surprise that it's a threat here at home.
Most of our infrastructure in our government agencies have been developed to protect us outside our borders and to keep things from coming into the U.S. but we have never really developed a domestic intelligence collection capability or ability beyond law enforcement, which is after the fact to prevent threats here at home. So what we woke up on 9/12 and said to ourselves was, there was a lot of information out there a lot of intelligence. We knew that two terrorists had come into the U.S. the CIA had warned the FBI to look for them. We had lots of information about them learning to fly planes without caring about taking off and landing. A lot of concerns out there in random bits and pieces, but we weren't able to protect the country.
And what we did at Markle and with a collection of national security experts and civil liberty experts was we turned to someone here in Las Vegas who was writing software, homeless in his van working for the casinos, who was able to tell the casinos from publicly available information who everybody was, who walked in, when they got off the plane. The casinos were all alerted to who was there, who were the high rollers, who were the people who had been risks, on and on. We said to him, take these two people and tell us how many of the 19 terrorists you could find who were on those planes. And he found every one of them. All 19. And he found them using things like common former addresses, and I could go through it but I won't take the time now but some of them even use the same frequent flyer number which one, shows a lot of gall but two. kinda wonder who's gonna use the mileage.
It was really a remarkable thing to see and so a lot of us began to work together on what became the 9/11 Commission Recommendations which effectively said we need to have a virtual reorganization of government. We need to be able to understand if we're going to prevent attacks and I'm getting to your specific question.
We need to be able to understand if we learn from a foreign intelligence collection that a terrorist is looking at shopping malls in the U.S. and some local people at Mall of America have been wondering about some people who've have been taking pictures at the mall. Somehow those people have to get together and see if there's any commonality and if they can figure out what's happening and who else needs to be working with them to do that.
It doesn't mean we need to take all the information about everyone in the world and put into a single big database and start doing some data mining of this data. But it means that we need to virtually, like you and I do when we shop or when we look for information about what movies are worth seeing. We need to create communities of interest that can find each other and work with each other when they have questions.
Now, it's really important we do this before the next attack. Because to the two questions that were asked earlier, my own belief is that this country isn't worth protecting if we can't protect civil liberties. And it is not human rights or national security. We can be very strong and deeply committed to a rule of law. Rule of laws are strength, not the wimp side of America.
It's not a choice of do we put national security first or human rights first, I like to think of it as moral competitive edge. What are we strong for and why should people follow us but it's our values and so I believe that what's been missing in these last few years and the reason we're having this very foolish polarizing conversation, is because in order to take the steps the administration's wanted to take, they've been concerned that if they've worried about privacy or worried about human rights or created the public dialog we need before anyone will trust having a domestic intelligence capability that they won't be in control they won't be able to do what they want to do.
And I think that's a very big mistake. We need a very serious dialog about where we want to fall and I think most people in this country want us to be strong and want us to ensure their security, but to do it in a way where we know what the rules are to make sure that information's used and I have a predicate, a reason to know, a suspicion of something, not because I'm doing a Google search because anyone in the private sector can.
The government doesn't operate that way. We need to empower government officials by giving them both boundaries as well as authority because no one in government wants to sit there and break the law. I don't believe it. I don't think that's what government officials are about.
So I don't think it's ... to the questions of the audience about whether it's one or the other. The first question that was asked, I don't think you got an answer and I think the answer is that what America is all about is it's both and they don't fight each other they're both completely compatible.
Moderator: Thank you. We were talking a little bit about how Iraq has receded a bit from the front page and the lead of evening broadcasts as violence seems to have been tamped down a bit in Iraq right now. And yet it still is the underlying foreign policy debate happening in the campaign. Especially now as Ken Duberstein was saying a little before about these rumblings about Iran. Let me ask you, Peter, there are two issues in Iran. There's the nuclear issue and then there's the issue of weapons being sent into Iraq. Right? Those are two different tracks of the administration seem to be focused on. Can the admin go down the road in the middle of the campaign season right now and actually rally support, especially President Bush at 30%, rally public support for military action against Iran. Do you think that's feasible in this country right now?
Rodman: Let me start out by saying, we have an Iran problem. It's an objective reality, it's not a, George Bush and Dick Cheney didn't concoct this at some Cabalistic ritual. And the next administration is gonna have to deal with Iran, as previous administrations have had to deal with it. The problem is I think is it's more than just Iraq and the nuclear program. Iran is a revolutionary power seeking to dominate the Gulf. I think it's nuclear weapons program is part of this ambition. I think it's an ideological threat it's going after Lebanon. Lebanon is very disturbing to our friends in the Middle East, its role in the Palestinian -- radicalizing the Palestinians is disturbing to our friends. So we have a big Iran problem. I am saddened by the fact that I think the Iraq experience has poisoned the discussion in this country. I mean the discussion in this country about how to deal with Iran, you know, ought to be unemotional and analytical and just, you know, dispassionate. Unfortunately, it's colored and distorted by the unfortunate, you know, controversies over Iraq. I am not -- I'm certainly not a fan of military options, and I don't think that's what even is happening right now. What I think is happening right now is a major effort by the United States and its European allies to use the economic weapon, the economic pressures, and even some of the more melodramatic talk about war. I mean some of it came from the French government. And I think you have the Americans and the French trying to light a fire under the diplomats, and light a fire under other Europeans, light a fire maybe possibly under Russia and China to say, if we don't mobilize non-military pressures, then we're going to be stuck with the most horrendous option. So I think the focus of this administration is on the diplomacy, the focus is on mobilizing economic pressures outside of the U.N. Security Council, things that the U.S. Treasury Department is organizing, private banks in Europe, a coalition of the willing of the Americans, Europeans, Japanese and others to intensify economic pressure, to impose economic costs on Iran. So even some of the war scare I think is designed to stimulate that. And just the last point, I read some of Ahmedinajad’s speeches, which is a great experience, but lately he's been acknowledging the fact that there's a debate going on in Iran. He says, oh, there are people in our country who want to make concessions on the nuclear thing because they're afraid of war. And he rebuts it, he says, oh, no, God is on our side, so we don't have to worry about that. But on at least two occasions he's acknowledged the fact that there's some debate going on. I think that is a sign that we're doing the right thing. We have to give Iranians a reason to say to each other, hey, this may not be the smartest thing for us to do, because it's going to cost us, it's going to hurt Iran. But we have to give them ammunition, so to speak, by showing that there are economic pressures and risks that Iran is going to run.
Moderator: Let me just follow up. Did you -- you know, one of the issues about Iran that came up in the debate last night was this vote on the Kyle Liberman declaring the Iran Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
Moderator: Hilary Clinton, as many of you I'm sure know, voted for that resolution. All her Democratic opponents in the Senate voted against it. Barack Obama said he would have voted against it. In fact, last night was the first time he said it was a mistake to have missed the vote, to not go back and vote against it. What -- did you see anything in that bill that is a step towards war?
Rodman: No, it's a ridiculous discussion. I mean I'm not a neutral observer, but I made it on the face of it, this is a terrorist organization that's colluding, among other things, in the killing of Americans, and to impose economic penalties on it is the least we should be doing. I mean what I'm happy -- one of the good things of the last year is, as part of the new policy related to the surge, the president also decided that we would play hard ball with these Iranians that we capture in Iraq, and that's why we rounded up a bunch of people earlier in the year, we detained a lot of them until recently. These are people -- this is a -- for us, and this is an arm over the regime that is now actively, or has been actively involved in the killing of Americans, and you know, to designate them on a Treasury Department list is the least we should be doing against these bastards.
Speaker: Can I just jump in on this, David? I think that what Peter says about the IRGC and the -- forces is correct, they are really -- but what the debate last night tells you is that there is just a fundamental distrust of this president when it comes to dealing with Iran, particularly on the Democratic side, and that's what's fueling this particular debate. I think Hillary Clinton's vote was a perfectly logical vote on its merits, but the resolution was seen as laying the groundwork for a way. And I think a lot of people in America are convinced that President Bush, before he leaves office, is going to go to war with Iran. I tell you, sitting where we sit in Washington, inside the beltway, there's no indication -- it's day and night in terms of the difference between the run up to the war in Iraq, where six months before it was very clear he intended to go to war, and what's happening here. But the distrust is the issue, and it shows how much credibility the president has lost, that at least half the nation I think just doesn't believe him when he says we're focused on diplomacy.
Speaker: But I have to say, look, it would be a -- the Democrats would make a big mistake if they came out on the wrong side of this issue and said, oh, George Bush made me do it, that's not leadership and that -- again, I actually think the next president, whoever it is, is going to deal with this in a dispassionate way and intelligent way.
Speaker: He said he would sit down with -- at the beginning, within the first --
Speaker: Well, here's what this difference actually comes down to, because as I said, the Secretary of State has actually put forward a fairly generous offer to the Iranians, they're just not interested in it. The difference between what she would do and what the Democratic candidates are saying they would do is that, the current offer is
contingent on Iran suspending its nuclear enrichment program. And that is actually a U.N. Security Council position, as well. And I think what the Democrats are saying is, we are going to put that condition aside and get into the negotiation, and through the negotiation, we're going to see whether we can get a suspension of enrichment. And it's a very -- it's actually a tactical issue when you look at the substantive policy question. But it has now become so fraught, so burdened by the Iraq experience that it doesn't lend itself to a rational policy discussion.
Speaker: Carlos, do you see any lead up -- do you sense anymore drum beat or do you agree with Martin that inside the beltway, there really is no difference between this and what it sounded like in 2002?
Pascual: No, I do agree with Martin. I think that focusing on the vote, on a sanctions vote, and indicating that that was something as a run-up to war is actually a misdirection of the issue. In fact, it's actually the opposite of that, which is to the extent to which one can begin to utilize other instruments; such as economic sanctions as alternatives that one is putting on the table a whole array of diplomatic tools. The question in mind shouldn't have been whether that was a run up to war, but whether or not in fact that was the right diplomatic tool, whether it's the right strategy. And I think there there's a reasonable debate to be had. One of our colleagues at Brookings is Suzanne Maloney, who is a specialist in Iran, and has been analyzing these issues and pointed out that actually the discontent within Iran toward Ahmadinejad is not because of the sanctions. I mean, let's remember Iran has been getting close to 60 billion dollars a year in oil revenues. These sanctions aren't doing that much. What the discontent has been the mismanagement, Ahmadinejad's mismanagement or Iran's oil wealth. The fact that he has been distributing it in a populist way, the fact that he hasn't tackled corruption, the fact that there's increased inflation within the country. Iranians are saying, 'Do we like this person as an economic leader?' And so, in that sense, the irony is that in some case sanctions actually galvanize the Iranian nationalistic Iranian population and sort of say 'But the outside world is against our leader, so we actually have to stand up for him.' And so one of the things that it raises is 'What is the most effective way of demonstrating that there is a unified international community that's not just the United States, not just Europe, but we retain Russia and China and we widen that to include the Brazils and the Indias and the Indonesias of the world.' In order to demonstrate that what Iran is doing, and developing a nuclear program, is unacceptable and reprehensible. And that's the challenge to our diplomacy, is to in fact actually widen that base.
Chalian: Back to this idea of how the Iraq experience has sort of colored this internal political debate. Has the Iraq experience caused it to be more difficult to get what you're describing, a broad-based international response?
Pascaul: Absolutely it has because what's happened with the international community is exactly what happened last night in the debate is an assumption that there is another story here that is going on that something is being done to lay a foundation so that at some stage the United States might be able to say, 'We've done everything that is possible and therefore the only thing that is left to do in order to protect American security interest is to undertake military action.'
Indyk: Is the silver lining in this, though? The irony in a way is that the belief that is so strongly held internationally and certainly on the democratic side here - that President Bush is actually planning to go to war - might actually concentrate the minds of the Iranians in a way that they start to consider, 'Maybe it's better to go to the negotiating table,' because we've seen two things. Peter referred to one of them. The debate that started where Ahmadinejad actually acknowledged that there were people there saying 'You're gonna get us into a war, better cut it out.' And today some people have seen in the newspaper that an American general in Iraq is saying the Iranians have actually cut dramatically their supply of these explosive bombs that are causing so many American casualties. So, it may ironically that they're actually think we're going to go to war too and they're going to pull back.
Chalian: Much like a presidential debate... the expectations game can have a big impact.
Chalian: I want to get into the heart of the Iraq experience. "How" is my question? How can the impact of the Iraq experience on relations... You talked about our relations with Europe leaders now growing. Can that expand? And how can we lessen the impact of the Iraq experience as a nation so that we can begin to build these necessary larger coalitions. Does anyone want to take a stab at that?
Rodman: Just to start, I think that Iraq is stabilizing. I'll venture that prediction. I mean that's what we've seen and certainly we've all crossed our fingers. And that may be why it's less interesting to the Democrats to talk about it. You may hear the Republicans talk more about it if it looks like its the president's strategy...
Chalian: Rudy Guilani that he thinks the Democrats will start talking very differently about it.
Rodman: Well... But it's good on the merits. I mean, it's good for all of us if Iraq is stabilizing and we're somewhat closer to achieving our objective. It hastens the day when we will be able to come out of Iraq in the right conditions. I think that's the thing to focus on because, if that happens, it certainly eases the passion of our domestic debate. It means we can disengage from Iraq. It means we can preserve our interests in the Middle East. I mean, that's the right answer. And to me that's an argument for supporting the president's policy right now, which I think is in the best interest of the next president. The next president, I think, would be grateful to George Bush is George Bush has left Iraq in as stable condition as he possibly can achieve. And the next president has options. The next president can pull the plug if he or she wants to do it, or try to win the war, or begin a kind of controlled disengagement. If this president started unravel, or if the Congress imposed on this president something that accelerated an unraveling. The next president would inherit a situation that was far worse and would have far few options, far fewer good options. So, that again is my unsolicited advice to the Democratic candidates.
Chalian: Want to say something about the stability?
Pascual: I do. I think one of the things... It should not have been a surprise if there was this massive concentration of U.S. troops in a relatively small and defined area that there can be some short-term stability. General Shinseki argued that sometime ago and he was fired for it. So, the administration eventually came back to incorporating that in its strategy.
Rodman: Over democratic opposition.
Pascual: It's a good point and a powerful point. Here's a key issue. In July of next year, the American force level in Iraq is going to be exactly the same as it was in January of this year. Is there anything that's going to make us feel that next July that force presence is going to be any more sustainable than it was in January of this year. And what it comes back to is what's being done somehow being sustainable. And so in Anbar province we have a reduction of violence. We have it because there's been a cooperation of Sunnis against Al Qaeda with the United States. They are not supporting a unified Iraq. They're supporting cooperation with the United States against Al Qaeda. We have, in some areas, genuine exhaustion, such as Mosul and it creates a good foundation for long-term stability. We have in Southern Iraq a three-way war going on among Shiite militias. Internally, the political system has become more complex and there's even greater divisions in national politics than we've seen in the past. The regional situation has become no less complex than it was before. And does any of this give us that in fact it's building up to some sort of national Iraq that can in fact be more stable when those troop levels are withdrawn. And I personally think that the answer is no. Whether you do or you don't, I think the question that it raises is that, if we are at the maximum troop level we will ever be at in Iraq now because there will be no other surge, how do you use that military presence in a way to actually generate a more effective, diplomatic and international engagement in order to attempt to seek a viable process for brokering peace. It may not succeed. It may not be achieved. But if, in fact, one is going to start pushing that agenda of effective, diplomatic negotiation building to some form of settled agreement among the party, now is the time to test it and to do it. And there is effectively no strategy to do it yet. We had ad hoc meetings in the region, in Baghdad, but nothing has mounted to a concerted strategy that could actually even give a chance for a viable, brokered political system.
Chalian: Before we pivot to audience questions, which we'll do in a moment... You had mentioned Pakistan earlier, and obviously it's been dominating in the news recently, and we heard the presidential candidates say, Sen. Clinton for instance last night in the debate, that the Bush administration needs to be more aggressive with Musharraf. I'm wondering if any of you have a sense of what that means to be more aggressive with Musharraf at this point, and if you think that is the best approach here to get more aggressive with him, whatever that may mean. Does anybody want to take a stab at Pakistan.
Indyk: I think that what it actually means is to get Musharraf to go ahead with commitments he previously made about taking his uniform off A president and therefore dropping his military role and taking on the presidential role and having elections in an environment that enabled campaigns to take place in a free and fair way. That's what getting aggressive would mean. But Musharraf is like other authoritative leaders in that part of the world, the Middle East as well. He's fighting for his survival and President Bush's survival is not on the line in the same way. So, we can get aggressive with it, but he's going to do what he can to preserve his power and get into power through an election process someone who will cooperate with him.
Chalian: So is it not necessarily a realistic call to say that the United States need to be more aggressive? Doesn't it also include addressing terrorists, the Taliban?
Indyk: Well, the reason this is so complicated and difficult for American diplomacy is precisely because here the issue of national security versus the freedom agenda of promoting elections come up against each other. If we look at America's national security interests here, we need a leader in Pakistan who is capable, willing and capable, of going after the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda's operations in the badlands of Pakistan. And the Bush Administration has, in effect, been on Musharraf to do that; but he's not doing a very good job of it. In fact, he's doing a lousy job of it. Now, if he were doing a good job of it, maybe we would say, 'Ok. We're not going to push you so hard on the issue of elections.' But since he's not doing a great job, maybe a more popular, more legitimate leadership would be more effective. It's a big maybe, though. It's a big question mark as to whether anybody in Pakistan would have the legitimacy in that political environment to actually do what we need them to do against the terrorists.
Rodman: There was a stunning article in The New York Times yesterday, the lead article, quoting state department officials as saying they were thinking about a post-Musharraf world. And I have no idea if this is what the president is thinking, and I have no idea what the journalists were embellishing on something they had heard. But that kind of press report could itself accelerate events in Pakistan. I think the U.S. government has been trying for many, many, many months, if not a couple years, to encourage a deal between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. And Musharraf has really bundled it. It was in his own interest to cut such a deal and to do it when he was of strength. And now, I think the possibility of that it shattered, at least she's saying she's going to boycott any election. So, this is a real mess. And I think the American government had been giving Musharraf the right advice. But I'm not sure where we go from here.
Pascual: I don't think we have control over this, and this is one of these cases where actually trying to push for an answer on an issue of should you be tough or not tough is actually a disservice to the problem. Pakistan is perhaps the most dangerous country in the world, you have blinking red lights about nuclear weapons, terrorist organizations, Islamic groups, conflict on its borders, its neighbors are particularly insecure, you have American troops in Afghanistan, you have Iran next to it as well and you can't answer this from a perspective of should you just simply be tough or not be tough. You have to balance all of these issues together. You have to think about how do maintain control over their nuclear arsenal, how do you deal with the reality that you have the emergence of a middle class, political active group in Pakistan, and you want to give them rise, yet at the same time if you support them you'll probably kill them. How do you deal with the reality that whatever authoritarian leader might be in Pakistan if you don't have that person's cooperation? They can actually shut down those democratic movements if they don't have the space to actually be able to operate. You've gotta manage these tensions in an extremely sophisticated way, and so simply saying "tough or not tough" doesn't really give you an answer to this. You really need a sophistication of strategy and policy that probably to begin with starts in a visit between a senior American military leader and a senior Pakistani leader and you start figuring out, "what is the tolerance of the Pakistani military for where they're willing to go?" Does the Pakistani military understand that if Musharraf stays in power, and shuts down these opposition groups, that potentially Pakistan ends up in a situation where the choices are: Authoritarianism on one hand, and extremism on the other hand because the only political groupings are the ones that are going to grow up around the Mosques. And if you start having that dialogue and you start getting the Pakistani military leadership on board, perhaps you might start coming up with ideas that lead Pakistanis to come up with some more viable solutions for their political situation. Cause I can assure you, we are not going to come up with a solution for this. It is somehow, the Pakistanis are going to have to come up with some settlement about their political situation. The best thing that we can do is to be a constructive facilitator by beginning to draw some of the red lines of courses of action that they shouldn't take.
Chalian: Thank you. Let's turn now to your questions
Audience Member: Thank you for being here and I appreciate the sponsor's, especially Brian Greenspun. No up here has really been talking about Russia. And really quickly, in 1917 Lenin ended an election in the Soviet Union and created an Authoritarian government. And I see Putin as being a very frustrated almost like a post-modern, if you will, Lenin. Someone who's country was defeated in Afghanistan, now they're becoming an economic power with oil, they're very frustrated that I can see, in terms of their relationship with the US and they're really integrated, well maybe not integrated, but they are involved in a lot of the countries in the Mid-East. I worry about what's going to happen with Russia, do you?
Chalian: Let me jut make a couple of quick housekeeping points just because of time, and I see how much interest there is, please keep your questions as briefly as you can. Keep them tightly constructed and if you can direct them to someone specifically great, if not we'll adjudicate that to Peter.
Rodman: We just had a Brooking's in the last few days a group of distinguished Europeans. It's a forum that we've had over many years and European diplomats and think tank people, and Russia was almost a dominant topic of the conversation. So there's a Russia problem and it's not quite a soviet foreign policy, it's a classical great power policy. It's a Russia that's getting back on its feet geo-politically and throwing its weight around, but I think again if there's a silver lining the Americans and Europeans are discussing this and I hope we'll have a common approach to it. As you're suggesting, it takes the form of using energy as a weapon, of leverage over its neighbors. They're bullying Georgia and the Ukraine, and they're shielding Iran from some of the pressures that we're trying to put. So we have a Russia problem, its a country that's getting back on its feet, it still feels wounded by what happened to them 15 years ago, and I don't think this is anywhere near the Cold War level, and I agree with Robert Gates, I was with him in Germany we heard Putin speak in February, he gave some ferocious speech and Gates said, "Look we had one Cold War and that's enough." And I think this is something we can manage but it requires first of all, some good dialogue between us and our allies...
Indyk: I'd just add a quick point to this, which is that in the Middle East context, Russia can, indeed, be our partner, and we don't need to get back into a Cold War competition in the Middle East. I don't think that's what Putin is after. I do think he's after respect in this regard rather than advantage. If we can bring the Russians along in a united International front, the Chinese will then follow. Then this will have a powerful impact on the Iranians I believe. Then they will be isolated. But to do that we have got to understand how things are connected in the minds of the Russians. To do that while poking them in the eye on ballistic missile defense against a threat that could be, at best, 10 years off — seems to me to be a failure to understand how to conduct effective diplomacy. We need to engage the Russians in a kind of give and take in a way where they can be our partners in the Middle East. And they are on the Arab-Israeli front. They are actually partnering with us.
Pascual: With the seriousness of the problem, I agree with the importance in engaging Russia. But let’s be very clear how serious the problem is. Since Putim has been president, he’s essentially been able to appoint governors; he appoints the upper house of parliament. He’s changed the rules for political parties to get into parliament so he can effectively control the political parties. He controls the broadcast media. He has taken individuals from the Kremlin and has put them in positions where they essentially run the gas, oil, gold, diamonds, railways, transport sectors of the country. As a result of that, there’s a very concentrated group of people within the Kremlin that have become the absolute center of running the political life and foreign policy of Russia. That is an extraordinarily difficult issue. On the one hand we are faced with the challenge of how do we work with Russia on issues where they have a fundamental interest and veto in the U.N. Security Council. Issues like Iran and the Middle East. But at the same time take into account where we are dealing with questions such as missile defense, or Kosovo and the Balkins, energy diplomacy, energy power, or how they treat Ukraine or Georgia. In the end this is a phenomenally hard problem. One thing we do know is that eventually Russians will define what happens in Russia because there’s no way anyone else will. But how do we manage this relationship in a way that gives a voice to those within in Russia that might actually have a more liberal and open perspective on how that society should be conducted. It is a phenomenally difficult issue we are facing right I frankly don’t think the United States or Europe has a strategy on how to deal with it.
Audience Member: This question isn't directed to anyone -- I'm a Marine veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I don't support the war on any level, but I see both sides of the exit strategy issue. Is there a way to leave Iraq without sort of alienating the troops and making them feel like they're sacrifices have been wasted?
Indyk: Implicit in your question is that we are going to need to leave Iraq. That’s critical, in the sense that we want to make sure that no lives are wasted. One way to ensure what was done by you and your brave colleagues is not wasted is that we do get out of Iraq. But we need to do that in a way that doesn’t leave a huge mess behind. I think there is, underneath the heat of all the debate, a consensus to withdraw, but the need to leave behind the most stable situation we can.
Speaker: I would -- just let me -- I potentially agree. I would just state it more positively. I think that's precisely why it's essential that we leave in a way that includes accomplishing the mission, so that the sacrifices that have been made have a point. And we have particularly now when things do seem to be going well, I think it would be a terrible mistake to just walk away from it and precipitate an unraveling and guarantee that the sacrifices will have been in
vain when an alternative is available to us.
Speaker: Thank you for your question and your observance. Next, over here.
Speaker: You've discussed problems that deal with pretty much every branch of the government, but I was wondering what your views were on the fourth estate of the country, journalists, and how you think they're influencing our foreign policy and also the problems across the world?
Pascual: I want to jump in for just a second, because I think actually the media is such an important tool in the conduct of international policy and foreign policy, because even when at times coverage of an issue may focus attention on it in which it may heighten the immediate dramatic elements of a particular question, the importance of the media as an information sharing tool has become absolutely critical in allowing societies to better function and conduct their operations and their political systems. And if there's one thing that we have learned over time, is that
when individuals within a society actually have information about their political systems and how their lives are operating, that that is one of the most fundamental tools in empowering them and allowing them to act responsibly as citizens. And so I think one of the things that's important to underscore is that as a fundamental tool in foreign policy, but as a fundamental tool in governance, strengthening the role of the media, increasing its capacity to act responsibly, giving people information is essentially -- is essential to making them good citizens, and I think that's critical here for the United States, I think it's critical abroad. There are times when we may debate exactly how the media plays into a given issue, but I think broadly, we have to be thankful for its presence and actually seek to strengthen it.
Baird: I would just add to that that I think the question is very different than it ever was before, because I think, David, you were saying that -- what was the poll numbers you were telling us this morning about peoples' concern about America's place in the world? Recount that, if you will, so I can -- I don't want to get it wrong.
Chalian: I do have this number, but that we see both on Republican and Democratic -- polling, that one of the big questions in the election is, how does America restore its reputation in the world.
Baird: Okay. And traditionally, even at time of war, foreign policy concerns aren't one of the front and center issues, and I think one of the reasons that this is happening now is not because more people are watching CBS Evening News or more people are reading the New York Times. In fact, I think the reason it's happening is that more people are using the internet, getting direct access to information, pictures from people like the gentleman who served in Iraq are being sent home to their families. It's incredible that our soldiers have cameras and they have internet access and that the military has encouraged this. This is a remarkable thing. Theycould have done quite the opposite. And I think you see on YouTube videos, you see, you know, Craig from Craigslist was at the debate last night, you know, you just see a whole different world of people hearing from other people about how they perceive the United States, and seeing in real time what's going on, not because they're sitting and watching CNN all day like my mother does, but because they're involved on the internet with their own communities of interest. And I think that's the new fourth estate, that is really transformational in our politics, in our sense of ourselves and the people we care about, and that, of course,
obviously it's added, too, by the celebrity engagement with the third world and the stories that come back. But again, it's mostly over the internet. You don't hear people talking about what Angela Jolie did in Africa on CBS Evening News, you see that on the internet. And so I think that the question of, who are the authorities of the fourth estate is a radically different question now, and maybe it's not even a fourth estate anymore.
Audience Member: Thank you very much for holding this session, the important questions are being addressed. I think we all have some concern, we really need to think through well our situation in Iraq and we've had problems because of it. But I mean the surge seems to be working despite the lack of planning, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of pressure on the Iraqi Government to do something. I mean, we could literally stay there forever without anything happening if we're providing all the security. How do we force the Iraqi Government to get more involved without putting some pressure on them?
Indyk: We don't is my answer. We don't. Because we're not going to succeed in that and its beyond, in my view, it's beyond the mission. We got rid of a hateful dictator and in the process, because we bundled the aftermath of it, we created a situation in which political reconciliation is going to be incredibly difficult to achieve in any reasonable time frame. My own view is quite pessimistic on this. Looking at it from the view point of some knowledge of Middle Eastern history, it's going to take 10 years. Essentially the Shias are dominant now as a result of elections that we insisted on, they've been suppressed for 500 years in Iran, for 14 centuries in the broader Middle East. And now they're in control and they're not going to share it with those who suppressed them — the Sunnis. And the Sunnis aren't going to accept them, and so they're going to duke it out. Now we're in a situation, where we're maintaining a stable situation, but we're also arming both sides, training both sides and basically we don't have the means of affecting reconciliation. And so we should in a sense declare victory on this front. We've created the circumstances in which it's now up to the Iraqis to resolve their own problems. And we'll help them to the extent they want to resolve them. And we'll try to hold the ring and prevent outsiders to interfere so that they have the best chance of resolving. But in the end it is going to be up to them, not up to us. And we shouldn't take on that responsibility.
Audience Member: First of all I'd like to say I do support the American troops, but I don't support the president's war policy. Having said that, my question is why is it that the United States feels like it has to be the moral authority for the whole world? Because, just for instance with Iran, why can't you accept at face value that there is evidence that suggests their oil fields are going to be depleted? And why can't we accept the fact that they want nuclear power because they're going to have to sustain their energy? Why do we have to say that we know for a fact that they're going to use it for evil purposes? Because I think that's really why a lot of these governments around the world hate us, they don't hate American people, as much they hate American policy. My question is why can't we accept at face value, and I don't want to be an apologist for the President of Iran, but how do you know that they're not going to use it for peaceful purposes?
Rodman: Well, the whole world has defined that as the issue. Nobody cares if they have a civilian nuclear energy program, we have explicitly said, "Of course they're entitled to have a civilian nuclear energy." But the world believes they have a nuclear weapons program, and we're not alone in this, and it's not about America setting itself up, it's about what we and several other ally governments believe. The issue of America setting itself up as the leader. What we do for a living as a global power - there are countries around the world who look to us for the security, they worry about some local threat or regional threat and they come to us. That's why we're in Europe, that's why we're in Asia, that's why we're in the Middle East. Because countries are afraid of some local bully and they come to us as a protector. That's what we do for a living. And it's a very honorable thing, and we don't impose ourselves. If somebody doesn't want us there, we leave. De Gaulle kicked us out, the Filipinos asked us to leave, we left.
Audience Member: Iraq didn't want us there . . .
Rodman: Sadaam Hussein didn't want us there, that's correct.
Audience Member: Thank you guys once again for being here. And thank you Zoe for answering the question that kind of got dodged the first panel, we really appreciate that. But I'm gonna address Peter real quick if that's okay. You mentioned the importance of re-establishing America's strength, which I agree is very important, but you say going about this is by carrying out the current policy that Bush has been enacting and that's important for the next president to do as well. I was living in Europe the year and a half following our waging war in Iraq, and I would argue that it's not America that anyone's against, but the policies that have been coming out of America. And so my question is, can we not re-establish strength through humility and admitting that maybe we went about everything the wrong way and have to fundamentally make a change about the way we're going about things?
Rodman: Well we went into Iraq with the support of a number of countries. We didn't have France or Germany on our side and this was very controversial, but, as I said in my original remarks, I think our relations with Europe are quite good right now and so I don't see any great dramatic change. There will be a new president, regardless of what you think of George Bush, this electoral cycle renews itself and we'll have a new administration. So whatever happened in this administration, a new president has a chance to start over again as he or she chooses. So I'm not worried about this. I wrote a long essay about anti-Americanism, a little while ago, about how a lot of the European unity movement had an anti-American undertone because we were the sole super power. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, we were number one, and this was something that provoked resentment in a whole lot of places. But I wrote this essay in 1998, during the Clinton administration, so some of this is structural; we're the big boy, we're going to be a focus of resentment no matter what we do. And sure, Iraq added a lot of passion to this, but we're going to be a focus of resentment because we are strong. The European problem is the fact that they are dependent on us is what they resent and they were hoping at the end of the Cold War they didn't need the Americans anymore and they were hoping to set up Europe as a counter way to American power. And I think as Russia gets stronger, they're going to realize they do need Americans there, and this will be in its own way a source of resentment. What I'm saying is to a greater extent this resentment of us goes with a territory and I think it's transitory in any case.
Pascual: There's one really important part of this question though that's critical is that the challenge to international security has changed. It's not just a question of power and force. We're dealing with the kinds of problems that are trans-national, that have no boundaries and borders. And you deal with not only regional security questions, but international terrorism, question of proliferation of weapons, question of climate change, dealing with issues like energy security. It's not going to be solved by one country. We're not living in a world right now where, despite the fact that we might try on our southern border, we can't build walls around ourselves to simply make ourselves safe. We have to participate in this international community. And so the challenge is here, how do we establish leadership in a way that allows us to engage effectively with our partners so that we are in international partnerships that are dealing with these kinds of trans-national challenges and existential challenges in a way that provide for our greater security? I think that that's what the next president is going to have to face fundamentally on his or her agenda.
Audience Member: I think everybody agrees this next election is very important to the American people and the world. What are the implications of another failed presidency both domestically and internationally?
Indyk: The implications are very bad. The next president is going to have a real challenge digging out from where this president is going to leave things. As I've already suggested in some ways, and I think Peter is right about this, the last year of the Bush presidency may lay the foundations for digging out of that hole. The first principle is when you're in a hole, is to start digging, and I think the Bush administration is actually doing that, and so the challenge may not be as great and the next president will benefit from the fact that he or she is not Bush. For the international community, that will make a difference. But what happens then is really going to be critical and I think there are a lot of lessons learned from the last eight years that will be applied whether it's a Republican or a Democratic president. And the most important one I think will be, that we're going to be working with other states and organizations in the international community much more than we were prepared to do in this administration. And that combined with all I've said, I think lays a foundation for believing that things will actually be better, not worse.
Baird: I think the implications are really very fundamental. And I will just take a minute to say that I think that they relate to things others here know better than I do, which is the emergence of China and the emergence of other alliances between nation-states that circumvent the leadership role of the Unite States. But I also think that they relate to the fundamental capabilities of the American people, which are built, I think, in part on a belief that we're a very competent country, that we can do what we set out to do. And that means we can build things, we can manufacture things, we can invent things that we set out to do and we can be a powerful government if we set out to do that. Not as much confidence we can solve social problems and lots and lots of issues about the competence of individuals, but I do think if the next president isn't really, really competent in using government that I think that that could be very fundamental in undermining the American confidence, and that pluck is a lot of what makes America succeed.
Chalian: Last question.
Audience Member: How much of our Middle Eastern policy is formed with our relationship with Saudi Royal family and what they want?
Indyk: When it comes to oil, a lot. And oil is a critical part of our Middle East policy because one of our vital interests there is in the free flow of oil at reasonable prices from the Persian Gulf arena and Saudi Arabia is the largest producer, and is building a capacity to increase its ability to be the swing producer; which means that hopefully it will be in a position to moderate prices in the near future. So we need Saudi Arabia to play that role, but what we don't need Saudi Arabia to do is spread a message of intolerance and hate that is tied up with the worst elements of the Wahhabi religious establishment in Saudi Arabia. And so we have to find a way to engage with the Saudis which ensures that they play a constructive role on the oil front and don't play a destructive role on these other fronts, which came back to bite us on 9/11.
Chalian: I just want to say in closing, thank you to all of you. Just a fascinating conversation, and especially for someone like me who is intimately focused on Iowa's 99 counties and less so on the world at large. We get a lot of heat in the press for covering the horse race and doing too much about polls and fund raising and presidential elections, but as you saw in the video at the top of this, it is the first presidential election in 80 years without an incumbent vice president or president seeking the party's nomination, matched with that, at a time where I don't think the issues or the stakes could be any more important or higher than they are. And so while we do focus on this process, this political running for president process, it is so wonderful to be reminded about what it really is all about, and listening to all of you discuss these issues that are going to fall on the desk immediately of the next president has just been fascinating for me and I'm sure for all of you so thank you all so much, I appreciate it.
— Compiled by Sun Staff: April Corbin, Stephanie Kishi, Jenna Kohler, Mary Manning, Andy Samuelson, Billy Steffens.