May 28, 2009

General James Jones' First U.S. Speech as National Security Advisor

FREDERICK KEMPE:  I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council.  Tonight it is a personal pleasure for me to welcome National Security Adviser General James L. Jones.  He is, of course, the former chairman of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council from 2007 to early 2009.  And during that tenure, the council experienced extraordinary growth in the public impact of its programs and studies and in the influence we have in the policy community on both sides of the Atlantic.  General Jones’ commitment to a global agenda for the Atlantic community continues to guide our mission.  We this year are launching two new centers that have been inspired by General Jones’ unique and visionary way of looking at the future and our national security challenges in the present and the future.  The first is the Michael Ansari Center for Atlantic-African Partnership, which we’re in the process of launching, and the second is our new South Asia Center, which is already at work on Afghanistan and Pakistan issues and a host of related regional issues.

So it is appropriate that General Jones launch this national security series.  It will underscore the fact that national security is a matter that now goes beyond conventional thinking about the issue and reaches into fields ranging from cyber-security, energy and climate to development challenges and financial instability.

Now, I personally experienced General Jones’ way of looking at the world and at national security in not just a military fashion when I met him on a C-17 heading to Afghanistan when I was the European editor of the Wall Street Journal.  And on that plane I was sitting between Special Forces and leading U.S. businesspeople, because he understood both were necessary to win the campaign.

Now, I must also say that I had a very long and fascinating interview with General Jones.  It’s where I really got to know him. He told me so many new and interesting and fascinating things I’d never known before about the region that I saved the tape; I had every word on it.  And when I got back home I learned a lot about why one can never try to record anything on a C-17.  (Laughter.)  I never did produce a story from that interview.  But in my new world, policy wonks refer to the businessmen and the Special Forces on a common plane as a “comprehensive solution.”  (Laughter.)

This new series will provide a continuing forum to leading administration officials and legislators who shape the public debate on national security issues.  I want to tip my hat to the director of our International Security Program, Damon Wilson, who left the National Security Council staff recently and has joined us as director of the program, and to his deputies, Magnus Nordenman and Jeff Lightfoot, for standing up this important series.

Thanks as well to BAE Systems, which is our partner in this initiative, and to Joel Bagnal, president of Detica, who is here tonight to represent BAE.

It’s now my pleasure to turn the stage over to Brent Scowcroft. He always hates it when one introduces the introducer, but I’m going to do that anyway.  Aside from having worn general’s stars and having served as chairman of the Atlantic Council, he also has, of course, in common with General Scowcroft, the fact that he was national security adviser.  He and General – excuse me, to General Jones; they were both national security adviser, in the case of General Scowcroft, to Presidents Ford and Bush, Senior.  General Scowcroft currently serves as chairman of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board.    Thank you very much for being with us, General Scowcroft.  The podium’s yours.

(Applause.)

LIEUTENANT GENERAL BRENT SCOWCROFT:  Thank you very much, Fred.  You did it again.  (Laughter.)

It’s really a great pleasure and a privilege for me to be here tonight to introduce a dear friend and to welcome back to the Atlantic Council a chairman who we sorely miss still.  While General Jones is not a household name, in that he’s not one of those people in Washington who walk down Lover’s Lane holding his own hand – (laughter) – he hardly needs an introduction to this audience.  So just a few words.

To me, General Jones is the epitome of the soldier-statesman. First, as a soldier:  He spent his first years as a soldier in Vietnam, learning at brutal first-hand the lessons of counterinsurgency.  He then went on and experienced the turmoil of the post-First Gulf War in Operation Provide Comfort and later on in Bosnia in the same role during the collapse of Yugoslavia.  So he has been introduced in a very intimate way to the new world which is unfolding around us.

Then, of course, he reached the pinnacle of his profession as commandant of the Marine Corps and as SACEUR, commander-in-chief of NATO, where he supervised the most modern and the most ancient of wars in Afghanistan, and finally, as special envoy for Middle East security, where he worked very recently – until he took his present job, for example – to develop the security forces of the Palestinian Authority.  What a background.

As statesman, first he was raised in France, speaks perfect French, and learned from the French how others sometimes view the world differently from we in the United States do.  And that, in itself, is an education.  He served as a lieutenant colonel or a colonel, I think, in legislative liaison with the Congress for the Pentagon.  So he became intimately involved in understanding the work of the Congress and how the Congress and the executive branch should work together.

As commandant, he was a part of the NSC system.  As SACEUR, his responsibilities were as much political and multinational as they were military.  At the Chamber of Commerce – again, just before he took up his present job – he set up the Institute for 20th Century Energy to begin a project to bring us up-to-date on one of the critical problems of the future.

Now General Jones, with that background, which is almost unparalleled, he’s inherited an NSC structure which was created in 1947 for a world which no longer exists.  So in addition to the current events, what he is doing is constructing a system which will deal comprehensively with a globalized world where everything is related to everything else.  No one, I think, is better prepared to do just that.  And I think it is especially appropriate that he’s kicking off the Atlantic Council national security speaker series for us.

Please welcome a dear friend and the national security adviser of the United States, General Jim Jones.

(Applause.)

GENERAL JAMES JONES:  Thank you, General Scowcroft.  Thank you, Fred.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here this afternoon.  I look forward to making a few remarks and hopefully having some good dialogue and great questions.

As I was thinking about my time with the Atlantic Council – fondly remembering my time with the Atlantic Council – I remember it as a place where people actually did what you asked them to do.  (Laughter.)  My new role is – I’m finding out that an order is a basis for negotiation.  (Laughter.)  But we’re getting there.  Step by step, we’re making improvements.

The last four months have been certainly extremely interesting in many, many different ways, with all kinds of people coming together from all walks of life and picking up on the daily routine of national security and international security.

And we’ve spent a fair amount of time reintroducing ourselves around the world, re-explaining our positions, analyzing our policies, trying to make friends out of adversaries, all kinds of – all kinds of powerful gestures to a watching and a waiting world.

And it reminded me a little bit about the story of an older man – older than Brent Scowcroft – who decided he was not happy with his life and decided to change everything.  And he went on a physical fitness binge; got a personal trainer; went on advanced diets – nutrition experts – and in the space of about six months lost about 20 pounds, 10 inches on his waist, increased his muscle tone; visited health specialists; went to tanning salons; had a little surgery done to improve his look; all kinds of things.  And finally, to cap it all off, at the end of six months, he got his hair styled.

And unfortunately, as he was walking out of the barbershop with his completely redone appearance, with new suits, new clothes and everything else, he stepped off the curb without looking where he was going and was hit by a bus.  And as he lay there in the gutter, losing his life, he said – he asked God, he said, God, why did you do this to me now?  And God said, frankly, Thompson, I didn’t recognize you.  (Laughter.)

So at the end of the day, you can reshape yourself, you can recast yourself, but Thompson was still Thompson.  The United States is still the United States.  We are a nation of great values.  We have a wonderful history.  And we are looking forward to engaging the world a little bit differently, perhaps, but in a way that is predictable, in a way that’s reassuring and a way that treats our friends and allies with the respect they deserve and the attention they deserve on the – for the issues that face us, which are awesome.

The 21st century is a century in which our threats – the threats that are coming at us are coming at us in waves.  They’re very asymmetric.  They’re very different than in the 20th century.  It is not just about a war on terror.  It has components relating to proliferation, to climate and energy, economic security, cyber-security, the illegal trafficking of humans, narcoterrorism, any number of things.  And in this smaller world that we live in, we have the opportunity to create organizations that are equipped to face with the multiplicity of threats that come at us in ways that will give adequate response to those challenges, not only at home but abroad.  So watching the world and understanding the environment is critical to how we organize to face that environment.  And the 21st-century environment is dramatically different.

And I watched the debate over the last several weeks about whether in – since the administration has taken office, whether we’re actually more safe or less safe, as some have suggested.  And I’d like to just begin by sharing my own perspective on that question of national safety.  I’ve identified some of the multiple threats that face us and they are – they are constant.  Every single day, we’re handling half a dozen serious issues simultaneously in an organization that is transforming itself as we speak.  And I’m speaking here of the National Security Council.

And – but my own experience that Brent alluded to of 40 years in uniform to the defense and security of the United States and really the safety of the American people has given me, I think, some insights that I’d like to share with you.  I’ll just briefly go back to Vietnam, where we witnessed a struggle where we didn’t – we never lost a single fight on the battlefield, but we lost the war on the strategic sense.

I remember Harry Summers going – famous trip to Hanoi and having a distinct conversation with General Giap.  And Colonel Summers, who was by then a correspondent, said, you know, General, you never defeated us in a single battle in South Vietnam.  And General Giap said, that’s true, and it’s also irrelevant.

So you can – you can be successful in your fights, and if you don’t have strategies to define exactly what it is you’re going to do, you can lose.

During operations after the First Gulf War and in the Balkans, I participated in a number of very complex humanitarian and peacekeeping and peacemaking missions, missions that we will see more of in the 21st century, missions that are messy and whose solutions rest on the proper application of not just military power but all elements of national power.

And as commandant I was privileged to – commandant of the Marine Corps, I was privileged and charged with training and equipping those brave young men and women who volunteer to serve our country and who we send into harm’s way.

And finally, as NATO commander, I learned how strong, enduring alliances and partnerships do not, in fact, constrain American power and influence, but multiply their effect.  And I’m delighted to see NATO – a resurgence of will to transform the alliance into something more relevant for the 21st century by embracing a new strategic concept which will be developed in the coming year.

And in my current capacity as national security adviser, I’ve watched every day as the president has fulfilled what he consistently described as his – and consistently describes as his single most important responsibility as president, to keep the country safe.  And so, in my view, I firmly believe that the United States is not only safe, but it will be more secure, and the American people are increasingly safer because of the president’s leadership that he’s displayed consistently over the last four months, both at home and abroad, and in ways that I would like to touch on very briefly.

America’s military dominance and the edge of our qualitatively superior force is being maintained and has been reinforced by contributions of our friends and allies who are responding to new U.S. leadership to do more and to participate more.  We’ve seen this in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We’re seeing it in other places in the world as well.

To ensure that the armed forces can meet the missions of today, the president has directed increased Defense spending, increased the size of the Army and the Marines – something I failed to do – and halted reductions in the – planned reductions in the Air Force and the Navy.  We’re making new investments in the capabilities that all forces will need to meet the full spectrum of 21st century challenges, both the conventional and the unconventional.

The American people, I think, are safer because we’re focusing the fight against terrorism, for sure, but also the family of asymmetric threats that, as I mentioned earlier, come at us every single day.  The president understands clearly the gravity of the threat and the responses required, and he has said clearly and unequivocally that we are at war with terrorism, and terrorism can take many facets.  There is such a thing as nuclear terrorism. There’s narcoterrorism.  There is – there are extremists at work in different parts of the world, and we have to not only react to where they are, but try to anticipate where they’re going, because it is – they are on the move.  And we need to be able to anticipate the kind of operations that we should be thinking about six months to a year ahead of time in different parts of the world to bring the necessary elements of national and international power to bear to prevent future Iraqs and future Afghanistans, which I think is a 21st- century mission that should be embraced by organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

We are doing everything we can to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, and we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a new commitment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its allies. We’re also happy to see in Pakistan a new and comprehensive and so far impressively successful effort by the Pakistani army to react to its extremist – challenge by its extremists and have noted that they are also handling a growing refugee problem with great skill.

The president has spoken in no uncertain terms of how this fight that we’re in will end.  In his inaugural speech, speaking directly to those who would harm us, he said, “You cannot outlast us and we will defeat you.”  That’s pretty clear guidance to all of us.  I think the American people are safer today because, as the president explained in his speech last week, he’s rejected a false choice between our security and our ideals; banning the use of so- called enhanced interrogation techniques that do not only advance our counterterrorism efforts, they probably undermine them; ordering the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which is a recruiting – a recruitment tool for terrorists, likely created more terrorists around the world than the prison ever detained – so developing a responsible plan for dealing with detainees rather than the ill-conceived approach that let detainees return to the battlefield in the past and failed to prosecute those who should be held accountable in various courts.

The president also is intent on reaching out – fulfilling his inaugural pledge to reach out to the Muslim world.  He’s had interviews on Al Arabiya, a new year’s message to the Iranian people, a speech to the Turkish people and the Turkish congress, upcoming – and an upcoming speech in Egypt which will be carried to the Muslim world at some point next week.

I think we’re safer because we’ve also seen that the president was very skillful and successful in our first trip overseas, first to the G-20 in London and then to the NATO conference and the European Summit, in renewing American leadership and strengthening our standing in the world.  I was privileged to be on that trip and privileged to observe the reaction to the president and the new administration.  And I felt I was very proud to be an American during those particular trips.  It was very impressive.

In Latin America, the Summit of the Americas – among other things, we have rescripted and refashioned our relationship with Mexico and have taken new steps towards Cuba.

We have renewed our American diplomacy with special envoys and representatives to the Middle East, to Afghanistan-Pakistan, Southwest Asia, Sudan.

We have people – special representatives for climate and energy. So the focus on the things that we should be concerned about in a strategic sense I think is being implemented and being implemented with very skillful people.

Finally, I think we’re safer because we’re confronting the unconventional challenges and the threats of our time.  Nuclear proliferation, with a new global initiative to reverse proliferation, to revive arms control talks with Russia, joining with allies and partners to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, working with allies and partners to bring stronger international pressure on North Korea as a result of their latest nuclear test and missile test are all key elements in a comprehensive strategy.

Cyber-security, something you’re going to hear more of in the near future, the president will call for a new comprehensive approach later this week.  And, of course, one cannot talk about energy security without mentioning climate.  And climate and energy go hand-in-hand.  And we have also put some good programs and emphasis within the National Security Council on these two areas as well.

To deal with all of this, we are in the process still of turning the National Security Council, which is a relatively small organization, but really at the epicenter of dialogue on these big issues that I just talked about.  And so it must, in fact, be very agile.  It must be able to react to numerous things simultaneously on a daily basis and it must also be able to think out into the future at least six months to a year ahead of time, if not more, to be able to anticipate and see the waves that are – the waves and the threats that are coming our way.

To this end, this week the president approved the – combining the Homeland Security Council and the National Security Council into one organization.  The integration of that – of those two organizations will make – will contribute to the safety of our citizens simply because – and when you deal with threats, there is no threat that is purely national and there is no threat that is purely international.  And in the interconnected world that we live in, whether it’s energy, whether it’s climate, whether it’s economic stability, whether it’s hunger, whether it’s global development, whether it’s proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, all of these things belong to the – a greater portfolio that’s better handled by an integrated staff.  So we are – we have done that.  It’s a very    flat organization that is – all fits on one chart with not too many lines reporting to the – in a very efficient way to the president.

I want to say a few words about the decision-making process, because I think it’s interesting to understand how these – how these – how decisions are made inside the White House on national security issues.  Fundamentally, it’s a system that has existed in the past with a couple of unusual changes – a couple of features that are unique.

The first thing I’d like to say about it is that the – each president gets a National Security Council that he or she wants.  And so the question at the outset is to try to understand what it is that best serves a particular president.  And in the case of President Obama, we have a national leader who thrives on dialogue and wants to hear opposing views, wants to have debate and discussion and wants a process that he believes in and that serves him well.  This process has to be agile; it has to be fairly quick, because of the volume of work that comes in; has a certain pace to each day.  But part of the challenge is to make sure that we line up the strategic issues in order of – not so much in order of importance, but in order of priority relative to kind of the global calendar that we’re all subject to.

And so instead of a system where policy comes from the top down, this is a system where policy comes – is developed from the bottom up, starting with working groups, appropriately staffed, with appropriate participation from all interested parties in the – in the interagency.  The next step would be the deputies’ committees, where, again, at a higher level we focus on the issue, on making sure that all claimants are represented, and then, if necessary, a principals’ committee meeting, where the principals have a crack at further refining the issue in question.

Then, if necessary, if the president needs to make a decision, then he presides over the full National Security Council.  And I can assure you that it is a healthy debate. Silence is not accepted around the table.  And if you’re silent, you can be sure that the president will call on you.  So it has the advantage of keeping people awake, because you know you’re going to be called on, and thinking about how you’re going to make a meaningful contribution, because nobody gets out – nobody gets out unchallenged.

So it’s a – I think it’s a very good process.  And I think it’s – well, it’s more important that the president thinks it’s a good process, to be honest.  But I think it is – it is serving us well. The thing that I’ve enjoyed most about my brief time there is the fact that at the principals’ level, by the time we get issues, they’ve been thoroughly debated.  And the level of collegiality and the fact that everybody who wants to be at the table and should be at the table should be included regardless of whether a decision goes their way or not.  Nobody walks away from the table thinking that they haven’t been heard, and I think that’s an asset and a very, very good feature.  So we still have a lot of work to go.  It’s not a perfect system. We are continuing to refine not only the structure but the staff, and to make sure that we keep that agility, we keep that focus on this very, very different world that we’re facing with the multiple challenges that are coming our way.  And we look forward to the future with confidence that we will be able to keep this nation safe, and we’ll be able to engage with our friends and allies the world over to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

And so I think I’ll stop right there and be glad to answer any questions that you might have for me.  Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MR. KEMPE:  This is going to be a little bit difficult seeing everyone here, so we’ll do our best.  First of all, thank you very much, General Jones.  That was a deep, fascinating look that was also somewhat provocative.  And so since your focus was very much on the actions of the president and how they are making the United States safer, I’d like to ask you, and you were polite enough not to mention the fact that former Vice President Dick Cheney started this debate. Is it a useful debate?  Has it been a healthy debate, from your standpoint?

GEN. JONES:  Yes, I think so.  I mean, I think we should first, no administration is going to suggest that their performance has made the country less safe.  That’s kind of a starting point.  But I honestly think that it is important to ask yourselves introspectively as you’re going through this process, is what we’re doing contributing to the safety of the country?  And since ours is a nation with global responsibilities, are we contributing to global security and safety as well?  Because you can’t have, if you’re the United States you can’t have one without the other.

And so this methodology I think is contributing to our safety. Let me say that also very quickly that as you may try to be perfect in everything you do, perfection is something that’s very hard to achieve.  And in a security arena all you need is one incident and you will be judged accordingly.

So this isn’t a question of being naive.  This is a question of doing whatever you can, whatever is reasonably possible, recognizing that the next day you may be found wanting.  But there is no harm in trying for perfection.

And I think that the former vice president certainly knows full well that perfection is an impossible standard, and I don’t think that he means to judge anyone by suggesting that you are failing if you prevent anything from happening.  It’s just simply an impossible task, but we do everything we can to deter, to prevent, to keep the family of threats that I’ve discussed at bay and as far away from our shores as possible, which is why we are engaged in the different parts of the world the way we are.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you, General Jones.  On Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the Atlantic Council January of last year as you were still chairman we issued a report that you co-chaired where we said, “The international community is not winning in Afghanistan.”  You spoke.  You praised the Pakistani government in your presentation in terms of the Army operating with skill, dealing with the refugee issue with skill.

How would you assess the situation now?  Is the international community winning in Afghanistan, Pakistan?  Is the trend line improved or are we still in some significant difficulty where we really have to turn around the trend line?

GEN. JONES:  It’s a little early to tell.  I think we’re in the process of implementing the strategy that was developed over the first couple of months in the administration.  The elements of that strategy is, A, that it’s regional, it’s not just about Afghanistan or Pakistan.  It’s about the region.

Second, that it has more features to it than simply a military victory, so it really is not about how many troops you put on the ground; it’s about whether you can achieve security, economic development, and governance and rule of law simultaneously.  It’s a three-pronged approach that will serve us well if we do it well.  That jury is still out, frankly.

It also features a renewed effort to rapidly grow the Afghan army and also to rapidly grow the police force capable of providing security in the small towns and villages in Afghanistan and obviously in the cities.  It calls upon the government of Afghanistan and Pakistan to do more and to be cognizant of the penalties for failing to act responsibly and with leadership.

And it calls upon the world community, the countries who actually have commitments in the region to really understand that while the United States is reaching out and engaging in greater dialog and discussion, that there is an expectation of course that nations will meet their shared responsibility in making sure that this region in fact turns into the right direction.

Now, I am heartened by the recent activities of the Pakistani army and the Pakistani government.  The response by the military so far has the support of the Pakistani people, the government’s popularity has shot up a little bit in the polls, and that is going to have an effect in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the same time the U.S. additional troops, 21,000, are arriving; and they will be deployed in the east and the south where they’re mostly needed.  That will also have a critical effect.

But while I’m extremely confident that the stability piece, particularly in Afghanistan, can be implemented, the big question is whether the other two legs of this three-legged stool, the economic development and governments and rule of law, can be applied as quickly as we think.

So there’s a certain synergy that has to happen along these three legs, and if we do that both nationally and internationally with the right metrics and the right benchmarks I think that we should know within a year whether this strategy is going to be successful.  I’m hoping that everyone that’s signed on the dotted line and embraced the strategy – after numerous consultations globally with our friends and allies, involving also the Pakistani government and the Afghan government in the process – will result in greater ownership and a greater sense of responsibility as we go down this trail.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you, General Jones.  One more question from me, and then I’ll turn to the audience.  Looking through this prism, a safe or less-safe world, help us think through North Korea and particularly on North Korea working with China.  How do we take on this issue, and how does this fit into your overall way of looking at these things?

GEN. JONES:  Well, I think that North Korea, there are a couple of facets here.  One is that the detonation and their missile firings do not in and of themselves constitute an imminent threat to our safety and security.   It’s a question of they still have a long way to go to weaponize the instrument and also to have a delivery system that can deliver it.  That’s obviously a very worst-case scenario and one that we very much hope to avoid.

But the imminent threat is the proliferation of that kind of technology to other countries and potentially to terrorist organizations, non-state actors.  And that is, in my view, the most imminent danger.

It’s been interesting to watch the reaction of the Russians who have I think spoken out pretty well on this issue.  The Chinese have also taken a harder line than ever before.  We are in consultation with them on a regular basis.  Let me say that nothing that the North Koreans did surprised us.  We knew that they were going to do this. They said so.  So no reason not to believe it.  But, so there were no surprises here.

And the question is, now how do you bring about, what do you do specifically to bring about a change of behavior in North Korea?  And let me say that at the same time there are other countries that are watching what we’re doing and will draw some conclusions that in their own programs, you know, may or may not cause some adjustments as well.

So this is a pretty serious moment.  We will be in close consultation with our friends.  The president will be going to Russia in July.  This will be on our list.  And I think we will be dealing with the Chinese and also all of our other friends and allies as well to come to a global, perhaps not global but a consensus of how we deal with this issue.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you, General Jones.  Let me turn first to General Scowcroft, and then I’m looking also around the room for others.

LT. GEN. SCOWCROFT:  General Jones, you gave us a good description of the process as you set up for decision-making.  You’ve been at this now about four months, and now that the system is operating what do you find most difficult, frustrating, or frightening in what you see? (Laughter.)

GEN. JONES:  Well, I think the most difficult is trying to make sure that we are handling the issues in the correct sequence in relation to world events.  You know, we don’t want to be talking about wasting people’s time coming around the table on an issue that is secondary to another issue that’s much more important.  So trying to figure out the global rhythm and to figure out where our national interests lie and what is it that the interagency needs to focus on because the purpose of this National Security Council is to integrate and to correctly identify the participants and the claimants, if you will, on the issues and to tee the issues up in a way that makes sense.  And that happened fairly quickly.  This is not a very long process.  This is a fairly rapid process.  From the time it goes to a working group to the time you can get to a full NSC can sometimes be no more than three or four days.

I want to say something about the quality of the people who work in the NSC.   My deputy national security advisor, Tom Donilon, is a superb deputy.  And I consider that the Deputies Committee is really the engine that kind of drives the process.  And his management of that, if he doesn’t kill himself in doing it, is really phenomenal. But it enables us to sometimes not even have to get to the Principals Committee because if you achieve consensus at one level, you don’t have to go anymore.

But we have a very talented staff.  It’s multi-faceted in skills, and it’s broad in its area of expertise.  And I think we’re getting better as each week goes by.  While we’re happy with the results of the process, sometimes the way we get to the results is a little torturous and painful.  And as we streamline the processes and people understand their roles a little bit better, I think we’re going to get better.  So the frustrations are typical of maybe a lot of government jobs: not enough money, not enough space, not enough time.  But we’re getting through it.

But I think really the key question is, are you talking about the things that you should be talking about, and are the right people at the table to participate.  I think the greatest satisfaction I’ve had is the one that most in the media predicted would be the most difficult.  It’s turned out to be the easiest.  And that’s the level of collegiality at the principal’s level.  That has been really a very gratifying to see that.  Very professional.

MR. KEMPE:  The team of rivals is not so rivalrous?

GEN. JONES:  The team of rivals exists at other levels, but not at the Principal’s level.

(Laughter.)

MR. KEMPE:  If you can identify yourself, please, as well?

Q:  Thank you, Fred.  Sebastian Gorka, National Defense University, and Atlantic Council Advisors Group.  Thank you, General, for your presentation.  You mentioned more than once the whole of government approach, which when it comes to implementation means interagency.  You’ve been involved with this for some time now.  Could you give us your best case scenario for where we will be in interagency in the near term?  And do you think we are at a position right now, at an era where something of the scale of Goldwater-Nichols is required in the interagency arena?

GEN. JONES:  I’m sorry.  I missed the last part of your question.

Q:  Do we need something of the scale of Goldwater-Nichols for the armed forces in the IA, in the interagency arena?

GEN. JONES:  Well, I don’t think so.  I think that one of the benefits of our system is that within the National Security Council, regardless of the administration, nobody has to be confirmed.  So therefore there is no – there is great agility to be able to reinvent yourself without having to have legislation.  There’s some overarching legislation that governs the number of slots you can have and the numbers of senior jobs and junior jobs and titles and things like that.  But not how you organize yourself.

And so we have great agility to turn into the wind, if you will, to face the challenges.  And so we’re getting the organization right. It’s extremely important.  If you’re not – the first thing you do is analyze the environment, then get the organization right, and then get the processes right.  And if you do that, and I think we’ve made great strides on it along all three of those fronts, then the challenge is then to make sure that the interagency bends towards the middle from all claimant organizations and that everybody, in keeping with the president’s wishes, participates in the debate on these big issues.

If it’s a single agency issue, this probably won’t be an interagency issue.  Where the National Security Council is at its best is when we have multiple claimants on issues, and so we provide the forum whereby a full airing of the major topics of our day can be done in an organized way and at the appropriate level.

Not everything has to go to the president for a decision. Sometimes a working group can solve the problem, and you can get consensus.  Sometimes it’s the Deputies Committee.

Sometimes you have to go through the principals process, and sometimes the president comes down and personally chairs an entire National Security Council to arrive at the decision that he wishes to make.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you.

Please, over here.

Q:  (Off mike.)  Is it on?

MR. KEMPE:  Yeah.

Q:  Yeah, Christoph von Marschall from the German Daily Der Tagesspiegel.

Under the priorities and strategies you have outlined, North Korea seems to be a really special problem.  Over the last years, there has not been a lack of diplomatic engagement and talks and international cooperation.  Deals have been reached; that’s the problem – they are not meeting their part of it.

Sanctions – they almost seem to be immune against sanctions. And when it comes to escalation, they seem to threat the world more with proliferation – you already mentioned it, all the missiles – and the world is willing to harm North Korea.

So what are the options?  Regime change?  War for regime change not an option.  What are the options, when even some smaller actions, like a sea blockade or control of ships against proliferation, can provoke a situation we all want to avoid?

So what are the options?

GEN. JONES:  Well, you’ll understand why I don’t get into specifics, because these things are ongoing as we speak.

But let me say that one of the things that I think we’ve noticed – at least in the 120 or so days that we’ve been around – is that on the issues of proliferation and issues of nuclear safety and the like, there is a growing convergence of opinion in the world if you listen – if you watch what the Russians are saying, if you watch what the Chinese are saying, if you watch what India is saying, if you watch what, obviously, much of the world is focused on, what’s going on in North Korea and what’s going on in Iran.

And what we do in relation to one or the other is going to be – is going to be hugely significant.  If we fail to convince Iran of the error of its ways in terms of possibly weaponizing its nuclear effort, you could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Gulf.  If we don’t – if we’re not successful in convincing North Korea, which we have not been successful, and in changing their ways, then we have another serious problem.

But what has changed a little bit, I think, in terms of the body politic of the world is the growing conclusion that states like North Korea and Iran should not be permitted to have this capability, because of the threats to the stability of not only the regions that the live in, but also the globe.

We hope to add our voice to that debate and to continue to do those things that cause the great powers, the bigger powers, and also smaller powers to join in this conviction that we cannot let this happen.

Where it goes and how you carry this to its end, time will tell. But I think that without having the Chinese and the Russians seeing this as an American – American-only venture and that we are engaging with them to solicit their ideas for the good of the global community, this is new, I think.  And this deserves to have its full potential aired out.

And I think it’s – I think there’s – it’s good to be excited about that possibility, because since day one with both the Chinese and the Russians, the level of cordiality, the level of discussions – not just at the presidential level, but at all levels in the government – have been surprising.  And we take a little optimism there as we go into meetings in China and meetings in Russia this summer.

MR. KEMPE:  That’s good news.

General Walt.

Q:  Thank you, sir.

Is this on?

A great rundown – excuse me – a great rundown.  I’d like to ask a question about missile defense.  And I know that recently, Secretary Gates mentioned that there would be more outreach to Russia, which I think is excellent.

Have you considered potentially increasing the players in MDA not only to Russia, but maybe India and China?  And how would that work?

GEN. JONES: Yeah.  I don’t think there’s – I don’t think there’s an intentional limit on who can participate in this debate.  It is – over these discussions.  I think these are on the table.

And I think that the preliminary meetings that the president’s had with his counterparts have been of high order of civility in discussion and respectful.  And I think we’re in a good position, Chuck, to see what it is we can bring about.

So we’ll see what happens.  But you’re right.  It’s not – this is not a necessary limited dialogue.  It can certainly spread.

MR. KEMPE:  Please, right here.  I see a question here.

Q:  Thank you.  Thank you, General.

A question – my name is Paolo von Schirach of Schirach Report.

Question on energy – and I know this is a subject that the president has talked about a great deal in the past.

Is energy – is oil dependence a problem or is it a serious strategic vulnerability in the view of the administration?  And if it is a serious vulnerability, can we meet it with dispatch or is this something that requires a long time and therefore, we stay vulnerable for an indefinite period of time?

Thank you.

GEN. JONES:  The belief is that overdependence on any imported technology is not necessarily in the best interests of your national security.

What – where I think we would like to not only be in terms of our country, but also participate in the global dialogue, is a more comprehensive energy portfolio that answers the critical needs for global use of energy.  And in that spirit, we would hope to, over time, disincentivize countries who are using their energy as either political or economic weapons.  And you can’t disassociate it with the climate – the climate aspects and the potential adverse effects of climate change.

So I think there’s trend towards energy interdependence, developing all aspects of energy.  We need it all.  And with that, I think nationally – and maybe internationally – we should look at the security and the capacity of our infrastructure, which is going to be tested more severely in this century than it was in the past.  And we’ve paid not enough attention to the adequacy of our infrastructure and the modernization aspect of things, but also to the security of our infrastructure.

So overdependence on any one form, particularly fossil fuels – this is not necessarily about whether one is good or one is bad, but what we’re trying to do is bring together the technologies that make energy consumption cleaner; to ensure that the United States is seen as part of the solution instead of part of the problem; and to stimulate other large countries like China and India and the European Union and Russia, to join with us in helping provide solutions for the developing world.

We can’t forget about the fact that there are quite a few countries that are now coming into what would be the pollution stage.  If you go back 30 or 40 years in our own development, we want them to be able to skip the pollution stage with technologies that allow them to have access to adequate energy.

And on that score, this is part of the problem with nuclear power and nuclear weapons.  We have to figure out a protocol whereby nuclear energy, if it’s desired, can be used, because of its relatively low carbon impact.  And we need to figure ways and protocols in which other countries can have access to that without threatening the world with additional nuclear weapons.

MR. KEMPE:  Thank you, General Jones.

Jim Hoagland, Washington Post.

Q:  Jim Hoagland, Washington Post.

General Jones, thank you for your remarks.  I wanted to follow up on your mention of the NATO strategic concept that will be drawn up over the next year and ask you:  What do you think the most urgent two or three subjects that have to be dealt with are?  And if they’re different, what are the two or three most important topics that have to be dealt with?

Is it the kind of thing of shifting from a strategy of nuclear deterrence to one built around counterinsurgency?  And how do you judge the prospects for getting Europe to go along with your list of subjects when the outgoing SACEUR, General Craddock, said at an Atlantic Council meeting a few weeks ago that much of the political leadership in NATO is AWOL today?

GEN. JONES:  Sounds like an Army problem.  (Laughter.)

As to the strategic concept, I am heartened by the fact that all leaders of the alliance voted unanimously to embark on redefining NATO’s role in the 21st century.

If common defense was the mantra for the 20th century, I would suggest that common security is the mantra for the 21st century. For NATO not to have a role in such things as proliferation, missile defense, energy security, illegal shipment of weapons, terror, narcoterror, those are – these asymmetric threats are what are confronting us today.

Doctrinally, NATO has no role – no written role.  The terms of reference over the job that I held in 2003 go back almost to the creation of NATO.  NATO was conceived to be a defensive, static and reactive alliance.  That served us well in the Cold War.  It will not serve us well in the 21st century.

It is not to say that NATO should be offensive, but it should certainly be proactive instead of reactive.  And it needs to have greater agility.  It needs to really look at itself at the political level and decide if 350 or 400 committees, each acting in the spirit of consensus before any decision has moved forward, is really an efficient way to deal with the world as it is today.  It isn’t.

They need to look at themselves in terms of how they spend their money.  Less than 10 percent of NATO’s budget is spent on operations.   Quite a bit of it is spent on great headquarters buildings and, you know, expensive lunches and things like that.

But – and I’m being a little facetious, but it’s being misspent. And the new secretary-general is going to have to figure out a way to get NATO into the wind to face the 21st century.

It’s an enormously great alliance with a great history, and I believe that its best days are still in its future.  But I take a little bit of disagreement with the fact that NATO is AWOL – that the leadership is AWOL.  They voted unanimously for the strategic concept review, so one would think that they’re serious about it.

I think it’s up to the United States, also, and others, to make sure that we do this well.  We’ve already had France reintegrate.  That’s an amazingly good thing!  So I think that there is reason for optimism here.  And put me down as one that thinks that this is going to come out okay.

I will tell you that the last summit was the most excited I’ve been in any summit I’ve attended since 2003, in terms of the palpable enthusiasm that resulted in quite a bit of donations and offers to help – in not just helicopters and troops for Afghanistan, for example – but monetary contributions to the Afghan national army fund; instruments that would facilitate economic development; and a willingness to submit to an organization in Kabul led by Kai Eide, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative, to bring some cohesion to the reconstruction and to the governance and rule of law, to match the discipline of the military effort.

If you get those three working together, that’s going to be pretty exciting in NATO.

MR. KEMPE:  How crucial is this to what you’re trying to achieve globally – the Mission of the Atlantic Council of renewing the Atlantic community for global challenges?

But as you look at Iran, as you look at dealing with issues in the Far East – whether it’s North Korea or others; as you look at climate, et cetera, et cetera – is the Atlantic community – does it play the role it did when General Scowcroft was national security adviser?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think the Atlantic community is pivotal in all of this.  And you know, what is really obvious to me is –  and I think to a lot of people here – is that this vastly smaller world that we live in where communications is instantaneous, events happen at a cyclic rate that we could only have imagined 10 or 15 years ago, means that you have to be able to be relevant.  You have to know what’s happening and be willing to act fairly quickly to respond to the stimuli.  I think that sitting around and waiting for things to happen, talking about it for six months, and then deciding to do something is too late.  You will miss the train.  And in this world –

MR. KEMPE:  This world aim –

GEN. JONES: In this 21st -century world, you cannot afford to miss the train.  It will – you will be left there standing, watching, and you’ll just – you know, it’s like the old joke.  There are three types of people: people who watch things happen; people who make things happen; and people who don’t know what’s happening.  And you do not want to be a nation and not know what’s happening.

MR. KEMPE:  Last question, as we’re running out of time – and I apologize to those in the audience I didn’t get to.

You made a joke at the beginning about how folks at the Atlantic Council sort of click their heels and said “yes” when you gave orders. I wish it were so, as I look around this staff and the audience.

GEN. JONES:  I’ll trade jobs with you.

(Laughter.)

MR. KEMPE:   But there’s – we’ll take that up with the board.  (Chuckles.)

Here’s the question – and it’s a serious question, although asked in a light-hearted way:  Why did you take the job?

GEN. JONES:  I’m glad my wife’s not here.  (Laughter.)

Well, it’s a serious question, so I’ll give you a serious answer.

The fundamental reason that I came back into government was simply to serve my country, because the president-elect of the United States asked me.  I am not by nature a political person, in terms of being affiliated with one party or the other.

I have voted all my life much the way Colin Powell says he votes, and I try to vote for the person that I think will do the best job.

President Obama reached out to me without knowing too much about me.  I believe that we are at a historical moment in terms of this nation’s destiny.  And what we do today is going to dramatically affect the lives of my grandchildren and your grandchildren.

And I would like to do something that will materially put – that will help this country get on a path towards 2030 or 2040, when our grandchildren are assuming their leadership for the nation and will look back on us and say, you know, I’m glad our grandparents did what they did, because we wouldn’t have this – we wouldn’t be where we are without their having made some very tough decisions.  These are difficult times.  I know of no more challenging time – at least in my lifetime – no greater combination of difficulties be they economic; be they national security in the old way, with regard to, you know, potential wars; with regard to the challenges that face us in a very troubled world that is still very much trying to find itself in terms of the way in which we’re going to – how we’re going to live and how we’re going to keep our country safe and our allies safe, because I think there’s a dual responsibility here for the years to come.

So it’s a simple – it was a simple – it wasn’t a simple discussion in my family, but it was – at the end of the day, I have no regrets and I’m happy to be of service.

MR. KEMPE:  I think I can speak for the audience to say that we’re happy, as well.

Let me close by just saying a couple of things:  First of all, it’s been a great privilege to participate in this session.  It’s rare, when stakes are so high and challenges are so great, that one has the privilege of listening to someone who gets the macro in such a – gets the macro right and explains it in such an interesting way, but also has a real sense of the importance of the micro in the process and how it has to serve the macro in getting things done.

We know how busy you are.  We’ve got just a taste tonight of how full your plate is.  We exist at the Atlantic Council to give people a richer understanding of issues that are somewhat – sometimes treated a little bit too superficially in our very hurried society.

And so thank you for letting us do that.  This gets the national security series off to a magnificent start.  We’ll have more people from senior officials of the U.S. government, of European government, because we want to follow this up and bring this kind of rich, deep discussion of the issues that we really have to look at in the way you’re looking at it, which is much more deeply, much more seriously, and much more profoundly.

So thank you so much for getting us off to such a great start.

GEN. JONES:  Thank you. 

(Applause.)

Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.

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