About the speaker
Dr. John M. Poindexter most recently served as Director of the Information Awareness Office (IAO) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Dr. Poindexter served as National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1986, and as Military Assistant in the White House prior to that. Dr. Poindexter served 29 years active duty in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of Vice Admiral. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
Since we have someone from the Navy speaking tonight, we’re going to run a tight ship and start on time. Although since I know there are some other people who are coming, I was tempted to ask the short people – there’s one of them – to ask the short people to sit in front so that people in the back could see the slides. Does it look okay to everyone from where you are you can see the slides? Okay, alright. Excellent.
Well, our speaker tonight really doesn’t need an introduction but I’ll make a brief one nonetheless. As you know, Admiral Poindexter served as National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor for President Ronald Reagan – remember? – from 1983 to 1986, and as military assistant in the White House prior to that. He was also responsible for improving the command and management systems to support the president and national security crisis management, culminating in the creation of a new high technology crisis management center.
We’re also happy to have Mrs. Poindexter with us tonight.
The late Mrs. Poindexter.
No, no, not the late Mrs. Poindexter, you’re very much alive.
Admiral Poindexter served for 29 years, active duty in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of Vice Admiral. While in the Navy, he specialized in training, new tactics, and battle management procedures, and pioneering use of chip board computers. That’s how he’s able to do the slide presentation. Something beyond my competence. He holds doctoral and master’s degrees in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He’s also a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Now, most recently Dr. Poindexter served as a director of the Informational Awareness Office at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency where he developed and demonstrated information technologies systems to counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness useful for preemption, national security, and national security decision making. Please join me in welcoming Admiral Poindexter.
Admiral John Poindexter:
Bob, thank you very much. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. As Bob so stated, I’m not an expert on Islam and I am a retired naval officer and scientist. But Bob asked me several weeks ago to come and speak and I asked him what he wanted me to talk about and he didn’t have an exact specification but I told him what I wanted to talk about. So what I want to talk to you about tonight is national security and how it relates to the Islamic State and what we can do about it from a foreign perspective and the domestic perspective.
And I want to compare it with what we did in the Reagan Administration. Our strategy in those years was based on five pillars: diplomatic, military, economic, public diplomacy – which, by the way, Bob is very big on – and covert operations. It’s very important to understand that an integrated strategy is essential because each action in each of the areas provides leverage to actions in the other areas and I strongly believe that we should be using this kind of strategy in the present situation with the Islamic State.
Now, it is true that the administration is maybe doing pieces of this, but it has not been integrated in any meaningful way and explained not only to the domestic audience, but also to our foreign audience. And I think that is one of the reasons that we are in a state right now of great uncertainty.
Geography of the Middle East
Many of you may be aware of the next few slides, but for those that are not, I want to talk a little bit about geography and the geopolitical situation, the geopolitical history. At the end of World War I, British and French diplomats, Sykes and Picot, came up with a scheme for dividing the old Ottoman Empire. It was primarily based on at the time on British and French interests. It was arbitrary in terms of the tribal and ethnic culture of the Middle East. In other words, the Sunni, and the Shia, and the Kurds. In hindsight, it is my belief that that was a huge mistake and we are suffering through the result of that right now.
The area involved is at present time anyway largely desert. Here is a Google Earth image of Syria and Iraq. And note that there are two major rivers that cut through this area, the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. But all of this area here is essentially desert.
Current Operational Picture
Now, the current operational picture in Iraq is represented here. Note that the yellow dots are the Kurds, the red dots are the Iraqi forces, and the black dots are the Islamic State. Also note that all of the activity occurs basically along the rivers, and, of course, the reason is that is where the people are.
Now moving on to Kurdistan. This is the northern part of Iraq. And again, the scheme is the yellow are the Kurdish forces, the red are the Iraqi forces, and the black dots are the Islamic State. And, of course, Mosul is a very large city presently occupied by the Islamic State.
Then in Syria the Islamic State is this grey-ish area. The Kurds are up here to the north, this area over here. The rebels are in these green areas. And the government controls the red areas. Now one of the things to note here is that this is a border with Turkey, and this area is presently occupied by the Islamic State.
Now, recently there have been reports that the Turks and the Kurds are working to close off this border area, which would be very helpful for the prosecution of the war.
Islamic State Control Expanding
Now the Islamic State control is expanding. It is shown here in December of 2014. And recall they announced the Islamic State in June of 2014. So the yellow-ish color here represents where the Islamic State forces were in December and this red represents the expansion that occurred by May of last year. Now this slide is not exactly up-to-date.