The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies
(Michael Ledeen, July 19, 2016)
Transcript available below
About the speaker
Dr. Michael Ledeen’s new book, Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies (St. Martin’s Press, 2016), is co-authored with Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Senator Joseph Lieberman writes, it is a book “worth reading by anyone concerned about the future security of America.”
Dr. Ledeen spent more than 20 years at the American Enterprise Institute and is now the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is an internationally renowned scholar on Iran, Iraq, terrorism, and international security.
Dr. Ledeen has served as a consultant to the National Security Council and the Defense Department, and as a Special Advisor to the Secretary of State during the Reagan administration. He holds a PhD in modern European history and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, and has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rome.
He is the author of more than 35 books, including Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West; The War Against the Terror Masters; The Iranian Time Bomb; and Freedom Betrayed: How America Led a Global Democratic Revolution, Won the Cold War, and Walked Away. Field of Fight was available for purchase and signing.
Before I introduce our speaker, I want to acknowledge the presence of his wife, Barbara Ledeen, in the audience. And I have a special reason for doing that, not only because of her wonderful children, her daughter who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and two marines officers sons, but thanks to her work on Capitol Hill with the Republican Conference Committee. I and some of my colleagues in the Pentagon in the second Bush Administration were able to do things for our country that we would not have been able to do had Barbara Ledeen not been there to get the support for us to do those things. So, I have few occasions in public to acknowledge her and thank her.
Now, Dr. Michael Ledeen, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for many years is a Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and he was for many years at the American Enterprise Institute. He’s a renowned scholar on Iran, Iraq, terrorism, and international security. Dr. Ledeen has served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the State Department, the Defense Department, and was a special advisor to the Secretary of State.
During the Reagan Administration, I recall when I first went to the White House to work on the White House Outreach Working Group on Central America, President Reagan had recently liberated Grenada and one of the people assigned to study and analyze the papers that were captured on Grenada by our troops was none other than Dr. Ledeen, so he came to the White House Outreach Working Group in the White House and made a presentation about what he had discovered and the significance of it. There, embedded in my memory forever was a phrase he used, referring to the Cuban construction workers and their automatic, repeating shovels. Remember Mike?
Dr. Ledeen holds a PhD in Modern European History and Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin. He’s taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Rome where he enjoys the cuisine. He’s the author of more than 35 books, so he is prolific and those include Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West, the War Against the Terror Masters, the Iranian Time Bomb and other works, but what he is here to speak on tonight is the book that just came out a week ago. And I must report an Amazon Prime failure because I ordered a number of copies and sadly got the news earlier this week they couldn’t be here before Wednesday, so I went to Barnes & Noble and bought all of the copies they had there and I see they’ve disappeared from the sales table quickly. I’m sure Dr. Ledeen would be happy to sign those for you after his talk on, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.” Please join me in welcoming Dr. Ledeen.
Thank you, thank you. Everybody wants to know what it is like writing a book with a three star general and I wanted to know myself. Flynn is really unusual, I have to say. I did dozens of interviews to get ready to write this book with him, and I talked to people who worked with him, above him, beneath him, people who liked him, people who despise him, you know, trying to figure out who he was and what he was not. So there is a whole section of Field of Fight that I call ‘growing up Flynn’.
If you want to understand Mike Flynn… and who knows what he is destined for at this point? Trump may win the election. If he wins the election, he may ask General Flynn to do something. General Flynn might say yes, etc. Who knows? But the secret of Flynn is number one, Mama Flynn, and number two, growing up Flynn. He is one of nine children. They lived in a one bathroom house in suburban Rhode Island. And all of the kids had to be out the door at the same time. So I always tell people, you want to know what discipline is all about? That is discipline.
Mama Flynn was well on her way to a college degree when she got pregnant the first time. She was going to Brown. She stopped college, raised nine children, and when the ninth child moved out of the house, she went back to college, got her degree, and got a law degree, so she is an amazing woman and he is an amazing man.
This book will explain to you how and why he and General McChrystal transformed American military intelligence first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan. And when you finish reading it, you will probably ask yourself as I asked myself, and then as I asked him, so how come we are not doing it anymore? And the answer is he was gone. It is all about leadership. People who did not entirely approve of what he was doing stopped it, and that is a big part of the story.
This book argues that we are at war. It is a world war, a global war. It is everywhere. It runs from Pyongyang to Caracas through the Middle East, which we all follow in agonizing detail; Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey to some extent now, across Africa into South America, Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, which everybody always forgets, by the way. Everybody forgets Cuba, and yet Cuba is a big part of this story.
So anyway, we are fighting against an alliance of radical Muslims and radical secularists. Putin is an enemy of ours and Kim Jong-Un is an enemy of ours. They are not Muslims. They are bad guys and they work with radical Muslims with a common goal of doing us in, but it is very important. Of course, everybody is obsessed with plagiarism from last night, but in Flynn’s speech he said we are fighting radical Muslims and failed tyrants.
And that is what it is. We are allied against these insane Muslim movements and failed tyrannies. Nobody wants to be the new North Korea. The rest of the world does not for a minute think how wonderful it would be if only they had Putin in their country. No. They may admire him for his ruthlessness, they may fear him for his meanness, but they do not really run to the place that he runs, so this is the war we are in.
Now, hardly anybody sees it. Hardly anybody talks about it. There is a lot of talk nowadays about radical Islam and people finally caught up with the censors in the White House and the State Department and the Pentagon, and are beginning to say, ‘radical Islam,’ ‘radical Muslims,’ and so forth, and stop talking about ‘workplace violence’ and other euphemisms for terrorism.
But it is not just that, and it is important to keep in mind that it is not just that. The important thing about that, about the radical Muslims, is that they are representatives of failed societies. It is a failed culture. Radical Muslim culture is a failure, and they know it. My favorite factoid identified during the research for this book comes from a study done maybe ten years ago now by a group of Arabs at the United Nations about the Arab world. In there they report that more books have been translated from foreign languages into Spanish in the last year than into Arabic in the last thousand years.
Let me say it again because it sounds impossible: more books in the last year into Spanish than into Arabic in a millennium, in a thousand years, so we are dealing with a whole culture where they do not know anything. All they know is Quran, and all these kids who are raised to be terrorists and fanatics and so forth, what do they do? They sit cross-legged on the ground in these little madrassas, and their imam or their teacher comes by and they memorize the Quran. And if they do not get it right, their teacher raps them with the yardstick. I used to get rapped with a yardstick back in the old days, but that was Massachusetts. That was different.
So these people are desperate and since they do not know, really, how to do any of the things that make a modern society modern, they take it out on us and they hate us, and there is finally, the last part I want to make about them, is that sexual frustration plays a big role, in my opinion, in the creation of radical Muslim terrorists because these madrassas are all boys. There is not a female within sight, and they are segregated by sex, and they go years on end through early adolescence without women, it is all boys, and so they have these endless fantasies and so forth.
It is not surprising that so much of the terrorism is aimed specifically against women, against women who do not dress according to standards. It is not a surprise to me that the Iranians are terrified of women, and insist on women covering their bodies up and covering their heads. You know why they cover their heads, by the way? There is nothing Quranic at all about head garb, nothing. There is no religious requirement, no justification for it all.
The Iranians believe that women’s hair is the source of sexual impulses, and that if left uncovered, from their hair there come these terribly corrupting waves of sexual energy, which ruin the morality of the men. And so, if the men misbehave, it is the women’s fault because she did not cover her hair, because the waves [of sexual energy] were coming out, and that is how it happens. Interesting, huh?
It has no religious standing at all. That is why if you travel around the Muslim world, you see some places where they cover the head, some places where they do not [cover the head], places where they wear burqas, and hijabs, and so forth, and places where they do not because it all gets interpreted at various local levels.
And finally, there is an awful lot of talk about something called Sharia, Muslim law, rules and so forth. Well, it turns out that you cannot go to Barnes & Noble in Baghdad and buy a copy of Sharia. It is not there. Sharia, Muslim law, what you are supposed to do, how you are supposed to behave and so forth, varies from mosque to mosque. And the Sharia that you believe in and the Sharia that you practice is whatever your local imam tells you it is.
And if you go online, for example, you can go online and you can look at all the famous Ayatollah Sistani, Khamenei, Rafsanjani, and so forth, and their websites are fatwas, that is religious judgments. People send them emails and say, well, what about oral sex? Well, you know, can I drink this after that, and so on and so forth, and they give answers. Those answers are not the same. There is huge variation. There are those who think that suicide terrorism is okay. There are those who think that suicide terrorism is haram, must be forbidden under all circumstances, and so forth.
There is [great] diversity across the Muslim world. There is no central authority. There is no Vatican. There is no rabbinical council. There is none of that. There is just imam after imam after imam, and each one of them gives his opinion on all these issues, so it is a very disjointed world of sexually frustrated [men], mostly young men who are desperate to show that they are worth something and that they can accomplish something and so forth.
And their leaders have led them to wage war against us, and they have been waging war against us for quite a long time. Iran declared war against the United States in 1979. What is that, 37 years now? And they have been killing us since 1979, and they continue to kill us. And the hell of the situation that we are in is that not only can we not say radical Islam, we have to use euphemisms for it, but we have an administration that somehow believes that the best thing the United States can do in this world is to make a strategic alliance with Iran. And the Iranians only want to kill us, destroy us dominate us.
And then in this book at a certain point we ask, well, what if they win, because at the moment, they are winning. Our enemies are winning. We are losing this war, and there is hardly a place on earth where we are in a winning or potentially winning position, so what will happen to us? What will it look like? What if they win?
And the answer is this place will look like Iran, the same sort of stupid rules, same kind of women walking around covered, music banned for the most part, a certain degree of flexibility, but for the most part, ruthless, tough, oppressive Islamic society. So that is what we are fighting for. It is a war for the survival of Western civilization, and it is damn hard to find anybody who takes it seriously.
I mean when we talk about the jam that we are in right now, it is always talked about in terms of one place or another place. There is the Syria problem. There is the Iraq problem. There are problems in South America. There is Cuba. There is North Korea. North Korea test missiles, and nuclear weapons, and so forth. It is not seen – people do not think of them as a global conflict, as a single, unified effort to wipe us out, and yet that is what it is and that is what we are facing.
So how do you win in a situation like this?
There is a lot in the Field of Fight about how we won in both Iraq and Afghanistan because, in fact, every time that we have gone after these terrorist armies seriously, we have won. We always beat them, and you can tell that we beat them. In Iraq, for example, after we beat them in Iraq, Al Qaeda recruitment what dropped way down. They were having trouble getting people. And in Afghanistan, the same sort of thing happened.
When our son, Daniel, was in Afghanistan, he was in Helmand province. It was a famous location because Prince Harry was there, fighting there, and the Brits pulled him out because it was just too bloody. They did not want to leave him there. And the Brits are good fighters, and they like to fight, so it is not like, say, the Germans, who do not fight, and in fact, only recently have permitted their troops in Afghanistan to engage the Taliban from time to time.
No, no, it was real fighting, and they were getting killed in significant numbers, so the Brits came out of that neighborhood, and the Marines went in, and then there was a rotation. And Daniel’s guys went in. And Daniel spent eight months in that province, which had been so bloody that the Brits would not leave their troops there, looking for Taliban and could not find any. And they would go from village to village and say, has anybody here seen Taliban? We are looking for Taliban. We would like to talk to them. Where are they? And the answer was they are all gone, they went to Pakistan.
And we subsequently got reports from the Pakistanis, talking to these Taliban and saying what are you doing here? Why are you not in Afghanistan? And the Taliban said if you want to go fight the Marines, go fight the Marines. We do not want to fight the Marines. There is a better way to spend your time, so we win. So, when we go after them, we are superior to them. We fight better than they do.
Our technology is vastly superior to theirs, and Flynn and McChrystal worked out this amazing intelligence system, [which] I am going to talk about for a couple of minutes because it is so interesting, and I spent an awful lot of time figuring out exactly what it was and how it worked. And I hope and believe that in Field of Fight I have got it in language that a normal person, a non-technical expert, a non-military person, can understand.
Basically, here is the story. Traditionally, the way intelligence on the battlefield was done was you would have intelligence officers out in the field, and they would learn something. They would write it up. It would go back to one headquarters, and then to another headquarters. Eventually, it would arrive on the desk of somebody who made strategic decisions. He would think about it and decide what was best to do, and then it would go back down the chain of command until it finally got back to the battlefields. And they would then do what the top guy decided needed to be done.[That would be] hopeless in this kind of war, hopeless, because the enemy on the battlefield is hit-and-run, attacks you and then goes, with the exception of recent times when ISIS decided they could control a lot of territory and hold it, and stayed there. And that will not work out well for them. But in any case, so Flynn and McChrystal said, okay, we have got to destroy these people. How do we do it?
And over time, they evolved the system. It has a lot to do with technology, but primarily it has to do with the notion of eliminating the top guys from this flow of intelligence and the action on the battlefield because if you have to have the top guy approve, and design, and so forth, you cannot do it fast enough.
They got to a point where within hours if they attacked an enemy base let us say, on the battlefield, started interrogating people, somebody revealed information about locations where their comrades were hiding or planning or so forth, this was relayed in real time back to the chain of command, which then turned around and said to the people who were on the battlefield in that area, go to this location and attack this target. And it was less than 24 hours, this turnaround business.
And the interrogations continued, and new attacks took place, and the information from that got fed back into the stuff that had come from the first one, so they transformed, completely transformed, the way we do battlefield intelligence. [It was a] revolution and it worked. And we wiped out al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was a very mean, very tough, and very smart organization.
This book begins with an operation that Special Forces made in Iraq where they broke into a house. They were hoping to find Zarqawi and other bad people. The bad people were gone, but they found documents, and computers, and so forth. And they started looking through it and discovered to their horror that these guys were very smart and very well-informed. And they even had PowerPoints to explain what we were doing, and what we were thinking, and how our strategy worked, and what we had, and what we did not have, and how to deal with the Americans.
They said oh my god, you know, they had no idea. And that is what compelled them to change the whole way their intelligence was done. So, the argument of this book, after explaining all this and telling these various stories, is to say that the war we are in requires superior intelligence, and we are in an intelligence war.
And unfortunately, our intelligence community is badly broken. That whole system that was put into place for Iraq and Afghanistan is gone. We do not have a battlefield on which to operate it, and the guys with stars on their shoulders, on their uniforms, have come back and retaken control over the process. They want to see all the stuff, and they want to make the decisions. They want their name on the paper and all of that, all the usual bad, bureaucratic problems that you run into always, so there it is.
With this president, there is no hope of recovery. It cannot be done. He does not care. In fact, what he wants is, of course, an alliance with Iran, when what we should want above everything else is the destruction of the regime in Tehran. What we should want is regime change in Tehran.
How often do you hear anybody talk about that? You will not hear anybody talk about it at either of the two conventions. And you hardly ever read a line about it no matter how much you read and how many websites you go to, and so people do not talk about it.
And yet, all the time we see evidence that people in that part of the world are unhappy. They do not want to live in Islamic republics. They want to live the way we live. I mean look at this Turkey thing, whatever it was, whatever it is, and I do not know yet. It is too soon. I am a historian, so I take my time. I do not have a daily deadline or anything like that. I do not know what happened.
A third of the Turkish people say they think that [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan staged the whole thing himself. [That is] tricky because that is a part of the world where people are tricky and where been tricky is a virtue. Did he do it, can he do it, is it possible, I do not know, but they are missing, still.
I checked before I came out here. They are still missing 14 navy ships. [They are] unaccounted for. What happened to them? Where did they go? Where are the crews? Where are the commanders? Were they part of the coup? Were they tricked and taken hostage? What? No one seems to know, or at least I cannot find it online as yet.
But in Iran, protests are constant and ongoing, and right now there is quite a lot of fighting going on in the northwestern part of the country against Kurds because the Kurds are one group which is doing fairly well in all of this country, and they do not want to be part of Iran. I mean the Kurds want this big Kurdistan in Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. I mean that part of the world is very, very explosive.
And of course, you have got Putin, and remember that Putin is in that part of the world. Why? If you read the papers, you would figure that he has some scheme. Yes, he has a scheme. He wants a warm water port. Russia has always wanted a warm water port, and Syria offers them, but he is there because the Iranians sent their armies, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards, into Syria to defeat Assad’s enemy. And they could not, and they were losing, and so General [Qassem] Soleimani went to Moscow and said to Putin, we are losing, do something, help us. And then Putin sent planes, and troops, and weapons, and so forth into Syria. That is why he is there. That is what forced him in there, so it is the scene of this global war.
But the last point I want to make is do not permit yourselves to be distracted by what is going on in the Middle East. We are living in a world where something bad is going to happen almost every day. The terrorists and their state sponsors know that this wonderful thing that happened to them, Obama, is only going to be there another six months, so they have got six months where they can do more or less anything they want and nothing bad is going to happen to them because he is not going to do anything mean to them because he wants the deal with Iran above everything else.
He is even now talking to Putin about making a strategic alliance over Syria. Well, that will preserve Assad, which in turn will preserve Khamenei, that is how all of that is working. So those guys, the terrorists, terrorist countries like Iran, terrorist organizations, whether it is the al-Qaedas, or the ISISs, or the al-Nusras, or whatever it is, they are in a big hurry now. They are going to do as much as they can, as fast as they can, all over the place. And that is why you see terrorist activities everywhere from Nice, to Paris, to Brussels, to Orlando, to Dallas, to so on and so forth. These people are all part of one horrible family who want to do us in.
I do not know if this demonstration actually happened this afternoon, but it was a left-wing demonstration that was scheduled for Cleveland this afternoon. And you know, every evening at the Republican convention is called Let’s Make America Safe Again, Let’s Make America Strong Again, and so on. And their rally was called America Never Was Great, just a pure anti-American rally.
We do not talk about it here, but I often ask myself, you know, what kind of help are they getting? During the Cold War, organizations of that sort got help. Are they getting help today? I do not know, but if I had to bet the farm one way or another, I would bet yes. So I will stop there and take questions, anything you want to talk about.
Audience member:[Do you have] any guesses in case Hillary becomes President? [Do you have] any guesses on how she would address all of this?
My guess is that would be in terms of foreign policy basically the third term of Obama. I am not aware that she ever really violently resisted this insane vision. Remember Obama, the alliance with Iran idea goes back to the presidential campaign of 2008. He started it even before he was elected. During the campaign, he sent Bill Miller, Ambassador Bill Miller, to Tehran to talk to the Iranians, to say to them, hey, Obama is going to win, and it is going to be wonderful. He loves you, and we are going to work together and have peace together, and so forth. It is going to be fantastic. You know, they never believed him. They could not believe him, but it goes all the way back to there.
He came in, wanting them. And if you read the Ben Rhodes’ true confessions, you will find that he refers [to] that. He says that, too, but it goes back to the very beginning. And I am not aware that she ever fought it, you know. If it had been me, I would have quit because I would not have been part of an administration that wanted to do that.
That is the single craziest thing I can imagine, and so I think she will just probably go ahead with it. She will say, well, maybe the deal we made with Iran is imperfect, but we made it, and there it is, so we will try to honor it and we will get it enforced effectively and so forth.
And I cannot imagine a Democratic president sending the necessary level of military strength into places like Syria and Iraq, that will really put these people down and put an end to them. And now that is only the start because then you have got the whole African theater. You have got Libya, and it goes all the way down to countries like Nigeria. You have got Congressman [Frank] Wolf coming back. He will probably bring letters, saying please put a thousand dollars in this back account, and we can save Nigeria.
I have got to ask a basic question. I may be the only person who does not understand this. The fact is you spoke a lot about Iran. And only about 5 percent of Muslims in the world who are Shia, and the other 95 percent are Sunni. And as you know, there are many militia [fighters], tens of thousands, maybe a 120,000 Shia militia [fighters], in Iraq who are working with the Baghdad government, trying to defeat ISIS, which is a Sunni organization.
So when you talk about Iran being a great threat when they are only 5 percent of the Muslims in the world, and the big threat that we hear about every week is ISIS, which kills, tens hundreds of thousands of people, I think the American people are confused, wondering how come Iran is supposedly our ally, but they are a radical Islamic state. They want a Shia Islamic state, and ISIS is a Sunni Islamic state, and they want their version. I mean how do we figure this out? I think it is very confusing for the American people, so maybe everyone else understands, but I would like an explainer.
Yes, well, I do not mind the American people for being confused because none of our leaders have sat down to try to explain what is going on. I mean Iraq is easier to explain because Iraq is Shiite predominantly, so that you would have Shiite militias, running around Baghdad, or Hadi, or Fallujah, or Mosul, or whatever, that is no surprise. And at the same time, you have got Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands several of these Shia militias in Iraq, just announced that he is telling his people to kill any American they see.
Right, so what is paramount, the war against ISIS or the war against us? And the answer is the war against us because that is their ultimate objective. We are the Great Satan. ISIS is a regional nuisance the way they see it, so I think that is the simple and the short explanation. And then you can go into [greater depth].
I also think that the Sunni-Shia conflict is overdone. I think it is overstated. They are perfectly happy to cooperate as long as they are fighting somebody [that] they both hate. Problems can mend when things become more stable. And the sectarian fighting in places like Iraq is provoked by countries like Iran, still the world’s leading sponsor of terror. Even the Department of State’s says it every single year.
Hi, I am an independent researcher and writer. You were talking about all sorts of different interpretations of Sharia and [how there is] no single codified standard, but in particular in talking about veiling and hijab, saying that, well, there is no requirement in the Qur’an, but I remember doing a story on Farah Pandith, a person in the Obama administration and a woman from Kashmir. She was born in Kashmir.
The woman, a Muslim woman, was criticized because obviously as you can see from photos of her, she does done veil. She was criticized by a Kashmiri woman that according to the hadith, that the norm in Islam is that you only show your face and your hands uncovered. I also met a Saudi woman who also wore the niqab face covering, saying that this is the way the why the wives of Muhammad dressed, and she wanted to emulate them. It seems like there is no consistency there.
There is no consistency. There is just a huge range of variation, and it changes over time. A generation ago, you would find very few Iraqi women who covered their heads. I mean when our son went into Iraq in 2005, not many women covered themselves, Sunni/Shia did not matter, and now they do, more and more of them. So it all depends on who is in charge, what imam is giving orders, who is writing the dress code this month and so forth.
And the women do not like it, and I do not blame them. You know, the women in Afghanistan are forever protesting about this. And women in Iran will openly flaunt it and defy the state to crackdown, which it does.
By the way, just a footnote to those of you who may think that the government of Iran now is more moderate than it was under the last president, executions and torture under the moderate Rouhani are up 50 percent compared to what it was under his predecessor, and that for a country like Iran, that is a lot. There are an awful lot of Iranians in prison.
We could bring them down if we wanted to, yes.
I have a two-part question. Do the imams at the mosques have a common spiritual leader? I have heard that they are all independent. But do they have a common leader that they get guidance from? And also, who is paying for the construction of the mosques in this country? Is it donations from members or is it a foreign government?
No, no, in the United States most of the mosques are Saudi mosques, Saudi built mosques, and the books that are used in the related schools are Saudi books written in Saudi [Arabia], published by the Saudis, translated by the Saudis.
Do you have any comment to make about the alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Black Lives Matter movement?
I would like to know more about it, but globally there is an alliance between radical lefties and radical Muslims, and that runs worldwide, and it goes back a long way. If you read Khomeini, who led the Iranian Revolution in 1979, he spent a lot of time studying communist doctrine, and he was very friendly and allied with the Communist Party in Iran, the Tudeh Party, and so he brought to the Islamic Republic of Iran elements both from communism and from Nazism. So all the racism and so forth, that is Nazi, and the structure of the party and the organization, and the definition of the main enemy, us, that is communist.
Robert R. Reilly:
Michael, if I could just share an anecdote on whether Muslim women are covered or not, an American Muslim I know lived in Egypt for many, many years. And when he first went there, these women were not covered, and I am not talking about urban settings, I am talking about rural settings, working in fields under the hot sun, no problem. They were not covered.
And then two decades later, they were, and what was the difference? And his answer was satellite television. Satellite television is what radicalized the practice of it and confrontation with many of the Western influences, which they found noxious, etc.
So I just share that comment, but my question to you concerns China and the opportunities that the Obama administration has opened for those who see the United States as the principal obstacle to the achievement of their objectives. I am struck by the utter audacity of China claiming sovereignty over the South China Sea. It is stunning history for a nation to make a claim that audacious. Would you fold that into your general perspective on Obama’s foreign policy?
Well, they are part of the gang. I mean they are part of that alliance, the Chinese. And all of them are trying to gobble up as much as they can gobble while this wonderful man is still in the White House because they do not know what is going to happen afterwards. But now they can get it, they think, so they are pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and all the time we keep finding out more and more deals that Obama has made with them.
And you know, why shouldn’t they? They live in a competitive world where the strongest wins, so they want to be the strongest. We used to be strongest, so they did not mess with us. Now we are running away in theater after theater, so if they think they can get away with it, they are going to do it. You know, their published military doctrine for a long time has said that Chinese defense, the goal of Chinese defense, is to fight and win a war against the United States. That has said that explicitly for decades. How long ago was it? I was on the China Commission, but it was true back then. I mean that has got to be 15, 20 years.
Michael, what do you think about the recent appearance of Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud at the big annual rally of the Iranian opposition, and his pledge of Saudi support to the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran for the overthrow of the regime in Tehran?
I think it shows how stupid the Saudis are because you are not going to overthrow the regime with the MeK and Ms. [Maryam] Rajavi is not my idea of a democratic leader, so instead of doing what they should have been doing all along, the Saudis, giving money to the people inside Iran, [they are doing this, supporting the National Council of Resistance of Iran].
I mean the MeK has at best a few tens of thousands of followers inside Iran. They are not very popular. They worked with Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war. They killed a lot of Iranians. Iranians do not like them by and large. In the meantime, you have probably 70 million Iranians who do not like the regime. The Saudis should be helping the 70 million, not the few tens of thousands, you know. It is just idiotic, idiotic.
You mentioned the Kurds. If the Iraqi Kurds do declare independence in a month or two, should we recognize them?
Yeah, we should. We should be supporting them. We should have been supporting them all along. I am not at all sure that the Iraqi Kurds are going to do anything as audacious as that because they are frightened. All those people now, who is going to save them from Iran? Who is going to protect them? The traditional answer was the Americans will protect us, but the Americans are not going to protect them. The Americans are going to ask Khamenei, what do you want? And Khamenei will say, I do not want this, and so we are going to say to the Kurds, sorry, no deal.
That is where we are at right now. We are in bed with the Iranians.
If you want to know what we are going to do in any given circumstance in the Middle East right now, just ask yourself: what does Khamenei want? What would he tell us to do? And that is most of the time going to be the answer.
Can we draw any conclusions at all about the fact that the administration here, including the State Department, is taking the same stand with regard to Erdoğan and the so-called coup that Hamas is taking?
When you start talking about Turkey, you have got to ask somebody else, not me, because I do not know enough about Turkey. Turkey confounds me. And I do not really know who this guy [Fethullah] Gülen is, the one who lives in Pennsylvania, and I have no idea if any of the things that are being said about him are credible, let alone true, and so I do not know. I am pleading ignorance.
Talk to me about Iraq, Iran, Russia, China. I will do my best there, but not Turkey. Turkey is not what I do, much as I love it and much as I think that the three greatest cities in the world are Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Rome. And I mean I adore Istanbul. I think Istanbul is fascinating, magical, mystical, beautiful, and so on, but I am not going there now. Too bad.
Robert R. Reilly:
I just want to make a quick editorial comment that Clare Lopez, who asked the question about Turki Faisal, gave a talk here a month or two ago about Gülen and the Gülenist movement. And since the attempted coup, Claire, your views of the Westminster video have shot through the ceiling.
Robert R. Reilly:
Well, she did publish it. It was based on a monograph that Clare wrote.
No, but I mean put it in a book, get it out there, make royalties, be a capitalist.
I do not want to take you too far afield, but in case this is within your scope, can you say something about the connection to the drug trade between radical Islam, say in Afghanistan, and [elsewhere]?
Oh, you bet. It is one big network. It is the same network. I mean DEA has established that, that is one of the great success stories in recent American intelligence. It is the same people. And DEA found out quite a while back that drugs move from South America to West Africa, to Europe, to the Middle East, and so on. And then also there is another flow out of Afghanistan through Iran and across Europe, coming back in this direction. And it is all one big mafia, and they share facilities and banking methods. And they in some cases share boats, little submarines and so forth to transport this stuff.
Oh yes, [if] you want to do counterterrorism in this day and age, you have got to do counternarcotics at the same time because it is the same people. Iran makes a lot of money off of drugs out of Afghanistan, a lot of money.
Is that not what Flynn and McChrystal were doing also as part of their work in Afghanistan?
Yeah, that was part of their work, but look, [if] you want to win this war, we can win this war, but we have to do various things. We have to go after their structures. We have to kill a lot of them since there is no other way, and we have to attack the crazy doctrines that they put forward. You know, this political correctness by which you cannot criticize Islam because they label you an Islamophobe or something like that, well, why not?
When we fought the Nazis, we had the best colleges in America publishing learned tomes about how evil Nazism was, about how crazy Hitler was, and so on, I mean our best political scientists and historians. Today, nobody dares write any such line about radical Islam, terrible though it is. We will get there, but we have lost an awful lot of time. Oh, we have got to attack them.
I mean when a man like General, now President, al-Sisi of Egypt stands up at the core of Islamic culture in Cairo, and says, ‘We need a reformation, we need an Islamic reformation, a revolution,’ [we have to stand with him. He said] we have to change it because we cannot live in a world in which all the rest of the people in the world think that we handful of Muslims are just crazed killers, that has to change, we cannot have that. We have to advance a different form of Islam.
And we have to help them. We have to support those people. And some of them are in charge of countries, and some of them are just in local mosques, and they are frightened by the radicals. And we have to defend them, and we have to do it verbally, and ideologically, and politically, and so forth. And all those people who say we have no standing to criticize the doctrines of Islam, you know, they are wrong. We have every right to criticize it. In fact, we have an obligation to criticize it and go after it.
The trouble is that – excuse me if I vent in this thing, but I am a historian. People do not know the first thing about history. I mean if you ask most Americans, you know, what was the Reformation all about? They would say, well, you know, Martin Luther got up one day and he thought [there is] a lot of corruption in the Catholic Church, and he tacked these things up on the wall of his church and so on, and then they argued about it, and after a while it reformed.
Well, never mind there were two or three hundred years of wars over those claims that he tacked up on the wall of his church. I mean religious wars were commonplace in our part of the world for centuries. We are a blessed and cursed generation because we have lived through a very, very unusual period in world history because from the end of World War II at least through the end of the Cold War, and until quite recently, there were no major wars, whereas always in the past, with one big exception, the nineteenth century, there were global wars in every century, and that defined the world.
And so, we have become the first people in the history of the world to believe that peace is the normal condition of mankind, but peace is not the normal condition. War is the normal condition, war preparations for war consequences of war and so forth, that is what is normal. And we are now returning to normal. We are going back to the way it always was before you had this extraordinary period of the American century where we defeated anybody who wanted to mess with us and we said no, we are not going to have this. Now we have got it again. Now we are back in a global war, and we have to sort out how to win it.
You have not mentioned yet anything about Afghanistan. How do you factor that into your global equation?
It is part of the battlefield. We are fighting in Afghanistan. Another one of those subjects which I think is probably a bit beyond me is Pakistan, which strikes me as a place so corrupt that it is very hard to sort out who is who and what is what and whether you can rely on anybody or anything. Pakistan, I think, is a very ugly and dangerous place, and they have nuclear weapons.
Yes, moving on from Afghanistan to Central Asia and back to Russia, two major countries there, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the succession is not clear. Previous attempts at penetration by Islamic radicals have been somewhat contained. Russians, despite all of their protestations of NATO, deep inside know that they have a problem themselves. So far, we have pretty much been doing their job for them. What is your forecast? How much attention is going to be given to that part of the world, especially in light of very difficult transition?
Look, the way I look at that part of the world, Putin does not like radical Islam. He cannot [because] it is threatening to him, so I have always believed that in his heart of hearts, assuming he has one or two, Putin does not want Iran to succeed. And my guess is that he expected George W. Bush would take care of Iran for him, that George W. Bush would destroy Iran for him, so he could make whatever promises he wanted to the Iranians, get whatever he could from them, build a nuclear power plant or two for them, but then never really get to the point where they were going to be a nuclear power, which you cannot possibly want in my view of his world.
And look at all the problems he has in every one of the -stans, where yes, he has trouble. He has trouble in Chechnya, still. He has still got terrorist attacks from the Chechens, so it is a threat to him, too. And I think that is why some of the deep thinkers, à la Kissinger, for example, think that somehow or other in that huge pile of manure which is relations with Russia there has got to be a pony, namely some kind of détente, some kind of way to work things out with the Russians.
I am not sure that is true, but you have to try that, it seems to me. I mean we are going about it in the worst possible way, which is saying to Putin, what do you want, and then he says something, and we say fine, you got it. What else do you want? That is our Russian policy right now, so Putin just has to decide how much he wants by January 20, Inauguration Day. Does he want more Ukraine? He will take it. Does he want some Estonia? He will take that. What is it that he wants? Well, we are going to find out.
Robert R. Reilly:
If I could indulge and ask the last question, why was General Flynn fired and removed from DIA?
General Flynn was fired because under oath he was asked are we better off, is our security better now than it was three to five years ago, and he said no, it is worse. And the president a week before had said we are much better off than we were three to five years ago. And the president took care of it. He solved that problem. He had Flynn removed.
Look, one of the many great things about Flynn – I am crazy about Flynn, I mean working with Flynn turned out to be a real treat. Flynn is a really straightforward person. There is no guile there. [If] you ask him something that he thinks he knows about, he will tell you what he thinks, and he may be right and he may be wrong, but he will tell you. And he told them, and the White House did not like it, and that was the end. He is better off out on the streets with the rest of us. Thank you, guys.