When Iran Goes Nuclear: Technology and Ideology
(R. James Woolsey, November 11, 2015)
Transcript available below
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About the speaker
R. James Woolsey is a Venture Partner with Lux Capital Management. He also Chairs the Board of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Mr. Woolsey previously served in the U.S. Government on five different occasions, where he held Presidential appointments in two Republican and two Democratic administrations, most recently (1993-95) as Director of Central Intelligence.
During his 12 years of government service, in addition to heading the CIA and the Intelligence Community, Mr. Woolsey was Ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), Vienna, 1989-1991.
Going to Stanford
R. James Woolsey:
I will fit in questions and answers at the end if you all want, but I am going to deal with one right now because it always gets asked, and if you have heard me tell this story before, as my father used to say, “Please, do not interrupt me. I love it too much.”
It happened because in the fall of my first year at the agency as Director my Stanford reunion, my 30th Stanford reunion came up, and so I mentioned in my morning meeting with my staff that in 2 or 3 weeks I was going to take a couple or three days off and fly to California for my Stanford reunion. And my head of security, Buck, who was about 6’8’’, 290 [pounds]… something like that, came up afterwards and said, “Mr. Director, I just wanted to let you know that if Mrs. Woolsey goes, she is going to have to be on a different plane because we cannot have anybody named Woolsey on your plane.” I said, “What do you mean? My name is Woolsey.” He said, “Oh, no sir. You need to fly an alias.” And, of course, my first thought was, “Oh, there go the frequent flyer miles.”
So I up to the airport. We put my wife on a flight. They find a separate flight, and then I go on a separate flight ushered on by these two big security guys, and they stop by the cockpit. They show the pilot [and] the chief flight attendant they are carrying weapons [and] that they are authorized to by the federal government. We pass through.
Given that it is McLean, I should probably explain. There is a section of the airplane behind First Class. It is called Coach. We went through First Class, actually Business, back to the back of Coach and there are the three seats right in front of the John that you cannot even lean back because [of how they are built]. And I was in the middle of these, and with a 290-pound guy on one [side], and a 300-pound guy on the other, spread out. We fly to California for six hours or something.
So we are getting off and walking down the jetway, and the flight attendant came over and whispered something to my head of security. And Buck just cracked up. Now, I had not seen 280-90-pound Buck even smile in the eight months he had been my head of security, but he just cracked up. I kind of drifted over toward him as we were walking down the jet way [and] I said, “What is so funny?” He said, “You know what she said? She said I have been on these flights now for nearly 20 years and that is the politest and best-behaved prisoner that we have ever had.” So look at it this way, I can say accurately that as Director I participated in a covert operation. I got to California under cover. Operation brought off. That is not made up. I could not have made it up.
Wearing Down the Soviets
Well, let me share some thoughts if it is alright with you on Iran and the situation particularly in that part of the world because it has created as difficult a set of problems for the United States as we have had since Pearl Harbor, and maybe even including Pearl Harbor and what happened subsequently.
We have some very serious things to deal with, [so] let me talk about why Iran is a problem. First of all, there is the ideology, and the administration, I think, is convinced that the ideology is not something hard and fast. That it is held- a belief held by the leadership in Iran- I think they believe that it is something that can be tuned down as the Soviets’ belief in Communism was by the 1960s or so, late ’60s anyway. Probably there were more true-believing Marxist-Leninists in the bookstores of the Upper West Side of Manhattan than there were in the Kremlin.
And we wore the Soviets down. Not only did we wear them down with respect to the resources they had to spend, with respect to the superiority of our technology, and their fears about things like the Strategic Defense Initiative. We wore them down, I think, just in terms of their realizing how thoroughly rotten and ineffective their ideology was. And they, with very rare exceptions, were not interested in dying for the principle, “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.” They did not want to die at all. They wanted to remodel their dachas. So I think we got used to dealing with an enemy like that. And our managing of that relationship with the Soviets worked, actually, pretty well. We had some real close calls, one of them the Cuban Missile Crisis, another one where things could have gone completely haywire.
Iran’s Rulers are Guided by Fanatical Beliefs
But they did not in part because we were dealing with a rational opponent who did not like us very much but did not loathe us from the essence of his being. We are in a different situation now with Iran. We are in a situation where the ideological umph that was present in the 1930s and in 50s, probably in the 60s on the Soviet side, the belief, the fanatic belief essentially in destroying us, that has been for at least since 1979, and is still a core belief for a large proportion of the managing and ruling elite of Iran, including more than the elite, the Revolutionary Guard, equivalent to sort of the SA and the SAS in Hitler’s Germany.[They are similar] except they own a big chunk, which the SA and SAS did not, they own a big chunk of the Iranian economy and manage [the] nuclear program and the rest. And their ideology is the one that drove them into the streets fifteen years ago and helped them get in the state of mind in which they tortured, raped, and killed large numbers of young people who were trying to take Iran in a positive direction and save the election from having been stolen like it was by Ahmadinejad.
So the first point is that we are facing in Iran at least in my judgment a very, very, motivated and angry and religiously motivated enemy. When they talk about the Mahdi returning and fighting the battles that end the world, they are not just kind of mumbling something. Bernard Lewis, who to my mind has been for a long time, our leading scholar on that part of the world, says that during the Cold War mutually assured destruction was a deterrent. Unfortunately, now with Iran it is an inducement.
And the road that Ahmadinejad built from Qom up to Tehran so that the Mahdi would have a nice road to travel on after he came out of the well, which he fell into sometime in the 700s, is something people built with belief not… “Ah, yeah, we are going to build this road.” No. We have a very serious problem in the [unintelligible]… especially serious although we have done a not too bad job of curtailing their use of funds and slapping sanctions on them that were B+ sanctions. They were pretty good. And we did that more or less effectively.
We have a situation where for some years they were scraping hard for cash in order to get done what they needed, they believe, to have done and now with the Iran Deal, the agreement that President Obama signed and submitted to, they have a- I think a stance which is essentially one of increasing- dramatically increasing wealth. They will get something between $100 and $150 billion, with a B, dollars from the lifting of the sanctions which the president has decided… The requirements have been met and therefore it can proceed.[I will] answer questions if you want about why I think the sanctions have not been lifted by the Iranians or anybody else’s behavior, and why I think the agreement is not only rotten in substance, but procedurally not yet begun. But nonetheless, it is being treated that way and we are freeing up funds and we will soon have not just an enemy that loathes us with every ounce of his being but one who does so and has a nice load of $100-150 billion dollars to spend on various terrorist activities.
The administration the other day, the State Department, decided they were not going to label the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization because… it was very hard to pick at exactly why. That has some very serious consequences centered around but not exclusively Iran’s work on nuclear weapons. Iran is marvelously endowed with oil and gas. In order to believe that they really want nuclear power in order to generate electricity, you have to be among the naivest participants in the public debate discussion. But they are pushing very hard on their work, on their centrifuges, on the heavy water reactor, on really all other steps that are needed to move them toward having a nuclear weapon.
I had someone whose judgement I trust although he did not claim to be absolutely sure of what I am about to say. [He told me] a month or so ago that Iran probably already had developed a nuclear weapon and was moving it around up in the northern desert which- on armored vehicles not keeping it at a single location, which could be learned and perhaps hit by an American airstrike or Israeli. So we do not know, I do not think for sure, but they either have or are very, very close to having a nuclear weapon and the theoretical limits that are imposed by the agreement, which might mean that they are a year or a year and three months or something away from having a nuclear weapon, I think is extremely cautious estimate. I think the chances are reasonably good they have one and better than reasonably good that even- That if they do not, [they will have a nuclear weapon] very, very soon.
That creates a whole host of problems for us because our colleagues, sometimes they are friends, sometimes they are not friends, sometimes they are allies, sometimes not, but let us call for examples the Saudis ‘our colleagues’ in dealing with Iran. A number of our colleagues in that part of the world, Jordan, Egypt, et cetera have decided based on the nuclear agreement that we signed that the United States has given up on its role of taking a firm stand and basically being a leader of the non-Iran faction of disputes and arguments and disagreements and even battles in the Middle East and that we are basically giving up. It is difficult to challenge based on the evidence [for] that conclusion and that state of mind that is being pursued I think in the capitals of Amman and Cairo and so on is one that makes it very likely that within a very few years we will have at least 2 or 3 and more likely 4 or 5 more nuclear powers in the Middle East.
Now we had a couple confrontations with the Soviets; one in which they had a new submarine weapon, a nuclear torpedo, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis and we did not know about it, and they had two submarines outfitted with these nuclear torpedoes. And when we imposed our blockade essentially and started depth bombing the Soviet submarines in order to scare them to the surface, it worked with all but one and their communications were down, their cooling systems were down, they were all frying down there and getting angrier and angrier.
There was a skipper, a commander of the two submarines together, a skipper for each one, and a party boss. Each of those four people had a key and if the- all those keys got turned, the nuclear torpedo would have been launched at American ship[s] and there would have been a nuclear detonation. And three of those four men turned their key. One did not. The skipper of the boat that had the weapon on it refused to turn the key, and in a situation in which – the Middle East, we have Iranians and Lebanese and Yemenis and Turks and Egyptians and Sunni v. Shiia and so forth, and add a major crisis in the Middle East. Is anyone going to be as sensible and as balanced and as cool under fire as that bless him that Soviet skipper from that submarine in 1962? I somewhat doubt it.
So we have the proliferation problem that has been heavily augmented by, I think, the nuclear agreement and we also have another problem, which is very difficult to deal with. We can deal with it but it is, to put it mildly, a matter of some urgency and serious importance. Back in 1962 when the Nuclear Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty came into effect, in the months preceding the coming into effect [of] the treaty both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted some atmospheric tests and detonated, including extra atmospheric in a sense, including 20, 30, 40 kilometers up in space detonation of nuclear weapons on satellites.
By the way, that is not particularly hard to do. One of the reasons that the first thing both the Soviets and the Americans did in space was to put something basketball-sized into orbit is that that is easy to do. You do not have to have re-entry. You do not have to have accuracy. You do not have to have a lot of the things you need if you are going to fire an ICBM at somebody halfway around the world. If all you are trying to do is put something into orbit, it is not that difficult. Well, both the Soviets and the Americans were surprised at how far away, thousands of miles in some cases, the electronics, even the primitive electronics of the time, were fried essentially by the nuclear detonation.
The things that were not fried were vacuum tubes, so had we stayed with vacuum tubes in the face of the evolution of the grid and so forth, we might be more secure than we are today at least in this dimension, but that was never in the cards. And both the Soviets and we saw that we had a serious problem with what has come to be called electro-magnetic pulse, and which essentially is the same thing, very, very close to gamma-rays generating two different wavelengths of energy charged with magnetism.
That occurred for both and both noticed that there were two wavelengths involved. One was a shorter wavelength than lightning, one was a longer wavelength than lightning. The short wavelength traveled the line of sight, so if it detonated very far above the earth, then it would hit electronics that were some distance away if it was detonated in an orbit that was only twenty miles high or something like that.
The curvature of the earth would block it from hitting, knocking out a lot of things and the electronics also – they found out in these experiments that a long wavelength would hit transmission lines, ride along the transmission lines, destroying the transformers as it went, and continuing to ride along the transmission lines. The Soviets decided to test this in some detail and they effectively twice blew out Kazakhstan’s energy grid, calling to mind the line from Stalin, “We need Armenia, but we do not need Armenians.” So Soviet rulers of the early and mid-60s apparently felt that way about Kazakhs, but they did have some very detailed experimentation. We had a bit. We both hardened our strategic forces, presidential aircraft and so forth.
And in the United States we have never done much else because we have always regarded this as part of nuclear war. And of course, if this was nuclear war, lots of stuff is going to go up in smoke, including probably the power grid, but why are we more worried about that than anything else? The Soviets have been more sophisticated, and they and the Chinese – if you are interested in this, I would recommend a book by General Slipchenko called The No Contact War.
The problem then is that when might well be able – and the Russians know more about it, unfortunately, than we do, and the Chinese now – there is a real risk to having an electric grid that is not shielded from electro-magnetic pulse. You probably want to shield it anyway because an electro-magnetic pulse generated from nuclear detonation is a very, very close cousin to a solar-coronal ejection, which is essentially an activity by the Sun that has the same effect. And that has been hitting the Earth for four-and-a-half billion years, so it is not a new event here, and every few years something passes very close to us that would create some of these very serious difficulties.
And it also is something that when it happens every few hundred years at a very special intensity in what is called a Carrington event because of the name of the first astronomer who tracked this kind of thing, so there is a very good reason for us to protect our electric grid especially and all of our electronics, whether or not we think there might be some Iranian or North Korean event in which a launch at us would occur. We need to do this for reasons, defending against solar events, anyway.
But the problem is that if the electric grid gets knocked out, and especially those long wavelengths that ride along the transmission lines and destroy the transformer, we have got eighteen critical infrastructures in this country, and seventeen of them depend on the eighteenth, it is electricity. The others being food, fuel, water, finance, medicine, etc. And if the grid goes, those all go too, so people do things when the electricity is out that they would probably do here. They take a gasoline can out to the corner filling station to fill it up and run a generator for a few days while this all gets sorted out, and then they realize they cannot turn on the pump for the generator because it is electric. Indeed, almost everything is electric.
The possibility of losing our infrastructure is not fanciful. I wish it were. I wish this was science fiction. It would be fine. It has already generated a great deal of science fiction. One book to read to get a feel for this is a short novel by William Fortschen called One Second After. He has got a new book called One Year After. The one a couple years old called One Second After is about a smalltown in North Carolina right after the nuclear weapon goes off in space and takes out the electric grid. For starters there is one guy in the town who has any transportation. He can drive his Edsel because his Edsel does not have any electronics in it. He is an old car collector. But the point is that one has to realize that we are not talking about moving back into the 1980s, pre-web, we are talking about moving back into the 1880s, pre-grid, and very few of us have enough mules, seeds, whatever we would need in order to function in a nineteenth century agricultural environment.
That set of problems especially exists when a country has a nuclear weapon. If it has a nuclear weapon and space launch capability, as the North Koreans for example demonstrated now four times, and when they launch, they launch a version of satellite launch that the Soviets, then-Soviets, taught them called the fractional orbital bombardment system or FOBS, in which the launch starts out to the south, and the satellite comes back up at you from the direction in which you have essentially no radars, no infrared, no surveillance of any kind. You may know what it is, you may not, and it may stay there for a long time, possibly with a nuclear weapon onboard, ready to be pickled off at whatever point the country that has nuclear weapons and a satellite can do it. That would include Russia and China.
I am less worried about Russia and China than I am about North Korea, but the one to really be concerned about is our friends, the Iranians, because they may not have a nuclear weapon yet, but once they do, being able to put that into orbit (and they have tested launches in a similar fashion to the North Koreans with the FOBS), the ability to utilize that could definitely be present, and it may not be a tool just of crazies like a North Korean launch would be, but rather a tool of someone who genuinely, or group that genuinely believes that you, we are devils, and that nothing could be better than as Khamenei puts it, death to Israel and death to America. It is not a hope, it is not just an exhortation, it is a plan.
So, we need to do several things.
Harden the Grid
One is that we need to take some immediate steps to harden our grid, and that is something that the electric utilities have been very, very reluctant to take part in. They do not want to spend the money. It is not all that expensive. The EMP Commission said to do the core part of the grid would be about $2 billion dollars. I calculated it the other day. I have forgotten it precisely, but that is approximately what it would cost if once a month everybody, all adults let us say, instead of having their coffee in the morning be a Frappuccino latte with extra coconut instead just got a little cup of expresso or something.
We are getting up there into several dollars per person, and we got to 310, 320 million Americans, so two thirds of [the population] is 200 million [American adults]. Each of those saves several dollars a year, and it pays for it, saving the grid. Anyway, as infrastructure investments go, $2 billion dollars is tiny, so there is that as a possibility and something that we need to think seriously about doing.
Cut the Money Supply
There is trying to cut off Iran’s supply of money, which we may be able to do. The President has decided to implement the agreement, and to let Iran have the $100-250 billion dollars that has been held up because of sanctions even though the terms of the agreement were not fulfilled by Iran. It did not transmit the full agreement to the United States. It has appendices and ancillary portions that have some of the key provisions about verification, and they refuse to submit that, so according to any reasonable interpretation, the treaty’s period is not started to run.
The president is treating it as if the treaty is functioning just fine, but he would be in serious risk of losing litigation, I think on that point if someone could come to that. Say you had the possibility of litigating this. It might have something to do with the next administration, depending on whoever it is.
And there are probably other steps one could take, but we have to do everything that is possible, that is imaginable in order to try to, for example, get our allies, the Germans and others in Europe especially, to refuse to go along with releasing (or at least releasing rapidly) the sanction money to Iran because if we can do that, if we can slow things down enough, we may have a chance at convincing a lot of people, particularly in Europe, not to go forward because if they start spending and the treaty is not legal under American law, they have got a chance at losing a lot of money in litigation by all of our eager plaintiffs’ representatives in the courts in the United States.
There are things that can be done, [but] none of them [are] ideal.
But we have a serious dilemma staring at us, and it is something that reminds one of the old saying I never promised you a rose garden. This one is all thorns, and we have got to get going and function the way we have at times in the past when the country has been seriously challenged and got moving again. What we are headed for now with just twirling our thumbs, and hoping that the utilities will do something to harden the grid, and letting everything go forward in terms of the added finances to Iran [is sleepwalking into a disaster].
We have got a problem that will not go away and simply must be dealt with. Thank you.
What are your expectations or your hopes? Do we have the form of government and the leadership that can do this? Have we lost the will to kill? I mean you hear all of this stuff, but what is in store? It is a grim picture. Are you at all optimistic about the American ability to do anything about it no matter who is in the White House?
R. James Woolsey:
Yeah. There is a poem by Carl Sandburg, a marvelous poem called The People, Yes, about the American people and the last couple of lines say, “Man is a long time coming, brother may yet line up with brother, this old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.” So, it is only as an anvil laughing at previously broken hammers that one can, I think, be optimistic about this.
You have got to have presidential leadership, and that is going to depend [on] if we can get through the next seventeen months, that depends on who the next president is and what he or she decides to do about this because if you have a president and congress acting together, there is a lot that can be done in terms of hardening the grid quickly, not all of it but enough of it that it cannot be taken out. And that is the key step.
Once we have got that, there are lots of other things that we can do, and we can make it very, very unpleasant for anybody who launched or even began the process of launching one of these things at us. It is not going to happen without citizen and state-by-state effort in the interim.
There are two roles that corporations, and particularly organized corporations such as Chamber of Commerce or NAERC have played here, which have not been helpful to say the least. One is in terms of the electrical utilities who are dragging their feet and who are just oblivious to significant catastrophic threats to the grid, they are doing incremental improvements, including cyber security threats, cyber threats. And then the other – again, thinking of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here has been the flood of companies eager to do business over in Iran, and who have been major lobbyists since the ’90s, and who have organized through the [National] Iranian-American Council, NIAC, and others, and not just Boeing, for example.
What can be done in these two very related issues with organized corporations? And I am all in favor of corporations, but in this case, they are not helpful for national security.
R. James Woolsey:
It is bad. I mean I have spent a good number of years in the government, and a number practicing law, much of it [in] government contracts litigation. And I have worked with the American aerospace business, mainly on a lot of things. And occasionally somebody is going to drag his feet about this or that and so forth. Certainly, everybody wants to do a good deal for their shareholders, but the kind of bloody mindedness that I have found frankly in the electric utility business with a few exceptions has been just stunning.
NAERC, you mentioned. The North American Electricity Reliability Corporation is essentially the public relations and lobbying arm of the utilities. And to give you an idea of NAERC’s capabilities and propensities, after the – I guess it was the ’03 outage in Cleveland, [which] took out electricity for the northeastern United States and eastern Canada for some days. It was a huge outage. We tried at first our solution to a wide range of problems, namely, to blame Canada. The Canadians in their polite way pointed out to us that Cleveland is actually south of Lake Erie, not north. It was our tree branch and our transmission line.
So having dealt now with that, NAERC moved on to do a study on what had happened and how to deal with it. And as time went on the study got sort of whittled back to a point where the study became one that was entirely about how to cut tree branches that were near powerlines, and the tree branch study took three years and eight months for NAERC to complete. What was interesting about that period of time is that is the exact amount of time the United States was engaged in World War II, from Pearl Harbor to the surrender in Tokyo Bay was three years and eight months. That is the pace at which the American utilities are moving in order to deal with this.
Perhaps segueing on your comment about pace, the next fifteen months are problematic. There have been some suggestive if not legislation, at least sense of Congress suggested by unnamed Senators that point to essentially, if I understood correctly, to put, as you alluded, some of the banks and industry people on notice about being very careful about the pace and the extent to which they release funds to the Iranians because of their potential liability that they might occur as a result of their actions. In this interim period of time, do you, A, hold out any hope that anything like that might actually happen, and would it at all be effective?
R. James Woolsey:
Well, there were several people who were on the six commissions, congressional and one from the Academy of Sciences and Engineering, a couple from the Congress. There have been five or six commissions over the course of the last fifteen or twenty years on this issue, and much of it just got declassified relatively recently, which is one reason it has just kind of sprung on people.
That history has produced a situation where things get proposed, like one of the commissions have come up with, such as a requirement from the Defense Department to work closely on its military bases with local utilities. Our military bases’ power comes from off base. They used to have on base power, but nobody does anymore except China Lake in California, [which] has a hot steam generating capacity underneath, but that is all. Everything else is done on the grid.
And it is a really difficult thing to persuade people to work on [this issue]. The utilities just do not want to, and they lobby hard before both the House and Senate to keep proposals like the work together with the military proposal, or anything that would be sensible, from becoming a law. Some people [who] I know who have been in this business who have a much better background in lobbying than I do, which is zero, are working the Hill, and talking to various Senators and Congressmen, and trying to get language into the Bill at the last minute, but it is tough.[If] a congressman who has his local utility, and several executives from it, come to him and say, look, you know, we cannot put up with anything that would add to our costs, and maybe we would lose some jobs here, he is not tremendously likely to challenge him. He might try to find some way to help us a little bit, but it is tough.
Is there a parallel here? I remember when cybersecurity first came in. I was writing about it, and I interviewed several companies, including Boeing, asking them, what are you doing about it and how are you working with the federal government? There was kind of a general attitude in keeping with what you were just saying, well, one thing we have to do is keep the government out of it. We do not want them to stultify our creativity, but the five years since then have been kind of revealing [about] attitudes in private industry. [There] seems to have been more cooperation. I do not know, but is there a parallel to be drawn here? Is it a question of somebody in the government, perhaps a president, who knows, leading the way here?
R. James Woolsey:
A president who is willing to take this on is the only answer because [of] the American electricity business. You used to have kind of a local powerplant, and you knew the people who were on the commissions, etc. That is all gone with the wind. Power gets generated and transmitted and exchanged, and you shift in a few seconds from British Columbia Power to Alberta Power to New Orleans Power. Trying to figure out who is in charge of what is a mess. FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is in charge of transmission rates, and some things are not transmission but not all. It had a very good chairman here a few years ago who was trying to reform things, and so they cut back on his authority. NAERC, what I was describing, is the lobbying arm, and they are the NAERC of the three tree branches study.
You have got local commissions, the Public Service Commission, utility commissions. They have some authority in different ways in some things. [The] Department of Energy has virtually no authority to do anything except studies, and they have a small staff that does studies. It is a mess. There is nobody really in charge. And when we went private with everything, so people could make money, that is fine, that is good if you can do it in a way that does not have perverse incentives as well as financially encouraging incentives. And what we have got now is a mess.
Robert R. Reilly:
I would like to take the prerogative of the chair to ask a question. My colleagues at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Yigal Carmon and so forth, have been trying to point out that Iran has not agreed to this nuclear agreement, not the Majles, not the Guardian Council, not the Supreme Leader, who indeed issued sixteen or eighteen new stipulations, without which nothing is going to happen. So number one, do you agree with that? Number two, if that is so, and the United States continues to live in this active denial, this state of denial, we could hardly expect the European countries you mentioned to take a harder line with Iran on these financial issues.
R. James Woolsey:
It is a good point, yes. It is hard to ask them to step forward when we are retreating. People are used to the United States leading, and we are not now. We are not even following. We are just kind of messing around. It is very frustrating, particularly for those of us who have seen this country at its best in some of the really difficult times, in what we did in the 1980s, for example, how we brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. I give Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher kind of the key thank yous on that, although a lot of other people did an awful lot else too.
We did a superb job at winning the Cold War. We screwed up a bit here and there, but on the whole, for forty-five years or so we struggled with this huge problem, and we finally defeated them effectively without using force, at least against one another. And now we have a situation where Russia is basically ruled by a mafiosi. You can pick between KGB and mafia. It is the same set of values, same kind of behavior, but Putin is one or the other.
I actually was going to ask about the Russians. With their move into Syria, obviously their longstanding collaborations with Iran are starting to create power structures in the region, and I wondered if you were interested in commenting on the impact of that to influence this broader problem set.
R. James Woolsey:
Yes, we have got three empires now in or on the edges of the Middle East. One is Iran, which is certainly resuscitating its seventh century empire and manipulating terrorists in Yemen, and Syria, and elsewhere. Iran is being about as imperialist as a country can be.
Russia, which is on the edges, has always wanted a warm water port, and wants to get the Middle East doing its will. Among the many things it, [Russia], wants is for OPEC, which a lot of the Middle East countries are members of, to keep oil prices high because the Russians do not do anything except pump oil and gas and make weapons. When was the last time anybody went to the mall to shop for the holidays and came back with a couple bags full of gifts that were made in Russia? Probably not. It is a gangster state, and that situation makes it really, really hard to deal with them effectively.
And Americans Presidents for some reason have this propensity for wanting to show that they are nice guys in dealing with thugs, and why you would say, “I have looked into his eyes and seen his soul,” [I do not understand]. It is not just that one. I mean there are a bunch. Bowing [to Russian President Vladimir Putin is inexplicable]. What? Has anybody played poker? I mean what? It is really amazing. I do not know how we are going to get out of it except to – like somebody who thinks this is all nonsense, there are a few folks who are part of the process who seem to look at it that way.
We know through various sources that Iran and North Korea have been working together in terms of their nuclear weapons testing. Has there been any indication of whether or not Iran was involved in the launching of the KSM satellite?
R. James Woolsey:
I do not know of anything concrete. There are certainly suspicions because the North Koreans and the Iranians are just [together] on these issues. They exchange people all of the time. They are present at one another’s tests. There is almost nothing they do not do together, but I do not know anything more than that, that people are surmising because they are so close on all of this. And they are both, Iran and Russia, with Iran and North Korea, and Russia and China, regard EMP as part of cyber. It is a particularly nasty and decisive form of cyber, but they regard it as cyber. And that is the attitude that Slipchenko, I mentioned his book, follows too. They see war in the future as principally electronic in one way or another.
And we sent a ton of this in the First Gulf War when we took out the electronic infrastructure of Saddam. But there is this belief that it is part of cyber has led to a thinking among all of these countries that we are moving into a new age of warfare that is in some ways as different or even more different from what we have seen in the past, let us say the First Gulf War. Blitzkrieg was different than trench warfare of World War I.
There were very few generals or strategists, and probably only a couple or three who saw how huge a difference it was going to make to put radios on tanks, so they do not stay in formation and they can break through to mesh with what the dive bombers and stukas are doing with what his happening on the ground, and to really change the nature of land warfare when you implemented the blitzkrieg. Well, Slipchenko would say that was a big change, and very few people saw it coming. What I am suggesting to you here is even bigger.
We are going to be able to go to the hardliners in the Muslim world and say, if you have some kind of restriction against killing huge numbers of people even if they are non-Muslims, just realize that by taking out their electric grid and their infrastructure, you are not attacking them, you are not physically engaging them. You are just depriving them of this equipment that they invented and are relying on, and it is really stupid of them to do that, so we will take it away. And that is a new form of warfare.
What you are looking at here for, particularly for the Russias, and the Chinas, and the North Koreas, and the Irans, and maybe some other fellows is not just an event, it is a whole different way of thinking about war and dominating other countries.
About ten years ago a wise man told me that the way to deal with the Middle East is to shame them by commissioning a South Park episode that challenges their manhood and gets people to laugh at them instead of giving them respect.
R. James Woolsey:
Who would that have been?
Do you still think that is a good idea?
R. James Woolsey:
I do. Before this North Korean business came up – first of all, I have three sons and they have hooked me on South Park and the South Park movies, some of which are really, really gross, but also really, really funny. There was a very funny South Park film before the film that got the North Koreans all riled up and they did their hack, their cyberattack as a result.
But the one I love is called Team America: World Police, and it is about five American terrorist-fighters whose hangar is in South Dakot in the mountains. And the jaw of George Washington opens up and they fly out in their two, terror-fighting aircrafts. It is three men and two women, and they talk like nineteen-year-olds today, and they are always discussing their feelings. They are marionettes and it is an opera.
Kim Jong-Il is a tiny little puppet, and he has not only an oriental L and R confusion, but he also has an Elmer Fudd wicked rabbit accent, and so when he sings his aria, I am so lonely, if you will forgive me, it comes out something like this:
I am so ronery,
so ronery and sadry arone.
There’s no one
Just me onry
Sitting on my rittle throne
And it goes on from there. There are two things. First of all, you want to watch it sitting in a chair with high arms because if you do not, you will hurt yourself when you fall out laughing, and the other is I would probably suggest that you not have any young children in the room because among other things, this movie has the grossest puppet sex scene in the history of film. So, anyway, but I recommend Team America: World Police. And what I wanted to do was parachute hundreds of thousands of copies of this into North Korea.
Robert R. Reilly:
After that aria, please join me in thanking R. James Woolsey.