Jake Sullivan: Considering impeachment, foreign policy, and the way forward in 2021

– Okay, well, good afternoon, and welcome to this Dickey Center event on Impeachment, Foreign Policy, and Beyond with Jake Sullivan My thanks to all of you for turning out on a gloomy afternoon Pretty extraordinary times we’re living through I’m starting to feel like I know what it was like to be at Verdun, or at the Somme Fortunately, the incoming for us are just newspapers and Anderson Cooper or Rachel Maddow or the internet But the daily revelations that we keep hearing about the events involving the president, involving Rudy Giuliani, having to do with Ukraine and other activities, are really quite extraordinary So, I thought it would be a good time to talk to someone who really knows these issues inside and out, who has a really fine feel for what is going on in Washington, and for how the events in Washington are playing globally I’m delighted to welcome Jake back to Hanover He taught here two terms last year, and I’m delighted to say will be teaching here again in the winter and the spring We’re always thrilled at the Dickey Center when we have someone who wants to teach in the winter and who appreciates northern New England for its manifold winter virtues So, I’m especially pleased I’m especially grateful too that he drove up from balmy Portsmouth for this, where he lives now Many you already know Jake Sullivan He has had a number of distinguished positions, including as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department under Secretary Clinton, National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden, and Senior Policy Aide to Secretary Clinton during the presidential campaign We personally, we collectively and personally feel extremely fortunate that he decided to make his home in New Hampshire, and that we’ve been able to have him here as much as we have over the last year-plus, and I really want to thank him again for coming up today So, I will now move over here, as they do on TV Mic working okay, great – That was a seamless transition – Yeah, yeah (audience laughs) Sometimes we do the door number one, number two thing too So anyway, welcome back, Jake It’s great to see you First question for you, one of the great things about my life is I get to talk to Jake all the time when he’s up here You were a pretty strong opponent of impeachment back, certainly when it was in the context of the Mueller report and the question of Russian meddling in our elections and possible collusion by the Trump campaign What has changed? – Well, so, part of the reason why I was skeptical of pursuing impeachment in the context of Mueller was that the charge was very complicated Trying to explain exactly what happened with respect to Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump associates’ involvement in that required basically two volumes of a Mueller report, which some of you will have read It’s good reading, but it’s several hundred pages long So the charge was quite complicated, and the defense was quite simple: no collusion, no collusion In the case of Ukraine, the opposite is true The charge is actually quite simple, extorting a foreign power to manufacture dirt on a political opponent, and using the aid authorized by the United States Congress as a hostage to do so And the defense, it turns out, is not so simple It’s a little bit of, well, the process is bad, kangaroo court, I don’t know, Jim Jordan sort of shouting at microphones Nobody quite knows exactly what to say to defend what’s happened Indeed, the defense has shifted from, oh, sorry The defense has shifted – [Dan] You should start all over again No, I’m kidding – The defense has shifted from, well, there was no quid pro quo to, if there was a quid pro quo, it didn’t really involve Trump to, okay, so maybe there’s a quid pro quo, but it wasn’t corrupt, et cetera So actually, I just think this presents an entirely different set of facts and circumstances And, you know, at the end of the day, part of my concern or skepticism about an impeachment process generally

is that in highly polarized times, it seems like a nearly foregone conclusion that there will be an impeachment He will be impeached on an almost party line vote, and then he will be acquitted on an almost party line vote in the Senate And so, I think it would be foolhardy for those who believe that we have a president who has abused his power and committed impeachable offenses not to consider the politics of all of this and to think about how we execute a strategy that is about getting to the truth, yes, but it also about doing so in a way that explains this to the American people so that, particularly independent and swing voters do not shift from thinking wow, the president really did something wrong here to man, the Democrats are kind of overreaching, and I’m tired of hearing about this, and I wish they would just move onto other issues And that, for me, is what’s really at stake here over the next few months In addition to actually exposing and establishing high crimes and misdemeanors by the president There is a larger need for the Congress to do so in a way that keeps faith with this idea that, you know, they’ve got to hold onto those voters in the middle believing that in fact, this whole inquiry is justified, is legitimate, and is proceeding in an effective way I think they’ve done a terrific job so far, but there are still many twists and turns ahead – You put an awful lot on the table So let me break it down a bit So first of all, how broad a scope of inquiry do you expect? I mean, Ukraine is all over the newspapers But there’s also lots of talk about obstruction There’s talk about including emoluments or going back to some of the stuff that involved Russia What do you expect the structure of this to be, and how do you package it so that you retain that accessibility? – Everything, every signal that we’ve gotten from Nancy Pelosi, who’s keeping a very tight leadership role on this, and from Adam Schiff, who’s the main driver as the chair of the House permanent committee on intelligence is that they are trying to keep this very narrowly focused, that they do not want to return to the Mueller report in the context of this impeachment proceeding, that they don’t really want to go deep down the line of a broader charge on emoluments as it relates to Trump hotels and Trump properties and the Doral for the G7 and so forth That may have been different, by the way, if the president had stuck with his decision to host the G7 at the Doral But I believe, predictively, that they will keep it tightly focused, and prescriptively, from my perspective, I think that is the right thing I think what the Ukraine story tells, it’s not just a story about one eastern European country and a particular matter of foreign assistance and diplomatic contacts with the new president It tells a much bigger story about abuse of power, about a betrayal of the oath of office, and in a way, the Ukraine story sweeps in a lot of these other elements quite well without turning the impeachment inquiry into a kind of sprawling fishing expedition that could drag on for months at a time, and where the tight narrative core of what the president has done wrong gets lost amidst a whole lot of different headlines and so forth That I think has been one of the challenges generally in dealing with President Trump, is that his method of dealing with any given outrage is simply to supply a new outrage the next day for people to work on So I think maintaining discipline around this particular issue from here into the actual Senate trial is important I also think that is very strongly what the Congress, the Democrats in the Congress are signaling right now – Do you have any bets on what the next distraction will be? (both laughing) – You know, I think if any of us were able to predict what Donald Trump is going to do next, we could just retire from whatever we’re doing, because we’d be very, very wealthy Unfortunately, I’m no better situated to get inside that person’s head than anyone else is – Right Well, lots of other people have taken up residence in his head, including various people who testified recently But we’ll move on from that So, it seems to me that the requirement to get this right for the Democrats, at least, is to make this all about public education, and to really go step by step by step about all these things, and to really remind people about what’s right and wrong in foreign affairs, that yes, we do quid pro quo’s Whoever thought that American history would pivot on a little Latin phrase? But we do quid pro quo’s,

but they’re to advance our national interest And so, that is actually more challenging than it sounds, and you have to herd members of Congress, which, as you know, is not the easiest thing on earth Do you expect them to be able to structure it and have the kind of necessary discipline to deal with it? Because there’ll be plenty of people who want to be disruptive – Well, I think the way to think about it, from my perspective, is if you dig into the polling on impeachment, the top line basically says the country’s split about 50/50, he should be impeached, he shouldn’t be impeached But if you go underneath that, there’s actually three categories of people There’s 40-ish percent who’d say what he did was wrong and impeachable There’s, say, 25% of people who say, what he did was neither wrong nor impeachable It was perfecto, you know, or whatever the Donald Trump phrase of the day is And the remaining 35% right now is saying, it was wrong, but maybe not impeachment Wrong, I think what he did was wrong, but maybe not impeachment And really, Democrats, as they are making the case and bringing forward articles in the House, and as we anticipate an actual trial in the Senate, we’ll have to convince that group that yes, this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors under the Constitution, and that’s where this question of, well, you know, doesn’t the president get to decide what our foreign policy is, and if decides that he wants corruption investigation, even of his political opponent, that’s his business under the Constitution They’re going to have to basically smash that argument And it is an argument I think easily smashed, though it will require public education And essentially, it comes down to the fact that actually, the Constitution says that when the Congress duly authorizes and appropriates funds for a particular foreign policy purpose, the president of the United States doesn’t just get to play with those for his own personal partisan political interests, that in fact, that is a subversion of the constitutional allocations of powers to coordinate branches of government And really, that’s at the heart of what happened here From my perspective, there will have to be a fair amount of public education I think the Democrats have come to understand that, which is why next week, you’re going to see the first public hearings on this, that they actually want to run these hearings in a way that’s somewhat distinct from the typical congressional hearing, where they’ll have professionals doing a fair amount of the questioning so that they’re actually able to unspool the more kind of credible narrative than the five minutes, then five minutes the other side A lot of these times, we all watch these congressional hearings and are kind of pulling our hair out And I think they recognize that they’re going to have to lay this down over the course of the next few weeks before they turn it over, before they take a vote on impeachment and turn it over – So you expect that staff will be doing the questioning? – My understanding is that the way they’re planning to proceed, this is based on public reporting, is that they’ll do the first section a longer, you know, maybe 30 minutes or an hour of questioning by counsel on each side, before they turn it over to the members to go back and forth and ask questions, yeah And frankly, I would say just keep going, just keep going with that That’s likely to be more effective – You would say that, and I would say that, but the average member of Congress really would like to attach his name or her name to a question – It’s true, it’s true – So this is a remarkable bit of self-restraint – If they follow through with this, it would be a remarkable bit of self-restraint The other thing about the House that’s amazing, and Dan and I have both had to testify before the House, is that, because it’s 435 members and there’s only a certain number of committees, these committees are enormous Now, the impeachment panel is likely to be a smaller panel, but if you go before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, there’s 75 members up there sitting in essentially rows like this going back, and each of them are taking their five minutes, and each of them are just thinking in their heads, how do I get a clip on TV or on the local news So it’s a quite unsatisfying, unedifying exercise You kind of sit there as a witness largely to hear them either yell at you or praise you alternatively and not really sat a whole lot – Yeah, it’s really one of the joys of life in Washington And then of course, there are two kinds of hearings, those in which the 75 come, and those in which two come – Right, right – I’ve had more of the latter, but they’re all, well, they all have their joys So, what do you think the chances are of any of this public education before so effective that some Republicans switch side? – I don’t rule it out I mean, I know that maybe sounds naive, in a way The vote to move to a formal impeachment inquiry

was a strictly party line vote, meaning no Republican members of the House went along with it I think that portends a likelihood that you won’t have any Republicans break ranks on the actual vote on articles of impeachment, but there are a few who have at least withheld judgment, which even in itself is a small victory And then if you look over to the Senate side, there are some who have said, look, I’m a juror, a potential juror in this I’m not going to speak about it And there are individuals like Mitt Romney who I think will be genuinely troubled by the evidence once it is presented As we see these transcripts come out, it’s hard for folks like him not to look at it and say, geez, or golly, or whatever it is that Mitt Romney says (audience and Dan laughing) And so, so is it possible? It’s possible But I think it is unlikely – Of course, there are quite a number of people who are retiring, so it’ll be interesting how they vote – That’s true – Yeah – Including people who have a history of being quite reasonable, like Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee So we’ll see – So, as you said before, your concern was about the politics of impeachment, and I think there wherever legitimate concerns that lots of people who won their seats in the last election in swing districts would be vulnerable Do you think that that sense of vulnerability has passed now, that the ground is solid, and their districts are going to be behind them? – I think they’re feeling okay right now because their best ally is the evidence as it comes forward It’s giving them really firm ground to stand on when they go back home and say, what do you want me to do? I mean, look at this, this is outrageous On the other hand, I don’t think the sense of vulnerability has dissipated entirely And I know many of these new members I served with many of them in the Obama administration, some at the Defense Department, some at State, some at the CIA, many in the national security community It was actually a group of five freshman, all of whom had worked in national security positions in previous administrations, who wrote the Washington Post oped that, in a way, broke the dam on this and made Nancy Pelosi say, look, I guess we’ve got enough people, especially from swing districts and vulnerable districts, ready to go, and I think they feel very good about their decision Remember, when all this went down, and we started moving towards impeachment, the transcript hadn’t been released yet, and none of this testimony had happened yet So there was a really big question hanging over this whole thing, and I think the Democratic members feel they’re on the front foot on this and Republicans very much on the back foot, and it’s clear from all the blind quotes we see from Republicans in the news, they are deeply uncomfortable defending the president on this Just going back to my three categories, what that should tell you as someone advising the White House on this issue is, heck, if we just said, okay, it was a mistake, but it’s not impeachable, we could probably actually muster some pretty strong sympathy from that middle group But of course, the president is not really interested in admitting any form of error of any kind, and he’s putting therefore Republican members in both the House and the Senate in a very, very difficult position But, there’s still time to go I think part of the reason why the speaker has been so focused on wanting to move this expeditiously is she does not want to see this to be seen as some kind of political game being dragged out forever, that she wants it to be very focused and swift and resolved in as limited of time as is feasible, given the fact that they have very serious business that they’re trying to conduct here The last thing I would say on this point is, just going back to the broader challenge on impeaching a president who is running for reelection is, you do have this argument sitting out there that just says, well, you know, why don’t we just let the voters decide next year sort of thing I, at the end of the day, think that a threshold gets crossed by what a president does, and you have no choice but to fulfill your constitutional duty and proceed to impeachment That’s my personal view But I get the argument that says we’re less than a year away now from the presidential election, which means that we’re more than a year (Jake laughs) from when the president’s campaign started It’s amazing to think that after all these months, we’re still a year away from the election And there is, I think, a real political challenge here, which is if you’re a Democrat, Donald Trump’s path to reelection lies in whipping up his base to a maximum, and in getting independents to basically say,

I’m worried about those Democrats And impeachment risks, risks accomplishing both of those things It will certainly whip up his base, and it may lead independents to say, ah, you know, I don’t like this guy, but they’re just going too far And that’s really the fundamental kind of political challenge that the speaker, the various chairs of the committees are dealing with, and trying to deal with while they put politics aside and go hard at the actual constitutional obligation of examining whether and to what extent the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors – So, let’s move from the House to the Senate Lots of different scenarios have been conjured One of them is that Senator McConnell would structure trials so that it was open and shut and really fast, and others have said no, we have a duty to do it, to do this at greater length, with greater deliberation First of all, do you have a bet as to how it will be done, and then secondly, if it does fall down along purely partisan lines, what does that do to the president’s campaign? Does that whip up his base? Does that confirm his argument that it’s a witch hunt, or is there all kinds of lingering concern about partisanship on the part of those who vindicate him? – I mean, I think it’s very hard to say what Senator McConnell will ultimately do He’s going to decide basically by himself in consultation with the White House He will act in a way that he thinks maximizes the possibility that this looks like a partisan exercise as opposed to a constitutional exercise, and he’ll decide, I think, much closer to the time whether shorter or longer is, from his point of view, going to give him maximum political advantage So it’s hard to predict what the shape of a Senate trial would actually look like in this context I think he’ll also wait to see who gets appointed as House managers, how effective are those people likely to be on television day after day, how much does he want to limit their airtime, who’s he going to select on the Senate side to play the main role in kind of running interference and so forth So he’s got a lot of decisions to make And then how this ends up washing out I think comes down to a combination of two factors One, the actual evidence, which is mounting and which is, in many ways, quite damning But there’s still, you know, just today we had the testimony of one of Vice President Pence’s top advisors We’re going to have more testimony in the weeks ahead So we’ll see what the actual final shape of the evidentiary picture looks like And then secondly, how effectively that evidence gets presented We’ve all seen enough Law and Orders and Perry Masons and whatever, A Few Good Men, to know like, lawyering ends up mattering on this stuff The public presentation of the case, how it gets built, how it gets communicated, how it gets defended against, that’s going to end up mattering quite a bit too – So, this is all going on against a backdrop of a Democratic primary with an enormous number of candidates, and yet, for the most part, it seems like most of the candidates are trying to stick to a strategy of talk about the issues and don’t talk so much about impeachment I’m curious if you think that that is, well, is that a fair description? Is it effective? And should we expect that to change? – Well, we’ve entered the phase of the Democratic primary that is all about contrast It’s so funny how these, I’ve now been involved in a number of Democratic primaries, and it’s like you get six months of warmup where everybody’s super polite, and all of their digs on one another are deeply implicit, and then it’s just like, people wake up one day and say, you know, it’s time to start going at each other It’s a lot like, I don’t know if any of you guys watch bicycle racing It’s like, people bike along for a while really slowly for no apparent reason, and then all of the sudden, they remember they’re in a race and they start going, and that’s the moment that we’ve hit essentially in the democratic primary What that means is impeachment isn’t all of that fertile ground for Democratic candidates, because they all agree on it 100% So it doesn’t provide much opportunity for contrast, whereas Medicare for all and theories of change and records and so forth do So there’s that aspect

And then secondly, I think there’s the aspect that says Democratic primary voters are getting enough of a diet of the impeachment stuff from other sources that candidates need to be able to distinguish and differentiate themselves, not just by contrast, but affirmatively with their own ideas and vision for where they want to take the country I think that’s all appropriate, and one thing that I don’t think has gotten enough attention that I haven’t even thought that much about, which would be quite interesting, is a number of the candidates, the current candidates, would be jurors in the impeachment trial Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Bernie Standards, Senator Amy Klobuchar Many of the leading candidates will be spending the weeks before the New Hampshire primary, I think there’s something that happens in Iowa before, but I’m not sure, I don’t know I’m from Minnesota, so any chance to knock Iowa, I’ll take I’ve moved from one state to the other That’s going to be really fascinating, ’cause they’re going to have to be deeply engaged in this Let’s say that Nancy Pelosi actually follows through on what she hopes to achieve, which is to have this done by the end of the year, for a trial in January, in the January timeframe Those folks will be coming off the campaign trail to fulfill their constitutional duty, and it’s just quite interesting to me to think about the ways that that could end up influencing or impacting the primary – I think Senator McConnell actually pointed this out, that those who were pursuing impeachment will be damaging the electoral possibilities, the electoral opportunities of their own party Last question on this set of issues, the trial itself is going to be fraught with challenges for a number of Republican senators from blue and purple states Is Mitch McConnell going to care about that? I mean, he could lose the Senate over this – You know, it’s interesting I think 2018 kind of emboldened him on the Senate, and on kind of doubling down on Trumpism as a strategy So, I would be surprised if he feels he’s got to really create distance between himself and Trump to save some of the vulnerable Republicans It’s possible, but I’m skeptical that that will be the choice that he makes – [Dan] ‘Cause I mean, it’s Susan Collins – Right – [Dan] It’s Cory Gardner – Thom Tillis in North Carolina Cory Gardner I think is in deep trouble, kind of no matter what happens I think McConnell has probably written him off – [Dan] Ready to cut him loose – Or close to it So it’s basically Collins, Tillis, Martha McSally in Arizona, and then you’ve got these two races in Georgia, whether Democrats could pick one of those up I must be missing one of the races But I would be surprised if he’s shaping his strategy around that as much he’s shaping it around the top of the ticket and Trump defense – Fascinating So let’s talk a little bit about the foreign policy implications of all this, because the world has not stopped And there are a number of really big issues out there that are in play So for number one, I guess obviously, is China He’s got to bring home the bacon First of all, he’s got to come up with another distraction, and his biggest policy initiative is a trade war This plays to his advantage then, insofar as he has the wherewithal, or he should have the wherewithal, to declare victory or not – Yeah So, I was actually just in China last week, and I will say that the Chinese government officials are feeling pretty relaxed about this whole thing, largely because their view is Trump needs a deal and has decided he’s going to do a deal He’s being driven by his electoral calendar, and they think, okay, pretty much, that means we’ll get what we need out of this and won’t have to give up too much In fact, they’ve been backgrounding reporters of late, this has appeared in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, that Trump’s going to go further than just pausing the tariffs He’s going to roll some of them back, even in exchange for relatively modest gives by the Chinese So I think that is the likely outcome What Trump has been grappling with is basically

a balance between two imperatives On the one hand, the imperative to get a deal to show that he’s a deal maker and can accomplish something for all the pain of the trade war; on the other hand, to not get out-Trumped on China by the Democrats So he’s quite worried that when he announces this thing that Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and others will come out and say, you got to take him to the cleaners ‘Cause for him, it’s like, that’s my line I’m the one who attacks all these deals as bad deals, not you guys So he’s worried about that Meanwhile, Democrats are caught between two imperatives One is to be tough on China, and the other is to be quite critical of Trump for the trade war, and balancing that is kind of interesting They’ll mock the tariffs on the one hand, but then on the other one, ask, will you lift the tariffs if they’re still in place when you’re president? None of the Democratic candidates will say an unequivocal yes to that, because they can’t, in a way, from a kind of view that they want to be seen and actually are increasingly tough on China, just as the president is So let’s assume we do get a deal by the end of the year, or say by January, which I think will happen Trump is going to go out and say, this is the greatest deal in American history No president has ever delivered anything even remotely like it It will be an incremental deal It will not deal with the underlying structural issues And the Democrats will say, that’s it? For everything you’ve done, for all the pain you’ve caused us, that’s all you got? And I don’t know who’s going to win that argument, because the president is going to be able to point to some genuine, tangible successes along the lines of purchases and so forth Democrats are going to be able to point to some obvious, tangible deficiencies But I think the president has decided he’d rather fight that battle than fight the battle of, I’m still being tough on them, and after three years of pain and so forth, I’ve got nothing to show for it So I think we’re going to see a deal, and then it’s going to be a big battle over was it a good enough deal And all of this will mask, I think, a larger issue with China, which is that both Democrats and Republicans, both policymakers and politicians, have moved to a much more aggressive footing when it comes to China This is an area of rare bipartisan consensus in Washington, that we sort of got it wrong over the last 25 years and we need to really toughen things up And I think we’re in danger of going down quite dark road with China in the years ahead, because there are not that many voices in Washington arguing for restraint – [Dan] But you’re one of them (Dan laughs) – I am, I am, I am I have been watching an increasing drumbeat around the idea that we’re headed into a new cold war with China, and while I believe deeply that we’re going to have to get more competitive in our approach across the board in security, economics, values and so forth, I think the Cold War is actually a terrible analogy It is an ultimately self-defeating strategy for the United States, and that what we need to do instead is really invest in ourselves, in our allies, in shaping the institutions and rules of the road in a way where we can deal with the Chinese from a position of strength, and then from that position of strength, establish terms of coexistence, because we are simply going to have to learn to live together as major powers in the years ahead Doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be hard-headed and clear-eyed and more competitive than we have been, but it does mean that we should do everything we can to stop competition from turning into confrontation and even outright conflict, which I think is a genuine concern if we continue to go down the road we’ve been going down – And for those of you who want to follow up on this, Jake co-authored, I think, the definitive version of this argument in Foreign Affairs, in the last issue, not the current issue, yeah, and it’s a really good read So I recommend that So, there was a fascinating story that came out of China just a few days ago in which a number of senior Chinese officials were essentially saying on background, yeah, we think Trump’s really good for us, and not just about trade, but in fact, on the bigger picture, because they said, it was one of those wonderful diplomatic formulations Well, we believe that he’s particularly not good at advancing American interests, so therefore, he is good for Chinese interests Was that the sentiment you encountered when you were there as well? – Yeah, I mean, they were not that direct They didn’t say, we want Trump But the strong mood music I picked up is they would prefer Donald Trump to be reelected to a Democrat, and they expect it will happen I think they are basically baking in that assumption

right now to their current thinking You know, I did one of these IQ2 debates that NPR hosts with expects on various issues, and the question was, the Trump administration, or the resolution was, the Trump administration’s policy towards China has been productive I was arguing with Graham Allison of Harvard on opposition, and Michael Pillsbury, who’s one of Trump’s outside advisors on China, and Kori Schake were arguing in the affirmative In my closing, I got up and said, you know, if I had been on the other side, and I had looked at that resolution, I would have noticed it didn’t say productive for whom, and I would have been inclined to argue for them that it has been productive, quite productive, for China If you think about what China seeks to accomplish, a reduction in the strength of America’s alliance system, the retreat of the United States from a leadership role in major global institutions, the abandonment by the American president of claims around values related to democracy and human rights I mean, Trump is obliging the Chinese on each of these scores Now, he’s produced an enormous number of headaches for them in the trade domain, and I believe he deserves some credit on the diagnosis side, not on the execution side, of the need for us to have taken a tougher line on trade But when you net everything out, I think the Chinese would prefer that to a more traditional American approach, and in particular, they are worried about the Democratic candidates because those candidates have been so vocal on Jong Kong and Xinjiang and other human rights-related issues that really get in their craw, whereas Trump himself has studiously avoided any kind of commentary on those issues – And presumably because they will also take some kind of hard line against China, but they’ll try to round up our allies to join them – Right, basically, their quibble with Trump is not about the fundamentally competitive nature of their relationship, but rather, how to execute that competition – Another roiled area due to the whole impeachment imbroglio is Ukraine and Russia I mean, whose side are we on now anyway? It’s just bizarre And of course, watching Ukrainian officials try to navigate their way through this just inspires such enormous pity on my part, because they can’t win – Yeah – They’re really in a disastrous position They have a completely inexperienced president, and they have urgent military issues to face How does this sort itself out? – I think that we’re going to be just watching this issue muddle through the election, because it’s actually sort of ripe for resolution at this point The Russians are getting fatigued, after many years of military engagement and eastern Ukraine that’s bleeding them, both literally in terms of losses on the battlefield, and bleeding their treasury The Ukrainians have gotten more flexible from the perspective of a negotiation over the status of eastern Ukraine So it’s actually kind of ripe for resolution And the Europeans are ready to push it in that direction, but given that you don’t have any propulsion from the United States, that you’re getting these sort of very bizarre mixed signals, I think it’s kind of leaving everybody in a stasis, which, you know, might seem fine in the abstract, but stasis means continued conflict Continued conflict means continued deprivation and death in eastern Ukraine So it’s a terrible thing, and delay in trying to resolve this issue comes at genuine human cost But I basically think we’re going to watch many more months of muddling and then sort of see what happens in the outcome of the next election, at which point everybody will reset a bit and try and decide how to proceed – So, Ukraine in that regard seems to be, you know, symbolic of or typical for foreign policy in general, which is that we’re kind of grinding to a halt I mean, I spent the impeachment of Bill Clinton in the old executive office building, and everything was still going We had a really enormous amount going on We had two embassies blown up We took military action There was all kinds of stuff going on with NATO It was one thing after another But it does seem like, you know, the ship of state is sputtering right now There’s just not a lot of bandwidth to do other things – Well, it’s interesting I mean, there never really was a process

in this administration to drive an affirmative agenda It’s largely been driven by events in the world And those events are going to come, and two in particular I think bear mentioning First, North Korea has been very quiet for the past several months, uncharacteristically quiet But they have now come out and said that the president has ’til the end of this calendar year to show them something in the way of sanctions relief or a deal, or else they’re going back to testing ICBMs Okay, so, we could be going down either the path of some kind of bargain with Kim Jong-un, or the path of genuine provocation that leads to instability on the Korean peninsula in the earth part of next year He’s going to have to deal with that And then the second issue is Iran It’s kind of wild to think that it was just back in June of this year, just a few months ago, that it took Donald Trump himself to stop military action that would have had us in direct military conflict with the Iranian government in a way that basically has never happened since ’79, at least not of this variety, of us bombing Iranian facilities on Iranian soil And the lesson the Iranians took from that was the US won’t hit back, so they then in September struck the Saudi oil facility, trying to take a large amount of Saudi oil offline We didn’t hit back So now, if you just kind of follow their pattern, which is they announce advances to their nuclear program, and then a few weeks or months later, they conduct a provocation in the region, we’re due for one They’ve just announced their latest advances to the nuclear program So imagine in December or January they take another shot at some ships in the Gulf or oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia or the UAE, and think, well, the president hasn’t responded twice; he won’t again I wouldn’t put money down that the president wouldn’t then decide – [Dan] I would not do that – You know, now it’s time to muscle up and hit back So, here again, we could end up finding ourselves in a situation of both instability and conflict, right as the impeachment inquiry is coming to a head – And unbelievable reasons on both sides for Trump to take action or not take action I’ve never seen a president who was more worried about gas prices than Donald Trump on the one hand, and on the other hand, he’s got this mortal fear of forever wars So it’s a fascinating juxtaposition that he’s stuck in So look, why don’t we open it up to the audience, and I’m sure everyone has lots of questions Why don’t we start right here? Please wait for the microphone – Oh, okay – I think it got turned off there, Jake We’ll use these mics for the questions Yeah, so, if that turns green when you press the button – Can you guys hear me? – Yes – Okay, all right, great – Jake is back online That’s good – [Woman] Who was it? – It was right here – [Audience Member] I mean, I can just talk – No, no, you need the microphone so that it gets recorded – It’s recording, thank you – No worries Just while we’re still on this question, what then do you see as a possible solution with this bind of not reacting and then further instigating later provocations, versus instigating there and then falling into this trap or giving into that fear of a forever war What do you see as a possible solution in that double bind? – This is with respect to Iran, you mean? – [Audience Member] Yeah – So, Bill Burns and I, who did a lot of work together on the Iranian nuclear deal, wrote an oped for the New York Times two weeks ago where we valiantly, maybe naively, make the case that this is actually a right moment for diplomacy You see, we’ve reached this point because of a kind of fundamental miscalculation on each side The Iranians miscalculated because they thought when Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, they could just wait him out, that there wouldn’t be enough economic pressure built up that they’d be just fine They could wait ’til 2020 And what they were essentially doing was going on 538.com and looking at the swing states That was their whole strategy for dealing with the United States And they were wrong The US has, because of the sanctions that were imposed totally unilaterally with no help from the rest of the world, we’ve taken Iran from 2.4 million barrels a day of exports to less than 500,000, a crippling blow to the Iranian economy So, that’s partly why they’re acting out and partly why they’re acting out against shipping, because they also kind of want to drive up oil prices so that the limited oil they are selling, they can get some more revenue off of The US miscalculated because we thought, well, hell, if we can do that, they’re going to come out with their hands up and surrender, which of course the Iranians were never going to do

We thought the Iranians would fold It turns out the Iranians actually have cards to play, and the cards are they can advance their nuclear program, which they’ve done now They’re once again enriching at their underground bunker in Fordo They’re working on advance centrifuges They’ve exceeded the stockpile limits to the JCPOA They’re harassing inspectors They’re just doing a lot of stuff on the nuclear front that’s bad, and all basically saying, if you can violate the Iran deal, we can too And then they’re conducting these attacks to say, if we’re not going to get, if we’re going to be deprived of economic benefits, we’re going to spread some pain around ourselves Okay, so you get to there, and you realize, boy, that’s a pretty dicey situation on the one hand On the other hand, if the US got more practical about its demands, and Iran recognized it needs relief, you actually have a propitious moment for some kind of discreet diplomacy between the two sides to work out at least a pause in escalation and then a pathway back to some kind of agreement I actually think Trump kind of wants this, personally He would love to sit down with Rouhani Macron, the president of France, was trying to work that out The Iranians are a bit more resistant, but they’re in pain, so it’s possible to imagine they could go for this at some point It’s really the people around Trump who are continuing down this maximalist line of saying, we’re going to crush the Iranians until they finally do come out with their hands up, which I think will never happen So I think we’re stuck in this doom loop for the next year, but I do think the right solution ultimately is to say, okay, everybody’s now put their cards on the table, and what we’ve shown is the best outcome here is some kind of diplomacy that puts a floor under or a ceiling on escalation and gets us into a conversation about how to manage both for the nuclear file and for some of these regional issues – So, you were here in June when we did a conference on the future of the US relationship with the Gulf, and one of our participants who was there, since we did it under Chatham House rules, I won’t out him, but he had a lot of experience with this administration, said, essentially, something very similar He said, there is a route out of this confrontation This was just after the tankers had gotten attacked He said, there is a route out of here, but I have no confidence that anyone in the administration could actually chart that diplomatic path And that brings us to another big issue, which is the kind of catastrophic state of State – Yeah – Yeah And, I mean, it’s really hard to imagine how we will undertake any significant diplomatic initiative, given the exodus of really talented senior people, and the demoralization that’s going on there – Yeah – I mean, have you been in touch with any of our former colleagues recently? – Yeah, actually, I went on the Andrea Mitchell program a couple of days ago on MSNBC with Roberta Jacobson, who’s out now as ambassador to Mexico, a very senior career servant at the State Department And Andrea was kind of pushing us both on what’s going on there right now, and I guess the big negative for me is that you’ve had political figures lead the department before Jim Baker was a dyed in the wool Politico Republican Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were both former senators and presidential nominees But all of them checked politics at the door, whereas Mike Pompeo really has brought politics to the heart of the State Department And in addition to all the efforts at budget cutting and so forth, I think it’s been that that has been most corrosive, because it’s meant individuals like the former ambassador to Ukraine Masha Yovanovitch have just been cast aside Others have been pressured to kind of toe the party line And literally, the party line So, that can be fixed by leadership at the state department that restores a sense that politics has to stop at the water’s edge The broader institutional deterioration at State, I guess the optimistic story instead of would tell is things are so bad that actually, there’s now intensive conversation about major reforms to the State Department, and one in particular, which is actually allowing for some kind of mid-career way into the foreign service, which had been blocked for a very long time, is now almost by necessity on the table, because there’s been such a loss of personnel

And this would be a good thing In a way, it’s like when a hurricane hits a city and then you get to see, okay, what was broken and how do we not just build back, but build back better than before? That’s going to be basically what life at the State Department will be like in the years ahead – So I just want to come back to Iran for one moment One of the really shocking things about the last round of provocations was that when the Iranians targeted the Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq, first of all, they crossed a red line that everyone had in their mind, and they didn’t pay a penalty for it But even more than that, they suddenly illustrated a whole world of vulnerability that our allies face in the region And it’s really now unclear as to what, for example, would be in the Saudis’ interest in the next round of provocation Are they going to urge that we take a military strike? It’s really quite confusing – Yeah, it’s hard I mean, it’s funny There was reporting after the strike at Abqaiq that the reason the missile defense systems didn’t work is they were facing the wrong direction, (audience laughs) which is never a good thing about a missile defense system You could work on that, for example But, in a funny way, our decision not to take action had the effect on both the Emiratis and the Saudis of making them somewhat more cautious and constructive Each have made their own outreach to Tehran to say, hey, how about we calm this whole thing down? And that’s not a bad thing, from my perspective Now, and the Emiratis for sure have been telling the United States, we don’t want you escalating I think the Saudis are more of mixed minds on this In any event, what Abqaiq showed is that Trump is not taking his direction from there He’s taking direction from his own view of himself, his leadership, his political needs, and he will not be consulting with the Saudis over what they want or don’t want on the next attack He’s going to do what he thinks is in his own best interest – It’s a fascinating evolution on a part of the Emiratis, since the Emirati ambassador in Washington was openly advocating striking Iran not too long ago – Yeah, yeah, yeah – Next question – Hi, so, I was just looking at your article about what the appropriate approach to China is that you mentioned, and I study China, and I’m curious about just your perspective on engagement in general and the trade policies going forward, because I think it’s interesting that you think we may have been too eager to engage in the past But this approach isn’t right either What do you think the kind of equilibrium level of engagement is, especially on the trade issue, and especially with regard to the fact that candidates on both side now seem decreasingly receptive to trade – Yeah You know, your question gets to the heart of what I think is the biggest weakness in the approach I advocate, and it’s kind of implicit in the piece, and I haven’t really had to face it totally squarely And it is that what Kirk Campbell and I lay out is this kind of elaborate contraption to manage the US-China relationship with a modus vivendi and security and economics and technology and political engagement and so forth that hearkens back to when Bismarck could kind of manage everything, but as soon as there was no Bismarck, the whole thing just falls apart, and the idea that we’re going to rely upon far-sighted statesmanship and the various instruments of the US government across multiple administrations to execute this, or on the Chinese side, for that matter So, to your point, it is going to require a subtle and complex balance of competition and cooperation that we have not proven we are capable of managing, and that the Chinese have not proven they’re capable of managing So I’m advocating for something very difficult But all I can hope for is that directionally, we get as close to that as possible, recognize there’s going to be challenges on each side On the trade issue in particular, my critique of how we have managed trade in the past is basically that we presumed to too great an extent that market forces would correct for any of the distortions that China’s entry into the WTO would bring,

that market forces would help compensate losers on the US side, that market forces would end up constraining China’s more flagrant abuses, that economic liberalization was a kind of inexorable laws of physics kind of thing that would keep going in one direction, and I think that was just wrong It’s consistent with I think a larger failure of our thinking around economics over the course of the past 40 years that we are now reckoning with today, that we should have been involved in a much more systemic way in setting around guardrails, in pursuing enforcement actions, in cushioning the blow, particularly for those sectors and communities that were savaged by the shift in manufacturing and low cost goods to China But we are where we are, and I guess now, the next big question is not so much about low cost manufacturing as it is about a set of rules that the WTO actually doesn’t really deal with It doesn’t deal with state-owned enterprises It doesn’t deal with barriers behind borders that are somewhat undefined It doesn’t deal with currency It doesn’t deal with a lot of the types of intellectual property abuses that we see coming from China So I believe that we need to work with our partners in both Europe and Asia, who constitute 60% of the global economy, to come up with a set of standards on those issues and then say to the Chinese, you’re either going to level up to these things, or collectively, we are going to level down to you That’s what I think is the appropriate way forward, and I think China’s big, but it’s only 15% of the global economy We’re big, but we’re only 25% of the global economy And those numbers are going to come closer together We really do need to rally like minds Now, that’s easier said than done, both for the politics here in the United States, as you say, although putatively, all the Democratic candidates have said they are open to a strategy like this It’s also hard because of politics in Europe We didn’t get a Trans-Atlantic trade deal in the last administration not because of politics here, but because of politics there So I’m mindful that this is not going to be an easy strategy, but actually, the political imperative of it is growing as Europe and the United States become more attuned to the nature of the China challenge in the years ahead – Do you have any nomination for running this Bismarckian, who will be the Bismarck behind this Bismarckian system? (Jake laughs) – Yeah, right, exactly Yeah, yeah – Okay, we can discuss that later – Yeah, yeah, at some point – So, oh, Jesus So, at a forum for Democratic presidential candidates last week, a number of them, including Bernie Sanders, signaled their support for some sort of, or going to our Israeli allies and conditioning future American support on ending Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and I was just kind of curious your thoughts on that policy Would that be successful in stopping further Israeli settlements, and is kind of toying with that alliance in America’s best interest in the Middle East right now? – Well, first I think it’s important to survey the position So Bernie, I give him credit, has been very clear and direct that what he’s saying is he would actually condition existing US military assistance on Israel abiding by norms related to its engagement with Gaza and other things, meaning if they engage in various types of activities in those places, he would cut assistance That’s a clear position What’s interesting is that Mayor Pete and Senator Warren have kind of said things which have been reported as basically being that, but are quite different What they’ve said is no US assistance can be used to annex the West Bank and/or maybe to deal with settlement construction What is the difference between those two positions? That’s basically a null set No US aid would be used either for annexing the West Bank I mean, it’s for big weapons systems It doesn’t relate to this So in a way, it’s a way of being expressive about the role of aid and bad Israeli actions without actually taking a position that would lead to a practical consequence by the United States And then Vice President Biden has said no, I would not I think the aid we give them is for their defense, and we need to use other tools to try to hold them accountable on issues related to settlement construction,

annexation, or what have you As Dan knows very well, the United States government kind of goes up heartbreak hill on aid conditionality to other countries on a very regular basis And by the way, aid conditionality of the legitimate kind, not the Ukraine, (audience laughs) manufacture dirt on my political opponent kind, whether it’s Egypt or it’s Indonesia or it’s Myanmar or what have you I am in general pretty skeptical of our capacity to use aid conditionality to great effect in bringing about changes in behavior by friends and allies or by other partners That is not a specific comment about Israel That’s sort of the more general comment about going down that road We’re not that good at it We’re internally divided on it Congress would probably try to override the president on it So for me, I would try to think about a strategy to curb what I think are very real excesses and abuses by the current leadership in Israel that did not go down this road, though I fully understand the sentiment behind Senator Sanders’s view on the issue – It’s coming that way – Thank you I come back often from Portsmouth I’m wondering what Machiavelli would think about this impeachment process If the fundamental mission is to remove Trump from office, then it’s far more important to keep the votes that would go to him under a martyr-like concept So here’s the question If there’s any chance, repeat, any chance that this ongoing impeachment process could in fact give Trump the White House, then wouldn’t it be very much wiser to back away from that immediately? It seems to me you addressed this, but you were unclear on it, so I’d like a clarification It seems to me, in medical terms, the impeachment process is elective surgery, but if the patient could well die or we could lose the patient, lose the purpose, then what are we doing? Clarify the view on that for me – I hate it when I get called out when I try and kind of slip past without taking a form view on something Hers why I struggle with this question, (Jake sighs) because I guess I have to just mildly diverge from you on the premise, meaning the only issue at stake to me is not beating Trump in 2020 That is a big issue at stake for sure, but so too is, at some level, responding to excessive abuses of power And I think basically what happened here is the speaker could have said exactly what you just said That reflected her position for two years She said, I don’t want to go down this road It’s elective surgery, let’s not do it And then we get this Ukraine business, and she’s just like, it’s just too much (Jake laughs) I can’t not do it I know that it’s a bit of a risk, but I can’t not do it I totally understand that, and frankly, I think that is kind of what distinguishes genuine leadership and statesmanship from just pure politics So, in a way, that’s what brought me around on this issue, that I think we didn’t really have a choice, and also, I believe the risk is less than trying to do this by jury rigging a bunch of things around emoluments or Mueller or what have you So it’s more manageable risk But I think the argument you’re making is a very credible one, a very serious one, and has been weighing on the minds of the folks in the leadership in the Congress I think they just reached a point where they just felt like, you know what, what are we supposed to do? He just went too far this time – [Audience Member] Dan, can we take a vote? – [Dan] We cannot (all laughing) – [Audience Member] Nice to see you again, Professor Sullivan My question is about economic interdependence and national security regarding China I think that we are at the beginning of an AI arms race in the commercial and the military sector,

and I was wondering, since you said that, in our stance to China, we should probably show some more restraint, how should we handle Chinese investment in, let’s say, Silicon Valley tech firms? How do we balance being an economic competitor without pushing China away? – Right Well, so there’s been a lot of talk, this is, first of all, so, the start of your question I think gets to the heart of where the real debate is in Washington right now, how to manage interdependence with China And there are some who argue that even if we start from the same premise, this is going to be a competitive dynamic We have to worry about China We have to try and stay ahead of them in various respects There are two schools of thought, one that says that interdependence continues to give us leverage, for example, the fact that they rely on us for semiconductor inputs to so much of what they do means we have some capacity to shape their behavior That’s the kind of ZTE/Huawei argument The other says no, these systems are deeply incompatible They are just going to continue to suck out our IP, and what we really need to do is divide the world, decouple My problem with the decoupling argument is that China is already the lead trade partner of a lot more countries in the world than the United States is So asking the rest of the world to choose between the United States and China, I do not believe, would result in a positive outcome for us, point number one Point number two, we are a much more open system just in our design So you decouple, and they put down every wall in the world, it makes it harder to reach into them, whereas on our side, your question was about AI Most of the advances in AI coming out of American universities are published open source, for anyone to look at Number three, we’d still be giving all our stuff to all our friends and everyone else, so whatever walls we were putting up, China would find a weak spot in the chain and grab from them And number four, a lot of our advances on all of the major technology issues, AI, quantum computing, what have you, have some input from Chinese graduate students and researchers in the United States So if we say you’re all out, we’re done, I think it comes at a greater cost to us than it does to them Lee Kuan Yew once said that China has one billion people, that’s true, but America actually has seven billion people And what he meant by that was that we could attract the talent of people from everywhere to be able to drive our continuing innovation edge So my answer on this is that I think we should obviously have investment restrictions, and the Congress has tightened those up, particularly around dual-use technologies and potential military applications We should obviously have export controls, but we’ve had these for a very long time We’ve manged them okay We need to update them for the current thing It’s not some radical new approach We need to look for genuine counterintelligence threats in terms of Chinese nationals coming here at the direction of the PLA to steal stuff in universities without a new McCarthyism that treats every Chinese graduate student or researcher as some kind of foreign agent In a way, we just need to modify existing systems as opposed to come up with some entirely new paradigm to try and put a technological iron curtain between the US and China That’s my view, but super credible, serious people argue that’s really naive And I guess what I would say is, we are at the start of what I think will be at least a decade-long debate on this question, and anyone giving you a really firm view on it today when we still are just learning about the nature of this challenge is going to have egg on their face, ’cause we’re all going to change our minds a bit as we learn more about, as we gain more evidence So you put your finger on a huge issue that is going to transcend the next couple of administrations as we try to end up getting the balance right But my general instinct or lean on this issue is for the United States to see its openness as a huge asset, the downsides of which have to be managed rather than as a huge vulnerability and thinking about shutting it down – Well, that’s a huge issue on campuses like ours where we’re hearing increasingly from government officials that we need to crack down on Chinese graduate students, on all kinds of exchanges with Chinese scholars So this is going to be just an enormous issue

for a long time to come Okay, hands, how about right here? Right here – Hi, Professor Glaeser was here a few weeks ago – He’s still here, he’s in the back row – Hi, Professor (Dan laughs) And he shared his view that he believes Taiwan will be the major flashpoint for any US-China military conflict in the future, and that the US should consider withdrawing from its commitment to Taiwan, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on the US-Taiwan policy going forward – You just saved Professor Glaeser a question (Dan laughs) – So, hi Professor Glaeser I was in Taiwan maybe a year and a half ago, got many questions about Professor Glaeser’s article and whether it reflected the thinking among particularly Democrats in Washington First, I agree that it is likely to be the major flashpoint Xi Jinping I think is going to want to call this question at some point Maybe not in the immediate future, but at some point Secondly, it is certainly the case that the United States’s entire force posture in the western Pacific is designed around a Taiwan contingency My own personal view is that the costs of the United States withdrawing its commitment to Taiwan are greater that the potential benefits And I’d just say two things about it, and then dodge my way out of the question with a different observation altogether (audience laughs) One, I think it would more or less induce the Chinese to take precipitous action when we’ve actually in a funny way, despite it being such a source of tension in our relationship, been able to manage this reasonably well since the Joint Communiques, since the 1970s And two, because I do think it would send shock waves through the Indo-Pacific region, to our allies and to others, about US staying power and the like in ways that I think would also be deeply destabilizing So, I don’t support the idea of withdrawing the commitment Third, I think it would be so politically divisive in Washington that for a president to decide to take that on as a major foreign policy initiative would end up occupying so much bandwidth at the expense of this enormous rath of things we need to work on My little bit of a dodge out of it is that I have to say, I am of the view that the more likely scenario vis a vis Taiwan is not actually a whole bunch of Chinese boats and an amphibious assault on the island, responded to by a bunch of American ships flowing out of Japan and Guam and elsewhere, but rather, a form of hybrid warfare that involves cyber, economic coercion, political warfare of various forms, just squeezing the Taiwanese, slowly but surely, until they either capitulate or just kind of look like a shadow of their former selves And that’s what you feel when you’re on the island, is that kind of accreting pressure And so, in some ways, I think this conversation around defense guarantees is not quite matched to the nature of the challenge today, and what the United States should really be doing with this fellow democracy in Taiwan is thinking about how to help that island build resilience to deal with these various disruptive forces, which I think are deeply maligned and problematic, not just with respect to Taiwan, but more generally in the face of the kind of authoritarian capitalist threat in other places as well We see the Russians practicing this kind of behavior in Europe So, I actually think we need new and fresher thinking, and certainly the Taiwans themselves need new and fresher thinking when it comes to what the actual nature of the threat is So it’s not all about F-16s It’s really about this much more complex constellation of forces arrayed against them from the mainland – [Audience Member] So, I appreciate that you’re somebody

that sees that foreign affairs and policy on that front isn’t about politics all the time, and it shouldn’t be But it sometimes crosses over, and we’re going into political season – Yeah – [Audience Member] And we talk a lot about foreign affairs issues in our politics that are really within the margin of error in terms of where people are politically But I think one area where it’s really lopsided is what happened with the Kurds and withdrawing from Syria in the way that we did We had a sort of feint in that direction that Mattis was involved in sort of countering, and I guess the question is, are we going to know what happened on that phone call with Erdogan? It’s bizarre I mean, we’re not even convinced that this guy knows what the AKP is, let alone the PKK – Yeah Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to get to the bottom of that entirely It’s really curious It doesn’t make a lot of sense I think at the end of the day, there was probably a collision of a few factors One, the president like strong men and likes responding positively to them, generally, across the board, and Erdogan definitely fits that bill Two, Erdogan kept asking He’d ask the same question repeatedly, so for Trump, at some point, saying fine, fine Three, the president had felt constrained by folks like General Mattis who had subsequently left his post at Secretary of Defense So he was a bit more unburdened and was thinking, I want out anyway And four, it came at a moment where there was a kind of change the subject imperative, so that worked as well And finally, I think, even though you’re right, it’s lopsided, I think the president’s view is this is a winning issue for him long-term Even if in the moment, it comes at some cost, I think his view is end the endless wars is a winner, and by the way, every Democrat says end the endless wars Not to be the wet blanket, because I say it too, but, what was the actual practical result of Trump pulling back from the perspective of US force posture? There were a lot of practical effects in terms of us betraying the people who did the fighting for us against the Kurds But what was the practical effect of our force posture? Well, of the thousand or so US forces in Syria, after all was said and done, we’re keeping several hundred of them in Syria, and the remaining ones are moving right down the road across the border with Iraq, and they’ll be hanging out there So, not a single troop coming home In the meantime, we send 2,000 guys to Saudi Arabia We have increased our force presence in Iraq, increased our force presence in Afghanistan, increased our force presence in the Persian Gulf This is from the president who says end the endless wars Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the last president, Barack Obama, and I was in the room for a lot of these meetings, and Rand Beers, who’s here, was in the room for many of them as well, the president would say, and Dan heard this from the president all the time, I want to get to zero in Afghanistan I want to, he’d say it publicly I want to get to zero in Afghanistan And this started in 2014 At the beginning of 2017, we had somewhere between 8400 and 9600 forces on the ground in Afghanistan He just couldn’t make it happen, because he had so many people coming to him and saying, if you go to zero, you’re going to create the safe haven, you’re going to get the next attack Do you want to own that? It’s just like, at the end of the day, oh, gosh And then, in the Democratic primary, Elizabeth Warren in the last debate stood up and said, I’m getting all of the troops out of the Middle East Then her team followed up a couple days later and say no, no, no, combat troops I’m getting combat troops out of the Middle East Okay, at the end of the next term, are we likely to be at zero almost in any of these places? Maybe Afghanistan, maybe, maybe, maybe But otherwise, end the endless wars, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, whether you’re Trump or one of his opponents that these days has taken on this kind of incantation but like, it runs smack hard into the realities And I don’t say that to opine on what I think the right result is That’s just be just being an armchair analyst at what is likely to happen here over the course of the next few years on this issue – [Audience Member] Were you Secretary of Defense, how would you prepare for a presidential impeachment? – One of the things that I would actually be quite concerned about is the kind of overall issues related to workforce morale,

the sense of unit cohesion We have gone to such a polarized time now that like, almost all the norms we’ve traditionally relied on have started breaking down, and it would not be unthinkable to me as Secretary of Defense that political tribalism couldn’t be deeply infecting our own units, of people being on one side or the other My wife is a Navy Reservist She obviously has strong political views She serves in the Pentagon a weekend a month, is on the mobilization list, and she thinks about this, being in units and just ending up in the same damn political disagreements all the rest of us do So that’d be part of it Second is I’d be looking at exactly the adversaries I was talking about earlier, Iran, North Korea, as well as Russia and China, for how they may think about a distracted, more politically vulnerable president might present opportunities for them to do things And I would be playing that out How do we make sure that we maintain a decision-making process that can deal with that? And then third, I’d be coordinating very closely with the Director of National Intelligence on how we maintain an effective three-way line of communication on the intelligence front, and many of the intelligence agencies are military intelligence agencies, between the professional intelligence agencies, the White House, and the Congress, the Gang of Eight – [Audience Member] You referenced primarily presidential behavior – Oh, what do you mean? – What would you do with Schlesinger? Would you tell the White House operators to call you in case the president wanted to get in touch with StratCom? I believe that was the question (Dan laughs) – Oh, is that what you’re worried about? Oh, I see – [Audience Member] Given the president’s known personality – Can you speak into the mic? – Given the president’s known personality, were he to react in a typical way, what would be your response to that? – Well, I mean, (Jake sighs) I would basically have to know what I was going to resign over, you know, and what I was going to say no to, and no to and therefore tender my resignation But I do not think in advance, even with this president, I could advise a Secretary of Defense to be actively planning to design the whole apparatus to say no, to shut the president down I think it would have to be much more in the zone of reactive than proactive, because I think the alternative is deeply corrosive The president has crossed a lot of lines on a lot of issues, but I have yet to see him act in a way that, which he could do, so you got to be prepared for it, ended up involving the launch of nuclear weapons or something along those lines – Okay, I think we’re getting to the witching hour, unfortunately, and I’m going to call on Professor Ezzedine Fishere, who I want to congratulate on being named today the Jamal Khashoggi Fellow at the Washington Post So you’ll be a regular columnist for the post – Oh, wow – [Ezzedine] For a while – For a while, okay Well, congratulations on that I’m sure everyone in the room joins me in that – [Ezzedine] Thank you very much (audience applauds) Thank you I wonder if you can say a few words about what you think the future role of the US will be (Dan laughs) – That’s a great last question, Ezzedine, thanks – Yeah, so I think this is a great question I believe it really depends on who’s president, in a profound way, because Donald Trump’s view of the role of the United States is a massive departure from the bipartisan tradition going back 70 years, and I think if he’s reelected, he is going to double or triple down on his strategy, which will put at risk America’s participation in the entire UN system, the WTO, NATO, the whole thing And this transactional kind of dog-eat-dog, we’re the biggest dog and we’re just going to flex our muscles, will go into overdrive Keep in mind that in Barack Obama’s second term, that’s when he did Paris, the Iran Deal, the opening to Cuba It’s when a president finally gets to kind of accomplish the major things they’ve set out to do And I think for Donald Trump, that would be true in quite a different direction If a Democrat is elected, they will recognize the world has changed and that the distribution of power has changed and that our alliances, our allies

aren’t just going to snap to attention when they show up But nonetheless, they will largely seek to reestablish a modified version of the previous approach in Europe and Asia I think the Middle East is a huge open question, because when it comes to the anchors of traditional American Middle East strategy, our relationship with Saudi Arabia, our relationship with Turkey, and our relationship with Egypt, all of these are very much up in the air The relationship with Saudi Arabia has gone off a cliff for everyone but Donald Trump in Washington, Democrats and Republicans alike on the Hill The Democratic presidential candidates missed no opportunity to bash Saudi, and yet, something’s going to have to be worked out there practically We’re not just abandoning that relationship altogether A similar thing can be said about both Turkey and Egypt So, for me, much more than force posture and Iraq and Syria and how many guys here or there or whatever, is the answer to this question, which I don’t know, at this point: what does the relationship look like with those three major regional powers four years out that will determine the long-term future US strategy towards the Middle East The last thing I would say on the Middle East is I believe that the next president, if it’s a Democrat, will look to come back into the Iran nuclear deal or a version of it, but simultaneously try to jumpstart some kind of regional negotiation And the question of whether the current attitude of the Saudis and Emiratis on that remains that they’re actually prepared to deal with the Iranians on issues related to Yemen, Syria, other things, is a very real one But that could be an organizing principle for some actual genuine diplomacy and real effort, as opposed to the current body language of just, we’re getting the hell out I mean, I could see a world where two years in, you’ve got recalibrated relationships with the major powers, and you have an earnest effort with a lot of presidential time and senior leadership time being invested in trying to work something out involving the Russians and others I could also see a scenario where there really is a, well, we’ve got other fish to fry, and these guys, we can’t deal with any of them, and they’re all being recalcitrant, and then you’re more likely to see some very modest deal cut with Iran around nukes, and otherwise, a hands-off approach But I think with respect to Europe and Asia, one of the interesting things about what Donald Trump has done for Democrats is, whereas if Hillary Clinton had been elected, I think you would have had genuine conflict within the party over America’s role in the world, Donald Trump has made allies great again, he’s made values great again, he’s made international institutions great again He’s made a sense that we’ve got the back leading on global problem solving and rallying democracies of the world against the authoritarian threat, and you can read that in Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s stuff, just as you can read it in Pete’s or Biden’s of Kamala’s So in a way, globally, it will be a return to a genuine form of American internationalism The Middle East is the big wildcard – Well, that’s a great place to stop Before I dismiss you all, I just want to say that on Tuesday, we’ll be hosting General Carter Ham in a Veteran’s Day-related event It will be a day after Veteran’s Day for many complicated reasons we don’t have to go into And we will be talking about a whole range of different issues having to do with Americans serving in combat, our endless wars, the state of the military community, and the like General Ham was, as I said, Combatant Commander of Africom He was the four star who did the review of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and decided that it was outdated, and he is now the head of the Association of the US Army So he’s been here before He’s a terrific speaker I hope you will join us And right now, please join me in thanking Jake Sullivan (audience applauds)