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Tony Jones talks to defence analyst Michele F -

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Tony Jones talks to defence analyst Michele Flournoy

Broadcast: 13/08/2007

Reporter: Michele Flournoy

Michele Flournoy from the Centre for a New American Security talks to Tony Jones.

Transcript

TONY JONES: Well, Michele Flournoy is president of the Centre for a New American Security, a
Washington-based think tank which aims to increase bipartisan understanding of national security
issues.

She's an expert on defence strategy and policy and she has advised Hillary Clinton. She also served
in the Pentagon under President Bill Clinton as principal deputy assistant secretary for defence.

Michele Flournoy joins us now from Washington.

Thanks you for being there.

MICHELE FLOURNOY: Thanks for having me.

TONY JONES: Can we just start, if you wouldn't mind, with the breaking news that President Bush's
most influential political adviser, Karl Rove, has announced his resignation at the end of this
month. How big a blow will that be for the administration?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think it's a major blow. This has been long in coming. Karl Rove has been in
the gun sights of the critics of the administration for quite some time and really has been
President's right hand man and chief architect in many of his policies. So I it's a significant
loss.

TONY JONES: Do you think it's likely to have anything to do with the damage his reputation's
suffered over the scandal about the leaking of Valerie Plame's secret career as a CIA operative?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think that's part of it, but it's been one thing after another and he's
received a number of subpoena requests that the administration has fought off from Congress and
again, I think that was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back.

TONY JONES: This will take him out of the limelight, will it, or will the subpoena requests
continue?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: Well, it may take him out of the limelight, but I imagine that he will continue
to advise from the sidelines.

TONY JONES: Alright, let's move on. Now you've set out a blueprint effectively for how the next
president, he or she as you've put it, needs to deal with the inheritance of the Bush years. And
you're calling for a fundamental reframing of the US role in the world. I'll come to the details in
a moment. First of all, can you tell us why you believe that is necessary?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think the next president will face one of the most daunting inheritances as any
in the last several decades, incredible challenges from the ongoing war in Iraq, to a mission that
we still have to win in Afghanistan, to a broad war on terror, to changing great power
relationships. And I think the next president also has to deal with those challenges at a time when
US credibility, our international standing and our moral authority is at an all time low. So
restoring that standing is probably job number one for the next president.

TONY JONES: Is this essentially, in your mind, about how a Democrat president would have to deal
with that inheritance, or would you expect that to be the inheritance that both sides would have to
deal with in some respects?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think that anyone who walks into the Oval Office will have this sitting on his
or her desk. This is not a partisan issue. It is simply what the next president as the leader of
the free world will have to deal with when he or she walks through the door on January 20.

TONY JONES: Now we understand that you've had an influential role in advising Hillary Clinton's
campaign. Do you expect that she will have a mandate for the fundamental changes that you're
talking about if she does become president?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think any candidate who's elected in this next election will have a mandate for
change. Even the Republicans who are running, most of them in the foreign policy domain are calling
for a change of course, substantial change of course in the style and substance of US leadership
and engagement around the world. So I think the mandate for change is clear from all the polling we
see now and it's likely to be even clearer come election day.

TONY JONES: Do you think, I mean, you've set out a 9 point advisory for any future president. I'll
go through some of those points in a moment. But do you think Hillary Clinton would be prepared to
follow through with some fairly radical changes such as your suggesting?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I would certainly hope so, actually, and I think a number of the candidates,
particularly those on the Democratic side, would sign up to that list.

TONY JONES: Top of the list is transition out of Iraq - that's easier said than done, isn't it?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: It's true, very true. We have very deep enduring interests in Iraq and the Middle
East and the key is finding a phased transition way out and way forward that limits the damage to
those interests. So we can't stay the course and we can't get out tomorrow. We have to find that
middle path that actually manages a transition under very difficult circumstances.

TONY JONES: So in this regard we're now seeing quite an important debate going on between the
Democrat contenders, in particular. Mrs Clinton said if President Bush refuses to end the war then
she will, and her message to the Iraqi Government is, "I'm sorry, it's over, we're not going to
babysit a civil war". Now that is a tough position to take for someone who voted for the war in the
first place, isn't it?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: It is a tough position but I think that she, unlike the President, is recognising
the very fundamentally changed realities on the ground. Iraq is in the midst of a civil war and
it's very difficult for us to mediate that conflict. That said, we have to make sure that
ultimately there are no safe havens for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq, that there's
no genocide in Iraq and that there's no larger regional war triggered by Iraq.

Those are the three fundamental interests that we have to try to protect as we transition our
posture there.

TONY JONES: Indeed, this is actually turning into one of the biggest debates now between the
Democrat contenders. What do you do if the civil war turns into a genocide? So the candidate John
Edwards said he'd use American forces to intervene to stop that happening. Could you really imagine
any Democratic president turning their backs on a genocide? Because Hillary Clinton is obviously
saying, "We won't babysit a civil war," but what if it turns into a genocide, what if it goes
beyond the ethnic cleansing that we're seeing already?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think if there's a genocide, the United States and others in the international
community have a moral imperative to intervene and stop it, especially given how this war started.
That said, I think there are things we can and should be doing to prevent genocide. And I think the
local efforts to train and advise local security forces, that kind of investment in the security at
the local level can actually go a long way towards deterring and preventing genocide. More of our
focus in the time remaining should be on those kind of initiatives.

TONY JONES: So do you read Hillary Clinton's obviously the key candidate, the likely Democrat
candidate for the presidency. So how do you read her position on this? She's talking about leaving
a lot of troops still in place in Iraq for quite a long time and then, of course, you have this
whole issue of the civil war which is already going on. If things get worse, she'll have to send
more troops in to stop a genocide happening, wouldn't she?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: Well, it's not clear. My reading of her is that she's very committed to
ultimately ending the war and transitioning US troops out. But that she's not going to do it in a
precipitous was that damages our interest. I think she's talking about a phased transition that
will bring troops home eventually. I think in order to stop genocide you wouldn't necessarily have
to send more troops there, the key is keeping the right kind of troops in place as you do the draw
down. Troops that have air mobility, troops that can respond very quickly to an emerging situation
on the ground and intervene quickly to stop it. So I think that speaks more to the kind of troops
you leave in place as others are withdrawing than it does to putting more back in.

TONY JONES: It still means, though, doesn't it, putting American troops in harm's way. Putting them
between warring forces on the ground in a civil war.

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think that is only in the absolute extreme case of outright genocide. And
again, I think the real focus should be preventing or reducing the likelihood of that. And the more
we create a balance of power at the local level, and Sunni communities, for example, and Kurdish
communities who are able to protect themselves, the less likely genocide will be.

TONY JONES: : Alright. Your second point is that the global war on terror has been both misguided
and damaging to US international standing. You say the whole idea of a global war on terrorism is
actually counterproductive. So what do you expect to see in its place?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: Well certainly terrorism is a critical threat and we have to deal with it. What I
was saying is the term "war" implies we're waging war on Islam, which is not the right idea, it's
not the case. It implies the military instrument is the most relevant, which it's not. What we're
talking about is a long-term strategy to marginalise the terrorists from their base of support by
addressing the fundamental economic, social and political conditions that promote radicalisation of
these young men and their taking up violence.

TONY JONES: The use of soft power?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: It's soft power, but it's also traditional law enforcement intelligence and
military means where necessary. Obviously when you have known terrorists, you need to go after
them. But meanwhile that's a very retail approach to this problem. We also need to take a wholesale
approach, which is changing the conditions that are giving rise to the extremists in the first
place. And that's a generation-long battle.

TONY JONES: Part of that, as you put it, is a recommitment to the Middle East peace process and an
affirmation of the rule of law. So you'd want suspected terrorists picked up in third countries to
be tried in US courts under US law with the same protections of US citizens, is that right?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: Well, I think it's a more nuance set of issues. What we believe is that putting
people away indefinitely in places like Guantánamo only exacerbates the problem in terms of
radicalising more people to the cause of jihadism. We think the legal system can handle the
majority of these cases. That's been true in the past, it can be true in the future. But the real
issue is breaking the radicalisation process. If you look at the British case with the IRA, the
British tried a lot of different means before they finally found the right recipe for marginalising
that terrorist group from their base of support. I think we should take lessons from that
experience and adapt our approach accordingly.

TONY JONES: Very briefly, because it will be an extremely contentious issue for Hillary Clinton,
already Democrat candidate. Will, under your sort of way of looking at it, would you see
international terror suspects be tried under US law and only tried under US laws, if they're
brought back to the States?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: I think if they're brought back to the States I would expect that the majority
would be tried in US courts. I think there may be case where they're tried in other countries,
their home countries and so forth. So I think there's more nuance there that's difficult to capture
in a short conversation.

TONY JONES: Alright, fair enough. You also want the next US to reject the doctrine of preventative
war. Presumably that also means pre-emptive strikes?

MICHELE FLOURNOY: It doesn't mean pre-emptive strikes. I think every US president has the option of
the preventive, pre-emptive use of force if our own interests or homeland are under imminent and
direct threat. Certainly if we have the rare case of actual intelligence of known terrorists, we
need to go after those people whether it's using covert operations or military forces. So it does
not rule out prevention on a case-by-case limited basis. What I'm saying is the kind of
preventative war that was launched against Iraq in the absence of an imminent threat to the United
States, that doctrine should be firmly set aside by the next president as a signal to the rest of
the world that we don't plan on running around the world conducting additional Iraq-type invasions.

TONY JONES: Michele Flournoy, there's much more to talk about and hopefully we'll be able to
continue this conversation with you at another time. But that's all we have time for tonight. We do
appreciate you coming to talk to us.

MICHELE FLOURNOY: Thank you so much.