Interview With Charlie Rose of “Conversations on Diplomacy”
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III
Benjamin Franklin Room
June 20, 2012
MR. ROSE: I’m Charlie Rose. Thank you very much for coming this afternoon. This is, as many of you know, a second in a series of conversations with Secretary Clinton and previous secretaries of State. We hope that we will have a chance to do as many secretaries as we can here. And the point of this series is to look at foreign policy in the context of present challenges and options, but also historical lessons and experiences. Our intent is not to create some huge fight. However crafty I am, I am not that good. (Laughter.) But I do believe that two heads are better than one, and especially these two heads.
Secretary Clinton, it has been said that this Administration looks at the Bush 41 model in terms of some of their foreign policy. I think the President has said that publicly, and certainly, I’ve heard him say that. I think that Secretary Baker has said to me that he has found much to admire in this Administration’s foreign policy. He has some quarrels with economic policy, but this is about foreign policy. I hope that we will be able to be – to talk about the idea of diplomacy today. Clearly, we will because I’ll ask the questions. (Laughter.) A little bit like Churchill saying, “Yes, you’ll be good to him because he’ll write that history.”
But this is an interesting time, clearly, for diplomacy. And it is worth noting that there are 337 museums for the military and none for diplomacy. And it is time that we understand – and these two people understand it well and practice it brilliantly – the power and the need for diplomacy. It is soft power, but it is also powerful policy and powerful power that can be used. We have seen this most recently with Secretary Clinton in China, the possibilities in a very difficult and challenging time of diplomacy.
I want to begin with this notion: You both came to this building, to State Department, from politics. Is that a good background?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I certainly think so. That may not be surprising for Jim to hear, but it might be for some. There are lots of different routes to this job. And we can look back at our predecessors, the 66 that came before me, and see such accomplished men and then finally women. But I think bringing a political experience to the job, particularly in recent times, has been very beneficial, because everybody has politics. Even authoritarian regimes have their own brand of politics. And understanding what motivates people, what moves them, how to create coalitions, especially in the time that I find myself serving, has been extremely helpful.
MR. ROSE: Now, Secretary Baker, as I say, you were chief of staff, you ran political campaigns, but you also served in a number of positions, including Secretary of Treasury. But you know politics. Is that beneficial?
SECRETARY BAKER: Politics, you say?
MR. ROSE: Yes, sir.
SECRETARY BAKER: Yeah. It’s very beneficial. I agree wholeheartedly with what the Secretary said. In fact, I entitled my memoirs about my three and a half years as Secretary of State – I called it the “Politics of Diplomacy.” And in there, I said my experience, both as a lawyer, yes, but then in politics, I found grounded me very well for this job, because the job of Secretary of State is quite political. It’s very substantive. And I don’t mean to suggest that there’s a difference there, but it’s international politics. It’s politics, but it’s international politics.
MR. ROSE: You both also – it should be said, you had a very close relationship with President Bush. You had been his campaign manager; you’d been his friend from Texas. You couldn’t be closer than the two of you. Your relationship with President Obama was different. They use the term “team of rivals” to describe it. Talk about the notion of the relationship between the Secretary of State and the President.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Jim has eloquently written about this. You have to have the President’s confidence. You have to have a sense of a shared mission, an understanding of what’s important to the President and the principles and values that he – or someday she – is fighting for. So it is in a different context where someone like Secretary Baker had a very long, close relationship with the first President Bush.
I was a Senate colleague of President Obama’s. We ran against each other. I was very surprised when he asked me to be Secretary of State. But it was interesting that the last time this happened, team of rivals, was a senator from New York by the name of Seward who President Lincoln asked to be Secretary of State. And I’ve spent a lot of time reading about Secretary Seward. And there was a meeting of the minds and a melding of purpose and vision that I feel very comfortable in representing this President and his foreign policy agenda.
SECRETARY BAKER: I agree with all of that. To succeed, I think, as Secretary of State, you need a President that will support you and protect you and defend you, even when you’re wrong. (Laughter.) And I had such a President. And it’s very important, because everybody in Washington wants a little piece of the foreign policy turf – everybody. And you need a President, when the stories come out in The Washington Post that the NSC is running foreign policy, who will pick up the phone and phone you and say, “Hey, Bake. I want you and Susan to come up to Camp David tonight, and we’re going to spend the weekend up there.” That ends all that kind of stuff. And you need that.
MR. ROSE: Yes. It’s (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. That’s exactly right.
SECRETARY BAKER: And so it’s very – that relationship is critical in my view to the success of a Secretary of State.
SECRETARY CLINTON: In listening to Jim talk, I mean, the more things change, the more they remain the same. There are story themes, there is an appetite for conflict. Henry Kissinger, as he and I discussed when you interviewed us, said he couldn’t get over the fact that I wasn’t fighting with the National Security Advisor or the Secretary of Defense or you name it. And so you do have to not only work hard to make sure that the relationship with the President is positive and strong and perceived as such, but also to make sure that the whole team functions because you don’t want a lot of wasted time and energy.
I mean, the world is moving too fast. There is so much going on, and you have to be given the level of trust and confidence that enable you to go out there and make these decision. We were talking before we came out about what I had to do in China a month ago with negotiating once, negotiating twice, on the blind lawyer dissident. And you have to have people back in Washington who, when the inevitable second guessing and all the rest of it goes on, can say, “Look, we’re going to see this through, and it’s going to be okay. We’re just going to make sure that we’re on the same path together.” And that happens in every Administration, and the quality of that relationship is determined whether you stay focused and effective or not.
SECRETARY BAKER: And the President can stop all that sniping and second guessing. And that’s, of course, what you want. I’m reminded of the fact that in the first few months of our administration way back in 1989, we had a Chinese dissident who came to the U.S. Embassy and sought refuge and asylum, and we had to deal with a guy named Fang Lizhi. And it was almost the same kind of experience that Secretary Clinton had.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And every President says, “Oh, I don’t need this.” (Laughter.)
SECRETARY BAKER: That’s right.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And you just have to navigate through it and make it turn out okay.
SECRETARY BAKER: That’s right. (Laughter.)
MR. ROSE: How was it that it turned out okay?
SECRETARY CLINTON: On that particular – well, I think in the case of Chen Guangcheng it was in part because we did the right thing. I mean, it always helps if you believe you’re doing the right thing. We did the right thing by giving refuge and medical care to this man who had escaped from a brutal house arrest after an unjust imprisonment. It was something that was in accordance with our values, even though we knew that it was going to be a difficult diplomatic follow-through with the Chinese.
The fact that we have this Strategic and Economic Dialogue that had become very important to us both, both the United States and China, that I was on my way there for our fourth meeting, had everybody invested in trying to work through whatever the difficulties were. And I had also worked very well and on a lot of challenging issues, not all of which we agreed on, with my counterparts in the Chinese Government, most particularly State Councilor Dai Bingguo.
And so we were very frank. I mean, they didn’t like it that this man ended up in our Embassy. We stood our ground and said, “Look, this is who we are as Americans. We have a chance to make this better than it would be otherwise; let’s work together,” which we had to do not once but twice. But at the end, I think it showed a level of confidence and even trust in the good faith of each side that enabled us to work it through.
MR. ROSE: What ought to be our policy towards China today?
SECRETARY BAKER: I think the policy that we should be pursuing is pretty much the policy we are pursuing. I come, of course – I came over here with a Treasury hat on. I’d been Secretary of the Treasury for four years, interrupted by a political campaign. (Laughter.) But one of our big gripes today with China is that they manipulate their currency, and they do. Now, should we call them a manipulator or not? Or would we be better off trying to get over that hurdle quietly through quiet diplomacy and serious diplomacy and strength – strong diplomacy? That’s my view of the way we ought to be approaching that.
But with respect to China generally, Charlie, we’ve – we have a big interest in having the best possible relationship we can with China, and they have a big interest in having the best possible relationship they can with us. There are many areas of common interest: trade, regional security, energy, you name it, a lot of areas where our interests converge. And we should seek to magnify those and emphasize those. But we have areas of differences, too. We got Tibet. We got Taiwan. We got the currency problem. We got some – we got the Iranian –
MR. ROSE: (Inaudible) as opposed to China.
SECRETARY BAKER: — nuclear issue.
MR. ROSE: Right.
SECRETARY BAKER: No, where we differ, we have to manage those differences and – but continue to work with them. And that’s what diplomacy is all about, frankly. I mean, you don’t – you have to find a way to manage the differences and magnify the common areas of agreement.
MR. ROSE: Are you hopeful that you’ll be able to get them on board with respect to Iran and with respect to Syria?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to Iran, they are on board. One of the real successes of our diplomatic strategy toward Iran, which was to be willing to engage with them but to keep a very clear pressure track going, is that the Chinese and the Russians are part of a unified negotiating stance that we have presented to the Iranians, most recently in Moscow. I think the Iranians have been surprised. They have expended a certain amount of effort to try to break apart this so-called P-5+1, and they haven’t been successful. The Russians and the Chinese have been absolutely clear they don’t want to see Iran with a nuclear weapon. They have to see concrete steps taken by Iran that are in line with Iran’s international obligations. And we have said we’ll do action for action, but we have to see some willingness on the part of the Iranians to act first.
So I think it took three-plus years, because one of the efforts that we’ve been engaged in is to make the case that as difficult as it is to put these sanctions on Iran, and particularly to ask countries like China to decrease their crude oil purchases from Iran, the alternatives are much worse. And we’ve seen China slowly but surely take actions, along with some other countries for whom it was quite difficult – Japan, South Korea, India, et cetera. So on Iran, they are very much with us in the international arena.
MR. ROSE: Will they support an oil embargo?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, absent some action by Iran between now and July 1st, the oil embargo is going into effect. And that’s been very clear from the beginning, that we were on this track. I have to certify under American laws whether or not countries are reducing their purchases of crude oil from Iran, and I was able to certify that India was, Japan was, South Korea was. And we think, based on the latest data, that China is also moving in that direction. And thankfully, there’s been enough supply in the market that countries have been able to change suppliers.
On Syria, so far they’ve taken Russia’s lead on Syria. But we’re working on that every single day as well.
MR. ROSE: Why did they do that? Why do they take Russia’s lead?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think both Russia and China have a very strong aversion to interference in internal affairs.
MR. ROSE: Sovereignty issue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
SECRETARY BAKER: Yeah.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And so for the Russians, we – I was with President Obama in Mexico two days ago. We had a two-hour meeting with President Putin. They’re just – they don’t want anything to do with it. They find it quite threatening, and basically they reject it out of hand. So anything that smacks of interference for the Russians and for the Chinese, they presume against. There are other reasons, but that’s the principal objection that they make.
MR. ROSE: Would coming – both different countries and different points, but they somehow come together on these issues – Syria and with respect to Russia and the role they are playing.
SECRETARY BAKER: Yeah, yeah.
MR. ROSE: And the role that the United States is playing and the role that the region can play. What should we be doing and what is the risk of not doing?
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I’ll answer that in just a minute. But first let me say if we’re going to have differences with Russia – and we do have some differences with Russia – it seems to me the most important difference we might have is with respect to Iran. And we don’t have that now, and that’s really important. And I don’t think we ought to create a problem with Russia vis-a-vis what we want to do in Iran about their nuclear ambitions as a result of something we might do in Syria. I just think the Iranian issue there is far more important really than how we resolve the Syrian issue.
How should we resolve the Syrian issue? I think we should continue to support a political transition in the government in Syria. But I don’t – but I think we ought to support it diplomatically, politically, and economically in every way that we can, but we should be very leery, extremely leery, about being drawn in to any kind of a military confrontation or exercise.
MR. ROSE: Does that include supplying them with arms?
SECRETARY BAKER: That – well, that’s a slippery slope. The fact of the matter is a lot of our allies are already supplying them with arms. Okay? It’s not something –
MR. ROSE: And our friends in the region.
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I say our allies in the region. Yeah, they’re doing it. And it’s not something we have to do. I look at Syria and I think why are we not calling for something that we – this is – it may not be the right comparison, but in 1989, when we came into office, the wars in Central America were the holy grail of the left, political left in this country, and the holy grail of the political right in this country. We said if we can take these wars out of domestic politics, we can cure the foreign policy problem, and we did.
How did we do it? We put it to both parties – Daniel Ortega, the hardline, authoritarian dictator, if you will, in Nicaragua, and to Violeta Chamorro, the opposition candidate. We said if you’ll hold an election and both agree to abide by the results, that’s the way we’ll get out of this conundrum. That’s what happened. And both of them did agree, finally, to abide by the results. Ortega lost. President Carter was very instrumental in getting him to leave office. Why don’t we try something like that in Syria, I mean, and say look, political transition is what we’re looking for. Everybody – even the Russians, I think – would have difficulty saying no, we’re not going to go for an election, particularly if you let Bashar run. Let him run. Make sure you have a lot of observers in there. Make sure they can’t fix the election. Why not try that?
MR. ROSE: Why not try that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, actually, that is the path that we are trying. And I spoke with Kofi Annan again today. He is working on a political transition roadmap. We are somewhat disadvantaged by the fact that I think Assad still believes he can crush what he considers to be an illegitimate rebellion against his authority and characterizes everyone who opposes him as a terrorist who is supported by foreign interests. He’s not yet at the point where he understands his legitimacy is gone and he is on a downward slope.
The other problem we have is that the opposition has not yet congealed around a figure or even a group that can command the respect and attention internally within Syria as well as internationally. So what we’re doing is, number one, putting more economic pressure, because that is important, and the sanctions and trying to cut off the Syrian regime, and send a message to the Syrian business class, which so far has stuck with Assad.
We’re also working very hard to try to prop up and better organize the opposition. We’ve spent a lot of time on that. It still is a work in progress. We are also pushing hard on having Kofi Annan lay down a political transition roadmap and then getting a group of nations, that would include Russia, in a working group to try to sell that to both the Assad regime and to the opposition.
So, I mean, the path forward is exactly as Jim has described it. Getting the people and the interests on that path has been what we’ve been working on now for several months.
MR. ROSE: Who would be in that group other than the United States, Russia? Who else?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you would have to have the Arab League because Kofi Annan is a joint envoy of both the UN and the Arab League. You would have to have the permanent members of the Security Council because that’s who he represents in his UN role. And you’d have to have the neighbors. You’ve got to have Turkey involved because of their long border and their very clear interests. But when I spoke with him today, he’s going to be making another proposal to the Russians, the Turks, and other interested groups to try to get them to agree on this roadmap and then a meeting, in effect to go public with it, so that we can increase the pressure not only on the Assad regime but on the opposition as well.
MR. ROSE: Is there a role for Iran?
SECRETARY CLINTON: At this point, it would be very difficult for Iran to be initially involved. I mean, I’m a big believer in talking to people when you can and trying to solve problems when you can. But right now, we’re focused on dealing with Iran and the nuclear portfolio. That has to be our focus. Iran’s always trying to get us to talk about anything else except their nuclear program.
And then we also have the added problem that Iran is not just supporting Assad, they are helping him to devise and execute the very plans that he is following to suppress, oppress the opposition.
SECRETARY BAKER: If you get the – you’re going to get the attention of the Russians and the Chinese, in my view, in the Security Council if you come with some sort of a proposal for a political transition that might involve an election, if you’re willing to say anybody and everybody can run. That means, of course, you got to make sure that the election is not fixed. But that would put a lot of pressure – the only reason I mention this, it seems to be that would put a lot of pressure on the Russians to support this idea.
With respect to Iran, I agree with the Secretary. This is not the place to involve them. However, I would think there might be a place for them in a group with respect to Afghanistan. They helped us when we first went in there. We talked to them. They were helpful. I’ve never understood myself why we are doing all the laboring, pulling all the – doing all the labor in Iran, treasure, blood –
MR. ROSE: In Afghanistan.
SECRETARY BAKER: I’m sorry – in Afghanistan – treasure, blood. And yet, every country who’s surrounding Afghanistan has a huge interest in a stable Afghanistan. Why don’t we see if we – everyone needs to – we’re leaving now, and we’ve said that, and I agree with that. So why don’t we say, “Hey, look it here. You all want a stable Afghanistan? Come on in here and help us. Everybody contribute.” In that instance, I think we ought to have Iran at the table.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And we agree with that. We are part of a large group of nations, as well as a smaller segment of that. Just last week, my deputy, Bill Burns, was in Kabul. Iran was there. Other countries in the region and further afield were there. Because Jim is absolutely right. I mean, part of what the problem, as we look forward in Central and South Asia, is that, once again, Afghanistan is so strategically located. And in the neighborhood in which it finds itself, there’s a lot of interest at work that have to be in some way brought to the table in order to try to have as much stability going forward.
And Iran is at the table. Now, Iran oftentimes is not a constructive player, but we’re going to keep them at the table and try to do what we can on behalf of Afghanistan for them to be a more positive force.
MR. ROSE: This question about Iran: My understanding of the Administration’s position on containment is that dog will not hunt. Right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MR. ROSE: Do you agree with that?
SECRETARY BAKER: I agree with that.
MR. ROSE: Containment will not work.
SECRETARY BAKER: I agree with that. My personal position on that is this: We ought to try every possible avenue we can to see if we can get them to correct their desire and goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon, but we cannot let them acquire that weapon. We are the only country in the world that can stop that. The Israelis, in my opinion, do not have the capability of stopping it. They can delay it. There will also be many, many side effects, all of them adverse, from an Israeli strike. But at the end of the day, if we don’t get it done the way the Administration’s working on it now – which I totally agree with – then we ought to take them out.
MR. ROSE: Secretary Clinton. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re working hard. We’re working hard.
SECRETARY BAKER: And that’s a Republican. I said at the end of the day. The end of the day may be next year. (Laughter.) It will be next year.
MR. ROSE: I’m waiting.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. Look, I think the President has been very clear on this. He has always said all options are on the table. And he means it. He addressed this when he spoke to it earlier in the year.
MR. ROSE: Meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And also in public speeches that he’s given. Look, I mean, I think Jim and I both would agree that everybody needs to know – most particularly the Iranians – that we are serious that they cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. It’s not only about Iran and about Iran’s intentions, however once tries to discern them. It’s about the arms race that would take place in the region with such unforeseen consequences. Because you name any country with the means, anywhere near Iran that is an Arab country, if Iran has a nuclear weapon – I can absolutely bet on it and know I will win – they will be in the market within hours. And that is going to create a cascade of difficult challenges for us and for Israel and for all of our friends and partners.
So this has such broad consequences. And that’s why we’ve invested an enormous amount in trying to persuade Iran that if – as the Supreme Leader says and issued a fatwa about – it is un-Islamic to have a nuclear weapon, then act upon that edict and demonstrate clearly that Iran will not pursue a nuclear weapon. And we are pushing them in these negotiations to do just that.
MR. ROSE: But as you know, the question is not whether they will have a nuclear weapon, but whether they will have the capacity to quickly have a nuclear weapon.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is obviously the question, and that is why Jim said at the end of the day, maybe a year. I mean, these kinds of calculations are –
SECRETARY BAKER: It may be more than that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It may be more than that. They are difficult to make. A lot of countries around the world have what’s called breakout capacity.
MR. ROSE: Right.
SECRETARY CLINTON: They have stopped short of it. They have not pursued it. They have found it not to be in their interests or in the interests of regional stability.
MR. ROSE: But do you think that’s what they mean and that’s what they intend?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s what we’re testing. That’s what every meeting with them is about, to try to really probe and see what kinds of commitments we can get out of them. Now, at this point we don’t have them, so I can’t speak to what they might be if they are ever to be presented. But that’s why we have to take this meeting by meeting and pursue it as hard as we can.
SECRETARY BAKER: And the problem is not so much the threat they would represent to us or to Israel or to our allies somewhere in the region. It’s the proliferation problem, because it would really then be out of control. And that’s the real thing you have to guard, and that’s why I would say at the end of the day you just cannot let them have the weapon.
Now, what is – is that breakout time or is that after they make one or after they make three or four, or after you’re convinced they have the delivery vehicles? That’s all for the military to decide. But at some point you have to say that’s simply not going to happen.
MR. ROSE: I think I heard that loud and clear. But you’ve also suggested that the United States should do it rather than Israel.
SECRETARY BAKER: Absolutely. And the reason I say that is if you look at what Martin Dempsey said not long ago, he said if Israel –
MR. ROSE: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of –
SECRETARY BAKER: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said if Israel hits the Iranian nuclear facilities, we’re going to lose a lot of American lives in the region. Many people in the Israeli national security establishment have come out publicly now and questioned their leadership’s view that maybe Israel ought to do it. And they say no, Israel shouldn’t do it. There are a lot of unanticipated consequences that could follow from that, not least of which is strengthening the hand of the hardliners in Iran. I mean, you don’t want to do that. They’re having troubles now. The sanctions are not complete yet. We want to squeeze them down more. But they’re having an effect. And the government is having some problems, and you don’t want to lose all that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: In fact, I mean, what Jim is saying is a really important point, because we know that there is a vigorous debate going on within the leadership decision-making group in Iran. There are those who say look, these sanctions are really biting, we’re not making the kind of economic progress we should be making, we don’t give up that much by saying we’re not going to do a nuclear weapon and having a verifiable regime to demonstrate that.
And then frankly, there are those who are saying the best thing that could happen to us is be attacked by somebody, just bring it on, because that would unify us, it would legitimize the regime. You feel sometimes when you hear analysts and knowledgeable people talking about Iran that they fear so much about the survival of the regime, because deep down it’s not a legitimate regime, it doesn’t represent the will of the people, it’s kind of morphed into kind of a military theocracy. And therefore an argument is made constantly on the hardline side of the Iranian Government that we’re not going to give anything up, and in fact we’re going to provoke an attack because then we will be in power for as long as anyone can imagine.
SECRETARY BAKER: And Charlie, let me just explain why I said I don’t think the Israelis can do it but we can. The reason I say that is the Israeli Government came to the prior administration, the Bush 43 Administration, and then they asked for overflight rights, they asked for bunker-busting bombs, they asked for in-flight refueling capabilities. And the administration said no, that’s not in the national interest of the United States today for you to strike Iran’s nuclear facility. My understanding is they made the same request of this Administration. I don’t know the answer to that for sure. The Secretary would. But whether they did or not, that’s the reason I say if anybody’s going to do it, we ought to do it because we have the capability of doing it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And hopefully we won’t get to that. (Laughter.) I mean, that would be, I think –
MR. ROSE: Because you believe there’ll be a change of behavior or a change of regime?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, there’s – I’m not going to talk about a change of regime. I see no evidence of that. I think the Iranian people deserve better, but that’s for them to try to determine.
MR. ROSE: But there is this question too about Iran, and I want to move to some other issues. Looking back at the time of the protest over the election, do you wish you’d done more? Do you wish you’d been more public, more supportive?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look, at the time there was a very strong, consistent message coming from within Iran that anything we said would undermine the legitimacy of their opposition. Now –
MR. ROSE: This is from the opposition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: This is from the opposition coming out to us. And one can argue, were they right, were they not right, but at the time it seemed like they had some momentum, they did not want to look like they were acting on behalf of the United States or anybody else. This was indigenous to Iran and to Iranians’ discontents. And that made a lot of sense at the time, because the last thing anybody wanted was to give the regime the excuse that they didn’t have to respond to the legitimate concerns arising out of that election.
And what we did do, which I think was very value-added, was to work overtime to keep lines of communication open. We found out that social media tools, one in particular, was going to shut down for a long-scheduled rebooting of some sort, and we intervened and said no, because the opposition uses you to communicate, to say where they’re going to have demonstrations, to warn people. So we were deeply involved in a lot of public messaging that we thought did not cross the line that the opposition didn’t want us to cross. That was our assessment.
MR. ROSE: Let me move to Egypt and I’ll come back to some of these other points. What’s happening there today, and what is your understanding – and I’ll begin with Secretary Baker and then come back – of what’s the risk for the United States and what’s the risk for the Middle East in terms of where the army is, where the people who created the Arab Spring is, and where the Muslim Brotherhood is?
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I think the risks are quite large, because for some time we’ve been looking at Egypt as perhaps a textbook success case of how –
MR. ROSE: Of the Arab Spring?
SECRETARY BAKER: Of the Arab Spring. Yeah. Now, people say not an Arab Spring, it’s also an Arab Winter, because of what’s happening. And there’s some, in my view, potential for that to happen.
It is not, as we sit here today, not an unalloyed success, because the military have come in, they’ve taken power back, and it looks like they’re going to keep it. And then we have a question of whether the results of the election are going to be confirmed or observed. There are all these questions coming forward within the last, frankly, last week – week or ten days. So it’s a real problem, because if Egypt goes the wrong way, if we lose the Arab – if we lose the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty – and that’s possible if the more radical elements in Egypt end up on top after all that’s happening now – that would be a very destructive and destabilizing event.
MR. ROSE: That’s not, by definition, what necessarily will happen if Morsi becomes the president.
SECRETARY BAKER: No. Not just – not Morsi, but there could be – we don’t know who’s going – and we don’t know whether the president’s going to have power or whether the military is going to keep the power.
MR. ROSE: Well, the military suggested it might very well keep it, haven’t they?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, Jim is right. We are concerned and we have expressed those concerns. We think that it is imperative that the military fulfill its promise to the Egyptian people to turn power over to the legitimate winner. We don’t know yet who’s going to be named the winner of the election, but we think that the military has to proceed with its commitments to do so.
And so the actions that they’ve taken in the last week are clearly troubling. And it’s been a fast-moving situation, because we’ve had Mubarak’s serious illness intervene; we don’t yet have vote totals coming out; we don’t yet know what the military really has meant by these statements and decrees. They’ve said one set of things publicly, then they’ve been backtracking to a certain extent.
But our message has been very consistent, that, look, we think, number one, they have to follow through on the democratic process. And by that, we mean, yes, elections that are free and fair and legitimate, whose winner gets to assume the position of authority in the country, but who recognizes that democracy is not about one election, one time. And we have very clear expectations about what we are looking to see from whoever is declared the winner, that it has to be an inclusive democratic process, the rights of all Egyptians – women and men, Muslim and Christian, everyone – has to be respected. They have to have a stake in the future of the democratic experiment in Egypt. The military has to assume an appropriate role, which is not to try to interfere with, dominate, or subvert the constitutional authority. They have to get a constitution written. There’s a lot of work ahead of them.
We also believe it is very much in Egypt’s interest, while they’re facing political turmoil and economic difficulties, to honor the peace treaty with Israel. The last thing they need is to make a decision that would undermine their stability. And furthermore, we think it’s important that they reassert law and order over the Sinai, which is becoming a large, lawless area, and that they take seriously the internal threats from extremists and terrorists. So they have a lot ahead of them.
SECRETARY BAKER: Plus, the dissolution of the parliament.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
SECRETARY BAKER: I mean, they’ve just come in and dissolved the elected parliament. How do you put that humpty dumpty back together?
MR. ROSE: But the impression – (laughter) – hard. The impression is that during the time of the revolution that was taking place that the lines between the American and the military was very good and very strong. And does that still exist?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there certainly is a continuing effort to reach out. And in fact, I know that there are ongoing conversations between our military leaders and their counterparts in Egypt. But the message is the one that I just said. We expect you to support the democratic transition, to recede by turning over authority. And we are watching this unfold, but with some really clear redlines about what we think should occur, based on what the people of Egypt thought they were getting.
One of the stories that will emerge even more in the months ahead is that the people who started the revolution in Tahrir Square decided they wouldn’t really get involved in politics. And I remember being there – and this kind of goes back to your very first question – going to Cairo shortly after the success of the revolution, meeting with a large group of these mostly young people. And when I said, “So are you going to form a political party? Are you going to be working on behalf of political change?” They said, “Oh no. We’re revolutionaries. We don’t do politics.”
And I –
MR. ROSE: Exactly.
SECRETARY CLINTON: — I sat there and I thought that’s how revolutions get totally derailed, taken over, undermined. And they now are expressing all kinds of disappointment at the choices they had and the results. But the energy that went in to creating this participatory revolution, giving people a sense of being citizens in a modern Egypt, has to be rekindled because this – as hard as this has been, this is just the beginning. They are facing so many problems that we could list for an hour that they’re going to have deal with. And they have to somehow paint a picture for the Egyptian people about what it’s going to take to get the result of this hard-fought change that they’ve experienced.
MR. ROSE: That’s true about every country, isn’t it? Whether it’s Libya –
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is. Absolutely.
MR. ROSE: — or Tunisia or Egypt or whatever happens in Syria.
SECRETARY BAKER: Absolutely. We do not know.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely.
MR. ROSE: We will not know how it shakes out and who the leaders that will come to power will be –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
MR. ROSE: — and what they’re ambitions will be to play what role in the world scene.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
SECRETARY BAKER: That’s correct.
SECRETARY CLINTON: In fact, Charlie, we have here what’s called the A-100 class. These are our new, up and coming, rising Foreign Service officers who are here taking stock of Jim and me. (Laughter.) And probably a lot of the work that –
MR. ROSE: Those are the ones that look like teenagers?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. They do, don’t they? (Laughter.) They do.
SECRETARY BAKER: They’re the ones that are teenagers. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. But a lot of the work that is going to have to happen – because this is a generational project. This is not something that’s going to be done in a year or one American administration. This is a generational project. And preparing these young Foreign Service officers for the aftermath of these revolutions, how we manage it, how we try to exercise influence, as hard as it is because we have to be so sensitive about it, that’s really what diplomacy is about. And we’re going to be doing that for a long time.
MR. ROSE: I once read where you said it’ll take 25 years before we will really know how this thing will shake out and the influence it’ll have over the long term.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right. But we shouldn’t be surprised by that. I do think it’s important, as Americans, that we kind of remember our own beginnings. And shaping our country did not happen overnight. We had a constitution written that didn’t include me, didn’t include African American slaves. It didn’t include men – white men who didn’t own property. I mean, we had a lot of changes that we had to do for ourselves to realize the vision of our founders. But we had a vision. And that is what is so often lacking in a lot of these countries. They know what they’re against, but they can’t quite agree on what they’re for.
And so part of the challenge that they face, which we try to set an example for, is what does democracy really mean? How do you really institutionalize it? How do you protect human rights? How do you build an independent judiciary? All of those pieces which, frankly, took us a while. So we need a little humility as we approach this.
MR. ROSE: How would you like to see the United States over the next decade or two play a role in the region? And how can it play a role that will be positive, leading to the kinds of governments that we would hope would be –
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I would hope that the United States –
MR. ROSE: — new but different?
SECRETARY BAKER: — would continue to play a leadership role not just in that region but in the world as a whole because I believe that when the United States is involved abroad, we are involved for good. We don’t look – we’re not looking to get into anybody’s sandbox or take anybody’s stuff. We have been – when we involve ourselves internationally, for the most part we have been a force for good. So I think the United States needs to lead. We need to be involved.
I totally agree with the Secretary, we’re not going to know how these things turn out in the Arab Spring for a long time. And some of them may turn out very badly, actually. It’s possible. You might get militant, radical Islamists taking over in some of these countries. On the other hand, you may – some of them may very well succeed. And I hope they will, and think they will. But I think it’s really important that the United States involved in the world. And part of that involvement is diplomacy. We’re here today to support the Diplomacy Center because, as you said in your opening, we’ve got a military museums and centers; we don’t have but – we only have one diplomacy. Diplomacy is a very important part of our international relationship.
MR. ROSE: But some – two things. Number one, first on the idea of diplomacy versus military, I mean, some people – and the late Richard Holbrooke used to make this point; he worried that the military was shaping the world, especially in Afghanistan, and to the exclusion of diplomacy. Do you have some concerns about that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I wouldn’t say to the exclusion, but certainly –
MR. ROSE: An imbalance, perhaps.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that by most definitions, the power, the presence, the resources of the military are quite disproportionate to what we can field through the State Department and USAID. But what has happened in the last decade in Iraq and in Afghanistan has been quite important. The growing appreciation and cooperation between our military, our diplomats, and our development experts – I call it the three Ds of foreign policy – and both Bob Gates and Leon Panetta were real champions of this because they recognized that if we weren’t working as an American team, we were going to get out of balance. And it’s not been an easy relationship because there are different cultures, different expectations, about what we’re working for, what kind of result we’re seeking. But we’ve learned to not just coexist but cooperate in the field, on the ground.
I give out heroism awards. I’ve given out about 30 of them the last three and a half years. They’ve gone to diplomats who’ve saved soldiers’ lives in PRTs in Iraq, diplomats and development experts who literally have been on the front lines in Afghanistan. So we’re shaping an expeditionary diplomacy for the 21st century that has to work hand-in-hand with the military.
SECRETARY BAKER: Your foreign policy has got to be supported strongly by the military, but it’s got to have a diplomatic component, a very important diplomatic component. I’ve always said that diplomacy is best practiced with a male fist. That’s where the military comes in. But you said something about the last 10 years. Well, the last 10 years we’ve fought two very long and expensive wars. So it’s natural, I think, that the military side of the equation would be emphasized.
I happen to believe – maybe I’m wearing my Treasury hat now – I happen to believe the American people are tired of wars. I know one thing: We’re broke. We can’t afford them anymore. We can’t afford a lot of things. And the biggest threat facing this country today is not some threat from outside. It’s not Iran. It’s not nuclear weapons or anything else. It’s our economic –
MR. ROSE: We’ve got to get our economic house in order.
SECRETARY BAKER: We’d better damn well get our economic house in order because the strength of our nation has always depended upon our economy. You can’t be strong politically, militarily, or diplomatically if you’re not strong economically.
SECREARY CLINTON: Well, amen to that because – (laughter) – I’ve had to go around the world the last three and a half years reassuring many leaders, both in the governments and business sectors of a lot of countries, that the United States was moving forward economically, that we were not ceding our leadership position; we were as present and as powerful as ever, but we recognized that we had to put our economic house in order.
I was in Hong Kong during the debt ceiling debate, and all of these billionaire moguls were at this event lining up and with real anxiety in their faces, asking me whether the United States of America was going to default on its debt. And I said oh, no. Then – (laughter) – had to hope that people were listening.
So yes, I mean, if we don’t get our economic house in order – and obviously, there are perhaps some differences about how to do it. But when Secretary Baker was Secretary of the Treasury, when President Bush 41 were in office, when my husband was in office, we actually compromised. I know that some believe that’s a word that has been banished from the Washington vocabulary, but I’m also spending a lot of time explaining to people in new democracies that democracy is about compromise. By definition, you don’t think you have all the truth all the time. And people of good faith of different perspectives or different parties have to come together and hammer out these compromises. And so, of course we’ve got to get back into the political work of rolling our sleeves up and solving these problems.
MR. ROSE: She’s singing your hymn.
SECRETARY BAKER: I don’t disagree with that at all. (Laughter.) No, you know that. No, siree.
MR. ROSE: Go ahead.
SECRETARY BAKER: On the other hand, I hate to tell you this, but based on my political experience and my public service experience, it ain’t going to happen till after November. (Laughter.)
MR. ROSE: All right.
SECRETARY BAKER: Why haven’t you asked us about Pakistan?
MR. ROSE: I’m coming to Pakistan. (Laughter.) As fast as I can.
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, you ask her. Ask her that. (Laughter.)
MR. ROSE: Let me ask, before I get to Pakistan, this point. She has said before that America cannot solve all the world’s problems.
SECRETARY BAKER: Absolutely.
MR. ROSE: But no problem can be solved without American involvement. Do you share that?
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I think – I said a minute ago I think America has to lead, because when we lead, we usually see good results. And we’re a force for good when we’re out there leading. I wouldn’t say that no problem can be solved without American participation, but it’s hard to think of one. (Laughter.) It really is.
MR. ROSE: All right. So how do you assess what the state of our relationship with Pakistan, before I come back to the Secretary?
SECRETARY BAKER: I think it’s terrible. And I think it’s really sad, because for the duration of the Cold War they were our ally, and India was the ally of the Soviet Union, and now all of that is changed. But the relationship is very problematic in my view. It’s a tough job. I’m glad I’m not sitting there trying to deal with the Pakistani relationship. And I think we need to maintain a relationship with them. A lot of people are saying cut of all their aid, fire them and so forth. I think we need to maintain a relationship with them because they’re a nuclear power and because it’s really important that we not see nuclear conflagration in the subcontinent. And we don’t want to see any more proliferation than we’ve seen from Pakistan.
MR. ROSE: A lot of bad people –
SECRETARY BAKER: But guess what? They’ve been a very problematic ally. They really have. And we need to –
MR. ROSE: You mean by things like ISI and their activities?
SECRETARY BAKER: Yeah. And the proliferation that took place under Khan and the fact the Obama – Osama was living there in Abbottabad for all that time. And don’t tell me they didn’t know that. And the fact that they’ve now thrown this doctor in jail for 33 years who helped us find him. All of these – and they want to charge us $5,000 per truck. I mean, come on –
MR. ROSE: I’ll make this easy for you. What would a President Jim Baker do?
SECRETARY BAKER: I think I might do what I did when I was Secretary of State sitting in this office one floor down. The first month I was here, one of the assistant secretaries came in and said, “Mr. Secretary, you need to sign this.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “It’s a certification that Pakistan is not developing a nuclear weapon.” I said, “Well, they are, aren’t they?” And they said, “Yes.” (Laughter.) And like the greenhorn I was, I signed it. (Laughter.)
And the next year, at the same week, same guy came in. “Mr. Secretary, you need to sign this.” I said, “What is it?” “It’s the certification required under the Pressler Amendment that Pakistan is not developing a nuclear weapon.” I said, “ Well, they are, aren’t they?” He said, “ Yes, they are.” And I said, “Well, why do I have to sign it?” He said, “Because the White House wants it.” And I said, “Well, you take it over to the White House and tell them to sign it.” (Laughter.) And I didn’t sign it. And guess what, we cut off our aid.
Okay. Now, at some point we need to seriously think about doing that. We need to get their attention.
MR. ROSE: But I thought you just said you would not cut off their aid. Are you now saying that we –
SECRETARY BAKER: I said we need to maintain a relationship with them, but we need to get their attention. Okay? We shouldn’t break the relationship right now and sever the relationship totally, but we need to get their attention. And I’m very sympathetic to the people on the Hill who are saying wait a minute, we’re funneling – we’re broke, we’re giving taxpayer money to this country which is not treating us right.
MR. ROSE: So there. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –
SECRETARY BAKER: That’s not fair to ask her that. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, look, I think that our relationship with Pakistan has been challenging for a long time. Some of it is of our own making. There’s a lot of concern looking back. We did a great job in getting rid of the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. But I think a lot of us – and Bob Gates has said this – looking back now, perhaps we should have been more involved in the aftermath of what was going to happen to the Pakistanis. They had embraced a kind of jihadi mentality in part to stimulate fighters both from the outside and within Afghanistan.
So we are living with a country that has a lot of difficult issues both for themselves and then for us and others. But here’s what I would say. First of all, I completely agree it is not in our interests to cut off our relationship. It is in our interest to try to better direct and manage that relationship, and there are several things that we’re asking the Pakistanis to do more of and better. Number one, they’ve got to do more about the safe havens inside their own country. I mean, everybody knows that the Taliban’s momentum has been reversed, territory has been taken back, the Afghan Security Forces are performing much better, but the extremists have an ace in the hole. They just cross the border; they get direction and funding and fighters, and they go back across the border.
And what we’ve said to the Pakistanis is look, if there were ever an argument in the past for your policy of hedging against Afghanistan by supporting the Haqqani Network or the Afghan Taliban or the LET against India, those days are over. Because that’s like the guy who keeps poisonous snakes in his backyard convinced they’ll only attack his neighbors. That is not what is happening inside Pakistan. They are losing sovereignty. They have large areas that are ungoverned. They’ve had a rash of terrible attacks. More than 30,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the last decade. They talk a lot about sovereignty. Well, the first job of any sovereign nation is to protect your own people and secure your own borders. And therefore that’s what they should be doing, and by doing so they would help themselves first and foremost, help the Afghans, help us, and others.
Secondly, they have to be willing to recognize that as we withdraw from Afghanistan, it is in their interest to have a strong, stable Afghan Government that only can come from being part of the solution, being at that table, as we were discussing earlier, to try to help with Afghanistan’s economic and political and security development, rather than doing everything possible to try to undermine it.
So these are big issues that they have to come to grips with, and that’s not even mentioning the need to prevent nuclear proliferation or a nuclear incident that could occur because of the problems within their own system.
MR. ROSE: For the historical record, you believe they knew that Usama bin Ladin was there?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We have never been able to prove that anyone at the upper levels knew that. I said when I first went to Pakistan as Secretary in 2009 that I found it impossible to believe that somebody in their government didn’t know where he was – I still believe that – and that he took up residence and built this huge compound in a military garrison town. But we – to be fair, we have no evidence that anybody at the upper levels – and certainly if you talk about the civilian government, because the other goal that we have is to try to strengthen democracy and a civilian government inside Pakistan. And I have no reason to believe that the civilian government knew anything. So whether – who was in what level of responsibility in the military or the ISI, whether they were active or retired, because we do know that there are links to retired members, we’ve never been able to close that loop.
SECRETARY BAKER: And at the very least, they ought to stop double-dealing us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, at the very least. And –
MR. ROSE: And you ought to threaten them with removing aid in order to use that leverage to get them to stop?
SECRETARY BAKER: Well, I’m not sure we give them enough that that’s going to make them stop. But they need to know that we’re upset about this. They ought to stop double-dealing.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah. And they should release Dr. Afridi.
SECRETARY BAKER: Absolutely, they ought to release him.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Which is something that is so unnecessary and gratuitous on their part. This man was an international terrorist. The Pakistanis for years claimed he was their enemy as well as ours. And my argument to them is that this man contributed to ending the al-Qaida leadership that was in their country, and they shouldn’t treat him like a criminal.
MR. ROSE: There are so many issues that we could have talked about – international terrorism and how it’s moving, where it’s moving, whether it’s Yemen or other kinds of places. It just suggests that the role of Secretary of State in this country continues to be one in which you are just juggling a thousand balls all at the same time.
I want to thank Secretary Baker for coming up from Texas and sharing your ideas and your opinions with us, as we have done today.
SECRETARY BAKER: Thank you.
MR. ROSE: We hope that other Secretaries will be here, and to hear people at the top of American Government who’ve had important roles and to take advantage of their own experience, their history, and to funnel that through a consideration of the challenge that faces Secretary Clinton every day. So thank both of you for this time. (Applause.)