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tv   Charlie Rose  Bloomberg  February 4, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm EST

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>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." lieutenant general mike flynn is here. he retired as director of the defense intelligence agency this fall.
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his career spans three decades includes every level of command in military intelligence. he previously served as top intelligence advisor to general stanley mcchrystal in iraq and afghanistan. he is credited with revolutionizing how intelligence is done inside the military. in 2010, you wrote a similar report called "fixing intel, a blueprint for making intelligence relevant in the military." it examines the military's inability to understand fundamental questions driving extremists. that paper proves relevant today. i'm pleased to have mike flynn at this table for the first time. welcome. >> charlie, thanks so much for having me. i know we've been trying to do this for a while. >> we have indeed. i met you as i mentioned in this top colleague of stanley mcchrystal in afghanistan. >> remains a great friend of mine today.
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>> the man knows something about leadership. >> big time. and he's an exceptional leader across the board and doing some amazing things today for a lot of organizations. and i think that that is going to carry on to a while. >> we want to talk about isis. and we had one more example today. when there is on the internet video of the burning, in a cage -- >> uh-huh. >> of the jordanian pilot who lost his plane and had to parachute out. and was captured by isis. and then was the subject of an attempted exchange. >> uh-huh. >> which the jordanians were prepared to do. with a woman who's on death row. in jordan. we don't know why that failed. that exchange. >> right. >> but we do know today with this video -- >> it was -- they put him inside a cage and they probably doused him in gasoline. and they had a fuse going up to the cage and they lit the thing off. and then just sat there and videotaped that. so you can imagine the kind of mentality that we're dealing with here when we're talking about this islamic extremism. >> what kind of mentality are we
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dealing with? >> well, i mean, i think it's people who see a way of life that is so different than the way -- what we, you know cherish around the world and the contributing world today. i just -- it's the kind of existence that -- and i've dealt with these guys over the last 10 years. i mean, their thinking and their thought pattern and the kind of ideology that they have is just something that we just don't understand. >> is it drawn from the koran or not? >> it is. it is to a degree drawn from the koran. these are individuals who are deeply -- various forms of the sunni religion, solipsists or whatever. but they absolutely believe in it and interpret it in a way that supports their ideology. >> is this some modern interpretation?
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or has it always been there in terms of what they cite as their reason for drawing these life codes? >> yeah. i think that what we're dealing with -- and this is really one of these things where i -- my personal belief on this is our failure to understand the deeply held religious beliefs that these guys have and how they are interpreting it and how they are acting it out. that failure to understand just really very menacing ideology has really led us to really sort of a mismatch in how we are executing a strategy and how we are executing even some of our campaign plans on the military side. so that lack of understanding is causing us to be somewhat confused as to how -- >> why don't we understand it? that's why we have people like you. >> i think that there are some that have really taken a hard
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look at this thing and from my perspective, as i was going through the last -- frankly the last 10 years and i spent five years in iraq or afghanistan, it suddenly occurred to me back -- you mentioned the fixing intel report. it occurred to me that we were basically going after individuals, you know, that sort of the capture-kill that you hear a lot about instead of trying to understand why they were actually doing what they were doing. you know, we sort of went to the where, where are they and let's get them versus understanding why are they there? and i think that we -- we now, i do believe now we have individuals who are really trying to -- trying to understand what it is that we're facing. and it's going to be something that's going to go on for a long time. >> i want to get to your strategy. tell me what the appeal was and why muslim leaders --
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>> yeah. >> will say these -- they don't even want to call those members of isis muslims. >> right. >> because that are saying we're muslims and we don't believe any of this. >> they're definite muslims. >> they do believe this. >> that's right. >> and so therefore they are kidnapping religion. that's the argument they make. >> yeah. and i think that's a mistake. i do. i really believe that -- and i've been doing this for a long time as an intelligence officer and i've been asked who is it that we're facing so we can figure out how to do something about it? and it's this adage about you have to define the enemy that you're facing. otherwise you -- you can't defeat it. >> right. >> so i think that -- >> so define it for us. >> i think that what we're facing is we're facing an islamic religious extremist organization and isis is a part of this. but this is actually much broader than that. >> broader than al qaeda? >> much broader and more dangerous than al qaeda. far more dangerous than al qaeda. and when you begin to look at the spread from -- and i'll just really take it from pakistan afghanistan, all the way over to mali and boka haram and nigeria, a lot of these individuals actually grew up together in many cases and particularly the
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leaders they were in training camps. they were in prisons together. i mean, you look at an individual like al baghdadi, the colis in the islamic state -- >> heads up the islamic state. >> twice he was in u.s. detention systems. and then the second time he was turned over to the iraqis and they subsequently released him. so in these various places where these guys operate from, they come out and they get right back at it. and they have created even more leaders, more groups, and i think the expansion that we've seen, and frankly from our own -- from our own u.s. state department, you know, where i
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think 2004, we were talking about 21 designated islamic terrorist groups in that part of the world. today we're at 41. and these are -- these are designated islamic terrorist groups by our state department. >> and what do they have in common and how are they different? >> i think -- what they have in common -- and this is really -- this gets at the meat of how we define them. and this is the core. so we used to say a.q. core was the guys living in a couple of caves in pakistan. and to me, that was -- that's always been my argument. you maybe call them a.q. command and control or they may be the a.q. senior leadership. >> a.q. being -- >> al qaeda. >> al qaeda. but the core of this element, of this segment of the islamic religion, is the ideology. and that's the core. and that's what you have to defeat. the military component, the military phenomenon if you will, is actually not the real challenge that we have. it's more of a social, cultural psychological phenomenon. and it has spread, you know, in terms of what we're facing, it's doubled in size and scale and geographic reach. and many of these individuals, particularly at the leader level, have spent time with each other in different places in
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that -- in this part of the world. so we have to recognize that we're not dealing with something where like the strategy that we had at the beginning of this thing, post 9-11, where kill the top three or capture them, and we'll all go home. that strategy failed. and it was -- that was a strategy -- and we recognized that. i think halfway through -- >> we captured a lot of them. >> we captured leaders and killed a lot of these individuals. but what -- what we were doing and the way i equate it, we were doing -- especially the special operations community, and there was a sense that this -- sort of they could do it on their own, we were the best spear fishermen in the world. so we were actually -- just like you have fish in a pond, we were spear fishing for best looking fish, right? and that's what we were really good at. and we became exceptional at that. not only as an organization but
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even how we do the entire apparatus. and what we really needed was wed neat fishermen and catch a much wider net with many more tools inside of that -- inside of that pond to catch the kind of fish. and it wasn't so much to catch them or capture them and do other things socially, informationally. you see -- this video that they put out that we talked about at the beginning, this is purposely done. this is another recruiting video. and -- in the 22-minute audio tape or the videotape, they talk about the relationship between jordan and israel to tell their ideology, the mix that they are a part of, that jordan is actually against them, so it's a muslim nation against them in their belief system. and they're partnered with israel. and these guys are very slick when it comes to that. we need to be outthinking them. we need to use far more of our imagination to defeat these guys.
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and it's going to take a while. it's not -- >> what is it we should do? >> yeah. >> first you said you have to define the enemy. >> that's right. number one you have to define the enemy. number two, you have to -- we have to organize ourselves. and we have to really think about how we're currently organized. and when i say organize ourselves, we have to organize ourselves in two ways. we have to organize ourselves as a nation. and we have to organize the international community. and we have to be the leader in that. we have to lead this effort. and i think that certainly the international community wants that. when i say about organizing ourselves nationally, if you were to lay down on a map, a flat map of the world, the state department and the department of defense, the c.i.a., none of those -- those organizations are
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actually aligned with each other. and you think oh, jeez, they all work together. it's difficult. the best part is the relationships that we have. and that's really what makes this thing work. but that alignment is not -- it's not where it needs to be today. and that's something that could actually be changed. that could be adapted. the second thing internationally in the region, i mean, and i'll use nato because the north atlantic treaty organization people understand that's a political alliance to do military things. so we have to get the arab nation, the contributing arab nation that is keep saying they don't like what's happening. and frankly if they don't do something about it, it's going to come back to bite them you know where, they -- we have to help them organize almost a nato-like structure in the arab world to defeat this threat, to defeat this ideology. >> tom friedman wrote a column saying there's a hidden debate that's going on that needs to be more focused on within islamic and why do we tolerate this? as you just said it has to be an arab-nato, an islamic nato against people who are hijacking the religion. >> that's right. and there has to be a really strong message when we throw out
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the word "moderates," where are the moderates what are the moderates saying? and that's a great question. so where are the moderates? are the moderates the leaders of these countries? and i would tell you that i don't hear them enough. personally, and i have not seen them jumping up and down over the last few years saying strong -- strong comments. you know -- >> why are we tolerating and allowing somebody to kill jordanian who is a muslim? >> that's right. that's right. or -- and it's -- that's a difficult example. because he was -- he was placed in that role because he was fighting for an international coalition. versus the indiscriminate killing that they do of other muslims. but i would tell you, though when we try to compare what it is we're doing, charlie, you know, to historical examples.
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i mean, i was giving a talk the other day to a group of people. and we were talking about nazism. the nazis killed an awful lot of german citizens. so there's these trends that occur right now we're in a trend where we have a group of very, very dangerous, very sophisticated and savvy individuals and leaders and large numbers, this is some .1%. if you think of the number of foreign fighters and the number is somewhere around 40 countries into syria and iraq to fight, i mean, that's -- >> and they leave syria and iraq with skills. >> right. >> with the capacity to kill. >> that's right. >> as we saw in paris. >> that's right. that's right. in that case it was an al qaeda in the arabian peninsula but the same thing, the same idea. i watched a video the other day, charlie, that a friend sent me after young canadian kid. a young man. not more than maybe 30 years old. and he -- he left canada to go to syria.
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and he basically was describing his life in canada playing hockey on the ponds and growing up in the high school system. and he was turned by the individuals that basically he began -- he befriended and they befriended him, and he started to develop this belief system, which is the belief system of islam from the versions that we're dealing with now, this extremist version of it. and he was turned to the point where he then traveled to syria, and he fought for isis. so we have to look at -- that video was sent to me because i'm looking at it and i'm saying wow. i have two sons. and they're about the same age as that kid. and i'm thinking, what would ever possess a kid to turn and go something -- this kid had opportunity. >> that's the interesting point. frequently the assumption is that the young people who are
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attracted to isis -- >> yeah. >> come because a, they have such a terrible life. they're unemployed and don't have a job. they don't have a future. and this group appeals to them and you can go -- come with us and you'll have a community, you'll have a mission. >> uh-huh. >> you'll go to heaven. whatever -- >> whatever that is, right. >> whatever that is. >> right. >> and you'll be somebody. and your life will have purpose. >> yeah. i'll have meaning. that's right. >> you're saying it's not just the poor and the dispossessed and those without jobs. it is the sons -- >> that's right. >> and daughters of -- >> yeah. >> whatever the middle class -- >> let me give you an example of something that happened to us in iraq. and so this is an example of the type of people that we're dealing with. we had a raid on an objective. so on a tactical target. and this is in the 2005 time frame. so it's a bit dated in terms of the time frame.
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but it's exactly the kind of problem that we're dealing with. this raid we knew there was going to be leaders in that al qaeda in iraq leaders. so many of these guys that were in that raid are on the battlefield today. so there were nine of them. and when we brought them all in, we -- we're really just looking for one or two. because we didn't really know who the other guys were. all the individuals, average age was somewhere between 45 and 50 years old. when we finally figured out who some of these guys were, these were individuals who were doctors, engineers. teachers. but all very devout islamic extremist ideology believers. and they were having essentially a leadership meeting. and we were lucky enough that we had got a pretty good intelligence. and we -- >> and from your interrogation of them what did you discover? >> what we discovered was that one of the things that came out
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of it was -- and i go back in to -- you -- and essentially -- >> head of jaysoc, head of special task forces that we had. and essentially it was -- we're dealing with not just 20-year-old kids that are trying to get their "jihad on." we're actually dealing with some very sophisticated guys and half of that objective weren't iraqis. so they were mostly -- half was foreign. and so that started to really wake us up to the fact of what we were starting to really have to deal with. and that's when we really started to hone in on what -- what was the foreign fighter flow then? and at that time, we were probably looking at 50 to 100 foreign fighters coming in from primarily north africa, some from east africa. now we're looking at, you know, and the estimates that i've seen is anywhere from 500 to 1,000 a month from roughly 40 countries.
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and we've already seen, you know, europe talking about their problem. i just mentioned canada. i think the f.b.i. director has come out and said we roughly equate about -- maybe we have around 100 americans that are right there. we really don't know what the numbers are. but the numbers that you do hear, it's probably higher. >> so you can't kill them all. >> you can't. and that's part of the strategy that i think we have relied too much on. >> we've gone after the leaders and thought we can get them we can stop it. >> that's right. can't do it. >> we can't simply -- would boots on the ground in iraq and syria, with enough firepower do it? >> yeah. >> or are you saying the capacity of the ideology to recruit new members -- >> uh-huh -- >> is so strong that it will take a much longer time. >> yeah. so the capacity is strong -- >> to survive. >> so the supply problem is going to remain as long as they have recruiting videos like the one that they showed today.
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that's a recruiting video. >> why is that a recruiting video? >> because it shows them being -- that the tit for tat, an eye for an eye. this young man dropped bombs on behalf of the direction and orders that he was given. like a lot of american soldiers have done. and he did it. and those bombs resulted in probably the -- the burning of people. so beheading was not good enough for this guy. they were going to do what he essentially was probably doing to the people that he was trying to get. them. and so -- so there is a capacity issue in this ideology that we have to understand. we're going to have to deal with. that's why it's a social or cultural phenomenon. it's really not a military one. >> in terms of the battle that's
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taking place now. do you have to, is it essential that you retake land? >> yeah. i, charlie -- >> that they have taken, including cities like mosul? >> yeah. yeah. >> direct order of business? >> so, you know, a quick military answer is yes. but looking at this thing sort of geo strategically, we probably are not going to have the nation state existence that we saw only a few years ago. i mean, number one, the number of -- charlie, the number of displaced and -- people inside of syria and iraq right now, and the number of refugees is the most in the history of the world. i mean, it's just unbelievable. the destruction of the -- the physical destruction of what exists now because you're talking about three years of some very intense fighting. even more so than when we were there in many cases. and so the breakdown -- this is something that i do believe we are beginning to see. the breakdown of the nation state in certain areas of the world because of this is actually a real problem.
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and i think that in order to go back to the way things were, which i don't -- i don't see that happening. and i don't see a defeat of this isis. and we have a nice clean boundary between syria and iraq anymore. i actually think that we're going to see potentially a breaking apart of this thing. to answer your question -- >> you think we'll see -- right now, isis controls land between syria and iraq. >> uh-huh. >> and you think what's going to happen? >> i don't see -- >> remember, you're the former director of the defense and intelligence agency. and the right hand of stan mcchrystal in iraq and the intelligence -- >> and other jobs, too. but i've been at this a long time. >> tell me what you think will happen to land -- >> i don't see us returning to that picture on a map again. in any -- >> because we can't? >> because of the scale of the problem right now in that region. and unless there is as i said earlier, unless there's an international alliance that's formed and it's got to be formed pretty quickly, and our problem is we just don't lack
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internationally the agility to move that fast to bring something like that together. i mean, how long have we been talking about building a military force or some type of force to go back to fight these guys? >> but is there growing -- i'm asking, is there a growing recognition by saudi arabia, by jordan, by the emirates, by -- >> yeah. >> one of the demands of isis was jordan get out of the coalition. >> right. that's right. so you're going to see, i think i mean, there's already been attacks along the saudi border. >> yeah. >> so the problem is that you have a segment, not just in -- this is not just in iraq and the eastern desert of syria, these are segments and these are large numbers in every one of these societies. and that nations that don't deal with the social, cultural, the educational, the economic problems and the -- the idea to give these individuals and their
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societies, primarily young men something better to do, what's going to happen is it's going to eventually come back and bite them. >> but i'm asking, do they recognize that and are they -- >> yeah. i think some do. >> my understanding is the saudis in certain instances were -- they recognized late in the game. >> yeah. >> that al qaeda was a threat to them and that they were on the target list. >> right. >> even though it came out of saudi arabia. >> i really do believe that we have to be, you know, one of the things that has happened is -- and i -- we're not there yet. we're not energy independent yet. but this has to do with what you're asking. the chain that has existed for 40 years around essentially our leg, for reliance on fossil fuels, oil and gas, in the middle east, that chain is breaking apart. and it's -- and in fact, we
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could say that we will eventually get to energy independence in this country. so that chain has always kept us there in that region. and we need to be in that region for certain reasons. but what has got to be directed, and this is where the leadership piece matters, they have to understand that they have to step up and do more. because we don't want to put 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 u.s. boots on the ground. we want the arab world who is having these problems do what they can do collectively together so they can either return to a sense of stability and security but to achieve prosperity, charlie, is going to take decades if not a generation or two. >> part of the problem is not -- >> for everybody. prosperity for everybody. >> what's the resistance? why don't saudi arabia and the rest of them in the middle east see this as an emergency? >> i think that that's part of
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the problem. and it's even a problem right here. people kind of come and go and don't see this, hey, that's a problem over there. and the belief system that we're dealing with as you just saw with the real -- the unbelievable attack against the -- in paris against charlie hebdo attack, i mean, what you saw is basically what we will see more of is the kind of attacks that don't just cause some tactical event to occur. i mean, every time they do something like that, and they know this. and i know this because i've talked to them about it. these attacks that they do these sort of less than the 9-11 spectacular attacks, what they
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do is they continue to raise fear in a society and cause us to have to change our way of life and our behavior for everything that they do. every type of security measure that we're going through. i mean, anybody that's traveled through airports, that's -- all these things have changed because of terrorism. and they will see this. and they do see it. and they will continue to work toward achieving a means by which they're really attacking our economic system. i mean, the -- bin laden, what he wrote was not to defeat the west through military means. it was to defeat them through economic means. >> and drive them out of the middle east. >> and drive them out of the middle east. >> did you get a treasure trove of stuff when -- >> yes. >> when they killed him? a lot of stuff of what he thought and what he tried to do. >> from my perspective, what i wanted to know was what did they -- what were they learning about us? but one of the things that struck me was the way that they were capturing lessons learned. they captured a lot of lessons learned from the way zarqawi
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operated in iraq. zarqawi was bloodthirsty and al-baghdadi -- >> was he a lieutenant? >> in the inner circle of zarqawi, that's right. he was released from one of the detention facilities and the 2005 time frame and he went into the inner circle of zarqawi and became one of his effective lieutenants actually. and now he's back out there. and there are others that were captured that are now back out. >> went to syria and came back. we have -- we really do have to come to grips with defining it. we just have to. and it doesn't mean that we -- that we're any less respectful of the islamic religion. just this element of the islamist religion and this extremist group and not a small
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number, they are absolutely dedicated to destroying our way of life. and that's not just the u.s. way of life. so we have to convince people that these guys are serious and they mean business. >> if the president of the united states was sitting at this table based on what you have heard him say -- >> uh-huh. >> and what you know. i understand everything you said, mike. thank you very much and that's exactly what we're trying to do is to meet that challenge? >> he would probably say that. but the challenge is -- because the assessments and all of the information that is getting to the leadership, i mean, why do we, for example, when we detain somebody, gitmo, gab tan mow bay, -- guantanamo baby, why do we give them a koran, a prayer rug and make sure that they have all the time in the world to do -- to practice their religion? >> because we have a value that says you respect freedom of religion. >> so why don't we recognize the fact that these guys are in fact islamic extremists?
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many of them haven't changed. why did we bury bin laden wrapped in a white sheet in a somewhat respectful way? and that's -- now, that's our value system. so -- >> you object to both of these things? >> i don't object to it. my point is what -- what -- what i'm saying is that we already recognize that this is an islamic problem. >> by the fact that we show respect for them and give them a koran, we recognize that there's a connection. >> that's right. >> between them. >> we connect them. and in fact, we have -- >> by the way, we buried them by -- >> we have various assessments that call them like they are. so -- and in fact, even in the arab world, the arab leaders are -- they will call it like it is. so why is it that the united states has such a difficult problem? i mean -- >> do you think the president has a difficult problem? >> i do. i think he does. i think he's got a challenge with calling it like it is. >> the white house doesn't like to call it the islamic state as you know.
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>> right. >> they call it dash as you know. >> i just think call it like it is. let's -- let's get off the dime and call it like it is. >> which is -- >> islamic extremism. and as they say it, they say it, they call themselves that. >> islamic extremists. >> they are islamic, and they are -- >> and they say interpreting the koran as we -- >> that's right. >> see it. >> that's right. and it's interesting. because there are not -- there's not like 10,000 or 50,000. there's many, many more that are -- that are interpreting it like that.
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♪ >> i'm straining for this but i want to make sure i understand you. because the responsibilities you've had in the access you've had and the performance you've had. if you look at the rise of nazism -- >> uh-huh.
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>> do you see some parallels? >> yes. >> there's something that's growing and all of a sudden we're going to wake up and it's much more powerful -- >> uh-huh. yeah. i do to a degree. i mean, so not -- nazism went on for the better part of 15 years really. you go back to the late -- 1929, 1930. >> post world war i. >> the rise was in 1933 and when we defeated them. >> we're not saying the same -- >> an ideology a deeply held ideology. if the united states of america didn't get themselves involved in world war ii, and do what we did for europe, frankly -- >> when we did. >> when we did it, today, had the nazis won, had hitler won, there would be people praying at the altar of nazism today. and whatever that would become because that was such a vile -- as i mentioned the nazis, like we say the muslims are killing mostly muslims. ok. i got it. that's very true. the nazis killed an awful lot of german citizens. so -- and the direction that they were going to take --
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>> especially those that oppose them. >> if you look at three sort of big cycles. i'll be very quick. nazism, we basically crushed them through military means. and there was some other minor things that we did. i mean, i don't want to be too generalizing on the minor side but we crushed them through military means. when you look at the political ideology of communism that took us four years, we actually defeated that through both a combination of thinking and other actions that -- where were the communism raised its ugly head we were going to strike at we used military, intelligence and different things. but it was a combination of strength and imagination. today, we're trying to defeat this ideology, this religious ideology with military means. that's my sense. and i think people think -- we're striking this. >> boots on the ground in iraq and syria. wherever they come from boots on the ground. >> there's other things happening. but this ideology, the only way to defeat it is by really,
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really stretching our imagination and starting to think about how is it -- first why is it? so when you talk about like grand strategy, when somebody says, what's our strategy? we don't have any strategy. policy tells you this is what you're going to do. strategy tells you this is how you're going to do it. there's something called grand strategy that says this is why we're going to do it. so, for example, in 1947, we had the national security act which was essentially -- a classified document until like the mid 1990's and essentially why we needed to defeat communism. and that act, despite the administrations over times, each one kind of operated on their own ideology or our own political ideology but each one accepted that that was our mission. so what we're going to have to do with all the other challenges that we're facing, china russia, transnational organized crime, what we're going to do about iran, the rise of other extremist groups that are out
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there. but we need to have some type of very imaginative, grand strategy that says here is why we need to defeat this idea. and then decide how. >> so you got -- and why. what is our call to action? >> that's right. >> why do we have to defeat it and how are we going to do it? to know about you and to hear you, you believe that we have to be much more sophisticated. >> uh-huh. >> about understanding the root causes. >> yep. >> of how this has come to be. the problem it is. >> uh-huh. >> and understand what motivates them. understand how they think about the world. and understand all of that. and it has to do with religion. it has to do with culture. it has to do with understanding -- >> psychology. >> all of that. which -- some would consider a look at intelligence, not just -- >> and -- the intelligence system is a strategic advantage for us if we use it properly. and i think for most part we do. but that's exactly the issue to
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get at that. and people are going to go oh, we know these guys -- why don't we know this? >> and at the same time you're saying that's the way you have to go but don't for a second think that this is a solvable problem by military action. >> absolutely. and in fact -- >> because it won't be effective or because under the circumstances today it's hard to -- it's hard to get the national will to do that. >> that's right. >> not only here because of iraq and afghanistan. >> right. >> but also places in europe. western europe. >> yeah. so something else, too. that you're getting at. and this is -- this is really the time -- sort of the strategic time line that we are facing. because time is not on our side. strategically. the closer you get to having to do boots on the ground, so we've been observing this activity for like 3 1/2, almost four years now going on in syria and it's coming to iraq over the last year and a half. so -- and we have this drum beat
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that says we've got -- do more in there. and i agree. we probably have to do more in there. but what we do is different. >> you also -- go ahead. you believe, i understand, that we missed the opportunity more in syria. >> we did. >> than the moment that there was. >> absolutely. i do. and -- >> and support people who were not opposed to assad but not isis and lots of other -- >> the closer, charlie, you move toward conflict, so the closer -- where we sit in a peaceful environment, the closer you move toward conflict, the more risks you're taking. the more it's going to cost you. and you have less and less options. and if there's one thing that i learned as a young officer a long time ago is the best plan to have is the one that gives you the most options at the last possible minute. and i feel like we're moving toward that. and what i -- >> more options? >> more options. we need more -- the strategy part, the -- how do we do it, we really need to look at a series
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of options. and i'm not talking about military and economic. i'm talking about a combination of things that are -- that are both from a u.s. perspective because we still have to protect our self-interest, as well as from an international perspective. >> here is another question. you've said that -- first, define the enemy and articulate clear and unambiguous strategy and ensure everyone understands and we must create a single unified and international change of command. >> yeah, yeah. >> like eisenhower in world war ii. >> exactly. >> what makes you think that -- who is going to be in that chain of command? is it going to be led by the united states? because a lot of other people who come to this table, and they say, what we need is a nato in the arab world. that's what you need. this is not a battle that the united states should be leading. to be led by someone else. >> yeah.
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>> you don't -- >> we should not be ashamed of being the world leader. we should not back down from being the world leader. and we should not be ashamed of protecting our values and protecting our interests around the world. now, having said that, when i -- when i thought about that particular statement, about creating a single chain of command, unified under both a national and international sort of umbrella, that is something that -- and again, i used eisenhower as an example in world war ii. >> supreme ally commander. >> supreme ally commander. he was basically told win the war in europe. and -- >> he was told beat nazis. >> and use whatever resources you need. and different times. but conceptually that is still very doable. the question that -- to ask is who is in charge? i mean -- >> i'm asking you.
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who should be in charge? >> well -- >> you're saying the u.s. in charge because it's in their national interests. but does iran want us to be in charge? does russia want us to be in charge? does saudi arabia want us to be in charge? does britain want us to be in charge? does france want us to be in charge? >> yeah. i think that what we have to do is look for what's common amongst all those nations. and i would segment out iran because iran is actually part of the problem. iran is a deep part of the problem. >> yeah. but there is they're as much an enemy of isis. >> yeah. as jordan -- >> sure. >> on this point there is much of an enemy of isis. >> iran is -- >> shia is isis and sunni -- >> through state sponsors, through their terrorist network called hezbollah, we have to recognize that this is a very dangerous -- i think very dangerous country that we have to --
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>> hezbollah has killed more americans than al qaeda -- >> the iranian -- that's right. >> on 9-11. how many al qaeda killed plus so many more and killed them where? >> marine beirut barracks. >> how many? >> 283. and you're talking about another -- in the embassies in africa. you're talking about individuals in europe in a couple of cases. and you're talking about a large number in iraq. that were -- we knew were being killed by these different types of projectiles they brought in from iran. that's a different issue than what we're talking about. >> and quds forces -- >> and sadr and all those -- >> they were iraqis. >> they were iraqis. but the iranians were operating inside of -- >> with the support of iran. >> with the support of iran, yeah. that's right. so this chain of command thing is really an interesting one. because if you were to ask today who is in charge? and it can't be the president of the united states.
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it's -- is it lloyd austin down at central command? probably not. it's not -- doesn't have the military component. >> and retake mosul, for example. >> so who do you put in there? and is it -- is it a team of people? is it one or two or three? and if it is, somebody still has to have the final vote. >> here's the last point you made. in terms of this. and a couple more questions. we must tell the american public that this is likely to last for decades. >> yeah. >> the american public gets tired of war really quickly. >> yeah. and so if we stop, let's just say we're going to go -- all go home. not going to commit another soldier overseas to this effort, that would be very -- it would not be a good thing. it would be a very dangerous move to make. which we have to stay engaged against this enemy. this enemy is what -- what we've seen in the last month with the beheadings, this latest thing with burning this kid alive, i
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mean, these are individuals who are very serious. they're very sophisticated. and for a period of time charlie, in 2006-2007 time frame and 2008-2009 time frame they were actually beating the most sophisticated military in sort of in the history of the world that was put together. and that was in iraq. and in 2006, 2007 time frame we were not winning. >> that was in the midst -- before you guys -- that was before the surge. >> that was before the surge. >> before the surge. >> that was at the height of the sectarian -- >> if there's anything i learned as an intelligence officer is never take your enemy for granted. and i don't take these guys for granted. not one bit. and so we can't take them for granted because of how they look, you know, and what they're dressed in. the -- the way that they move on the battlefield. because they're not moving as sophisticated formations. the way the weapons that they have. we tend to look at these
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individuals and groups and just go these guys aren't -- >> you were director of the defense intelligence agency. would you define today the biggest threat to america's national security the issue we've been talking about at this table this evening? >> yeah. great, great question. so this is the issue about what's existential to our country. what would take our ability away from us that we cherish? i personally -- the way i would answer that, charlie, is that one of the things i think is an existential threat to this country is the loss of who we are. the idea about american values and what we cherish. why we are the way we are. why we're so -- such a good strong country. we have got to protect that. that's an existential threat that's -- over time if it erodes we have to be very careful and protect that. in terms of is there a one enemy out there? i mean, we loved -- in a way and i've had these
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conversations, we -- we enjoyed i guess having the soviet union because it was one problem that we could worry about. today, we don't have that. we have 10 problems that we're worrying about. is one or the other existential? i think the economic system is an existential problem. and i think we have to be -- pay very close attention to that. i don't see a military threat. there's always the one-off north korea. with -- with their capabilities. >> what is the important difference between -- and is it just tactics, tactics? between al qaeda on the arabian peninsula, yemen, boka haram nigeria. dash. isis. islamic state. in iraq and syria. al qaeda represented by zawahiri and osama bin laden.
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what's the difference between them other than tactics? >> right. so briefly, what's not different -- >> and i didn't mention of course -- >> and what's not different is the ideology. the ideology is about the same. >> the same. >> clear. the difference today or the difference from sort of where we were to today is i would say -- i would describe it like this. the lines between those organizations are thicker. meaning they have thickened their network of likeminded groups and leaders. and they are far better networked than they were 10 years ago. and i remember sitting, drawing out these guys. and i can remember sitting 10 years ago, charlie, drawing these maps out oklahoma going
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what's the connection between this group in afghanistan and this group in east africa? you know we've had some communications. we've had some money. and it was a soft dotted line. that dotted line is now a big thick black line. and there's a lot more connections. you look at the shifting of al qaeda command and control or senior leaders out of pakistan to the arabian peninsula. that occurred a few years ago. and you have these other elements that are out there, boka haram is incredibly brutal. this is the group in nigeria. kidnaps children. they had an attack yesterday on a village. >> wiped out -- >> well, the estimates are anywhere from 150 to 2,000 people killed in the last 48 hours. the lines between these organizations and the way that they work together has thickened. and we need to recognize that.
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because it also -- not just starting with iraq and trying to do iraq first and then we're going to deal with syria. it's understanding this wider problem we have in trying to solve it in a way that actually does something and suppresses it. we're never going to quite get rid of it. you're never going to get rid of the zealots that are out there. they've existed since the beginning of time. but you can suppress it. and you can get governments you know to basically meter their own problems that they have. and do something -- do more about it. but if governments are corrupt it's not going to help. not going to help. >> i leave you with two ideas. number one, is this idea. the united states cannot be the world's policeman. that's one idea. >> right. >> the other idea is if not the united states, who? >> yeah. so on both, it's ok to be the
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world leader. it's ok that we're the world leader. we should not as i said earlier -- >> i didn't say leader. i said policeman. >> but the policeman means that -- that means we are going to have to be the force out there leading whatever the problem set that we're trying to solve it. so because it's about global leadership on a stage that still exists. and the united states is still the global leader. and so we should not be reticent to be the leader. now, how you lead, you can also be the best follower by being the best leader sometimes. and how you do it, again, back to strategy, and how we actually execute what it is that we're going to have to do in order to accomplish this problem, you know, that sort of remains to be seen. and i think that we need to really take a look at one, why we should lead? there's all sorts of reasons why we should lead. and most of them are because the
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international community wants us to. getting al baghdadi, the leader of dash or the islamic state, or isis, is not going to solve the problem. the military -- >> make a lot of people feel good. >> that's right. for 24 hours. and then we will be right back at it. i stood over many of these guys or was part of putting in detention centers, prisons or killing many of these individuals. and we always felt like this is just going to go on forever. and we -- and we're sort of at a place now where i think we -- everybody is going jesus, can't we do something more about this? because this is not an academic theoretical argument, charlie. what they just did to that jordanian pilot who basically just gave his life for his country, for a muslim country, is grotesque. and it should not -- the contributing international community should not allow that
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kind of thing to happen. so we have got to figure out -- and we've talked about a bunch of things to try to do. but i do believe that the first thing to do is really clearly define who it is that we're facing. >> thank you, mike. >> it was great, charlie. and thanks a lot for having me on. >> mike flynn for the hour. thank you for joining us. see you next time. ♪
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♪ >> live from pier three in san francisco. welcome to "bloomberg west." i am cory johnson. here to talk the -- check the headlines. greek banks can no longer use government debt as collateral for loans. banks can pass ones to the


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