After a week of mixed messages from the U.S. intelligence community about Russia's plans to influence the 2020 election, Diane talks to Shane Harris of the Washington Post what's really going on.
French officials are confirming they yesterday killed the chief suspect in last week’s Paris attacks. ISIS has taken responsibility for these and two other recent acts of terror: the bombing of a Russian plane, and twin suicide bombings in Beirut. Now a renewed sense of urgency may be bringing France, Russia and the U.S. together against the extremist group. But the nations’ alliances could hold back real action. As world leaders consider next steps, the wave of terror has fueled global debate over the best way to stop ISIS, and how religion and concerns about surveillance should factor in. Diane and guests discuss possibilities for a global coalition against ISIS.
- David Rothkopf CEO and editor, FP group, which publishes Foreign Policy Magazine; author of "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear (2014). Host of Foreign Policy podcast, "The Editors Roundtable."
- Akbar Ahmed Chair of Islamic studies at American University, former Pakistani high commissioner to the U.K. his forthcoming book is titled “Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Empire”
- Audrey Kurth Cronin Director, International Security Program, George Mason University School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs
- Graeme Wood Fellow, the Council on Foreign Relations; contributing editor, Atlantic Magazine
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Friday's tragedy in the French capital was the latest in a string of mass attacks by ISIS. Now, a global coalition to fight the extremist group could be taking shape, lead by France, the U.S. and Russia. But what needs to be done and how much will be possible with these countries at the helm?
MS. DIANE REHMHere with me, David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy, Akbar Ahmed of American University, Audrey Kurth Cronin of George Mason University and on the line from New Haven, Connecticut, Graeme Wood of the Council on Foreign Relations. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MR. DAVID ROTHKOPFHi.
MS. AUDREY KURTH CRONINThank you, Diane.
MR. GRAEME WOODThank you.
REHMDavid Rothkopf, a potential global coalition. Tell us what that would look like.
ROTHKOPFWell, I think the word I'm going to focus on that you used is potential. You know, there is an apparent alignment of interests between the Russians who have gone into Syria, but who have also been attacked by ISIS in terms of that airplane attack, the Iranians, the French who have recently been attacked, the United States, some of the moderate Arab states, even Israel is a country that's got an interest in all of this.
ROTHKOPFHowever, everybody's interests are slightly different. The United States has no inclination to actually lead anything in this regard. Wants to talk, wants to be paid deference, doesn't actually want to put boots on the ground or do anything material. The Russians are enjoying being in the lead in this, but their goal isn't getting rid of ISIS. It's keeping the Assad regime or an acceptable regime in place in Damascus.
ROTHKOPFThe French are clearly upset at what has happened and they recognize the future may get worse, but the French don't really have the ability to project force beyond bombing and that sort of thing. The moderate Arab states are all going in different directions. So we are kind of where we were before this bombing. Everybody recognized ISIS as a problem. Everybody wants to do something to get rid of it, but everybody else has a bigger goal, which isn't ISIS, which is likely to keep the coalition to be like the last one, which was terribly ineffective.
REHMDavid, you sound mostly skeptical.
ROTHKOPFNo, I'm 100 percent skeptical.
REHM100 percent skeptical. How about your, Audrey? How do you see it?
CRONINI'm not as skeptical as David is, clearly. Perhaps, it's because I'm an optimist, but also I think that there are Venn diagrams of interests of all of these major players and there have been all along and they have places of overlap. And there are a number of things that are different now. One of them is that we do have talks going on with respect to Syria and some need on the part of the Russians to come to a resolution or at least some kind of a solution with respect to the future of that regime because they're not part of the fight and they can't keep that up forever.
REHMGraeme Wood, how do you see it?
WOODSo I think I'm somewhere in between the two ranges of skepticism we've heard already. You know, one part of the coalition that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Iraqis, the Kurds, who have been such an important part of the fight against ISIS on the ground so far and who have actually, in a kind of slow-motion sort of way, had quite a bit of success. You can name a string of defeats of ISIS, Baiji, Kobani, now Sinjar, that I think indicates that ISIS, in some ways, already kind of in retreat.
WOODSo when we think about the coalition to defeat ISIS, we also have to think about the coalition to deal with what happens after ISIS, if there is continued success on the ground, slow though it may be. And that's, I think, where we're going to see the most disagreement, the most discomfort among different allies, with some, of course, being more willing to watch Bashar al Assad have control in those areas and others not.
REHMAnd to you, Akbar Ahmed, what do you think a coalition needs to look like?
MR. AKBAR AHMEDDiane, I want to step back a little bit and contemplate the word coalition. It's not the first time that a coalition is being discussed in this area. In the last few decades, we've had several coalitions. We've seen them at their most effective and the United States is very much there in the driving seat with all its power, with all the boots on the ground and so on. Now, in this particular case, the United States is very, very ambiguous about even committing more than 50 troops at a time.
MR. AKBAR AHMEDAnd unless you have 50,000 troops there, nothing very much is going to happen so a coalition without the United States fully committed is not going to work. Secondly, the moment you have a coalition with the United States, we have the experience of the coalitions of the last two decades. We've seen what happened in Afghanistan, what happened in Iraq. In fact, ISIS is coming out of the chaos in Iraq.
MR. AKBAR AHMEDAnd if ISIS is completely decimated and destroyed, which it deserves to be, what happens next? We've got those societies, essentially tribal, and that anarchy which we see today is not going to disappear. Then you have the Shia and Sunni divide in the Middle East right now tearing things apart, another very complicated factor. And this coalition is going to feed into the sense of backlash against Muslim communities both in Europe and even here in the United States so it is very, very complicated and I really believe it's a time for leaders here in the United States and Europe to show much more wisdom, much more calmness, much more compassion and much more foresight in planning this and less emotion.
REHMSo you are saying that unless the U.S. puts 50,000 troops on the ground, we're not going to get anywhere.
AHMEDDiane, we've already got the Iraqi army fighting there with the United States pushing them on, egging them on from behind to your 4,000 troops. So how many troops are needed? And remember, this is a region where Iranian troops are in play, Putin is there, China has declared. President Xi has actually announced. You know, the Chinese hostage was killed yesterday, that he's going to now come in. Again, he used the word revenge, like Putin did.
AHMEDSo it's getting very, very complicated and without one clear leader guiding the coalition, it's going to be a complete mess. President Hollande has gone in with a lot of determination. He's sending in his aircraft carriers, sending in waves of air strikes. What happens next?
ROTHKOPFWell, what happens next is continued chaos. The United States is not going to lead. So long as Barack Obama's president of the United States, we are going to do very, very little in regard to all of this. And so what that means is, we'll let Russia take the lead a little bit. We'll let France take action a little bit. But that's not going to solve the bigger problems. Look at the region right now. Syria, you might make progress against ISIS. You're still going to have other extremist groups in Syria.
ROTHKOPFEven if there's a political settlement, 50, 60 percent of Syria is going to remain unresolved. In Iraq, you might make some progress against ISIS, but the Sunni/Shia divide in Iraq is going to remain and there is no desire to solve that and the Iranians are increasingly controlling the Shia part of the country. Yemen, unstable, will be unstable for some time to come. Libya, unstable, will be unstable for some time to come.
ROTHKOPFAfghanistan, unstable, will be unstable for some time to come. All of that means that each of these places are breeding grounds for more extremist groups. And what we've seen with al Qaeda, what we saw with bin Laden, is you can go after your target. You can weaken your target. You can even eliminate your target and something else is going to crop up and that's what's going to happen.
REHMDavid, you sound as though there's nothing that can be done.
ROTHKOPFNo. I think that there are some things that can be done with American leadership and within, you know, 15 or 20 minutes, Hillary Clinton is going to start delivering a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations on what she's going to do and I think a new president of the United States is not going to be as passive or inert as Barack Obama has been.
REHMDo you agree with that, Audrey?
CRONINI think we're looking at this with complete disregard of the nature of the enemy and the strategy that that enemy is using. And it's not just a matter of immediately going into whether we use troops on the ground or not. There's a full range of other things that we should be doing in order to try to respond to undermining ISIS.
REHMWithin this coalition.
CRONINYes, within a coalition, but in addition, we need to keep in mind exactly who those members of the coalition are and what exactly different people should be doing. If we put together a 50,000 or larger army of westerners on the plains of Dabiq meeting ISIS, which has an apocalyptic and very different set of modus operandi than al Qaeda, we're going to bring about exactly what it is that is causing them to be able to draw people to their pseudo caliphate. They are an apocalyptic group. They hold territory.
CRONINThey have a large army. They have military forces. They have control over command, you know, lines of communication. This is not al Qaeda. So only going to the question of whether we should put a large number of troops on the ground within that coalition seems to me to be too narrow.
REHMGraeme Wood, do you want to jump in?
WOODYes. Well, they certainly do want a confrontation. You know, the magazine Dabiq, named for that city that was just referenced, its new issue just came out and there's discussion of exactly this, that the attack on Paris, other spectacular attacks on Western targets, they think of these as ways to goad the United States and the coalition into a large battle. And I think they have some misplaced confidence, perhaps, in their own military ability to prevail in that battle.
WOODBut nonetheless, I think it's something that we should be very careful about granting to them because of the propaganda value that it would give them and a few other reasons that we can get into later.
REHMGraeme Wood of the Council on Foreign Relations. He and others are here with me to take your questions, comments, 800-433-8850. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Here in the studio, David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of FP Group, which publishes Foreign Policy Magazine, Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University, Audrey Kurth Cronin, director of the International Security Program at George Mason University. And on the line with us from New Haven, Conn., Graeme Wood, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. And we are going to open the phones shortly.
REHMFirst, David Rothkopf, I want to ask you about the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. People are saying that now that Russia has acknowledged that it was a bomb that blew up their plane over Egypt, that they may be moving closer in thinking about what happens to Assad and, therefore, that could be key to moving forward.
ROTHKOPFWell, I don't think that's true. I think Russia has been perfectly willing to see Assad go for several years. What Russia wants is a government in Damascus that is supportive of Russia and that will put a lid on what they see as an extremist threat that is aimed directly at their underbelly and seeks to establish a caliphate in the Caucasus. And so, so long as they have a regime -- probably an Alawite regime, what might be characterized as Assad-light -- then they're going to be perfectly happy with that. And they've seen that as a bargaining chip. Russia, right now, is in a much stronger position in this region than they have been in a long, long time.
ROTHKOPFBecause, first of all, they've established stronger relations with Egypt. Secondly, they have pretty good relations with the moderate Gulf States, which have been playing a very, you know, cagy game of staying close to them. Thirdly, their intervention in Syria has looked strong and has won them some points. The Iran deal has won them some points and moved their ball forward. Now, there are some talk -- and there's some talk actually in the paper this morning of some growing tensions between the Russians and the Iranians. That's to be expected. Because the Russians are primarily short-term and tactical.
ROTHKOPFThe one party in this whole mix that's actually strategic and long-term are the Iranians. They are perfectly willing to let this play out over 50 years and slowly gain influence throughout the region, as they have cannily done. No country in the Middle East has gained more in the past eight years than Iran.
CRONINI actually agree with all of that. I think the Russians have long-standing interests...
ROTHKOPFDon't sound so surprised.
CRONINI know. Well, I thought we were going to be duking it out here, David. No, I -- the Russians have had a long-term interest in the Middle East. They've had a very tight relationship with Syria going way back into the early Cold War period. And so they're, you know, reasserting that same position.
REHMBut where does that leave ISIS?
CRONINWell, I think that ISIS is on the back foot. That right now they've got more people who are aligned against them, not just the French, but also of course the Russians. You know, they've gained a tremendous number of enemies. And the question is now how to use the force of those enemies effectively. I don't think that building that coalition and ignoring the potential for solving the Syrian crisis through diplomatic means is wise. I think we need to keep our minds from going straight only to large numbers of Western troops on the ground and look at the other nuances of the policy that, in some respects, have been more successful.
WOODYou know, as of a few weeks ago, I might have said that ISIS had displayed some strategic acumen as well and had looked at -- for a long-term vision. They haven't been around for very long but they had been thinking about how they would expand and so forth. Picking fights, though, with NATO and with Russia really gives me some pause in estimating their strategic, long-term thinking very highly. Of course, if they believe that God's on their side, that an apocalyptic battle will work out in their favor, then we might think of that as influencing their choices.
WOODBut again, if they really are -- as it appears to be from their strategy of attacking Western targets -- willing to sort of assemble a coalition of enemies against them, then I would have to say that their strategy looks like a very foolish one.
REHMSo are you saying, Graeme Wood, that having carried out the attacks in Paris, having blown up the Russian plane, and now threatening New York and Washington is weakening ISIS?
WOODWell, you know, for a long time, ISIS has been telling its other jihadist enemies -- that is, al-Qaida -- that al-Qaida's strategy of having attacks on the West, while it gets some short-term gains and gets the jihadists excited, it just gets them invaded. They lost Afghanistan because of this. And they said, as a result of that, we think this is a failed strategy and what instead we should be doing is building up a state, which they've done quite successfully in Iraq, Syria and to a lesser extent in Libya and Nigeria.
WOODSo I think that when we see this new strategy coming forward, I just don't see where it must be leading. Because it's going to have some predictable effects of uniting an otherwise un-united coalition against them and not likely to work out very well for them.
AHMEDDiane, this is essentially a Muslim problem in a Muslim location and it must be solved by Muslims, of course aided by and joined by the Western Muslim allies. But it has to be solved by the Muslims. Where I think the United States could play a very effective role is -- you know, you were saying, what could the United States be doing or the West -- twist arms. You've got the Saudis, you've got the Gulf, you've got the Turks, you've got the Jordanians. And if the Muslim nations are aware of the dangers that these activities of ISIS -- the violence, the monstrous actions that they take -- are affecting them in the long run, they will do something.
AHMEDBut there is a widespread feeling in the Muslim world over the last couple of months -- and I'm following this closely -- from the orthodox establishments like Al-Azhar in Cairo to the King of Jordan, right across the board, that ISIS represents nothing but a monstrous group that coming out of the chaos of the Middle East. Now that is a good sign. Again, the realization that it is essentially a Muslim problem has not quite dawned on the Muslim world. But this must come out of the Muslim world and they must check and defeat ISIS.
ROTHKOPFI strongly encourage us to take a bit of a step back away from the headlines. ISIS isn't the problem. Extremism is the problem, whether it's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or it's Ansar al-Sharia or it's Boko Haram or it's Jabhat al-Nusra or it's ISIS. ISIS is commanding the headlines right now. But what we have seen is, as one group gets beaten down, another comes up. And that is likely to happen. I think we need to do what some of the smarter regimes in the region are doing and, that is, we need to look at this in a kind of a four-dimensional perspective.
ROTHKOPFWe have to first address the issues in the battlefield. We have to then move to addressing the kind of political questions that we can that can stabilize as much as possible. We have to almost simultaneously address the massive humanitarian issues that exist, whether it's in Syria or it's in Yemen, where there are literally millions and millions of people who, if not helped, are going to become a breeding ground for further problems.
ROTHKOPFAnd then fourth, and this is the long-term thing, we have to find a way to rebuild this region. It is going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The region has some of the money, the Chinese have some of the money. We need a long-term perspective and we have never come up with a rebuilding initiative in the world that hasn't had U.S. leadership.
REHMSo, short of putting 50,000 U.S. troops on the ground, what would you do now?
ROTHKOPFNow, in the battlefield, I think -- first of all, I don't -- the generals that I speak to in the Pentagon talk not about 50,000 troops. They talk about 5,000 troops. They talk about 10,000 troops. They talk about leading actions. They talk about advising. They talk about working with a handful of coalition partners that will step in with us. I think that you've got to go and contain ISIS. But I think the other thing you need to do is you need to have responsible response to the terror threat in Europe.
ROTHKOPFOne of the things that worries me in the long term here is that, over the next several months and the next several years, you're going to see a series of attacks in Europe. And not only are these going to be devastating in human terms, they're going to inflame the European right. And in inflaming the European right, they're going to weaken the EU. That will strengthen Russia, by the way, as an aside. But, you know, we've seen what happens when the right rises in Europe. It's not a pretty sight. It is not good for the Atlantic Alliance. And it will only exacerbate the problems that exist in the region.
REHMWe're already seeing that in France, are we not, with at least the police in Paris now carrying guns. The whole question of allowing immigrants in, which has been very iffy long before this happened, but how is that going to affect all of Europe, as they think about the massive humanity trying to move around? Audrey.
CRONINWell, I think that the Europeans have a tremendous amount of experience with terrorism. We need to think about the longer-term historical experience that they've had as former colonial -- many of them former colonial powers. The French have had a simmering problem with terrorism coming after the Algerian War in the 1990s for some time. That's not to say that this isn't an attack that's out of the norm in terms of the number of people who died. It's absolutely a tragic and enormous event. But if we think that the Europeans are helpless and are going to be necessarily all alarmist with respect to terrorism, we're not thinking about their longer-term history.
CRONINThe British actually have a very strong experience in dealing with deradicalization, in understanding how to disaggregate groups, in understanding how to bring groups to fight against each other. There are a lot of dynamics that go on when you're fighting terrorism that are not just about, you know, either right or left responses.
REHMWhat about Britain and why do we not hear from them, stepping forward to join this so-called coalition? Graeme Wood.
WOODThat's a very interesting question. I mean, there are a significant number of fighters who have come from Britain. That Britain has -- there's no question that Britain considers itself a very likely target. So far, of course, the actual attacks have not focused there. They're -- even the sympathizer attacks which, you know, we've seen a few that have got a lot of attention but haven't produced very many cadavers, on the train in Belgium, a stabbing here and there. And even that seems not to have happened. So I think, politically, Britain has been quite isolated from the immediate urgency of this situation.
AHMEDDiane, the reaction to Paris, the terrible events, the tragic events that took place, has been to largely focus on ISIS, which is correct. But there's another part of the equation, which is the Muslim immigrant community in France. Remember out to the eight or nine or ten killers and terrorists on the last week, eight or nine were immigrants. They were local people. Now, the question is, what is France doing to actually win them over, to integrate them in the long run? Because the unemployment, the impoverishment -- they're living in the suburbs. They're totally alienated.
AHMEDIn fact, I was talking to one of the leading social activists -- French, but of North African descent, very articulate -- she said that France is like a mother and we are like her children. And we feel rejected. We feel that France, our mother, has pushed us away. Now I think it's...
REHMBut, Akbar, are they the ones who are carrying out these attacks? Indeed, haven't these terrorists really snuck in to the country?
AHMEDExactly. That is my point, Diane, that the two work together. And ISIS is successful because you have people in the community. My question is this: Are we going to let those individuals, maybe 5, 10, 5,000, 10,000, affect the entire community, a very large community in France? Or are we going to win over the community, so the community then isolates and completely finishes the scourge of terrorism in the future?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David Rothkopf.
ROTHKOPFWell, you know, this is a very important point. We've seen American presidential candidates now trying to exploit this fear of Muslims broadly. This is precisely what ISIS wants. It's precisely what the terrorists want. It is very, very important that we resist the natural inclination to respond to this emotionally and to actually exacerbate the problem. That's what we did after 9/11. We went. We overreacted to an attack. And we fed into the problem by taking steps we shouldn't have taken.
ROTHKOPFWe need to learn from that. And we need to recognize that this is a very narrow problem from a very narrow group of people, that we can respond to it with very narrow military and intelligence means, that we can protect ourselves, and that we can then work to develop better relations and more stability in this part of the world.
REHMGraeme Wood, President Hollande did not turn to NATO, but he asked the EU for help. Now, isn't France's problem technically NATO's problem?
WOODWell, I think it's important to see the individual dynamics, some of which Akbar just brought up, in France in particular. We should think about the number of fighters who have come from France. It is 2,000 people, roughly, who have actually traveled to Syria. Compare that the United States, the United States maybe a couple hundred. So the only countries with larger per capita flows of foreign fighters, we're talking about Belgium, I think Denmark might be right up there as well. But there are ways in which this problem is localized. I mean, we should be thinking about national dynamics.
WOODAnd although, you know, in some ways, of course, an attack on a NATO country, a threat to a NATO country might be considered one on all. But I think, thinking of it as a French problem has some merits as an analytical view as well.
REHMAnd, Audrey, how does this compare with President George W. Bush's reaction after 9/11?
CRONINWell, George W. Bush went straight to the use of military force in a dramatic way. Particularly in Afghanistan, there was very good logic for that. That was where the attack came from. But then going onward into the war in Iraq, which was not directly attached to the 9/11 event, was a serious response that I think was unwise, and said so at the time. We were trying to fight al-Qaida. You know, the thing about these groups is that they may pop up one after another, but the way to fight them is to disaggregate them and to treat them individually. Because what allows them to continue to perpetuate are different types of things.
CRONINSo at the same time that we need to look at individual national situations -- France is quite different, say, than Britain -- we also need to look at the fact that ISIS is very different from al-Qaida or many of the other groups. ISIS has actually been having a difficult time keeping its narrative on the positive these days. It's having a harder time drawing foreign fighters in. They've got a number of people that are leaving and are being very vocal about the horrendous experiences that they've had. One of the smart things that we could be doing would be to broadcast those stories more. Because there are a lot of people unhappy about it.
REHMAudrey Kurth Cronin of George Mason University. And when we come back, it's time to open the phones, your calls, comments. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMWelcome back. We know the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary is speaking -- Hillary Clinton is speaking. We'll keep you up to date with points as she makes them. Here's an email from Joan in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, who says, last night on "The Charlie Rose Show" former Secretary of Defense Gates listed a number of reasons he did not support sending in ground troops, not the least of which was how fatigued our troops are. Audrey, your reaction?
CRONINI think that's absolutely true, and the American public has this tendency to turn immediately to the military and to believe that because the military is very, very capable that they can answer every problem, and they're suffering as a result. So I think that Gates made a very important point that is not sufficiently highlighted.
REHMHave others made the same point?
CRONINWell, I've heard it from senior military officers and also leaders, not necessarily in a public setting.
REHMSo does that mean if you send troops in, they're not really going to be ready to go?
CRONINWell, you know, the military will make sure that the troops are ready to go, but the other question that concerns me is that the Army, you know, the Marines, all of these forces are very worried about what exactly their objective is. We haven't clarified exactly what those troops will be doing. If they're going to be engaged in a broad, large, coalition battle against ISIS on the ground, that's something that involves working with other people. It's not so simple as just throwing a lot of people on the ground.
ROTHKOPFNo, it's not simple. There are many fighters coming from different angles in this situation, but our inaction has a cost, and there are lots of reasons we can come up with for not taking steps. But what it has done is it has created a void that the Russians have stepped into and the Iranians have stepped into, and they are going to dictate the outcomes here.
ROTHKOPFAnd we may think, well, look, we're letting them carry the weight. That's certainly been the Obama White House's point of view. But where is the next president? You mentioned Hillary Clinton is giving a speech. Where is she going to find the world in 16 months? Who is going to be in the position of influence there? How is that going to influence the outcomes of other issues? How is that going to influence our national interests in the longer term?
ROTHKOPFIf we are seen as inert and inactive as we are currently seen, we are going to have a harder time mobilizing coalitions. Furthermore, there are certain kinds of coalitions that can't be mobilized without us. And that doesn't mean 50,000 troops, but it may mean 5,000, and it may mean special forces. It does mean a clear mission. It does mean providing the resources to our military that we need. It does mean a hybrid approach, which is military and political and development and international and local, but you've got to have a strategy, and right now what we're doing is we're sitting squarely on both of our hands.
REHMGraeme Wood, Senator John McCain continues to say if we don't fight the battle there, it will come here. Is it your belief that the threats made by ISIS against Washington and New York are valid threats?
WOODWell, ISIS has been threatening Washington and New York for a very long time. Their propaganda constantly has pictures of the White House in flames. You know, B-roll from Times Square is something that they've used in the past. And we should remember, of course it's cost-free for them to make that kind of threat, that they are a terrorist organization. That's what they call themselves.
WOODAnd so, you know, making us terrified of them is something we should just expect them to do whether or not they're planning a specific attack. They may very well be planning such an attack, and I wouldn't really be shocked if that's the case at this point. But I don't think still that we should be thinking of American targets as their primary objective. They'll do it if they can, but it's so much easier for them to attack in other places.
WOODWestern Europe would be an easy option for them, and they'll I'm sure continue to do everything that they've been doing for such a long time in the Arab Middle East, as well.
REHMAll right, to David in Dallas, Texas, hi, you're on the air.
DAVIDGood morning, Diane.
DAVIDIt's an honor to be on your show.
DAVIDAnd thank you for such a thoughtful discussion on this complex topic. Real quick, I'm just curious, is there -- what's the likelihood of this coalition focusing on the financial resources of ISIS and really getting sophisticated in going after that and taking over any of the moneys that they can get, you know, from them and using it to help rebuild Syria after all of this is done? What's the likelihood of us leading as a country in that area?
CRONINWell, we have been very much a leader in terms of preventing financial support for terrorist groups. It's been much more difficult for ISIS because ISIS is a more independent actor that has control over things like oil, extortion, taxes. Holding ground gives you the ability to raise money in a variety of different ways. But one of the interesting things in the last 24 hours is that we've begun to bomb oil trucks. It used to be that we were just bombing facilities. We were worried about whether we would be hitting civilians who were driving those trucks.
CRONINSo that says to me that we're stepping up our efforts to try to prevent ISIS from continuing the very strong financial support that it's had.
AHMEDDiane, we've been talking about our magnificent Army and that its sense of exhaustion and so on, but we have something in the armory, and that is the idea of America, democracy, human rights, civil liberties, the ideas that form America. And those ideas resonate in the Muslim world. You may have dictators there. You have tyrannies there. But for ordinary people who may even be influenced by propaganda, such as of ISIS, there still is this great admiration for the United States, and I think we must not overlook that, and we must constantly project that into the Muslim world.
REHMAkbar, I saw a recently television program where ISIS is training youth of seven-, eight-year-olds holding guns, firing massive guns. There is that training going on among supporters of ISIS, supporters of terrorists, who may themselves be Muslims.
AHMEDDiane, when I was commissioner in Balochistan, there were schools also producing this long before 9/11. We also had schools, I was at Foreman Christian College run by American Presbyterian teachers in Lahore, which was producing members of parliament, scholars, generations of leaders of Pakistan. So it is a battle in the Muslim world. We have to understand who are we allying ourselves with.
AHMEDWe have to understand that some actions of ours may not be helping those people who want to create a better, more peaceful world for the future.
REHMAll right, to Larry in Hollywood, Florida. You're on the air.
LARRYYeah, thank you, Diane, for taking my call.
LARRYMy point is that fighting or killing ISIL may not help us because we cannot kill ideology. But if the Muslim family, the Muslim community were to educate their youth that nobody goes to heaven by killing and what happened during the Mohammed era can never be repeated. If those countries can create jobs for their youth, I think that would -- that might conquer or beat ISIL.
ROTHKOPFLook, there are over a billion Muslims. It is a very big, diverse community. To go and wave our hands over and say, well, if only they would solve this problem, who is they? You know, you know, there are divisions within Pakistan, within Afghanistan, within Iran, within Iraq, within Egypt, within each one of the countries in this region. There is no central power. There is no central coordinating principle. What we have to do is we have to find people who share our values, work with them to advance those values and advance our interests in the best way that we possibly can.
ROTHKOPFBut it is not going to -- there is no magic bullet solution where all of a sudden, you know, we're going to hear a chorus of happy harmony from any group in the world, including one as big and diverse as the Muslim community.
AHMEDAnd also, David, the after-effects, the shocks after the last few coalitions are still there in Muslim world because they weren't such great successes that we had planned.
REHMAll right, to St. Louis, Missouri. Hi there, Joe, you're on the air.
JOEDiane, first I'd like to say I really hope that your health is doing so well because I miss you when you're not on the program.
JOEI mean, you're a wonderful woman. To the panel, I wish we could take your panel today and be -- put them before Congress because they make sense, and the Congress listen to the Pentagon. The problem I have right now is why did the refugees want to go to Europe rather than the countries that are also Muslim, like them, around them, like Egypt, Jordan, you know, the -- Lebanon, all those countries that are related to those people?
REHMHow do you respond?
AHMEDThey do go and there's a kind of misunderstanding people, sort of where are the Muslims. In one sense, they're right because the rich countries like Saudi and the Gulf and not been very forthcoming, but we overlook the fact, Diane, that there are millions, not thousands, millions of refugees in Turkey, in Jordan. Jordan's almost being overwhelmed by the presence of the refugees. In Pakistan, you may have something like three to five million Afghan refugees. So these countries' resources, very, very limited, have been responding.
AHMEDAgain, I don't think that situation can last very long because it has huge geopolitical implications. The reason they are going to Europe is very different from the fact that they are heading for Muslim countries.
REHMAll right, and Hillary Clinton is saying this is a worldwide fight, and America must lead it. She has said it's time to create a new offensive to smash the caliphate. An air campaign must be combined with ground forces but Special Forces, not combat.
WOODRight, and there you see a speech that has two purposes, one to outline a strategy against ISIS, two, to differentiate herself from President Barack Obama. This is all part of the distancing of Hillary Clinton from what I believe she and many around her see as the weaknesses of Obama foreign policy, particularly with regard to Syria. She is being clear. She is sending the kind of message that's necessary for leaders in a coalition. She is talking in a reasonable, measured way. And I think it is a message that is long overdue and that will resonate well.
CRONINWell, I think that's true. I agree with that. But I would also point out that we currently do have an air campaign. We're changing the nature of the targeting a bit, but this is an incremental thing, and we also currently do have Special Forces on the ground. Perhaps we'll throw a few more in. Perhaps this means a few more. But I'd like to hear more about the other sides of an effective campaign, which would include economic efforts.
CRONINOne of our areas of inaction has been the fact that we did not provide the kind of support that was needed to those terribly deprived refugees that were in places like Jordan, Lebanon, within the region. We could've done that a year ago, and that's one of the things I was arguing. So that's another type of inaction.
ROTHKOPFBut nobody understands that better than Hillary Clinton, and I think it's very important to recognize, as we talk about these issues and talk about how long they're going to be with us, that Hillary Clinton along among the people in this race, and I'm not saying in a partisan way, I'm saying this as an observer of foreign policy, is the only person who currently has a chance of becoming president who actually has a lot of foreign policy experience, and that matters.
REHMGraeme Wood, do you want to comment?
WOODYes, well, the comments, as you've read them, I think should be viewed as political comments. You know, they differentiate her as a leader. It gives her a chance to talk about, as you say, distinguishing herself from Barack Obama. On the other hand, though, as Audrey said, it's -- many of the things that she mentioned are already happening, and it's an incremental addition that she seems to be proposing. The reason an incremental addition is a sensible option is because what's already happened has been somewhat successful.
WOODYou know, as we've mentioned, ISIS has lost territory. It is on the back foot. It does not seem like it is able to gain territory, certainly not in areas that are not controlled by -- that are not Sunni Arab. So as we go forward, I think building on success is a pretty good idea, and the only thing that I would love to hear more about is some kind of political solution that would actually bring an acceptable government to Sunni Arabs in the places that ISIS has had success in.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. To Alex in Dallas, Texas, hi, you're on the air.
ALEXHello, Diane, greetings to your panel. The only force that appear to have any success in the defeat of ISIS appear -- to me appears to be the Kurds. But I hear them being bombed by Turkey. I've heard that mentioned. Why, if they're the only force who have had any success, why are they being bombed?
CRONINWell, the Turks of course have a longstanding problem that they see as a problem with Kurds within Turkish territory. And so their priorities are, as David said to begin with, different from those of the other coalition members, and they are not going to be keen on having separatist parts of their territory move into a future Kurdish state. So they have mixed motives. There's no question about it.
ROTHKOPFWell, you know, they have been very effective, and I hope that one of the things that we do, and I worry about this, but I hope that it's true, is that we start being more supportive of the Kurdish desire to have their own independent state. They are the largest ethnically distinct group in the world that has sought this and doesn't have it yet. On the other hand, the Turks have been extremely unhelpful, have taken steps back from democracy, and I think it is time that we stood up to them a little bit and showed the support for the Kurds that we need.
REHMHillary Clinton has said that Congress should swiftly pass an updated authorization to use military force. How do you read that, Audrey?
CRONINThis is a very important point, and I think it's long overdue. The need for a new authorization for military -- the use of military force, the current one that we're operating under is specifically, word for word, supposed to give authorization for those groups that are attached to the 9/11 attacks. And so now we have kids that are fighting with ISIS and with other groups that are -- that we're fighting against who weren't even alive then, or maybe they were, you know, in diapers.
CRONINAnd so the current AUMF is getting more and more stretched and less and less credible. I think it's time for a new one.
ROTHKOPFYeah, sure, it is, but this is Washington paper pushing. I mean yes, let's have a new one, but let's have a strategy. You know, let's figure out what we want. Let's figure out what our long-term national interests are. Let's move beyond just focusing on ISIS. Let's talk about what kind of coalition is likely to advance and preserve our interest for time to come as the Chinese and the Russians and others seek to increase their influence in the region.
REHMDavid Rothkopf, Akbar Ahmed, Audrey Kurth Cronin and Graeme Wood, thank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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