"American Foreign Policy: What is Wrong and How to Fix It” – Mark Moyar

"American Foreign Policy: What is Wrong and How to Fix It” – Mark Moyar



our first speaker this morning is making his second appearance at a Hillsdale College event he's an expert on war and foreign policy and were delighted he could speak for us again mark Moyer is a visiting scholar at the foreign policy initiative the recipient of a PhD from Cambridge University dr. Moyer previously served as a professor at the US Marine Corps University and as a senior fellow at the Joint Special Operations University in recent years he has worked as a consultant for the Special Operations Joint Task Force Afghanistan US Special Operations Command and US Central Command he's a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal and he's the author of several books one is triumph forsaken the Vietnam War 1954 to 1965 and another is strategic failure how President Obama's drone warfare defense cuts and military amateurism have imperiled America mark tell us what you really think he had marquette just published strategic failure last year when we invited him to speak and he'll be drawing on themes from that book this morning his topic is American foreign policy what is wrong and how to fix it please welcome mark Moyer to move these microphones downwards if I had more time I would talk about how our speaker from last night our friend from Milwaukee and mr. Casper possess what in the university is known as vertical privilege and how students should be required to attend sessions to to deconstruct that privilege so it's a pleasure it's pleasure and honor to be here at Hillsdale today as of today I've actually attended more Hillsdale events than events in my my own alma mater which is at least part of in part a matter of choice that you feel more at home in an institution that recite the Pledge of Allegiance before dinner than one that greets students had dinner with what it calls placemats for social justice so thank you dr. Oren and Doug Jeffrey Tim Casper Matt bell and the rest of the great Hillsdale team for including me in this great gathering here the last time I set foot in Afghanistan was in the summer of two thousand thirteen which was during the drawdown of US forces that President Obama had ordered over the objections of his senior military commanders the generals like just about everyone else in the US military had believed that the Afghan security forces were not ready to continue the war without large numbers of American troops to provide combat advisers and air support President Obama dismissed that view at times going so far as to say that the large US military footprint was counterproductive because it put a strain on Afghanistan so during a month of traveling across Afghanistan's alluvial river valleys and snow-capped mountains I had the opportunity to speak with Africa and government officials police chiefs and military officers that's sitting on rugged carpets that conversed with toothless Afghan village elders who often surprise me with their detailed knowledge of the thralls of American military vehicles and equipment and American base closures when I asked them about the impact of the American withdrawals nearly all of the Afghans said that the American departure was going to spell disaster for Afghanistan the American withdrawals as they explained we're going to open the door to the Taliban by weakening the Afghan security forces and by showing the Afghans that the United States was abandoning them and even the bravest and most renowned commanders and the Afghan army and police acknowledged that this rapid American drawdown was going to put the government's existence in jeopardy and then in the nearly nearly three years that have since passed those Afghan fears have unfortunately been realized having been deprived of Americans support the Afghan security forces have sustained crippling losses in lost control over large areas of the country that had been purchased in years past a great cost in American and Afghan blood on Ted Taliban flags are now flying within three miles of Lashkar Gah which is one of the most important cities in Afghanistan last month the outgoing US commander General John Campbell recommended loosening restrictions on American air support in combat advising in order to halt the momentum of the insurgents with President Obama who as you may recall once won his first presidential election by promising to ramp up what he called the good war in Afghanistan ignore general Campbell's recommendation this downward spiral in Afghanistan is I think in a lot of respects a microcosm of American foreign policy in the age of obama and for afghanistan is for the rest of the world's countries the pivotal year was 2011 that was the year that President Obama cast off the politically driven preach is of a robust foreign policy and began a broad military retreat during 2011 or obama articulated a new strategy called for bringing American troops home and downsizing the armed forces which was a strategy design motivated by a desire to downsize the military and cut defense spending in order to spare domestic programs from budget cuts so in this spirit Obama pulled American forces out of Iraq in late 2011 again over the objections of the generals and this as I go into a lot of depth and strategic failure this really destroyed the sectarian accommodation in Iraq and paved the way for the rise of Isis the Obama administration vowed to pivot to Asia but its budget cuts prevented the promised transfers of air naval assets to the Pacific as a result of that America's military standing in the Far East sank and that caused the the region smaller countries to bend to the will of the Chinese to compensate for this contraction of the military Obama intensified surgical strikes against Allah Islamic extremists through drones and Special Operations raids the administration advocates of the war by surgical strike of whom Vice President Biden was the loudest claimed that the strikes would keep the lid on terrorist organizations at a very low price now we've seen over time that the drone strikes and Special Operations raids have killed hundreds of terrorists but they haven't crippled terrorist organizations or prevented them from taking from attack in the United States or deprive them of sanctuary and on Obama's watch al Qaeda and Isis have gained sanctuaries in Syria Iraq Afghanistan Pakistan Yemen Libya and Molly giving them more square miles of sanctuary than they possessed on September 11 2001 and continue a Democratic Party tradition that dates back to george mcgovern's ill-fated candidacy in 1972 Obama has adhered to the principle the United States does not need to assert itself militarily to maintain its credibility as a superpower his unwillingness to deploy employ military force has however I think inflicted severe damage to America's credit credibility and further undermining America's credibility is the was the issuance of threats that Obama has failed to see through and most most notorious of these empty threats was the so-called red line on Syria's chemical weapons so when the Syrian government crossed that red line Obama did not attempt to enforce it but instead made the preposterous claim that he had not even set the red line but rather it had been set by the international community in the US Congress and we now know that Obama's hesitation decembe lling and in action during this whole red line affair caused great worry among our traditional allies from Japan and South Korea to Saudi Arabia and Israel leading them to the worry that the United States would not come to their aid in a time of crisis and our adversaries capitalized on its loss of credibility to undertake new provocations Russia sees the Crimea six months later without anything more than a few will protest from the White House despite the fact that the United States had a pledge dating back to the Clinton administration that we would protect Ukraine from external aggression Iran's confidence in our weakness as a result of the red line convinced Iran's leaders to drive a hard bargain in the nuclear negotiations that culminated in the joint comprehensive plan of action in 2015 another characteristic of Obama's foreign policy that harks back to the age of McGovern is the downplaying of external threats during the 2012 election you may remember Obama mocked written Mitt Romney for warning of the threat posed by Russia in one of the presidential debates Obama scoffed the 1980s they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because you know the call war's been over for 20 years Obama derided Isis as the JV team shortly before Isis swept across Syria in Iraq and last month he downplayed the threat of terrorism by remarking that more Americans die from falling in bathtubs than from terrorist attacks in the 1980s I would argue our deed back when in a different sense than what Obama was talking about we are now in the nineteen eighty of the Obama presidency with the president who's forced to combat threats that priory inattention had permitted to metastasize just has happened at the end of the Carter presidency so Obama now finds himself scrambling to contain the damage wrought by his weak policies in Iraq Syria Afghanistan Libya Eastern Europe and South China Sea among other places mom and sent five thousand troops back to Iraq to deal with Isis and he's cancelled his plans to withdraw all american forces from afghanistan by the end of his presidency he just ordered an armored Brigade back into europe to defend nato allies from russian aggression these are half measures only their intended to invert complete ruin before the end of Obama's term I think rather than to pull the United States out of the deep holes into which we have been dug and getting out of those holes well now I think be long and arduous even if his successor acts more vigorously in astutely which I think at this point is far from certain as far as his latest instance of minimizing threats the the so-called bathtub comment I think the president is also on shaky ground if you look Islamic extremists have killed much larger number of Westerners under the Obama administration than in the last seven years of the Bush administration and that teller would be much higher were not for the fortuitous failure of detonators in the underwear bomb plot and the times square plot the allegation that America is overly concerned with terrorism also misses the point that the number of the fatalities is relatively low because of the massive expenditures that we have spent on combating terrorism both in the United States and abroad and their camp there can be no doubt that without these expenditures the number of Islamic extremist attacks would have been far higher this administration like prior Democratic administrations has been more eager to apply military force to humanitarian problems than to security problems in Libya and 2011 as in much like in Somali in 1993 the White House venture to achieve humanitarian objectives by imposing a new political order through force the United States and its NATO allies toppled the Gaddafi regime by supporting Libyan rebels and did so without the use of NATO ground forces which led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to trumpet it as a triumph of smart power for those who are unfamiliar with the self-congratulatory jargon of the political establishment the term smart power refers to power that is primarily non-military in nature but as we know things didn't turn out quite so well in Libya that absence of us and nato ground forces allowed islamic extremists to escape from Libya's jail led to the killing of the US ambassador of Benghazi and the breakdown of central governance in in Libya another manifestation of smart power the Obama administration used diplomatic clout to oust autocratic leaders in the name of promoting democracy the results were similarly similarly catastrophic Obama forced out Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak only to have him replaced at the ballot box by Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and more seized power grabs and his repressive tactics precipitated a military coup which the Obama administration reluctantly had to accept the case of Yemen Obama al stood Yemeni strong man Ali Abdullah Saleh which in turn allowed the Houthi militants to devour the fledgling democracy and overrun the country another similarity with its Democratic forbearers the Obama administration is used development aid as an alternative to military power then countries such as Yemen Pakistan and Molly sought to spend aid in areas that were under the influence of extremist groups and the belief that alleviating poverty and ignorance would erode the appeal of the extremists this approach has failed repeatedly and it great cost to American taxpayers and largely because the aid groups were not actually able to or willing to get the protection of security forces and so the extremist intimidated or killed the eight workers destroyed their projects and forced the aid agencies to withdraw the administration's foreign assistance programs I would argue have suffered from a number of other conceptual errors by focusing almost entirely on poverty the administration has failed to address the problems of ineffectual and corrupt governance which in my view are the root cause of the dysfunction we see in the third world USAID Agency for International Development has reduced spending for programs that are focused on leadership and governance and instead spent more on sectors of less lasting impact the last and least forgivable problem of the nation's current foreign policy is the intrusion of politics into policy and most presidents have at some time or another given in to the temptation to let considerations of personal popularity partisan competition domestic legislative ambitions influence their foreign policy but I would argue that Democratic presidents have yielded more often to this temptation going back at least to Lyndon Johnson and I think Barack Obama has yielded more than any of his fellow Democrats so the Afghan escalation of 2009 the drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq the firing of General Stanley McChrystal the Benghazi debacle are just a few of the examples we see in this presidency of politics taking precedence over the national interest so what can be done to fix u.s. foreign policy well to begin with the United States needs to articulate and implement a coherent global strategy which is something that it hasn't done under this administration and if you pursue a coherent strategy it will actually make possible and active foreign policy where we are taking the lead rather than a reactive foreign policy of the type we have seen since 2009 but increasing our military power and increasing its use we can restore our credibility and in our global global leadership role I think the next administration will have to increase the number of American ground troops in the Middle East and the greater Middle East in order to combat the spread of Islamic terrorism and sectarianism and we'll also have to add troops to Eastern Europe to deter further Russian aggression will need to put additional air in naval forces in the Pacific to discourage our allies in the region from couch howling to the Chinese and in the Western Hemisphere to impede the flow of illicit narcotics these commitments together with the need to rejuvenate and maintain our armed forces will require an increase in defense spending I think ideally to at least four percent of GDP which will reverse a downward trend that we've been on towards three percent and that four percent number is actually quite low in historical terms and certainly will not break the national bank which is not true of the entitlement programs that have continued to grow during President Obama's tenure so building a critical mass of support for a larger bolder national defense will I think require a Republican president who can bring together the political right as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s you know the Iraq war opened fissures between neoconservatives paleo conservatives libertarians and other factions on the political right many of those have yet to close but rather than relitigate invasion of rat of Iraq which some members of these groups continue to do I think it would be more productive to focus on it on a foreign policy agenda that has broad appeal across the right and it's not in my view is overly difficult task because there are numerous areas of agreement say most on the right recognize the virtues of maintaining a strong military conservatives are generally attuned to international threats and are suspicious enough of human nature to doubt that peace can be kept simply through diplomatic goodwill and United Nations resolutions most on the right also recognize that maintaining critic credibility is crucial for a superpower and that maintaining credibility requires the use of force on occasion now at present there is a small but vocal element of self-described paleo conservatives who argue that that most foreign interventions are futile and wasteful and we should avoid them and they purport to uphold the traditions of paleo conservative icons including the most esteemed of those icons Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk but I think this is a false reading of paleo conservatism the great pelo conservative thinkers recognize in fact the need to intervene abroad against threats that jeopardized our national interest or civilization itself during the French Revolution Edmund Burke actually advocated foreign intervention to put down the revolutionaries who me called a college of armed fanatics for the propagation of the principles of assassination robbery rebellion fraud faction oppression and impiety I during the 1960's Russell Kirk thought the United States needed more rather than less intervention in Vietnam during the 1960's recommending that the United States shift from its defensive strategy in South Vietnam to an offensive strategy against North Vietnam opposite from the isolationists on the spectrum of right-wing foreign policy are those who advocate military intervention as a remedy to nearly every threat on the interventionist our door has certainly been weakened by events in in Iraq and Afghanistan but it's not entirely disappeared I think the extreme interventionist is also as problematic as extreme isolation ism both of them are flawed by a one-size-fits-all approach to situations that demand a prudent consideration of the circumstances and so I think we need to to rein in our overzealousness and interventionism by reminding ourselves of the histories of war which would show that the human and material cost of war often greatly exceed what was originally forecast and that the outcomes often fall short of expectations I think a large number of Americans can be rallied around the idea that the death of a single American at the hands of a terrorist is an intolerable affront to the nation I think most Americans understand what President Obama seems to miss which is that getting blown up at the Boston Marathon or or getting shot in Paris is altogether different from dying in a bathtub or a car crash Americans don't tolerate the murder of one of their citizens in a carjacking or a home invasion in order in order we try to minimize the significance of those events and I think protecting our citizens is a matter of national honor and it's also a matter of deterrence because our enemies are going to be less inclined to harm Americans if they see harsh retribution meted out to those who have committed an offense President Obama does understand at some level the importance of a single killing and I say that based on the strong personal interest he's shown in cases where the individuals were were killed under circumstances of relevance to his pet issues and we heard for those who were here last night we heard it good great commentary on this but if you look at you know the killing of Trayvon Martin by a private citizen during a street scuffle with the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer who Brown had assaulted after committing a burglary elicited outrage from Obama we heard no comparisons from Obama about bathtub fatalities versus those killed in by police officer but rather a call for justice and the president was willing to leave no stone unturned and no dollar unspent to investigate the suspects and implement preventive measures in the cases of men who who in his words look like they could have been his sons the shooters in these incidents both were acquitted seems not to have changed the president's tendency to view gun-toting american citizens and American police officers is more worrisome than international terrorists the Obama administration's preoccupation with non-military power has resulted in a lot of failures there are a lot of things we can do I think with with non-military power as well as military power we can regain confidence of our allies with the diplomacy of a president who is it once more congenial and more firm and standing up for our nation and for its allies and I think rebuilding our military and our credibility will do great things for our diplomacy foreign assistance can be made much more effective than it currently is and I recently published a book on the subject so I'll talk a little bit about this for one thing I think in terms of foreign assistance we need to shift from poverty alleviation to the cultivation of foreign leaders as those leaders are the people who ultimately are going to fix the problems of governance that leave the third world in a perpetual state of dependence on outside support the behavior of those leaders depends heavily on the on their culture with foreign donors as such can influence cultural values in in these countries when people are fairly young in their teens or 20s when individuals are in their 40s or 50s which is when they're actually holding positions of power they are largely immune to cultural influence so our enduring foreign assistance requires a long-term approach as opposed to the current approach which is focused on a short-term achievement of numerical poverty reduction targets the most effective way to affect cultural changes to occupy a country for decades and force its people to accept new cultural norms that was a model that Norman's used in England and that's what we did in Germany in Japan after World War two the United States seldom has an appetite for or commitments of that size or duration but it does have another means of affecting cultural change and that is by the education of foreign elites either at foreign universities that we support or at American universities and the US government actually used to do a lot of this we funded a lot of higher education in the early cold war but then pulled out of in the 1970s because of a rise in anti Lee sentiment among America's liberal intelligentsia so I think it's time to go back to that model of the early cold war which was very important in transforming countries like South Korea and Taiwan chile and colombia and that will mean increasing our assistance to foreign universities in terms of funding curriculum and student organization it also means increasing the number of civic-minded foreign youths whom we bring to the united states for higher education scholarships yet to reap the benefit of those scholarships what we need to do is make sure those students are actually tasting taking courses in Western civilization and American history and as you know all too well those subjects have been marginalized or removed at most American universities the United States I think can and should continue to support democracy abroad but in a different way from both the Bush and Obama administrations for whom it has largely been counterproductive history shows that that liberal democracy does outperform autocracy in terms of promoting peace stability and economic development but history also shows that a start-up democracy has a high risk of turning into a tyranny oftentimes one that's more violent and repressive than the original regime democracy was made possible in ancient Greece and Rome and then in the modern West by cultural values that are specific to Western civilization Western individualism and Western law facilitated restrictions on governmental power Western pluralism kept individuals from taking up arms against democratic governments that they disliked the Western sense of civic virtue led citizens to serve in the government without using their office to selfish ends America's founding fathers believed that the success of their democratic experiment depended on these cultural attributes and I think they were right of the countries that have since tried liberal democracy only those with conducive cultures have been able to succeed so turning traditionally authoritarian countries into virtuous democracies therefore requires cultural change as well and in the nations where the 50 year olds are not imbued with cultural values that are consistent with democracy setting the cultural conditions for democracy is likely to take several decades and if we attempt to transform such countries into democracies more quickly likely to end up as unhappily as it did in Libya Egypt and Yemen finally a better foreign policy requires the excision of self-interested politics from foreign policy our founding fathers made clear the need for political leaders who set aside their private interests in the pursuit of the public interest James Madison wrote in Federalist 57 that the aim of every political Constitution is or ought to be first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern and most verse you to pursue the common good of society and in the next place to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust it's thus incumbent of on those of you who are voting whether in today's presidential primary here in New York or future presidential contests to gauge which candidate would be least likely as president to spend American dollars or endanger American troops for the benefit of their poll numbers the American people their elected representatives in Congress and the media must remain vigilant and hold the President to account for such corruption no less than it would for the theft of funds from the pub coffers thank you very much we have time for some questions so if you want to just raise your hand no walking around I'm bill Gaffney and recently within the last few days and about two months ago we had a ship that was buzzed by several MiG's and came very close we could pick them up on radar on the ship a couple hundred miles out two months ago approximately about 16 sailors were captured on a gunboat that much outperformed the gunboat that took them and they were held kind of prisoners in Iran how far up the chain of command do you think the skipper of the ship in the and the gunboats got their instructions not to fire that's a good question and I I do not know the answer that's a question those are questions a lot of people are asking I think the both of those incidents bring us back again to this question of credibility I don't think you would have seen Iran or Russia doing those sorts of things with with the President Reagan but it's become so clear that that this administration will do anything possible to avoid a conflict that that they're willing to keep pushing and pushing and we've seen that certainly with Putin's got a history of doing that which is why you know we're finally seeing this this movement of forces in eastern europe the Baltic States continue to be an area of great grave concern because we've given Putin every reason to believe that we are not going to go to war over the Baltic states yet those are NATO member states and so if they're invaded either we are in war with Russia or the NATO alliance falls apart but but clearly the the Iranian one is a particularly interesting issue because as you mentioned we have it appears that there was no need for them to surrender and that also most people that I talked to in the Navy think that that they should have put up armed resistance under those circumstances rather than simply surrender but yet exactly how that came to pass I think we still need to get to the bottom of that thanks like I think there's a microphone back thank you um I'm sorry sir we'll bring it by throwing up to use exercise my name is Alice LaBrie and I'm former US Department of State Foreign Service principally serving in the Middle East I'd like your comments on two things first of all I am very wary about the deal with Cuba and number two I don't believe in treaties because I don't trust the other guy ever so I'd like your comments on this yes well they deal with Cuba you know I think this is another example where I mean we're seeing this president certainly becoming more and more concerned with his legacy and I think he's willing to do symbolic things and even things that run contrary to our interests in order to have things that he can hold up as accomplishments I think the Iran deal is a particularly bad example that were he caved in on a lot of things simply so he could portray himself as the one who achieved some kind of deal with Iran and by the time it all falls apart he's going to be out of office and then someone else can take the blame for that Cuba thing you know the idea that relaxing really relaxing tensions with Cuba and allowing greater commerce is going to fix things I don't think that's it's not particularly plausible the opportunities for our businesses to go in there actually pretty small and owing to the the state control of the economy if you look at Vietnam which country I know quite well you heard the same things about going to Vietnam and trade with them and bring our ideas and they're going to liberalize and 20 years of that still haven't borne fruit so I think yeah I think we're not going to get as much out of at least in the near term as we thought as far as treaties the we do have a problem we have number of problems with treaties and you know trees you know Sarah seldom hold up when there aren't either interests or force that are actually their underlying there to preserve them we also have a great problem in this country I think in terms of the turnover on political parties and and in my own view is that the countries generally have greater faith in our credibility when we've had strong defense Foreign Paul presidents in power which is since you know since Kennedy has basically met the Republicans and so it's very hard to maintain the lasting commitments of that sort we do and we find out you know the Ukraine cases is an exempt excellent example the problems we've had you know we in 1994 we convinced the Ukrainians to give up their nuclear weapons because we said we were going to protect them and and this is also a good example you this president talked a lot about how great disarmament is what you look at the Ukrainians they gave up their weapons and what happened to them they got invaded so and then President Obama you found in a way I mean it's very easy it can be very easy to find ways out of all these treaty commitments and he certainly did that in that case so so yes I think we need to be skeptical of treaties that are simply based on a piece of paper they have there have to be underlying interests and and force in place that will actually ensure that those those will take place in the case of Iran to we're already seeing violations of that treating yes thank you for your talk I think you left one element I would like you to comment on the underlying driving force that these particular people possess one power control etc the usual features is religion they're using the religion to achieve their ends the religion of my view was set up as a religion of war and conquest if we notice something at a reformation getting that to change there are a few moderates not many all I see is containment from what you said yes with it that's an excellent excellent question and I have written about that in some other context I do think you know there are certainly strains in much of the Islamic world as opposed to Isis and al-qaeda much as we are but we've done a poor job of actually enlisting their help in a lot of cases that's part of why I think it makes sense to support education one of the things we see with a lot of extremists is they have a very caricatured view of the west and if you look at their educational backgrounds almost all of them are engineers or scientists and there's been a fair amount written about this but you know those people tended for one thing they look at things in very black-and-white terms but also they have just not been you know exposed to you know a thoughtful description of what the West is about and this is again a problem with our exchange programs you know we bring people here and we've seen a fair amount of extremists who have come over here again most of them studies science and math and if you go to most universities today you don't have to take Western civilization or American history as you as you once had to and so something we can't change everybody that way but but we have to do a lot better job of explaining what we are is that even you know a lot of Americans say they don't really know what it is we really stand for the principles that that that we are based upon I will say you know one thing that we don't consider enough about Islam too is that it does have much higher barriers to new ideas than really any anyplace else you'll the world you know that's partly why if you look at East Asia we've been able to liberalize countries they're much more quickly because you don't have a religion there that you know is automatically hostile to to foreign ideas and foreign religions and so it is a bigger challenge I do think you know we need to we do need to think about ways to improve our relations with much of the Islamic world I think Europe has a much more difficult problem than we do because they have much larger Islamic population there and they're they're really wrestling with that issue especially can they've also got you know much higher birth rates among the Muslim population and I think they do have they really have to reconsider their immigration policies and they're starting to think through that but you know I think it when a group becomes big enough in that context it does become a threat and we are not in that position but but we do need to do more again I think this administration if you look at its really alienated many of our our Islamic allies in a number in a number of different ways so so that I think for that hopefully we can get an administration that will will be able to get back to this also gets in the question of democracy to because we have a lot of the people who are have been our allies in the Muslim world are not Democrats and we've thrown them out you know people like Mubarak and so I think we're we need to recognize that we can't simply believe we're going to democratize this place and yet at the same time not destabilize it so this way so we need to think of gradual change in these places and starting with the younger generation rather than trying to to to change these people's minds overnight is VAR c on the basis of your just as a guest on the basis of your research and contact give them the continuing failure of the foreign policy to be attributable mostly to stupid incompetent or evil intent or equal parts of both approximately yeah that's an excellent question that's a and I've had number debates with my colleagues over those questions and one thing I will say the preface is that our views on this are going to evolve a bit over time I mean as so many spend all the time it on history a lot of important information won't come out for decades later but I think we have enough information to to have a rough sense of it you know I see there's sort of three three factors at work here well before they're so you have the stupid and competence is certainly one factor the question of political self-interest and doing things that are politically beneficial to the president is another the third you have is groovey a naivete about how the world works and in thinking you know there for example we give people money they will like us and then the fourth is the more you know I guess sinister V part which is you know supporting sort of radical you know movement so we do see you know evidence that this administration has an affinity for for you know left-wing dictators in a variety of places so i think it's it's all of those it's changed over time you know the first couple years was really more politically focused you saw obama increasing the number of troops in afghanistan because an increase in the drone strikes because he wanted to kind of show he was tough but from 2011 that that part of politics is received it'll then we now see the part of just trying to make him provide some kind of legacy you know the in competence i think is been characteristic throughout and part of that is to that this administration is consciously ignored what the military has had to say and then you know in the naivete and the sort of far left promotion of revolution there's a certain intermixture there but I think we've seen seen both of those so i think really all for those factors are at work here thank you for your talk I wonder if you could comment on why you think we should increase military spending particularly with the fact that we spend a huge amount of money wastefully in the military as it is and also historically if you look back before World War one for example military spending was very low so I wonder if you could justify why we should increase military expand as opposed to make better policies as you outlined so well in your talk yeah that's a good question in strategic failure I'd go into this a bit now I've spent a fair amount of time working the Department of Defense I'll be the first to tell you that there is waste in the military I think there has been the only good thing that's come out of the big budget cuts is that there has been some pressure to cut out wasteful spending I also say it's remarkable how much wasteful spending manages to survive those sorts of cuts as well so we certainly need to do more you know we can there's can always be more done to fix that but you know we've cut to the point that we've you know we've had to cut the army by over 100,000 troops we've cut the marine corps with a number of ships are going on a number of aircraft and we're also seeing readiness is going down if you look in the news there's a lot of aircraft crashing because we don't have enough to keep them up you know the smaller size of the force is also putting great strain on our manpower because we keep sending the same people back into conflict again and again you know certainly do spend more than other countries but but the reason I think we need to do that and why we need to spend more than we were you know pre-world War two at pre-world War one is that we are the only country that's really capable of of preserving sort of global order and and we are so dependent on international trade and commerce and there's other reasons too i think you know Americans we like the ability to go to other countries to see other countries that's I think very important for Americans to do it helps you appreciate your own culture you know we have missionaries that go around the world who we'd like to protect and so you know no other no other country is capable of doing this I mean if Europeans can't even now maintain order in their backyard you know Russia and India's can be China and India or rising powers but they're not going to well neither of them really aspire to be global leaders and they're much more concerned just about their economic interests and they're more focused on their own regions you know certainly to make argument well maybe it's time for the u.s. to pull back from this you know that's kind of what's happened in Europe Europeans used to be very globally minded now they sit back but they're dependent on on us and then when they see things like Paris or Brussels happen or these mass influx of immigrants they're at a loss of what to do so as I said I mean four percent of GDP is actually pretty low in historical terms we can certainly afford it if you look at entitlement spending it's gone from twelve to fourteen percent under Obama and we do certainly I think we do need to think about our long-term debt but that's unfortunately that's you know politicians on both sides of the aisle have been reluctant to to touch that so it's it's not an easy problem you know we have in the book I talk about we go through cycles a lot of times the United States decides after a war that it's going to cut the military because we're not going to fight another war again and that's bit us badly several times you know after World War Two we slashed the military from forty some percent of GDP to three percent and then five years later we were in the Korean War and we're ill-prepared and a lot of people died because the military is not prepared we've had more farsighted presidents who you know like Eisenhower who was willing to maintain a military and time of peace and I think you know most of our wars we end up in are not wars of our choosing we didn't bush in want to fight it long war in Iraq or Afghanistan but given our position in the world I don't think we have a choice and so I think it's it's either we cut now and imperil the lives of those who are going to get put in or we spend a little bit more and we're better prepared and by the way also by spending more I think we help deter adversaries because they pay a lot of attention you know the Iranians pay a lot of attention to what we're spending on defense the Chinese do and they prey on weakness you're absolutely correct about the downplay of Western civilization in the universities also along with that though is the inculcation of leftist ideas into the schools of journalism and as a result the Americans are not really being exposed to the proper ideas of the kind of foreign policy that you correctly advocate the Free Press that was supposed to have in my opinion isn't that freaking and this is a big problem we even see it now in the trying to influence the presidential election and so what you correctly say is exacerbated even further by the kind of information that the American public gets because the American public needs to be behind what you correctly state yeah I'd say journalism almost as bad as academia when in that regard the v1 good point is that there are alternative outlets more than there used to be because this problems gone back after day for a long time there was actually great documentary on Fox News a couple weeks ago on defense where they interviewed gates and Panetta and Hagel one day a lot of detail about all the terrible things that happened to our military and you won't see that on any of the other networks so you know there are people seeing this but again you know a lot of for a lot of young people they're not going to see the 10pm Fox documentary they're going to learn a lot from their University class and certainly what's a lot of military history has gone from the academia what's left and a lot of the diplomatic history is certainly has a certain biases you know and then we've also got you know with the Millennial Generation there's also a question about where they're getting their information in general but yeah those are those are excellent points and I think one other point a tattoo is a lot of educating and people comes from the the Oval Office even the president better than anyone else can educate the American people and this president has almost never talks about the wars were fighting he doesn't say much about foreign policy and so that again where we need a commander chief who will actually you know educate the American people on what they ought to know about foreign policy my question Admiral James ace Lyons said that Islam is a political movement masquerading as a religion and it uses its religious aspects to deflect abundant criticism that it's a totalitarian system now when people try to point this out people like a Pamela Geller their pilloried as being Islamophobes and the press is not going to pick this up but I think it's critical that the American people realized that Islam is a totalitarian system do you have any ideas how this could be accomplished thank you as well there is you know I do think there are I mean there's a within Islam there is a the more extreme versions are very you know overtly totalitarian I think there is a real problem in this country in terms of political correctness opposing sort of any criticism of Islam or any notion that Islam is associated with terrorism and the White House is kind of encourages view you know if you think back to the fort hood shooting Hasan the shooter a lot of people were concerned about his his views but they were also afraid that if they said something they might be considered to be anti-islamic we also saw that in San Bernardino case where people didn't want to report suspicious things because they thought they would be accused of bigotry and so that is a real problem you know I do think we need to it's worth again we can educate ourselves better on Islam I think there certainly are different competing parts there are certainly organizations in this country that are aligned with the more totalitarian strains I think we again it's worthwhile to try to differentiate and to work with those and there's certainly some who are willing to work with us on these issues so again to your earlier point I think we do need to avoid sort of this jumping to conclusions that any criticism of Islam is is is out of bounds well you know we should also one other thing I would just add is we need to be careful how we say it because it can also hurt us in foreign countries where we're trying to rely on these Islamic countries for help if they see us going a little too overboard it may be detrimental to our interest there all right we have time for one more question I with your experience in the Middle East do we really have any supporters in the Middle East considering the present situation with Saudi Arabia as well it's there's not a lot of love for us anywhere I mean we've certainly thoroughly alienated most of our former allies and it's audis the Israelis we still have common interests with them but you know and there is a you know a widespread perception is somewhat just finally that we are kind of casting our lot with the Iranians now the administration denied that but but certainly some of the things we've done give that impression you know again part of this gets back to credibility to you know we used to you can criticize there were a lot of problems with the Iraq war but when we invaded Iraq every country in that region was afraid of us because they thought they might be next and so they were we had influence with them and if we threaten something they could now our credibility is so low that the countries that used to like us don't you know the president's cut read some comments about Saudi Arabia have you no further jeopardized what we're doing there in the Gulf countries in general or you know feel like they've been sold out especially with the Iran nuclear deal and you know I think the administration thinks the Iranians are going to eventually come around to be more friendly with us I mean conceivable but it seems you know that I think there's probably a lot of wishful thinking if you go back to the 90s that people were saying that then it rains or more modern than the Sunnis and they're going to start becoming more friendly to us and so I think that whole region is just very is deeply troubling and we've dug ourselves in a huge hole in Syria and Iraq it's going to be very hard for the next administration to turn things around i do think probably we may need to put more troops in there's right now our presence isn't big enough to restore our credibility but if we you know the United States is really the only country I think that ultimately can try to broker some kind of accommodation in this sunni-shiite civil war which is spawning insecurity and extremism and and other problems there's no easy cure I think the next administration when it comes in there's going to be probably more and more bad things happening between now and then I think there is I think our enemies are probably looking at the calendar and they're thinking they're going to try to get in as much as they can before the next president comes in and if you look in 1981 the end of Carters term the Salvadoran rebels launched an offensive 10 days before Carter took left office because they thought that he said the fanatic Reagan might might crack down us so we got to win this war now fortunately they didn't but but you know if you look at all the circles Putin has run around us I think things could be even worse in the Middle East by January of next year well thank you very much for your attendance

2 thoughts on “"American Foreign Policy: What is Wrong and How to Fix It” – Mark Moyar

  1. Dry and lifeless presentation… I like that one question called out waste in the military. As with all governmental agencies, the waste is widespread and criminal. We need good paying American jobs, a leaner and more effective military and most importantly… The national debt MUST be paid down! Our society and culture has become spoiled, soft and weak. It can't be sustained.

  2. I get that Hillsdale College is a hot bead of neoconservatism, I often refer to this college as Neocon U. O.k. Fine. However if this college wants to be credible as an institution it should present this topic with a balanced perspective. They could do this or could have done this by also having realist foreign policy scholars like Andrew Bacevich whose credentials are second to none. Bacevich who has been a critic of American FP defended by Mark Moyar actually has seen war in Vietnam as an infantry officer. They could have also invited Generals Anthony Zinni and Brent Scowcroft who opposed Iraq and has defended the Iran deal.

    While its true that Kirk was hawkish about Vietnam what Moyar conveniently left out was that Kirk was equally opposed to U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War even going so far as telling a prominent libertarian that Bush Sr. should be hung from the White house lawn. His speech to the Heritage Foundation was a shocker to neoconservatives.

    As it is Hillsdale College is nothing more than a political partisan training ground for future GOP operatives and for Heritage Foundation employees.

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