Face the Nation transcripts February 17, 2013: McDonough, Barbour, Booker, Wuerl
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this question--is there something the government ought to be doing or that science ought to be doing that it's not doing?
JEFFREY KLUGER: Actually, believe it or not, we are handling this one well. In 1995 NASA authorized-- or rather, Congress authorized NASA to scan the skies twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to look for these objects. And we're doing it at three observatories in California, New Mexico, and-- and Puerto Rico. And those three observatories have accounted for about ninety-eight percent of the bodies that-- that we know are out there. Now there are ways to defend ourselves once we know it's out there. And we have the technology to do it. It's just a question of putting the money together and deciding to do that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Jeffrey Kluger that-- that is a little bit reassuring. And thank you very much for helping us on something that most of us know absolutely nothing about. Thank-- thank you so much.
JEFFREY KLUGER: Thank you.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to turn now to our panel. Tom Ricks, it strikes me that one of the dangers is that in this age of intercontinental ballistic missiles, a nation might pick up something like this on their radar and before they identify it as a rock, would fire our own missiles back in retaliation that you might accidentally trigger a nuclear exchange?
TOM RICKS (Foreign Policy Magazine): It was always a concern in the Cold War that the Russians would think we had come up with some new weapon that they didn't know about and hit them with a surprise attack and then they would respond. This is why communication back and forth is so essential, hot lines and so on to say, hey, that wasn't us. That was somebody nasty in outer space. My worry here is that since we've now wasted billions of dollars on missile defense. Now the defense industry can say, hey, we need asteroid defense. Let's spend billions more on that.
BOB SCHIEFFER: David, what's your take on this?
DAVID IGNATIUS (Washington Post): Well, I don't-- I don't know about asteroid defense but I-- I think it is true that technology has advanced to the point that radars can dis-- dis-- distinguish pretty much where an object is-- is originating. You know, when I think about-- about foreign policy, I-- I don't think about the intergalactic version, but the--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Maybe we should?
DAVID IGNATIUS: --but the meteors that are coming right at this administration now and there's a meteor called Syria heading fast. There's a meteor called Iran, and a real confrontation with Iran over-- over its nuclear policy. The administration has got to deal with this year. And then there's the perennial issue of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. We've-- we've the President-- and he made an interesting decision to go to Israel and then to the West Bank and Jordan next month. It will be his first trip to Israel as President. So in these three areas, in particular, the foreign policy challenges of 2013 are obvious and we can talk about what the administration is going to do but, as I say, these-- these are coming at us, can't-- we can't really stop them.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let's talk about that Margaret. You're over at the State Department. You got a new secretary there. Is it different?
MARGARET BRENNAN (CBS News State Department Correspondent): Well, we were given Red Sox caps. That's different, certainly, with Secretary Kerry there. But, no, I would say what David just highlighted in terms of confrontations to come, he is certainly right in highlighting those. I don't know that we'll get to confrontation other than the slow walk of diplomacy. That seems to be the focus, particularly, on the issue of Syria. Senator Kerry had some ideas about what to do. Can Secretary Kerry actually implement them? He has said on this trip he's expected to make within the next few weeks that he will go to the region. That he will try to push, as he says, things that will change the calculus of Bashar al-Assad right now. But as a senior Arab diplomat told me just this week here in Washington they think that the Syrian military remains very well armed and fiercely loyal to Bashar al-Assad. So, the reality on the ground is going to dictate what is actually possible. But it seems like the focus is going to be trying to keep Syria together and trying to get a diplomatic deal done.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we-- we learned last week during these various hearings on Capitol Hill that the President overruled all of his foreign advisors on-- on helping Syria and giving more-- more aid to Syria. Tom, what do you-- how do you see this thing breaking down?
TOM RICKS: I see Obama as being like President Eisenhower. This is a guy who is really determined to avoid foreign crises. Eisenhower came into office, gets us out of the Korean War, avoids getting into the-- the ground in the Middle East or in the Suez crisis, shuns helping the Hungarian Revolution despite a lot of calls in this country for that. And probably, most importantly, rejects the advice of the Joint Chiefs when they want to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam in 1956 to support the French at Dien Bien Phu. I see Obama very much that pattern. He has a whole string of foreign policy crises, but I think given this Eisenhower pattern you're not going to see him intervene in Syria. You're going to see him get us out of Afghanistan and try to avoid foreign crises as much as possible or minimize them, and only use ground forces as a very, very last resort.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about Afghanistan, David, because the President made it pretty clear. He said-- he said our war in Afghanistan is over. But that seems to me a little bit different than saying the war in Afghanistan is over. And, in fact, I have had people say to me they sort of cringed when the President said that. They said-- Tom Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist in the New York Times, he said that was the one thing that made me cringe when he said that because he said you just ought not ever say that because it just suggesting it gives al Qaeda ideas.
DAVID IGNATIUS: This is a President who in every recent speech has stressed I am ending the wars that America has and by implication I don't want to start new ones. So Tom is right to say that he's approaching the question of Syria and any kind of serious American intervention there very, very skeptically. That said, Tom, I think there-- there are new proposals before the administration for a more robust U.S. position, and I think he may sign off-- off on them. On the question of Afghanistan, Bob, what I was struck by in his State of the Union speech was something a little different. He said that the United States is committed after the withdrawal of our combat troops at the end of 2014 to two missions, and the two missions are counterterrorism and training the Afghan army. Those two missions almost by-- by definition require a significant American presence. Is it five thousand? Is it six thousand? Is it eight thousand? That's what there's a lot of discussion about. But the fact that the President named the two missions a lot of the analysts say mean it's going to be more rather than less U.S. troops staying on. So in that sense, even though the President was talking about ending the-- the war in Afghanistan, he-- the mission is continuing, and as Margaret knows and follows, there's a lot of diplomacy going on in secret now to see if you could bring the Taliban into real peace negotiations so that we would leave with something like a settlement. We could say, "Here, look, you know, we're leaving but there's an agreement among these factions."
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