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Trump's national security failures and successes

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell interviews Foundation for Defense of Democracies officers John Hannah and David Adesnik. Together, the co-editors have just published a compilation of essays entitled "From Trump to Biden: The Way Forward for U.S. National Security." Hannah and Adesnik point out their concerns about where the nation's national security stands today, and highlight some of the Trump administration's national security policy achievements, despite the expectation that the Biden administration may discard "just about everything that its predecessor did." 

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Highlights:  

On their new book: "What we've tried to do here is stand back and take as objective a look as possible. Not only at the bad of the Trump administration, but at perhaps some of the important achievements, insights and innovations that were made in our national security policy that the Biden administration ought to pick up on. Despite the fact that it's going to have a natural tendency, that's kind of par for the course for an incoming administration of a different party, really, to want to reject out of hand or turn its back on just about everything that its predecessor did. So, I think that's kind of the central message coming out of this. Let's not throw out the babies that exist in the bathwater of the Trump national security legacy."

How the Biden administration should handle Iran: "One of the serious problems and conundrums that the Biden administration is going to have to try and deal with is not only the domestic opposition here in the United States, particularly amongst the Republican Party, but among some important Democratic senators as well, their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal dating all the way back to 2015. But with the opposition of some of our most important friends in the Middle East itself who have to face this Iranian threat day in and day out and for whom it's really a matter of lives and even an existential matter, too, to these governments in the region. So all of that is going to be terribly challenging to the Biden administration, as opposed to attempts to deescalate this brewing nuclear crisis with Iran. Because it's right now, as we speak, expanding its nuclear program quite significantly and in quite dangerous ways. Biden administration wants to be able to focus domestically, it doesn't want an Iranian nuclear crisis. Yet at the same time, it doesn't want to pick a fight with people at home, with people in the Middle East, as well as squander all of that tremendous leverage economically that David spoke about before. It's a real challenge and problem for them."

U.S. future role in Afghanistan:  "Afghanistan has really been an area where the failures of the Obama administration were reinforced by the failures of the Trump administration, where there's the sense that we want to be out of endless wars, but no sense of how to actually get out of Afghanistan without effectively turning the country over to the Taliban. Intelligence has been shaped to fit that, to tell ourselves that the Taliban may be divided from al-Qaida. It hasn't. They're still as close as ever. There was a deal with the Taliban that Trump made, but it really just involved our concessions and no promises from them. So we've had these two divided impulses. You know, on the one hand, it's yes, we're going to stand up firmly to ISIS, and also we want out of the enduring conflict. And I think where we come down is there's ways to make this a sustainable fight, that it's only a few thousand troops in most of these theaters and we don't have to rush to pull those out and redo what happened in Iraq under Obama, where we got down to zero and three years later, we have the Islamic State." 

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"Intelligence Matters": John Hannah and David Adesnik transcript

Producer: Ariana Freeman

MICHAEL MORELL: OK, David, John, welcome to Intelligence Matters. It is great to have you on the show.

DAVID ADESNICK / JOHN HANNAH: Thank you, Mike.

MICHAEL MORELL: So you are both associated with a think tank here in Washington called the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. And the Foundation with you, two, as co-editors just published a compilation of a set of essays called "From Trump to Biden: The Way Forward for U.S. National Security," and that's what I want to talk to you about today, that paper. But before I do that, before we do that, I'd like to do two things. I'd like to have my listeners get to know both of you a bit more and also get to know the foundation a bit more. So the first question for both of you is, can you give us just some brief background on your careers up to this point, how you got interested in national security, what you've done, et cetera, et cetera?

DAVID ADESNICK: I guess it really began I did graduate school in International Relations, I was overseas, came back to the U.S., wanted to figure out what comes next. And I started working for a place called the Institute for Defense Analyses. It's sort of low profile in a way. It's effectively a Pentagon think tank, was there for several years. I had a great opportunity to work on John McCain's presidential campaign. He is definitely sorely missed. I've been in a couple other think tanks and then in 2017, I landed at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as Director of Research. As you know, our name suggests we're for defending democracies, and that is something we've been doing for just about 20 years. And it's mainly conceived in terms of threats from abroad, first from Sunni extremists, also from Shiite extremists, especially in Iran. But a bit depressingly, in recent days, we've seen that one of the greatest threats to our democracy was entirely domestic. And, you know, we had a mob storm the Capitol incited by the former president. So, you know, our focus is going to remain on national security, but really a reality check.

MICHAEL MORELL:  David, you worked at the Pentagon for a while, correct?

DAVID ADESNICK: Yeah, I spent two years in what's called cost assessment and program evaluation. I actually focused a lot on Afghanistan and simulations, people trying to sort of understand insurgency, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare better.

MICHAEL MORELL: John?

JOHN HANNAH: Yeah, thank you, Mike.

JOHN HANNAH: I've had one of, I guess, kind of a conventional Washington career for somebody who is not a career government person, but I've been in and out of government and in and out of think tanks. I came to Washington first from graduate school to work at a think tank called the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is another prominent organization in this town thinking about foreign policy issues. From there went to my first government job working in the Bush 41 administration. For a couple of guys that some of your listeners may know, one was named Dennis Ross and the other is Bill Burns, who was just recently nominated to be President Biden's Director for the CIA. Worked for them on the policy planning staff at the State Department, from there, spent a couple of years crossed over to the Clinton administration and worked directly on the staff of President Clinton's Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, and then spent some years. I do have a degree as a lawyer, spent some time outside doing legal work, and then went in for an eight year stint on the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney in the Bush 43 administration, where I eventually ended up spending President Bush's second term as the Vice President's National Security Adviser and eventually then made my way to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies to FDD, where I am now, the Senior Counselor and very involved in their national security programs that really do now cover the waterfront, not just in the Middle East, but a very robust program in China and Asia as well as Russia and Europe.

MICHAEL MORELL: The paper that both of you helped put together, what's the overall theme, which I think is actually very important?

DAVID ADESNICK: We're trying to take a systematic issue by issue look at the administration that just concluded and, man, do we have a lot of reservations about things that went on from lavished praise of dictators, insulting longstanding Democratic allies. But in a way, it's equally important to emphasize perhaps what some will not as naturally see, which are a number of achievements worth preserving. The three we really focus on are finally the reorientation of the U.S. to take the threat from Beijing seriously from the Chinese Communist Party, whether territorial aggression or incredible offenses against human rights. The second is the breakthrough in Arab-Israeli normalization, the Abraham Accords. Finally, and this will be the toughest one, because in some ways the most partisan issue, the additional leverage that the U.S. now has via Iran, that we shouldn't rush back to a deal without fixing the flaws of the previous one.

MICHAEL MORELL:  John, do you want to add?

JOHN HANNAH: No, I would just underscore that I think that basic theme that while there's a lot to take issue with regarding what's happened the last four years and with the overall Trump doctrine of America. First, lots of false, lots of miscues, a lot of it connected to the personality and personal traits of the president himself that I think often worked across purposes to the rest of the administration and all of it culminating in this awful event on January 6th at the Capitol. But having said all that, you know, what we've tried to do here is stand back and take as objective a look as possible, not only at the bad of the Trump administration, but at perhaps some of the important achievements, insights and innovations that made in our national security policy that the Biden administration ought to pick up on. Despite the fact that it's going to have a natural tendency that's kind of par for the course for an incoming administration of a different party, really, to want to reject out of hand or turn its back on just about everything that its predecessor did. So I think that's that's kind of the central message coming out of this. Let's not throw out the babies that exist in the bathwater of the Trump national security legacy.

MICHAEL MORELL: You and I were talking earlier, and I pointed out that I saw up close and personal the transition from Clinton to Bush then Bush to Obama. And then I saw from some distance, because I wasn't in government anymore, the transition from Obama to Trump and in each of those cases, there was there was a tendency to to reject what came before. I do think, as John, you pointed out, that tendency is a natural one. I am concerned that given who President Trump was politically, that that tendency may be even stronger this time around. I just want to get both of your reactions to that?

DAVID ADESNICK: Sure, I mean, I think the impulse is understandable when new administrations usually come in with a sense of conviction and mandate, especially if they're replacing an administration from the opposing party, they feel like they have a lot to change. And, you know, even in that case, a while back when we had George H.W. Bush replace the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan, there was a lot of sense of a need to clean house, desire to make a mark.

But despite all that, you know, I was looking over the the comments that essentially Tony Blinken made at his designee for secretary of state at his confirmation hearing. And on some of these areas, you're seeing, you know, much less of that instinctive rejection, and especially on a couple of key areas that we flagged really there's been a sea change on China. I think in terms of the the Washington conventional wisdom, you could see it in what Biden himself has said with some of his top advisers have said. And you basically saw a fair amount of agreement with Blinken repeatedly affirming questions from senators whether the new administration would take the threat as seriously as the previous one did. Even on the Abraham accords, he pledged he would want to move forward. Iran is a little different and more complicated, more likely to be debate. But, you know, I guess what I've seen so far makes me a little bit optimistic.

MICHAEL MORELL: OK, guys, how's the paper organized and where can our listeners find it if they want to read it and learn more?

JOHN HANNAH: Yeah, well, Mike, it it ought to be right on the homepage of FDD, if listeners go to FDD.org, they ought to immediately get a banner that will allow them to click on from Trump to Biden. The way it's structured, there are 25 substantive chapters that deal with just about, with some exceptions, the full range of foreign policy challenges that were at the forefront of the Trump administration's national security strategy over the last four years. They include really a pretty impressive stable of in-house FDD experts writing on on all of these issues. Each of these chapters are designed to be very user friendly. They're all structured in an identical way, a three part structure, first setting out what it is the Trump administration did with respect to each issue. Second, to assess how well it did both the good and the bad, the successes and the failures that Trump achieved. Then finally to extract from that a set of recommendations on what the Biden administration might consider doing going forward, either to build upon what the Trump administration had done or to change shift course in order to pursue a more effective U.S. policy in that area. I should also say that in terms of the range of the essays, they cover the full waterfront of regional issues, in the Middle East and Europe, Russia, China, North Korea, Latin America. But then also a long list of really important functional issue areas from cyber through international, multilateral organizations, through international law, arms control and proliferation and and Jihadism in the Islamic world. So, we've tried to make it as user friendly as possible and, you know, people are able to go in and just click on that chapter and the volume that's of greatest interest to them.

MICHAEL MORELL: So I think the structure in each chapter, which I think are terrific, by the way, I've not read them all, but I've read a number of them is is a good way to talk about them. So what I'd like to do, guys, is throw some out and get you to talk about what did the Trump administration get right, what had to get wrong and how you guys think the Biden administration should think about that issue going forward. Let me start with maybe what Jim Mattis called the Big Five, and of the big five let me start with the one that I see and I'm sure you do, too, as the defining national security issue of our time, China.

DAVID ADESNICK: We present exactly the same way we think. That, the two major strategy documents from the Trump administration, the national defense strategy and the national security strategy from the White House and the Pentagon, they made it clear China is a key threat. It's our great power competitor. That's where our attention needs to be and, you know, increasingly after a few years, this is starting to seem like conventional wisdom. But in fact, it was a pretty big change. If you look back to some of those documents, predecessors issued by Obama, you know, the emphasis was actually on cooperation with China. It was still sort of taboo to call it out as a threat. There was a sense that if we say China is a threat, then it will become a threat, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. You know, and there were indications that the Obama administration recognized a lot of the difficulties China was presenting, but they still couldn't put it front and center in the same way and that's was a major change. Then you started to see supporting measures. You saw a lot of executive orders, some of them a little bit late in the game that, you know, Trump's personal preoccupation always seemed to be with a trade deficit, which I don't think we see as the big national security issue with China that certainly economic sides. But, you know, we have to stop intellectual property theft from them, sending researchers to universities where they purloin sensitive research. But altogether, this was the turnaround.

MICHAEL MORELL: What do you guys see as the fundamental competition between the United States and China?

DAVID ADESNICK: I think it goes across the spectrum, and that's what makes it especially difficult. That there's a military aspect with China, I think it has more ships now in its Navy. Although ours are more capable, it's across the economic domains, whether they're taking technology ahead of ours in the ideological domain. Right. They want to present their system of sort of prosperity without freedom as a viable alternative that others should embrace across the world. We have to push back and show that, well, first of all, it's only viable because they suppressed their people so thoroughly and that freedom really does have a lot to offer so every area.

 MICHAEL MORELL: Then it's absolutely true that President Trump was the first to really shine a light on China as a national security competitor, as our biggest challenge, no doubt about it, and put a lot of pressure on China in different ways. But at the end of the day, the Chinese really haven't changed their behavior yet. So what would you like to see from the Biden administration going forward?

JOHN HANNAH: You know, the Biden administration clearly has its own critique of what the administration got wrong with respect to China, even though, as David says, I think there is a grudging acknowledgement that they got this central thing right. That China is not going to be a responsible stakeholder in a U.S. led international order, but is instead a genuine, near pure strategic competitor that it really is. Maintaining some level of U.S. primacy in the global order is going to be the defining challenge for U.S. national security policy for probably the remainder of this of this century. What the Biden team has said that I think that we would agree with and I think the co-authors of our chapter on China agree with. Is that it really failed to take advantage of what is one of the crown jewels of America's strategic advantage with China, which is our system of alliances and these very powerful democratic free market economies, both in Europe and in Asia that are on our side. That we really failed to enlist in this burgeoning competition with China to bring pressure on China across the board to be less confrontational, adversarial and aggressive in some of its foreign policies. That there was just too much picking of smaller fights with those allies rather than keeping our eye on the larger strategic objective of pushing back against China. So getting the allies on board in our China policy is, I think, rightly a very important priority that the Biden administration is going to pursue. I think a second thing that has come out about the nature of the competition with China is just how important multinational forums, what an important battlefield that is going to be for the coming contest for primacy in the international system. This is something that U.S. administrations have paid very haphazard attention to. While the Chinese, as we just saw with the pandemic with regard to the amount of time and energy they've put invested into the WH0 to our detriment. That getting multinational organizations right, getting in particular the leadership when elections come up and making sure that we are pushing and advancing candidates who are friendly to the West and to the U.S. led international order is going to be critical because these bodies are increasingly important in setting standards and the norms by which the rules of international political and economic engagement are going to happen. The U.S. just needs a much more systematic policy toward these organizations, many of which are not very well known to the American people, but really are going to be a central place where this strategic competition is going to be waged going forward.

MICHAEL MORELL: OK, guys, let me throw out another one here, Russia. 

DAVID ADESNICK: Sure, that's an especially interesting one, obviously, President Trump really proved himself incapable of recognizing Russia's interference in the 2016 election. He went to Helsinki and took the side of Vladimir Putin against the U.S. intelligence community and closed out his for years by denying that Russia was responsible for the solar wind's cyber breach. Which is one of the worst we've ever had in the government and so this is definitely a case of classic praising an autocrat, neglecting human rights. Yet, it wasn't the across the board disaster you would expect from those top lines just because there were certain moves. Well, where Trump did put the kind of pressure we would want on Putin, there were hundreds of sanctions, designations for a range of Russian violations from illicit finance, human rights, corruption. We sent lethal weapons to Ukraine, which was an important thing to help defend them. You know, they're still a country dealing with basically a Russian sponsored and run invasion occupying part of their territory. So it's, you can say a big opportunity lost in some ways. It was terrible what was said and I'm sure Russia could not be more delighted than seeing, you know, violence in Washington. But yet it was not the across the board meltdown one might have expected.

MICHAEL MORELL: What do you guys want to see going forward from the Biden team?

DAVID ADESNICK: Well, the reversal of some of those should be clear. Obviously, Biden has reason to address firmly the issues of Russian interference to deal with human rights. It was the Biden and Obama administration that was hesitant to really back Ukraine as much as necessary in terms of newer measures. I think one of the hard ones is really going to be sort of unifying Europe to deal with the threat, just as John pointed out, with regard to China. Right. If you spend all your time antagonizing our European friends, they're not going to be as effective as allies as they have for generations. They're often because they're closer to Russia because they are not as militarily strong, because they're more dependent on the Russian economy in certain ways, hesitant to confront it. So it won't just be a matter of suddenly Biden comes in and everyone's glad to jump on board. There's going to be substantial diplomatic effort necessary and also on things like Nord Stream, the big pipe gas pipeline. Where Trump was pushing against it by the end, or at least his administration was. We've seen some signs Biden will, but they won't be so easy.

MICHAEL MORELL: Then here's maybe the hardest one, right? Which is Iran, who wants to talk about that?

DAVID ADESNICK: I guess I'll jump to start, I know John has plenty to add. So that's an area where we think there were real achievements. We think there were really deep flaws in the 2015 nuclear deal. The Obama administration negotiated the Israeli exfiltration. The Mossad's exfiltration of tens of thousands of files from a Tehran warehouse showed that the regime in Tehran was really keeping a lot of the information it needed for its nuclear program together. Based on that, the Israelis also found places where Tehran didn't declare fissile material that it was concealing it then tried to sort of do a post hoc cleanup. But the IAEA, the UN inspectors, found this illegal breach of Iran's core commitments. So we really think it's a deal that it was right to pull out of it. It was very hard to fix. And now Biden wants to go back in. The difference is, after pulling out, Trump put a tremendous amount of pressure in the forms of not just restoring sanctions, but expanding them in ways that hadn't been seen before. It caused a major macroeconomic crisis, inflation, negative growth in Iran and tremendous dissent where people who are already deeply unhappy with an oppressive regime blamed it for everything that was happening. The standard prediction was if we get tougher, they'll be an Iranian rally around the flag effect. But that didn't come about and so now our key advice for the Biden administration is, look, we know the people coming back now are the architects of the first Iran deal, including the president himself. In certain ways, it's going to be very hard to look at your own handiwork that you thought was a major breakthrough in nonproliferation and say this didn't really work. Their initial line is, OK, we'll go back and we'll lift sanctions and then we'll focus on a follow on deal. That's better and our key point is you can't do that. You need leverage to negotiate with this extremely hostile, ideologically motivated regime. If you just lift sanctions, you're giving away the leverage you need to actually fix the deal.

MICHAEL MORELL: John, maybe the question for you on Iran is it's not only the nuclear issue that the United States has issues with. It's Iran's behavior in the region. It's Iran's missile program. So there are bigger issues here than just the nuclear program. Can you talk about that a little bit?

JOHN HANNAH: You're absolutely right that one of the big critiques of the original deal when it was first finalized in 2015, was its failure to deal with these non-nuclear aspects of Iran's malign activities and in the process of doing the nuclear deal and granting large scale sanctions relief to Iran worth billions of dollars. The charge was the United States was then actually financing Iran's ability to further expand this very dangerous missile program. Some of the handiwork we've seen in Iran's recent attacks, not only against critical Saudi oil infrastructure in 2019, but against U.S. military bases in Iraq in the beginning of 2020 we're all targets of Iranian missiles or cruise missiles or drones. And of course, Iran, we were also helping in some ways indirectly to fuel Iran's very escalated aggressive activities in the region, whether in Iraq, in Syria, the civil war there in Yemen, that civil war or again in Lebanon supporting it. Its most important proxy perhaps has Hezbollah. That was a particular critique of our most important traditional allies in the Middle East itself who are closest to this threat. First and foremost, the Israelis, of course, but then all of our allies in the Gulf, starting with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who all were very uncomfortable and uneasy with the original Iran nuclear deal and were very happy and pleased by the Trump administration to get out of that deal. 

JOHN HANNAH: One of the serious problems and conundrums that the Biden administration is going to have to try and deal with is not only the domestic opposition here in the United States, particularly amongst the Republican Party, but among some important Democratic senators as well, their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal dating all the way back to 2015. But with the opposition of some of our most important friends in the Middle East itself who have to face this Iranian threat day in and day out and for whom it's really a matter of lives and even an existential matter, too, to these governments in the region. So all of that is going to be terribly challenging to the Biden administration as opposed to attempts to deescalate this brewing nuclear crisis with Iran. Because it's right now, as we speak, expanding its nuclear program quite significantly and in quite dangerous ways. Biden administration wants to be able to focus domestically, it doesn't want an Iranian nuclear crisis. Yet at the same time, it doesn't want to pick a fight with people at home, with people in the Middle East, as well as squander all of that tremendous leverage economically that David spoke about before. It's a real challenge and problem for them.

MICHAEL MORELL: Let me throw out Sunni jihadism and in particular, how you think about our future role in Afghanistan and our future role in Iraq and Syria.

DAVID ADESNICK: We have a specific chapter on Sunni jihadism, but really you want to look at the Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan chapters. We give the president credit, he stepped up the war against the ISIS caliphate and at least brought its dismantling to an end and then had his sort of policy of constant reversals in Syria, which threatened to give ISIS a chance to rebound even more than it has, it has shown some new strength in Iraq and Syria. But those reversals were reversed. We kept troops on the ground. Afghanistan has really been an area where the failures of the Obama administration were reinforced by the failures of the Trump administration, where there's the sense that we want to be out of endless wars, but no sense of how to actually get out of Afghanistan without effectively turning the country over to the Taliban. Intelligence has been shaped to fit that, to tell ourselves that the Taliban may be divided from al-Qaida. It hasn't. They're still as close as ever. There was a deal with the Taliban that Trump made, but it really just involved our concessions and no promises from them. So we've had these two divided impulses. You know, on the one hand, it's yes, we're going to stand up firmly to ISIS and also we want out of the enduring conflict. And I think where we come down is there's ways to make this a sustainable fight, that it's only a few thousand troops in most of these theaters and we don't have to rush to pull those out and redo what happened in Iraq under Obama, where we got down to zero and three years later, we have the Islamic State.

MICHAEL MORELL: It really takes the president himself or herself to tell the American people why it's so important that we stay in these fights. Right. It's not to follow public opinion, it's actually to lead it in the right direction. Is that fair?

DAVID ADESNICK: Absolutely. I think we said Syria should have been presented as a great victory. Trump should have said, hey, my predecessors each sent more than a hundred thousand troops to fight one of these battles in Iraq or Afghanistan. Look at Syria, we didn't really go much above two thousand, but we're getting the job done with local allies on the ground, mainly the Kurds, also with Arabs. And it's not costing us, and we can keep this up and win. It should have been a success that he was talking about.

MICHAEL MORELL: What about North Korea, guys?

JOHN HANNAH: Yeah, well, North Korea, as I'd say, one of those very mixed bags. The president started out, of course, being told by President Obama, this could be your biggest challenge. North Korea did welcome the Trump administration with intercontinental ballistic missile tests, with tests of a thermonuclear weapon we believe, and things got very tense. Trump gave his fire and fury comments. There was a real it looked like threat of conflict that Defense Secretary Mattis was said to be have been very worried about that we could have had an outbreak of conflict on the Korean peninsula, but that shifted within a year. Kim Jong un had decided to freeze his testing of long range missiles as well as nuclear tests. He extended a hand to the Trump administration and President Trump, to the surprise of a lot of people, did what none of his predecessors had ever done, agreed to meet face to face in a summit with the North Korean leader. They met, they had an agreement on North Korean denuclearization, or at least the United States thought it did. And what we saw after that was a lot of fruitless and failed diplomacy, including a summit that broke down in Hanoi, a second summit between the president and Kim Jong un in which the president rejected lifting very tough U.S. sanctions on North Korea for only a partial dismantling of one element of North Korea's nuclear program. White the North Korean freeze has stayed in place, U.S. sanctions have stayed in place. We've had very little diplomatic progress since. And what we know or believe we know from our intelligence is that even though it's been relatively quiet during that time, North Korea's elements of its nuclear and missile programs have continued to grow. There's an expectation that North Korea may present the Biden administration with an unfreezing of its testing of nuclear weapons and long range missiles. So, this issue is by no means resolved. North Korea may be in some ways stronger and despite all of the good natured talk, the personal talk between the president and the North Korean dictator, not a whole lot was accomplished in terms of America's number one objective in North Korea, which is to get rid of that country's nuclear weapons capability.

MICHAEL MORELL: What would you like to see Biden do? I mean, the place is about as heavily sanctioned as you can get, and you're right, that has had virtually no impact. We've done what the North Koreans have long said, which is our talk leader to leader, and we can resolve this. That didn't work. What should Biden do?

DAVID ADESNICK: Well, I think the sanctions are often more in principle than in practice. We got tough U.N. resolutions. You know, even Russia and China backed them in the first year of the Trump administration, and that turned up the pressure. But then once the diplomacy started, Russia and China started backsliding. We've had the U.S. sanction both Russian and Chinese individuals and firms for starting to aid Kim Jong un. Basically, once Trump settled into this, well, I had a summit. It looked good, and now I'm not going to cause more problems. The U.S. pressure regime started to fall apart and there actually were a lot of things that were not done. The real move forward to aggressive pressure started with a new law in Congress in 2016. In that regard, Trump put it, you know, further forward. But as much as it's a relatively isolated regime, it has found ways to get back into the international financial system. We need to make new efforts to cut that off and make it clear to them there's no way they can really have anything better economically if they don't compromise on economics, that if they eventually keep their nuclear weapons it will be more of a threat to their stability than getting rid of them.

MICHAEL MORELL: We have about two minutes left or so, and I'd like to ask each of you,  in this show, we've only covered a small subset of the chapters in the paper. I wonder if each of you would like to raise one issue that you wish I would have asked about and didn't?

DAVID ADESNICK: I'll say cyber, we know from the hack that just happened, that it's big out there. What's the good news is there was a lot of bipartisan cooperation. There was something called the Cyber Solarium Commission that was sponsored by Congress, fully bipartisan, put out a lot of practical recommendations. One of the keys is having a national cyber director who can pull together all these different strands of the government that are responsible. There's signs, several dozen of those provisions were actually in the recent National Defense Authorization Act. Trump vetoed it for other reasons. Congress overrode him. So there really is a lot still to be done. But there's also a lot that was put in place and we can grow on it both in terms of coordination, the beginning of some offensive operations. It's an integral part of the China challenge as well. Obviously, they're the most dangerous in the cyber realm.

JOHN HANNAH: Yeah, what I'd say what I'd say, Mike, is the old perennial of the defense budget. I think President Trump did do important things, particularly in his first year, to really invest in the U.S. military and fill what was a wide and widening readiness gap. Also some important investments in new technologies for our military, particularly in the context of strategic competition with China. I think given everything we face domestically, I think there's going to be a natural inclination. There seems to always be with the modern Democratic Party to target the defense budget and there's no doubt some waste and fraud that they do need to be trimmed there. But I think if defense becomes, again as it was 10 years ago, a real political football between the two parties, it could really hurt our ability to pursue and sustain a serious national security policy. Particularly, again, in the context of this looming threat that everybody agrees exists from China. That we've got to plan for and build for a resource for the not just the next year or two, but for the next several decades.

MICHAEL MORELL: David, John, thank you so much for joining us. It's been a fascinating conversation. Thank you.

DAVID ADESNICK/JOHN HANNAH: Pleasure. Thank you, Mike.

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