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Dealing with Threats in Tumultuous Times: General Jim Mattis

Dealing with Threats in Tumultuous Times: General Jim Mattis


Let me tell you right up front, I cannot come to this country
without a sense of gratitude. I had the occasion to fight alongside
your lads on more than one occasion. I would just tell you that when Sergeant Andy Russell of
the Special Air Service regiment was killed in action in February of 2002. That was your first of your troops lost. That was under the area I commanded. I would tell you that the Special
Air Service regiment took liberal poetic licence as to the whether or not
I commanded them in proper Australian independent ways. And it was a wonderful
relationship between us. But to lose him that early to
a country as small as yours with the military as small as yours
and the many since then, I also come here to pay my respects. And I don’t forget the debt
that I owe you. I don’t forget the debt
my country owes you. And will never forget
those irredeemable debts. I thought what I would do here tonight, because having served alongside
people that served in the finest tradition from “Breaker” Morant to Gallipoli, from North Africa to
Long Tan in Vietnam, I wanted to just put in context the
world situation as it is right now. That’s what I’ve asked to talk about. And I would just tell you that 9/11
remind us we all make our plans, especially you young students, and then along comes life. Ok. Who would have thought
ANZUS Treaty signed in 1951 when we were worried that somehow Australia could
be vulnerable to an attack, when we signed that treaty, the idea was the Americans would come to the aid of
Australia if trouble loomed. Who would have believed some maniacs
attacking the United States on 9/11 would invoke that treaty for the first time and you were coming to the aid of the
United States that had been attacked. And I’m keenly aware that you lost
11 of your innocent citizens that day. But I would also tell you
ladies and gentlemen, that it says something that without
any hesitation you sent your lads in, and the first nation to join us after
that initial thrust 350 nautical miles from the North Arabian Sea into Afghanistan. The first ones to join us
were task force 64, the Australian SAS. And it was no surprise
when that happened. But as we look now toward the future, what does an incident like that do? And what happens in terms of
the relationship US and Australia? Here we, I come from the Pacific coast. I grew up there. In the United States we consider
ourselves a Pacific nation as do you. You are also fronting on the Indian
Ocean in the Indo-Pacific areas of increasing importance to us. So what does that
portend for the future? I thought the way for me to address this
was to go kind of deductibly and start just by a quick glance
at the world map and then drill right down to the area
that I first sailed into, the Middle East in 1979 as an
infantry company commander on board US Navy ships. The reason I want to look at
that broader picture first is to put what is happening to your country
and mine into a framework within which perhaps we can look at
what’s in the news each day and get a little bit of a sense
of what does that mean, as far as to the young people
who are growing up today and the kind of world
we’re going to turn over to them. Let me start with Russia and what’s happened down
in this area here with Crimea. A Chinese guy put it very well to me. He said that Ukraine lost Crimea. Russia lost Ukraine as a trading partner, something they needed badly. NATO and the United States lost Russia as a diplomatic and
somewhat of a partner. There was some budding partnership
going on there in the 90s into the 2000s. But the Chinese guy who said this
said and the world lost stability. Now why would he say that? Why was that so important to him? First you have Putin who is trying
to destroy the state system and as near abroad. And he is doing it by saying I want
a veto authority over the economic and diplomatic and security
interests of the countries along real close to Russia. He does not want them to have
sovereignty over their own future. And so you look at that and you wonder where is he going to stop? Does NATO have the gumption? Does NATO have the commitment to actually throw an obstacle in
his path and stabilize this situation? And there’s a lot of questions in that. I was just up in Europe in June. There’s a lot of questions about it. So let’s jump out to this area here
in the South China Sea. Now up here the Russians have used
their military to do with their, destabilize these areas
and create what they want. Down here, however you
identify the motive, the Chinese have shredded trust
between various nations that thought you could settle
things by talking about it, by going international mediation,
that sort of thing. And they’ve done it by building
these islands up down here. And the bottom line is I don’t think
they use their military the same way. It’s a much more complex
and much more subtle problem. With Russia, I believe it
is a strategic problem. I think with China
it is a cultural problem. They are using their authority
again to gain veto authority as the big nation over the nearby states. And you know where they are. It’s Vietnam, it’s Malaysia,
it’s Philippines, this whole region in here. They want veto authority
over their security interests, their diplomatic interests,
and their economic interests. It looks like a classical Chinese
tribute state model that you see there. It is not a bellicose send the army
often start wars or do little green men like we see Putin doing up
in the Crimea Donets Basin area. And then you come back over here. So you have two attacks
on the state system, the Westphalian state system that says
you don’t do that sort of thing. You allow nations their own sovereignty. And here you have Iran which is constantly fomenting
using non-state actors, what we call some kind of partners, some kind of surrogates,
Lebanese Hezbollah, and they do not own Lebanon. But nothing happens in Lebanon
that Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iranian militia, doesn’t permit. In other words, they are trumping
the state system inside Lebanon. And they are doing the same thing,
as we know, down here. They’ve tried to do it
down here in Yemen. They’ve been thrown back there. They’ve tried to destabilize
Bahrain and Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force,
has said Jordan is next. I mean, he’s been very honest about it,
right up front, what they’re going to do. At the same time, and here’s
where I want to get more specific for discussion here tonight, you have ISIS over here that is
also destroying the state system. They’re literally bulldozing the
boundaries between two states. And they’re saying that
no longer does a state exist. It’s now a caliphate. And so what you find as
a common thread is the attack on the state system in these locations. And with ISIS,
it’s enough of a change, what’s happened is enough of a
change over the last six months, that I thought I’d talk about that for a bit. Then I want to talk about Iran
after the JCPOA, the joint comprehensive
agreement that was just signed. And see if we can somehow
look at this in a way where the Middle East
becomes more understandable in terms of where it’s going
and what that portends for Australia. First of all, I would tell you
ladies and gentlemen that the centre of gravity of terrorism
in the Middle East has shifted. And specifically right
on NATO’s doorstep now, right on Turkey’s doorstep, is this churnable-type effect
of constant spewing out of more terrorists right there in the geopolitical heart
of the Middle East. And there is no indication
right now at all that this movement is getting weaker. In fact, I’d tell you if I was
here six months ago, I would have been even less
concerned than I am today with it. They are stronger today, for all but having lost a few miles
and this sort of thing, they are stronger today than they were six months ago
or a year ago. They are the richest terrorist
group in history, by far. There’s none that
even comes close to it. And they are holding terrain
the size of Great Britain. And al Qaeda never achieved
this level of sustainability. They portray themselves as
the Sunnis last line of defence. And you say, “Well what’s
that got to do with me?” I’ll show you what it’s got to do with you as we go further forward because, in fact they’re such masters
of the social media that they are attracting recruits from
the west in a way al Qaeda never did and they do not vet them very much. Basically, send me anyone
who wants to die. We’ll turn them into martyrs
and send them on in. We have young men and women coming
out of the Western democracies. And we’re talking about
thousands of them. And my next stop Russia, as I’m headed from here
into the Middle East. And the leaders there are
scared to death of what this is going to return to their countries when these folks come home from the wars and what that’s going to do to them. The al-Qaida also never thought
there’d be a caliphate in their time. So now you’ve got a caliphate out here. It’s taking down the state system
which is wobbly all the time due to this, the problem of the social contract between the governed and
the people doing the governing. And the end result is
you have this disarray that is heightened right now in a way that no one is significantly impacting. One thing, a point I made
to some folks a little while ago was that it’s going to take time and boots on the ground to defeat ISIS. But if we don’t get boots on the ground, and I’d love it to be Arab boots. I have no interest in going in for
another war out in the Middle East. But if it’s not Arab boots it’s got to be somebody’s
because ISIS could win. And yes I said ISIS could win. You can’t just sit here and say
they’re on the wrong side of history so they’re going to go away. Any of you students here who
study history know this history is written by both good
people and bad people. So it’s going to be critical they suffer
some kind of military setback so that we interrupt the recruiting
and we interrupt their finances. Because right now if this continues
they are not going to sit there and say we don’t really mean
what we’ve been saying about going after other nations around the periphery. Right now they’re focused where
they are right there in Syria and Iraq. But in fact, they are going
to inspire copycat groups and your police your secret
services, like ours, and all around the world are already
seeing some of the problems that come from these
copycat kind of responses. And part of it is
it’s not that they’re that great. It’s the very half-hearted and strategy free approach we’re taking to try and throw them off their stride. Many of people in the West say
we no longer have the gumption, the political will, the unity, and part of the reason we don’t is we don’t have a persuasive strategy
that allows you to know what it is we’re trying to do out here. And I think if you look at this the defined goal by our president
in the United States is to degrade and destroy ISIS. We have not committed
the means to do it. So that means you’ve said
you want to do this, we put this against it,
and that’s called bad strategy. That the strategic mismatch. There’s nothing all
that magic about this. So if you look at the dilemma
that right now faces Turkey you get a sense of just how complex
this is ladies and gentleman. Because right now
Turkey wants Assad gone. They’ve been willing to turn
and look the other way about letting some terrorists get down there. Some of these terrorists have
now turned around attacked Turkey. They’re in a very very difficult situation. And as a result, you look at it
right now where the country, the big cities in western Iraq have fallen, and what you see is a caliphate
that is starting to gain sustainability. And I think when you look at the, I go on their website. I like doing that. I like reading what people
write about themselves. They talk about their distance provinces. Very interesting. Sinai, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, interesting
distant provinces of ISIS. And you see why when I come here, and I look at
where you’re at on this map, why I would be very concerned about it. And I think right now
what we have to look at is what nations would be with us if we decided to go after them? There are nations for example
President Al-Sisi in Egypt has come out and at Al-Azhar University
on the 1st of January he read the riot act to the clerics
there of the Sunni religion. He said you are getting
the entire world afraid of us. They’re starting to hate us. It’s not a problem with our religion. It you clerics and what
you’re saying every Friday at these mosques in these sermons. And we need a revolution
in rhetoric right here or you’re going to turn the whole world
after the Muslim religion. So there’s a man that
we could actually ally with. And I’ll give you another example. The United Arab Emirates,
the country Simon and Mark, old friends here who
were on the CENTCOM staff, we called Little Sparta. The reason we call them that is
every time we got into a jam, United Arab Emirates was with us. For example, when the French
and British had to pull their troops out of the 50 nation coalition in Afghanistan, the largest wartime coalition
in modern world history, the United Arab Emirates called and said, “We know you’re going to
have to turn to the Americans and request more troops
to back fill them.” I said, “Yes, I will.” and they said, “Well, we’re going
to send in six more fighter aircraft and another Special Forces company. So you don’t have to take, the Americans don’t have
to carry the whole load on that.” Now when you think that right here
in Afghanistan, in Australia, in Afghanistan you are the second
largest troop contributor in terms of what really mattered, to put it bluntly, sending troops not just that
could hang out at airports, but actually make a difference. You were the largest non
NATO contributor out there. We can’t keep turning to
nations like yours and say, “We need you to do more.” We couldn’t keep turning
to the Americans. So here’s the United Arab Emirates
saying they would be there. The King in Jordan who always
speaks for moderate Islam, the King in Jordan, when he heard the British
were pulling out, he reassured me that you will still see
a Jordanian soldier in Afghanistan until the last American soldier comes home. So there are countries out there
that are quite willing to sign up and do the heavy lifting along with us. But we’re going to have a very
difficult time doing that if we don’t have a coherent strategy, or if we exempt ourselves and
reassure the enemy in advance that we will not send our
ground troops against them. Even if we weren’t going to
send them into Iraq again, there is no reason to tell the enemy
in advance that we’re not going to. Why reassure them? Just leave the uncertainty there. And besides which it could very
well be that the next president now confronting the situation that is
deteriorating will have to go back in. So I bring these nations up to you because what we don’t want to do is keep thinking that we’ve
got to do it all ourselves. We’ve got to look at
how do we create new allies? And then we bring in nations
that may not be perfect, but we don’t need perfection. The last time I checked America
hadn’t reached perfection yet in its governing at home either. So I don’t think we should expect
perfection from all other nations in the world before we’re
willing to work with them. I’d also tell you that if history
teaches us one thing about allies, it’s that nations with allies,
with good allies, defeat those without. So we’re going to have to remember that it’s not good enough
for US military officers to be willing to listen
to other nations’ officers. They must be willing to be
persuaded and understand that not all the good ideas come from
the nation with the most aircraft carriers. This is critical because America
has got such overwhelming military might right now other nations could
come in and feel like they’re just, they have to be junior partners. I’ll be very specific here. I think that Australia’s moral and
ethical voice needs to be heard, backed up by your military, and if we, Americans, have
disappointed you at all in the last dozen years, you’ll still have to go a long ways
to find a nation more willing to admit its mistakes, correct its actions, and listen more to a trusted ally like Australia. So I think that right now
what we’ve got to do is ensure that we have a good strategy. I think we’ve got to get
our congress off its bottom, and start acting like a congress and making decisions about declarations
of using military force or not. It’s up to them but I think they, this is an enemy worth fighting. And we have to recognize
that in the post Snowden era, after these secrets were revealed
by a person who betrayed us, we’re simply going to have to learn
how to deal with this enemy who is much more aware now of how we were able to find out
what they were doing. An awful lot of good
information got out there. And we’re just going to
have to deal with this. And the younger officers
coming up today will face a much more
difficult time than I did. And let me put it very clearly to you. I was never surprised once, as the commander of
US Central Command, by what the enemy did
operationally or strategically, not a single time in three years. There’s not many generals
in history that can say that. In no small part, that was due to an intelligence
constellation of countries that shared information. And they were always
surprised on the tactical level. You know, tactical ambushes
that sort of thing, but that’s going to be harder
for the young officers you have coming of age
in your forces today than when I was in the job that I had when I was wearing a uniform. Now let me switch for a bit because I want to get to questions
and answers real soon. But first I want to — I said I’d go through this
Iran comprehensive agreement because it’s really changed
a lot of things in the region. And I’ll tell you why it’s changed
with our allies out there. There are five threats from Iran. One of them was a latent nuclear threat. And that’s what we addressed in
the joint comprehensive agreement. But in addressing that, we allowed the adversary in this case, to get relief from sanctions
in four other areas; ballistic missiles, terrorism,
cyber and maritime, counter maritime efforts to interrupt the lines of
communication in the Gulf. So what we did was for the nations
that are closest to Iran, we basically said we’re going
to relieve you of sanctions for all of these things and
you’ve got to live with it. And we are going to get the advantage that they won’t go nuclear soon, we think. That was very unsettling. It was very unsettling for Arab allies. It was very unsettling for Turkey,
in some areas. It was unsettling for the Israelis. And you don’t find many issues
where you find all of those people in the same position looking at this. Where arms agreements are
generally to increase stability, you have noticed somewhere
they called our Secretary of Defence, “The secretary of reassurance”
was sent in to tell them, “We will send sell you more arms now”
to the Arab countries and Israel. That’s a pretty clear indication that it’s not necessarily
a more stable environment when the Americans sign it and say, “We’ll sell you more guns
as a result to deal with what’s going to come out of this.” So you have to look at this,
ladies and gentlemen, and recognize that it is not, for all of its title, comprehensive. Now I would tell you,
I’ve read it twice, and it’s clearly written with the idea
that Iran is going to cheat. And I went back
and looked at the agreement the Clinton administration
made with North Korea. It’s four pages long. There is not a single verification
issue in the four pages. Then you read the one on Iran. I think it’s 156 or something pages long, for you young folks,
make sure you read this stuff. Don’t take what other people
tell you about it. Just pick it up and read it. It’s not that intimidating because a lot of pages
are just lists of people that are being relieved of sanctions, you know, not that big a deal. But bottom line is when you read it, it looks like everything’s about,
“We know you’re going to cheat. And here’s how we’re going
to catch you.” So I think where
we’re at right now, is we are going to have to recognize that Iran got out from underneath a pretty
onerous set of economic sanctions. And for all the US Congress talking about whether or not they’ll support it or not, if the Americans walk away from this,
they’ll walk away alone. That’s the bottom line. There is no walking away from it. Under our system of government the president can sign up
for something like this, wise or unwise, whatever. It’s going to happen. So what we need to do I think,
ladies and gentlemen, is have basically two lines of effort. One is on the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy folks
who are going to monitor them, we’ve got to make certain
that from France and Japan, from Australia and Canada, from all the countries that
have nuclear physicists and all, that the IAEA is fully staffed and all of us keep our spies
watching very closely to make certain that it is verifiable that they are in fact not going
for a nuclear weapon. It can work. It’s going to be difficult because they have used denial and
deceit many times over many years. They have denied that
this program was going on. It was not a nuclear program. It was a nuclear weapons program. We have no doubt about that. On the other hand, we’re going to have to address
those four other elements. In other words, if they have ballistic missiles
we’re going to have to help the GCC and the GCC of these countries
right in this area here; Saudi Arabia’s first, Kuwait, Bahrain,
Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman. This is it right here. plus we’re going to have to
somehow incorporate Israel, Egypt, and Jordan into an integrated air
and missile defence. Because if they start
launching ballistic missiles, there’s going to be a lot of
innocent people die out there. This will be worse than any
bombing campaign you’ve seen. The second thing is we’re going to have
to have a cyber-monitoring centre. Their cyber folks are, they’re like children juggling with
light bulbs full of nitroglycerin. One of these times they’re
going to drop one of these and you can out the lights in Paris, or they’re going to turn off the London
Stock Exchange or something. And political leaders
will be forced to act. They have done some really crazy things. And right now we think they’ve been
under restrictions because they didn’t want
the agreement to go off track. So in Tehran they’ve kept them under control. There’s another element. And that is the maritime element. And I think we need to increase
using the US 5th fleet and build up a much stronger
coalition allied fleet out there to make certain that if they do try to
interdict the lines of communication, that the world depends on, that we’re ready to help. And this is not where
the Americans need the oil. As you know, we are very quickly
becoming energy independent right now. But the world economy, there are nations from the Pacific;
China, India, Europe, they need that oil. And we’ve got to keep those
lines of communication open. And the last one is we’ve got to
have a counter-terrorism campaign. These are people who
without a nuclear weapon, went and murdered Israeli tourists
in Bulgaria a few years ago. They went down to Mexico. They enlisted a drug cartel. And they had a plan to kill the
Saudi Arabian ambassador two miles from the White House
in Washington, D.C. With a truck bomb. And they going to do it
on a Saturday night. And for any of you
who’ve been in Georgetown, that’s where the restaurant was. You can imagine the carnage
that would have been there. Absent one fundamental mistake,
they would have pulled it off. They made one fundamental mistake. And that tripped them up. I’ve seen the intelligence this was
not a rogue intelligence officer who decided to go
do something funny. This was approved
at the highest levels. They were going to
murder an ambassador. And to those of us in the military, we look at ambassadors
as men and women of peace. They’re almost sacred. You don’t touch an ambassador. And they were going to murder that ambassador in downtown
Washington, D. C. It gives you an idea that you’re
dealing with a country here that’s not really a country. There really a revolutionary cause. And they are subject to
doing some really crazy things. So we’re going to have to
have some way of stabilizing and moderating their misbehaviour or something very bad is going to go on. I think that you can make it work, this agreement work. I don’t think our negotiators
could have done any better. I think after the Americans blinked when Assad used chemical weapons in Syria, and we did not do anything about it, they decided the Americans no longer
have the stomach for another fight. And so that point I think
we were in a position where our negotiators basically
got about as good a deal as they could have come up
with in this case. And there are ways for
the militaries to buy peace or to hold the peace or
stabilize for a short time. I’ll give you one quick example. Then I want to get to time for Q&A here. I was flying back, you remember about 3 or 4 years ago you heard about how the Iranians kept
talking in Tehran at the parliament, the supreme leader, that they were going to mine
that little spot right there, the Straits of Hormuz, right here off the tip of Oman. And I was flying back one night and I was sitting there
thinking about it, and I thought what I’d do it
we’d run an anti, an international anti-mine exercise, not an anti-Iran exercise. So I called my fleet commander,
5th US Navy fleet and I said, “I want you to do this. I want you to pull together all the, as many nations you can. And I was pretty sure we’d get
what I called the usual suspects. We’ll get UK, we’ll get France, we’ll get Bahrain, we’ll get United Arab Emirates, Australia, we’ll get the ones who know that
we can actually put together a mine clearing exercise and
make it look good and all. But I said, “But make sure it doesn’t
turn into an anti-Iran exercise.” You know, and everybody hates mines. I learned to hate mine fields
on the ground at age 21 and I’ve never liked them at all
since, tell you the truth. So I think, “This will work.” So we went out there and the first year
we did it we got 29 nations. We got Canada, and we got all the usual ones, but we got Canada and
Estonia, Singapore, we got Japan, we got Djibouti. We had every continent except Antarctica. And I was looking for a penguin
represent Antarctica to tell you the truth. I could use another diver, you know. And they came out. They either were in the exercise,
had ships there, you had some of your sailors there, and the next year
we had 35 nations come. And the reason
I give you this example, ladies and gentlemen, is because in
many cases the inconclusive nature of some of the fighting
over these last 12 years, you can start wondering,
“What are we really doing here? Does this use of the military makes sense?” Well the bottom line was they stopped, how many times have you heard them talking about mining the waters
in last year or two? Zero. They realized that any coalition
against them had two parts; a political and a military. Usually we lead with
the political and the military goes in buttresses them from behind. In this case we led with the military to show we could clear those
mines again very quickly. And by having all
these nations show up, that was sending a message
to Tehran that their bombastic, “We’re going to mine the waters” actually was creating an international
coalition against them. They quieted down. Why I was so worried about it? Because about a year and a half before some British sailors and
marines up in the Northern Gulf had been grabbed by a
Republican Guard force. They were these guys were in little boats. And the Republican Guard got them. And they were arrested
and taken up to, they got cut off before they
could return to their ship, and taken to Tehran. It was embarrassing
for the United Kingdom. And Iran was flexing their muscles. And it turned out, we’re pretty sure
that the guy who did it, the captain of the ship
that sent the people over to grab the British Navy
and British Marines, he never got orders to do it. He did it on his own. In other words he just thought, “Well I know what they want in Tehran. I’m just going to run off and do this.” And I had visions of
some nutcase out there dropping mines in the water and sinking a super tanker with
all the environmental damage, loss of life, and all. And so I wanted to do something to
tone down the rhetoric up there in Tehran so we didn’t have this active, you know, wars are often started
by miscalculation, not calculation. So that’s why we did it. And I bring this up because there
can come a weariness in all of us when you have inconclusive wars, you don’t see anything
good coming out of them, and you start saying we can’t use
the military instrument. What we have to do is use
the military instrument wisely, within a strategic framework,
not you know, with ignorance of history and
culture and that sort of thing. So let me stop there because this
is the new situation we deal with. Iran right now is going to start becoming
more a part of the body politic. It’s coming out of isolation. They would like to be both
North Korea and South Korea. They’d like to be North Korea
in the sense that no western influence
invades their country. They’d like to be South Korea
where their international market is bringing them all the trade that
keeps the Mullahs in power there. They can’t be both. And so there’s going to be problems
inside Iran as those young people who may not be overly happy
with the restrictions on freedom, are going to have to deal with the Mullahs who are not happy with giving up
their control over them. At the same time you’ve got ISIS
and you’ve got Lebanese Hezbollah, two different groups,
two completely different. One is coming out of the Sunni tradition, one out of the Shia. And you have to remember
that back in 1983 the Shia side declared war on the West. Okay? 1983 They blew up the French
paratroopers’ barrack, the American embassy,
they hit other embassies. They blew up
the Marine barrack in Beirut that we brought in to protect the
folks down in the refugee camps. It was about ten years later
when the Sunni side, which you know as al-Qaida and
ISIS declared war on the West. And I would just tell you that all of this is coming into a new kind
of relationship with each other. And we’re going to have to accept
the complexity of it and deal with it. Not say it’s too complex. I’m just going to go
bury my head in the sand. Or as one officer put it to me here
since I’ve arrived in Australia, “We’re just going to cut the
Middle East off the map and say, “I don’t want to look at it right now.” Coming home from World War II, the greatest generation, coming back to Australia and
England and America said, “You cannot turn your back on the world. You cannot do it.” And out of that came the United Nations, the Marshall Plan where we
actually helped enemies to recover. Out of it comes to Bretton Woods
all these kinds of things that we put together. And if we are going to live up
to our responsibility, people of my colour hair, to young people so we give them
a decent world, we can’t ignore history and say we’re just going to
turn our back on the world. 60, 70 million dead had taught one
generation you can’t go to isolationism. You’ve got to work together in this world. We’re going to have to work
together to address these issues. And I hope strongly that
Australia’s voice is heard loud and clear in all these issues. Let me stop there because I’d like
to get to the Q&A and see what’s on your mind
and let’s have at it here. And if you want, if you don’t want to talk about
anything I’ve talked about, something else in your mind, I’m more than willing to address it. So who wants to ask
the first question? Yeah. (moderator) [inaudible] (male # 1) OK. I’ll probably talk loudly anyway. General Mattis, look, you said there’s an ineffective
strategy in Iraq and Syria. And I would agree with that. What’s your idea of what would
be an effective strategy and why do you think
that strategy would work? (Jim Mattis) Yeah. What would be an effective strategy? First of all, I was a General
once upon a time. But it was long, long ago
in a land far, far away. So I’ve re-joined the human race. My name’s Jim
when I come to Australia. What an effective strategy
would look like – again go to the two part, first the political part. And I think that we should
see a political agreement among every nation that’s
willing to fight these people. We find common cause with them. And that means at times
we may very well have people that we are not always that fond of. They may not be people that
buy into everything we think. They don’t have to be. They have to be people who
are willing to fight this enemy. So first of all,
you get the political house in order. And you help all of them
put together the strategy. I think the first thing
the strategy has to do is deal with most significant military blow so they lose the sense
of inevitability or invincibility. And at that point you get
every banking system in the world, every country to go after their finances. And you make very clear that
any attempt to support this group through recruiting, joining up with them,
sending the money, is going to earn you a time in jail. You don’t get to have a moral bye, an ethical bye after you’ve sent
money to someone who does what these people do. While we’re sitting here tonight,
ladies and gentlemen, girls as young as eight are
being sold into sexual slavery. And this is going on every single night. It’s between 750 and 3,000 every single night. This is going on. And they’re traded after people
get tired of who they have there. This is something
that’s got to be stopped. And so we’ve got to get some kind of, I would call it a coherent
military/financial strategy that can pin them to the wall. I think that the military side of it
should not be an attrition fight, where we send in troops for a long period. We go in just long enough with American, Australian,
whoever is willing to sign up, to bring a sense of confidence to the Arab forces that are there. We make certain that all the forces are
overall under the command of an Arab, a capable Arab leader. And when you go in, you fight a battle of annihilation
against the group that you can surround, not a battle of attrition
that goes on like that. And then you pull our troops out. And you bring them back and forth as they’re needed
in order to bring kind of kind of incite the bravery of the, of the other forces there. And if they choose to really dig in, it’s our forces that can best
move against them right now. I think too, what you have to
do is go after their message. And that’s the harder part. But when you have president Al-Sisi
willing to put his life on the line, and that’s what he did
when he makes a speech like that at Al-Azhar University, the oldest university in Arab lands, when you have someone like Prince
Mohammed bin Nayef in Riyadh who’s willing to go after
al-Qaida the way he is, or the United Arab Emirates that’s willing to put their army
down into Yemen in order to stop what were these
probably pretty much Iranian supported effort to take over
the country there, then you have countries
that can do this with us. And I’d start with the political. Make certain that you go after the financial. That’s got to stop. We’ve got to quit allowing them to get
the money they’re getting right now. And then deal them
a good military setback. Same time we’re going to have to Arabs
who can turn this message around, Sunni Arabs who can turn the message
around that they’re selling. Does that answer your question? (male #1) It’s a good start
so it’s good enough. (Jim Mattis) That’s good enough. (male #2) Good afternoon sir. Sorry, that’s a bit loud. I just had a question. With regards to ISIS, you were talking about the fact that they’re openly accepting pretty much
anyone who will sign up to their cause. But could this over-willingness
to accept wannabe terrorists improve Western intelligence
agencies’ capabilities because there is essentially a
big gap that can be exploited? (Jim Mattis) And how
would you exploit it? (male #2) You have a great
opportunity to be able to send in double agents, infiltration,
and that kind of stuff. (Jim Mattis) Yeah.
Are you willing to sign up? [laughter] No, that’s okay. It’s a very good point. (male # 2) I want to go to an agency. (Jim Mattis) It is a tough thing to do because you’ll lose some
of the people we send in. I think that what you need is a firm
commitment on a political level to do whatever is necessary. Our countries breed some young
fellows that would be willing to do it. We’ve had them take very
difficult tasks before. But right now we have
an uncertain trumpet call. We say degrade and destroy them. Meanwhile, well we’re not
going to send out ground troops. And we’re not going to put our
forward air controllers on the front lines. And we’re not, we’re not —
we’re not — we’re not, right now you’ve got to get
the political piece right. And we are going to have
to have political leaders who can actually explain
not just what we stand for as the Western democracies, but what we absolutely
will not tolerate. And then you go in with total — You can run a limited war. But you limit the war
by limit the political end state. You don’t limit the military means. You go in with decisive military means
to end the war as quickly as possible. Every war is going to be a tragedy. The longer it goes on, the more innocent people die. So you’ve got to go in
with everything you need. And that would be certainly part of it. But you’re going to have a hard
time getting the leaders of the secret services to
send people in to do this when you have such a tentative
approach to addressing this problem. It’s got to be a lot more forthright
than what we’ve done so far. (male # 2) Thank you. (Jim Mattis) Yeah.
But the short answer is yes. We just have to make certain we’re all in. Yeah. (Adam Gastineau) Yeas sir. My name is Adam Gastineau and
I’ve deafened everyone in the room. I’m with the Centre for Moral, Social,
and Political Theory, which is actually
in the philosophy department. Don’t throw things. And I’ve got two questions. One of them has to do with David
Kilcullen’s analysis of ISIS that came out in a recent quarterly review, where he said one of the mistakes
that we’re making in dealing with ISIS is regarding them as simply
a terrorist organization. And I was wondering what
your thoughts were on that. And also a bit more to the point
of my area of expertise, you mention Australia’s
moral and ethical stance. And I was wondering if you would be
willing to comment a little more on what you see that as being. And how that compares with
the stance currently held by the United States military. (Jim Mattis) Okay. Yeah.
Good questions. David Kilcullen’s article, I agree with how he describes them. They’re a political organization. They’re a religious organization. They’ve used terrorism. They’ve got an insurgency going. They’re holding ground. They’ve got some
state like aspects to them. They’re the richest, as I said, the richest terrorist
organization in history. So when you put this together, this is like the Lebanese Hezbollah
and al-Qaida on steroids. If you know, Lebanese Hezbollah
runs a state within a state, a terrorist organization. They attacked the state next door, Israel. They actually are supplied by Tehran. So you’ve got that aspect
of what’s going on with ISIS. But you’ve also got al Qaeda, which is, that’s just pure terrorist organization, you know, attacks, you know, you see
their attacks everywhere. You know, they’re all over the place. And so yeah. I think he’s right. It’s much more than
a terrorist organization. And that means you have
to adapt your response to address each aspect
of what is going on. And that’s one of the reasons
I mentioned about going after them diplomatically
and economically as well. Normal, just the average
terrorist group you can go after them with just police and military and do pretty good damage to them. This group’s going to take a lot
more coherent and broader effort because of what David writes about there. On Australia’s moral and ethical example: You know, I was listening this afternoon as I was getting changed
to come over here about, and I listened to your Prime Minister
talk and the opposition talk, that Australia helps people when they’re in the situation
the Syrian refugees are in. And you can see people, you know, in that very contentious
Parliament you run, you could see people
on both sides agreeing on it. Now you’ve got to
understand that the Americans, for whatever reason, have right now
lost much of the affection of the world in terms of strategic,
morally guided strategic activity. I believe we can
learn from our mistakes. I believe that we will come back. But at the same time, Australia has shown a level
of loyalty to the United States, not just when we were in the right, but perhaps when we were not in the right, that allows you a degree
of suasion with us. But also you are not included
in some of the decisions that are looked upon now as faulty in
both moral and strategic terms. So unhindered by that baggage, and knowing the role you’ve played
in Oceania for example, close in where if any nation gets in trouble, they know they’ll see your, whether it be your constables
in charge of the Solomon Islands, they go until you get it settled down again, or someone gets hit by a typhoon, you have a degree of moral
and ethical reputation that I think could help ensure that in the future more
sustainable decisions are made, including by the Americans, because they’re sitting
in this room are officers who represented Australia’s best
interests and better angels inside my headquarters,
I guarantee you. And they are grim. They’re know what their job is. They can do it. But at the same time, there’s a way to maintain your moral balance
when you’re dealing with violence. And just to show you that
even inside the US military there’s a special role for this nation, a couple of us were laughing
outside in the corridor beforehand an Australian
two-star army general was the assistant operations officer
of US Central Command, the command that has got a quarter-million
US and allied troops in it. He had, on one occasion, because my operation officer
was up in Washington, D.C., trying to explain our strategy
one more time or get from them some idea of it. So when we had to move
the US aircraft carriers, it was up to my operations officer to do it. The Australian officer
got people on the phone. And the fleet commander was off
doing a visit right then with a head of state. So the deputy fleet commander was a two-star Royal Navy officer
from Great Britain. Deputy Commander, US 5th fleet. The officer we were trying to support
right then was a Canadian brigadier who was my personal
representative in Jordan. And the refugee situation was, this was when that was worsening. So we had to move the carrier up
in case Assad though he might wonder down into Jordan and slap Jordan around for
protecting these refugees. The Jordanian were doing a wonderful
job protecting these poor people. So here I have an Australian
Major-General tell a Royal Navy officer to move the US carriers
to support a Canadian brigadier. I bring this up ladies and gentlemen because there is
a very short list of officers that the US will put our troops
under the command of. And I’m standing in
one of those countries, very few countries right now
to include one of your generals telling my aircraft carriers where to go. By the way his last word, he meant it tongue in cheek, but General “Boomer” Smith said
the next time I call a conference from US Central Command, I’d better hear Yank voices
on the other end this line. [laughter] So he’s kind of chewing them out. But here they were all doing this. But it says something about the kind of — they bring an ethical dimension in. And it inserts straight inside the command. And that is healthy for us. Because not all the good ideas come
from with country the most aircraft carriers. That give you an idea
of what I’m looking for? (Adam Gastineau) Thank you very much. (Jim Mattis) Sure you’re welcome. (moderator) [inaudible] (Bruce Payne) My name is Bruce Payne. I’m a retired civil servant. You talked quite a lot about
politics, military finance and you’ve only just touched
a little on the economics. What I’m wondering about is
your views on how big a motivator for all of the different participants
in that area is the oil question? You know, both supply and demand. (Jim Mattis) Yeah. You mean with
the price of oil going down so much can they sustain their nations? Is that part of it? Or you mean about how we
actually fund the operations? (Bruce Payne) More general
than either of them. You know, how big a motivator is oil for, you know, people who’ve got,
yeah, call them foreign troops, but also how big a you
mentioned financing for ISIS, that you know, they have
a big revenue source. So for all, imagine there was no oil in
that area would people be interested? (Jim Mattis) Oh, I think
oil’s had a significant impact. I first sailed into those waters in 1979. And a couple things happened. The mosque, the Grand Mosque
was taken over, the Soviets moved into Afghanistan, the Iranian Revolution of course
is gaining full traction, and to your point, the oil prices start climbing big. And there is no more governor
on the oil money coming in. And it’s funding all sorts of people. The Saud family is putting more
money into some of their Wahhabs, the Mosque effort, the international effort
they have going on. A lot of nations are seeing
tons of money go off and just get diverted
into basically terrorism. That’s when you see it
really starting to pick up. I think oil plays a significant role. But you know, they’re just saying, you know, in golf. You play football where it lies. The oil’s there. The world economy needs it. The only part of the world’s
economy right now that probably doesn’t need it
is North America. And the bottom line is
you can’t leave China, the second-largest economy, to go downhill without thinking
it’s going to affect everyone else, and the same thing for India, the same thing for Europe. I mean they need the oil. So I think the oil is a key factor. I will tell you this, every morning I woke up, I knew I would not be given, I could not say well that’s difficult. I wasn’t able to keep
the Straits of Hormuz open. The oil had to flow. And I knew that I was expected
to keep it open no matter what. And so it was it was a driving, just driving imperative every day. That’s why I went to that
international anti-mine exercise. Anything to try to keep the peace, or what passes for peace in that region, one more year, one more month, one more week,
or even one more day. So the diplomats
could work their magic. But I think oil has been — Matter of fact I’ve heard a leader of one of the countries out there
call it the curse of oil. Which really is the answer
to your question. It’s made it very difficult
for those countries, even if it meant also the
source of enormous wealth. (moderator) [inaudible] (male # 3) Sir, I’d like to ask you a question, a history question really,
where the dust has settled. And it concerns the United States
government and the Vietnam War and also the American military. I noticed that your own
Secretary of Defence, a man called McNamara, recently, before his death he went
to University of Hanoi and among other things he said,
“We didn’t know anything about you. I’m convinced that our war
against you was wrong.” The commander-in-chief of Australian
armed forces in Vietnam told me to my face that the Vietnam
was wrong, wrong, wrong. And the man who subsequently became
chief of the general staff in this country, also went to Vietnam and he also denounced it in articles
under a nome de plume. What did you achieve in Vietnam? You killed 2 million Vietnamese. But what did you achieve
for ordinary Vietnamese? and what did you achieve
for ordinary Americans? I know that Raytheon and
Lockheed-Martin and Boeing they did very well out of the suffering. But what benefits accrued
to the people of Vietnam and to the people of America? For your war against that country? What do you have to say? (Jim Mattis) Pardon? (male # 3) Let’s hear
what you’ve got to say. (Jim Mattis) Oh, sure.
Happy to say it. And I appreciate it. I come down to Australia to
hear people and what they think, not dance around it. I believe that in the Cold War period
there were decisions, Yeah. (male # 3) Try telling
the Vietnamese that. (Jim Mattis) Well I mean if you, I — let me put it this way. There were decisions made about
where to try to hold the line. You saw the French make the decision
against the Viet Minh. I think that with the Americans, the idea was that we had to hold the line against a monolithic communist threat. There was not a monolithic
communist threat. We know that in hindsight. But history is unregenerate. You cannot change what happened. So you look back and
you try to understand. What did people think at that time? – without the benefit of hindsight. I believe that what happens there — years later I was in Malaysia. And I was talking.
I went to dinner with the gentleman. And he said, “You know,” he said, “for all the wrong
reasons you bought us time.” I said, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “Well,” he said, “We had all
the colonial problems that any nation coming out from
underneath colonialism had.” And he said “Had you not, had they not drawn
all of the communist help in to help fight you in Vietnam,”
he said. “That could very well have put Malaysia
and Indonesia into a position where the internal
contradictions of colonialism. Well if you want to hear, fine. It’s up to you sir. I mean this is what
I was told by a Malaysian, not an American. Okay? He said, “You bought time and
you didn’t even know what you were doing.” And so I would say
that from our perspective, we probably would look back on it
and say it was a mistake, a tragic mistake. (male # 3) Exactly. (Jim Mattis) Okay. [laughter] (moderator) Next question please. (moderator) [inaudible] (male # 4) Sir, when you were
speaking about Iran earlier, you mentioned that there have
been a number of omissions from the negotiations and that therefore there are
a number of outstanding risks that needed to be mitigated. My question though is, there obviously is a rationale
behind the agreement with Iran. In your words, what is the strategic rationale
behind this agreement? And is there a good side from it? Because at this stage all we’ve heard
are the negatives about that agreement. (Jim Mattis) Well, I think it’s hard
to be real positive about the agreement when the supreme leader comes out
and says he’s going to continue his terrorism, nothing’s going to change in Yemen,
in Bahrain, in Jordan. Soleimani comes out and says
they’re going to keep doing things. But I think the reason I believe that the agreement has got to be
carried through with, and we need to implement it
as best we can, is that there is not an international will to deal with this in a military way. And another war in the Middle
East would be a catastrophe. I’ll just tell you right up front,
it would be — it would unleash even worse than
we’ve already seen unleashed there. So what you do is you look at
the rationale being you limit the potential for the Iranians
to get a nuclear weapon. And when you think of some of them
saying they want to wipe Israel off the map or something like that, you and I grew up at a time when the nuclear capable nations
of Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States, we all knew the other guy
didn’t want to use it. We did not believe the Russians
wanted to go to nuclear war. We came awful close at times, but there was a sense we didn’t want to. The new nuclear regime that could arise, especially if Iran got one, appears to be one that wants
to wipe someone off the map. And so this is worth it, I think,
to try to prevent that. But now we’re going to have
to address the other threats, or the nations that are closest
are going to feel very vulnerable, and for good reason. As you watch what’s happened in Yemen or what Lebanese Hezbollah has done, right now the only reason
Assad is still in power is because the Iranians
are giving him full support after Russia’s regrettable veto in the UN. So as you put all these conflicting, I would almost call them channel, rivers coming together
with different threats, the one we have to avoid is the
nuclear in the hands of a country that is acting like a revolutionary cause, unconcerned with their own people. And that’s why I think
you’ve got the rationale for it is, you’ve got to try to make this work. If that makes sense. It is just to prevent
a nuclear detonation. And I think there’s a lot more
potential for that than anyone wants
to really take a chance on. And this is the best chance
I think we have. (moderator) Next question please. Are there any ladies?
I don’t want to be sexist here. (female # 1) Thanks General Mattis. I just wanted to ask a question
with regards to the lack of political will around confronting
ISIS decisively from the West. If we continue to
let this wound fester, what do you foresee happening to
the Middle East and to the West? (Jim Mattis) What do I
think happens if what? (female # 1) Sorry. If we don’t act decisively with
regards to the Islamic State, what do you foresee happening
in the Middle East if as you said, if ISIS wins, what happens? (Jim Mattis) You know, I believe right
now we’re past the point of no return that it’s going to keep
getting worse for a while. And the impact on the innocent
people out there has been about as severe as it could be. I would tell you that
I’ve seen refugees in Africa. I’ve seen them in Bosnia. I’ve seen them in southeast Asia, pulled them out of the water there. I have never seen refugees as traumatized as I’ve seen coming out of Syria. And I think it’s going to get worse. And the political will issue
will not be addressed until the current American
administration is replaced by a Republican or Democrat administration that comes in with a fresh approach, one that is much more embracing of allies and much more committed
to actually taking action. And that does not mean, that does not mean
it has to be military action. I would say that America’s got
to engage more with the world and intervene militarily less right now. But if you align enough nations together, then should we have
to take military action, then it’s got a, I would say an international way to address it, and not just an American way. And I think that would be
one of the ways you avoid ending up worsening the situation frankly. Does that answer your question? not really? [laughter] (moderator) [inaudible] (Tom Worthington) Tom Worthington from
the Research School of Computer Science. Normally I’d ask about cyber warfare
but you’ve already addressed that. So what about the pivot to Asia in all of this. Is there, where we balance
where the military force and also the political intellectual
power is addressed? Is there a danger of spending
too much in the Middle East and then not worrying about the part
of the world closer where we are? (Jim Mattis) Yeah, you know at
this point the degree of strategic atrophy in Washington’s got to be addressed. I thought it was very unfortunate
to talk about a pivot to Asia. And you hit it right. There’s two parts to this. There’s the attention basically,
and then there’s the military role. And in Washington, D.C. Apparently we’re not aware that half
the US Navy was in the Pacific already. [laughter] They forgot about that. And a quarter of the US Army,
two thirds of the Marine Corps, and a significant part of our Air Force. Furthermore many Pacific
nations had officers, like on my staff, there. Even when they weren’t
committed to Pacific operations, Australia’s voice or Japan’s voice
was loud and clear. In Tampa and Washington D.C. Because their people are there. They’re actually inside
the top secret meetings. And so I think it was unfortunate. It scared the dickens out of Europe. I’ll tell you that. And it also caused a lot of
concern in the Middle East. And it encouraged our adversaries to try
and take advantage of weaker countries. I think what we’ve got to do is we got to be able to walk
and chew gum at the same time. And it’s not that difficult
if you’ll listen to others. And if you’re willing to allow them
to take the lead on issues. I have no problem allowing
others to take the lead. I mean why shouldn’t Brazil take
the lead on maritime search and rescue in the, you know, somewhere between, you know, South America and Africa? And Portugal does it up out of the Azores. I mean there’s ways where the Americans don’t
have to keep feeling like they’ve got to do it all. And yet that statement gave
a kind of an impression to me that we thought it was all about us and where we’re going to apply ourselves. I just thought it was very unfortunate. Was not a strategic statement. And I think we’ve pretty
much recovered from that. But at the same time, you’re going to have to go by,
with, and through allies. We don’t have enough money
or enough ships to do it all ourselves. In every, in the Baltic and in the
Pacific and in the Mediterranean, everywhere else. It’s got to be all of us working together. (Mohammed) My name is Mohammed. I’m from Syria. I just want to know what’s your
vision on the future of Syria? Everyone is talking about Syria
as just only ISIS, versus Assad. But there are tens of
factions functioning over there. The Syrian refugees are not only
from ISIS they’re fleeing from all, from the war going on
that’s not between two sides. There are tens of sides, like Damascus last week where it was
rocketed by 98 rockets in one day. And by Free Syria Army
or al-Nusra Front or, so there are hundreds of people being
killed every day by unknown people. So they call them al-Nusra Front
or [foreign language] or [foreign language] or [foreign language] or, so they have tons of names. And Syrian people are
being killed by those people. And all the international community
are talking about only ISIS or Assad. So how do you see the future of Syria? What do you see in Assad in it or not? It’s not only ISIS. So how do you see the future of Syria? (Jim Mattis) Yeah, it’s a complex region and I don’t have time in a few minutes to go into all the things
that I agree with you about. I mean had the Lebanese
Hezbollah not come in, and perhaps had the Western nations
supported the moderates early on before they got ground to nothing between al-Nusra and ISIS
and the Assad forces and all, then maybe we would have
had more options. But now I’m afraid we’ve missed
the opportunity to arm moderates and assist them. I think it’s going to get worse. Right now there’s talk about
whether not Russia’s talking about moving in military people
to support Assad. You know, this sort of thing, you just see it go on
until it just exhausts everyone. And it’s just spewing out terrorists. It’s drawing in terrorists. It’s causing refugees to go into
all the surrounding countries. I think it’s going to get worse
before it gets better. And I don’t know, other than helping the refugees, I just don’t see an international
effort right now that can stop the killing and come to some kind of a cease-fire long enough to try to put this back together. In UK right now they’re
trying to put together a plan. I know some folks are working on
a plan to use gulf monarchy monies to go back in with kind of
a Marshall Plan effort. But that stillborn until
we can stop the violence. And I don’t think, as long as others can get in there, and you can exhaust everyone enough, I mean, in come these reinforcements, and they just add more killing
to the equation. I think right now it has terrible
forecast is the way I look at it. As it gets bad and getting worse. I wish I could give you
a better forecast right now. But I can’t. (moderator) [inaudible] (Craig Utole) Thanks General Mattis
for your presentation. My name’s Craig Utole. My question goes to I guess some
of the picture that you painted about the complexity of the strategic
environment and being that even, you know, the Westphalian state
is coming to some struggles. And that, you know, arguably is
probably has to do with the rise of the local power within individuals
as opposed to earlier times when states had a lot more control
and they were able to do things. You mentioned different
elements of national power in, coming to address
some of these problems. My question is, are our political systems
constructed in a way which they can apply those different
elements of national power towards the emerging complexities
in the environment and also, is the military placed to leverage
those different elements and contend with the
[inaudible] environment? (Jim Mattis) Well what a great question. It’s as if, going back to
your earlier question on Syria, we’re going back to
a pre-Westphalian idea that we can kill each other
over religion and you know, it cut Europe’s population by a third
or more over those years of, decades of war. And I think that somehow we’ve
got to save the state system. And I’ll get into why in just a moment. But we try to teach in America that America’s got two
fundamental powers; the power of inspiration
and the power of intimidation. And too many times
in the last dozen years, maybe 20 years, maybe the Cold War years, we’ve turned to the power of intimidation
instead of the power of inspiration, which is why I believe we need
to engage more with the world and intervene militarily less. And why are we doing it? Because our State Department
our Treasury Department are perhaps not organized to compete
in a way where the ideas compete. But our CIA and the military, of course they’re organized to compete. That’s what they,
that’s their environment. So we reach for these hammers when
we should be reaching for other ideas. What would have happened in 2002 when the Australians and the
Americans went into Afghanistan if every year since we’d funded
for one boy and one girl in every high school in Afghanistan
to go to the Netherlands, to Australia, to Canada, to America for a year of school, after 10 years of being there, what would it look like
with that many thousands, tens of thousands of kids back home
again with a different mental model of what’s going on? I don’t think we are using
those kind of powers correctly. But they are still there. And they’re mostly there
with the least cynical. And do you know who they are? The people who live out in these areas. The power of,
and I’ll give you an example. One night I was out at a forward
operating base on the Euphrates River and my marines had captured
a fellow laying an IED. He had his little wheel barrow,
two artillery rounds, car battery, wires. He’s out there whistling, digging a hole and he looks up and here’s
five guys pointing rifles at him. Not a good night for him. And they bring him in
and they tell me, “Hey General, you want to talk to this guy?” It’s a little 50 man outpost
that I was going by. He speaks good English. He was trained in Switzerland. I said, “Really? Yeah.” He’s an engineer. So I went and I sat down with him and I give him a cup of coffee and cigarette and we were shooting the breeze.
I said, “Why are you doing this? I mean, you’re Sunni. You know the Marines are the
best friends you have out here. Why are you doing this?” He says, “Oh, you crusaders.
I want you out of here.” I said, “Just knock that off. You’re an educated man. What are you –?” And I’m giving you a long answer. But this makes sense. Trust me.
Bear with me here. And finally he said,
“Well you’re right. In my heart I hate
having you guys here. But in my head,
I know we need you here for a while. And on. And he says, “I guess I’m going
to Abu Ghraib prison.” I said, “Oh yeah. You’re going to go wear an
orange jumpsuit for a while, a couple of years,
probably until we leave.” He said, “Well, if I’m a model prisoner, could I immigrate to America
when I get out?” [laughter] Now think about that. Where did that,
he’s literally trying to kill us. But the power of inspiration allowed
him to talk to an American in that way. We have too often turned to the military
to deal with non-military problems. And as far as going into countries
and overturning them, you have no moral obligation
to do that if you don’t believe there’s a reasonable expectation of
a better administration afterwards. I mean, I’m and not just
talking about Iraq right now. Take a look at Libya where NATO
decides they’ve got to go in, and look what’s happened now. I mean, I, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to make a moral
argument for Gaddafi. But I think that’s the sort of
thing you have to look at and when you look at these, they are we organized right to
have this violent global argument that’s going on right now. It’s mostly an argument. Yes there’s violence. But we’ve got to use education
the way I think it’s intended and remember that if you didn’t have
your Navy and your immigration people doing what they’re doing, you have a million immigrants
a day coming into Australia. I mean, the power of what you stand for
is very, very powerful as an idea. And right now we’re not fighting
the war of ideas in a way that allows us, I think, to win that war. (moderator) Next please. Maybe that lady in the back. (female # 2) I can probably just talk loud. Thank you for coming tonight. My name is [inaudible]. I’m an undergraduate student
in security studies. You mentioned that intelligence
sharing is going to be very difficult in the coming years. I was wondering how you propose
the intelligence community should change or be modified so that there’s less of an issue. (Jim Mattis) You know, some guys
gave me my coffee cup from CENTCOM. There’s a thing called “NOFORN”
some of you have heard of. It says– [laughter] — and I understand why each nation
wants to hide its sources and methods of intelligence collection. We call them the crown jewels. But there is no need to share
the sources and methods. And usually you can clean up
the intelligence in a way — I mean, frankly I didn’t care
about the source and methods. And I was a four-star general. I just wanted to know the intelligence. So there’s a way to do it where you
don’t compromise the parts of it that you cannot reveal
in good conscience because your secret agents
could die or whatever. And I think that
what we have to do is, we, again we have to get
the political alignment correct. And all military and intelligence
operations are run at the speed of trust. And if you cannot create trust
across international lines now when you come together, then we have to, that person that officer’s leadership
it’s obsolete. And they need to go home. You have got to be able to do this. And there are officers
sitting here in this room that I assure you had access to some of our most
sensitive secrets in America. And they’re Australian officers.
They’re not American. So I know how it can work. But there’s a special, they’re just special arrangement for fewer than a half-dozen countries
where we’re able to do that. We’re going to have to use
that theme and carry it more broadly because you cannot ask for your
countries to send their troops in harm’s way and say, “By the way, we know something
that would help your troops. We’re not going to tell you.” It’s immoral. It’s besides being militarily stupid, it’s immoral to do that. So we have got to find a way to do it. But remember it’s built on trust. And we have got to make certain
that we don’t violate the trust either. And part of that is
keeping things secret. When another nation shares
their secrets with you, the Americans have got to
learn how to keep it secret then. You know, we can lose a lot
of confidence when we don’t. So it’s got to be a process. And it’s got to be set politically. And then it got to be zealously
carried out by the people down below. I have seen it work. So I know it can be done. I’m not talking about you know,
Nirvana out there. This can be done. (moderator) [inaudible] (Eric) Good evening, sir. My name is Eric [inaudible]. I’m a former marine raider and
a negotiations instructor currently. For a preface to the question
I’d like to think about Reclaim Australia and the reverend in Florida
who decided to burn Korans. And the reason why I bring that up is how important do you see
the domestic responsibility of the Western society in limiting our isolating behaviour towards peaceful Islamic societies such as the numerous Muslims
that we share our land with? (Jim Mattis) I think the most
important thing is that we explain that in our system, we believe the government
cannot restrict free speech. And you may like that. You may be contemptuous of it, but the bottom line is
for those of us in military if we swear an oath to
uphold the Constitution, we can’t turn around and insist
to our political masters that they’ve got to restrict
someone’s freedom of speech as it’s defined by the law. I don’t get to define that. Nobody elected me. I’m appointed as an officer. So dealing with it though, I would tell you that I was in
numerous capitals in the region. In many cases they understood
the issue very well, that what we were dealing with was
basically people acting horribly and disrespectfully toward others. It was tough on our relations. But I don’t think there is something at
least under the American Constitution you can do to stop people
acting like jerks, frankly. What you have to do is have such a
degree of rapport and communication with those other countries that they understand
you don’t buy it one bit. You don’t believe in it. You condemn it. I mean, you know, I have
freedom of speech too. And I made it very clear
what I thought about it when I was the commander of CENTCOM. But the idea of restricting
someone’s freedom is not for a US military person
to do in our system. So, unless I can persuasively
make the argument, you know, like any citizen, there’s not a whole lot
you can do about it other than try to keep open lines
of respected communication with people who are being insulted. And I’ve seen a lot of
insulting of people. And it’s quite conducive
to keeping people like me and you when we were
wearing uniforms in business because the very contempt
and lack of respect like you were bringing up there, when you see that in a social setting, or you see that on an international setting, it generally has the same result. It creates hatred. And it’s pretty darned ugly. But I don’t know how we get
around it right now other than trying to get people to walk
in other people’s shoes for a while instead of walking out cynically and
contemptuously dismissing a religion. I have fought many times for America. I never fought without, because I didn’t so
much fight in this way, and I never fought without troops
who had the Muslim religion, both American in my own forces, but also the other foreign
forces right alongside me. So there’s no reason
for this to become, I would say that
characteristic of our society. Every society, I tell people, “Look. Jesus of Nazareth had
one 1 of 12 go to crap on him. Okay.” So you’re never going to have it perfect. You just got to deal with
this kind of stuff, you know. Best answer I can give you. Yes ma’am. (moderator) I think we need to wrap it up (Jim Mattis) Well I want,
this lady’s got a good question. I can tell. [laughter] Go ahead.
Please. (female #3) Thank you very
much for allowing me to speak. I wanted to ask you please, about a common contradiction
I think we may face. You talked about the US having lost
moral authority in the Middle East and in other parts of the world and about how it should be using more its
power of inspiration over intimidation. And yet you were also talking
about our need to have allies with countries with whom, on many other issues
we may be enemies. And it seems to me that
that is a contradiction in a nutshell. Okay, we’re working with
countries like let’s say, Saudi, against ISIS because we have to. And it’s the very fact that we have
an alliance with a country like that — actually that causes us
to lose moral authority among people in the Middle East. I don’t think there’s a solution to that.
But I would love to hear — (Jim Mattis) Yeah. It’s a, no it’s a great, sometimes you don’t have solutions. You just manage problems. And I think the question is very good. You know, I remember reading about FDR, relatively progressive President, and he made common cause
with Joe Stalin to defeat Hitler. So what I tell my young officers is
the Constitution’s not a suicide pact. We’ve got to keep
the experiment alive. I was, I brought this very problem
to a former Prime Minister of a country you know well in Europe. And he just laughed at me. He said, “Jim if you can’t ride
two horses in the Mid-East circus you better get out of the circus.” He was not trying to be flippant. He was trying to say, “This is very complexity
that we have to deal with.” And I think that if I was to sum it up, it was so nice
when I was a young officer. I could make certain that not any
innocent person died around me. I could, I knew my troops. I knew them all. And as I went up higher, I had deal more and more with polarities. And nothing was black
and white anymore. It was grey. And dealing with those polarities
was very exasperating. So what you end up having to do is
recognizing that you do the best you can with the information
you have at the time. And you try to keep
a moral balance with it, but not to the point that you decide — I’ll give you an example. We can align or ally with countries
that have at least the effort there to be responsive governments
to their people. As I watched the Arab Spring break out, I was thinking, you know,
all these people were saying, “Oh, they’re going for democracy.” my CIA gals, they said, “We’re not
so sure about this, General. There’s a lot of decisions to be made.” They said, “What’s going on here
is Paris, 1789. People who are furious about
unjust unresponsive governments are fleeing from them. They are not necessarily
running toward democracy.” And so what do you have do is you have to put yourself
in other people’s shoes for a bit. And think about where they’re coming from. They were under colonialism very recently. They want some kind of democracy. And it helps if you just
look at the people in Tehran, the ones who were beaten
and imprisoned when they came up and revolted
against the Mullahs there. These, they now have looked around. They’ve seen what happens when you have a revolution
without democracy in their own country in 1979. Or you have a revolution with chaos in Syria. So what they want is they want
democracy without a revolution. So, you know, you look
at something like this. You say, “How do you get there?” I don’t know how you square
these kind of polarities with the situation that’s costing us so many innocent people
killed and wounded in Syria. And so I think what you end up doing
is you accept that in the short term you may have to make
awkward alliances that you may not be real happy
with in the long run. But it’s always easier to be far from
any responsibility and condemn those who try to deal with it at the time and so you just do the best you can. But never lose sight of
what you stand for either. And that’s very easily done
in the urgency of some things. That’s the best answer I can give you. Ladies and gentlemen I enjoyed
every question here today. Thank you very much and [inaudible].

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