Cris-Ish in Syri-Eh - Steve Coll

  • Aired:  09/04/13
  •  | Views: 24,671

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Steve Coll details President Obama's "limited military action" plan for Syria. (4:44)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BOTTOM LINE, WILL BARACK OBAMA

STACK UP AND START SPELLING THIS

WAR RIGHT?

ONLY TIME WILL TELL AND SO WILL

MY GUEST.

PLEASE WELCOME PULITZER PRIZE

WINNING WRITER FOR THE "NEW

YORKER" AND DEAN OF THE COLUMBIA

SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM STEVE COLL,

STEVE THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR

JOINING US.

GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

STEVE, YOU GOTTEN A ARTICLE IN

THE NEW NEW YORKER HERE CALLED

"CROSSING THE LINE" RIGHT?

STEVE, HELP ME OUT WITH

SOMETHING HERE.

I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SAY THIS BUT

I'M NOT SURE IF I WANT AMERICA

TO GET INTO ANOTHER WAR WITH THE

MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRY WITH NO

CLEAR OBJECTIVE.

AND I KNOW THAT SOUNDS UGLY TO

SAY.

WHY DON'T I WANT TO FOLLOW

BARACK OBAMA INTO BATTLE.

WHERE DO YOU THINK HE'S SCREWING

THE POOCH?

>> WELL, THE WEIGHT OF THE LAST

TWO WARS THAT HE INHERITED, THE

4,500 DEAD IN IRAQ FOR A WAR

FOUGHT IN THE NAME OF WEAPONS OF

MASS DESTRUCTION THAT DIDN'T

EXIST.

>> Stephen: WHY DIDN'T HE BOMB

THEM AND SAY "HEY, I JUST SAVED

A BUNCH OF KIDS IN SYRIA, YOU

PEOPLE CAN HAVE YOUR ACADEMIC

DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHETHER I

SHOULD HAVE DONE IT"?

>> THE PROBLEM IS HE'S FIGHTING

ABOUT A WAR WITH A GLOBAL IDEA.

>> Stephen: IF IT'S A SERIOUS

MATTER, WHY ISN'T THE PRESIDENT

PUSHING IT HARDER?

>> I THINK HE IS CAUTIONED BY

AMERICANS' EXPERIENCE IN THE

LAST TWO WARS, HE RECOGNIZES

THAT HE'S GOING TO WAR WITHOUT A

CLEAR OBJECTIVE, A VICTORY, IS A

HARD DECISION TO TAKE.

>> Stephen: WELL, LET'S TALK

ABOUT THE OBJECTIVE OF THE WAR,

WHAT WILL THE OBJECTIVE OF THE

WAR BE?

(LAUGHTER)

>> IT IS AN UNUSUAL PROPOSITION

TO FIGHT A WAR TO PREVENT A

CERTAIN WEAPON FROM BEING USED.

>> Stephen: BECAUSE THEY ASKED

KERRY IN CONGRESS AND THEY SAID

ARE WE GOING TO FIGHT THIS TO

WIN IT AND HE GOES "NO, WE DON'T

WANT TO WIN."

>> THE PRESIDENT'S POSITION IS

HE DOESN'T WANT TO OVERTHROW THE

ASSAD REGIME.

>> Stephen: WHY NOT KNOCK HIM

OUT AND GET THOSE REBELS IN

THERE?

DON'T WE STAND WITH THE REBELS?

>> WE DO STAND WITH THE REBELS.

WE ARE SUPPLYING THEM ARMS,

APPARENTLY, ACCORDING TO THE

WHITE HOUSE, AND WE DO SUPPORT A

POLITICAL SETTLEMENT THAT WOULD

INCLUDE ASSAD'S DEPARTURE FROM

POWER.

BUT WE HAVE NOT BEEN WILLING TO

SAY WE'RE ALL IN, BOOTS ON THE

GROUND, WHATEVER IT TAKES TO

FORCE ASSAD FROM POWER BECAUSE

THAT WOULD BE POTENTIALLY A

LONG, COSTLY, AND DESTABLE

AOEUING WAR.

I SIX THIS A MESSAGE TO IRAN?

BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE SAYING

STRIKING SYRIA IS ACTUALLY A

MESSAGE TO IRAN.

>> I'VE HEARD THE WHITE HOUSE

MAKE THAT ARGUMENT BUT, YOU

KNOW, IRAN IS A COMPLETELY

DIFFERENT CASE IN ITS NUCLEAR

AMBITIONS.

I DON'T THINK A DIRECT PARALLEL

BETWEEN THE WAR IN SYRIA AND THE

WAR IN IRAN --

>> Stephen: DOES IT SEND A

MESSAGE TO ANYBODY?

>> IT SENDS A MESSAGE TO ASSAD,

DO YOU WANT TO USE CHEMICAL

WEAPONS AGAIN AND RISK THIS KIND

OF AERIAL AND OTHER MISSILE

RETALIATION THAT WILL DEGRADE

YOUR AIR FORCE, WIPE OUT YOUR

ARTILLERY, DECAPITATE YOUR

INTELLIGENCE LEADERS AND

WHATEVER THE OTHER OBJECTIVES OF

THE WAR PLAN.

>> Stephen: BUT NOT KILL

ASSAD, RIGHT?

>> APPARENTLY NOT KILL ASSAD.

>> Stephen: AND NOT TAKE HIM

OUT OF POWER?

>> IT IS THE EXPLICIT STATEMENT

OF THE PRESIDENT THAT HE'S NOT

TRYING TO WIN THE CIVIL WAR

THROUGH AIR POWER.

BUT THAT HE IS TRYING TO MAKE

SURE THAT CHEMICAL WEAPONS ARE

NOT USED AGAIN AGAINST THE

SYRIAN PEOPLE FOR THE PURPOSE --

>> Stephen: WHAT IF HE JUST

USES THEM AGAIN?

>> I THINK THAT'S A REASONABLE

QUESTION.

>> Stephen: WELL, THANK YOU,

I'M A REASONABLE MAN.

(LAUGHTER)

WHAT IF HE SAYS "HEY, YOU

KNOCKED OUT PEOPLE, I'M NOT

DEAD, I'VE PROVEN I DON'T CARE

ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE BY USING

CHEMICAL WEAPONS, I'LL USE THEM

AGAIN.

NANNY NANNY BOO-BOO."

YOU'LL PARDON MY ARABIC.

(LAUGHTER)

>> A PROBLEM WITH DEFINING A WAR

AROUND SOMETHING AS NARROW AS

CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE IS THAT IT

DOES GIVE ASSAD THE SPACE TO

DECIDE THAT HE WANTS TO USE THEM

AGAIN TO DRAW THE INTERNATIONAL

COMMUNITY BACK IN.

>> Stephen: OBAMA SAYS NO

BOOTS ON THE GROUND COULD THAT

BE SEMANTICS?

COULD THERE WILL BE CROCS ON THE

GROUND OR OPEN-TOED SANDALS ON

THE GROUND?

BECAUSE HE'S ASKED FOR 90 DAYS.

WILL IT BE CALLED A WAR?

>> I'M NOT SURE THAT IT'S A WAR

UNDER THE DEFINITION OF THE

CONSTITUTION OR THE LAW BUT WE

WILL CALL IT SOME KIND OF

MILITARY ACTION, LIMITED

MILITARY ACTION.

>> Stephen: OH, WELL, THEN

WE'LL BE FINE.

WE'LL BE FINE.

STEVE, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR

JOINING ME.

(APPLAUSE)

, THE DEAN OF THE COLUMBIA

SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM AND FROM

THE "NEW YORKER,"