General George W. Casey, Jr.: Weathering an era of persistent conflict

March 14, 2016 1:19:00
Kaltura Video

General George W. Casey, Jr. talks about how the rise of non-state actors with global reach, like al Qaida and ISIS, has significantly complicated an already difficult international security environment. March, 2016.


>> Susan M. Collins: I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the

Gerald R. Ford's School of Public Policy, and I'm really delighted to see all of you

here with us this afternoon. I'd like to welcome you to what is our final policy talks

of the 2016 academic year. We're ending on a really high note, which we're very

pleased about. Today's event is part of the Ford School's annual Citi Foundation

Lecture Series. This is a series as many of you know enables the Ford's School to

bring some of the world's most prominent policy leaders to -- and thinkers here to

campus. And so it really is my great honor today to welcome all of you here to hear

from one of the nation's most distinguished military leaders, General George Casey,

Jr. We're delighted to have you with us. General Casey will share his experience and

insight on how the rise of nonstate actors with global reach like al-Qaeda and ISIS

has really significantly complicated an already very complex international security

environment. General Casey served as the 36th Chief of State for the U.S. Army and in

this capacity, he was the most senior uniformed officer in the Army serving on the

Joint Chiefs of Staff and advising the National Security Council, the Secretary of

Defense and the President of the United States. From 2004 to 2007, he commanded a

coalition of over 30 countries, peace and security forces in Iraq living in a combat

zone, leading forces through Iraq's transition to a soverign government, three

elections and the growth of the Iraqi Army and police. General Casey has had a global

perspective his entire life. He was born in Sendai during the allied occupation of

Japan. He graduated from Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service, and he earned

his Masters in international relations from what is now the Josef Korbel School of

International Studies at the University of Denver. Over 41 years of military service,

his assignments have taken him to Europe, the Middle East and southwest Asia. He

currently serves as the national security -- on the National Security Advisory Council

of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and he also teaches courses on civil military

relations in war at the Korbel School. One of General Casey's major legacies have been

improving the Army's long term support for wounded soldiers and their families as well

as for survivors of the fallen. He created the Army Survivor Outreach Services. He

pledged resources to improving soldier's psychological health and recovery from the

emotional traumas of war. He pushed the military to reduce the stigma associated with

combat stress, implemented alcohol treatment and suicide prevention programs at Army

installations around the country. At his retirement ceremony in 2011, Secretary of

Defense Robert Gates said that General Casey has served as a stalwart advocate and

guide for thousands of brave young men and women and their loved ones, and he was

awarded a Defense distinguished medal of service. Following General Casey's remarks,

we'll open to questions from the audience. Starting around 4:30 p.m., we'll have staff

who will start collecting the question cards. Professor Joy Rohde, together with

Ford's School students, Brian Garcia and Sonja Swanbeck, will facilitate the question

and answer question. And if you're watching us virtually, please tweet your questions

to us using the hashtag policy talks. And now it is truly a great honor for me to

welcome to the podium, General Casey.

[ Applause ]

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Good afternoon. I'm going to stand out here a little

bit. I'm too short to stand behind the podium. I heard what I gathered that Michigan

time was ten minutes late. I kind of came at it the other direction because I used to

work for Vince Lombardi one year when I was in college when he coached the Redskins,

and Lombardi time was 15 minutes early. And boy was that a shock when he implemented

that. It's great to be with you this afternoon. One of the things people always ask me

is what was it like transitioning from running an organization of a million people

spread all around the world and with a staff of hundreds at your beck and call taking

care of your every need to retire from the military and go to really being an army of

one? My IPhone and me. And I tell you, I wrestled with that for a long time and to

describe to people what the challenge and what that transition was. And then one day

right before Christmas last year, I was doing a crossword puzzle as I do every

morning. And I'm going along, and the clue was Army head seven letters. Easy. General.

Boom. Move on. So I go on, and you know how when you're doing a crossword puzzle you

start to realize that something's not quite working? And I kept going back to this

one, and I realized that's not it. And then I finally realized that the clue wasn't

Army head. It was Army head, and the answer was latrine. So from general to latrine is

a pretty good way of describing what that transition was like. What I'd like to do for

about 30 minutes this afternoon is to give you a soldier's view of the international

security environment. And it's a view that's been framed over 41 years from the waning

days of Vietnam to the early days of the Arab Spring. Now, it's a view that's been

shaped by transforming a very good 20th century Army that was designed to prevail in

combat over other states' armies to an Army that was able to deal with the very

different security challenges of the 21st century. I'll make three points with you

today. And the first point being that the threat has changed and changed

significantly, and we all -- no surprise to you -- we live in a far more difficult and

complex world than we did certainly when I came in the Army in 1970. Second, it may

not seem like it to you as you go about your daily lives, but this -- later this year

in September, the country will have been at war for 15 years. And I believe we've yet

to appreciate as a society the fact that we're involved in a long term ideological

struggle against Islamist extremism. And the duration of that struggle is going to be

more akin to that of the Cold War than it is of like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And then the third point I'll make with you is that the trends as I see them in the

international environment seem to me to be more likely to ameliorate that long term

struggle -- I'm sorry, to exacerbate that long term struggle rather then ameliorate

them. And then I'll finish up with a couple of thoughts about what we as a country can

do and should do to be successful in that environment. All right? All in favor? All

right. Here we go. The threat. So for centuries if you could control the conduct of

states, you had some modicum of a chance of maintaining global order, and we didn't do

too well in that during the 19th -- I'm sorry, the 20th century where we wound up

destroying Europe twice. However, today, we're faced with what I think is a

significantly more complex challenge. And that's nonstate actor. And if you think back

to September 11, you have a nonstate actor, al-Qaeda, was able to inflict significant

damage -- I would say catastrophic damage -- on a country, on a state, us. I mean,

think about it. 19 terrorists in an hour and 17 minutes killed 2000 -- murdered 2977

people from 90 different countries. Inflicted about $40 billion of economic damage on

New York. And when the stocket market opened six days later, it lost $1.4 trillion in

value in the first week. That's -- to me is catastrophic damage. And that's the

challenge that we need to be prepared to deal with. So in the future, not only are we

going to have to deal with states behaving badly as we have for centuries, but we're

going to have to deal with nonstate actors with global reach who have access to the

instruments of catastrophic destruction that up until fairly recently have been the

exclusive [inaudible] of states. And I think that's a challenge. Now, let me just take

a quick walk around the world here and to talk about states and nonstate actors and to

give you a broad sense of what I'm talking about. Start with Europe. It's been about

six years since Russia invaded Georgia and recognized southwest Asia and [inaudible].

A couple of weeks ago, it was two years since Russia annexed the [inaudible]. It's 18

months since they occupied eastern Ukraine, and it's six months since they went into

Syria to help the Assad regime fight their civil war. That's a resurgent Russia that

presents significant challenges to the global environment. The Middle East. I think

that's foremost on everybody's mind. The Middle East is becoming unglued from Pakistan

to Morococco. And if you think about the Syrian civil war, it's in it's fifth year.

250,000 people or more likely have been killed. And 11 million people have fled Syria,

destabilized the region and destabilizing Europe. I don't know. Some of you probably

will remember the pictures of Hungary where they're loading the migrants onto trains.

The image that that brought back to me of the Holocaust was just -- was frightening.

But they're able -- nonstate actors now are able to destabilize signficantly. The far

east. China has continued to work and to expand it's military. They're expanding their

defense budget by about 12 percent a year. North Korea claims to have tested a

hydrogen bomb, and they lost a satellite recently that looks to be able to -- or at

least to have the propulsion capability eventually to prepare a rocket that would hit

the United States. They continue to lob missiles into the sea of Japan. They're a

significant challenge. And then Pakistan, a nuclear power has significant internal

stability problems. And finally, Afghanistan continues to struggle with the resurgent

problem -- with the resurging Taliban. ISIL. If you told me while I was still in Iraq

that we would wake up one morning and find that a terrorist organization has occupied

an area the size of Jordan in eastern Syria and western Iraq, I would have said that's

just not possible. But they did that about 18 months ago. And they continue to hold

that territory and that ground. And as they do that, they continue to export terror

around the world. Recall back into late October, early November of 2015, where in a

period of 20 days ISIL murdered 400 people in four countries, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and

France. That may not be an existential threat, but it is a significant threat to the

developed world. And they continue to push an exploit vacuums, and they've established

a signifcant presence in Sirte, Lybia, which is only a few hundred miles from Europe.

And that's a more significant problem for them. And lastly, they continue to use the

internet to radicalize people all over the world. There's a recent book by Peter

Bergen who is an American journalist. It's called The United States of Jihad. And he

looks at the ability of ISIL to mobilize and radicalize folks, to inspire folks to go

out and commit crimes in other countries without having to train them or pay them.

Just in the United States, over 300 people have been indicted or convicted of

terrorism or support the terrorists since September 11. And they're going to continue

to reach out and touch us and generate terrorist attacks over the course of the next

several decades. Now, that might seem pretty depressing to everybody, and it is but

it's not all bad. And as I look back over the 40 years, probably the most significant

thing I see is the existential threat from nuclear weapons that I grew up with and I

see a lot of folks in the audience with hair my color who will remember the duck and

cover exercises that we did in grade school to protect ourselves when a nuclear attack

came. Significantly if not infinitesimally reduced. The other thing I'd say is the

likelihood of large scale conventional war between states is also very remote, any

place other then really the Korean peninsula. And Kim Jong Un, as I said, is a wild

card. He maintains a large Army and armed forces at the ready, and that is not -- that

could possibly happen. The other thing -- even if people are concerned with the

resurgent Russia in Europe, even if Russia was to attack Europe today, they would do

so at a very significantly reduced capability. I did some math, and I went back, and I

looked at the number of motorized rifle and armored divisions that the Warsaw Pact had

at the height of the Cold War. It was about 225. And those forces would be at the

spearhead of the vanguard if there was an attack. Today, Russia can fill 22 divisions.

One tenth of that capability. So even if there was a state on state conflict in

Europe, it would be significantly -- at a significantly reduced scale than we've seen

in the past. And then the last little bit of good news, and this might seem

counterintuitive to you, is that war-related deaths in the first decade of the 21st

century are the lowest of any decade for the past 100 years. They are about 1/3 of

what they were during the Cold War, about 1/2 of what they were in the 90's, and

they're about 1/100 of what they were during World War II, and that seems hard to

reconcile with all the images you see on television all the time. But it's a reality.

Unfortunately, the deaths from the Syrian civil war are likely to drive that up again,

and it'll be higher this year. So my point that I'm trying to stress here is that

nonstate actors, global reach, access to instruments of catastrophic discussion --

destruction. And I'm sure you've heard the term weapons of mass description, W-M-D.

And by that I mean nuclear, chemical, biological, radiological or I'd include cyber in

that group because I believe there is a potential for a significant cyber attack. And

it's these weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist organizations that I

personally believe is the greatest long term threat to us as a country. And that's

something that we [inaudible] and we need to deal with. And I must admit to you I've

been saying since 2007 that I expected a developed country to be attacked by a

terrorist group with a weapon of mass destruction in the next five years. Now, I'm

more than pleased to report that I've been wrong for nine years, but it's coming. It's

only a matter of time. I was reading an article the other day that says there's 1300

metric tons of heavy enriched uranium in the world today. Three times in the last 15

years authorities have confiscated bits of that from different people around the

world, Bulbaria, Moldova and France. The stuff is out there, and it's only a matter of

time when it falls into the wrong hands. So very different world, very different

threat that we have to deal with today and the threats from state actors have not

entirely gone away. Second point. We're involved in long term ideological struggle

against global extremism. And when I say long term, I mean maybe I can put it in

perspective for you a little bit. Last September was the 70th anniversary of the end

of World War II. The previous November was the 25th anniversary of the wall coming

down. The Cold War, our last ideological struggle this one against communism, was 45

years. Next September will be 15 years since September 11. We're closer to the

beginning of what we're dealing with here then we are to the end. And we need to come

to grips with that. The second very interesting thing to me is this is not a struggle

like the Cold War that we can win by ourselves. It's a struggle that can only be won

within Islam. And we see that struggle starting to take place between modern and

extremist Islam, but by virtue of the fact it is an ideological struggle, it's going

to take a long time to resolve. I believe it's only going to be complicated by the

Sunni Shia struggles, but I do believe that this struggle with extremism is going to

be the defining security struggle of the rest of my lifetime and probably for most of

the lifetime of some of the younger folks that are out here. And then the third point

I'd leave with you is the trends that I see out there again are more likely to

exacerbate what's going on right now then to ameliorate it. And let me just run

through a couple of the trends. First, domestically. The fact that we're entering this

difficult period with burgeoning deficits, a war weary U.S. population and the

military that's been stretched and exposed over the last 14 years only makes our jobs

harder. And I think fiscal pressures -- the fact that we're actually doing high fives

because the deficit last year was lower than it has been in many many years. It

finally moved below 500 billion. But our debt is still $18 trillion and as you get

ready next month to fill out your taxes and mail them in, know that you're part of

that $18 trillion in debt is about 158,000 per person. That's going to create

pressures for sequestration-like tools that are going to complicate what our military

is doing. We have to be very careful with that. Second significant trend is the

internet. The UN telecom organizations estimate that about three billion people online

today. That's about six times as many people who were online on September 11. Three

billion people, about 40 percent of the world's population are online today. The

really scary thing to me is there's 60 percent of the world's population that aren't

online. What's going to happen as they come online? There's about seven billion cell

phone subscribers in the world today. That's more cell phone subscribers than there

are people. And when you combine who's online with the cell phones, what you have is a

global population that has access to information 24/7. And that accesso to information

has created a global awakening and expectations as people look across the internet and

see what other people have. And what they see doesn't make them happy. What they see

is that there's a significant disparity in the distribution of wealth around the

world. 20 percent of the world's population controls 75 percent of the world's wealth.

And at the same time, you have three billion people subsisting on less than $2.50 a

day. That's a challenge and a significant problem for folks. Social media binding us

closer and closer together. Facebook just turned 12. They've got 1.5 billion users. 75

percent of them are outside the United States. And in honor of his birthday, Mark

Zuckerberg said that he expected to be reaching five billion people by 2035. And he's

going to do this using UAV's to bring the internet to remote places. Five billion

people. Twitter. They'll be -- they'll turn ten in July. They've got about a billion

users. Those people -- those users send half a billion tweets a day. 75 percent of

them are outside the United States. This presents significant problems and challenges.

A third -- another trend -- demographics. What we've seen especially in the developing

world a rapid growth in populations that's created a youth bulge, and you have

situations like 60 percent of the population of the Middle East is under 25. And there

are lots of academic studies out there that say when you have large populations of

unemployed disaffected males it's a breeding ground for instability and especially in

the Middle East. The other challenge -- the other part of that demographic surge is it

presents huge problems for these -- for governments to feed them, to educate them, to

care for them and to employ them. And I was on a group that went to Egypt in 2014 --

2012 -- to meet with people from across the political spectrum in the aftermath of the

Arab Spring. And it was clear to us, the whole delegation when we finished our trip

there was there was no way any Egyptian government was going to meet the expectations

for prosperity of the people. There was no way that was going to happen on the

timelines that the people expected. So without an increase in prosperity, we're going

to face an increase in instability. So, as I look back across that -- what does that

tell you? We're involved in a long term ideological struggle, threats have become far

more complicated and the trends especially in the Middle East are more likely to

exacerbate what's going on today. So as I look out there, what I see is an environment

where the implements of catastrophic destruction are no longer the exclusive purview

of states, and we have nonstate actors that have access to those capabilities and have

global reach. And that does not make me feel good, and it makes me believe that we are

therefore in for several decades of what I call persistent conflict. A protracted

confrontation among states, nonstates and individual actors who are increasing to use

violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives. I think that's

where we are, and I think that's what we should expect to see going forward here. Now,

what in the heck do we do about that? I'd say three things. One, we have to stay

engaged. We, the United States of America, have to stay engaged. We always seem to

take the long -- the wrong lessons from the last war. The lessons that we -- the

lesson that we should take from Iraq is not no boots on the ground. Somewhere between

occupying another country and no boots on the ground is the right answer. But we the

United States must be engaged, but we need to do that understanding that we're not the

global cop. We can't be the global cop. We can't even be the global hall monitor. But

we can pull together groups of people to act and act productively together. The other

thing we need to do -- and this is a lesson I think from Iraq and Afghanistan is we

need to understand the limits of our own power. Particularly, our military power.

There are problems like Iraq and Afghanistan that the military just can't resolve. So

the military is not necessarily the tool of choice. It's part of a U.S. solution where

all of the elements of national power are brought to bear. The last part of this is

that's going to take a lot of patience because the -- as I've suggested to you here,

the causes, the long term causes of some of the instability that we're seeing are

going to take a long time to resolve. Economic prosperity, I believe, is ultimately

the key. Second. We need to lead, but we need to lead collaboratively. Some of you

will recall the expression lead from behind. The president started talking about that,

and everybody kind of got -- it just didn't feel American. And what people didn't

realize is it's a term that we developed and used in Iraq as we were trying to get our

soldiers to work with the Iraqis. And the idea was get them to do what you want them

to do without telling them to do it. We, the United States of America, are the

indispensible catalysts. We bring unmatched economic military and moral power to bear.

And we can create coalitions much as you see the president doing now to deal with a

lot of these challenges. Now, some people will get inpatient with coalitions, but as I

think this quote is attributed to Napoleon, the only thing worst going to war with a

coalition is going to war without one. We have to take the time to form these

coalitions and to lead collaboratively and to help other people solve their problems

and not solve their problems for them. And lastly, the problems are so complex tg

here's not one root cause that we need to employ multifaceted integrated approaches,

and this might seem strange coming from a military guy, but it's the 3 D's. Defense

for sure, but diplomacy and development. People -- if I asked you to day how much the

United States of America spends on foreign aid, we'd probably get a lot of different

answers. But it's less than one percent of our budget. One percent. As I suggested

earlier, economic development and prosperity are a key element in dealing with some of

the instability that we have across the world today. I'm not saying if you're poor

you're a terrorist. I'm saying it can be a contributing factor. But we need to employ

all of those assets. I do some work as Susan suggested for the U.S. Global Leadership

Coalition. And one of the things that I -- one of the statistics that they throw

around is that ten of our top 15 trading partners were once aid recipients. And some

of them are now net donors. So in addition to reducing instability, it creates

opportunities for U.S. business. So we could probably do a heck of a lot better than

$15 billion a year to economic development abroad, particularly in some of these

developing countries that are threatened with significant instability. FDR long, long

time ago was wise enough to see, and he said, "America's well being depends upon the

well being of nations far away." And I think that's something we can all -- we should

all remember especially today. Now, I got a couple of minutes left. Let me just say a

few words about the men and women who have served this country so well, especially

since September 11. As I said, we've been at war for almost 15 years. If you would

have asked me in the days and weeks after September 11 if it would be over a decade

before we would have been attacked at home again, I would have said, "You're crazy,"

because we knew so little about what had hit us and what our enemy was. That stability

and security at home came at a cost. Almost 7,000 men and women have given their

lives. They've left over 25,000 surviving family members. Over 50,000 have been

wounded. Some 10,000 of them seriously enough to require long term care. Another over

400,000 have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, the

signature injuries of this war. 2.5 million men and women have served during that

period. 1.9 million have left the service. 150,000 of them are unemployed. We can do

better than that as a country, and I would tell you that we cannot and should not

expect the government to do everything themselves. I worked for the government for 41

years. It is a huge inefficient bureaucracy, and it will never be able to deal with

the individual challenges facing our veterans and their families as private efforts

can do. And I met with some folks this afternoon that are a great example of that

private effort, M-SPAN. They're doing some work with peer training and ways of

improving mental health for our veterans. Those are the kinds of projects that make a

huge difference. There's over 400,000 organizations around the United States that

support veterans. The vast majority are small things that take soldiers hunting, take

soldiers skiing, things like that. But they all make a huge difference because they

send the signal to the men and women of our all volunteer force that America cares.

And that's hugely important if we're to sustain this high quality volunteer force for

the decades to come when we'll need them. So with that, thank you very much for your

attention, and I'm happy to take questions about anything you'd like to talk about.

[ Applause ]

>> Brian Garcia: Good afternoon, sir. My name is Brian Garcia. I'm a former Army

captain and Afghan war veteran. These days, I'm a dual MBA and Masters of Public

Policy student here at Ford School and at the Ross School of Business next door.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: So you'll know how to run a policy consulting firm?

>> Brian Garcia: One day, sir. One day. Before we get into questions, I just want to

thank you -- one for your service as one veteran to another and thank you for donating

your time today to come on and speak with us.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Thank you for yours.

>> Brian Garcia: So our first question. I'm a simple businessman and taxpayer. Please

explain after out spending our nearest competitors by nearly 14:1 and the next eight

competitors combined for the last 20 years how the U.S. military can still be

unprepared in the eyes of the majority of major party presidential candidates.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Well, I certainly cannot speak for major party

presidential candidates. I will tell you. First of all, it is true. We -- the United

States of America -- out spends our next eight -- the next eight countries in defense

combined. I mean, a half trillion dollars a year goes to defense. I saw some data the

other day that says that's significantly -- proportionately, it's significantly higher

than it was during in the middle of the Cold War. Could we run the Department of

Defense more efficiently? You bet. Absolutely, we could. I wrestled with this as the

Army Chief of Staff, and it absolutely drove me crazy. But there is absolutely no

incentive in the government to be efficient. The big fight within the government is to

get the resources, and so it's not just in the Department of Defense. It's every

agency of the government. You go in and you fight the other silos in your department

for a share of the budget. And I -- one of the companies whose board I'm on is

actually a reverse auction company that over the years has saved the government about

$200 million by basically conducting a reverse option. So if you want 100,000 rolls of

toilet paper, your name goes out on the site, and the bidders compete against each

other to get the lowest price to get the bid. You can't get people to use it because

they're more concerned with spending the money then they are with using it

efficiently. And that as a taxpayer, that bothers me. It bothered me as the Army Chief

of Staff as we tried to work ourselves to get more efficient in doing that. Now, that

said, it's a blunt force instrument. And we're fighting a war. We have soldiers all

over the world, some in combat. You have to be careful how you do this. I alluded to

that early in my remarks when I talked about the financial pressures can cause

friction with the military that are doing this. Sequestration. In 2013, Congress --

basically the government closed. No one outside the beltway noticed for a couple of

weeks. It came back in. And what sequestration required the military to do was to cut

programs arbitrarily by ten percent across the government. Well, when you have

arbitrary cuts, you never know the outcomes of those things until years later. So we

did some things -- I know we did some things to ourselves back then that are going to

cause us problems down the road. We can't do things like that. And there's got to be

constant pressure from Congress for the military to be more efficient. And that'll

just -- that'll take time. We have to work ourselves down, but I fully appreciate your

concerns. But we're at war, and we need to be very careful how we get more efficient

and how fast we get more efficient.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: Good evening. My name is Sonja Swanbeck. I'm a second year MPB here

studying international security here and emerging technologies. And I want to also

thank you for coming and talking tonight. Definitely have a lot of really interesting

perspectives on a lot of these issues. The first question I have for you is how do we

retain the focus and presence that the international threat environment requires of us

given the war weary national mood and our constrained budgets?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Yeah. I mean, that's really hard. And it's especially

hard because the threat of the nonstate actors, it's not existential. I mean, the

president says that, and people criticize him for it. But it's true. I mean, they're

not going to wipe us off the face of the earth. But they can radicalize people that

can strike us any place in the country. That's scary, but it's not existential. And so

keeping -- and it's a great question. How do you keep people focused on that? I think

one of the things you do is you acknowledge upfront, hey, this is a long term

struggle. We're going to be at this for a long time. It's not we're going to be out of

Afghanistan by Christmas or we're out of Iraq by Christmas. This is a long term

proposition. I think that's a start. The other part of it -- you can't go around

scaring people. I spoke up at Cornell a month ago. And I had a group of

undergraduates. It was about 30 of them. And I said -- I asked them the question -- I

said, "What do you -- do you think about the threat of terrorism every day?" And they

said no, they don't. I said, "That's probably good." So we need to pay attention, but

at the same time we can't be wringing our hands every day, and we have to get on with

it. It's one of the things the terrorists want is for us to collapse and change our

way life, and we can't allow that to happen. So that's about as clear as I can get as

an answer to that question. It's a challenge.

>> Brian Garcia: Sir, what is your opinion on the impact of individuals acting like

Edward Snowden and Julian Assange? Are they hurting security? If so, how? If not, why


>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: So I was invited to a program called Summit at Sea.

And I was told what I should expect was an Aspen Institute for millennials, which it

was. And so we went on this cruise and the first night they had Edward Snowden piped

in from Russia. And he was on a huge screen. The screen was probably bigger than this

whole area here. And he was in a black turtle neck against a black background with the

lights shining on his face. So it looked like the Wizard of Oz. And what I saw was

that he's had two years to get a pretty good spiel together and to come across as a

thoughtful patriot. And I must say, his comments resonated with a lot of folks there

in the audience who believe the government is spying on everybody. I didn't feel the

same way. The fact that he gave away that amount of classified information is a crime,

and I think at some point he needs to return and be prosecuted for that crime. What I

feel badly about is it took him to cause us to have the debate about security versus

individual liberties that we should have been having a decade before because what

happened after September 11? The pendulum swung way over here. That can never happen

again. But the further we get away from September 11, the pendulum goes back this way.

But as soon as there's another terrorist attack, significant terrorist attack, it goes

back that way. It's our country coming to grips with the new reality and a new


>> Sonja Swanbeck: So actually following up from that question, this one is another

one about domestic surveillance. It's in the face of threats from lone wolf nonstate

actors, what do you personally believe is the proper balance between domestic

surveillance, privacy and free speech?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: I mean, this is, as I said, huge tension here right

now. And we need to have the debate as a country. The question kind of came up at

lunch with the students. And a lot of it is personal. If you're really afraid and you

want to feel secure, you lean more towards security having a priority. But if you are

-- feel fairly secure, and you don't want anybody infringing on the liberties that the

men and women of armed forces have fought for 200 plus years to retain for us? Then

you feel differently, and it's almost personal. But it's a debate that we need to have

at the right levels in the country. And I'm sure it will be legislated, and it will be

litigated in the courts. But it's a hugely important debate for us to have because I

believe the worst thing we can do is to revert to security ahead of the values and

ideals that the country stands for. That would be the real crime and frankly that

would give a nod to the terrorist. I don't think we can -- we should be pushed in that


>> Brian Garcia: Sir, switching gears a little bit. In 2010, Sunni Arabs participated

in Iraqi national elections and one by two MP seats. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

promptly issued arrest warrants for two of the candidates the Sunnis voted into

office, thereby ensuring his own pro-Iranian Shia party retain power. Sunnis

predictably became disillusioned with the political process and reverted to violence.

How important do you think this event from 2010 is to the rise of ISIS and Sunni Iraq?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: I think it was hugely important. If you watched the

elections in Iraq, over time multisectarian parties got an increasing share of the

vote until 2010 where they actually got a majority. And the fact that they were not

able to form a government -- it's just like you're so close. You're just about there.

Everything we've been fighting for there since 2003 and then you see it go away

because the Iraqis couldn't come to grips with what was going on. My sense is having

participated in three -- two elections and a constitutional referendum during the time

I was in Iraq, and the Sunnis boycotted the first election, and as a result of the

boycott, they didn't have enough people to be represented in the drafting of the

constitution so guess what? They didn't like the outcome of the constitution. And they

voted primarily against it. That was kind of the first step in the unraveling of

things in Iraq because the document that we hoped to be the national compact that

would bind the country together became a divisive element. The Sunnis came out with

pressure from -- some help and pressure from us in the end of 2000, in December, 2005

elections and voted. But they were disappointed with what came after that with Maliki.

And so I can -- I wasn't there after that, but I can see it happening. They all worked

together, worked very hard to come in and on those 2010 elections and get a

multisectarian party in place, and when they -- that government couldn't be formed,

the government that everybody had worked so hard to get elected, that was probably the

last nail in the coffin for the Sunni. Now, they're not innocent in this thing to

begin with, but I think that they said the heck with this.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: Another question on Iraq, of the 30 plus countries in the

multinational force, you were commander of for over 2.5 years, which were most

supportive of our efforts and whop -- and who could have ben more helpful in Iraq?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Well, the Brits, the Aussies, interestingly enough

the Baltic countries. Small contigents but very supportive. The vast majority of the

countries had very significant limits on their rules of engagement. And that was a

challenge. And really it was the United States forces and the Brits down in the south,

the Brits and Australians down in the south that did most of the heavy lifting there.

In 2004, there was a nationwide uprising right after I got there in August of 2004.

And as we looked across -- I lost my train of thought on this one. I'll go back to it.

Hit me the question one more time.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: Oh, sorry. So, who was most supportive of our efforts?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So the Pols, the

insurrection had gone to the province in the south, and they had surrounded the

governor's house. And they called and said, "We need the help from the multinational

force to get the governor out of there." So I called the Polish commander, and I said,

"Hey, you need to go get the governor out." He said, "I'm sorry. My rules are I can't

leave the barracks." I said, "What?" I'd been there about 30 days. I said, "You're

kidding, right?" He couldn't do it. I had to bring an American unit down from Mosul to

get the governor out. That was not helpful. But all those restrictions are put on them

by their governments. It's not a military thing. It's the governments that put those

restrictions on there.

>> Brian Garcia: Today the news reports [inaudible] withdrawing military forces from

Syria. For about two weeks, there's been a ceasfire. There will be some transgressions

but apparently still holding. What do you think would be a realistic way towards

achieving stability in Syria?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Well, I think the first point is Russia's got to be

part of the solution and not part of the problem. And this ceasefire and the work

that's been done together is a step in that direction. Interestingly for me, as I look

at Putin's suggestion that you've got to get the Assad regime to stabilize the

country. That's not all bad. And what I worry about is you take out the Assad regime,

and then you have a sectarian blood bath there, the likes of which would make what

happened in Iraq seem calm and tame. And so there is something to that. But there's a

lot of things that have to come together for that to happen. As I looked at this, and

I look at what's going on, what I worry about is I think the strategy of building a

coalition and working with the Russians to stabilize the country is the right way to

go. But what I worry about is it's going to take too long to unfold and to implement,

and I worry that a major terrorist attack will emanate out of the area controlled by

ISIS against the developed country.

[ Inaudible ]

>> Withdrawing totally. I didn't hear that.

[ Inaudible ]

>> Again, I haven't seen the reports, but it would tell me that he thinks that what

he's done there has had some effect in accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish.

Otherwise, he wouldn't be pulling back. I told the students today there's not many

things in international relations that you can say will always happen. But the one

thing that I have found that always happens is nations will act always in their own

interest or what they think is in their interest. And whatever Russia's doing, I'm

sure is in their interest.

[ Inaudible ]

>> Sonja Swanbeck: So turning to Iran, would improving relationships with Iran assist

to stabilize the region and if so, how?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: I think over the long haul, yes. I mean, Iran is a

significant regional player, and the more that they can be brought in as a productive

player in the international community, I think the more stable that everybody will be.

But it's a big if about when and how long it'll take to do something like that. When I

got to the Pentagon, it was in 1997. I got to Pentagon in the policy business. Ever

since 1997, I've heard the Iranian people really have a democratic tendency and

they're going to over throw the regime and move it forward since 1997. And you saw

some hopeful results come out of the last election with some moderates being elected.

But that's a long way off. We'll see. The biggest problem I have with Iran is they're

a state's sponsor of terror. And they're using terror as an instrument of policy

throughout the Middle East. I don't see how we can -- we have to come to grips with

that. They have to stop at some point if they're going to re-enter the international

community. And until then, the more we can keep them on site I think the better off

we're going to be.

>> Brian Garcia: Sir, going off of that, what leverage does the U.S. have over China

and North Korea to deter or manage their military insurgence?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Their military --

>> Brian Garcia: Assertions.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Assertion. Well, I would not link China and North

Korea in the same boat. As I've talked about North Korea already, they're kind of in a

class by themselves. China, I personally don't view as a military competitor. I view

them as a competitor. I see what they're doing in the South China Sea as something

that they see is in their interest. I don't agree with it. It's something that we need

to keep constant pressure on them about. But I think it is very much in China's

interest to remain a productive player in the international community. They've got so

many economic ties. I don't know how they can take a chance at destabilizing that.

Now, what leverage do they have over North Korea? Probably not as much as we think

they do. And I visited China in 2009 and went up to [inaudible] province, was up in

[inaudible]. It's the closest province to North Korea. The generals up there didn't

talk to me like they had great leverage and influence over anybody in North Korea. I

think they can provide some level of pressure and support. But I think the most

difficult thing for me is what is in Kim Jong-un's head? What is he trying to

accomplish? And we try to think of it in our own minds as rational actors. I'm not

sure that applies. So, bottom line, I don't put China and North Korea in the same

boat. I think North Korea is a wild card as I said. I think China is a competitor but

not necessarily a foe.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: So in many states in which are currently seeking to fight nonstate

actors, there's much fragmentation and little stability. What military approach should

be used in fighting nonstate actors when all groups seem to be fighting each other?

When all groups seem to be fighting each other?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: That's basically what I had in Iraq in 2006. I had

the Sunni extremists. I had the insurgents who weren't radicalized but just were

insurgents, and then I had the Shia militias and I had the Shia extremists that were

militia groups that were going around and supported by Iran. And it was hugely

difficult for our folks to figure out one, who's who. I mean, the way you -- you

didn't really care whether you were a Shia extremist or a Sunni extremist. If you were

shooting at us, you were a problem. But it was a really, really complex environment.

And the two units -- the multinational division that was in Baghdad where most of the

sectarian violence was going on and the [inaudible] province which is just north of

Baghdad where there were significant sectarian violence -- it took a toll on the

troops and the leaders because they said, "We're over here to help them. We're over

here to help protect them, and they're killing each other." And our guys and gals just

couldn't comprehend that. And it was very difficult, and it took a real toll

particularly on those two units. So it's very hard and I guess the short answer is the

-- there's not a lot the military can do unless you put an awful lot of them in. And

just kind of freeze the situation, and I don't know if we want to do that.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: Thank you. So the next question. It seems this country has

continuously been weathering an Arab persistent conflict ever since World War II. So

this person has two parts to this question. One, can this country afford the same

pattern going forward? And two, what's caused this historic pattern since World War


>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: That's a great question. And I probably talk like --

this just happened since September 11, but as the question points out, it's been --

there's been a lot going on in the world since the end of World War II. Part of it was

the ideological struggle against communism. Now we have a different kind of

ideological struggle going on here. What caused it? I mean, I think you got competing

ideological theories. You have communism versus capitalism. World domination through

communism. Not going to happen. Got into Korea to stop the spread of communism. Got

into Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. It's interesting. My Dad fought in

Vietnam. And everyone has kind of discounted the idea that we succeeded in stopping

the spread of communism by what we did in Vietnam. But you talk to people in the

region, they say, "Hey, communism didn't get any further than the far east." And I'm

not trying to get into revisionist history here, but it's a reality. And now you have

this -- you have this different ideology in a different world. And for a lot of the

things I talked about. You've always had poverty, but you haven't always had a

situation where the poor people could see where everybody else had. And they could see

the disparities in the wealth. And so now more people are pissed off than before. And

now they're getting the capability to do something about it. It's a different

environment. So yeah, we've always had some level of volatility, uncertainty,

complexity and ambiguity. But that's the way I think the state structure works and now

we have a state structure that has nonstate actors with global reach, and it's just a

more complicated environment.

>> Brian Garcia: With recent reductions in troop levels, what do you believe is the

ideal force strength the U.S. should maintain at home, in Iraq and in Afghanistan and

how should the military ensure that they retain the best and brightest of our


>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Okay. Second first. We have an all volunteer force.

Our first President, George Washington, said that the willingness of men and women to

continue to serve in war no matter how just depends on their perception of how the

veterans of previous wars were treated and appreciated by their country. So one of the

first things we can do is what we're doing is taking care of the veterans, the 1.9

million men and women who've already left the military. That's -- for me, that's the

best thing that we can do to ensure that we continue to draw from the best and

brightest of America for the country. The first part -- I always hate these double

questions late in the afternoon. The first one was the numbers -- the numbers of

troops. How big should the U.S. millitary be? I'll tell you. This goes back to what is

said about the inefficiencies of budgeting in the Pentagon. What happens is you start

off with a national military strategy. And then people use that strategy to justify

their current size. And they fight. And the only way the Defense Department can get

the services to draw down is by cutting their budgets. And the Army -- 60 percent of

the Army budget has to do with people. And so the smaller the Army, the more the Air

Force and Navy can spend on ships and planes. And so there's this constant tension

going back and forth among the services. How big should it be? What do you want it to

do? And the big change from the conventional war that I grew up -- I spent 30 years of

a 40 year career training to fight a war I never fought, a conventional war against

the Warsaw Pact and Europe. And the last ten learning to fight a different form of war

while I was fighting. That's kind of the bane of the Army's existence. But in a

conventional war, you went over to Europe. You fought a several months and then you

finish your job, and you came home. That's how we thought. So the force was sized

against your ability to fight the Russians in Europe and do something simultaneously

on the Korean peninsula. So you can imagine. You go back and add all that up, and you

need this many ships, this many planes and this many divisions. That's how they do it.

Now, the big change for us as we went into Iraq and Afghanistan, and we had to sustain

a deployment of about 200,000 men and women for an extended period of time. That was a

huge shift for the Army. And when I go to the job as Army Chief of Staff, we were

sending soldiers over to Iraq, bringing them home for 12 months and sending them back

right away. And that was unsustainable, but it was driven by the fact that the Army at

that time was too small to sustain that protracted rotation. Now we've built the Army

up to the size where it could do it, but guess what? Now, we're not supporting 200,000

folks deployed around the world. It's probably closer to 50. So you can imagine all

the budget hocks there have their knives out to cut the size of the Army down. And

it'll probably go down to about 450,000. To put that in perspective for you, at the

end of the Cold War, the Army was 780,000 active. After the Cold War, we went down to

480,000. In 2007, we expanded it to 560,000. And now we're down by 90,000. So the

Army's smaller. Should it be smaller than that? Probably not right now. Air Force and

the Navy, they probably take some reductions at the margin. But I couldn't begin to

give you a number of how big it should be. You've got to take it back to what you want

it to do and the likelihood that we will have to sustain extended rotations for long

periods of time.

>> Brian Garcia: Sir, going off of that, as you know, the V.A. estimates that upwards

of 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Almost every service man and woman has been

affected in some way by suicide among our active duty and reserve soldiers as well as

our veteran population. Given this era of persisting conflict, this issue isn't likely

to go away any time soon. What more can the military and V.A. do to combat this threat

to our troops and our veterans and better assist our returning soldiers?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: First of all, I think there could be a misperception

that these 22 veterans a day are all post 9/11 vets. That's not the case. They're

across the board. Second, so when I came back from Iraq in 2007, I was reviewing the

truckloads of briefing books they give you to prepare you for your new job. And I read

a report that was feedback from our annual personnel survey across the Army, and the

finding was 90 percent of the men and women in the Army would not get treatment for a

behavioral health issue because they felt it would impact their career. 90 percent.

900,000 people. And then a couple of days later I'm reading a report from the docs

that said we should expect 12 to 15 percent of the men and women who deploy to have

posttraumatic stress when they return. If they deploy twice, we should expect 15 to 17

percent to come back with it, and if they deploy three times, it's 19 to 21 percent.

So I put the two of those together, and I say, "Hey, wait a minute. If we don't do

something to reduce the stigma of getting behavioral health care, we're going to run

out of troops." And so we began working at it, and we began -- we put in place

programs like comprehensive soldier fitness program to give -- to train soldiers and

family members, to give them the skills they needed to be more resilient to deal with

the challenges we were confronting them with. And we had a huge stigma reduction

program. And every place I went I talked about it. And drove it home with the chain of

command. After banging away at it hard for four years, I looked at the annual

personnel survey again just as I was leaving. We had reduced the number that would not

get help from 90 percent to 50 percent. Now, good news, bad news. Bad news -- the good

news, 40 percent reduction. The bad news is still 500,000 people. That's still a big

problem. They kept chipping away at it, and the last survey I saw said it was down to

about 35 percent. But we have to continue our efforts to reduce the stigma. I will say

I think we're making headway on that, and I think the headway the military's making

will ultimately benefit society as that trickles down into society. We still are not

where we need to be in the transitioning, the medical transition from the Department

of Defense to the V.A. We still don't have common transferrable medical records.

There's a lot more work that could be done. The biggest thing that I think we can do

is to continue efforts to reduce the stigma so people are not afraid to come forward

and get help because all our research says you get help, we get better.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: So this is another about combatting religious extremism. We see

that many regimes have methods for combatting extremism that we might not agree with

from a human rights standpoint such as suppressing freedom of religion. How should the

U.S. work with countries to fight extremism, sorry, in a humane and effective manner.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: I had this question -- a similar question at lunch.

What's the one thing you can always count on in international relations? Countries

will always act in their own interest. We should act in our own interest. But at the

same time, we cannot turn a blind eye to human rights violations. And a good example

is what's going on in Egypt. It's in our interest that that government makes a

transition and ultimately moves into a stable democratic society. There's a very

internal Egyptian debate about whether security is more important than human rights.

They're wrestling with that. I think we have to continue to insist that the regime

adhere to internationally recognized human rights standards, understanding that they

probably won't all the time. But we can never let up on that. And we can never be put

in a position where we condone that. Someone asked me at lunch if I was ever in a

position with my three Iraqi prime ministers that I work with to turn a blind eye to

something that they did. And I was able to say no. They didn't always take the results

-- do the things that we asked them to do, but we never let them off the hook for

doing things that didn't line up with our values and our ideas. So we need to act on

our interests, but at the same time we never can let them off the hook to live up to

the values and ideas that we all aspire to. Great dynamic going on here. You ask the

question. No, you ask the question.

>> Brian Garcia: Sexual assult in the military. As a private citizen unfamiliar with

the discipline indifference to authority in the armed forces, who can instill real

change to protect those who protect us?

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Who? Military leadership can do a much better job on

that. One of the things I regret is that I wasn't able to devote the time and the

attention I needed to to advance the ball in that area. I worry that we in the

military haven't gone far enough in addressing the sexual assault issue. And one of

the things I see is we have what we call a uniform code of military justice, and we

push the responsibility for adjudicating things down as low as a captain. So the late,

late 20's, someone in the late 20's. And in some cases, we're asking these young men

and women who are company commanders to adjudicate a he said, she said sexual assault.

Well, they're not trained to do that. They don't have the skills to do that. And there

have been suggestions that we have some type of group that does nothing else but

investigate allegations of sexual assault and take it outside of that young

commander's hands. Some of those things seem pretty useful to me. And it's -- what I

hear a lot is you don't trust the chain of command. Now that's not necessarily so.

Ever since I've been in the military, if an officer was caught drunk driving, his boss

didn't punish him. It went straight to the commanding general, the two star dealt with

it. And I'm saying the same thing here. Let's ratchet it up, give the responsibility

to adjudicate sexual assault allegations to someone with a team that's trained to do

the job so that we actually can prosecute people intelligently. There's a couple of

very good movies out that I know the producers of, and I've seen them both. One on

sexual assault in the military and one on sexual assault on campuses. And they talked

to those folks. What they say is the vast majority of the sexual assaultists are

repeat offenders. And they're not getting prosecuted sufficiently in the system so

they keep on doing it. We can do better than that in the military and in society.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: Thank you again for coming to talk with us. We have time for just

one more question.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: This is weird. You always get nervous. They wear you

down, and they save the big one over here. Oh, this is going to get him.

>> Sonja Swanbeck: Under Goldwater Nichols, our services were to work jointly and the

system of regional commanders was developed. How do you think we're doing? It's an

easy question.

>> General George W. Casey, Jr.: Yes, it's fairly easy. I think we're doing great. It

took us a long time to get started, but I think we're doing really, really well in

that regard. And I'm teaching a class at the National Defense University on ethics in

the profession of arms, and I go over there, and there they all are, different

services all sitting around the table doing their thing. So I think that had a huge

impact on the military, and it wasn't until the provision that to become a general

officer you had to have a joint assignment prior to being promoted. That didn't come

into effect until I think the year I was leaving the job as Chief of Staff of the

Army. But it made everybody that thought they were going to be a general get out and

get a joint job, and they got much more experience. And then the wars in Iraq and

Afghanistan have caused us to really come together. Now, this is the bonus answer you

get. So, one of the other questions I get is, "Okay, what about the interagency? What

about a Goldwater Nichols for the interagency?" If you're going to employ integrated

multifaceted approaches that use all the elements of national power, don't you need

the treasury guys and state department guys and intelligence guys and DOD guys and

gals? Everybody working together. So where is that? And we got to start somewhere.

It's a multidecade process. I mean, it took -- 1987 was Goldwater Nichols. 2000 --

let's just call it 2007. Okay. So that's a long time before it was embraced by the

military. Because this is interagency, it will probably take even longer, but we got

to start some place. The old story about Bob Gates when he left the CIA to be the

Deputy National Security Advisor -- he was having his farewell. As he was walking out,

everybody was saying, "See you later, man. You know, you're never going to come back

here again. Youp're dead. Your career is over. You're going down to another branch of

the government. See you, Bob. Take care. Nice knowing you." And he comes back as the

Director of the CIA. So there's a lot of institutional pressures and things that work

against you there, but I think we got to get started on it. That's to you, Mel. That

was Mel's question earlier today. Okay, are we done? Thanks a lot.

[ Applause ]

Thank you.

>> Susan M. Collins: So I just wanted to thank the General for such a rich

conversation. I also wanted to thank all of you for joining us and for your questions.

I hope you -- I hope to see you again on Friday. We will have our annual [inaudible]

showcase of student work. It's an opportunity for us to really celebrate some of the

best student work at the Ford School. And so I hope to see you on Friday afternoon.

Please join us to continue the conversation with the reception just outside in the

great hall, and final round of thanks to General George Casey. Thank you so much.

[ Applause ]