Dr. LESLIE H. GELB (President, Council on Foreign Relations): Welcome to another in the Council of Foreign Relations series of public hearings on major policy issues. My name is Leslie Gelb and I am president of the Council.
And, without further ado, let me turn you over to our presider and moderator for today—our fortune to have him—Ted Koppel.
Mr. TED KOPPEL (Anchor and Managing Editor, ABC News, "Nightline"): If you have looked at the title for this afternoon's discussion, it was cunningly designed to be as ambiguous as we could possibly make it—The NSC at 50: Past, Present and Future. It was also originally designed to be two hours long, but since we've cut it back to one hour, I think we can probably eliminate the past and present and just talk about the future.
I would assume, since this tends to be among the most knowledgeable audiences that regularly gathers here in Washington, that you already know who is here, but I will introduce them just for the sake of decorum. To my immediate left, General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an assistant to President Reagan for National Security Affairs—I say "an assistant"; the assistant to President Reagan. Next to him, the honorable Zbigniew Brzezinski. Incidentally, we had, initially, two honorables and two generals and me. Bud, what category do you fall into?
Mr. ROBERT C. McFARLANE (Chairman and CEO, Global Energy Investors, LLC): Has been.
Mr. KOPPEL: Has been. Well, we all fall into that category. The honorable Zbigniew Brzezinski, counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the assistant to President Carter for National Security Affairs. To his immediate left, Professor Walt Rostow, also an honorable, professor emeritus of political economy at the University of Texas at Austin, an assistant to President Johnson for National Security Affairs. And before they had that title, the office was referred to as staff secretary and defense liaison officer, and the man who occupied it in those days, General Andrew Goodpaster, who is now chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States. And to his immediate left, another former assistant to President Reagan for National Security Affairs, Bud McFarlane.
And what I'm going to do initially is just throw out a question or two to get the conversation going. And once we have it going, I would like to urge you all to participate and to address your own questions here. Let me make it as broad a question as I possibly can and, General Powell, let me address it to you first. If, as I think we can all agree, the past 50 years has been focused largely on a policy of containment of communism in general and the Soviet Union in particular, how would you describe the national security objective in the most broad strategic terms of the United States today?
General COLIN L. POWELL (Retired; U.S. Army; Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): I think we've moved from an era of containment to an era of engagement. The values that we held dear, the values of democracy, the free enterprise system, the individual rights of men and women, I believe, have triumphed on the world stage. And what we have to do is to harvest the results of our success by engaging those nations that believe in these values along with us by also maintaining our strength militarily to serve as an insurance policy in case we guess wrong and to make sure that any potential adversaries out there recognize that we still have the strength to defend our interests. I think we also have to remain very diplomatically and politically engaged. I think the visit of the Chinese leader this week is an example of that kind of engagement.
I don't think we're going to see a new strategy emerge with the same kind of clarity and rules of the road that containment had, and I'm not sure that's bad. There'll be a lot of uncertainty in the world, a lot of anxiety, as we move through and deal with rogue nations and weapons of mass destruction and such issues. But on balance, I think we're entering a more hopeful period where the world economic system is fundamentally structuring the world in ways that the world military and security systems structured the world 50 years ago.
And I think it's important for us not to withdraw back behind our oceans. It's important for us to remain engaged; important for us to keep our strength up. And I think we can continue to move the world forward in this very, very promising and hopeful environment that I think we're entering.
Mr. KOPPEL: Dr. Brzezinski, does the policy of engagement, if indeed you agree that that is the best way to broadly describe U.S. strategic interests to date—does the policy of engagement require the same kind of leadership on the part of the United States that the policy of containment did?
Dr. ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI (Counselor, Center for Strategic and International Studies): Well, I have no objection to the word "engagement." I think it describes some aspects of the policy that the United States should be pursuing. But I think we have to, somehow or other, convey through a word or a phrase what the essence of that policy is. "Containment" had that inner clarity. It was to contain Soviet power. "Engagement" is very broad, but it's also somewhat vague. It doesn't help you to understand what exactly the substance of that engagement ought to be.
And, therefore, I would like to go a little further than the word "engagement" and, while not disagreeing with what was said, to argue that the essence of the present international scene is American preponderance, America's dominant global power. We don't know how long that condition would endure, but as long as it endures, I think it is in the American interest to use its preponderance to try to promote international stability and to shape a realistic framework of international cooperation which engages the major powers of the world in a stable relationship and eliminates the threat of any single rival arising and challenging our primacy or a hostile coalition appearing to challenge our primacy.
So I would put more emphasis on the notion of stability as an interest, because the alternative to it, in my view, is chaos and anarchy, and on the importance of developing a framework of cooperation with key major international players, which permits us to prolong our primacy while creating a more stable framework of international cooperation.
Mr. KOPPEL: Let me point out as we move on here that it is my intention to come back to what is, after all, supposed to be the central theme here, and that is the role of the National Security Council as we look both at its past, present and future. But I'd like us to have, first of all, a foundation of what each of our panelists here perceives as the role of the United States before we try to refine it to the role of the National Security Council.
Professor Rostow, you want to pick up on the thoughts that have been expressed so far and add your own?
Dr. WALT W. ROSTOW (Professor Emeritus of Political Economy, University of Texas at Austin): I would agree very much with both Colin and Zbig that the nature of the job has changed, and not only the National Security Council, but I think the American people are trying hard to find a way to define that change and, out of that, to find a somewhat orderly role for the United States in the world. This is a time in which we're concerned with global warming and the environment and with the traffic in drugs and nuclear proliferation.
But it is helpful, I think, to realize that this is the third time we have tried. We tried in the League of Nations to bring some order to the world around the principle of democracy. The United States didn't join and the League of Nations fell on evil days and was succeeded by the Second World War, in which we had a confrontation. I don't know—with Hitler and Mussolini and with the Japanese.
And the second time, we tried with the United Nations, which had a very brief life before we accepted the fact of confrontation. We didn't bring it wholly upon ourselves, but we had no U.S. troops that ever fought a battle in Europe and we have—nor in Asia, as a matter of fact—and NSC 68 was put into effect, which is, in a sense, the policy we have now, only after the war began in Korea. And then we turned to another epic confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. And this is the third time.
Now the problems that we face are with respect to what is now Russia and with respect to China is not a policy which would yield results in the short run, but it's a policy which is designed, really, to affect their evolution. In that sense "stability," I think, is the wrong word because we don't want a stable China; we want a China which moves toward the norms of democracy and so on—and private enterprise. And the same goes for the Soviet Union, on which we're betting on that that is an evolution of the Soviet Union.
But the role of the United States in this process is not that of the last remaining superpower. All this time, there's been a diffusion of power away from Moscow and Washington and also away from Peking and the rest of the world. And that, we hope, would yield us in time. The United States' role is that of being a critical margin. Nothing constructive can happen in the world except if the United States is part of the multilateral gang. On the other hand, countries can and do tell us to go to hell, which they would not do normally under the constraints of a confrontation or if we remained, really, a superpower. The American people, I think, have it right. A recent poll shows that the largest single group, around 50 percent, A, doesn't want us to engage in the world alone—actually, only 12 percent want us to pursue the role of being a superpower. On the other hand, more than 50 percent want us to play our part along with others in doing the constructive things. And this is another thing, the list of things you'll have to confront—I won't go into it in detail now—is, the biggest fact about the 21st century which, except for Africa, will see a rapid decline in population. And we're not prepared for that. And I looked at the books on national security and none of it had the population question, except as it holds for Africa.
But I don't want to distort this conversation and I want to break off at this point by saying again that, yes, the agenda is somewhat different, but it is a familiar agenda for a peace that moves gradually toward the norms of democracy. The United States' role in that is that of a critical margin, and with the continuation of the diffusion of power, it'll be clear that that's the case. But we don't have any successor, so it's our accepting that role or, as my colleagues have said, chaos.
Mr. KOPPEL: General Goodpaster, I wonder if you would address a couple of the points that Professor Rostow has made. One of them, the point that he just emphasized again at the end, that he sees the United States playing the role of critical margin rather than the world's sole remaining superpower. And, secondly, I may have inferred something he didn't mean to imply, but he spoke of both the United Nations and the League of Nations as though they were past entities and that there seemed to be some sort of need perhaps for the establishment of a new one. Professor Rostow, did I misinterpret here?
Dr. ROSTOW: No.
Mr. KOPPEL: No. In that case, General Goodpaster, would you mind addressing those two points in addition to whatever else it was you were going to say?
General ANDREW J. GOODPASTER (Retired; United States Army; Chairman, Atlantic Council of the United States): Well, thank you very much.
May I say first of all that it's exhilarating to sit here with this panel and to think of how our country's security affairs have been managed over a very dangerous period where a successful outcome should never have been taken for granted.
Let me approach this as Walt Rostow has just done and say that the background of the role of the national security structure should be a consideration of the role of the United States. I think his phrase, the critical margin, the decisive margin, is a good one. I think that the role of the United Nations is still important as one of the forums of what I call institutionalized cohesion that has marked the second half of this century with such a terrible beginning. But let me say that I believe the passing parade of issues of many, many kinds puts a good deal of emphasis on the need for a systematic and a structured approach to these complex problems that come along in such volume.
And I go back, as you might expect, to the time of President Eisenhower; talked to him on occasion. And I can remember about the importance of a threefold sequence defining our interests—that is, where is American well-being faced with risk or opportunity in the world around us? Second, developing policies that can guide the great and powerful executive branch of our government. And, third, building public and congressional support for that definition of interests and that range of policies. I agree with Colin that the policy is certainly no longer one of containment. The challenge can be expressed as engagement, but then, the question is: Engagement for what? And I think that definition of interest will be very, very helpful to us in that regard. I myself define interests as blue chips, red chips and lesser chips—the blue chips being, ultimately, the security of our country and our people and our allies; the red chips being other forms of possible intervention where important interests of the United States are involved.
I myself identify four categories of interests: the security, the economic, the humanitarian, and the environmental. I believe all of those are important to the American people because some of them work at cross purposes. There's a charge to government to try to sort that out and show how they can be composed.
In formulating policies, it's necessary, I think, to have a sense of priority. And as we look around the great challenges, the priority challenges surely are developing a relationship of cooperation with Russia; developing a relationship of cooperation based on international norms with China—that'll take many years, no doubt, as Walt has said; keeping strong ties and maintaining strong ties with our allies; the institutionalized cohesion that Secretary Marshall instituted in that stroke of genius in the Marshall Plan, where he called on the nations of Europe to come together; and, finally, dealing with the nuclear threat that overhangs the world, taking advantage of the opportunities that we now have.
Those are the big four, in my view, and I think that the support of the American people and of the Congress can be mobilized in support of objectives of that kind. Cooperation with other countries based on common interest? Yes, we will provide a margin, but we cannot act unilaterally on important issues and we have got to proceed on the basis of generating action, understanding an action on the basis of common interests. If we do that, I think that the support of the American people and of the Congress can be mobilized, and I think it's very necessary that we do that. And I think if Eisenhower were alive today, he could give us a lead on how to go about that.
Mr. KOPPEL: Mr. McFarlane, perhaps you could begin to provide the transition from some of the general thoughts that have been expressed here during the past few minutes on U.S. national interests into the role that the National Security Council has played and must play in bringing that about. And perhaps you would also focus on distinguishing between what the National Security Council does and what the State Department does.
Mr. McFARLANE: One of the penalties of arriving late.
Mr. KOPPEL: That and the smaller name plate.
Mr. McFARLANE: Taking the last part of your question first, Ted, I think the conventional wisdom and political science about the differing characteristics in the State Department and the NSC is accurate. That is that the State Department and its Cabinet colleagues at Defense, CIA, Treasury and others, being consensus bodies, as any large bureaucracy in public or private life is, are best suited to managing the status quo and incremental change as distinguished from innovation or taking the country in a fundamentally new direction. And contrasted with that, the National Security Council, being small and, in significant measure, drawn from persons in academic life outside who may be less risk averse, but also driven by a president who is politically and otherwise motivated to achieve something significant during his or her tenure, more likely to take the country in a new direction. That is both a blessing and a curse.
The NSC has been the center in the past, and I think can be in the future, of innovation, of the new ideas that solve problems, advance our interests and keep our people safe. The opening to China, an obvious case in point, fashioned by the National Security Council and brilliantly executed by one of our colleagues, Dr. Kissinger, probably unachievable if one imagined trying to do it from the Cabinet departments, but a curse in the sense that the NSC is not always so enlightened. And I take full credit here for such follies as Iran—well-meaning but misguided. On the other hand, that same NSC was able to conceive a stratagem, a strategic defense initiative, which had a significant role in accelerating the collapse of Marxism in the Soviet Union. I think the NSC will continue to play that role as innovator, leader, manager.
I'd like to ask, in addition to the points my colleagues have made, Ted, about the agenda—and I think they've done it well—if we might consider not just those passed before us to defend the country but advocacy possibilities. And I would cite, as one clear, looming source of conflict in the years ahead, persistent, grinding poverty in much of the world. As a source of tension and, ultimately, violence, relieving poverty is a genuine security issue. But I think the National Security Council can properly explore whether United States leadership, together with Japan and the other industrialized countries, could focus specifically on how, together, we might help relieve this persistent source of tension.
Mr. KOPPEL: I think probably General Goodpaster would agree that the issue of relieving poverty would fall under one of the four categories that he cited, mainly human rights.
Let me ask—and we don't have to keep going up and down the line like this, and I would like each of you to begin thinking now about what questions you would like to address to the panel. But to what degree do you think, General Powell, that the National Security Council sometimes benefits, sometimes suffers from the personality of the National security adviser? In other words, to what degree is it more personality driven than...
Gen. POWELL: It isn't always suffering, Ted.
Mr. KOPPEL: Oh, that's not what I hear from your former colleagues. To what degree is it more personality driven than what I think we would have to agree is a more institution-bound organization like the State Department?
Gen. POWELL: Personalities always play a role, and thank heavens for that. The National Security Council—and we're really talking about the National Security Council staff and the system that is under the leadership of the National security adviser—I think has been a very, very flexible organization over the years, and long live that flexibility. It should take on the personality, the coloration of the president and the presidency. But there are certain things that are constant that have to be done by every National Security Council staff and every National security adviser, and those things include, first, make sure that you have a rational process to force decisions through the system, decisions that can either be made collegial by the Cabinet officers in consultation with the staff or get surfaced to the president for him to decide. The National Security Council staff has to ensure that decisions are carried out. They have to be a truant officer and they have to supervise the decisions of the president. And I think the National Security Council and the Adviser always serves the president's interest in a greater way than any Cabinet officer will; not that those Cabinet officers are in some way, you know, disloyal to the president, but they're the leaders of large bureaucracies. And, frankly, on a day-to-day basis, you must be in the West Wing of the White House to understand all the intricacies of the president's life and the president's policy. And only from that position can you truly insert the presidential viewpoint, and I believe in that strongly. Those are the constants.
The variables are: What does the president want his National security adviser and National Security Council staff to do? What is the strength of the National security adviser? What is the relationship between the Cabinet officers? And, in a situational context, where are you? Let me give you an example of that and contrast Zbig and myself, and then I'll let Zbig defend himself here in a moment.
But Dr. Brzezinski came into the position at the beginning of an administration, and he came from a unique background to help a brand-new president structure a foreign policy for the nation, whereas I came in at the very end of an administration, the seventh year and the end of the seventh year and the beginning of the eighth year of the Reagan administration, and came in at a time of chaos within the National Security Council system and chaos in the foreign policy apparatus of the Reagan administration. So we came in at two different times. Zbig came in at the beginning; I came in with a president who had been there for seven years; as Secretary of State, a very capable, powerful, strong Secretary of State, George Shultz, who had been Secretary of State for five years at that point. Caspar Weinberger, who bridged Carlucci and I as National security advisers, had been the Secretary of Defense for almost seven years. So we had an ongoing operation that we had to put back on the tracks.
I came in not from academia; I came in from being a corps commander in Germany. I was an Infantry Commander. And before that, I had some experience as a pretty good Staff Officer in the Pentagon, and that's what I was brought in for, for those process and organizational skills, and that's what was needed at that time. And that's what we attempted to do for the last year and a half of the Reagan administration. And if I may say so, I think we were reasonably successful, whereas Zbig had an entirely different agenda and he can talk to how he went about that agenda.
But the beauty of the National Security Council system is that it can adapt to whatever the requirements are. There are the constants you have to take care of, but there are the variables that are a function of the particular situation that you find yourself in, what point of history you enter, the desires of the president, the kind of Cabinet that you are working with and the personality—yes, the personality of the National security adviser.
Mr. KOPPEL: Let me, Dr. Brzezinski, before I give you a chance to respond to that, add one more element, and that is, the White House, as all of you gentlemen know far better than I, does not have an institutional memory. One administration leaves, the next administration comes in. The first administration takes all of its files with it, takes all of its staff with it.
Gen. POWELL: Not all of its tapes.
Mr. KOPPEL: Not all of its tapes.
Gen. POWELL: There is an institutional...
Mr. KOPPEL: And part of the problem, of course, is that if you're trying to fashion a foreign policy that is going to last from one administration to the next, you do require some sort of institutional memory, which, of course, creates a natural tension between the State Department and the National Security Council. Now with that as an additional element, Dr. Brzezinski, I see you chaffing at the bit.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Well, first of all, let me say that Colin's distinction between the constants and the variables is a very good one, actually, and I want to talk a little more about the variables. One of the variables is your staff. And 20 years ago, I tried to hire a very good, young Colonel to work for my staff. But he had the foresight and the self-confidence, maybe the arrogance, to tell me he didn't want to be there. Actually, it was very amicable.
Gen. POWELL: It was nothing personal about it.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: He told me he wanted to field command, and I said, "You're absolutely right. If that's what you want at this stage in your career, that's the way you should go. But I predict you'll be here someday." Guess I was a pretty good prophet.
Mr. KOPPEL: Where's he going to be next?
Gen. POWELL: Now you got the medley.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: We can make some bets. I think one of the very important variables is the president himself and the kind of a role he wants to play in foreign affairs, specifically in foreign affairs. Now you can't overly generalize that, and what I'm about to say is admittedly an oversimplification. But very broadly speaking, you can look at every president since Truman, roughly when the NSC system started coming into being, all the way through to today and put them with some qualifications into one or another box. One box is the president who is deeply interested in foreign affairs, who views his role as involving personal and direct hands-on direction and, indeed, even shaping of foreign policy. And there can be gradations in that orientation.
And then there is the president who is primarily interested in domestic politics, who sees himself as a political domestic leader who, of course, provides overall guidance for the entirety of policy, including foreign affairs, but is not engaged in the strategic shaping of foreign policy, is not a hands-on director of foreign policy. And, again, there can be gradations, but I think if you think of every president since '47, you could probably fit every president, to some extent, in some qualification, in one or the other box.
I would argue that the first kind of president, the deeply engaged president, wants to have, as his National security adviser, a person who can help him do that. And that has immediate operational consequences for the role of the National security adviser. It makes the National security adviser the bureaucratic beneficiary of presidential involvement. You must bear in mind that the National security adviser has no statutory responsibility, per se. He essentially coordinates the work of the staff. He's not the shaper of foreign policy; he's not the principal strategist; he's not even the principal adviser.
It is interesting to spend a minute on the history of the title. General Goodpaster had a different title. Then MacBundy was called special assistant for National Security Affairs. And most people might think that's actually a higher title than assistant, but, in fact, in the White House hierarchy, it's a lower title than an assistant. An assistant to the president is higher than the special assistant.
In the days of the Reagan administration, there was a total inflation of titles—forgive me. That was actually a U.N. responsibility. I was earlier than that. And now there's as many special assistants to the president, in every office in the White House, as there are vice presidents of any third-rate bank sitting behind a teller's window. So everybody in the White House today is a special assistant to the president. But assistant is higher.
The first assistant for National Security Affairs was Kissinger. Nixon elevated his title to that of assistant. There is no provision anywhere—anywhere—for the title National security adviser, and yet, it implies that this person advises the president, presumably, on national security policy.
I actually, at one point, did some research—systematic research to discover when did this title first start being used. And it's a rather interesting little anecdote, because it bears in our discussion. It came up when Nixon was holding his first post-electoral presidential press conference and was discussing his new team and he turned and said, "And Dr. Kissinger will be my adviser and he will advise me on national security as my assistant for National Security Affairs." And then later on in the conference, he casually referred to Kissinger as "my National security adviser." And in the White House press release, it came out in small caps, just—scriptive, as a generic description—National security adviser.
Gradually, over time, the title emerged and took on a life as National security adviser even in caps. I was given a Cabinet status, for example, by the president, but it had no meaning, whatsoever. It was just a protocol thing. But I was described as National security adviser by a president who happens to have wanted to lead foreign policy. He was very conscious of the Kissinger president and felt that under Ford, Kissinger dominated foreign policy, the president was obscured, and Carter very much wanted to lead foreign policy. And that immediately, not because of any virtues of my own, enhanced my status vis-a-vis departments and injected me much more into policy that otherwise might be the case, not that I resisted very strongly. But the point is that presidents of that stripe tend to elevate the National security adviser.
presidents with a domestic orientation tend to have National security advisers who are important players within, are very visible, key coordinators, but not visible shapers or articulators of foreign policy. That tends to be under the domain of the Secretary of State, who very often has a very strong personality in those circumstances. presidents in the first category tend to be inclined to choose their Secretaries of State somewhat more accommodating individuals. And I know for example, again, from personal experience, that the president, in trying to shape his Cabinet, was asking different people for advice. And at one point, he said to me, "Can I ask you who you think would make the best Secretary of State for me?" and so forth. And I said to him, "Well, I'm not going to recommend any single individual, but let me just give you a few characterizations." And I started with George Ball and then I went through Cy Vance and then I also talked about Paul Nitze, I talked about Paul Warnke and maybe one or more, too.
Let me just say what I said about the first two. I said George Ball would be a strong Secretary of State. He has a very strong strategic orientation toward Europe and NATO. He will infuse foreign policy with a clear sense of direction. Cy Vance will be a team player. He will not have very strong views in foreign policy. He will take the lead from you. And before I went on to the others, the president, "That sounds like the person I'll prefer."
Gen. POWELL: Let me make one point, if my other colleagues will allow me to. I don't think Zbig intended, but maybe he did, to leave the impression that the only way a president can show an interest in foreign policy and be in category one is to have a powerful National security adviser, who essentially has all the bureaucratic power thrust upon him by the president. I would submit that President Reagan had a great interest in foreign policy and pushed a rather aggressive foreign policy agenda, but he had powerful Cabinet officers. And at least by time Frank Carlucci and I got there, and especially during my tenure, it seemed that the best way for us to push that foreign policy forward, toward its goals and achieve those goals, was for the National security adviser and his staff not to try to assume bureaucratic power but to be a staff for the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense as well in the pursuit of the president's policies.
So I don't think it is necessarily the case that—yeah. Yeah.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: No, I was very careful to say that it's the president who wants to be the director and manager, hands-on director of foreign policy. And some presidents prefer that aspect to be handled by a strong Secretary of State. Some presidents quite clearly prefer not to have that kind of Secretary of State. OK.
Mr. KOPPEL: General Goodpaster.
Gen. GOODPASTER: Well, I would like to suggest that Dwight Eisenhower may be the exception to the taxonomy that is being laid out. He had a different approach. Early in his administration he decided to rely very heavily on the work of the National Security Council, and that went to one of his views about the importance of organization and process. He often said "organization cannot make a genius out of a dunce, but it can provide assurance that when he makes his decisions it's with as much information and as accurate information as possible in the circumstances."
Eisenhower set up that organization and process, relied very heavily on the planning board composed of senior responsible people from each of the relevant departments and agencies. But he gave the central direction. He set up an operation called the Solarium Project which examined three main lines of foreign and security policy. One was containment for which he asked George Kennan to come back in and head up that particular group. One was drawing a line with the threat of massive retaliation to support it. And one was called Roll Back, which had figured in his campaign.
The charge to each of the groups was to make the best possible case for that line of policy. The groups worked for about five weeks. They came in; they gave their presentation. At the end of it—and I'll quote George Kennan on this—I had forgotten this but he reminded me: Eisenhower, himself, jumped up and said—now I'm going to summarize and comment on what we've heard. He spoke, as George said, without a note, for 45 minutes and in doing so, again, as George said, "He showed his intellectual ascendancy over every man in the room."
I've often said to George, "That includes you." And he said, "Yes, because Eisenhower had that mastery of understanding of the security and the military side as well."
I don't think that we told Eisenhower a thing that he had not thought of. But in any case, out of that he laid down a line of policy, then through his intimate discussions on specific issues and broad lines of policy with Foster Dulles, he was able to delegate and that was a central part of his method of operation.
I recall discussing the business of delegation with him on one occasion and I said, out of my wisdom, "It takes guts to delegate." And he said, "Well, that's right. But there's a more elegant way of expressing that." Von Moltke said, "Centralization is the refuge of fear. It takes a president of confidence and courage to delegate," to try, as Eisenhower did, to push operations downward while keeping the central lines of policy and planning drawn together under his direction and full participation.
It seems that that might not be possible today. We're so devoted to the issue of the week or the crisis of today or tomorrow, but that kind of structure, it seems to me, would still have value to the extent it could be put into operation today. And that's a legacy from Eisenhower that I think should at least be considered by his future successors.
Mr. KOPPEL: Let's get a comment from Professor Rostow and Mr. McFarlane and then we'll go to your questions.
Dr. ROSTOW: I'll be very brief. I would add only to Colin's list of residual tasks which are constant with the National security adviser. You may recall, one is to present options to the president; to assure that his decisions are carried out. And there are in-house jobs which are best done very close to the president in the White House, like the Rose Garden speeches and business of foreign ministers.
There's one other job, that anyone who carries the freight of this kind of issue is among the people the president will wish to ask an opinion. And one of the most interesting jobs of anyone who's held this post has been to present the options so that they're read by the departments as better than they could do in presenting them. In other words, go through the discipline of stating sympathetically the views of various departments and laying out the options. But also to have a view of one's own if one's asked, which is normal. And I would echo, as my colleagues have said, that the National security adviser is never alone among those who the president asks.
The other thing that has not been discussed is a peculiar task which is a possibility than holding the National Security job, which is to hold a small group who actually makes policy—the president, the Defense Minister, the Foreign Minister, and so on—together as a family. He knows what's on the president's mind. He also knows from his contacts what's on the Secretary of State's mind. And he can help assure that this little team is a coherent team and understands one another and one another's tasks.
I was often asked after I returned to academic life, "Did I miss power?" —driving around in a big, black car; being on Air Force One. It's the last thing in the world you miss, because it's a not a question of power at all. It's a question of trying to set the facts up such as they're known; doing everything possible to make, in a coherent family, which levels with one another, because the real lesson of this job is that there's a big difference between advice and responsibility. And the responsibility lies with the president.
And so when I returned to academic life, I felt I had much more power writing books than holding this job. But it's a highly disciplined job and it was a great privilege to do it for eight years.
Mr. KOPPEL: Bud McFarlane.
Mr. McFARLANE: It's pretty much been said, I think, Ted. I would like to add one thing in that Zbig's very useful depiction of the two styles of NSC functioning under either a president who wishes to be very actively engaged and to accomplish something, versus a less committed president to foreign affairs. There is a hybrid and that is you can have, as I think is the case in the Reagan years, a president who had very strong ideas, who didn't want to delegate, but who did choose very strong Cabinet officers, as Colin said. And Cabinet officers who would often disagree.
If you look back on those years, the principal elements of East-West relations and our policy toward the Soviet Union where once which brought into strong conflict, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense often. So the National Security Council and adviser often does take on the role of arbiter and, as Walt has just said, honest broker in the role of presenting the views fairly of State and Defense become very acute indeed.
But if you look back, it did function, even though the State Department, for example, was firmly opposed, to many of the leading elements of President Reagan's policy, whether you talk about SDI or applying U.S. law to extra-territorial, European function and preventing the Russian pipeline in '82. Time and again that would bring them into conflict, but ultimately the president would decide and my point is only that it can be a quite contentious climate in this hybrid arena.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Ted, could I just make one point?
Mr. KOPPEL: Please.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: I think Andy Goodpaster brought up an issue which hasn't been given sufficient attention that I think is very important, namely planning. I was one of those who thought that the Eisenhower structure was overorganized, overinstitutionalized and that it's abolition by accounting it was a good idea. I changed my mind subsequently, and in the light of my own experience.
When I was in the White House, I had the opportunity to read the still-then-classified minutes of the Eisenhower NSC. And I came to the view that the Planning Board was a very important instrument, the elimination of which has handicapped the U.S. government ever since then. Because the consequence is we don't have overall national security planning. We just don't. There is a Policy Planning Council in the State Department, which has had its ups and downs. But in recent years, more often than not, it writes speeches. Now speeches are an important mechanism for making policy, but it isn't the same thing as planning. It's responding to an opportunity, to an occasion.
The Defense Department can't plan national strategies. It's a military organization. And the White House doesn't do it anymore. Its Planning Board was eliminated; the NSC staff coordinates, but it has very little time for planning. One can have this or that senior staffer on the NSC try to do planning, but it's not the same thing as that mechanism. So that's the missing dimension and a very important dimension and I, myself, came to recognize that in the light of my own experience when I tried in a very informal way to create something like it, bringing in Samuel Huntington from Harvard to try to create that. But it wasn't as formal or as comprehensive or as important as the Planning Board was in the Eisenhower years.
Dr. ROSTOW: Let me add just one point there if I may. That Eisenhower made a conscious division between policy and long-range planning on the one hand and the operations or the execution phase. And he wanted to look to the maximum possible extent to his principal lieutenants, as he called them, the secretaries of State and Defense, to carry out the execution phase, the operations phase, within the guidelines along the central line of policy that he been very carefully worked out and then brought for consideration and deliberation to the NSC—had been worked out by the Planning Board by the senior officials who had the hard-core of information and who took on the high priority issues.
There would be some issues, however, that had to come to the president. For example, when a dangerous situation arose in 1955 in the Taiwan Strait—Formosa Strait as we called it in those days—or when a problem arose in Lebanon, then he would have, what we called, ad hoc meetings of all of the people who bore operating responsibility in the Oval Office, and out of that would come a presidential decision. That was the style in which he sought to operate; characteristic of his experience and his way of going about it.
But the Planning Board, as Zbig has said, fulfilled an absolutely vital function in his scheme of operation.
Mr. KOPPEL: Let me just see—we have about 20, 25 minutes left for this discussion. And if you would like to become engaged in it, now is the appropriate time to do it, I will have to repeat your questions because C-SPAN is not prepared for microphones in the audience. So let's begin. Go ahead, sir. Sir.
Mr. JUAN GARCIA PASSALACQUA: My question is for Mr. Rostow.
Unidentified Man: Could you identify yourself?
Mr. PASSALACQUA: Juan Garcia Passalacqua. Mr. Rostow, you were influential in three different administrations. Communism is dead, but I guess the noncommunist money manifesto is also dead. You said that growth would become development; it hasn't happened. What is the role of the National Security Council now toward a Third World that may be growing but is not developing?
Mr. KOPPEL: I think we've just resolved the problem of the microphones, so please, go ahead.
Dr. ROSTOW: First thing is that the noncommunist manifesto is still alive. It's had its third edition. And it still makes friends and contentious colleagues around the world. But looking at the Third World as a whole, I would say that you have very different situations in Latin America and the Far East, in Africa and the Middle East. To be specific, the Far East has its troubles, but there's been an extraordinary burst of growth which runs from Japan out to South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and recently, since the 1980s, Indonesia and Philippines has found its feet more than it had.
In Latin America, Mexico has had some bumps in the road, but it has an average rate of growth since 1940 of 2 percent per annum. And one of the things that really ought to be known in the United States is if it goes on this way, it will be up to the New Zealand level of GNP per capita by the middle of the next century and they'll be worrying—and their birth rate's falling like a rock. And they'll be worrying about who's going to support their old people in the next century. So the pressure to come to the United States will diminish.
And Brazil may have found its feet and it has an average rate of growth, which has been high, but it may have found its feet and gotten inflation under control. And in some ways so has Argentina, making progress despite the ups and downs.
Africa worries me greatly, because it has a high rate of growth of population and no great capacity to export. And there's a book out recently titled "Who Will Feed China?" China has a birth rate under 2.1 percent, which is the replacement rate. On the other hand, Africa is 5-to-6 children per family and I think Japan, Western Europe and the United States will have to give quite a lot of thought to Africa.
Therefore, on the whole, I would say, given the historical perspective that I would have, that the undeveloped countries have been doing rather well. And they've been moving forward and they will continue on average to move forward in the next century. Africa is indeed a problem; it has not had a take-off.
Mr. KOPPEL: Forgive me, I'm just going to insert a line and Win Lord let's come to your question. Coming from the culture of commercial television, if I could ask the distinguished panel to keep the answers just a little bit shorter so that we can get in more questions. Go ahead.
Amb. WINSTON LORD: Hello. I'm Winston Lord. Every administration has struggled with the conceptual and operational challenge of integrating economic policy in our national security policy, and different methods have been used including expansion of the NSC and now the National Economic Council. I'd be interested in any of the panel's perspective given the rising importance of economics in our foreign policy of how to handle this question.
Mr. McFARLANE: Zbig, go.
Mr. KOPPEL: Leaping into the breech, everyone of them here.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: I don't have strong views on that subject. I think that really depends very much on the president's inclination and how you like to structure it. When I was working the White House, one of my deputies dealt with economic coordination, particularly the summit. And that seemed to work adequately for the moment. Now perhaps a formal institution such as the one created in more recent years better served the very complex issues that have to be addressed. But I think Colin would be...
Gen. POWELL: I would say the same thing. In my time, we found that it was adequate to handle it within the NSC structure and with the Secretary of Treasury playing a very, very important role—Jim Baker at that time. And we had some other little organizations around, but we did not see the need to come up with a new Council, and I really can't comment as to how well it's worked in the Clinton administration. It seems to be the Secretary of Treasury Bob Rubin remains the king of the hill with respect to our economic policy and how we will relate to the world on economic matters. So I don't have any current thinking or knowledge about now the new Council has worked.
Mr. KOPPEL: Yes, ma'am.
Commander LILIA RAMIREZ (US Navy): ...Commander Lilia Ramirez, United States Navy, I have a question on how has the presence of a uniformed officer serving as the National security adviser served civil military relations, whether it's helped or hurt? And is this a useful model for other countries, such as Latin America?
Gen. GOODPASTER: Who was that question directed to?
Mr. KOPPEL: Well, we've got—there's more than one general on this panel, but we'll start with General Powell.
Gen. POWELL: Yeah. It's a controversial issue, and I have stated a preference that a serving active-duty military officer should not be the National security adviser. The White House is a very hot political environment, and there are temptations, shall we say, and the line can be crossed. Nevertheless, the president should be free to have as a National security adviser whomever the president wishes to have as a National security adviser. In my case, I was asked by some people to resign my commission in order to serve either as deputy or as National security adviser, and President Reagan did not ask me to do so, and I did not wish to do so, not having volunteered for it in the first place.
But an interesting thing happened. The fact that I was an active-duty officer ended up insulating me and allowing me to put up insulation between the more political activities within the White House, and I was privileged to work with a couple of chiefs of staff, Howard Baker and Ken Duberstein, who respected my position. It also allowed me to work very, very closely with the Congress, and both aisles of the Congress, because I was not seen as a partisan political figure, and I was able to work the president's agenda in a non-partisan way.
And so, as a result, I found my personal experience, two years there, was that my active-duty status served the administration well, and I don't think, at least so far, I am not an unindicted co-conspirator and nobody's checking what coffees I may have attended during the Reagan years. So it insulated me, but as a general statement, I think it's best that you do not have an active-duty officer serving as National security adviser or Deputy National security adviser.
Mr. KOPPEL: Just expand for a moment, if you would, General Powell, on the tantalizing, dangerous line that you referred to. What are the dangers?
Gen. POWELL: The kinds of dangers are you suddenly discover that you're involved in a meeting that is very, very political, and people are talking about what they're going to do to their political enemies, which is what democracy is all about. But for an active—come on. I mean, this is a relatively sophisticated audience, and I think we all understand this. But an active-duty officer should never even express publicly, in my judgment—I'm of the old school—what political party he may or may not be in, and you have to be insulated. You are a servant of the commander in chief, and therefore you can never express an opinion as to who the commander in chief ought to be. Nobody, in the two years that I worked in the White House, ever asked me whether I was registered with a political party, and I never would have answered. And at that time I wasn't registered with any political party. But I kept that line severe because you could get sucked up into fund-raising activity, things that were inappropriate for a serving, active-duty officer to be involved in. And I was able to maintain that distinction.
Mr. KOPPEL: General Goodpaster and then Bud McFarlane.
Gen. GOODPASTER: Yeah. Let me add just a very brief point, because my experience was exactly the same as Colin's. Eisenhower was meticulous about keeping my predecessor Pete Carroll and then me, when I came in to succeed, in the position after Pete Carroll died—he was meticulous about keeping us out of anything that had partisan political connection. It helped in my job of liaison with the Pentagon that I was a serving officer because I think they had confidence that I had a good understand of what the issues were and that their positions were and would convey that faithfully.
I'd just add one further point, which I think was true of all of the people on the White House staff under President Eisenhower, we knew who wore the president's coat, and it was not members of the White House staff. It was very clear that the authority lay with President Eisenhower himself. And we could provide staff assistance as we undertook to do, without being drawn into any aspect of partisan political activity.
Gen. POWELL: One quick postscript, if I may. I had to make sure that my relationship with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at that time Admiral Bill Crowe, was solid. And that he understood that I would not be providing advice in a military nature to the president lieu of the advice he should be getting from the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And Bill and I talked about that. And whenever there was any difficulty over that, we aired it between ourselves and it never became a problem.
Mr. McFARLANE: I agree with Colin that a serving officer should not be a National security adviser. I think beyond the example he gave, that there are, as Ted may have implied, a more potentially serious problem that can arise. In the early '70s, over the Vietnam War policy, there were occasionally very serious disagreements between the National security adviser and his deputy, a serving military officer, and had he chosen to do so, and he did not, Al Haig could have, through his liaisons with the military, made decision-making quite a lot more difficult, to say the least. But he didn't. And that really brings me to my real point here, and that is the risks that Colin described accurately are mitigated if you choose people for that job that are perhaps not in the traditional military mind of being operational officers. In Colin's case, for example, he had had an unusual career, well-earned, but which afforded him the opportunity to serve on the civilian side of government, and Cap Weinberger at OMB, had had a much more balanced sense of national interest in domestic and foreign terms and where that critical nexus has to be observed.
I think, too, with Al Haig, a very non-traditional kind of officer, as is General Goodpaster. And so it is not necessarily a bad thing.
Mr. KOPPEL: Yes, sir.
Mr. GIDEON ROSE: Gideon Rose...
Mr. KOPPEL: Just wait for the mike, if you would?
Mr. ROSE: Gideon Rose, from the Council. The flip side of that question: What are the strengths and weaknesses of coming to the post from an academic background?
Gen. POWELL: Your turn.
Dr. ROSTOW: Well, I, indeed, am very proud of spending most of my life in academic pursuits and writing a good many books of a highly academic nature. But I belong to a generation which grew up in the Second World War and I found myself in OSS, but assigned to work in the air ministry and with the Air Force, both Air Forces, the RAF and the OSS. And got used to dealing with generals and air marshals and found that one could say anything one pleased so long as one interspersed it with enough "sirs." But I set up at MIT, the Center for International Studies with my colleague and close friend Max Millikan, and part of the '50s, which was a very productive period, academically, I served for eight years as a consultant to the Eisenhower administration.
So I had a certain amount of background before I fell in. On the issue of aid to the developing countries, with John Kennedy: I was a Democrat, but the Eisenhower administration was very tolerant of Democrats so long as they didn't get into the newspapers. And I never got into the newspapers. So in any case, I enjoyed that period as consultant to the Eisenhower administration, and worked with John Kennedy. And this all came to a head when I moved over to the White House and worked for Lyndon Johnson. After the first week, he confessed that he heard that I was a long-winded academic fellow, but he was getting very terse memoranda. And I told him that this was a hangover from my dealing with generals.
Mr. KOPPEL: Dr. Brzezinski.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: I think some academics have done pretty well. I thought Henry Kissinger did very well and I was very impressed. As far as I'm concerned—well, I was kind of semi-academic, semi-policy planner, semi-politically ambitious person. And...
Mr. KOPPEL: That's three semis; that's one...
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: I came into this job from the Trilateral Commission, which is kind of a national-oriented international group. I spent some time on the State Department Policy Planning Council. And so I like to be engaged in policy thinking. But if that prepares you well for this job, it's debatable. I think it's a very peculiar job. And ultimately I think a great deal depends on your personal relationship with the president, if there is a relationship of trust and respect and loyalty, and then one can make it go.
And what the president needs from the National security adviser, in addition to the important things which are mentioned, is someone who can tell the president in the privacy of a meeting, when they're alone in the Oval Office, that "What you've said, Mr. President, yesterday was really dumb. And this is extremely badly done." Or, "You handled that negotiation with a foreign statesman very well." Or, "We have a serious problem in reaching consensus on some issue within the administration."
And the president has to know the person well enough to take that and to see the benefit of it. Because one of the things that does happen at the White House, is there's this enormous pressure to be deferential. This distance that grows with Mr. President—you address him as Mr. President—gets deeper as the months and years go on. And it really, at some point, takes an act of will to be able to be very frank and very direct. And I suppose coming from an independent background, in that respect, is to some degree an asset.
Mr. KOPPEL: Excuse me. Let's take two more questions and then we're going to give the panel a chance to summarize. Way in the back. Yes, the lady in the back, if you'll just hold on one second.
Dr. PAULA DOBRIANSKI: Thank you. I'm Paula Dobrianski with the Council. I wanted to ask, your opinion, should the position of National security adviser be subject to Senate confirmation?
Gen. POWELL: Absolutely not.
Gen. GOODPASTER: Same answer. Absolutely not.
Mr. KOPPEL: I'll tell you what. Before you expand on your answer, General Powell, could we just have a show of hands. Is there anyone here who thinks it should be on the ballot? You all assume it should not.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Well, at one point I was somewhat favorable. But I think it requires an explanation.
Mr. KOPPEL: So it's another semi?
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Well, life is complicated, Ted.
Mr. KOPPEL: General Powell, why don't you pick up.
Gen. POWELL: The National security adviser has to be on the president's personal staff. They have to have conversations, the kind that was just described by Dr. Brzezinski, a level of confidence that cannot be pulled out of the National security adviser by Senate hearings or by having to go up and account before the Senate or congressional committees. It is a personal staff position and should not be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Mr. KOPPEL: Dr. Brzezinski.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Well, I generally agree with that, but there are some arguments which, at one point, attracted me to the idea of confirmation. Namely that in the absence of confirmation, the role of the national security adviser, when he's injected into policy and is viewed as playing a role in policy, it becomes very controversial, while at the same time is reviewed as illegitimate. And there was a time when I felt perhaps that it could be rectified in such a fashion that the Director of the National Security staff would have the position somewhat like the director of OMB. That is to say, he would have a formalized position and a formalized mandate which would reduce the controversy regarding his position.
I don't think that necessarily would reduce the ability of such an incumbent to be frank with the president. I think that's much more a function of a personal relationship and what the president encourages from his subordinate.
Mr. KOPPEL: Mr. McFarlane.
Mr. McFARLANE: I think that none of us, however, would say that the national security advisers, not being confirmed, should express an antipathy or indifference toward the Congress. Quite the contrary. Every sensible national security adviser spends a lot of time engaged in the dialogue with the leadership of the Congress and subordinate members, especially if you're trying to do something non-traditional.
In the SDI situation—was firmly opposed by not only Sam Nunn, Les Aspin, and the giants on the Democrats' side but by John Tower and others in the early days. Consequently, you had to engage and spend a huge amount of time making clear what you believed would be the national interest and how it was served. And, ultimately, holding their nose, they gave us three years of solid appropriations, betting that the outcome would be, as it was, ultimately, an achievement in arms control, and it was quite extraordinary. But that would not have happened through confrontation.
Mr. KOPPEL: Last question. Yes, ma'am?
Question from the audience: Two weeks ago the Council had a mock NSC meeting, a meeting preparing for the Jiang Zemin summit, and one of the six participants was a person—in this case, George Stephanopoulos—playing the role as the president's senior political adviser. I wondered whether people on the panel representing different eras in the NSC's history find that a surprise and that participation a positive or a negative aspect of the NSC's evolution.
Dr. ROSTOW: I, for one, don't find it objectionable. In fact, I find it necessary, because in a democracy, the foreign policy that the president mandates and others execute ultimately depends on the degree of domestic support that it has. And certain policy initiatives, depending on the form in which they're undertaken or their substance, can precipitate very serious domestic divisions. So having someone there who can, in the course of the discussions, make the domestic political case—I think it's useful, and then the president has to weigh the balance between domestic interests, his personal political interests and the national foreign policy interests.
Gen. POWELL: I want to agree with that. And I saw George Stephanopoulos do it while I was chairman in the first year of the Clinton administration and during the Reagan years with Mike Kandurestein and Howard Baker and Will Ball and others. And I think it's essential that that element be present, that somebody carrying that portfolio be present.
Mr. McFARLANE: To give another example, in 1976, a political year in the election, an issue arose with a very charged National Security Council meeting over whether or not the United States ought to send a delegation. Well, the Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger—he tried to reduce tensions in Zimbabwe and invest a great deal of American political capital in trying to solve a problem and avoid bloodshed down there. There were 14 people around the NSC table that day; 11 of them in very, very vocal terms said, "Mr. President, you are crazy to do this. The Texas primary is coming up. You're being challenged from the right. To send somebody that will invest a huge amount of capital in Zimbabwe is mindless. You cannot risk losing the Texas primary." Eleven out of 14 people said, "Don't do this." And Gerry Ford said, "Thank you. I think all of you are right, but we've got to do this because it's the right thing to do." So it's not necessarily prejudicial.
Mr. KOPPEL: Let's see if I can ask all of you just to summarize a little bit and perhaps even sharpen the focus of what we've heard over the past hour and a quarter or so. It strikes me that if there are any common themes to what you have said, it stresses, A, to a certain degree, the ad hoc nature of the National Security Council, the predilection interests of the president with regard to foreign policy, the need to be an honest broker between and among different Cabinet officers. And you have also pointed out that we are moving into a different era than what we have known over the past 50 years or so. So with some of those thoughts in mind—and, Bud, perhaps we could begin with you this time—some thoughts on the role of the National Security Council in the immediate and near future.
Mr. McFARLANE: Ted, I don't believe that it has fundamentally changed since 1947; that is, to advance the national interests. Those interests, broadly defined, have always been the same: to achieve peace, prosperity. The climate has changed. We live in a climate in which nationalism is much more assertive; environmental concerns, much more prominent. But we have persistent risks to deal with. They've been mentioned—terrorism, drugs, ethnic, religious, tribal disagreements, so forth. The agenda requires planning as big—and General Goodpaster stressed—but it is the same essential function.
I do think that the United States is very well-equipped and the NSC can draw upon people from academic life, career establishment, to lead the NSC and the NSC system in this planning process extremely well.
We are a much more mature country with, vis a vis, foreign policy than we were 30 years ago. Leavened by the Vietnam War, I think there's a great deal more humility in the United States' understanding at the grass roots of what our interests are and what we can achieve, what we
can't. So I'm very optimistic. I think the NSC system is alive and well, and there are countless people equipped to serve very well in it in years ahead.
Mr. KOPPEL: General Goodpaster.
Gen. GOODPASTER: I think this is indeed a different era, and that calls for action to shape the NSC structure according to the opportunities, really, that exist in the world today. We see a more
benign international environment than has existed in centuries. And the challenge is to capitalize on that, to shift from notions of containment and deterrents in the old style, the readiness of condign punishment, the ability to deny the fruits of conquest to anybody that might seek to follow the policy of aggression.
Now I would say that a challenge to the NSC and to the president is to find policy concepts that will convey the new situation to our people and provide a central point to which they can give their understanding and support. I, myself, think that the new concept might well be reassurance. We don't need deterrents; we don't need containment; we do need reassurance that will apply to all of the things that Bud McFarlane just mentioned. And that can be done—as Colin pointed out
in the beginning, that can be done by keeping our strength and by engaging with the goal of reassuring all of the people who share that interest in stable security and peace and growing prosperity, support for the countries of the world, as Walt Rostow has described to us.
Mr. KOPPEL: Professor Rostow.
Dr. ROSTOW: Following on from what Andy said, which I think was wholly correct, the biggest job that needs doing is to answer the question: What is this post-Cold War world like and what are our responsibilities in it? And we're doing, by and large, the right sort of things, but there's still a great hunger among our people as to what the hell we're up to. And I think the president has a duty to try to articulate, and I think perhaps he should do this by evoking where we stand now—third try at making a world system that doesn't lead to a major war or confrontation. And this will give the long historical perspective that one needs to deal with the Arab-Israeli issue. It's going to take time. It took a lot of time to get the Irish issue to its present stage. And I don't know whether this is the time it'll come through. It will take time to bring about the changes in China which we're looking for.
So I think that the task before us should be presented to our people by our president as a long task, and we've got to face it. It's well worth doing. We've had a dreadful century.
The only thing I'd add to that is that there are imponderables in this situation, and we should keep our powder dry and not subject our military to the extraordinary fluctuations which play a large part in determining our position in the First World War, the fact that we looked as though we were ready to be taken in the Second World War and even tempted Stalin.
Mr. KOPPEL: Dr. Brzezinski.
Dr. BRZEZINSKI: Well, I take it our topic is the NSC, and I'd like to focus my remarks more narrowly on the NSC in the present era and in the years ahead. I think the central issue that we confront is the necessity of continued American commitment to active involvement in the world, because if that commitment were to wane in any fashion, I think there would be massive global instability with destructive consequences for all.
Now in that context, the NSC has to be responsive to the fact that our domestic public opinion is not inclined to view foreign policy as an esoteric area for experts outside of the public domain. And, thus, the NSC in its operations in the future, has to be much more sensitive to domestic aspirations and also formulate policies for the president with an awareness that a far more important aspect of foreign policy than in the past is the mobilization of domestic support for foreign policy objectives. And that function has to done deliberately in some systematic fashion in the NSC.
And that is related to a second need, one to which I've already alluded, namely precisely because the United States today is the only global superpower in the world. And I know that for quintessentially American and indeed even charming reasons, most Americans don't like to see the United States designated as a global superpower. So I'm willing to buy the term critical margin or decisive margin, which is another way of saying the same thing, precisely because the United States is the only superpower and its impact, positive or negative, is infinitely greater than any other power. It makes it all the more important that there be systematic planning of a comprehensive general strategy for the United States, not just isolated foreign policies for different parts of the world.
And that can only be systematically done in the NSC. There is no such instrument anywhere in the U.S. government. It can't be located anywhere else but in the NSC. And I would like to see some institutional effort launched to that end.
Mr. KOPPEL: And, General Powell, you have the last word.
Gen. POWELL: I agree with all of my colleagues. I would just make one other observation. As I've traveled around the country widely over the last couple of years, I don't find the American people as detached as they are frequently characterized as being. I find solid support among the American people for the armed forces of the United States. In the speeches I give, the questions I usually get asked are, "Have we cut too much, General?" not, "General, we've got to cut a lot more."
I see no ground swell to bring the troops home from the Pacific or that the people are challenging our 100,000 troop commitment to Asia or the commitment that we have made to a continuing presence in Europe. So at least with respect to the military aspects of our overall national security policy, I think there's pretty sound understanding of what we are about on the world stage.
The American people, however, are seeing peace, prosperity and are looking for pragmatism in their political leaders, and they are not going to be caught up in some of the debates that we are constantly having in New York and Washington and L.A. and San Francisco in the intellectual community about the intricacies of NATO expansion or some of the other problems, which are important but don't really affect what's happening in Duluth and how people are dealing with their daily lives.
When we lost the Cold War and the strategy of containment, that focus was lost. I agree with Zbig and the others that it is important for the president and for the other leaders of our national security community and for the intellectual members of the national security community to continue to remind the American people and educate the American people on what our interests are, but I don't find them as detached as they are sometimes suggested to be. They understand where we are. They understand the role we have to play in the world. They just don't quite have the day-to-day focus on it as they had during the time of the Cold War.
I would close by saying there's one other area we should have talked about with respect to the constants of the National Security Council process, and that's to manage crises. You can't manage a crisis anywhere else except out of the National Security Council, and you have to have a solid apparatus to do that.
And, finally, just to reinforce what Zbig said and all of my other colleagues alluded to, the relationship that the national security adviser enjoys with the president and with the other members of the National Security team is a function of the personal relationship between the national security adviser and the president. He has no statutory authority or influence or anything else. It is all derived from the president and, to some extent, it's derived from what the
Cabinet officers will yield to him for the purpose—or her—for the purpose of resolving the issues. And it's a good system that serves the nation well, and I wish it another successful 50 years. Thank you.
Mr. McFARLANE: I have a cursor to add.
Statement from member of the audience: Could I just, on behalf of all of us here present today, express deep appreciation to you and to this distinguished panel for one of the most exciting and interesting meetings that I have attended. You've made this a good Friday. I've been attending these meetings for scores of years as a member, and we're all deeply appreciative of your being with us today.
Gen. POWELL: Thank you, Sam.
Mr. KOPPEL: Thank you.
It remains for me only to remind you that the current occupant of the job of national security adviser, Sandy Berger, who I gather is with us in the room somewhere, will be speaking at lunch immediately. And if you rush, you can all catch it and get something to eat. Thank you all very much.