A Conversation With Former National Security Advisors

Thursday, March 14, 2024
Dieu-Nalio Chery/REUTERS

Distinguished Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Chairman, BlackRock Investment Institute; Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (2010–13); CFR Member

Principal, Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel LLC; Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (2005–09); Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations

Former Director, Domestic Policy Council (2021–23); Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (2013–17); Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (2009–13); CFR Member (speaking virtually)

Director, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; 66th U.S. Secretary of State; Former Assistant to the President  for National Security Affairs (2001–05); CFR Member (speaking virtually)


Washington Managing Editor, NBC News

Four former National Security Advisors discuss the foreign policy challenges facing the United States and how these vital issues should be addressed in the upcoming presidential election.

FROMAN: Well, good evening. It’s great to see everybody. Welcome to the Council. My name is Mike Froman. I’m president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And it’s a particular privilege of mine tonight to welcome to the Council Tom Donilon, Steve Hadley, and from undisclosed locations—(laughter)—Condoleezza Rice and Susan Rice, four former national security advisors, and at least equally importantly four members of the long—of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The role of the national security advisor is perhaps the most difficult job in government: constant crises, unbearable pressure, punishing hours, almost no glory. They are, in many respects, the unsung heroes of the administration. They’re generally the first ones to see the president in the morning, the last ones to see him at the end of the day, and the ones who have to wake him up and make that call at three a.m. in the morning. And these four individuals really exemplify what it means to be a great public servant.

Now, as many of you have noticed, we are in an election year, and conventional wisdom is that foreign policy doesn’t matter to elections. But this is no conventional election year. In January, an AP poll demonstrated that U.S. adults said foreign policy was the second most important issue that they cared about, only behind the economy. Nearly 40 percent mentioned foreign policy as a priority, up from 18 percent last year. And that’s a reflection of the fact that we’re in a more complex international environment than we’ve been in in eight years: the return of great-power politics, war in Europe and the Middle East, economic rivalries, transnational challenges; and new issues that have risen to the top of the national security advisor’s agenda, including economic security, space, and emerging technologies. More than ever before foreign policy and domestic affairs are inextricably linked, which means the national security advisor’s job is increasingly not just about making good policy but about getting buy-in for that policy from the American public. And all of this underscores the debate that we now see underway about the role of the United States and American leadership in the world.

Few are better equipped to help us understand this debate, and what’s at stake, and what the tradeoffs are in the alternative approaches than the four leaders we have with us today. And in the spirit of the Council’s commitment to nonpartisanship, we’re delighted to have two national security advisors who have served in Republican administrations and two that have served in Democratic administrations. We’re very much looking forward to what you all have to say.

And we’re also delighted to partner with NBC Universal in organizing this event. And I’m delighted to turn it over to tonight’s presider, Carol Lee, Washington managing editor of NBC News.

LEE: Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you to everyone for being here, most importantly to our very esteemed panelists. There is, obviously, a lot going on in the world, so I figure we will just dive right into the hot topics, starting with Israel and the war in Gaza.

I’m sure everyone has seen Senate Majority Leader Schumer’s comments today saying that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a major obstacle to peace, along with Hamas, Palestinian Leader Abbas, and extremist Israelis, and called for elections once the war starts to wind down. The White House, for its part, says this is up to the Israeli people. I’d like each of you to weigh in on the significance of Senator Schumer’s comments and whether you believe the longtime U.S. approach to—unequivocal support to Israel is still the right one.

But also, you know, administration officials have privately been saying for weeks that Netanyahu is an impediment to U.S. goals, and you know, President Biden said this past weekend that he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel. And so I’d also like you to, if you could, address this notion that if you remove Prime Minister Netanyahu from this equation that all of these things that the U.S. is trying to get become easier—more aid into Gaza, more protections for civilians, an eventual two-state solution—and whether that’s a correct or incorrect presumption. And perhaps we can start with Secretary Rice and just go around.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, first of all, thanks very much. And to my colleagues who are there, hello. And to my colleague Susan Rice, we were just saying don’t confuse us—she’s Susan, I’m Condoleezza. And so—(laughter).

So I think it unwise to make a statement about our Israeli ally, principally because it is a democracy and the people of Israel get to choose their leadership, and they get to decide when it is time for elections. They have a functioning democracy, and so I think it’s better to leave internal politics to them.

I would just note the characterization that we have had unequivocal support for Israel, to a certain extent that’s true, but I don’t think that there is one of us on this panel who hasn’t spent a lot of time with the Israelis over time saying, you know, you really need to be concerned about how the humanitarian situation is unfolding in Gaza. I had five different Gaza crises as national security advisor and then as secretary of state. I know that I spent a lot of time with the Israelis saying do not expand those settlements any further. I worked on the—with Ariel Sharon and his people on the withdrawal from Gaza. And so the idea that we simply go along with everything that the Israelis want to do I think is an unfair characterization of the way policy has worked in the past.

But the difference is that you tend to try to do that quietly, first of all because it is a democratic ally, and secondly because I think you get further. The Israelis don’t quite get their backs up in the same way as if you keep telling them what to do.

And then the final point that I would make is while I do think that this war in Gaza needs to end, let’s not forget how this war in Gaza started. And it started with the most brutal attack on Israel and the killing of more Jews than at any time since the Holocaust. And so I think we have to be a little bit careful about how we give our advice to the Israelis.

LEE: Ambassador Rice?

SUSAN RICE: Well, let me join Secretary Rice in thanking everybody for joining us. Thank you, Carol, for moderating. And, Tom and Steve, it’s great to be with you, as well as with you again, Condi.

I think Senator Schumer’s comments today were really truly quite striking. He is, as everybody knows, the most senior Jewish U.S. official in American history. He is a stalwart lifelong unshakeable friend and ally and partner of Israel. I’ve worked with him closely on issues related to Israel and so many other issues. And for him to feel compelled to say what he said today I think is a manifestation of how seriously he perceives the challenge that Israel faces, and I think it deserves notice.

Of course, Israel is a democracy. And Israel, of course, and its people, have the right and will indeed determine the timing and the nature of their leadership going forward. But I thought Senator Schumer’s comments were equally important and striking for his emphasis on what has not happened that he believes is in Israel’s interest to happen. In the first instance, obviously, critically important that assistance get in and that it be of a magnitude that is commensurate with the challenge on the ground. Secondly, of course, obviously, hostages must, must come home. But there needs to be a plan for the day after, and the lack of planning for security, for aid flows, for so many other things is really not serving not only those innocents in Gaza, but most importantly I think not serving Israel’s interest.

And his principal point, which is at the end of the day the only way to secure a Jewish state of Israel as a democracy is still, as difficult as it may be, a two-state solution—and that the government of Israel does not seem at all inclined to contemplate that—is a very important point. And for him to come out and say that is not what is best for Israel and those who love Israel, I think, is telling and important, and I think deserves serious consideration.

LEE: Tom, what do you—what do you think? And what do you make of this idea that if you remove Prime Minister Netanyahu from this that things will somehow get much better?

DONILON: Yeah. It’s hard—you know, it’s good to be with everybody here.

You know, it’s hard at this distance to make a judgment with respect to the politics of a—of another country. I would note that the attacks of October 7 were a traumatic and historic event in Israel, and I think has deeply affected the entire society. And so for me to make a judgment as to, you know, the precise contours of that I think is hard—is hard to do.

I would note, however, it’s an unusual thing; in the World Threat Assessment that came out on Monday from the United States government, they actually—I hadn’t seen this before—actually speculated on what degree of support that Prime Minister Netanyahu could maintain going forward. But I think that there’s a—I think it’s a—it’s a—I think it is a fair point to say that the trauma of October 7 is deep and widespread in Israeli society and in the Israeli public.

That said, you know, moving aside from the politics, you know, I think that, you know, Senator Schumer’s point, the points that others have made, right, is that on the current path this is what is most likely to be the case if we were here a year from now: a continued Israeli occupation, or at least pretty persistent military incursions into Gaza on a regular basis; an insurgency inside Gaza that is aimed towards Israel and against its security, obviously; no kind of end place and up-and-running administrative state to handle the—you know, the civilian side of 2.3 million people living in the—living in the Gaza Strip. More than likely, if those goes on this long there will probably have been military action on the northern border of Israel with Lebanon. And I think you’ll have, you know, significantly increased threats in the West Bank. So the policy, I think, is the—is kind of the focus I wanted to bring us—bring us to, rather than the—rather than the politics. That’s hard to—that’s hard to know.

But the policy right now on this path I think is aimed towards something like what I just—what I just described. How to address that, I think, needs—it needs to be much more multidimensional and changes have to take place. I think a change in the military approach—this is now one of the most destructive wars we’ve had in a long time. You know, there have been more civilians killed in Gaza than were killed in the entire effort by the coalition against ISIS over a three-year period. You know, the numbers today from the Palestinian Health Ministry are at thirty thousand people killed and over twelve thousand children killed, so.

LEE: And do you think that’s long-term bad for Israel and the United States?

DONILON: I do. (Laughs.) I think it’s—well, it, obviously, is a terrible tragedy in all cases. But I do think it is—it is not in Israel’s interest or in the United States’ interest for the reasons that I—that I laid out. But this is—this is this—and we also have, obviously, 130 hostages still being held inside Gaza. So I think the military approach needs to change.

Secondly, we need a much more—as Ambassador Rice was referring to, a much more comprehensive approach on the humanitarian side. We’ve got the—kind of the roots of that right now, the seeds of that. And my recommendation would be to put together an international contact group aimed at the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We’ve got a little bit of this going on right now with several countries involved in the maritime corridor that’s being put together between Cyprus and Gaza. That needs to be broadened out. Right now, you know, the—you know, the military plan by the Israelis right now is to move another—is to move 1.3 million people out of southern Gaza, out of the Rafah area, right, over to the east and then up north again, right? This needs—this needs to not just be a military operation; it has to be a humanitarian operation.

And the last thing I’d say is I do think it’s kind of incumbent on, I think, leaders to start to really talk in a serious way about the day after. And I would recommend that the United States put together a perspective, and have the president articulate it, on what this looks like over the long haul.

LEE: Steve?

HADLEY: I sort of worry about the next thirty to forty-five days. An effort was made to get a ceasefire for a couple of months which could facilitate humanitarian assistance, release of the hostages, and basically Hamas turned it down. Why would they turn it down? They don’t want a ceasefire right now. I think the leadership of—military leadership in Hamas is counting on the fact that during Ramadan a lot of Muslims will want to play at the—will want to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, that he’s counting on the Israelis getting into it over controlling the crowd, incidents between Israeli security forces and Muslims provoking what he hopes would be—Sinwar would hope would be a third intifada in the West Bank; and that, in turn, might move Hezbollah and Iran to get more actively involved, and suddenly a one-front war could potentially be a three-front war—in Gaza, on the West Bank, and in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.

So I think there’s extreme risk here. And one of the challenges for Israel is going to be not having the security forces overreact in Jerusalem and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. I also think it’s deferring anything on Rafah until after we’re out of the Ramadan period. And if we could get through this period and the Israelis are—don’t play into Sinwar’s trap, if you will—the Hamas leader’s trap—then we might have an opportunity to revisit the issue of a ceasefire for a sixty-day period. And that, in turn, might open the door for the kind of solution the administration is talking about over the long term. So I think this next thirty to forty-five days is a pretty perilous time.

LEE: I want to circle back on the humanitarian aid question. Ambassador Rice, is—what else could President Biden do to—that he’s not doing right now that he could get Israel to allow more humanitarian aid in? And you know, there’s a lot of talk and there’s discussions within the administration, like, should the administration put conditions on military sales to Israel or things like that. Like, what are the pressure points and the levers that he’s not pulling?

SUSAN RICE: Well, I’d be very surprised if there are levers that are not under consideration and haven’t—that every effort isn’t already being made to try to open up to a much greater extent humanitarian access. I think the administration is very rightly taking some unusual and extraordinary measures, including the airdrops, including creating a floating pier to enable much larger quantities of assistance to get through, supporting the effort to transport assistance out of Cyprus. But as we all know, the ground access is what is absolutely essential. Without that, there will not be sufficient volume of food and medicine and water and everything else that is so desperately needed.

And so I think the administration needs to, and I’m sure it is, pushing on access by road from the north. We saw, you know, a first small step in that direction in the last couple of days, very importantly. That needs to be vastly expanded and sustained, as does the crossings in the—in the south and access for trucks. I mean, everybody, you know, needs to recall that, you know, before this conflict, Gaza could only survive on as many as five hundred trucks of assistance a day. We’re down to a fraction of that now. And the greater challenge or the additional challenge is, of course, once that assistance crosses the border, that it be delivered. And there is a—you know, a real challenge for international agencies and those who are in the humanitarian aid distribution enterprise when there’s not security presence on the ground. A vacuum has been created, particularly in the north. There’s complete destruction, and the roads and many other critical elements of infrastructure. So all of these things need to be addressed, and I know that the administration is, you know, working very hard to try to open up access to the greatest extent possible. And I don’t think that it would be wise to exclude whatever levers we may have to affect that outcome, as well as the release of the hostages, as well as, you know, plans for ensuring that if there were to be efforts to intervene more directly and thoroughly in Rafah that there is, indeed, in fact, a credible and executable plan that the Israelis commit to to ensure that it’s not an even worse tragedy for the civilians there.

LEE: One of the other challenges, Secretary Rice, was outlined by U.S. intelligence officials this week, where they said that the war in Gaza could inflame terrorist groups and have a generational impact on terrorism. I’m curious if you think that the damage is already done here or if this is reversible, and how the U.S. and Israel get and allies get their arms around this.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, yes, I read that, and I’m not quite sure precisely what that means. You know, there’s a kind of notion out there that when you have something like this you create more terrorists, and I think that was the implication.

I think the way that you avoid creating more terrorists is that when we get to a place that this situation begins to recede—the war begins to recede—that you find, finally, a decent way for the Palestinian people to lead—to live. And I think that will actually start to diminish the number of terrorists. You know, think about the fact that Gaza was actually evacuated by the Israelis in 2005, and all that has happened in Gaza ever since is that you’ve gotten a kind of terrorist-led state in Gaza. And so, ultimately, if you can get a decent life for the Palestinian people, as you have had in the West Bank—it has been a constrained life, to be sure. It has not been easy to move around if you’re Palestinian in the West Bank. But they have had from time to time decent leadership in the West Bank that has tried to give their people a decent life.

Steve mentioned, and I think it is something to be very concerned about, if you do inflame the West Bank, which is a danger in this period of time, then the ability of a Palestinian leadership to emerge after this is over that can govern in the West Bank, that can govern over the—that might be able, ultimately, to govern in Gaza, is going to be very much constrained. And so I don’t know about the notion that, you know, more people become terrorists because of what’s happening, but I do think that if you don’t find a way to deal with Gaza in the long run—which is why we have so many terrorists, because Hamas has done nothing but help create terrorists—yes, then I think you have a problem. But the idea that you just have more terrorists because they’re angry about what happened in Gaza I’ve always found something that’s a little bit difficult to prove.

DONILON: You know, on that, I do think that—I do think the longer this goes on, the more I think the greater the terrorist threat, frankly, globally, and I’ll tell you why. I mean, if we—you look at the numbers of attacks, particularly against Jewish people and Jewish institutions in Europe, for example, over the last—over the last three or four months, they’re way up. And I know that European security forces are deeply concerned about this becoming a—you know, become even more serious, a more serious problem.

On the humanitarian side, I’m kind of following what Susan is saying, you know, and I think Steve has a very good point about some prudence during Ramadan at this point, but any effort to finish the military effort, job, right, around Rafah with just a—you know, I think it has to be refined a little differently. Dennis Ross had a good piece today, I think, in Foreign Affairs around demilitarization of Hamas, right, rather than eliminating Hamas, as the right way to think about this. It’s achievable; the other might not be. It has—the humanitarian piece has to be part and parcel of this, you know? I think on the United States’ side, and I think the world, should be able to look to the Israelis, who are responsible for what goes on inside the combat zone here, for seeing, you know, in place and executed, a humanitarian aspect of this kind of final push, if you will, Carol, into Rafah, including, you know, where people will be directed to, right, and what’s going to be waiting for them when they get there.

You know, a thing—we have pushed folks back up north right now. Now you’ve seen the assessments, right? Northern Gaza is 70 or 80 percent destroyed right now. So I think it has to have some sequencing to it, and it has to have, as part of a—kind of the concept of operations a humanitarian piece in place prior to the last push against Hamas and its leadership in Rafah.

LEE: And that’s a plan the administration publicly says they haven’t seen yet.


LEE: I want to get to—

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Can I just—could I add my—one thing?

LEE: Sure.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Yes, I think there is a danger of greater terrorist attacks in other parts of the world and, you know, whether it is an excuse to do so or the reason I think is really an open question. And there is a great deal of antisemitism that is emerging in all kinds of places, and I don’t know that it’s just because of the war in Gaza.

The second point I’d make on the point about a humanitarian plan, that’s why I think that Tom is right about a contact group because you need others, too. You need the Egyptians to be really committed to this because Rafah is not going to work on the humanitarian side unless you have the complete cooperation of Egypt. And so I think you need more than the United States and Israel to make a humanitarian plan work.


HADLEY: I want to just emphasize something Ambassador Rice said. There are two problems on the humanitarian assistance. One is getting food, and water, and other things to the border of Gaza. The other is getting it distributed to the Gazans within Gaza. And the first part is addressed in a number of different ways. The second part, in some sense, is the hardest. And Hamas is not going to be your friend here because they have basically held the people of Gaza hostage to their jihad, if you will, against Israel. So I think that’s the piece of it I haven’t seen fall in place yet: how are you going to get distribution peacefully within Gaza so can get that assistance in the hands of the people who need it.

LEE: One of the things that is also—the administration is grappling with that I wanted to shift to is Russia and Ukraine, and maybe you can talk about this. The CIA director this week said that it would be a massive and historical mistake if the U.S. didn’t provide additional aid to the Ukrainians.

Is it your estimation is the Biden administration doing everything it can to avoid that massive and historical mistake, and are there things—if you were sitting in the White House now—that you would do or be advocating for to try to get around this logjam in Congress?

HADLEY: Well, there are two things. I think—and Bill Burns said something very interesting, and I’m not going to do it justice, but he said, the Ukrainians are not out of courage, they’re not out of resourcefulness, but they run the risk of being out of weapons. And we’re running out of time to solve that problem for them.

And I think it is a critical situation. So the first priority is Congress needs to pass the bill that will get what the Ukraine people need to defend themselves against this Russian onslaught because, remember, Russia is bringing its mass to bear; you know, four times the population, nine or ten times the GDP. Putin has militarized his society and bringing enormous military pressure to bear in the Ukraine, and they need help to resist that.

The second thing we need to do is we need to give Ukraine the weapons they need in order to convince Putin that maybe this war isn’t in his interest, and I’ve been saying—and I think one of the things we can do is try to threaten Putin’s grip on Crimea because Putin can lose the Donbas, but if he loses Crimea, that’s a problem for him. And in order to put Russian assets in Crimea at risk, Ukraine needs longer-range missiles, longer-range strike missiles like the ATACMS, long range with the unitary warhead like the Taurus missile that the Germans had. Why we are reluctant to send those I do not understand.

There’s a bridge over the Kerch Strait that is a principal logistics route for Russia to support their forces in Crimea. Why that bridge is still standing I do not understand. We need to give Ukraine the wherewithal so they can really squeeze Russian forces in Crimea. That’s the only thing I can think of that would lead Putin to think maybe it’s time to deescalate this crisis a bit.

LEE: Well, you get to my next question, which is—and the ambassador raised it—this week Pope Francis took some heat from the Ukrainians for saying they should wave the white flag and come to the table and negotiate. Is it time, in your view, for the parties to negotiate? Is there even a chance that the Russians would be interested in that beyond theater or trying to buy more time on the battlefield? What’s your take on what the status of negotiations should be at this point?

SUSAN RICE: Now is not the time for negotiations. Now is the time to give the Ukrainians wherewithal that they need to continue the fight. They have been, you know, battling heroically against, you know, a powerful adversary, they have had more success than any of us would have anticipated at the outset of this, and that success is at risk; in fact, it’s—we’re beginning to see it being rolled back, purely because the former president of the United States, for whatever his reasons, has spooked House Republicans into refusing to vote on a package that is exactly what they asked come out of the Senate. And, you know, it includes important aid for Israel. It includes important aid for Taiwan. It includes critically, urgently needed assistance to Ukraine, the vast majority of which, by the way, would be purchased and manufactured here in the United States. And we are leaving the Ukrainians high and dry at a time when they desperately need assistance.

It will be, if this persists, an extraordinary stain on the United States, its global leadership, our ability to maintain and sustain our alliance structure, not only in Europe, but in Asia. It is a, you know, green light to Xi Jinping. It’s a catastrophic scenario.

And by the way, the bill that came out of the Senate, which included very, very important, strict, and needed immigration reforms, does exactly what Republicans in Congress said they wanted and needed to enable this package to go forward. And as soon as it was consummated on a bipartisan basis, after painstaking and months-long negotiations, including through the Christmas holiday, it was torpedoed for craven political reasons. And that is not the way the United States can lead in the world. That is not the way we can advance our own security interests and support that of our friends and allies.

LEE: Secretary Rice, you were nodding when Ambassador Rice was saying that now is not the time for negotiations.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: That’s right. I’m not sure I was nodding on all of the other things that Susan was—(laughter)—

LEE: No, you were—for the record, you were not.


LEE: Just that part.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: But I was—I was nodding at the point that it’s not time for negotiation, and I’ll just make two points. The first is the reason that it’s not time for negotiation is that I think Putin believes he has now got a better next act. We’re seeing five hundred thousand Russian forces massing. They’ve mobilized those bad boys from Dagestan and places like that. They have reequipped themselves with North Korean and Iranian weaponry, and when the permafrosts melt, we could see a Russian push. And so it’s extremely important that we get the aid to them.

I think there is a good chance that we could get that done. I think there are a lot of conversations going on in Congress and with the administration about how to do that. I do think it’s important for those who perhaps feel that this has just become a let’s give Ukraine $41 billion every six months. There does need to be a narrative about what it is we’re doing, and I think it has really three parts. One is this is the time to make sure that Vladimir Putin understands that not only can he not win this war, but he could lose a lot in this war, and that’s why threatening Russian assets in Crimea is important, it’s why long-range capability—the only time people really got Vladimir Putin’s attention was when the Black Sea fleet started getting blown up because the Black Sea fleet has a sort of iconic standing in Russia, and that got people’s attention. So the first thing is, is there some sort of strategic change in what Ukraine is doing. Is it just grinding it out, or are they really starting to convince the Russian’s that there is something more at stake?

The second part of it is that I think we need to make clear that the Ukrainians are doing the fighting. It is fighting that we therefore don’t have to do, and the effect that this could have on our allies, including two new NATO allies—Sweden and Finland—if we don’t step up to the plate. And so that’s a second part of the narrative.

But I think a third part of the narrative is important, too, and Steve wrote a very good piece in the Wall Street Journal about starting to get some discussion of Ukrainian defense capacity on its own. Ukraine was the arsenal of the Soviet Union, and there is probably some defense capacity still left, that they are manufacturing their own drones, they are manufacturing some weapons, and I just think starting to talk more about that so that those in Congress or those in the public who may be thinking, are we just going to be grinding through this year after year after year, begin to understand that we are doing some things to enable Ukraine to be in a different position over the next several months or at least over the next year. And I think how we talk about what it is we’re doing is really important because I do hear—and not just from conservative Republicans—I do hear, you know, $41 billion every six months is not going to fly.

DONILON: I have a couple of comments on that. I think I’d say exactly—and I would, as Secretary Rice did, I’d recommend Steve’s piece in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, which was really—

LEE: It’s excellent.

DONILON: —as good a—well, I think a positive agenda as I’ve seen for this—for this problem.

But, you know, Steve has it exactly right, you know. The correlation of forces here, right, is what’s at stake, and the Russians have moved to significantly mobilize their society and their economy, and the key to maintaining Ukraine’s position and ultimately putting it in a better place is to balance out this correlation of forces, right? And absent the United States’ and Western support, you won’t have that—you won’t have that balance by any chance—by any means.

The other side of it, Carol, is that Russia is getting support from a set of powers that are increasingly working together—so-called revisionist powers. You know, the direct assistance we know about which is direct armaments from North Korea to Ukraine. I think this is accurate: that the North Koreans have provided more munitions to Ukraine than any single European country has—

HADLEY: To Russia.

DONILON: To Russia—yeah, thank you—than any single European country has to Ukraine. Second, of course, they’re getting drone technology from the Iranians. But the other piece of it, also, is that the Russian economy is being held up in significant part by support from China. You know, the relationship—the economic relationship between China and Russia has grown substantially. I think over the last year it was around $250 billion. China has become the chief purchaser of energy from Russia as the Russian energy markets have been aligned. So we’re basically kind of—we’re pulling back, not putting the support here, while our adversaries in the world are increasingly working together to support Russia’s effort against Ukraine.

The second thing I wanted to mention is there—as Susan Rice was indicating—as Ambassador Rice was indicating, there are a lot of other things in the supplemental piece of legislation, including obviously support for Taiwan, support for Israel, but also really important support for the U.S. defense industrial base, and especially our submarine industrial base. And so I would encourage members of Congress to really study this bill with respect to what if—how important it is for a whole range of United States security things.

Next is I do think Steve makes a very good point on this issue of safe havens. You know, it is very difficult to win a war if you provide your enemy with a safe haven, and to some extent, right—and I know there are a lot of escalation dynamics here you have to think through, and the administration has done a pretty good job of that, but to give a complete safe haven for military operations, right, across the border into Western Russia, I think is really—puts us at a big disadvantage, and also not putting at risk some of the crown jewels like Crimea I think is a mistake as well.

The last thing I’ll say—and Steve pointed out in his piece—there are specific things that we should be working on providing to Ukraine—and Secretary Rice said it—maybe moving the Ukrainians as far possible as we can to do this on their own, and that is in the area of air defense and missile defense. You know, if Ukraine loses that capability, that’s a whole different war. Right now we’ve had kind of a World War I kind of approach in Eastern Ukraine, which is basically trench warfare, quite reminiscent almost exactly from World War I. If, in fact, the Russian air force is able to operate with impunity or anywhere near impunity over Ukraine, you will then move to kind of World War II kind of war, which is really attacks on major cities. It is essential that Ukraine have sophisticated and adequate anti-missile defense and air defense systems.

LEE: You mentioned the relationship between Russia and China, and Steve, do you see anything that the U.S. is doing in Israel or Ukraine that emboldens China, particularly when it comes to Taiwan? I know there is concern that if we don’t get more aid to Ukraine, that that could embolden China to make a move on Taiwan. But is there—are there specific things that you are seeing the U.S. do that could lead to that being more of an issue?

HADLEY: Well, there were a number of things in how this war unfolded that I thought would probably give the Chinese some pause, as they thought about it, some kind of military activity against Taiwan. One, the Russian military, in the first year of this war, was not really ready for primetime, and it has to raise questions about Xi Jinping, in his mind—Xi Jinping’s mind about the readiness of his military. He has sacked a lot of lead generals of his military, so it suggests that he is not totally happy about it.

Second of all, I think China was probably surprised that the administration was able to rally the coalition of countries, both in Europe but also in Asia, to support Ukraine. So that’s the good news, and I think that would probably cause him to think twice about initiating military operations against Taiwan.

The bad news will be if we don’t continue our support for Ukraine, leave Ukraine in the lurch, and let it be overwhelmed by Russia because I think the answer will be if the Americans weren’t willing to stand with the Ukrainians, they probably aren’t willing to stand with the Taiwanese. And that will certainly affect the attitude of Taiwan and the attitude of Xi Jinping towards his goal of bringing Taiwan into the fold, if you will, as part of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, with force if necessary.

LEE: We’re going to move to audience questions, but before we do that, I just wanted to see if I could get you all quickly to answer the question of—you know, we’ve talked about obviously a lot of things that are in the headlines across the world. But what is the thing, the asymmetrical threat, the thing that is not out there that people are not thinking about that you think they really need to be thinking about right now that concerns you?

Ambassador Rice, do you want to start?

SUSAN RICE: Well, I think we touched on it earlier, but the impact of emerging technologies, and particularly artificial intelligence and the prospect of artificial general intelligence and what implications that has not only for warfare, for national security of various sorts, but also for the ability to put in place domestic as well as international governance structures that can mitigate against potential harms that I think are real and need to be reckoned with, even as we try to reap the benefits of this new technology. So I think that area—I don’t mean to suggest that nobody is thinking about it, that’s it’s not an issue. It is, obviously. It’s one the administration has been focused intently on in the last year in particular. It’s one that is the subject of—the EU just passed its act for artificial intelligence over the last couple days, but this is an area where I think it is important that we maintain focus and attention to this as a priority matter; not as a(n) also-ran issue, even as we have so many pressing traditional security issues on our plate.

LEE: Secretary Rice, is there an issue that’s on your mind that’s not in the news all the time?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, I would agree with Susan that these frontier technologies—but I think we are paying a lot of attention to AI. I worry that we’re not paying attention to things like synthetic biology, which could have huge emphasis for—or huge impact on things like pandemics.

Space is really an area that I think we undersell as what’s happening in space, and so where the conflict looks more and more dangerous because more and more is happening with our adversaries, but it gets to a larger point for me, which is—to borrow from another time—I think we’re in for a long twilight struggle against several adversaries who have decided they want to diminish American power or expel us from the international system. And I’m not sure we’re quite ready for that. I think we tend to think of discrete crises—there’s a crisis in Ukraine, there’s a crisis in Ukraine, there’s a crisis in China, there’s a crisis in the Middle East, and I think they are linked. And if in fact they are linked, and this is going to be a long struggle, then things like the state of our defense industrial base becomes a real problem. The supply chains that we are dependent on for critical minerals and materials becomes a real problem. The fact that we are not at this point able to fulfill the requirements for personnel in the volunteer force—with the exception of the Marines—becomes a problem.

And so I think we need to pay more attention to what I’ll call the fundamentals and getting ready for what I think is going to be a fairly long struggle.

LEE: Steve, to you.

HADLEY: Just to sort of echo the point that Secretary Rice made, what’s going on out there—what’s going on out there is the international system that we helped create at the end of World War II we thought had been sort of vindicated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, it’s under challenge. It’s under challenge by Russia and by China. It’s a great power competition kind of challenge, but it’s also an ideological challenge as they offer authoritarian state capitalism as an alternative to our democratic, market-oriented approach.

When you have the kind of—that challenge to the international system, there is potentially a transition from that system. There is a lot of chaos out there. And in chaos, people decide to take advantage of the situation to settle scores or advance their own interests.

So I worry that in this situation, as Condi described it—and it is chaos—that Kim Jong Un in North Korea will decide maybe it’s the time, protected by his missile program and his nuclear weapons, that it’s OK for him now to shell some islands off the coast of South Korea or maybe torpedo and sink a couple of South Korean vessels, something they’ve done in the past, in order to intimidate South Korea.

You know, I worry about if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, what that means for the Baltic states, what that means for Moldova, because he wants to restore the Russian empire, and he’s not going to stop at Ukraine. And I worry what Iran will do in this chaos and whether we will move even closer to a nuclear weapon, which is a red line for Israel and ought to be a red line for us.

So I think in this chaos we’re—you know, fasten your seatbelt. We’re going to see more, I think, challenging situations, not less.

LEE: Taiwan?

DONILON: I think Secretary Rice had it exactly right. We are in a profoundly different world order than we were even ten years ago. It’s a(n) order characterized by intense fragmentation, competition, and real challenges I think to the—you know, to the post-Cold War order that we had basically overseen and empowered, and that’s really in the rearview mirror at this point. We have this whole new set of challenges that Steve, Condi, and Susan have raised—have set forth. You know, we had kind of a holiday from history, and the holiday is over, frankly—


DONILON: —and it was pretty short. And so the country, I think, has to be ready for really kind of protracted challenges. This long-range nature of the challenge—that I think is what Condi was getting at in terms of our—in terms of our preparation—I have two specific ones. And I see Jen Easterly, too, is responsible for our nation’s cyber defense.

This is a big election year, right? There are more elections going on this year globally than there have ever been. Half the world’s population will vote in elections this year, and they will—those processes and systems will be subject to vulnerabilities and cyberattack. And I am increasingly concerned about the intensity and number of cyberattacks you see globally. I think a lot of it is generated by the increase in tensions between important powers, many of whom are cyber-enabled. So these hacks we’ve seen on Microsoft recently from China—you know, Jen and Director Wray, the FBI director, have talked about Volt Typhoon, the Chinese attacks on critical infrastructure. We could go through a whole list that—the significant percentage of U.S. companies now that have been subject over the last year to ransom attacks. I think this is a very serious challenge that’s emerging, and we will—I know the president is obviously very serious about it, Jen and her team are very serious about it. These are a real challenge I think in an election year in terms of interference and in terms of disruption.

And the last thing I’ll say is what Steve was talking about and doesn’t get enough attention I don’t think. One of the aspects of this new world order that we were all talking about here—one of its characteristics, I think, has been a profound breakdown in the non-proliferation regime. You know, we have now in the last two weeks, the head of a major nuclear power, Vladimir Putin, talking openly about the possibility of using nuclear weapons, right? You know, crossing that taboo—you know, the fact that we only have really one operating understanding—nuclear arrangement, really, between ourselves and the Russians right now, which will go out of existence in a year or so; a dramatically increased capability in China; probably in North Korea, as well. I think that’s an important topic, I think, for us to keep our eyes on. That’s a big change, Carol, I think, from the situation we were in even ten years ago.

LEE: Absolutely.

We would like to take questions from the audience, and that’s here in person and virtually, and we can start with someone in Washington.

Q: Hi. Thank you so much for this. It has been terrific. I’m Alexandra Starr with the International Crisis Group.

And I wanted to follow up on a comment of Mr. Hadley. You mentioned North Korea. And, as you know, Kim Jong-il (sic; Kim Jong-un), in I think the last two months, said that reunification with Korea—South Korea was no longer his guiding principle.

HADLEY: Right. Right.

Q: And that’s been accompanied with some military flexing. I was wondering what you think the Biden administration should be doing about this.

HADLEY: You know, we’ve tried—under multiple administrations over four decades—to diplomatically get the North Koreans to give up their nuclear program. All of those—we got many—several administrations got them into agreements which they then walked away from. And I think sadly, while we should never give up that aspiration, the strategy of the United States and friends and allies in the region has to be one of deterrence and defense; that is to say build up the capability of our friends and allies in the region so that—and our own capability in the region so we can deter North Korea from using these capabilities, and then maximizing our ability—and our friends and allies in the region—to defend against them through missile defense and things like this.

But I think deterrence, and defense, and prevention, and protection is really where we are in terms of our policy at this point in time in order to make sure that Kim Jong Un does not feel empowered by his possession of these weapons to make trouble for our friends and allies in the region.

LEE: I think we have a virtual audience question.

OPERATOR: We will take our next question from Rafael Reif.

(Pause.) Please accept the unmute.

(Pause.) I’m sorry; we seem to be having a technical difficulty.

We will take our next question from Chris Miller.

Q: Thanks very much to all of you for your leadership. I’m Chris Miller, retired from the Air Force Academy—retired from the Air Force; now at the Air Force Academy.

We face multiple adversaries who are waging some pretty long-term, multifaceted—(off mic)—to weaken, prepare, and potential attack us in ways that the U.S. military is not trained or really authorized to counter in every respect. And you’ve mentioned some of them already. I think it sort of reflects that our national security mindset publicly is still sort of focused on—(off mic)—from National Security Act of 1947. So my question is, do you see the national security efforts of all of the various government actors, plus the private sector, as adequately organized and coordinated? And does the NSC, as it’s structured and staffed now, help the nation make truly effective decisions, both strategic and tactical? And if not, I’d be interested in what you think the changes that are most salient are to our national security orientation and structure.

LEE: Tom, do you want to take that?

DONILON: OK. I’ll make a couple of comments. Others will have their views. I think that—I think that—a couple of things. I think that the basic structure of the National Security Act, 1947, and then function of the NSC, I think is sound. I think it allows the president to be served up, you know, a set of developed options for decision. I think that process works pretty well in the United States.

Second, though, I do think—and it goes on to something that both Secretary Rice and Ambassador Rice said. I do think that we need to much more tightly integrate science and technology into the national security decision-making process. Now the president established an assistant to the president for cybersecurity and emerging technology in the White House. And that brings some expertise to the table. But I think we need to bring a lot more technological expertise to the table, frankly, for decision making. You know, the principle—the core right now of our competition with China is really in many respects in the technology area. Many decisions that we make coming out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the lessons we’re going to learn on the battlefield there are very technologically oriented right now. So I do worry that we don’t have that kind of expertise at the table, on as deep and a regular basis as possible.

And the last thing I’d mentioned is in terms of, I think, of a weakness that we have to address, and I think that the president in the supplemental kind of addressed some of it now, is the defense industrial base. The defense industrial base of the United States, like most organizations in the world over the last twenty years—thirty years, during kind of the great era of globalization, became efficient, just in time, no—kind of no slack, right, you know? And so we have a defense industrial base that kind of modeled that the way all the corporations in the world, right, have our modeled it, which is—(coughs)—excuse me—you know, there’s really no slack in the system, there’s no surge capability. There’s no kind of—in the case, not even multiyear kind of a contracts for most things. And it’s not really tied up, I think, tightly enough to our national security.

So those two things. I think integrating much more tightly and aggressively knowledge about emerging technologies into our decision-making process. And, secondly, we have a lot of work to do on the defense industrial base and getting it a point here where that can actually produce, with an eye towards possible conflicts, other big, industrial base country countries.

LEE: Do you want to weigh in too?

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: And I would just—oh, go ahead. Steve. Sorry.

HADLEY: I’ll just give a quick coda to what Tom said. One of the ways—you can think about it this way. We’ve been struggling for the last couple of decades to have a whole-of-government approach, bringing together all elements of the government in a coordinated way to achieve strategy. But the Chinese and the Russians are countering us with a whole-of-society approach, which they can do as authoritarian states. And it matters because a lot of things we need to counter Russia and China are in the private sector. So the real question is, can we come up with a whole-of-society approach, which is tricky in a democratic society? And we really don’t have the institutions to do that at this point in time. Condi, sorry.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: No, Steve, I was actually going to make the same point. It’s a little bit of a mind meld. Because I do—authoritarians will do that. I also think they will make their share of mistakes, because when you have somebody who’s omnipotent they really need to be omniscient too, and nobody is. And when they—many of the things that they’ve done have taken them down a blind alley. So one of the advantages of our system is that it is more flexible, it does have greater diversity of voices. But your point about the private sector being, in this time, even more important than it’s been in any other time—because when you think about these frontier technologies, they’re all really in the private sector.

And so can we take advantage of that? Can we find a way to ameliorate some of the downsides of that—of having so much in the private sector? What does the government’s role really need to be? One of the things that we’re focusing on here in California—and I do have the advantage of living on the West Coast, where people think Washington is actually a foreign country. (Laughter.) But when you—when you talk to people out here, they will say: Washington doesn’t understand us. And Washington will say: We don’t understand them. And, you know, just having a meeting from time to time with the private sector where everybody shows up at the White House isn’t going to get it done. It needs to be a sustained discussion, a sustained engagement about how we pull this off. Because it’s a tremendous advantage that we have, but it’s going to require some—a kind of organization that we’ve never—organizational efforts that we’ve really never pursued before.

HADLEY: Right.

SUSAN RICE: Carol, can I just add something to that?

LEE: Of course, please.

SUSAN RICE: In particular to Tom’s comment. And the private sector piece is both an advantage, but it’s also a vulnerability. Because as we’re talking about these frontier technologies, I think we have real reason to be concerned that our adversaries who are behind, in many respects, have a strong interest in trying to steal what they are not producing as quickly. And to the extent—Tom was talking about the cyberthreat—to the extent that our private sector entities and the federal government are not, you know, tightly coordinated on not just the nature, and the potential, and the risks of the technology, but on securing it adequately, it is a major vulnerability. And we’ve got to find ways consistent with our—you know, our democratic and capitalist system—to harness the benefits of our technological lead, but patch our vulnerabilities.

DONILON: I think that’s right. Ten seconds on what—following up on those, particular on what Condi was saying. The great—I mean, the source of our advantage in technology, right, is our societal advantage, at the end of the day. I mean, it is what gives me a lot of confidence that the United States, with respect to these leading-edge technologies—Susan makes a good point, if we can protect them and nurture them in the right ways—is our society will, in almost every case, succeed, right, and act on a superior way. Our private sector, our innovation, not hemmed in by government fiat, right, or concerns about what it might produce or might not produce, I think is a magnificent strength of the country. But we as a government, right—we in the government, I think, need to find a much more systematic way, as Condi was saying, of working with the private sector to kind of bring this—bring this stuff along. Particularly the defense area.

LEE: Let me take another question. Let me go in the back, in the middle. Yeah, you, sir. OK, sure. Sorry, I just want to try to move around the room a little. Thank you.

Q: Thank you. Priscilla Clapp from the U.S. Institute of Peace.

I would like to add transnational crime to list of threats, because it is preying on violence, on weak governance, and all of the problems that we’ve been discussing tonight. And it thrives on advanced technology. It is draining billions—hundreds of billions out of our economy and the other economies in the world. And we need to pay more attention to it. We need to find more effective ways of dealing with it. Some governments are finding it convenient to cooperate with transnational crime. It’s a big problem.


LEE: Thank you.

HADLEY: Agreed.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Completely agree.

LEE: Everyone agrees. (Laughter.) Do we have here—Elise.

Q: Thank you. Elise Labott with American University. Good to see everybody.

I was wondering if you could—just kind of taking—following up on Steve’s comments about the world order and how it’s under threat, and whether—in our age of polarization here in the U.S., if we’re, you know, equipped to deal with this. I mean, Secretary Mattis, Secretary Rice, recently said that what we’re doing to ourselves is really the biggest threat to national security. And I’m wondering if when we see what’s going on with the Ukraine aid, whether that’s emboldening our adversaries, whether that’s emboldening Putin, whether it’s emboldening China to go after Taiwan. Allies are seeing the U.S. as a less reliable ally right now and hedging their bets. And I’m wondering if you could just put this in a little bit more of a context about how—what this is doing to the U.S. on the world stage. I know, we’re trying not to get into politics, and I’m not looking to get into one individual or another, but it definitely seems that the world is taking notice in conferences such as Davos, and Munich, and others. Thank you.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thanks. Look, I’ve been cautioning our allies and our friends. I don’t think I actually have to caution our adversaries to the following point. Which is that people have counted the United States out a lot, and it never works out very well for them. And so I’ve been saying to our allies, try to remember that we’re a very cacophonous country. We have—we do have some populist elements on both sides. But when we—when you’ve needed us, we’ve actually been there. And oh, by the way, when we’ve needed you, you’ve been there too. And so I’ve tried to reinforce the sense that actually the United States is not as much in crisis about its role in the world.

I think the American people carry two contradictory thoughts in their heads at any given time. And those differences—those different thoughts are available to any leader who wishes to mobilize them. One is, oh, haven’t we finished our job? Didn’t we defeat the Soviet Union? Didn’t we unify Germany? Didn’t we defeat al-Qaida? Do we really have to do more? Can’t somebody else do it? There’s also a part of the American brain that says, you know, you can’t live with a larger nation extinguishing its smaller neighbors. I can’t watch people beheaded on TV. I can’t watch Syrian children choking on nerve gas. And so I think it’s a question of just continuing to mobilize that part of the American brain that understands that there may not be anybody else who can take care of circumstances that we would find unacceptable in the world.

I will say one thing. Those of us who have touted globalization, who’ve been integrationist in our way of thinking about things—and I certainly count myself among them—do have to recognize that globalization did not—was not equal in its benefits to everyone. It created some losers. It created unemployed coal miners and unemployed steel workers in Britain and in West Virginia. And oh, by the way, they became a kind of easy pool for populists who said: Those elite institutions don’t share your values, don’t have your interests at heart, and they are crushing you. Fight back. And so I will defend globalization because I think it was largely good for the world. But we need to remember that there were as some people who got left behind.

And if we don’t do something about that, we don’t do something—we can’t have any more third graders who can’t read. We can’t have any more nineteen-year-olds who have a lot of college debt and no usable skills. We can’t have any more thirty-five-year-olds who can’t be retrained for the jobs that are going to be there. Or we are going to continue to lack the confidence to have a role in the world like we would like to have. So let’s not pretend that those who are challenging globalization don’t perhaps have a reason to do so.

LEE: Ambassador Rice, did you want to weigh in on that, this idea that that, you know, those—our allies may be hedging their bets on the United States or our adversaries may be seeing opportunities based on what’s happening here at home?

SUSAN RICE: Well, I heard the question slightly differently. And I think it’s an important one about, you know, what is the impact? Not whether our allies or adversaries are hedging or not, but what are the national security implications of our domestic political divisions? And how significant are they?

Carol, as you know, back in 2019 I published a book called Tough Love: My Story and the Things Worth Fighting For. And in that book, I wrote that in ’19 that our domestic political divisions are, in my view, our greatest national security vulnerability. I still think that’s true. And I think that we are seeing it manifested in many ways, but most recently in our long delay, and perhaps inability to do what we all on this stage agree is essential, which is to provide urgently needed support for Ukraine. As well as, of course, Taiwan, Israel. And it’s manifested the fact that we had an opportunity that we built on a bipartisan basis to change our laws in ways that are absolutely necessary to help secure the southern border, which is vitally important. And we failed to do so because of those divisions.

That is—it’s tragic. And it’s, you know, very antithetical to the interests of our nation, and our security, and our people. So I do think this is a real issue. I also—the last line I wrote was that nobody has ever won by betting against the United States. And I still believe that too. And that’s Condi’s point. But I think we’re testing that proposition more and more as we find our divisions, you know, that much more dire and bare. And I—you know, this is all before January 6 and everything else. That, you know, I made that point and I believe it now more than I did then.

HADLEY: I would just say this. You know, we’ve had a lot of bad news here. In my business I do a lot of Zooms with clients. And one of my colleagues once said, well, these are doom and gloom Zooms. (Laughter.) That’s a little bit what this meeting has been. And I just want to pick up on the point the secretary and the ambassador made. You know, you need to decide whether you believe in our values of democracy, human rights, rule of law, freedom, and a market economy. I believe in those values. And I think in the end, history will show that those values will win out over what the Chinese and the Russians are offering.

Now we got some work to do to make that a reality. As Condi and Ambassador Rice talked about, we got real problems at home. And we have deep disaffected populations at home. We’ve got to address their concerns and their grievances. We can do that. We got to make our political system work to resolve issues and come up with sustainable policies. We got to make our economic system be more inclusive. We can do that. If we do that, we will have a platform at home that will allow us to engage successfully the Chinese and the Russians and anybody else overseas. And we can also then go to the American people say: And it’s our—in in your interest, in the American people’s interest, for us to be engaged internationally because what happens overseas, we know from history, affects the safety, security and prosperity Americans at home. So we’ve got an agenda. It’s daunting. But we can do this. Because, basically, I think we have the right set of values. And they will, in the end, prevail.

DONILON: You know, it’s interesting, on that point. If you get kind of a—if you do kind of a straight up net assessment, right, and you compare the U.S. position to our other competitors in the world, these are the points of vulnerability because the basics are quite strong. Our economy today is the strongest economy in the world. You know, we were talking earlier about our technology advantages, which are really significant particularly on the cutting-edge technologies right now. And I think we’ll be able to maintain it going forward. We have a tremendous energy advantage right now, that we did not have ten years ago but we do have—we do have today.

We do have the strongest military in the world. And I think we will adapt lessons from and adopt lessons from war in Ukraine and other places around the world, and apply our technological advantages to our military advantages. And we have the most attractive values in the world, right? People want to come to the United States. So if we can meet the domestic political challenges, what we’re talking about here, make the kinds of decisions that Steve was talking about, you know, the straight-up net assessment for the rest of the century is pretty good for the United States. I didn’t mention demography either.

LEE: At risk of ending on a doom and gloom note, we have time for one more question. That was very inspirational. (Laughter.)

HADLEY: Too bad.

DONILON: I tried. I tried to—I tried to take a little bit off here.

HADLEY: (Laughs.)

LEE: You brought it up. Hopefully, we’ll see where it goes. In the middle here.

Q: Sure. Hi. Daniel Silverberg, former staffer to Leader Steny Hoyer. I work at Capstone now.

HADLEY: So you’re going to give us some good news, right? (Laughter.)

Q: Exactly.

Actually, Mr. Hadley, you very graciously February 2009 did an event at CFR where you were asked the question: What did you feel like was an unfair criticism of your tenure and the Bush administration on foreign policy? And you gave a very kind response of you felt like people didn’t appreciate the urgency of having to prevent another attack after 9/11. I would want to ask the other national security advisors here: How would you respond to a similar question of where you felt you were unfairly criticized? What do you feel like was perhaps misunderstood about your legacies? Thanks.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Could I take that question? But since Steve I would answer the same—since we were both there on September 11—I would—I would take it in a little different direction. Which is that I think criticism is a part of who we are. There’s one thing that’s happening, though. And I teach in a university. This is the most public-minded generation that I’ve taught in forty years. They want to do something bigger than themselves. They’re in a little bit of a hurry. And I do have to say, sometimes before—(laughter)—you solve that problem, how would you like to learn something about it? (Laughter.) And, you know, and they do think if they googled it they’ve researched it. So there are some challenges. (Laughter.) But they’re very public minded.

But the way that we talk about public service and public servants is turning off a whole generation in terms of wanting to actually serve. And so I think starting to talk again about why public service is important, why it’s a good thing to go into government, why it’s even a good thing to go into politics if that is your inclination. We’ve got to start doing that. Because I do see a generation that is—that’s getting the wrong message from the criticism that we hurl at public officials. And I’ll just say this: You know, it’s tough. I used to say to those in the press, I would love for you to just try to come and do one of these jobs for five days and see what it’s really like. (Laughter.) And so if we can start again to think about—criticism is fair, but ad hominem attacks on people who try to do public service, it’s not serving us well.

LEE: Ambassador Rice.

SUSAN RICE: Amen. (Laughter.)

LEE: Tom.

DONILON: Couldn’t have said it better myself. (Laughter.)

LEE: Steve, was there any—were there any edits you wanted to make to your—



HADLEY: It’s all been said. (Laughter.)

LEE: Well, this has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)


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