In June 2014, the Sunni militant group ISIS declared that it had established a new caliphate spanning territory in Syria and Iraq. Since then, the region under its control has expanded, despite airstrikes and the deployment of U.S. military advisors, and Jihadist groups across the Muslim world have pledged their allegiance. What should the Obama administration’s next steps be? Should the U.S. goal be containment, or can ISIS be defeated?
And I want to bring out to the stage the gentleman who brought Intelligence Squared
U.S. to ‐‐ he is co‐founder with his wife, Alexandra Munroe. Robert Rosenkranz ‐‐
brought Intelligence Squared after seeing it in London to the U.S. back in 2006. We've
passed 100 debates. And they're because of his vision. So, let's please welcome
Thanks, Bob. And what we normally do in New York prior to the debate is we just talk
for a couple of minutes, in which I'll ask Bob why we're doing this debate now,
timing. Since I think it's in this case it's pretty obvious why we're doing it now, I'll ask
you a slightly different question. Since you've been here this week and participating in
the sessions, ISIS has come up a lot. For you, what did you pick up about the
that you feel informs you as you go into this debate?
Well, I think one thing that, to me, was very interesting ‐‐ I've been to three Aspen
Strategy Group sessions.
And in this one, there was far more humility, I'd say, than in any of the others that I've
been to. I mean, people really feel like this is an area that is not well‐understood at all
and a phenomenon that is not well‐understood at all, and
in a very complex context.
One of the striking things for me was just the opening event was a lecture by Bernard
Haykel, a professor at Princeton, who kind of gave something of the historic and
intellectual roots of ISIS. And I ‐‐ if I could, I'd just maybe summarize a ‐‐
‐‐ couple of his points. First of all, the term "Islamic State" is exactly right. This is Islamic.
Make no mistake. The administration doesn't like to use that term, but this is rooted in
Islam. And it's rooted in a very highly technical, very literalist reading
of the Qur'an.
And it's an attempt to really go back to the most triumphant days of the Muslim faith,
which is the 7th to 9th centuries, right after the founding by the Prophet. So they are
very fundamentalist. They are very serious about the religion. And there are
a couple of
major tenets. One is Sharia law. Two is the use of armed conflict as a way of creating a
full expression of a Muslim society. The third is a notion of a caliphate, i.e., a state which
is ‐‐ where all of the religious power and all of
the political power is concentrated in one
individual. And IS is such a state.
And it ‐‐ part of its appeal to people and the recruits that it gets is because of this almost
utopian sense of trying to restore the past glories of Islam, which, according to them,
lost through centuries of Western domination, corrupt government, and a
deviation from the austerity, and the purity, and the discipline of the early religion. And
that has a lot of appeal to people. So ‐‐
And I find it interesting. You say that in the panels, you found that
the people we think
of as experts were actually rather humble about their grasp of the situation.
Yeah. I mean, I think this came out of a culture that people are not familiar with. The
tactics took people by surprise, the fast ‐‐ the speed in which they put
together a powerful military machine took people by surprise. The complexity in which we're
operating, with Saudi Arabia, with Turkey, with Iran, with the collapse of Syria.
I mean, there's just so many moving pieces that vary ‐‐
We just don't want debaters to be too humble when they get
on the stage and try to
defeat each other.
I don't think that's going to be a problem.
All right. With that, let's thank Bob Rosenkranz again and welcome our debaters to the
I just wanted to ask you, if you're not Tweeting,
we'd love to have you Tweet. But
otherwise we'd appreciate it if you could shut down your phones. I forgot, so I'm doing
mine now, just because we have so many sensitive mics in the room that too many
signals will wreak havoc with our microphones.
But we're going
to now officially begin our live stream. I believe we're up and we're
going to begin the taping for the podcast and the ‐‐ and for the radio show. So I just
want to ask you spontaneously to give us a round of applause. Thank you.
ISIS is not losing
and that is the hard truth. This Islamist movement that is stunning and
revolting the world by enslaving men and women and children and cutting off the heads
of hostages while gaining more followers all the time, has shocked U.S. leaders with the
speed of its conquest of large portions of
Syria and Iraq. And yes, the U.S. has been
bombing from the air since 2014, but that is a far cry from going all in against
ISIS. Rather, to borrow a term from the Cold War, the U.S. strategy comes closer to
something that was known as containment, the attempt
to hem in an enemy to prevent
its power and influence from growing in the hope that someday it will collapse from
And how much sense does that strategy make in the case of ISIS? Well, that sounds like
the makings of a debate, so let's have it. Yes or no to this statement. Containment is
Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. A debate from Intelligence Squared U.S. I'm John
We are in Aspen, Colorado, in partnership with the Aspen Strategy Group. We
have four superbly qualified debaters on the stage who will argue for and against this
motion: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. As always, our debates will
go in three rounds and then our live
audience here in Aspen will vote to choose the
winner and only one side will win. Our motion again: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS
Must Be Defeated. Let's meet the team arguing for the motion. Please, ladies and
gentlemen, welcome Michèle Flournoy.
And Michèle, you're co‐founder and CEO of
the Center for a New American Security.
You served in the Department of Defense during the Clinton administration and then in
the Obama administration as under‐secretary of defense for policy. Recently the
economist was saying that a president Hillary Clinton would have a great first hundred
part because your nomination as defense secretary would probably go through
without much opposition. But, you recently coauthored an op‐ed that was critical of the
Obama administration's efforts to fight ISIS and I'm wondering do you think the Obama
administration has heard you?
Well, I certainly hope
so, but to be fair, you know, the administration has a lot on its
plate right now. This little thing called the Iran deal, getting that through Congress,
concluding an historic trade deal in Asia, but I'm confident that once those two things
are taken care of this will move to
the top of the president's nightstand reading pile.
And keep him up all night.
Thank you very much, Michèle Flournoy.
Can you tell us, Michèle, who is your partner?
My partner is the brilliant Philip Zelikow.
Philip Zelikow, ladies and gentlemen.
And, Philip, you are also arguing for the motion that Containment is Not Enough: ISIS
Must Be Defeated. You're a professor of
history at the University of Virginia and you
have served as a counselor to the State Department and as Director of the 9/11
Commission. You've also served on the president's intelligence advisory board for both
Presidents Bush and Obama, which might strike some listeners as odd, because we
to know, is it common for somebody to advise presidents of different
I'm afraid, John, it's not common enough, which is a shame, because I think presidents
need all the help that they can get.
Well, I think a lot of people in this room
have helped some of them out, actually, along
the way, so they'll be listening closely. Ladies and gentlemen, the team arguing for the
motion that Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated.
And now let's meet the team arguing against the motion. Please, ladies and gentlemen,
Anne‐Marie, you are president and CEO of the think tank New America and professor
emerita of politics and international affairs at Princeton.
You are the first woman to hold the position of director of policy planning for the U.S.
State Department. You've also served as
dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and we're curious whether your affiliation with the
school named for Woodrow Wilson gives us a hint to your brand of state craft.
Well, it does, but it is coincidental and that even before I was dean I've always stood for
based foreign policy on the grounds that when the United States acts as
consistently as possible with our values, it advances our national interest and it
augments our power.
Which I'm sure will inform your arguments today. And please tell us who is your
foreign policy analyst extraordinaire, Dov… Zakheim.
Ladies and gentlemen, the unforgettable Dov Zakheim.
It shows you how well we prepared.
You are also arguing against the motion that Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be
In our three against one debate tonight, ‐‐
‐‐ you're senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a senior
fellow at CNN ‐‐ CNA corporation. I said CNN, but I meant CNA Corporation. You've
served the Department of Defense in different capacities. You were its coordinator for
civilian programs in Afghanistan. You were the chief
financial officer and an under‐
secretary of defense. You are also a Vulcan, which is not in the Star Trek sense. Can you
explain what a Vulcan is?
Yeah, there were seven of us, not including Mr. Spock, who advised George W. Bush
when he was running for president.
Of course, some people would say it would've help
if Spock advised him, but the group was actually set up by Condi Rice, who is no stranger
to Aspen, and it was named after the statue of the God Vulcan in Birmingham.
And since we had no say in
it, we became Vulcans.
It's better than a Star Trek story, actually. Thank you very much, Dov Zakheim. And
welcome to the team arguing against the motion.
Now, this is a debate. It's a contest. It's a contest of ideas and logic and persuasion,
maybe a little
wit and humor, but at bottom the debaters here are trying to get our live
audience here in Aspen to vote with them. By the time the debate has ended this
audience will have been asked to vote two times, once before the arguments and once
again after the arguments, and
the team whose numbers have moved the most in
percentage point terms between the two votes will be declared our winner. So let's
have our preliminary vote. If you go to those keypads at your seat, just pay attention to
keys number one, two, and three. The others are not
live. It works like this. If you're
for the motion and I'm going to state it, and listen carefully, because there's a negative
in it, but you really want to be listening probably to the back end of it.
Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. If you agree
with that push number
one. If you disagree push number two. If you're undecided push number three. And
we'll give that about 15 seconds and then lock it out. At the end of the debate we'll do
the same thing again and we get the results in about 45 seconds
to a minute. All
right. Let's begin. Let's move on to round one. Onto round one, opening statements
from each debater in turn, uninterrupted. They will be six minutes each. Speaking first
for the motion Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated, Michèle Flournoy. She is co‐founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security and
former under‐secretary of defense for policy. Ladies and gentlemen, Michèle Flournoy.
So I'm arguing for the proposition that ISIS must be defeated.
ISIS is more than a terrorist organization.
It is a proto‐state, an ideological movement
that is committed to undertake Jihad against anyone who rejects its abhorrent
ideology. Its ultimate aim is to establish a territorial caliphate that stretches across the
Muslim world. ISIS is brutal in the extreme. It has beheaded innocent civilians. It has
a captured Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. It rapes women and girls and sells
them into sexual slavery. It crucifies Christians. It desecrates and destroys Holy sites
and antiquities. Over the last year ISIS has established a very substantial safe haven in
Iraq and Syria, and it has recruited more
than 22,000 foreign fighters from more than
100 countries. The scale and scope of this mobilization is unprecedented.
Thousands of these fighters have Western passports that would allow them to travel
back to Europe and to the United States without a visa. ISIS ‐‐ its geographic ambitions
are not limited
to the Middle East. This is a globalizing movement. In the last year ISIS
has sought to establish footprints in places from Libya to Afghanistan, Nigeria, the
Caucasus, even Southeast Asia. Holding territory is critical to its momentum and its
legitimacy. It has also established a global presence on the internet
using online means
to disseminate its propaganda, recruit and radicalize followers, inspire lone‐wolf
attacks. Again, the scale is eye‐watering. 90,000 social media messages each day.
90,000 a day. In some ways, ISIS could become more dangerous than Al‐Qaeda. Al‐
Qaeda used to assert very strict control over
who became an affiliate.
ISIS says, "Let a thousand flowers bloom. If we can inspire individuals to conduct attacks
around the world, that's great.” In fact, 10 of the 11 attacks conducted in the West since
May of 2014 have been by lone wolves. ISIS has also conducted attacks
not only in the
Middle East, but in Canada, Australia, France, Denmark, and yes, here in the United
States. In all 50 states today, there are active investigations or arrests of ISIS. If ever
there was a terrorist group that we must defeat, it is ISIS. Now, defeating ISIS will
an intensive ‐‐ more intensive and fully resourced campaign on the part of the
United States and our international partners. We need to intensify our diplomacy and
our military support to Sunni and other partners so that they can be empowered to defeat ISIS on the ground. Politically, that means we need intensified diplomacy to press
the Shi'a government in Baghdad, to address Sunni grievances, to devolve more
authorities and resources to the provinces, to move towards a more federal and just
In Syria, we need a more robust diplomatic
effort to set the conditions for what should
eventually become a negotiated settlement that removes Assad from power. We need
increased international engagement to try to keep the civil war in Syria from
destabilizing neighboring states, like Jordan, and Lebanon, and Turkey. Militarily, in Iraq
we need to provide more
support, trainers, combat advisers, equipment, close air
support, to local partners on the ground who can take on ISIS and take back territory. To
be clear, I am not ‐‐ we are not arguing for a large‐scale U.S. military invasion of Iraq. We
are not calling for a repeat of the
We are calling for intensified support to partners. In Syria ‐‐ we need to shift our
emphasis to producing more support to some of the groups that are already having
success on the ground, like the Southern Front and the Syrian Free Army. We also need
our Train and Equip program to try to get towards the goal of a more viable
alternative to ISIS in a post‐Assad Syria. Thinking globally, we also need to combat ISIS
using the full range of tools that we've developed for counterterrorism, disrupting their
financing, targeting their leadership, building
their capacity of partners in other
countries to try to keep ISIS from moving in. We need to work with private sector and
NGO partners to combat them online. And we need to address some more fundamental
conditions that create fertile soil for ISIS, such as poor governance and community
This will not be without risk. But I would argue, the risk of inaction are even greater. The
other team will argue that containment is a better option. I will tell you that
containment won't work. Containment means allowing ISIS to hold on to sanctuary. It
means ISIS will
be able to continue to plan attacks, recruit followers, inspire lone wolves.
Containment would be a recipe for endless terrorist attacks in the West and instability in
the Middle East. Is that a future we really want? It's not a future I want my children to
live in. If there's
anything we should have learned from 9/11, it is that we must not allow
a terrorist organization like this to have sanctuary in the heart of the Middle East or
elsewhere. Now is the time to do more, to act with our partners, to defeat ISIS. Thank
John Donvan: Thank you, Michèle Flournoy.
And the motion is: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated.
And our next debater will be speaking against that motion, Anne‐Marie Slaughter. She is
president and CEO of New America and former director of policy planning for the U.S.
State. Ladies and gentlemen, Anne‐Marie Slaughter.
So, I want to see the end of ISIS as much as anyone does. No one can watch the horrible
things they do and not think that this is a terrible, terrible scourge and threat. And we
end it. The question on the table is, "What is the best strategy to achieve that
goal for the United States?" That's what we're debating. What is the best strategy for
us? Now, our opponents are already fudging that question. Because the debate here is,
do you use military force
to drive them out of the territory they hold or do you contain
them where they are?
And so, what you're hearing is they can't have sanctuary. Michèle Flournoy said very
clearly ‐‐ they cannot have a sanctuary. Okay? What they have to convince you of is they
strategy for how the United States can deny them ‐‐ can deny ISIS ‐‐ that
strategy. So, let's just be very clear about what's on the table here. They have to
convince you they have a strategy for the United States to drive ISIS out of that
sanctuary, and somehow magically, without boots
on the ground. But I'll leave that to
them. So, they have to tell you what defeat is and how the U.S. can achieve it. Here's
what we mean by containment. We mean stopping ISIS where it is. We mean critically
breaking their narrative of victory. We all heard from
Professor Haykel, who Bob
Rosenkranz mentioned. He said, "Look, what is essential is that every time ISIS wins,
they convince their supporters God is on their side."
All right. It is a kind of end‐of‐days, millenarian ‐‐ "This is it. We're going to restore the
caliphate. We're going to
spread it across the world. And see, God is on our side because
we have just taken another city." So, containment says you break that. You do not let
them expand their territory and you do everything you can to stop the flow of recruits.
So you stop them where
they are. So, that's containment. It's not a do‐nothing strategy. In fact, it's doing everything possible, and certainly, diplomatically everything possible.
Digitally everything possible. In ‐‐ and militarily, stopping them from expanding where
they are. It may also mean supporting our allies and friends in the Middle East to the
extent they take the lead in wanting to push ISIS back.
So that's containment. We're
going to stop them where they are.
We're going to let their internal contradictions show themselves. We're going to let
ultimately, as we have done before, for the older members of this audience ‐‐ we're
going to let the ideology crumble itself. The alternative is roll‐back.
alternative, as I said, is going in there and actually pushing them out of that territory.
And I'm going to leave it to my partner, Dov Zakheim ‐‐
‐‐ the brilliant Dov Zakheim. He's going to talk about why that's so hard militarily. But
what I want to do
is talk about why that won't work, why roll‐back won't work
politically. And the first thing to say is we've seen this movie before. General Petraeus
was on the stage two days ago, talking about how he had pushed Al‐Qaeda in Iraq out of
Mosul. Al‐Qaeda in
Iraq is not there, but guess who's back in Mosul? ISIS is there. This is
Round 2. We have done this militarily before. That didn't work. And here's why, because
it isn't just an idea.
It is not just a military question. ISIS is an ideology. Professor Haykel said
on the same
stage that, of course, defeat is desirable. But how do you defeat a set of ideas? So, the
way we've done this before, when we were up against an ideology ‐‐ for most of my life,
that ideology was Communism. Containment was the most successful strategy the
has ever pursued. And it didn't mean not doing anything. And we had to
use our military. And we used our ‐‐ diplomatically. But we contained the Soviet Union
and ultimately, we let its internal contradictions destroy it. So, it's happened before.
And it'll come again. Equally ‐‐ or more troubling is
that if we inject ourselves, we
confirm their narrative. Right? ISIS's narrative is that they are fighting the crusaders ‐‐
that's us ‐‐ the Zionists ‐‐ that's the Israelis ‐‐ and the Shiites and the Sufis.
So, the minute we put ourselves in there, we are confirming to them and everyone they
recruit that this is indeed the millennial battle between the crusaders and the
true defenders of Islam. We don't want to do that. The last reason that we need to
pursue a containment strategy is this is a very long game. So, General Petraeus said two
days ago ‐‐ and he
was quoting General Odierno ‐‐ that this was a fight at least of a decade, if not a decade or two decades. So, 10 to 20 years. That's what are our generals
are telling us now. That actually, I think, could be on the short side. So, remember your
history and remember stories of monotheistic faith in which clerics had both political
power and were deeply, deeply corrupt and spawned a revolt that said you
had to purify the church and ultimately that was the only way to reclaim the true
Obviously that's the Reformation. It was just decades, it was centuries. This is a deeply
internal Muslim fight. It is
a fight for the soul of Islam. It is not our fight. It is the
Muslim's fight. In the end we have to protect ourselves. We have to contain it, but we
cannot win it.
Thank you, Anne‐Marie Slaughter. Your time is up.
And a reminder of what's going on. We are halfway through the opening round of this
Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. I'm Jon Donvan. We have four debaters, two teams
of two arguing it out over this motion: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be
Defeated. You've heard
the first two opening statements and now onto the
third. Debating for the motion Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated,
Philip Zelikow. He is the White Burkett Miller Professor of history at the University of
Virginia and served as the Director of the 9/11 Commission. Ladies and gentlemen,
Tough issue, but I want to start where Anne‐Marie Slaughter left off. She said injecting
the United States into this conflict confirms their narrative. As if we're not injected
already? As if we're not conducting air strikes against them every single day? As
we're not, as the Deputy Secretary of State has said, "We've already killed 10,000 of
their members, but it has not declined." In other words, we're already injected. We're
already fighting, we're just not beating them. That confirms their narrative. That
confirms their narrative of victory. Their crusaders attack us
every day. That's the way they put it. And here we are controlling 20 cities, ruling millions of people, and
enslaving more. Let's talk about what failure looks like. Sure, failure looks like hundreds
or thousands of Americans dead after an attack that could come next month, next year,
or the year after that.
The 9/11 attack that I studied gestated for three years before they laid waste to
southern Manhattan. The people who carried out that attack migrated from Germany
to Afghanistan nearly two years before the attack. They went there, by the way,
thinking that they were going to go fight Russians
in Chechnya, but the leadership found
other uses for them. So failure looks like hundreds or thousands of Americans dead
with more violence in Europe, but failure also looks like the descent of the Middle East
into the full war of extremes in which its all against all, in which its
supported by Iran and Sunni extremists for whom ISIS is the terrifying sort of purity and
Lebanon crumples and Jordan crumples and Turkey begins to crumple, all already awash
with millions of displaced people.
All are already failing to cope. Their societies already sagging under the weight
burdens. Saudi Arabia destabilized as more and more Sunnis find that that's really the
extreme version of their own ideology that they want to follow. Don't you think that
that's the point that the U.S. has to reinvade the Middle East? That's failure. U.S.
reinvasion of the Middle
East is failure. That's the failure Michèle Flournoy and I are
against. That's why you need to adopt this resolution and defeat ISIS so that we don’t
have to reinvade the Middle East. What then does success look like? Success looks like
defeating their message. What's their message? It's a message
about power. We
empower the weak Sunni Muslims and we empower them through the exclusive divine
mission they hold and the terrifying sword they wield in the territory we rule, ruling
despite the crusader's attacks against us. So what does success look like? It's Sunni
Muslims liberating their own lands.
It's Sunni Muslims recovering self‐determination. So what's the strategy to do that? It's
a political strategy first and foremost, because the public debate in America is mostly
about should we do more militarily. That's wrong. Michèle and I both believe, know the
strategy leads politically and it needs
to be a strategy that appeals to Sunni Muslims,
because they're the ones we want to do most of the fighting to keep Americans from
having to do most of the fighting later on. Why will they fight? They will fight to free
themselves, to free themselves from the Assad tyranny
in Syria where we also must join
that fight and end the Syrian Civil War, which is destroying the region and bringing it
close to the brink of apocalypse. That's the kind of message that appeals to Turkey and brings them in on our side and units Saudi Arabia and the Sunnis of Lebanon and the
millions of Syrians in refugee camps who want to return to their homes.
Because, you see, ISIS is not homegrown. ISIS are foreigners. The ISIS rulers in Syria are
led by Iraqis
and veterans of Saddam Hussein's gestapo and they recruit Uzbeks and
Chechens to run their shock troops in Mosul. Many of the Iraqi recruits that they
enslave into their service don't even understand the command language that they're
hearing on the radio. So the political strategy is a self‐determination
Muslims. And the military strategy, advise and support so they can do the job, but it's a
tough job. They have to retake cities. To do that kind of urban warfare requires just the
kind of assets that only the United States has.
Think about urban combat and
what you need, armored vehicles that aren't going to be
blown up by an IED as easily, jammers to diffuse the IEDs, snipers who can provide over
watch, communication so that you know what's going on in the block two blocks away
from you, medivac capabilities that give you the
confidence your wounded can be
treated and helicopters and fires that can be brought to bear on the targets you see in
front of you. Those are assets only the United States can provide, which gives them the
confidence and the sense that we're in this with them that allows you
to build a
coalition founded on Sunni Muslims doing the job to liberate their own lands, because
containment doesn't keep the U.S. out. It guarantees the U.S. is likely to come
in. Anne‐Marie said it at last. Let ideology crumble itself. Did the Khmer Rouge
crumble itself? No, the
Vietnamese had to invade Cambodia. Did the Taliban crumble
itself? Did al‐Qaeda in Pakistan crumble itself? Has the North Korean tyranny crumbled
No. You have to beat terror with something else and in this case the something else is
defeating terror where it has taken root in
ISIS. Support the resolution.
Thank you. Thank you, Philip Zelikow.
And the motion is Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. And here to
make his opening statement against the motion and our final speaker in the opening
round, Dov Zakheim. He is the Senior Advisor
at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former under‐secretary of defense. Ladies and gentlemen,
Thanks very much and I really want to thank Phil, because he just made my
argument. We have armed ISIS. What do you think they're using? American personnel
carriers. American tanks. American ammunition. Why?
Because we've done such a
fantastic job training the Iraqis and we've been doing it for over a decade, and we've
done an equally good job training the Afghans.
That's why they're doing so well. And in fact, if you look at who we've trained in Syria,
a $500 million program that thus far has spat out 60 fighters, 60. That's less
than that side of the room. Of which, and I hope this doesn't happen to any of you all, a
whole bunch have already been captured. So let's step back and look at what it
takes to beat these folks and to do something other than to contain them the way my
brilliant colleague, Anne‐Marie Slaughter ‐‐
‐‐ laid out for you. You know, this isn't the first outburst of Islamic extremism. For
instance, in the 12th Century there was a fanatical group that
actually had the same
ideology as these guys called the Almohads.
And how were they defeated? By massive forces of Christian troops coming down from
northern Spain. In the 18th Century, the original Wahhabis who had made a deal with
the first [unintelligible], basically same kind of ideology. They were
defeated by Turkish
forces, and then we had the same sort of thing again in the late 19th Century when Lord
Kitchener, then General Kitchener, amassed a huge force to defeat the Mahdi in Sudan.
What's the common denominator? Lots of troops. Not a few thousand. Not a bunch of
spotters, because oh, by the way, when the Israelis couldn't beat Hezbollah in 2006,
they didn't have a problem with spotters.
And when we tried to bomb Vietnam to the Stone Age in the 1960s, with Rolling
Thunder, we didn't have a problem with spotters. Spotters aren't the issue.
The issue is,
can you and are you willing to send in hundreds of thousands of troops? Do you think
this country wants to do that? Do you think we even want to spend the money to do that? We're living under a strange thing called a sequester. Somebody was asked on
television, "What's a sequester?" And he answered, "It's the capital of Portugal."
People don't even know what a sequester is. But what it's done is limit our spending.
And you talk to Secretary of Defense
Carter and he rightly says he's being constrained all
over the place. The president says it. So, where are we going to find the money ‐‐ even if
we had the will, which I don't think we have ‐‐ to go and fund all these troops, or even to
do what Philip
All the things you want to give these folks ‐‐ let's assume they don't fall into ISIS's hands.
Where are we going to find the money for it? Do we have the will? Do we have the
money? Do we have the staying power for that kind of thing?
The only way you're going
to stop these guys is if, indeed, they rot from within. That's the only alternative if you're
not going to send hundreds of thousands of troops in. And to get them to rot from
within, you have to contain them. You've got to keep them cooped
up. And there are
ways to do that. But we're not even in one mind as to how to right now. Yes, we love
the Kurds, but we don't arm them. Yes, we want to work with the Turks, except the
Turks have a different agenda. They want to bomb
the Kurds, who we like.
I mean, you need a scorecard to figure out who exactly is on your side.
How do you beat these people that way? The bottom line is ‐‐ unless we have a
coherent major military strategy, the real alternative ‐‐ when you parse out all
about what we can do right now, the real alternative is to keep them cooped up, to arm
our friends, to figure out how to train those who will fight. And yes, the Sunnis might
fight. But guess what? They haven't fought until now. We've been begging them for
years. Saudi Arabia is fighting, except not in Syria, not in Iraq. They're fighting in Yemen.
And they're not doing that hot a job there either. So, we have to figure out how to
motivate those we want to work with us. And that's going to take time. And what
do in the meantime? We've got to contain ISIS for as long as possible. And if we could
beat the Soviet Union, I wouldn't bet the family farm against our beating ISIS.
Thank you, Dov Zakheim. And that concludes Round 1 of this Intelligence Squared U.S.
debate, where our motion is Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated.
Remember how you voted in the opening voting rounds, and we're going to have you
vote again after the third
round of the debate. And again, reminding you that the team
whose numbers have changed the most between the two votes in percentage point
terms will be declared our winner.
Now onto Round 2. Round 2 is where the debaters take questions from me, address one
another directly, and take questions
from you in our live audience here in Aspen. The
motion is this: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. We've heard one
team arguing for the motion, Michèle Flournoy and Philip Zelikow, arguing that ISIS is
not Al‐Qaeda. ISIS is no minor league organization ‐‐ that containment would
be a recipe
for endless terrorist attacks, that success would be supporting Muslim groups inside the
ISIS realm, who would themselves take on the battle of defeating ISIS.
And success would be the furthering of that effort with U.S. support, but not, they
emphasize, with hundreds of thousands of
U.S. boots on the ground. The team arguing
against the motion, Anne‐Marie Slaughter and Dov Zakheim, they are arguing that
containment ‐‐ by that, they mean stopping ISIS where it is, but they don't mean a roll‐
back. They charge their opponents with needing to defend roll‐back. That's what this
debate is actually about. They say that containment is not doing nothing. But at the
same time, if the United States were to get involved, it would strengthen ISIS's
recruiting efforts, that every time we kill somebody in ISIS, it brings somebody new, and
that it is naïve to argue
that defeat cannot happen without bringing hundreds of
thousands of troops onto the ground, that you cannot count on local forces to do that.
I'm actually seeing a confusing amount of overlap between the two sides, in terms of
the means that you would use to put your particular visions into
You're both talking about ‐‐ you're both talking about small numbers of troops to
support. Definitely you would contain and stop. You would contain and, to some degree,
move on. But I am somewhat confused by the team arguing for the motion, saying, "We
don't want to put troops
on the ground." Your opponents say, "Well, how else are you
going to roll‐back?"
So, I want to take that to you. I like the roll‐back question. You want ‐‐ if you want to
take away the territory that ISIS has, which is its main asset, really ‐‐ it's what
gives it the
basis for claiming a caliphate, and its best advertisement for being authentic and legitimate to its adherents. If you're not going to take away their territory, what is it that
you are going to be doing? Take that to Michèle.
I think that it's something that ‐‐ it's important to understand ‐‐ is in order to break their
narrative of victory, you have
to roll‐back territory. You have to take territory away from
ISIS. And the way in which we're arguing to do that is to look to the actors who do have
the political will to fight, but have not been given the support or conditions.
So, for example, this
is not about trying to retrain a largely Shi'a Iraqi security forces to
go into Sunni areas. What we need to do is, first, with a political strategy, push the Iraqi
government towards a policy of inclusion of the Sunnis. If the exclusion and the
persecution of the Sunni populations ‐‐ that
has created the fertile soil for a group like
ISIS to come in. They are willing to fight because it's their home territories.
But they need two conditions. One is they need to know that after they fight and shed
blood to kick ISIS out, they will be in a
different Iraq, that they will have some prospect
for self‐governance and support, and that re‐inclusion in the Iraqi society. And number
two, they have to know that they're fully supported, that we have their back, that
someone has their back.
And here, it's not a matter of
U.S., you know, brigades and divisions. It's a matter of
giving them not only trainers on a base, but combat advisers who will help advise them
when they're in contact with ISIS.
All right. Let's let Anne‐Marie Slaughter ‐‐
Air support ‐‐
Anne‐Marie Slaughter ‐‐
[inaudible] ‐‐ okay. Dov Zakheim.
Yeah. A couple of things on that. First, we've been promising this to the Sunnis for a long
time in Iraq. Why should they believe us? Number one. We haven't done it until now.
And who knows if we can do it?
Phillip Zelikow: Dov, that's not true. We did it in 2007 and 2008.
I saw it.
You saw it. And where are we today?
We walked away from it and ‐‐
‐‐ the problem is
Wait. Let's ‐‐ Dov, you go and then ‐‐
‐‐ this is problem is ‐‐ and this is our problem in the Middle East ‐‐ you know, remember
we backed the Shah 1,000 percent? Ask the Shah where he is these days. Pushing up
daisies. The fact of the matter
is we have made promise after promise. And let me tell
you something else.
This whole fight we have with the Israelis? Do you think the Arabs look at that and say,
"My God. They double‐crossed Mubarak. They double‐crossed the Shah. They're double‐
crossing the Israelis. Can
we really trust them?" Yes. You were right. What you did in '07
and '08 was absolutely right. What has happened since then? And by the way, let's look
at Syria. Who did the Syrians want to fight first? ISIS or Assad?
Dov Zakheim: We ‐‐
Dov, 15 more seconds to relate this to the motion.
The point is that if you're talking about bucking up people to fight against ISIS, you don't
have the people to buck up because we don't have the credibility to buck them up.
that come to the point?
And you're saying that the roll‐back that they proposed, by using those forces, will not
I would ‐‐
All right. Let me bring it to the other side, and
then I'll come back to you, Anne‐Marie.
Philip. Philip Zelikow.
We're not saying the status quo works. The resolution is not supporting the status quo.
So that's a ‐‐ but what we're saying is to change the status quo you have to lead with a
strategy. So, that promises the Sunnis the self‐government. Yes, many
of them feel betrayed. They feel betrayed because the U.S. did not have their back after
2008, for various reasons. And so, you have to give them a situation in which they are
the dominant population in Syria. That's majority
rule in Syria. And then in Iraq,
therefore, a protected minority, up in the north and in the south. And that's doable.
In fact, the Iraqi prime minister, for the first time, with the council of ministers, has
moved forward, with U.S. pressure, and the laws that would actually put in place the
devolution of power down to the provinces to an unprecedented level combined with a
constitution that would give those
provinces the money proportionately to their
population out of the Iraqi budget. Combine that with the kind of military support
Michèle refers to and then you have a strategy that's realistic. But think about the
Do you give up on them and let
Phil, I feel like I'm back in 1965, although I was very young in 1965, but I really ‐‐ I feel
like you're saying I'm sure we can find these folks and I'm sure they can fight our fight
as long as we give them what they need to do. And if they don't, well, we'll give
them a little more and then we'll give them some advisors on the ground. And then
guess what, because we really got to get this done because we really do have to roll
back, we're going to send in the troops. It's not as if the Obama administration is not
pushing as hard as it can on the Iraqis to be inclusive. That has been our
strategy. They're working as hard as they can.
It's not as if they're not trying to
find people in Syria who will fight ISIL. It's not as if they
haven't been pushing Turkey to fight ISIL. Everybody wants to fight ISIL, but they want
to fight someone else more and we can't do it for them. Tom Friedman said, "Any
strategy in the Middle East that starts
with I, we, or us, is doomed to fail."
It's got to be a strategy that starts with them, they lead, we stop ‐‐ we don't let ISIS
expand, but they have to do the fighting and we can back them if they want to, but
we're not going to
roll it back.
But the point was can they fight? Yeah, they can fight. If you give them the kind of
support, they've proven it. What they want above all is to fight to control their own homes. Is that a realistic goal? Yeah. That's a realistic goal. That's the goal of national
liberation. That's not what we were fighting in Vietnam ‐‐
I'm having difficulty understanding where you two disagree with each other.
Unless they're saying that your vision of for a long time
leaving ISIS with the pieces of
territory it has now is crazy because it's such a terrific advertisement for
recruitment. They get their legitimacy as a caliphate from having the territory and
they're saying the patience you're willing to show the situation is a crazy idea, which will
lead to disintegration
and ultimately an invasion.
I’d like you to take on that point, because I think that's where I see some
disagreement. Dov Zakheim.
Well, first of all we're not talking about patience here. I thought Anne‐Marie laid it out
very well. We do want to keep
pushing them. Nobody said to stop even the
bombing. We continue with that. We arm the Kurds. We do train. The point is all of
that is not going to defeat ISIS. It's going to contain ISIS. That's the point and it's going
to take time. It's going to take
time to recover from the fact that since 2008 when you
were last there and doing what you did, we are now in 2015. Seven years and by your
own statement in those seven years we have not progressed. It takes time and you
have to contain and do the things
we're talking about and that you're talking about. I'm
still convinced that the reason we sound so similar is they're making the best case for us.
No we aren't.
Tell me why you're not.
Michèle Flournoy: I mean, I think that ‐‐ because I think Anne‐Marie said, containment is really holding
them where they are and we are saying holding them where we are is not enough,
because as long as they have the territory they have they will continue to have
momentum. They will continue
to recruit. They will have a basis from which to launch
operations and eventually there will be attacks of significance on the United States. The
containment is a recipe for increasing risk and cost to the United States.
So yes, the containment may be an initial phase on the way to
defeat, but we have to
proactively roll ‐‐ keep ‐‐ prevent them from spreading elsewhere and roll them back
where they do spread. Not by going in by ourselves, all by ourselves, but by
empowering the local populations who have the political will, the legitimacy, but maybe
not the means and support
they need to be effective.
And, Michèle, with a U.S. brand on that effort? And I ask that because you're opponents
are saying the minute we see ‐‐
I don't think we need to have a U.S. brand. I think the most legitimacy ‐‐ the people we
should be supporting in the fight against ISIS are the Sunni ‐‐ the vast majority of Sunnis
in the world who are just as appalled by them and find them just as abhorrent as we do
except they're living with them.
Oh, Anne‐Marie Slaughter.
is the crux of our disagreement, right, that we're saying you hold them. We all
agree on that. You're saying you can only win if you roll it back, but what you won't do
is actually adopt the only strategy that would roll them back, which is massive U.S.
we have been trying to get Afghans and Iraqis ‐‐
We have not adequately resourced ‐‐
‐‐ and Syrians and everyone else to fight for us and they won't do it in part because
they've got other enemies, other concerns. We can't fight it for them, but you
adopt the strategy that will actually get you to where you want to go.
There are two key flaws in this argument. First, we have not adequately resourced or
tried advise and support. So before you get to that argument the only thing that will
work is a U.S. invasion. Can we at least just try a proper strategy of advice and
support? And give it a try because the second flaw in their argument is this, they
assume that this is a stable equilibrium, that a devastated Syria with half the population
displaced and millions of people in refugee camps in all the surrounding states ‐‐ that
can be stably maintained for who
knows how long to come. They can just stand on that
tightrope for hours and hours. We're saying they know they can't stay on that
tightrope. Eventually they're going to fall off that tightrope and then you ask yourself
which way do you think that goes as the Middle East
descends into all out religious war.
Look. Look. Resources, $500 million bucks to train 60 people. That's a tremendous
Because we wouldn't fight Assad. That's why we could attract new recruits.
Okay. So do you want to fight Assad? Now you want
to fight a two‐front war.
‐‐ Syrian civil war.
You want to fight both sides. That's great. Well, I hope we figure out which side we
shoot at first.
That's how you bring the Sunni coalition together.
You want to put ‐‐ first of all, how much money should we fund the Saudis
whom we want to fight for us? I mean, the last time I checked they weren't going
around with a tin cup.
That's not what we're arguing, Dov.
So it's not the Saudis. It's not the Emirates. It's just these people themselves. Again,
how did the Iraqi Army that we were training, and we poured billions into these guys,
what a great job they did. So they weren't fighting for their homes, you
say. Okay. What
do you think would happen if we poured billions into the Sunnis in
Iraq? Do you think the central government would let us? They won't even let us pour
money into Kurdistan. So you really think they're going to let us pour money into the
And one other
thing, you're making the assumption, and you've said it, the Sunnis are
appalled. I don't know that the Sunnis are appalled. I know that English‐speaking
Cambridge and Oxford educated Sunnis are appalled.
Absolutely right. I will not quarrel with you, but how many people are funding these
is just like the Canadian IRA ‐‐
You get to the argument ‐‐
Frankly you get to a tangle. It's just so hard. They're so mixed up. Let's just leave them
be and it'll be okay.
We're not saying leave them be. And
even if we [unintelligible] we're still not saying
leave them be.
When this region disintegrates you don't think we will be called back in? Do you think
the day after a thousand Americans are killed in a mass casualty attack that the
president ‐‐ you're
going to go to the president of the United States and just tell him
doing more about it is too hard? I went through 9/11. I saw what happened after 9/11.
[unintelligible], saying Afghanistan was the least accessible place on earth for U.S.
forces, but man, it was not too hard after 9/11.
Wait a minute.
Can I just say ‐‐
Dov. Dov. Dov. Dov. Anne‐Marie Slaughter
is talking now.
All right. So, ‐‐ all right. I'm not going to go back to 9/11. I want to go back to the
Sunnis and what they want to do. We've heard over the past two days from Professor
Haykel, again, somebody who spent his entire
life studying Islam, studying Sunni Islam,
studying the theology. He estimates that roughly half of the Saudis, half of the Saudis,
actually are sympathetic to ISIS. He says that the Saudi government will not send its
troops against ISIS because they are co‐tribes people and so that they are worried
the Saudi military will not fight against their co‐tribes people.
We're not asking for the Saudi military to come in and fight in Iraq and Syria.
Well then who are we asking to fight?
We're asking for the support to
the Sunnis who live in Iraq, who want to be self‐
governing and to be included in the Iraqi society. Look at the number of Sunni groups
on the ground who are fighting ISIS now in Syria without adequate support. No one's
talking about bringing in the Saudi Arabian military
or the UAE. We're talking about
helping the people who live on the ground in Iraq and Syria to reclaim their own lives
and communities and—
‐‐so the very people that the Iraqi government ‐‐
Should we just let them go?
No, but ‐‐
Fifty percent of the Saudis now sympathize with ISIS. That's the product of the status
quo and we should therefore say gee, this really is
too hard. I guess Saudi Arabia is
going to go down the tubes, too? Where do you stop this?
Phil, you said ‐‐
Dov Zakheim was talking about ‐‐
‐‐ the Saudi government was ‐‐
‐‐ going to fight them.
Dov, take it.
You're letting me talk.
I've let ‐‐ I think there's been a fair amount of Dov Zakheim letting talk and going on ‐‐
Thank you very much, Mr. Moderator.
I happened ‐‐
‐‐ to be in the Pentagon when they were picking up body parts in 9/11. So, I don't need
be lectured about 9/11. Look. Do you honestly think that even if we got rid of ISIS, we
would get rid of a 9/11? There was no ISIS in 9/11. And Al‐Qaeda is still there. And there
are all these franchise terrorist groups ‐‐ some of whom call themselves "ISIS," some
whom don't, who could ‐‐ who are just as intent on going after us. That is not the issue.
To throw up the bugaboo of some individual bomber going after us, and therefore, we
somehow defeat ISIS ‐‐ it just doesn't work.
But this is where I ‐‐
I'm going to let Michèle answer, and then ‐‐
‐‐ I am bothered by ‐‐
‐‐ I'm going to go to ‐‐ Michèle, can you hang on just one second?
Michèle Flournoy: I'm sorry.
I'm going to let you answer. I just want to go to questions from you after that. And when
that comes, the lights will come up. The way it will work ‐‐ just raise your hand.
Stand up. A mic will be brought to you. Please
wait for the mic before asking your
question. Go ahead, Michèle Flournoy.
You know, you're right in the sense that there will always be violent extremists of one
sort or another. What we need to focus on is trying to address the conditions that make
whole communities vulnerable
to being with them. And there, we have an approach
that has not been tried and has not been fully resourced to do that in Iraq. And I think
that's a much harder problem in Syria. But there are things that we have not tried that
can also do that in
And so, I think getting wrapped around the axle about how much military intervention
are we talking about is a very important question. But the fundamental issue is what can
and should we do to address those fundamental conditions, because if we don't address
them, this threat will reach
out and touch America.
But do you really disagree with that statement?
No. I mean, no ‐‐ there is ‐‐ I don't think there's anyone in this entire audience who has
fought as hard as I have, over the past three years, to try to use force
to bring the civil
war in Syria to a political conclusion.
So, we are ‐‐ you know, if it's a question of what do we do to end the civil war in Syria,
I've got a whole another strategy. But what we're talking about here ‐‐ of course we're
in terms of pushing the Iraqi government to be more inclusive. We're with you
diplomatically. We're with you again on the digital strategy, which is a huge piece of ISIS.
What we're saying, though, is ‐‐ what you're saying is we have to push them out of the
territory they hold. And
we are saying there is no way to actually do that that does not
actually involve massive U.S. troops on the ground, and that we can talk about
supporting others. We've been trying that for a long time. That's not going to get us
Did your Syria ‐‐ did your strategy to intervene aggressively ‐‐
‐‐ to end the Syrian civil war require lots of U.S. troops on the ground?
No. It did not. It required ‐‐
So, you ought to just come on
over here now.
No. Nope. Nope. But we'll ‐‐ that's a separate debate.
Let's go to questions. Right down in front here. Please stand up and let the mic come to
you. And if you could tell us your name as well. It's coming from
‐‐ it's coming down the
aisle, behind you, to the right.
This is Peter Feaver. And I have a question for the nattering nabobs, the negativism,
over here on this side.
You've invoked the example of containment. But the only example of it working in
history that you've
mentioned is against a superpower, the Soviet Union. Can you tell
me a time when containment of a terrorist organization worked? And if you're willing to
do the Soviet Union containment model, are you willing to continue with, leader‐to‐
leader, summits between the ‐‐ Baghdadi and maybe even ping‐pong
diplomacy with ‐‐
how far down the containment ‐‐
Peter Feaver: ‐‐ a‐la Soviet Union are you willing to go?
Thanks. Good question.
So, you just ‐‐ you thought we were containing a superpower. We were not. We were
containing an ideology.
And what is
vital about understanding ISIL is it's just the latest manifestation of an
extremist ideology that says, "The only way to purify Islam," just as once there were
arguments about the only way to purify Christianity, "is to revert to an extreme version
of the religion." So, the beginning round of
this is 1979, with the attack on the great
mosque in Mecca. And similarly, actually, the Iranian revolution. Then you see the
Taliban. Then you see Al‐Qaeda.
Then, as you've heard, you see Boko Haram. You see manifestations of what is a
decades‐long fight. The Arab Spring is another
version of it, that says, "This religion is
deeply, deeply corrupt. It is impossible to have a decent government. We want to purify
the religion and we want decent governments. And it's just going to keep happening
until Muslims fight it out. And our argument is we can contain it.
We obviously have to
protect ourselves. But we are not going to be the ones to actually win this fight.
I want to let the other side respond to the initial question, if you would like to. Michèle
I think the ‐‐ you know, the
reason why ‐‐ one of the reasons why containment works,
vis‐a‐vis a superpower in a state like the Soviet Union, was because it was coupled with
a robust policy of deterrence and the threat of massive retaliation. These concepts are
not operative when you're dealing with ISIS. What are we
going to do to deter ‐‐ I mean,
ISIS ‐‐ deterrence of the Cold War sort does not operate when ‐‐
Sure it does.
‐‐ you're dealing with a transnational terrorist organization.
What's an example of what's worked with a terror organization?
Quite the contrary. The example is, as we've also heard from the experts on ISIL, is that
ISIL thinks that
Al‐Qaeda's strategy was a failed strategy because they caused a
catastrophic attack and precisely because we then went in and wiped them out.
And their strategy is not to do that. So, we of course are still going to protect ourselves.
If there is such an attack, we
are going to respond. And then the American people will
support sending in troops. And we will do what we have to. But our point is that is not
their strategy. Their strategy is to hold territory. We're going to contain them there and
ultimately let the Muslims fight it out.
You know, it's interesting ‐‐
‐‐ when someone said today that, "Maybe we didn't need to worry so much about a
catastrophic threat," it turned out that the recently retired head of the British Secret
Service was at the table. And he said,
"When I was listening to you say that, I was
thinking that neither I nor any leader of any security service I know of would have
understood what you are talking about." If the ‐‐ the threat picture that they are seeing,
the threat picture that caused the director of the FBI
to publicly say two weeks ago that
ISIS is now the leading threat on his agenda, the reason the FBI has been picking up ISIS
supporters in all 50 states of the United States during the last month ‐‐ that's because of
the threat picture that they are seeing.
that's this year. That's not 2016. That's 2017. You just think about the way this
develops in time, because this is a much larger safe haven than Al‐Qaeda ever had.
A question down front here. And the mic is coming down this way.
My name is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And Michèle and Philip, you made a fantastic moral case to
defeat ISIS. And I completely agree with you. Last year this time, September, our
in front of the world and said, "We're going to degrade and defeat ISIS."
Our vice president told the world, "We're going to chase them to the gates of hell."
You made a fantastic case. And I'm with you. I voted for it and I think I'll vote for
I need you to ‐‐
But there's a question ‐‐
I ‐‐ here's a question.
Yes. And here's the question. And the question that you have to answer and you have to
deal is really, is this debate about ISIS or is it
about American leadership? Is the United
States of America prepared to take the lead in this? And for the two of you, what case
would you make to the presidential candidates and to the American people to take that
lead and keep that lead?
I think the –
This is about both. I think we have to make the case that ISIS is a threat that will directly,
touch ‐‐ threaten Americans, whether we want that to be true or not, and that the kind
of political strategy, the kind of coalition, the
kind of effort that is going to be needed to
actually turn the president's and the vice president's words into actions ‐‐ which has not
fully happened yet ‐‐ that will require U.S. leadership.
And nobody else but the United States can lead that coalition to beat this organization.
Okay. The other side does not need to respond. Right down in front there, sir. And the
mic is going to come down ‐‐ you see.
Great debate. Graham Allison. If
this is such an imminent threat, why is it that our Israeli
allies are so relaxed about it? We have a track two conversation‐‐
You actually did ask a question. That was perfect.
So I'm going to go with that ‐‐
‐‐ because I think these people
know the background on it. So I'll take it to Anne‐Marie
So, I would ask exactly the same question.
I mean, Israel's our closest ally in the Middle East. They are certainly every bit as much
enemies of ISIS as we are. As I
said, ISIS fights the crusaders, the Zionists, the Sufis and
the Shiites and, yes, Israel looks at this, I think, and understands that to get in there to
the extent that it would take to roll them back from their territory is immediately to
strengthen them, because then they're fighting the
Zionist enemy and so I ‐‐ I think
Israel is very wise on this.
Response from this side? Phil Zelikow.
The presumption that Israel is relaxed about ISIS ‐‐
‐‐ which would ‐‐ you know, any member of ISIS if he were to encounter an Israeli citizen
in ISIS territory, there's going to be a really gruesome video the next week, okay? So the
notion that‐‐put yourself in Israel's position. They have a lot of things going on in their
world right now. Palestinians. They're attacking Hezbollah in Syria, which is also
fighting on Assad's side.
So, the notion that gee, let's see if we can attack [unintelligible] and bomb ISIS so that
Jewish airplanes are bombing ISIS and that helps us recruit Sunni Muslims? So I think
Israeli's have kind of figured out that that's not the path to a successful coalition
strategy to defeat ISIS.
Hang on just one second. I'm going to let you respond. Okay. Somebody needed I
thought to tell me something. They want me to point to her. Anne‐Marie Slaughter.
Maybe the other reason the Israeli's are not quite so upset is that ISIS is actually
attacking both Hezbollah and Hamas.
Let's go to another question. Down front here. Sir, if you could stand up. The mic's
Stefan Edlis [spelled phonetically].
Very short, please.
When the Irish ‐‐ excuse the expression, not Irish, but the Arab Spring.
I want to know the free association that got you there.
They were secular. It turns out to be they're actually a religious revival. So, a religious
revival. My question is very simple directed to you. Where would the money come
from to undertake that gigantic effort that you propose?
Well, as I said, I don't think
‐‐ I don’t think that right now we have the national will to do this and frankly even if we
started spending the money and, you know, we do spend money on these sorts of
things, this takes time. In effect what you're doing
when you ‐‐ if we were to do what
you suggest, we would be containing them.
We wouldn't be rolling them back at that point. They wouldn't lose an inch of territory
because of that. It takes time. If you want to undermine them this is one of the ways
do it. What you're talking about is radio‐free Europe, voice of America updated to 2015.
The administration, the Obama administration, has very successfully put together a 60‐
nation coalition, but what we haven't yet achieved is a coherent strategy where
everybody's pulling in
the right direction, the same direction. One of the things that our
partners need to be convinced of is the degree of U.S. commitment. I think if the U.S.
shows that commitment we have a lot of leverage to get others to be using the money
they're already putting in
to this theater in a much more productive and effective
manner. So, we're not going to be funding this alone. We have 60 nations signed up to
help. What we have to do is use our commitment to better leverage and focus ‐‐ to
better focus the efforts of the whole coalition,
and we have not done that.
With respect, you earlier said we don’t want to rely on the Saudis. We want to rely on
No, I said I don't want to have Saudi forces coming into Iraq and Syria.
Okay. Well, our ‐‐
That's different than asking the Saudis to help fund a proper strategy that we have
helped to put together.
But part of our ‐‐ is
our coalition only for funding? Is that what we're doing here?
No. Of course not. There are other things as well, but do you think ‐‐
Well, what are those other things?
‐‐ it's a smart idea to put Saudi forces in Iraq and Syria? I
I'm not the one suggesting it. You're the one suggesting it.
No I didn't suggest it. You put words in my mouth.
All I'm saying is you said that it's the local forces and now you've got a 60‐nation ‐‐
Syrian and Iraqi forces fighting ‐‐
Right, and now you're talking about a coalition that's doing what?
I want to saying something. I want to remind you that we're in the question and answer
section of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.
Dov Zakheim: I answered the question.
I want to remind you that we're in the question and answer section of this Intelligence
Squared U.S. debate. I'm John Donvan. We have four debaters.
Two teams of two debating this motion: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be
Defeated. Let's go
to another question, sir.
I am David Petraeus and I ‐‐
‐‐ and I rise to take slight issue and ask a question of my friend, Anne‐Marie
Slaughter. Anne‐Marie, you stated that the surge didn't work. With great respect, I was
there and actually ‐‐
‐‐ actually it worked pretty extraordinarily. I mean, driving violence down by 85 to 95
percent. Phil remembers. He was in the administration. We achieved all the
objectives. By the way, Ambassador Crocker is back here, for whom I was privileged to
be the wingman as he pursued the diplomatic efforts.
The results were sustained, in
fact, for three and a half years after the drawdown of the surge forces until Prime
Minister Malaki undid them and all that we and Iraqi forces achieved, and he alienated
So, the point here is that he undid the political bargain
that was reached during the
surge. The further point is that the center of gravity of the fight against ISIS is not in the
frontlines it's in Baghdad in Iraqi politics and indeed in various Syrian locations ‐‐
Wait. I have to stop you. I'm giving you a lot
of leeway because of your service, but
ultimately democratically I need to ask you to ask a question.
The question. Can you be confident, Anne‐Marie, that allowing ISIS to continue to
control large areas of Syria, i.e., just containing them, and Iraq, can allow the new
political discussions that are so important in ensuring multi‐sectarian and multi‐ethnic
that they can enter into the new bargains in the shadow of areas from
which contained, but undefeated ISIS extremists will continue to project violence
seeking to spread the horrific humanitarian situation and geopolitical Chernobyl that is ‐
So, General Petraeus,
even ‐‐ so, General Petraeus, even though we are both proud
graduates of the Woodrow Wilson School, I could not quite keep all of that in my head
at one moment, but what I will say is I did not say that the surge was not
successful. The surge was successful
and ‐‐ no, I did not. I said it was ‐‐
I ‐‐ again, I don't want the audience debating with the debaters, so the floor is yours.
It was absolutely successful and then you left and then we left and then the Iraqis did
not do what they
should be doing to liberate their own country on their own and we are
back here again. As you said from the stage, I was there. We liberated Mosul, but
Mosul is now once again under ISIL control or under a violent extremist Islamic group.
So that's exactly what
I'm saying. If we could keep David Petraeus on the ground in Iraq
working with Chester Crocker [sic] advising the Iraqi government every step of the way, yes I think we would succeed. My point is we are not going to do that and because
we're not going to do that trying to do it one more time we just do it round and round
and round and we do not ultimately do what we need to
do to let this fight play out as
it's going to play out on its own. I'm sorry.
Ryan Crocker I’m having terrible time today.
I think the question was in the face of still vibrant ISIS in
Iraq and Syria, you can't ‐‐ how
can you get to the political progress that will ultimately resolve these situations? You
argued for diplomacy and political settlement on both sides of this border as part of
your strategy as well, but you can't get there as long as ISIS is a
We agree that if you want to roll back ISIS and take them out, all right, then ‐‐ and
you're willing to stay, you can get what did you say, General Petraeus, I think you said
maturing multi‐sectarian populations.
There are no lifelines
in the debate.
I haven't seen ‐‐ all right.
You can't call out. Sorry.
My point was I have not seen that, but if we were to get there it's going to take actually
pushing them out and, once again, you don't
have a strategy that can do that absent
Michèle Flournoy: We believe that we do and we've explained it, but I think absent that, you are
condemning this region to perpetual instability, civil war, violence, and the launching ‐‐
the incubation of terrorism against the West. And against us.
And that concludes Round 2 of this Intelligence Squared U.S.
debate, where our motion
is Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated.
Now, we move on to Round 3. Round 3 are where the debaters make closing statements
from their seats. They will be two minutes each. Here to make his closing statement for
the motion Containment
is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated, Philip Zelikow, professor
of history at the University of Virginia, former counselor for the Department of State.
One of the things I had the sad task of doing years ago was to be the Executive Director
of the 9/11 commission. This
is the commission that was called upon to investigate after
the fact what had happened. And of course, for years before 9/11, we knew Al‐Qaeda
was at war with us. Well, we weren't sure they were going to come to the homeland.
And besides, if you looked at the problem
‐‐ and people did ‐‐ it was just so hard. Look at
who we'd have to work with in Afghanistan ‐‐ the Northern Alliance. The politics of the
Northern Alliance were nightmarish. There were thugs and warlords among them.
And besides, if you wanted to do something with some special forces, there'd
be risks to
Americans. And of course then came 9/11. And then here I am interviewing generals,
and national security advisers, and even former presidents. And it's "Wish we coulda,
wish we shoulda." All the things that ‐‐ all the options they thought of doing, they
considered, and they were too
costly, too risky. And the politics of Afghanistan was too
hard. But was it really then better now to then have to occupy Afghanistan and we're
still there 14‐and‐a‐half years later, because we didn't take the risks, the messy politics,
the hard laboring with some effort? Instead, we
ended up with catastrophe and a
catastrophic commitment of the United States. If you want to avoid that kind of
catastrophic commitment, vote for the resolution, because we need to nip this in the
We need to deal with this infection now before the gangrene spreads and the
brings out the hacksaw.
Thank you, Philip Zelikow.
The motion: Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. And here to make her
closing statement against the motion, Anne‐Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New
America and former director of policy planning for the Department of State.
So, the last time I was on this stage, I was talking about male/female equality. It's
another hat that I wear. And from that perspective, ISIS does absolutely unspeakable
things to women. In fact, ISIS ‐‐ IS ‐‐ should stand for "international sex trafficking,"
because that is what they do. In hideous
ways. And I'm not hesitant about the use of
force, and I'm definitely not hesitant about U.S. leadership in the world.
The reason I'm taking the position I'm taking is because when I read the proposition that
said "Containment is not enough: ISIS must be defeated," I saw, once
again, the United
States making the mistake of believing that we could solve a problem that is a decades‐
long, maybe century‐long struggle, fight, war, but among Muslims. We should protect
ourselves, absolutely. We should do everything we can diplomatically, digitally. And yes,
if there is that coalition of
other states or strong fighters that we can support, I would
support them. But what's really at issue here ‐‐ the only thing we're disagreeing about is
do you stop them where they are or do you roll them back? Do you take away their
And my proposition is that
if we, the United States, try to lead a coalition to take away
their territory, we will once again find ourselves in the midst of someone else's fight in a
way we do not understand, and we're often producing precisely the consequences we
wish to avoid.
you, Anne‐Marie Slaughter. The motion is Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must
Be Defeated. And here to make her closing statement in support of the motion, Michèle
Flournoy, co‐founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security and former
Undersecretary of Defense.
One of the most searing memories of my time in the Pentagon was a visit to Dover Air
Force Base. Dover Air Force Base is where the remains of fallen U.S. servicemen in Iraq,
Afghanistan, wherever ‐‐ are brought back to the United States. It is the first place
where the families of the fallen are able to receive their loved ones. On the night I was
there, my first visit, it was bitterly cold.
We were waiting on the tarmac for what seemed like forever, for a large military
transport plane to come in. Eventually, the plane came
in, landed, and taxied to a stop
on the tarmac. Off to the side, nearby, away from the press, was about ‐‐ were about a
dozen grieving, grief‐stricken families who were there to receive a father, a husband, a
brother, a daughter, a sister. And we waited for what seemed
like an eternity. And
eventually, the back of the plane opened to reveal a row of flag‐draped caskets. And
one by one, each of those was lovingly carried by a group of soldiers off to an awaiting
family. It was a just unbearable and devastating scene. This was the cost
‐‐ the human
cost of war.
This was Americans who had sacrificed everything for their country and families who
would never again be the same. When we think about how we're going to fight or how
we deal with ISIS, we need to think about Dover, the human cost of
the choices we
make and the choices we fail to make. And I am here today firmly believing that if we do
not adopt a more‐robust and well‐resourced strategy, where we're not doing it all by
ourselves, but we are leading an international coalition to fight this horrific
we will spend more blood and treasure down the road.
Michèle Flournoy, I'm sorry. Your time is up. Thank you.
The motion is Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated. And here to make his
closing statement, Dov Zakheim, a senior adviser at the Center
for Strategic and
International Studies, and former Undersecretary of Defense.
In 2002, I was asked to help get troops and funds for that coalition ‐‐ first the coalition in
Afghanistan, then the coalition in Iraq. I got money. I didn't get any troops from
Muslims. Not one Muslim
country sent troops in, as I recall. Some helped with training in their own countries. To talk of coalitions is to talk, essentially ‐‐ if the Brits want to
play again ‐‐ of a U.S.‐U.K, coalition with a lot of other flags. It's not going to work.
General Petraeus is right. The surge worked. Phil, you’re right. With over 100,000
I remember sitting next to the Deputy Secretary of Defense and testifying,
who then said that General Shinseki was wrong when he said we needed several
hundred thousand troops to win in Iraq.
We did put six figures of troops in Iraq. Lots of troops in Afghanistan. But that's behind
us. It's not 9/11 anymore. It's not 9/12. We have a history of being in there. They don't
want us. So, we have this Hobbesian choice: put in loads of troops, beat ISIS back ‐‐ roll
them back, as you would like ‐‐ and take the risk of alienating the Arabs. Or
holding them in place, doing all the other things you talk about. But it'll take time. It'll
take money. It'll take will. And it ain't going to happen overnight. And I go back to what I
said earlier. You have made the best arguments for containment ‐‐ with the exception of
my partner, of course ‐‐ that I've heard tonight. We cannot beat these people unless we
are absolutely committed to more money, more troops, more will. It ain't going to
happen. Thank you.
Thank you, Dov Zakheim.
And that concludes closing statements in Round 3. And now
it's time to learn which side
you believe has argued the best. I'm going to ask you again to go to the keypads at your
seat and vote as you did at the beginning. Take a look at the motion again. Pay careful
attention to the phrasing, so you are
clear which side you're voting on. But if it's for this
team, it's Number 1. And if it's for this team, it's Number 2.
And if you became or remain undecided, it's Number 3. And we'll take about 15 to 20
seconds to let you complete the vote and lock
it out. Okay. While that's happening, I
would just like to say a few things. First of all, it's our goal at Intelligence Squared to
have debates like the one we just had. Really passionate argument, brought with
respect information, intelligence, civility I want to congratulate all of these debaters for
what they did.
It's really a pleasure for us also to be partnering again with the Aspen Strategy Group
and we just need to thank a few people.
First of all, Joe Nye and Brent Scowcroft. Thank you very much for having us here again.
Group director and also a member of our advisory board, Nick Burns. Thank you very
And Deputy Director Jonathon Price. Thank you. And the Aspen Institute President and
CEO Walter Isaacson.
And again we want to thank the founders of Intelligence Squared U.S., Robert
Rosenkranz and Alexandra Munroe.
The other thing, as I said at the beginning, this is actually a philanthropic
organization. We ‐‐ this podcast and radio broadcast we give out to the world for
and we're now at the point where millions of people are listening to them and we rely
on the support of a lot of donors who are also in the group. So, without naming you I
want to thank you all for your involvement and support.
also want to take this opportunity to say to General Petraeus I know that for a long
time we've been trying to book you to be in one of our debates.
And I think you're indicating now that you may be interested, that you're bookable,
because we would love to
have you in the future. So, we will be surrounding you for
email later. Because from the audience you debate pretty well.
We're putting the final touches on our upcoming fall season. I know a lot of you do get
to New York, so we want to give you
a little look ahead at the topics we'll be doing there. Broadly, we don't have the motions language framed yet, but the topics are
sexual assault on campus, the Chinese political and economic model, the nation's
infrastructure, central banks, and affirmative action. We're going to be at George
Washington University debating the use of smart drugs and we're going to
Northwestern Law School debating prosecutorial abuse. We will have the full lineup set
by the end of the month and you can get it by visiting our website iq2US.org.
You can buy tickets there. You can also sign up for our e‐blast and, again, this debate
all of our debates, we're now at I think 107 since we started, are all available via our
app, which you can download from the Apple store and from the Google Play
store. Okay. The results are all in now. Again, the motion is this: Containment is Not
Must Be Defeated. We had teams arguing for and against. You voted
twice. Again, the team whose numbers changed the most between the first and the
second vote will be declared our winner.
Let's look at the preliminary vote. On the motion Containment is Not Enough: ISIS Must
Be Defeated before
you hard the arguments 52 percent of you agreed, 27 percent were
against, 21 percent were undecided. Those are the first results. Remember, again, it's
going to be the difference. Let's look at the second vote. On Containment is Not
Enough: ISIS Must Be Defeated the team arguing for the
motion their second vote 32
They went from 52 percent to 32 percent. They lost 20 percentage points. Team
arguing against their first vote was 27 percent, second 59 percent. They went up 32
The team arguing against the motion declared our winner. Our congratulations
them. Thank you from me, Jon Donvan and Intelligence Squared U.S. We'll see you next
- We cannot keep ISIS at a distance and allow it to establish a sanctuary, as we did with al Qaeda in the 1990s.
- The U.S. must intervene on a larger scale, which includes the deployment of more ground forces.
- We are at war with ISIS and the administration's incrementalism will only give it space to grow stronger.
- Defeating ISIS would require the commitment of hundreds of thousands of troops, which the U.S. is not prepared to do.
- After over a decade fighting in the Middle East, the U.S. still has a poor grasp of the region—even if we were committed to defeat ISIS militarily, what then?
- By containing ISIS, we will allow its ideology and brutality to consume it from within.