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Our previous coverage of former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage speaking at Missouri Boys State on Monday evening:

Richard Armitage at Missouri Boys State: via Twitter

Richard Armitage at Missouri Boys State: Q and A, part 1

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Question: …I was wondering, you talked about the situation in Asia and Obama’s ‘soft power’. I was wondering what you think is the best source for Obama in regards to foreign policy, especially tensions in Asia?

Richard Armitage: Well I think, uh, you’ll see Mr. Obama go to Asia here shortly. First of all, let’s see what he’s done on Asia so far. He sent Hillary Clinton out there first [audience reaction], her first trip, which as normally for a Secretary of State, going to Europe. She went there and it was excellent signal to our Asian friends. Second, Mr. Obama, who lived in Indonesia for a time, is looking forward to going back, probably at the time of, of the APEC meeting which is held, I think, this year in Singapore. I can’t remember where. But anyway, Mr. Obama will be, will be going. Uh, third, he has dramatically increased our interaction, uh, with Asian societies. In the last two years of Mr. Bush’s administration the Assistant Secretary for East Asia focused almost entirely on North Korea – this is Ambassador Hill who’s now in Iraq – to the exclusion of the others. And there were all kinds of stories in all the Asian press about America is passing over Asia etcetera, etcetera. Now this is one of the reasons that Secretary Gates was sent by Mr. Obama to Singapore to give this speech where he said we’re a resident nation in Asia. So I think he’s doing fantastically well for Asia now that we’re back on track with Japan and South Korea and China on the six party talks. I think Mr. Obama ought to continue his personal interaction but not overlook the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath. You know what the Hippocratic Oath tells you to do? First, do no harm. It’s what doctors are cautioned, first, do no harm. And this is what Mr. Obama should do first. Do no harm. And when he goes to Japan, when he goes to Korea, when he goes to China soon I think you’ll see him do a hell of a lot of good for us. I’m pretty enthusiastic about his Asia team and his own views of Asia, not least of which because he used to live in Indonesia. [applause]…

Question: …I was wondering, did we have any leader in the United States ever try any diplomatic relationship with Sadam Hussein?

Richard Armitage: Did any leader in the United States do what?

Question:  Uh, try to diplomatically talk with Sadam Hussein.

Richard Armitage: Uh, yeah, uh, I’ll give you any number of instances. First, uh, of course, Secretary Rumsfeld did, nineteen eighty-four. Then I did in nineteen ninety-one, with the Gulf War, first Gulf War. Uh, we sent unbelievably numbers of messages through, like, the United Arab Emirates, Cairo, Egypt to try to talk to Sadam Hussein. Uh, to my knowledge he was uninterested. But if you’re saying did anyone pick up the phone and call him, not to my knowledge. Uh, and of course, we had not had an embassy there for some time. We did during the first Gulf War, not during the second Gulf War. Uh, so, uh, I don’t, I don’t know what I don’t know. As far as I know nobody did talk to him in the final days leading up to the invasion.

Question: …I’d like to ask you, with Obama using a lot softer force when dealing with other nations, and the economy problems, and climate control coming up to head, do you see any possible way of a one world order coming in soon?

Richard Armitage: Question has to do with would there be a possibility of one world order. I don’t see it. Uh, in fact, I think the whole thrust of what we’ve seen, uh, in the last twenty years has been more nationalism around the world. If you look what happened in the former Yugoslavia, now we have Serbia, we have Bosnia, and , uh, Kosovo. Uh, you’ve seen a proliferation, if you will, of nations. So I think actually things are going a different direction. You’re seeing, you’ve got more nations in the United Nations now than you had twenty years ago, so I don’t see a new world order or a one world order on the agenda.

And Mr. Obama is in some ways presenting a much better face to the world. I wouldn’t call it a soft face, I’d call it a smart face. I think he’s using both our soft and hard power in a more intelligent way. Certainly if you’re in Afghanistan you’re not looking at soft power. Uh, Mr. Obama just put twenty-one thousand, [garbled] twenty-one thousand more troops in. so, uh, I think he’s using our power more intelligently. And using all the tools in our kit box now, in our tool box. Uh, Mr. Bush just used sanctions and, and force. Uh, and I think this gives us a better opportunity to prevail. What is soft power? [garbled] It’s the ability to attract. You want to persuade, you want to attract them. Hard power is coercive.  Well, force them to do something. If you can attract people I think it’s always better. It seems to last longer.

Question: …My question for you is, with the current situation in North Korea and the testing of the nuclear weapons, what are, what is the U.S. doing to better our situation and stance with what they’re doing?

Richard Armitage:…I would argue that we put new F-22s in, fighter aircraft, in Okinawa to kind of up the ante a little bit. That is, the North Koreans have to realize their behavior has left them in a slightly less, uh, secure position, number one. Number two, uh, we backed, led the UN vote on the sanctions which if put into effect can be meaningful. Number three, I predict we’ll go back to do some, doing something unilaterally, probably, actually bilaterally with the Japanese. We have the ability to interfere with the money that actually goes to the regime. That was what the big to do a year ago was concerning the Macao bank accounts. This really bothered the Kim Jong-il regime, hence it seems like a supremely good idea for me to go back and do that again. Uh, in fact, if I were in the government I’d be arguing to do just that now, to interfere with the finances of the senior leadership. And we know who they are and we know where the money is. [applause]

Question: …I was just wondering, uh, you have been up here today, said that you have been in support of President Obama. I was wondering if you’d be able to accept the viewpoints of your friend General Powell, not only helping President Obama, but if you were interested in any parts of his administration or any help that you’d be able to assist with the president. And what do believe that, uh, you’d be able to help with the most?

Richard Armitage: Well, first of all Secretary Powell, you may have seen recently, is trying to get the Republican Party to behave itself and actually act as a loyal opposition and actually stand for something for a change. And not just run around like a bunch of knuckleheads. Uh, he’s trying to have a real debate. [applause] If we don’t have that debate and if we can’t have a very functioning, coherent Republican Party which stands for something, then this nation will be ill served. And our friends on the Democratic side will do what any administration would do if they hold the overwhelming majority, they’ll go off the rails. They’ll overreach. So, for no other reason we need a very coherent Republican Party. For the second, the question of assisting Mr. Obama, uh, Secre
tary Powell has, uh, met with him most recently about three weeks ago for an hour. They talked about a full range of things, they talk on the phone a lot. Mr. Obama has called me. I’m sure if, uh, I’ll just speak for me, if my telephone rang the answer would be “yes”. Uh, but it hasn’t rung. And, uh, who knows? Mr. Obama, when I talked with him he said, uh, we’ll want to get together in due course and, uh, we had a good conversation. As I said, Powell’s in to see him all the time. So, I don’t think Secretary Powell at his age wants an official position with the administration, but I, I, it’s quite clear if there was some special mission that the president wanted Secretary Powell to do, he’d do it. Because he’s served over forty years, I suspect he’d continue serving again. [applause]

Question: …I was wondering about what you thought about, uh, the threat that the, Brazil, Russia, India, and China have to U.S. hegemony, when you consider [crosstalk]…

Richard Armitage: The threat, the threat of which, please?

Question: Of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. When you look to the [garbled] proposed thesis about their gross domestic product by mid century, coupled with the post American world.

Richard Armitage: Yeah, [garbled] indicated clearly when we come out of this recession, uh, the [garbled] countries I referred to, Brazil, Russia, India and China, uh, are gonna be in a new place. And we’re gonna find ourself in a new place. And it’s gonna take a lot more nimble diplomacy, a nimble, uh, treasury, uh, work, for us to maintain our dominance. These, nothing here happens overnight. It happens over a long period of time. And those countries you named, Brazil and India, are relatively young. Uh, India’s what, twenty-four point eight years of age? Brazil, I, I think it’s around that. Russia and China are actually quite old. China’s about thirty-seven years median age and Russia is older than that, older than us in terms of median age. Which means for Russia you’ve got a declining empire. For China you’ve got one that around twenty forty is gonna peak out and have a lot of old people. But India will still be in the ascendency. Our close relationship is with India. Uh, so I think that we ought to be able to parlay that, and Brazil, we’re in pretty good shape, into a pretty long lasting partnership, if you will. But when you think about twenty forty, twenty fifty, you also really have to take into consideration demographics because they have a huge impact. Now we are in relatively good shape. Our growth, we haven’t aged very much in the last couple of years because of the influx of, uh, foreign immigrants. And they tend to have a higher birth rate. So what this means is, we’re gonna have workers who can continue to provide to pensioners long after a Russia, a China, or many of these other nations, certainly our European friends who are in a real dilemma right now. So our immigration policy and our relatively high birth rate has kept us in pretty good shape when it comes to twenty forty, twenty fifty, and Social Security. We’ll be straining, but we’ll be all right. [applause]

Question: …With the growing threat of Iran and nuclear weapons what can you suggest in detail as far as a long term solution?

Richard Armitage: Well I think the long term solution in Iran comes from a realization that, look, the Iranians, uh, they don’t dislike the United States rank and file and they don’t want to be just like us. Uh, we’ve got, we’ve about two million Iranian Americans that come and go back and forth all the time, so we know a lot about what’s going on. I think we’ve got to use Russia who has a fair relationship and has made some very fine offers to the Iranians about their fuel cycle. Uh, we’ve got to, uh, make sure that we keep our European friends on side so that Iran cannot put new investments into their dilapidated oil structures. They’re not realizing, uh, the very big percentage of what they should realize out of their oil revenue because they haven’t put any money, because of sanctions, into their oil, uh, infrastructure. So, I think if we’re patient, long term, and steady, keep all our friends on side, we can actually work that one out. I think we can. Uh, North Korea is a much more difficult situation. [applause]

Question: …You spoke of how you had many, uh, mistakes in your career. And many of them were big. What I’d like to know is, what do you do to cope with the stress and, uh, guilt that you had after making those mistakes?

Richard Armitage: Well each one was, was somewhat different. With my family, uh, I need to tell you the worst one. My daughter one day came to me and she said, “Dad, nobody ever wished their tombstone was inscribed, ‘I wish I’d worked another day at the office.'” And she really hit me right between the eyes with that. And I realize that she was saying that I’d ignored my family for my career. You know what? She was right. Uh, so I tried to rectify this. I tried to be more aware, spend more time. My wife and I were very fortunate we were able to adopt six children in addition to two biological children. And at least in my mind I was a much better in that home [garbled] for those six. Now maybe they wished they had it like the other two, and I’d be gone. I’ll let you ask them.

Uh, each one, each problem is sui generis. The one consistency is, always told the truth. This is the most important thing. Didn’t excuse it off on anyone else. It’s my problem and I have to fix it.

In terms of dealing with the stress of it, uh, I have a wife, I could talk to her. I exercised. That’s what I did. And I, I resolved in my mind, and I’m gonna make plenty of mistakes, and by the way, so are you. Each of you. Let’s not make the same one twice. That’s where you really say you screwed up. [applause]

Question: …India and China have disputed territory in northern India…I was wondering what America’s role is in, regarding this conflict, and since the territory’s been with India for fifty plus years, how do you think, with our tenuous relationship with both countries, how do you think America’s role should be in either using diplomacy or other measures in regard to [garbled].

Richard Armitage: Are you talking about the relation between Russia and India [garbled]? Or China, China, India rather?

Question: Northern India conflict.

Richard Armitage: Well China, in, um, two thousand three [garbled] actually negotiated an agreement with India on their disputed border area. The reason is, I mentioned in answering another question, China has such a need for stability they didn’t want to have external instability while they’re trying to maintain internal stability. That’s held pretty much. But I, uh, recently was in Delhi and, uh, the leader of the Congress of Indian Industries told me, he asked me, “How much foreign direct investment from China do you think we have in India?” And I said, “Why, I haven’t a clue.” He said, “Two hundred fifty thousand dollars.” And that’s deliberate. In other words, nothing. Nothing. They’re trying to keep China excluded. I think our role is, although we’ve developed a very close relationship, as is understandable with a democracy, with India, uh, is not to get in between the two. Uh, historically, uh, we have played a role, in nineteen eighty-nine, right after the, the election of George Bush, but before his inauguration, myself and a colleague were sent by Bush forty-one, uh, to China and India. The Chinese actually gave us a message to take to them, Rajiv Ghandi, who was the prime minister of India. We took it and then gave his answer back to the Chinese. And that’s a traditional role to the United States between those two countries. Sort of passing a message we feel we can be a friend to both though we’re not equal friendships. [applause]

Question: …When we imposed the economic sanctions on North Korea and the U.N. imposed them, we allowed China to ignore them and still give Korea the food, the supplies they needed to run the country. Why has the U.S. not taken a sta
nd on this in the U.N. , in general allowed China to do this?

Richard Armitage: Uh, because of the structure of the U.N. Security Council. In order to get, uh,where any permanent member can veto, China being a permanent member and Russia, they both have very strong views on the sanctions regime.  They think to some extent it’s necessary to show the North Koreans we’re all angry, but they don’t want to put too much pressure, they think it’s counterproductive. So they negotiated with us to change the sanctions from being mandatory to being, uh, suggested or whatever is the proper, I forget the word, to get the resolution. We acceded to that because we wanted the unanimous resolution. To veto it would just give sort of aid and comfort to the North Koreans. And I think in diplomatic terms, which is pretty warm beer generally, that’s not bad. That’s not bad. Uh, but when saying why do we let them get away with it, well, what are we going to do about it? They have a border area. We don’t. They, their view is, uh, they need stability in North Korea more than they need nuclear weapons out of North Korea. So they’re gonna do it. We have more influence over South Korea, but as I indicated in answer to the previous question, apparently the two previous governments spent a lot more money in North Korea than we had, we had come to know by a factor of about six. Uh, and that’s where ought to be putting our leverage, on somebody that we can have effect with, rather than China which we have little [garbled]. [applause]

Question: …Earlier you put extreme importance on our military bases in Japan.

Richard Armitage: Yeah.

Question: Um, however, some people, uh, believe that the reason we have so much military influence there, um, is because Japan’s own constitution prohibits, uh, [garbled] of military force. And I was wondering if they were able to amend that and have their own strong, uh, military if you think that our presence would or should, uh, change there.

Richard Armitage: Well, first of all, our presence in Japan hasn’t gotten anything to do with what people used to refer to as the cork in the bottle. That is, if China, excuse me, Japan would remilitarize if we weren’t on those bases. And so we stay at those bases just to cork their military capabilities. We’re there because it allows us to effect security cooperation throughout all of Asia. And we do. From those bases. Second, uh, the debate on what’s called Article Nine in the Constitution of Japan, which prohibits collective self defense, considered to be the antiwar clause, is being chipped away gradually and right now it’s very legitimate to speak publicly about getting rid of the prohibition on collective self defense. Ten years ago you couldn’t have done that. And most recently the lower house of Japan last week voted to allow Japanese maritime self defense force ships to go off the coast of Somalia. And not only to defend Japanese citizens and Japanese ships and Japanese goods, but also to defend foreigners and foreign goods. That’s as close to getting rid of that prohibition as you can imagine. Finally, if you look at the military forces of Japan today, they have more destroyers in their fleet than we have in our Pacific navies. And they’ve got more high performance aircraft in their air fleets than we have in the Pacific. So they’re already a competent military force. In terms of overall military spending we’re number one, they’re number seven, but it’s still pretty considerable. [applause]

Thank you all very much. [applause]