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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks and Q&A at the Royal United Services Institute Policy Exchange

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey, London.
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I’m sure you stopped listening when he said he was a one-time obituary writer. (Laughter.) Good God, I don’t think I’ve ever been introduced quite like that. (Laughter.)

This is my third trip here in the past three years to give some kind of address. Really, I like to think of it more as a discussion about our profession and our security challenges.

Two years ago I came at the invitation of then-chief of general staff Sir David Richards, and I was TRADOC [U.S. Army Training & Doctrine Command] commander. And then last year I returned to speak at the Royal United Services Institute. I was the chief of staff of the Army. Now I’m back as the chairman. And so I think if I come back next year -- I probably shouldn’t come back next year because I’m pretty much out of jobs at this point -- (laughter) -- to matriculate into.

But I’m deeply honored to be here. I’m here with my wife, Deanie. We’ve got three significant events, and one of them is this; another is the one where I eat breakfast with the Atlantic Partnership, and then tomorrow evening we’re at Royal United Services Institute to talk about the role of women in the security profession, something that I’m keen to discuss.

So Dean thank you for that kind introduction, and thank you, and thank you for honoring [Chief] Constable Colin Cramphorn with this lecture series. Deanie and I enjoyed meeting Colin’s wife Lynne, and his sister, Vicky before speaking this evening.

One of the themes of my presentation tonight is the importance of leaders of consequence, and Colin Cramphorn was certainly a leader of consequence. It was only after reading about Colin’s role in the attacks of 7/7 while beginning his own fight against cancer that I began to understand why you recognize him here tonight and each year. I’m honored to be part of this annual celebration of Colin’s life. We will need men and women with his spirit, his determination and his commitment to his fellow citizens if we are to successfully navigate through the challenges ahead. Thanks for allowing Deanie and me to be part of this event.

I want to thank you also for the opportunity to dialogue with many leaders of Parliament, your defense industry, intelligence establishments in both of our countries, as well as academia and the press. The challenges we face require first and foremost an equal and greater understanding and opportunities such as this to increase our understanding and share our thoughts about our common security challenges that are vitally important, and I’m happy to be able to spend the time with you to do that.

Now, as you know, just this past week we celebrated Thanksgiving, and I want to begin by telling you that our relationship with your military is one of the things for which those of us who wear the uniform of the United States are thankful. Since I first remember celebrating Thanksgiving many decades ago, we’ve managed now to create two other holidays on the periphery of this last Thursday of November. One of them, of course, was last Friday, which as you know we describe in our country and I think in yours as well as “black Friday,” the first shopping day of Christmas, and today, which has become known as “cyber Monday.”

Now, this “cyber Monday” phenomenon is sort of curious to me, but it’s also an important indicator of change -- and more about that in a moment.

I’m mentioned I’m in London here for two events, including this -- or three counting those two others -- one of which is that women in the security professions dinner tomorrow night. So I mentioned that my wife Deanie is with me tonight, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to reinforce the important role that women play in our security professions. So let me share a short story with you.

I met Deanie in high school. She was 17 -- I was 17; she was 15. We married after I graduated from West Point. Just a few years ago two of my high school classmates and I were bragging about those early years of our marriage and how we set our wives straight on who would do the domestic duties. One of my friends had married a young gal named Eileen, and he boasted that he had told Eileen that she was to do all the dishes and all the house cleaning. He said it took a couple of days, but on the third day he came home to a clean house and to find all the dishes washed and put away.

Now, the second of my friends had married a young lady named Joan, and he bragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, all the dishes and all the cooking. And he said the same thing. He said the first day he didn’t see any results, but by the second day it began to get better, and the third day his house was clean, the dishes were done and he had a delicious dinner on the table waiting for him.

Now, they knew that I had married this young gal, this young Irish gal named Deanie. So I explained that soon after we were married I told her in no uncertain terms that in my house it was to be cleaned, the dishes scrubbed, the cooking done and the laundry washed, and that this was to be entirely her responsibility. I shared with them that on the first day I didn’t see anything, and on the second day I didn’t see anything, but by the third day some of the swelling in my left eye had gone down -- (laughter) -- and I was able to actually see -- (laughter).

That’s obviously a joke -- (laughter) -- I do think we are actually close to having women involved in our security professions, but I’ll save that speech for tomorrow night.

Now, students of history may know that I’m -- on this day in 1943, three historic leaders met because they sensed that they had arrived or were soon to arrive at what they described as a strategic inflection point. Those three leaders, of course, were Sir Winston Churchill, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Premier Joseph Stalin. They met for that first time in what later was known as the Tehran Conference.

While it doesn’t get as much notoriety as the conferences at Yalta and in Potsdam, it was arguably the most important and the most intriguing of those three conferences. The key decision reached by those three leaders was to open a western front in World War II. This led, of course, to the invasion of Normandy in spring of 1944, otherwise known as Operation Overlord. It was a critical turning point in the war, and ultimately the way they agreed upon opening the western front and the restructuring of Europe, it actually led to the boundaries that we knew for those 50 years or so following World War II.

Now, I suggest that we -- and I do mean we -- are at or nearing another of those strategic inflection points in our own time. Some of the challenges facing us are relatively clear. We have to maintain pressure on the state and non-state actors that threaten us. We must determine how we will interact with those nations experiencing the Arab Spring. We must determine how we will relate to emerging and reemerging nations, especially China.

Other challenges may be less clear. Earlier this month we learned that it took 14 years for the world’s population to increase from 6 billion to 7 billion. It will take only 10 years for the world’s population to increase from 7 billion to 8 billion. Now, that fact alone will have to mean something more to us in terms of security and not simply an opportunity to look smart at a cocktail party, if nothing else than the entrance of a billion more people into the workforce 25, 30 years from now, and the additional pressure that will put on the world’s economic stature is worth thinking about even today.

Moreover, the challenges we face are being acted out on a stage of unprecedented economic interdependence and unimaginable access to information. Now, that’s not new to you. Some, however, suggest that this economic interdependence and this connected state of the world will have a stabilizing effect. Others suggest that the convergence of these factors will be destabilizing. It’s likely to be both, and it’s likely to be both in an unpredictable way.

Our traditional alliances and partnerships around the world, including our alliance with Great Britain, is the stable platform on which we will confront these challenges. Yet it cannot be lost on any of us that we now face known and unknown security challenges in the context of a new fiscal reality.

With that as background, I’d like to talk with you about three words that begin with the letter “I.” They help me frame the challenges ahead, and those three words are immune, innovative and inspired -- immune, innovative and inspired.

First, immune. The job of our militaries is still to its absolute essence -- and I might the job of security agencies in our nations -- is to ensure that our nations remain immune from coercion -- immune from coercion. This is no small task, let me tell you. A world which has become more competitive as state and non-state actors taking advantage of information technologies to become more lethal, to decentralize, to network and to syndicate a nexus. Stated another way, the number and kinds of threats we face have increased significantly.

Now, we haven’t been standing still watching this happen. In fact, I’d argue that no institution has become more adaptable, more flexible and more versatile over the last 10 years than the institutions of our militaries. We are simply not the same militaries we were in 2001. We’ve adapted hierarchical structures in which capability and authority were jealously husbanded at the highest echelons and we’ve created decentralizing, distributive structures where capabilities and authority are pushed to the lowest tactical echelons.

To ensure we remain immune to coercion as we move forward, we must think carefully about how our actions will affect the nature of deterrence. We’ve learned much over the last 10 years and we’ll continue to adjust our force structures based both on what we’ve learned and that new fiscal reality. That will require us to adjust our strategic objectives and to find that balance of capability and capacity. That is, we must have both the right tools and enough of them to credibly deter potential adversaries and then to deliver on our objectives if we have to fight.

Now, on this “cyber Monday” I said I’d come back to cyber, and here’s my report to you: We are not immune to coercion in cyber. We are not immune to coercion in cyber, and we have to get after it. We’re working on it, as I know you are working on it, but in my judgment we need to work harder.

The second “I” is innovate. Yesterday, I heard your countryman, James Dyson, speaking about the need to encourage creativity and invention in our schools. He made a very persuasive argument. I contend that we need to do the same thing inside our wonderfully traditional and intensely bureaucratic military structures. The time-honored method for absorbing diminishing resources is to do less with less. I don’t think that’s going to work this time. I just don’t think the world will cooperate. So we need to see transformational opportunities, including but not limited to new capabilities, new command structures and greater interdependence among our internal military services, but also with our closest allies.

I recently heard a very successful entrepreneur describe the difference between big corporations and small. He noted that big corporations spend most of their time defending themselves while small corporations attack. I don’t think anyone would argue with me if I laid claim on behalf of the United States Department of Defense to being the quintessential big corporation. (Laughter.) But we need to think like a small corporation.

If you prefer, hockey player Wayne Gretzky said it a little differently. When asked -- he was a man of rather normal stature, and when asked how he achieved such greatness on the ice, he said simply, “I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.” And that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to skate to where the puck is going. That means coming to grips with change -- change in communications, change in intelligence and our ability to grab it, analyze it, dispense it, changes in robotics, in non-biological intelligence, in power, in energy and in precision.

We’ve tended to see capabilities as they’ve emerged as simply additive over time. We have more of this or more of this or a new thing, a new shiny object over here. (Laughter.) But again, with costs as an independent variable now, we have to seek the synergies or the possibilities that those capabilities provide and integrate and combine them in innovative ways.

In the early part of the 20th century -- and you knew I’d get an Irish poet in there at some point -- but in the early part of the 20th century Irish poet William Butler Yeats noted that, “Talent perceives differences, Genius unity.” “Talent perceives differences, Genius unity.” I suggest that now is the time for genius.

And the final “I” is inspire. A few weeks ago I met an Air National Guard parajumper. These are these young men who rescue folks in dire circumstances in peace and in war, sometimes out in the ocean, sometimes off the side of a cliff. And in this particular case this young man, whose name is Master Sergeant Roger Sparks -- when I met him he had just been -- come back from Afghanistan where he was recommended for one of our nation’s highest military awards. While serving in Northeastern Afghanistan he had lowered himself from a steel cable from a helicopter in a hail of machine gun fire to rescue 12 soldiers who were stranded on the side of one of these mountains in the Hindu Kush. He pulled all 12 soldiers from that mountainside. Four of them died in his arms.

Now, it wouldn’t surprise you to know that when I asked him why he took such risk he said simply, those soldiers needed my help at that particular moment in time.

We have a trust relationship with the American people, we who wear the uniform. We’re seen as the preeminent leader-development experience in America. We’re known to develop leaders of consequence. Whatever we become in the future, we must not lose this standing with the American people any more than your military can afford to lose that same standing with the British people.

You know, there’s a psychology to the way the nation feels about itself and about whether it’s progressing or in decline, and it has less to do with how much money they have than it does about whether it feels like it’s living up to its values. I’d say that a nation whose military embodies the values of the nation will never be in decline.

As we consider who we will be as a military in the months and years ahead, I don’t think it unreasonable to hold ourselves to the highest standards. We should inspire our fellow countrymen with our courage, our determination and our willingness to serve. Colin Cramphord understood that, and because he did his impact is far greater than just the handful of men and women whose lives that he personally touched.

Thank you for the opportunity to chat with you tonight. That concludes my prepared remarks.

Normally when I find that the sun has gone down and the microphones are turned on I end up singing songs of some kind -- (laughter). It is Christmas and we could end up doing “Christmas in Killarney” I suppose. (Laughter.)

But before we get -- (audio break) --

Q: (Off mic) -- tell people that these days.

General Dempsey, I just wondered how you see the U.S. relationship with Pakistan?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, it’s struggling right now. The events of last week are tragic, and they’re tragic on a couple of levels, the most important level of which is, of course, those 24 Pakistani soldiers, men who had families. And so I get asked a lot of questions -- you didn’t ask me, but a lot of people say, what’s the strategic impact? And we’ll get to the strategic impact, but I think we can’t get to the strategic impact without passing through the real tragedy in this -- is the loss of life and -- (inaudible). And I’ve had that conversation with General Kayani.

So the relationship’s in trouble, and we’ve had -- we’ve had other moments before. I’m hopeful that with the relationships we’ve built leader-to-leader and worked at over the past years that we can find our way forward. But I understand the -- I understand the anger and I understand the concern. I don’t know what -- (inaudible) -- investigate as we do when there’s that kind of loss of life, and I don’t know what the investigation will yield, but what I do know, as I said, is that there are 24 young men who are no longer with us, and that’s tragic and we have to work through that.

Q: (Off mic.)

GEN. DEMPSEY: Oh, sorry.

Q: Hi -- (inaudible) -- in London. Sir, this may be outside my experience base, but looking at the news about U.S. and Britain’s approach to Iran and the worries about Iran building a bomb and so forth. The increasingly hostile approach would seem -- to Iran would seem to be driving all those involved more -- (inaudible) – Iran, who might be dissenting against the leadership of Iran into the arms of the sort of, the elite there because they can pitch the argument that the West is against the Iranian people. But if we actually stand up we actually get more likelihood of an Arab Spring happening in Persia. Do you think that is a credible assessment?

GEN. DEMPSEY: It’s a -- it’s a -- it’s one scenario of what I think would be several possibilities. So just a reaction to what you said -- I mean, would we like to find an outcome where the Iranian people separate themselves from a regime who has a stated national policy antithetical to our values and who aspired to wipe our allies off the face of the earth? Would I aspire to have that settled internal to Iran? Absolutely. And as you know, right now we’re trying to -- not trying, we’re adopting an economic and a diplomatic approach to try to do that, try to build a community of nations that will also see the same, share the same concerns and take the same actions.

But, you know, what I do for a living is wear the uniform, and my job is to provide our nation with military options, and I will provide the options if the time comes to do so.

But I assure you that our first and second and third and fourth approaches to this will be through the economic and diplomatic channels.

Q: General -- (inaudible) -- you said --

Q: (Inaudible.)

Q: (Inaudible.) You said that we -- (inaudible) -- cyber. Would you expand?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Sure. If -- you know, first of all we have to agree on whether cyber is, um, would describe it or I would describe it as a domain and that’s significant because, you know, there’s a maritime domain, there’s a naval domain, and if you think of it as a domain, which it is, and conceive of it as something manmade and understandable as opposed to kind of ubiquitous and mysterious, it will take you in a direction on how to address it.

So when we talk about cyber as, one, it has five components -- you build, you operate, you defend, you attack and exploit -- those are the five things that technically can happen in cyber. What I’m suggesting to you is that we’ve got -- just like a hand, you’d like those things to work together, but we’re treating it as though we have -- we can choose which of those -- we’ll build it but we won’t -- you know, and will build and we’ll operate it because those are kind of the non-contentious -- we’ll defend it, but we won’t allow any organization to defend all of it. We’ll parcel it out. And we’ll put the exploit and attack pieces into some compartmented program.

The reality is that we are vulnerable in all five of those components, and until we have a strategy that pulls those five together, we’re at risk. I mean, intellectual -- it’s not just about -- we lose enormous intellectual property rights. We’re under constant attack every day. And it’s going to take a whole-of-government approach. This is one of those places where clearly whole-of-government must resonate and must resolve this issue. And until we bring all five of those components together, we will remain vulnerable.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Q: (Inaudible.)

Q: (Laughter.) My name’s -- (inaudible) -- I’m an analyst at -- (inaudible) -- just building on the lady’s previous question on -- (inaudible) -- on cyber, could you just expand a little on how as the joint chief of staff, when speaking about separate domains and how cyber kind of permeates through all of them, how you plan, how the U.S. is and continuously apply cyber defense within the military architecture which exists, and you’re changing, about cyber you were -- (inaudible) -- intellectual property -- (inaudible) -- is often non-state actors, state actors attacking private sector directly. So what partnerships may we see to evolve between the government and private sector on -- (inaudible) --

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. Let me just zero in on one of the parts of your questions to see if it illuminates the rest, and that is the issue of what we call our defense-industrial base. So we -- you know, the military’s responsible for defending its own network, but of course since the mid-‘90s most of the work we do in acquisition, procurement, science and technology, research and development -- that’s all passed across into industry.

And so just to illuminate the challenge we face, if all of the work that is being done to produce the capability the military needs -- and when it’s passed into my protective cocoon of cyber security, you know, I’m OK. But while it sits out there being developed, it’s vulnerable because each individual -- each individual corporation is fundamentally responsible for their own security as it exists today. And it just seems to me that there are technologies available, whether it’s -- (inaudible) -- cloud technologies, all the things that you probably know more about than I do -- it seems to me that there are technologies available and that this is one of those moments in time when we ought to see an emerging threat and react to it before we end up, you know, with a catastrophic attack. And that possibility exists today.

Q: (Inaudible) -- thank you for your incredibly thought-provoking speech.

As -- (inaudible) -- in London we had quite a wakeup call in the experience of our August riots where we saw social media used to fuel, a fuse device which political and policing leaders found it very difficult to get handled. I wondered if I could ask you something about social media in particular within cyber, something we’ve become very interested in the Political Exchange here, how it could be used either to -- in both attacking and defending modes. This is of course a question that’s sort of -- (inaudible) -- through security into policing, and it’s one of these things where lots of different groups work together.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. I mean, the phenomenon you described is -- we would call it blog mobs. It used to be -- they used to call them flash mobs but now it’s more commonly called blog mobs. And they can organize with a text message, as you know.

And you know, the -- so, to the point, some of the decisions that some around the world have taken is to try to deny that and try to interdict it. I personally think -- my personal view is that we ought to use it, not try to block it.

I’m actually quite an advocate of social media. I’m an advocate of it in what it can help us do to communicate, to kind of crowd-source problems, to change the way we learn and educate. You know, I’d love to -- when I was at Training and Doctrine Command I was inspired that someday instead of having 3,500 instructors on stage with PowerPoint that I could become kind of the “app store” for the military, and if I had the right applications out there to deliver learning at point of need -- not when we wanted it provided but when somebody needed it -- that we’d be in a lot better place.

So, that these are the kind of questions that we even have as nations is how do we balance the opportunities of social media with the liabilities -- and there certainly are liabilities. Where does civil liberties fit into this, and, you know, things like freedom of speech? But the fact that we’re having this conversation today just kind of reinforces for me that we need to pull this thing across the finish line and decide who and what we’ll be in this new domain called cyber.

Q: (Inaudible) -- General Dempsey, I wondered if you could comment on the nature of defense cuts, perhaps in context of, your country but also in terms of your allies in the United Kingdom, and the resulting threats on our security.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah. We had -- I mean, that’s -- that’s one of the reasons I’m here. We’re having conversations about our future course. So we’re trying to sneak up on something that’s consumed me for about a year, in about a three-minute answer.

I’ll tell you that what we’re trying to do in the face of a new fiscal reality. See, we’re not fighting this. What I don’t want to become is the chairman or previously the chief of staff who says, I got it, you’re having an economic problem, but don’t look at me -- you know, I’ve got better things to do than to try to share your problem.

So the first message is that, you know, we get it. We’re not only soldiers, we’re citizens. The second thing is, we’re not victims in this. You know, we’re going to take some -- we’re going to take some cuts. We’ve got a pretty clear view of what they’ll be, and I think what it’s incumbent on senior military leaders to sort of jump beyond the budget cycle, and I’ll try to jump to 2020. And having landed on 2020, I want to look backwards and I want to know what the nation needs in 2020 in terms of its capabilities and its capacity, how much of it, and I want to look back and decide how I march there over several budget cycles, a lot of them, you know, this kind of constant drum beat of, you know, this year it’s this much and the next year it’s that much. I mean, I want to actually have encouraged -- and by the way, both President Obama and Secretary Panetta are encouraging this -- that we decide where we need to be in 2020, not -- I don’t mean to blather on, but 2020’s important, and here’s why.

If you talk to me about -- well, you are. You’re talking to me a lot about today’s challenges, and we’re having a pretty healthy conversation about today. I suspect that if you wanted to -- if we wanted to have a conversation about 2050, we’d have a pretty good conversation about that. Somebody here would be -- want to talk about global warming; somebody over here would want to talk about -- (inaudible) -- you know, somebody in the back might want to talk about, you know, trends. It’s pretty easy to talk about trends.

The reason I think 2020 is so important is we’re going to actually have to deliver it. And so when you -- go to a cocktail party sometime -- not that any of you would do that, but were you to go to a cocktail party and say to somebody, hey, what do you think the world’s going to look like in 2020 … crickets. You’re just not going to get people jumping on that hand grenade because, oh my gosh, that’s the world that I’m actually going to change. And I find that true in our profession as well.

So we’re trying to jump to 2020 and ask ourselves some very important questions about the -- what kind of world -- and incidentally, to -- the way we answer that question will actually shape that world. And then I’m going to get to four budgets. We do them in four-year cycles -- ’13 to ’17; ’14 to ’18; ’15 to ’19; ’16, ’20.

So whether I do it deliberate or I back into it, I will be the chairman that builds the joint force of 2020, and on that basis I think we’ve got to have that kind of approach rather than -- you talk about cuts. What I don’t want to do is every year get into this kind of drumbeat of a little more, a little more, a little more, a little more.

MODERATOR: Gentleman at the back, there.

Q: Me?

MODERATOR: (Off mic)

Q: Yes. (Off mic)

General, thank you very much for a wonderful speech.

GEN. DEMPSEY: (Off mic)

Q: My name is Ron Fox. I am a journalist.

If I could take you on from that question immediately, the last one, where do you see NATO over the cycle after 2020, and where do you see the U.S. and the U.K. roles in that time.

GEN. DEMPSEY: I don’t know -- I don’t know yet, but I can assure you that one of the reasons I’m here is exactly to have that conversation.

I know that you recently experienced a defense review; we’re going through a defense review. Those -- both of those defense reviews are performed by -- remember now, I keep using the phrase but it’s worth repeating -- there’s a new fiscal reality. I mean, I’m coming out of 10 years where if I asked for something as a military leader, I got it unequivocally. I mean, I didn’t -- the business case didn’t really have to be that strong, to tell you the truth, because we were living through a period where frankly we had the resources to do that. We don’t have those -- (inaudible) -- we’re still doing fine. (Laughter.) I had a conversation today with one of your colleagues about -- who started a question by saying, ‘What’s it like to be the chairman of a military in decline?’ (Laughter.) And I said, what’s it like to fall off that chair -- (laughter).

Because, look, we’re not -- we’re not in decline. And it’s important because whoever said there’s a psychology to this -- and we’re neither in decline, nor are we victims. We are simply reacting to what one might argue, for us, is an historic cycle of resources. I mean, if we look back in our history after conflicts, we tend to -- we expand -- we expand during a conflict; we contract after it.

The key is that we have to ensure that what we do in contraction is reversible, if you well, or expansible, so that when you get the future wrong -- which, by the way, as you -- (inaudible) -- we have an uncanny ability to do that -- that we’ll have enough capability to get us through the initial challenge and then we will be able to expand the force as it needs to be expanded. And then -- it’s about combining capabilities, too.

So, I mean, that’s -- does that answer your question? Or at least it answers – it answers it for me, so you’re done. (Laughter.)

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

Q: (Inaudible.)

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

Q: Sorry -- (inaudible) -- where do you see Afghanistan in terms of 2020 and what part will most likely play in the difference between now and then?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, that’s a fair question and one that we’re grappling with. We’re actually -- we have to figure out what we want to be to achieve the Lisbon objectives, which are, of course deliverable at the end of ’14 and we’re deeply involved in that conversation. And I’ve made a commitment to my colleagues here and, you know, after the first of the year we’ll meet and we need to have that conversation as an alliance.

But I think -- I think -- we have an -- I think we have the opportunity to deliver on the Lisbon objectives if we sort of springboard off of some recent suggestions. I mean, look, the surge -- my personal, professional and military opinion is that the surge had the intended effect in terms of adding to a more stable security environment throughout the country. The recent loya jirga was evidence of a governance model that is maybe not exactly what we would intend it to be but that is more or less coalescing the desires of the Afghan people in a way that I think is important to listen to.

So I think we can deliver the Lisbon in ’14, I mean, I just do. Now, what happens after that is sort of the next step in determining some kind of partnership relationship -- let’s call it eventually a normalization of the security relationship. You know, we just went through the same thing with Iraq, and we were discussing with Iraq and the past ‘11 period, and you know, some folks think they turned out well; some folks think they didn’t turn out well. I’m in the camp that think it turned out pretty well. And I suspect that we’ll have those kind of conversations both with NATO and with the Afghan leadership as we go forward.

So I can’t really answer that. I can assure you, you can’t get to 2020 in Afghanistan without getting Lisbon in ’14. That’s for sure.

MODERATOR: Person in the back.

Q: It seems from your talk that you’re taking the intellectual approach to your job. What about the relationship with your bosses, the politicians, you rarely mentioned them at all -- (inaudible) --

GEN. DEMPSEY: Do you really expect me to answer that -- (laughter) -- no, but I will. (Laughter.)

No, honestly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the interaction. I mentioned that the president, as we went through this -- you recall we had a bit of a deficit challenge and the reduction that was passed on the department was a little more than $450 billion. And the first thing he said was can we still execute your strategy given the reductions that you anticipate having to take over the next 10 years, which I thought was exactly the right question.

So I have found that the interaction on the strategic long-term objectives has been very encouraging and deep. I mean, this is not superficial stuff. Sometimes the crisis du jour is superficial. I mean, you know, we just -- you know how it is. When something hits and you have to deal with it, you don’t have time -- you don’t have time -- there’s not much time to pull out your calculator, you know. Aristotle and -- what would Aristotle have done? Well, we don’t have time for that right now, General, so how about you give me some options. (Laughter.)

But no, I think I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m in the job 60 days, but it’s been a very -- it’s been -- (inaudible) -- and -- but at the same time it is imperative to me not only as a soldier but as a citizen.

MODERATOR: A few more questions -- (inaudible) --

Q: Thank you. I’m Michael -- (inaudible) -- General, I wanted just to change it around for a second. If you could give us your view as a military man of the feasibility from a military standpoint of a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear installations, because I’ve heard different views on that from different -- (inaudible) -- what’s your view on that? Is it feasible to take Iran out?

GEN. DEMPSEY: No, that is one I won’t answer because -- (inaudible) -- and it’s not just -- when you say take out, you know, I’m like going to get some Chinese food or something. When you say take out, there’s four or five different things that might be integrated to accomplish that task, but I just don’t want to respond to that.

Some of this is just making sure Iran knows that what we say, we mean, which is you will not achieve nuclear weapon status.

Q: (Inaudible.) Last time you spoke at RUSI, you -- (inaudible) -- can you describe what a strategic inflection point is and why it’s of interest?

GEN. DEMPSEY: You know, sometimes I’ll say things and then force myself to think about it a little more -- you know, toss it out there and see if anybody reacts to it. (Laughter.)

But I do think -- but if you think about the -- if you think about what those three leaders faced in addressing a world war -- a world at war, but anticipating that it would not remain at war. The reason I think this is an inflection point is probably the convergence of several things. I mean, look, you’ve got to acknowledge the Arab Spring means something other than, you know, the casting off of despots and dictators. It also means something in terms of the relationship of governed to governing in those -- and I think -- I think that’s one of these lines that are convergent.

In other courses, we will be -- we will be looking back at Iraq and Afghanistan but looking toward a shift in economic, demographic and military powers in the Pacific. I mean, you know, if that’s a shock to anyone I’ll be shocked because, I mean, the demographics are shifting; economic strength is shifting -- with some of its vulnerabilities, by the way. It’s not shifting in an entirely positive direction. And of course, militarily the nations -- the emergent nations are beginning to increase -- some of the money that they are garnering as their economic engine comes to life, putting it toward military power. Look, we just have to figure out what does that mean.

And then the third -- so that’s the second convergence. The first was, you know, the Arab Spring. The second is this kind of shift of, let’s call it influence, if you will, into the Pacific.

And then the third thing I think is this new economic reality. You know, we are truly economically interdependent which brings with it some opportunities. You know, if you’re Tom Friedman, you see it as something that will be very stabilizing. Why would people who are economically dependent on each other fight? I don’t know, but they tend to do it on occasion. (Laughter.) You know, I don’t know if you read any Hilary Mantel -- she wrote a book called Wolf Hall, and by the way, she’s one of your authors, but in this book she reminds of that famous Latin phrase, “homo homini lupus” -- you know, man is wolf to man.

And so to tie those three things together -- Arab Spring, shifting of influence, economic interdependence -- not always stabilizing in a stabilizing way. This feels to me like it’s a strategic inflection point and that the structures and the way we have addressed the -- you know, our effort to kind of shape the world is changing. And I don’t know what it means yet, but I want to -- I want to generate that conversation.

MODERATOR: Thank you. (Applause.)