Washington, D.C. —
DAVE BRIGGS, FOX NEWS: Welcome back. Violence in Syria continues. President Obama is calling on Russia in a bid to help out Assad but is the U.S. taking the appropriate steps in dealing with the Syria unrest and the Assad regime?
CLAYTON MORRIS, FOX NEWS: Joining us to weigh in on this is General Martin Dempsey. Nice to see you on this Memorial Day, sir. Thank you for waking up and getting up early with us on this day. Thank you.
GEN. DEMPSEY: It's actually a late morning for me.
MORRIS: I was going to say in the military you're well before anybody.
DEMPSEY: No problem.
MORRIS: Let's play you some sound from Senator John McCain who has been critical of the United States' actions against Syria. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: It's really an abdication of everything that America stands for and believes in. And on Memorial Day, we should be especially moved by this incredible inaction and failure to assert American leadership. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MORRIS: It seems like, General, there's a lot of talk going on there. This weekend, we saw the atrocities against children by the Syrian forces. Is it time to take action and enough talking already?
DEMPSEY: You know my job as the senior military leader in America is to provide the president options when a political decision is taken. And I think that the events over the weekend are absolutely atrocious and I think the international community -- I think the pressure has to be mounting on Assad and should continue to mount on Assad and if asked for those options at some point, I'll be prepared to provide them.
BRIGGS: Is a military option one of those?
DEMPSEY: Of course, the military, there's always a military option. But that military option should always be wielded carefully because one thing we've learned about war -- I have learned personally about war -- is that it has a dynamic all its own. It takes on a life all its own and so you'll always find military leaders to be somewhat cautious about the use of force because we're never entirely sure what comes out on the other side. But that said, it may -- it may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities.
MORRIS: General, when you look at that, talking about this military option, do you look to Libya as a marker for success there and being able to say: ‘Worked in Libya.’ Do the two go hand in hand or do you have different ideas on the table?
DEMPSEY: Well, I think that it's always very risky to apply a template to any particular conflict. As we've learned, again, lessons throughout history. I'm sure there are some things that we did in Libya that could be applicable in a Syria environment or Syria scenario but I'm very cautious about templates.
BRIGGS: All right. Moving now to Afghanistan, Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, on Sunday criticizing what Mitt Romney has been saying on the campaign trail regarding our withdrawal. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SECRETARY PANETTA: The only way to get this accomplished in terms of the transition that we have to go through is to be able to set the kind of timelines that have been set here in order to ensure that we fulfill the mission of an Afghanistan that governs and secures itself. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BRIGGS: The secretary of defense says this withdrawal is working. Will it work long term?
DEMPSEY: Well, I think that a couple of things in reaction to that. I mean, the objectives of Lisbon, the Lisbon summit that establishes full transition at the end of 2014 remain in effect. And what you've seen the leaders of the -- of NATO do in Chicago is decide that they needed a milestone in 2013 to pull them toward Lisbon and so the milestone in 2013 involves us transitioning security responsibility to the Afghans. Which, by the way, is the only way this issue is ever resolved, is the point at which the Afghan security forces can take responsibility. John Allen, the commander in ISAF -- the International Security for Afghanistan Forces -- is responsible for doing periodic reviews about how that progress is going. And one other point. The other point is that we've got now a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan that commits ourselves to a longer term presence beyond 2014, the framework of which will be established over the last year.
MORRIS: And one of the sticking points, of course, we had some guests on the show yesterday pointing out that Pakistan, perhaps the biggest international concern, perhaps more so than Iran with 100 nuclear warheads trained on that region, and of course, everything that unfolded as it related to this doctor whom is now being held by Pakistan for upwards of 33 years and his working with the United States in the international community to try to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. Here is Secretary Panetta on that issue and we'll get you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PANETTA: It is so difficult to understand and it's so disturbing. yet they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notice -- notorious terrorist in our times. This doctor working against Pakistan but against al-Qaida. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MORRIS: Your thoughts on that?
DEMPSEY: Incredible. I can't imagine what they did. It's probably some tribal court. I certainly hope that's an appellate level court that would deal with it and reverse it.
BRIGGS: And your message today, Chairman, on Memorial Day?
DEMPSEY: Well, my message is that few families in America thankfully have had the experience -- the tragic experience of being handed a folded flag because of the loss of a loved one who has been killed or died in combat. And so, I want to make sure that I remind myself and that we remind ourselves that today is really about memorializing those who have died in the service of their country and made us who we are.