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Gen. Dempsey's Remarks and Q&A at the Texas A&M Univ. 60th Student Conference on National Affairs

By General Martin E. Dempsey

MR. :  Please sit.  Thank you.

KATIE SCOTT:  Well, good morning and howdy.


MS. SCOTT:  Welcome to the 60th Student Conference on National Affairs.  I’m so glad to see you all made it out this morning.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to see the chairman of the joint chief of staff speak to us and our community. 

This process has been years in the making, with guidance from our mentors and our advisers in the Aggie family.  And I am just so grateful that we can be a part of it.  And some of you who have already experienced that with the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation exercise at the U.S. Army War College, if you’re in here, will you all, like, give a whoop if you all did that?  (Cheers.)  There you go.  (Laughs.)  Yeah, that was a great experience.  And I hope the conference is just even more exciting as the days go on.  So be looking forward to our other speakers and continuing to keep up with SCONA. 

And with that, I’d like to introduce Lieutenant General House.  He is one of our mentors in SCONA.  He served in the Army for a very long time and has just been – (laughter) – not that long.  He’s amazing.  He has guided us as a team and helped us lead well.  And I’m grateful to introduce him and welcome you all – welcome General House.  (Applause.) 

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RANDOLPH HOUSE (RET.):  Well, thank you.  You guys are great. 

Thank you all for coming to SCONA 60.  You’ll get plenty of howdys.  As a cadet at Aggieland, I was involved in SCONA in the mid-’60s – ’63 through ’67.  And I never thought I would still be helping out SCONA 50 years later.  So be careful what you get signed up for.  (Laughter.)

General Dempsey, my mission today is to introduce Ambassador, and now, Dean Crocker, the – who you know well.  He’s currently our dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.  He needs no introduction to Aggies or to you.  But we do have a few visitors with us today, so it’s my distinct honor, pleasure and privilege to introduce one of America’s most gifted and experienced statesmen. 

A true national treasure, his bio is in the program, but I’d like highlight just a couple of things.  After 37 years, to include being an ambassador to five different countries, he tried to retire from the Foreign Service, only to be called back to serve as an ambassador to his sixth country:  Afghanistan, during the toughest of times.  Now, we soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines pride ourselves in service to nation.  But when I think about selfless service to this great nation, few are in Ryan Crocker’s league.

General Dempsey, I know Ryan is your friend and I know he wants to introduce you.  So, SCONA 60 delegates, please give a fighting Texas Aggie welcome to Ambassador Dean Ryan Crocker.  (Cheers, applause.)

RYAN CROCKER:  Thank you, General House.  And welcome to all of you.  We don’t really have a program this morning.  We just have a series of introductions.  (Laughter.) 

I also – thank you, Randy, for your support for SCONA.  You, of course, have – Raye Leigh Stone, Catherine Stone – talk about legacies – and all of your teams have made this possible, have made the success of SCONA possible, as really the premier university program in security affairs.  A measure of that success is the fact that today we host America’s senior military officer, General Marty Dempsey.

You have his bio in your program.  I won’t recite the story of his fabled military career.  He hates that kind of thing anyway.  But I will tell you two stories that are not in his biography.  The first goes back to Iraq, when General Dempsey was commanding the first armored cavalry division.  He was already in the redeployment process, after a pretty rugged year there at the beginning, 2003-2004.

But as they were starting redeployments, Iraq literally blew up – Sunni militants occupying cities in the west of Iraq at the same time there was a Shia Sadrist rebellion in Baghdad and the cities of the south.  So General Dempsey had to work with terribly disappointed families and a division that thought it was pulling out of the fight, to discover it was going right back into the heaviest combat they had faced.

That was more than a decade ago.  General Dempsey is still remembered in the Army for how he handled his troops, how he handled their families, and how he then led the most motivated division one could imagine in the successful campaign in Baghdad and the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala to tamp down that insurgency. 

History is made of things that didn’t happen, as much as it is those things that happen.  General Dempsey’s courageous and thoughtful leadership of that campaign which, if it had caused damage in the holy cities could have caused the country to explode – it didn’t explode.  That is not remembered today.  It is remembered by every soldier who served under General Dempsey at that time, it is remembered by their families.

The second thing I will tell you is that General Dempsey sings.  (Laughter.)  He is a proud Irish-American.  And when conditions are right, he will burst into song, the old Irish favorites, particularly “Danny Boy”.  Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in hoping that this morning the conditions are not right.  (Laughter.)  Please give a warm Aggie welcome – (applause) – to the 37th chief of staff of the Army, the 16th [18th] chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an American hero, General Marty Dempsey.  (Applause.)

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY:  Thank you, Ryan.  (Cheers, applause.) 

All right, let’s get it over with.  Howdy!

AUDIENCE MEMBERS:  Howdy!  (Cheers.)

GEN. DEMPSEY:  My wife Deanie and I and our team – our traveling team are delighted to be here.  And thanks very much to both of you gentlemen for the introduction, for the mentorship over the years.  You all here at Texas A&M are in incredibly good hands in terms of understanding your country, the way it operates – or, in some cases, doesn’t – and the challenges that we face and how best to address them with General House and Ambassador Crocker, who are both truly American heroes.  And they have inspired me in my career, as I’m sure they will for you.

Let me tell you, first of all, thanks for being here.  Your presence here indicates – and if you want to talk me out of this you probably could – but if you – your presence here seems to me to indicate that you have a genuine interest in a couple of things very important to me.  One is our country and another is its security.  And so I hope what we have a chance to do here today is interact on that basis.  And I’ll just say a couple of things by way of kind of setting the table for what will be the follow-on exchange.

The first is, interestingly, when I looked at the acronym for SCONA and noticed “national affairs,” I thought it might be – it might be worthwhile to start by saying something about who we are as a nation, because that – it seems to me you want to understand that if you’re going to have a conversation about what we should be doing.  First you have to understand who we are, and then maybe you can expand the aperture a bit to talk about what we do as a nation.

And interestingly, Ambassador Crocker in his introduction triggered a memory I have of a recent encounter with one of my counterparts from another country across the globe, who in one of our visits said to me:  Do you know what sets you apart?  And it actually – I don’t think he meant me.  I actually think he meant America.  And he said:  It’s the dash.  And I said, what are you talking about, the dash?  He said, the dash sets you apart. 

He said, you are a nation of Irish-Americans, of German-Americans, Polish-Americans, Jewish-Americans.  You are a nation of diversity.  You’re a nation where, in my case, the son of Irish immigrants can become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  And he said:  That’s what sets America apart, is the fact that you are inclusive, that people choose to integrate into your society.  And actually, it was a really important moment for me in understanding how others see us – sometimes maybe not as complimentary.  Some people are in fact quite jealous.  And some people actually find that dash very, very threatening to them. 

But that really is who we are.  It’s who you.  And my advice to you today, as we – and in this week when you talk about national affairs, just remember who we are before you start talking about what we should do, because I think that touchstone, if you will, that principle, that foundation is probably really important.  And as we interact with the rest of the world, I think we have to remember where we’ve been and make sure that shapes where we’re going.

OK, so how does the chairman of the Joint Chiefs think about the national security interests of the United States and how to protect them?  I’ll give you a little mnemonic device.  I use four numbers:  two, two, two and one.  And I’m not going to dwell on them.  You may want me to in the Q-and-A, and I’m happy to do it.  But two, two, two and one:  two heavyweights, two middleweights, two networks and one domain.

Two heavyweights:  Russia and China.  Russia, by the way, is trying to obliterate the dash in Eastern Europe.  They don’t want people to be Russian-Estonian, or Russian-Latvian, or Russian-Lithuanian, or Russian-Ukrainian.  They have lit a fire of ethnicity and nationalism that actually threatens to burn out of control.  And in so doing, they are threatening our NATO allies. 

And as a result, we have to make sure that we both reassure our NATO allies, harden them against the threat that they face, and then try to assist Eastern Europe, writ large, to include non-nation – non-NATO nations in suppressing this effort to rekindle fires that haven’t burned in Europe in 60 years – 70 years. 

OK, that’s the heavyweight.  That’s one heavyweight.  The other one’s China.  By the way, I’m not predicting for you open conflict against any or all of these countries or groups I’m about to name, but they are – they are the context in which we should think about our security.  The other heavyweight is China, clearly. 

China is re-emerging on the – on the global scene – very strong economic country, becoming militarily strong.  Have some historic territorial issues with their neighbors.  Also have some internal issues they’re working through.  Pretty tough to manage 1.4 billion people and keep them on a glide slope to prosperity.  I think actually we’re going to be able to work with China to manage – we’ll be competitors, but doesn’t mean, I think, we’ll have to be adversaries.  And we’re working hard to do that.  But that’s the other heavyweight.  So the two heavyweights, Russia and China.

The two middleweights – Iran and the DPRK.  Iran – when you look at the Middle East and the South Asia region, there’s actually only three countries that have been countries for millennium, for thousands of years.  And they are Turkey, Egypt and Iran.  And the three of them together are bordering, if you will, one of the most unstable pieces of real estate on the entire planet. 

As you well know, we’re working with Iran and with a group of partners to try to convince them that a diplomatic path to becoming – having a nuclear capability, but a nuclear capability that is not threatening to become a weaponized nuclear capability.  We’re working hard on that.  But we should all remember, that’s not the only issue we have with Iran right now.  Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism through its activities with Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, as well as the IRGC Quds Force. 

They are very active in trafficking weapons.  They are very active in cyber.  And they’re – they are active in other ways that threaten our interests.  So we are working hard to reach a negotiated settlement on their nuclear program, but we shouldn’t forget that there are other issues which cause us concern about Iran.  And those are going to have to be worked.  So that’s one of the middleweights. 

And, by the way, their presence at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, that connects the Gulf – and now, through the Houthi expansionism in Yemen, their influence in the Bab-el-Mandeb and the Red Sea are – will have to be – they will have to be part of our equation going forward.  Not sure exactly what that means yet, but it will have to be accounted for.  So that’s Iran.

DPRK:  opaque, unpredictable, led by a man who has increased the level of provocations on the peninsula, who may or may not stay in that provocative stance.  That’s a matter of concern to us.  Nuclear, on a path to develop road – intercontinental ballistic missiles that could actually threaten the homeland at some point if deployed.  Threatens our close ally, the Republic of Korea.  We’ve got 28,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the peninsula and about 4,000 families on the peninsula.  And so we have a great deal of interest in both protecting our allies in the region, but also those families.  And so that’s the other middleweight – also active in cyber, by the way, as we well know.

The two networks – one is the one which has been up till now kind of broadly described as al-Qaida, but as you know, there’s been others now who are competing for this radical ideology, anti-Western, fomenting the internal challenges of Islam’s Sunni and Shia, and now stretches really from al-Qaida, to ISIL, to al-Nusra, to al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Sinai, Libya, into the – into the Sahel and all the way down into Nigeria. 

And that’s a network, not a network that is coherent and unified all the time, but that partners with itself, shares tactics, techniques and procedures, shares an ideology that is anathema to the kind of freedom and that dash that I talked about at the beginning.  And that network is transregional.  It will take a generation or more to be defeated.  And it will take persistence on our part, and working closely, and most often, through partners and hardening our allies in order to deal with it. 

And importantly, it’s got to – we’ve got to counter their message.  And I don’t mean me and you.  I mean the people in the region who are most threatened and who have the greatest at stake really need to up their game in countering that message.  But it stretches from western Pakistan to Nigeria – one network.  It’s really a consortium, if you will.

OK, the other network is actually one we don’t talk about much.  We probably should talk about it more.  And that’s the transnational organized criminal network that runs in from our Southern Hemisphere up into the United States, but also increasingly runs from our Southern Hemisphere over into Western Africa, up the Sahel and into Southern Europe.

Transnational organized crime, they generate more money than most countries on the face of the Earth.  And if you wonder where that money goes, so do I.  So do I.  And I think there’s very clearly a nexus between the wealth that’s generated by the movement of weapons and drugs and human trafficking and any – incidentally, that is network in the sense – it’s a railroad.  I mean, it’s much more than a railroad, but I’ll use the metaphor, the analogy of a railroad.  And it’ll move whatever you ask it to move, if you’re willing to pay the price.

And so there is a nexus between this global network of terrorism and this global network of criminals.  And we need to continue to unpack it.  We need to do more in our Southern Hemisphere.  We need to do more with Mexico and especially that narrow isthmus that – in the area of Guatemala where it can be choked off.  We need to do more in the maritime domain.  We probably need to work with NATO do more in the Gulf of Guinea off of the west coast of Africa.  We’re working with the French in the Sahel. 

And we probably need to take a look at NATO’s southern flank with them, because this is – any network, by the way – what makes a network different than a state actor, when you’re dealing with a network you’ve got to keep pressure on it across its entire length.  It doesn’t do any good just to pinch it here.  You’ve got to press it across its entire length.  You’ve got to interdict its financing.  You’ve got to interdict the flow of foreign fighters or criminals.  And it takes a really broad effort with partners to deal with networks.  So that’s the second network, the other one being this transnational global terrorist network.

The domain is cyber.  And my guess is you probably know more about cyber than I do.  But I probably know a little more about cyber security than you do.  And I can tell you that we’ve got a lot of work to do.  We’ve made some strides, some pretty significant strides, militarily in particular in terms of defending ourselves, meaning our military – the dot-mil enterprise.  But the country is more vulnerable than it should be.

And I’m telling you this because it’s not a military issue uniquely or solely.  Ninety percent of my logistics enterprise, 90 percent of the – of our ability to flow forces and to distribute this incredible network of aircraft that we have – 90 percent of that rides on commercial internet providers.  And so if they’re vulnerable I’m vulnerable.  And I don’t like being vulnerable. 

So what we’re trying to do is work toward – with the Congress of the United States we’re trying to work toward some kind of legislation that would raise standards somewhat.  Now, you know, that’s a – there’s an issue there of cost and who should bear it.  But we do need something that causes a more common set of standards on internet security. 

And the other issue is information sharing, that is to say if you’re being attacked and you know it you need to be incentivized to tell the central government that you’re being attacked so that if there are things we can do to either block it or attack it in turn, we would have that option.  Right now, there’s disincentives to that in corporate America.  And we’ve got to break that barrier down. 

Now, look, I’ve got it.  There are huge privacy issues at stake here.  And there’s also the notion that the internet was designed and built and conceived as free and open.  And I love that, actually, about it.  It’s the power of it.  But it’s also become a bit of a vulnerability, not just for us, but for our partners around the world.  And so if you think about it this way, so you don’t think I’m up here, you know, banging away on the – on the – kind of the hard-line view of this in terms of the internet, think of it this way when your time comes to either support or not legislation on the internet:  It’s about give and take.  Just remember those two words. 

And then let me ask you a question.  How much of your privacy do you willingly give up on the internet today?  You don’t have to answer that.  You know how much privacy you give up.  You give up almost all of it.  If you’re ordering something on Amazon, they’re going to help you.  If you’re on – how many people on Facebook?  OK, I rest my case.  I need – I need go no further.  You are – you are willingly surrendering some of your privacy. 

All we’re going to have to ask of the American people in terms of legislation is:  How much will you allow us to take – you know, might it be your phone number?  Might it be, you know, something – metadata, if you’re familiar with the term?  We’ve got to come to grips with that.  And by the way, if the American people decide, no, we’re not willing to allow the central government to have any take, you get to stay vulnerable.  And someday it’s going to actually be a huge security issue.  So that’s the domain.

 Two, two, two and one.  The last thing – let me just end by telling you something.  You’re all here, future leaders, in some cases current leaders, in your current positions.  You’re certainly, many of you, going to be future leaders.  Let me offer you a thought that – there’s three traits that I’d like you to take on board in terms of leadership. 

One is expertise.  We really can’t afford mediocrity.  So if you have the notion that you’re going to kind of get into the United States military or, for that matter, go to Wall Street and be mediocre and just get by and, you know, collect a paycheck and give it a half effort, that’s not what we need. 

The challenges I see before us are going to require exceptional effort and expertise.  So you need to commit yourself right from the start to being the best fill-in-the-blank that you can be.  If you’re going to be a pilot, then for God sakes try to be the best pilot you can be.  Try to be the best infantryman you can be.  Try to be the best sailor you can be – expertise, expertise.

The second thing is humility.  Leadership is a privilege.  It’s not an entitlement.  And in some cases the way we’ve gotten ourselves kind of cross-threaded with the American – by the way, we’re doing – the United States Military is the most popular institution in America.  And it’s been my goal to keep it that way.  And you know, we’ve had some ups and downs, frankly, but I think in the main the trend lines are still north and not south.  That takes a degree of humility about what it means to be a leader. 

Leadership is really a privilege.  It’s not an entitlement.  Never forget that.  Never forget that.  And also never forget, especially those of you in here that will matriculate into the military, make sure you have a rich understanding of what this notion of civil – civilian control of the military means.  Again, it’s one of the things about our military that is absolutely unique, is the degree to which we subordinate ourselves to the policy decisions of our elected leaders.  It keeps us great.

And the system has friction build into it intentionally.  And by the way, we live up to it all the time.  But it is important to understand what it means and to practice it.  And that takes humility.  It takes humility to – you know, to at some point not – when someone doesn’t take your advice, it take humility to concede the fact that they don’t have to.  So give that some thought.

The third one is courage.  It’s probably obvious to you.  I don’t have to talk too much about physical courage.  Physical courage actually comes naturally.  It’s kind of part of our ethos.  Moral courage should be natural and should be part of our ethos.  It’s not always the case.  And moral courage is the more difficult of the two forms of courage.  Moral courage, meaning potentially putting yourself in harm’s way for your future, for your own advancement, for your own ambitious because the time came or comes when you have to take an unpopular stance on the basis that it’s the morally right thing to do. 

So moral courage I would always ask you to have there as a – as a touchstone, because if you don’t you could fall victim to relativism.  You know, you’ll hear – you know, I get a kick out of – I don’t get a kick out of it, actually.  It kicks me.  But you know, Ambassador Crocker and I used to have this conversation in Iraq when we were dealing with the Iraqis. 

And we’d say to the Iraqis, look, this is our red line.  You’ve got to do this or we’re not going to do that.  And then next thing you know, you find yourself over here.  OK now, damnit, that’s the red line.  You don’t do this, we’re not going to do that.  And then next thing you know, we’re over here.  And you say, how did I get over here when I said my red line was back there?  So you can – you have to be careful, frankly, in the world in which we live about succumbing to complete relativism.  And it takes moral courage to do that.

I – let me end by telling you that I’m very proud that you’re here.  We’ve been extraordinarily impressed with Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets.  It’s great to see some of our colleagues and partners and friends from the Republic of Korea here with you.  Katchi kapshida, which in Koran means we go together, as they know.  (Applause.)

So congratulations on this conference, Katie.  They tell me you’re kind the energy behind it.  Well, that’s a lot of energy, by the way.  (Laughter.)  And I’ve learned that where Katie tells me to go and line up, I do it.  And generally I have been well-served by that advice.

So, look, thanks for being here.  I’m looking forward to your questions.  And gig ‘em Aggies.  (Cheers, applause.)

MS. SCOTT:  (Off mic.)

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Wow, I blew them away, huh?  (Laughter.)

MS. SCOTT:  (Off mic.)

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  (Laughs.) Yeah, where’s the moral courage?  (Laughter.)  Hey, by the way, you can tell – honestly, I say this because it reminds me.  If you disagree with anything I said, bring it on.  I – this is like a rehearsal.  (Laughter.)  I’ve got to do a series of congressional testimonies here in the next two months.  And I’m ready for it.  I need the murder board.

Q:  Howdy, sir.  My name’s Jon Nearmore (sp).  I’m from Dallas, Texas.  I’m a senior.  And I have one question for you.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  That’s good, you only get one.  (Laughter.)

Q:  OK, good deal.  You know, recently in the last year you testified before Congress.  And you said that you wouldn’t out-rule boots on the ground against ISIS.  And I’m not trying to put you in a spot or anything, but I’m curious –

GEN. DEMPSEY:  (Laughs.)  Yes, you are.  (Laughter.)

Q:  No, I’m not.  No, sir, just how many boots on the ground is required to beat ISIS and how long would we have to stay there to have total victory – and not just a partial victory, but a total victory, sir?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, OK.  So here’s the – here’s a little insight into the campaign design, which is really – gets at the – you know, the fundamental question about how much, right?  First of all, military advice 100 percent of the time is preserve your options, you know?  Don’t take anything off the table.  Whether you use it or not, that’s a policy decision.  But don’t take anything off the table.

OK, but that policy – that decision that is taken either by the Secretary of Defense or the Congress or the President will be – there’ll be other filters applied to along the way.  And again, back to this issue of humility – the military advice – look, I hope someone in your detachments is telling you this:  You have to follow orders unless they’re illegal or immoral. 

That’s the only circumstances under which the uniformed military of the United States should not follow orders – if something is illegal or immoral, right?  It might be a bad idea, but at the end of the day, you know, if you’re – if you’re told to do something that you don’t exactly agree with, you have an obligation to follow orders unless they’re illegal or immoral.  OK, the immoral one’s harder to define sometime.  The illegal one is actually quite clear.

So, but the military advice – any military leader 100 percent of the time is going to give advice to leave all options open.  It’s just what we do.  Here’s how we serve.  We’re better service as a joint team, rather than as individual services.  You’re not going to do anything entirely with one arm of the service or another, it’s a joint team.  Let’s leave all options open.

But the decision come – they come and go.  Look back at history.  In fact, I just said this day in history about a week ago, in 1962 – about a week ago in 1962 President Kennedy authorized advisers in Vietnam to be able to defend themselves with lethal force in their advisory role.  So these conversations and debates and discussions occur. OK, so that’s point number one.

Secondly, the campaign – because you asked me about how many boots on the ground –

Q:  And how long.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  And how long.  OK, so – you would remind me of that.  (Laughter.)  The campaign design – military campaign design is quite clear, and that is to say that the issues confronting the Middle East in general, and Iraq in particular, right now are issues that have at their root religious disagreements, governance, inequality and lack of inclusivity and so forth.  And that’s the environment in which this group called ISIL has been able to make its rise, and an environment where the people of the country don’t feel as though the central government is providing for their well-being and security.

OK, so along comes the United States military and says:  OK, brand-new prime minister, we’re going to buy you some decision space.  But you’ve got to as well, while we’re doing that and rebuilding your armed forces, you’ve got to show tangibly and quickly that Iraq’s future is one of inclusivity with Kurds, Sunnis, Shia, Yazidis and Christians, OK? 

And in that context, we made a decision that we would apply our forces in Iraq, which number about 3,100, against two core tasks:  One is the protection of U.S. persons and facilities, so for example the consulate in Irbil and the embassy in Baghdad.  And we would do a train, advise and assist mission at several locations – five locations around Iraq.  And we would provide our air power because it was a capability gap that we knew existed, you know, three years ago, four years ago.

But that we would pace the campaign so that this governance issue could be moving at the same time that the military issue was moving and at the same time that a counterfinancing effort was moving and at the same time that a countermessaging effort to dispute the narrative that ISIL spews – that all of those would move apace and synchronous with each other, because if they don’t, if the military gets right out in front of governance, then you wipe ISIL off of the battlefield but what comes behind is incapable of keeping the people together, and it just happens again three years from now.

OK, our campaign design does not require the introduction of large numbers of U.S. forces.  You call them what you want – call them ground forces, call them ground hogs, call them fish – not the kind of fish that – (laughter) – call it what you want, it doesn’t lend it – the campaign design does not lend itself to the introduction of large forces which will then immediately take ownership of the issues.  Rather, it calls for the introduction of a coalition which includes Iraqis, Kurds, Jordanians, Saudis, Emirates, Qataris, because that’s their issue.  They are closest to it and have the most at stake.

So we have the number pegged about correctly right now.  Might it increase as this issue begins to move toward bigger urban areas like Mosul?  Sure.  But I have the opportunity – actually, the responsibility, and the confidence that the president will take my advice into consideration when I give it.  And then there’s no – I don’t have any limitation on that if – depending on how the AUMF comes out of Congress.

 How long?  I think Iraq is probably capable of having a sense of stability restored within about three years.  I’ve said that from the beginning, by the way.  Meaning I think that they can recapture their urban areas for the most part and restore their sovereign border.  But I think the issues will be generational – 20, 30 years – because there is an internal conflict within Islam and within the Arab world between moderates and radicals that just isn’t going to end because they stop fighting.

 Q:  Thank you very much.

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  Really, you’re thanking me for that answer?  (Laughter.)

 Q:  Good morning.  My name’s Christopher Levize (ph).  I’m from St. Edward’s University.  Thank you for being here and speaking to the conference.

 You said earlier that the second point of leadership was that it’s a privilege, not an entitlement.  And repeatedly you’ve heard our current president and past presidents speak of America being an exceptional country and nation.  So inherently in that, those two points, is you have one side exceptional, the other side maintaining – you know, being humble.  So my question to you is two-pronged, and it’s how do we as a nation maintain that balance?  And what is your role in sustaining that balance between being humble and being exceptional and being a leader?

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, I’m not – I’m not sure that there – that’s something – I think it’s a bit of a false dichotomy, meaning I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, right?

 I mean, look, let me speak individually and then broaden out to a nation.  I am incredibly confident – I mean, you know, I hope you’d expect that, but – (laughter) – no, I am.  I’m incredibly confident and I’m ambitious.  I mean, I’m very ambitious.  I’m not suggesting – I didn’t want to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, by the way.  (Laughter.)  But I did want to be a leader in every sense, at every level, and I tried to bloom where I was planted, maybe, you know, and do the best I – that’s what I was saying earlier.  You know, bloom where you’re planted, do the best you can, and generally speaking you’ll be recognized for that and, you know, the corporation will bring you along.

 So I do consider myself exceptional – at least exceptionally good-looking.  Come on, give me a break.  (Laughter, cheers.)  I shouldn’t say that in front of my wife, probably.  (Laughter.)  You know, she is the one person who maybe will dispute that, I’m sure.  (Laughter.)

 And I also consider myself humble in that the way I apply my particular talents – the way I apply my particular talents, I want them to create around me an image of humility not falsely, genuinely.  And you might ask why.  Because you are more approachable if you’re humble.

 And by the way, the way leadership works at my level is relationships.  Has nothing to do with authority.  I mean, literally has nothing to do with authority.  Ambassador Crocker will know.  You know, we sat in that room in his office every morning in Baghdad and built a relationship to where, at the end of our meeting, we actually wanted – we wanted to go out and accomplish the tasks that he had help shape because we had a relationship.  If we hadn’t, let me tell you how this would have played out:  We’d have this nice meeting, we’d all nod our heads, and then we’d go out and do whatever the hell we wanted to do.  I’m telling you, that’s the way it works at that level.  It’s all about relationships.  And I think that humility is a precondition for a good relationship.

 OK, now expand that to the national level, right?  I think we should celebrate ourselves – back to my comment about the dash – but we should act with a sense of humility in the world.  You know, we shouldn’t assume that the world has to be exactly like us.  I think we have to stand for our values and promote our values, but I think we have to be culturally aware and I think we have to be humble in the sense that you could not, should not and must not conclude that you can settle these issues exactly on your terms.

 I did a long study, by the way, when I was the Training and Doctrine Command commander, about how conflicts end, how campaigns end.  We actually did pretty well – you know, not just us, but the world does a pretty good job of knowing how to start conflict.  But look back at our history of ending it.  You know, going from war to – from peace to war, we get – you know, we probably get about a(n) A-plus on that.  Getting from war to peace, I don’t know.  I’ll leave you to grade it.  But I think – I think there’s some lessons to be learned there.

 And one of the lessons I learned when I looked back at our – we’ve had 17, now 18 campaigns in our history.  I think that it’s fair to say that in every case there are some principles that define the way these conflicts end.  One of them is your objectives change along the way.  Several times your objectives will change.

 So back to the point about humility as a nation.  Understanding that – that the objectives generally change throughout the course of a campaign – should cause you to be pretty humble in addressing the issues that come to you at various moments in the campaign.  It should cause you to be both humble, a little frightened because you realize how quickly – you know, how dynamic it is, and should cause you to be much more open-minded to understanding the thoughts of others about how to do these things.

 You know, I just don’t think – I just think it’s – I think they’re not – they’re mutually inclusive, not mutually exclusive, I think.

 Q:  Thank you.

 Q:  Sarpinin (ph) James, Texas A&M University.
 What does realistic success look like in the Iran nuclear program negotiations?  And what’s a reasonable timeline to achieving that goal?

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  (Laughs.)  You know, you’re asking me that question like in the fourth quarter.  There’s like two – you’re just – you know, the two-minute warning just happened in the game, and now you’re asking me to grade the – grade how the quarterback is playing today, right?  Because this is obviously a diplomatic effort, probably our most significant diplomatic effort.

 I honestly can’t answer that question.  I have – I have – I’m in the middle of the conversations about it.  But remember, now, my conversations are about the effect of negotiations on our regional partners and their – the degree to which they will remain confident that they – that they can account for their security.  It’s about reminding everyone that we have these other issues with Iran that are not going to be solved just through the nuclear negotiations.  And it’s about making sure that I keep the military capability in place and ready in the event that the negotiations fail.  That’s actually my responsibility.

 I think – I think the world, I think, will be a better place if this is resolved diplomatically than militarily, that’s for sure.

 Q:  Thank you, sir.

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  I told you I wasn’t going to answer.  (Laughter.)

 Q:  Sir, my name’s Ryan Clay (sp), Texas A&M University.

 My question is maybe a little bit similar to his, but we have issues in the Middle East.  They stem back, you know, to the beginning of time, and things got especially worse after World War I, the drawing of really poor nations that aren’t – weren’t meant to be nations.  And a huge problem is culturally over there, not only amongst radical Islam but just amongst the entire population, they feel that we’re – like, that America and the West is, like, forcing things upon them.  And so is putting boots on the ground and putting our presence and forcing democracy among them the right case?  Like, is that – is that necessarily the right thing to do if democracy is a government that, you know, works with the involvement of the people, and if the people don’t agree with it it’ll never work, sir.  So where do we go if we keep forcing democracies and they just collapse every time?  Where do we go from there, sir?

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, actually the trend lines for democracy continue to move in a positive direction around the world.  They do – they are – look, I was saying earlier the – when you take the lid off of a dictatorship and you look historically at that, there’s often a period where various groups either consider themselves to be victors or they consider themselves to be vanquished.  So the victor-and-vanquished cycle – a cycle of feeling that you’re either the victor or the vanquished – continues to kind of cycle for some time.

 But I will tell you – you know, back to my point that the trend lines for democracy continue in a positive direction – they’re not as steep as they used to be.  It’s kind of leveled off a bit.  But still, if you go to those think tanks and such that track the future of democracy, you’ll see that it’s generally in a positive direction.  So I’m not sure I would agree that they collapse automatically.

 I think they collapse – in fact, there’s a – there’s a theory that it’s usually – after a dictatorship collapses, there’s a theory that the first leader considers himself a victor, the second leader considers himself a victor or herself, but for a less – you know, they soften a bit.  And it’s really the third time that someone is elected democratically or by representative vote that they begin to take ownership of all of the people, not just their particular group.  I think there’s probably some truth in that.

 And also, you know, I hope you don’t think – you can be – you could be led to think that we do go around the world trying to impose democracy.  I mean, Ambassador Crocker can speak far more eloquently than I can, but we’re never in the business of imposing.  I shouldn’t say never, but we’re – it’s just not – that’s not the theme that I want you to walk away believing, that we try to impose democracy.  I think what we try to do is, frankly, to illuminate how democracy can be empowering, not be in any way debilitating to countries; in other words, that you harness – well, there it is, right? – you harness the human potential of a country when you understand the views of others, not just your own narrow view.

 But, look, you’re talking to a military guy.  So our job has been – as the ambassador knows and others, has been to try to give some decision space to people by settling or stabilizing the environment so that those kind of democratic debates can take place.  But it’s hard, though, to convince people who feel like they’ve been oppressed that now they should be cooperative.  And so I think it takes a couple of turns at the crank before it actually settles itself down, and I think that’s what you’re seeing in Iraq.

 Q:  Appreciate it, sir.

 Q:  Good morning, sir.


 Q:  My name is Charlie Hurt (sp) and I’m at Texas A&M.  And I would like to ask –

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  I couldn’t tell.  (Laughter.)

 Q:  Thank you, sir.

 I’d like to ask, do you think we should arm the Ukrainians, even though Putin is not honoring a cease-fire, sir?

 GEN. DEMPSEY:  You know, that’s an option that, as you know, has been famously played out in the media, but we are considering that option.  But remember I said, in dealing with Russia, that we have to do it in context, not – you know, not one weapons system at a time.  So I think we have to decide how to – how the relationship with Russia has changed, whether it’s in Eastern Europe, whether it’s in the Arctic, whether it’s in the maritime domain, whether it’s in cyber.  What does it mean vis-à-vis our NATO allies?  And we’re working on that.  We’re working on rationalizing our relationship in terms of a strategy, and against that strategy then you could make decisions about the introduction of arms into Ukraine.  But we’re considering it.  But, as I said, my effort is to kind of understand the entire context.

 I will say the human suffering is just atrocious.  I mean, it’s hard to imagine that in, you know, 2015 you’d have that kind of conflict and those kind of instincts that are being – that are coming to the front again in Europe.  It’s just – you know, it’s almost unimaginable.  But of course, that’s what we get paid to do, is to think the unthinkable.  And in that context, we’re looking to what might happen next.

 I said earlier, I don’t know how far – how far this fire of ethnicity and nationalism could burn, and so we don’t want to be dealing with it in the moment.  We want to take a look at it more broadly.

 Q:  Yes, sir.  Thank you.

 Q:  Good morning, sir.  My name’s Jacob Brown (sp).  I’m a junior here at Texas A&M.

 And my question to you is about the pivot to Asia.  And in fact, several years ago SCONA framed their conference around the pivot to Asia, but I think that, you know, in the recent months and years, the attention has been taken off Asia and shifted back over to the Middle East.  I was wondering if you could identify maybe improvements that have happened because of that policy change and new challenges that have arisen from that.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  Actually, I’m on the way to Australia, so I am personally pivoting.  I can say that.  (Laughter.)

And I go there a couple or three times a year to try to – again, relationships:  try to understand the region from their perspective.  Been to China, been to Vietnam, to Singapore several times, Korea many, many, many times, Australia.  And we’re actually making some pretty significant progress in finding a way to collaborate multinationally.

Heretofore most of our relationships in Asia have been bilateral – us with the Australians, us with the Koreans, us with the Japanese.  And what we’re trying to do is kind of knit it all together because I think a multinational or multilateral security environment is the environment in which I think China can rise peacefully.  But that’s our – that’s our strategy in the Pacific.

It’s going on.  It doesn’t get much notoriety because there’s no – you know, what gets notoriety is the – is the – is those kind of conflicts that are producing casualties and horrific events.  Our rebalance to the Pacific is kind of steady.  It’s more like a – it’s more like a marathon than a sprint, which is good.  And it’s inevitable.  It’s imperative.  And I don’t use those words often.

By 2050, there will be 9 billion people in the world; 7 (billion) of the 9 (billion) will live between India and China, right there in the Indo-Pacific region.  So if you want to know what that means, it means all of the interest and effort in every way – economic, diplomatic, you know, intellectual, security – all of that is going to shift, and we want to be postured to prepare and contribute to that shift so that that shift occurs peacefully.  Yeah, 7 (billion) out of 9 billion people.

All right, what else?

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Good morning, sir.  Midshipman Daniel Pacheco (sp), Texas A&M University.  Currently I’m in our senior-level naval science ethics course – (inaudible) – course.  I know some of the other seniors in here are in their ethics courses in their respective different services.  Is there time that you could give us an example of when you were given an order that morally you’re kind of conflicted with and how you – how you handled that and how you moved forward with that experience through your career?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, I – yes.  Let me ask you to do two things, though, because you reminded me that I should have had this in my prepared remarks.

You know, the day you graduate – did you say you’re a junior?  No, you’re a senior, OK.

Q:  A senior, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  You know, the day you graduate you need to take ownership of the profession, meaning you’re no longer a consumer, you’re now a producer.  You have to – you have to take ownership of all the issues that are confronting us in our professionalism, in our ethos, in some of the challenges we’ve had with corrosive leaders and things.  You need to own the sexual assault, suicide prevention.  You will own them the day you pin on those bars or put on your ensign – insignia.  A lot of young lieutenants and ensigns don’t actually realize that.  They think they can kind of ease into it.  There’s no easing into it.  When you graduate, you own it.  And you need to commit to not just making your own unit the best it can be, but always have that other little voice in your head that says, what does this mean to the profession and the way we will be – you know, maintain our standing with the American people?

And the other thing is trust.  It’s all about trust.  You know, what makes the corps of cadets spectacular, it seems to me, is that I can sense a degree of trust among you, a common purpose, you know, that gives meaning and helps build relationships.  Carry that with you, too.  You know, build trust from the day you enter active duty to the day you leave.

OK, and here’s why.  Because you asked, can I give you an example of any time I’ve been pulled or nudged into that gray area, if you will.  Yeah, every day I’m – every day.  (Laughs.)  I mean, look, this is – we actually live in the real world.  Let me give you a couple of – a couple of examples.  Let me put them at your level, though, not mine, because, you know, mine are probably interesting to you and – but you – so what’s your specialty, Navy?

Q:  I’ll be commissioned in the Marine Corps, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Marine Corps?  OK.  So let’s just – let me give you a hypothetical here.

So you enter the Marine Corps.  You’re a second lieutenant.  You’ve got some vehicles.  One of them has been inoperative for 45 days.  You know, you’re getting hammered because the readiness rate of the unit is not what it needs to be.  We try to keep it at 90 percent.  You’re hovering down around 80 (percent).  And you have one truck.  If you get one truck fixed by the end of the week, you’ll get where you need to be against that maintenance report.  And it’s the 4th of July weekend.  It always works this way, by the way.  (Laughter.)  Friday, and in comes the part.  The part is now in.  It’s going to take you 12 hours to put it on.  It’s like 6:00 on Friday night.  And your motor sergeant comes to you and says, you know what, sir?  We have the part and it’ll only take 12 hours to put it in, so let’s call that vehicle operational.  Because we got the part and it’s only going to take 12 hours to do it.  Start working tomorrow, Saturday on a 4th of July weekend, and we got the part, so it’s not as though I could – the truck couldn’t be operational in 12 hours.

So what do you do?  You don’t need to answer me.  (Laughter.)  That’s an ethical issue, though, because you’re going to actually declare on your readiness report at the end of the week a certain level of readiness, and if you don’t put that part on and declare it ready you have now established the new standard with your unit.  You know where the answer is, put the damn part on the truck.


Q:  Yes, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  But if you don’t, you’ve set a new standard.  You’ve created space in which all kinds of things could go wrong.

Those things will happen to you – I mean, literally every day of your professional life you will have something that you’re not exactly sure about.  First of all, you know, your cadre here is a wealth of those kind of vignettes – you know, a day in the life of a lieutenant or an ensign, and for that matter eventually a general.  And then – you ought to take advantage of that.

Secondly, you ought to, you know, build relationships not only inside your own unit but laterally, so you can always pick up the phone and ask one of your peers, hey, what do you think.  And then – but if they’ve done their job and you’ve done yours, you’ll have an instinct for doing what – you’ll know what right looks like and you’ll have an instinct for doing it.

And just listen to that voice.  If the little voice in your professional head says, you know what, this is really a no-brainer, you got to put the damn part on the truck because it’s the right thing to do, it’s the honest thing to do, then you’ll do it.  And you’ll face those things all the time.  It’s what makes it kind of exciting, frankly, is watching your subordinates develop, watching your unit become proficient, and recognizing in yourself that you’re becoming a professional.

Q:  Thank you, sir.


Q:  Sir, good morning.  My name is Jason Johnston (sp), and first I just want to say thanks for your continued service.  I did seven years’ active duty in the Army and still serve in the Texas Guard, so I really appreciate what you’re bringing to the table here with these cadets and midshipmen.

My question will be sort of a continuation from the midshipman’s.  You mentioned in your talk the danger of falling victim to moral relativism, and on active duty – and I know you know, you’ve seen examples much more plenty than me – but there’s leaders who believe certain things are right, another believes other things are right.  And then, when we bring in the public news channels, whether you’re watching Fox, ABC, NBC or CBS, you get a different feel, and social media, and it’s really confusing.  So I would like for you to talk more to us on your experience of how to keep the target accurate on what is right.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah, that’s a – that’s such a great question, and one that at some level has to be answered by each individual as you kind of accumulate experiences, right?

You did mention something, though, that I am concerned about a bit, and that is that because of the ubiquitous nature of information, you can actually tailor what you hear and listen to and learn.  You can tailor it so exquisitely that you lose the ability to understand an opposing – you know, they say that the mark of an educated man is that – or woman is that they can hold two competing ideas in their head simultaneously.  That actually is not a bad definition, that you can recognize that most issues, most complex challenges have a variety of ways in which they can be addressed.

So, you know, I actually do worry that, increasingly, everything that you get is tailored – we talked today about cyber, where you – you know, before you’re done typing in the address or typing in the Internet site you’re trying to access, it’s giving you some choices because it knows you.  It has learned you.  And it won’t give you choices outside of your preferences, it’ll give you choices inside.  And you might say, that’s really convenient.  It is, but it feels a little manipulative, frankly, to me.  And, you know, there’s people – I’ll use Brooklyn.  There’s people living in Brooklyn who, when they, you know, get on the Internet to get the news, it’s news that is tailored to where they are, and so they can find – I’m saying Brooklyn, by the way; I don’t know that this is actually true in Brooklyn, but you can – you can foresee a future where everything is so tailored to your personal preferences that you have denied – I go – I’ll go into a, you know, a place and I’ll ask someone about their – you know, they say you shouldn’t talk about politics and religion.  You ever hear that?

Q:  Yes, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Actually, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard because our entire life revolves around religion and politics.  And if we’re afraid to talk about it, you know, appropriately – I mean, not in a – in a partisan way as a military man – but if you’re afraid to talk about it, you’re not going to really be doing yourself or those around you much good, frankly.

But I’ll go ahead and say, you know, hey, look, what’s your – what’s your leanings, you know?  Are you – do you find yourself to be more conservative or more, you know, liberal, progressive, right?  And if they answer the question, I can actually list – well, whatever side, I can say, OK, let me tell you about yourself:  you watch this, you read this, you go to these movies and you are this religion.  And I’m telling you, I’m banging away at about 95 percent, right?

That’s not a good thing, actually, because what you really want someone to do – my wife will tell you, I watch – I watch what people are saying about me who are really being critical of me.  And – (laughs) – by the way, there’s plenty of them, so I don’t have to look very far.  (Laughter.)  But I want to hear what they’re saying.  And by the way, I want to hear what they’re saying not to dispute it, but to see if I can understand it, and in so doing try to balance the way I think about these issues.  Because they’re really difficult issues.

So I can’t answer your question exactly about how to develop an instinct except to say that you should make it a – my belief is – I’m not trying to impose it on you, but my belief is you should – you should seek views that make you uncomfortable and see if they – if you can give them any credit whatsoever.  If you can’t, don’t.  But if you can, you should.

Q:  Yes, sir.  Thanks.

Q:  How are you, sir?  My name is –

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, good.  Thanks for asking.  You’re the first one that really cares in the whole audience.  (Laughter.)

Q:  I’m from Texas A&M, the Galveston campus.


Q:  And my question is this:  What incentives can we give as a nation to unite people in hostile countries, especially in the Middle East?  What incentives can we give to unite the religious differences that split towns, cities and countries?  What can we do to get them together in building for – build infrastructure, build a government and make them self-sufficient?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Yeah.  Well, there’s a lot – there’s a lot in that question.  And I think – I think, if you look back at our recent history, we’ve made deep commitments to some of these countries to try to do exactly that – diplomatically, economically, assisting them in the formation of their governments, helping them craft a constitution, helping them understand an electoral process, securing the elections, you know, in ways that make it clear that we’re not trying to influence the election but rather support it.  We just did this in Afghanistan last year twice or three times, and with good effect, by the way:  the election was considered fair.

You know, look, elections in foreign countries, there’s always plenty of reasons to be suspicious about the outcome.  But the effort we made in Iraq and Afghanistan to give them the opportunity to do the things you’re talking about were herculean.  They weren’t just big efforts; they were herculean efforts.  And you know, we still continue to try to learn lessons about where it might grow and where it didn’t and then adapt.  And in fact, my personal belief is our campaign design in Iraq now – not my personal believe; this is actually a fact, whether it’s accepted or not – the campaign design we’ve got in Iraq right now is built on lessons that we learned – you know, I’m one of the guys that was – I was in Iraq in ’91.  I was in Iraq in ’03.  I was in Iraq ’05, ’07.  So this is – this is like the fourth swing that I’m taking at trying to help Iraq, and what I like to believe is that we don’t – you know, we don’t start from scratch every time, that we learn lessons.  And I think – you know, my advice in helping craft our military campaign is that we look back at what worked in those other times and what didn’t.

Other agencies of government is actually an important part of the answer.  The United States Agency for International Development, nongovernmental organizations – there’s incredible – there is incredible resources out there that, harnessed by someone like Ambassador Crocker – it has to be – it has to be tied together into a coherent pull.  And then, you know, at the end of the day, the people of the region actually, you know, they are responsible for their own destiny.  Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn’t.

And by the way, there’s not a template in any particular country.  If you want to – if you want to really look at a country that is incredibly diverse, it’s Afghanistan.  It’s not region to region or province to province; it’s valley to valley.  And so knitting all of that together is really difficult, and generally only possible if they provide the leaders themselves and we enable them.  Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and especially when it’s in our national security interest to do so, where we’re trying to avoid a safe haven that could be used for external (planning ?).  But it’s a heavy lift.

And one of the things the American people have to decide – not us, what the American people have to decide – is how much of that effort do they want to take on, balanced against what they’re trying to accomplish domestically.  And that’s where the conversation gets really challenging.

Q:  Thank you, sir.

Q:  Hi, sir.  My name is Lane Walker (sp).  I’m a freshman at –

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Pardon me a second, Katie.

Hey, those of you that didn’t get to ask a question, if you would circle around and see my public affairs officer and my special assistant here, who are sitting right here, if you would give them your question and an email address we’ll answer it because I hate to have you go home without having the chance to get your question aired.  But this will have to be the last one.

Q:  Hi, sir.  My name is Lane Walker (sp).  I’m a freshman at Texas A&M University.

And my question to you is about the current Ukrainian conflict.  And the main rhetoric from the West and from NATO has been a sort of alienation of Russia and kind of condemning them for their actions.  And do you believe that that sort of alienization (sic) is planting the seeds of future conflicts?  Because that was a recurring factor in World War I, when Italy and Japan were sort of left out of the negotiations and they developed a very hostile rhetoric in the future.  Do you believe that Russia will take that stance, or do you believe that this current rhetoric will be more effective in dealing with their sort of aggressiveness?

GEN. DEMPSEY:  That is Russia’s narrative right now, which is to say that after the fall or collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO began to expand its – and the – and the European Union began to expand their security apparatus and their economic apparatus in ways that disadvantaged Russia.  I don’t particularly accept that narrative, and I certainly don’t accept the fact that that narrative leaves you – leads you to find it necessary to attack to the west or support attacks to the west.

But to your larger point, I believe that we’ve got to have a dialogue with Russia about their future and make it very clear where their aspirations and ours may find themselves in conflict, and we should do that through NATO.  I mean, NATO is the longest-standing, most powerful, most effective alliance in history, and we ought to – we ought to – we ought to use it.  Now, frankly, Europeans have become a little complacent about their security over the last 20 years, and so it’s taking them a while to reawaken – not only to the east, but also to the south, to the threat of terrorism coming up from the south.

The other thing I’d take – if you’re interested in this, the other thing you ought to take a look at is the degree to which Europe – Eastern Europe, Western Europe are economically interdependent.  And so some of the – some of the members – and also where they sit within the alliance.  So some of the members are more concerned about their eastern flank – inevitably the Baltic nations, Poland and Hungary, Romania.  Some of the nations are more concerned about their southern flank, notably those on the – on the rim of the Mediterranean.  The Central European nations are kind of stable and have some economic interests in Eastern Europe and Russia.

So it’s a – it’s a – it’s a Rubik’s Cube, frankly.  And, you know, every time you get one side lined up, the other side might – you might find a couple of squares that are not exactly in the right place.  And I think we’ve got to continue to work through NATO and see what we can do to contribute to convincing Russia that its malign activities in particular – that is to say, the separatist movements – are not conducive to either their security or NATO’s.  But, you know, your point’s well taken.

You’ll hear – you know, every nation reserves the right to state its own case, and there’s 26 nations – 28? – 28 nations in NATO.  And one thing you can be sure is you’ll hear all – you’ll hear all 28 voices at various levels of volume, and then we try to get together about – we get together, the NATO CHODs – chiefs of defense – get together three times a year and the ministers get together twice a year.  We’re working on it.

Q:  Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.

GEN. DEMPSEY:  Thanks.

OK, let me end where I began, by thanking you.  The warmth with which we’ve been greeted is quite remarkable.  I feel as though I should get you in 20 or 30 buses and take you back to Washington to sit with me in the – (laughter) – in the congressional testimony I mentioned because a few friendly faces would be welcome.  But I say that tongue in cheek.  I love – I love the job.  I love the – it might shock you, but I think the debate is healthy.  I think at some points it gets a little – a little emotional and a little corrosive, but it’s our system.  We’ve built a system – we didn’t build it; our forefathers built it – to actually create friction so that the corporate body, the corporate instruments or branches or government – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – can come to a collective wisdom rather than an individual branch of government.  So we built it – my point is this:  We built it this way.  It’s our own fault, and we just got to get over it, and we got to work with it, and we will.

But remember that the first thing you need to understand is, before you start to talk about national affairs, is who are we?  And I think you’ve got a pretty good foundation at Texas A&M University on which to come to an understanding about that question.

So God bless you.  I’m proud of you.  (Applause.)