Gates/Clinton: New Strategic Construct?

Posted on April 14, 2011


March 27: Clinton, Gates, Lugar, roundtable – Meet the Press – Transcripts –

SecDef and SecState presented a new construct for National Strategy.  When asked if Libya was a vital US national interest, SecDef stated no, but the SecState followed by saying that we were in support of our allies (UK, France, and Italy), and it was in their vital interest, therefore, ours.

This brings up a new category of “what should the US do and why are we doing it?”  Should the US do things that are “just right” even it if harms our position, or should we do things that serve our purpose and position?  I don’t think either one of them would argue this is in that first category, but up to now, we have looked at strategy as those tasks that serve our interests.

Transcript excerpt:


MR. GREGORY: Secretary Gates , is Libya in our vital interest as a country ?

SEC’Y GATES: No. I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States , but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of the region which is a vital interest for the United States .

MR. GREGORY: I think a lot of people would hear that and way, well, that’s quite striking. Not in our vital interest, and yet we’re committing military resources to it.

SEC’Y CLINTON: Well, but, but, but then it wouldn’t be fair as to what Bob just said. I mean, did Libya attack us? No. They did not attack us. Do they have a very critical role in this region and do they neighbor two countries — you just mentioned one, Egypt , the other Tunisia — that are going through these extraordinary transformations and cannot afford to be destabilized by conflict on their borders? Yes. Do they have a major influence on what goes on in Europe because of everything from oil to immigration? And, you know, David , that raises a, a very important point. Because you showed on the map just a minute ago Afghanistan . You know, we asked our allies, our NATO allies, to go into Afghanistan with us 10 years ago. They have been there, and a lot of them have been there despite the fact they were not attacked. The attack came on us as we all tragically remember. They stuck with us. When it comes to Libya , we started hearing from the UK , France , Italy , other of our NATO allies. This was in their vital national interest . The UK and France were the ones who went to the Security Council and said, “We have to act because otherwise we’re seeing a really violent upheaval with a man who has a history of unpredictable violent acts right on our doorstep.” So, you know, let, let’s be fair here. They didn’t attack us, but what they were doing and Gadhafi ‘s history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests, as Bob said , and seen by our European friends and our Arab partners as very vital to their interests.