All-Star Panel: Does administration know how to handle terrorism problem?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 27, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


RET. LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR: They see themselves as a long term capability and a long-term threat. And we should look at it like that. We should not think that they are a flash in the pan at all.


BAIER: Former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, General Flynn there talking about ISIS. But in a new interview and a new appearance he is talking about the administration and its efforts against terrorists. Take a listen to this. "There are many sincere people in our government who frankly are paralyzed by this complexity,' said Flynn, 'so they accept a defensive posture, reasoning that passivity is less likely to provoke enemies. '" Continuing, "he also slammed the administration for refusing to use the term 'Islamic militants' in its description of ISIS and Al Qaeda. 'You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists, ' he said.  Meantime, another general, a former head of CENTCOM, was up on Capitol Hill today. Take a listen to General Mattis.


RET. GEN. JAMES MATTIS, FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER: In the Middle East where our influence is at its lowest point in four decades we see a region erupting in crises. We need a new security architecture for the Mideast.  We have many potential allies around the world and in the Middle East who will rally to us, but we have not been clear about where we stand in defining or dealing with the growing violent jihadist terrorist threat.


BAIER: With that, let's bring in our panel, Yochi Dreazen, managing editor of Foreign Policy, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.  Yochi, welcome. What about this, to hear the former head of the DIA under this president and then former head of CENTCOM with these kind of stinging testimonials?

YOGI DREAZEN, MANAGING EDITOR, FOREIGN POLICY: We also, obviously, should remember that you also had Bob Gates, you had Leon Panetta, so you have pretty much the whole of the Obama national security team plus a big chunk of the military leadership all saying the same thing, that when it comes to the Islamic State there's a lack of strategy. There could have been troops sooner, there could have been training sooner, there could have been weaponry sooner. So you're sensing a frustration not just among the uniform military. Clearly, the guys like this aren't speaking for themselves. There are people they are speaking for still in uniform who can't speak as openly as they are speaking. But you are also hearing it from Bob Gates and Leon Panetta. You're hearing it from people who are in the cabinet, and the message is kind of the same.

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yeah, and clearly we do need a new security architecture, some kind of strategy for how we are going to not just fight these groups on the ground or help our allies fight them but also how we are going to counter their ideology. And I know that the administration doesn't want to really call it an ideology but it is something like an ideology and it has to be confronted not just militarily but also with soft power and with some kind of Muslim pushback against it. And I don't think the administration has figured out what to do yet. And I do think it's not just this president. The next president is going to have to deal with this. This is going to the number one problem.

BAIER: You know, Charles, as we've talked about, words matter, how you say something matters. Here is the secretary of state in Davos talking about the terrorist threat just a couple of days ago.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Today, we are witnessing nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy, a nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation. Obviously, the biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone, crimes that the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose, crimes that their faith utterly rejects and that Muslim leaders themselves have the greatest ability to address.


BAIER: Thoughts about that.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the biggest error that we can make, well, it would be an error if we blamed all of the Muslims in the world for the crimes that are occurring including the latest one today in Libya, for example.  It would be an error, but I'm not sure how many people in this country actually say that. That's just a straw man. I mean, everyone who is critical of radical Islam prefaces in saying, of course, it's a minority of Islam. It's not a way to attack all Muslims. So this is a non-argument that he is making.

And it wouldn't be the biggest error that we make. The biggest error that we make is to lose the damn war because we refuse to recognize who the enemy is and what it requires. That would be a larger error because it would consign people to, for example, the hell that is Syria today approaching now a quarter of a million dead.

And the original sin here is not that Obama sort of is confused. I think he is in a way, but that he has a strategy. He came into office with a strategy. America leaves. This is not something we should be involved in. We will leave. And he didn't quite understand, which is sort of an axiom of geopolitics, if America leaves the vacuum does not remain a vacuum.

There's a story in the front page of the Wall Street Journal today about the comedy of errors of our supposedly equipping, arming, and training the Syrian rebels. They started almost two years ago, they have gotten nowhere. There was no impetus, there was no urgency, there was no logic behind what the president was doing. Everybody understood that he himself said and thought it was a fantasy. So he says it is a fantasy and then he says he is going to arm them. This is a president who believes in withdrawal, and these are the fruits of withdrawal.

BAIER: Moderate Muslim countries and their representatives would point out that the most people who die at the hands of radical Islam are Muslims, 90 percent plus are Muslims.

LIASSON: Well, yeah, but the question is short of reoccupying the country or sending tens of thousands that the American public wouldn't stand for, what exactly should we be doing? How many more troops would it take that the public would accept? And also, you know, when Kerry talks about how Muslim leaders have the greatest ability to address this problem he is right. And that is what we are missing. We don't see Muslim leaders standing up and talking about it like that.

BAIER: I want to turn to Iran. The president and administration seem to have a little bit of a break from senators who are going to press for these sanctions. Senator Bob Menendez saying that they have until the end of March. How big of a deal is that Yogi, and what do you think the administration is doing?

DREAZEN: I think it is a big deal because I think what you are seeing is Democrats coming back a little bit, Democrats who had been willing to countenance breaking with the White House, willing to countenance new sanctions now beginning to come home. I think the Netanyahu invitation and the speech he is going to make to the House may have the exact opposite political impact than may have been intended to have. In Israel Netanyahu is being smashed by not only the opposition but even the center, saying you are risking your relationship with the U.S. for political gain. And I think you are seeing Democrats come home on one side. I think the blowback over Netanyahu is bigger than Boehner may have anticipated, bigger than Netanyahu may have anticipated and may in the way change the calculus on the Hill.

BAIER: Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm not sure it's so much divisive. I think it is the fact that Democrats in the end don't want to embarrass or oppose a sitting Democrat in office and they would rather not be out there and opposing this.

But I think if they don't have the Congress stand up and say, number one, it is the problems under the IAEA treaty which we are signatory to, Congress has to approve it. It's approved every other agreement. The logic that the Congress would have to approve a nonproliferation agreement with Canada but not Iran is sort of insane. So they have institutional reasons to speak out on the agreement.

But secondly, the administration is headed to an agreement which would leave Iran a few months away from a nuclear weapon. Is that the world we want to live in? I think the Democrats would answer no, but they have to do something about it.

BAIER: We will talk about that invite by Speaker Boehner for the Israeli prime minister to come with the speaker. He will be a guest on "Special Report" tomorrow night.

Last word here, Mara. With all of these people, the DIA head, all of the people we mentioned before, the former head of CENTCOM and all these others saying that this administration lacks spine on this major issue.

LIASSON: Well, I think, and it's not just spine. They don't have a plan. It's not just as simple as, oh, if you would just send in 100,000 troops this problem would be solved. This is a tough problem. These are sectarian struggles. These are Islamic jihadi radical Islamic problems.  These are countries that when you got rid of the dictator you got chaos instead. This is pretty complicated. But there is definitely not a strategy, and that is what all these people are saying, as well.

BAIER: Next up, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

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