Rice Webcast

Forum on the Role of the National Security Advisor

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Speakers: Samuel R. Berger, Wolf Blitzer, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Edward Djerejian, Andrew J. Goodpaster, Lee Hamilton, Robert C. McFarlane and Walt W. Rostow.
Location: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC
Date: April 12, 2001
Topic: Forum on the Role of the National Security Advisor
Format: Forum
Length: 92 and 57 minutes
Abstract: The Forum on the Role of the National Security Advisor was a joint program between the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Conducted on April 12, 2001 in Washington, D.C., the forum examined the role of the National Security Advisor in the policy formulation, planning, conduct and coordination of the nation's foreign and national security policies.
The forum addressed such topics as "How Should the National Security Council Be Organized?" and "What Are the Major Foreign Policy and National Security Priorities Facing the United States?"
Participating former national security advisors included Samuel R. Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Andrew J. Goodpaster, Robert C. McFarlane and Walt W. Rostow. Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor, moderated the panel. Edward Djerejian, director of the Baker Institute at Rice, presented opening remarks. Lee Hamilton, former U.S. Congressman and director of the Wilson Center, presented closing remarks.
Links: Forum transcript (HTML); Forum transcript (PDF); Rice News article, April 12, 2001; Baker Institute for Public Policy; Woodrow Wilson Center; WWICS news article; Forum on the Role of the White House Chief of Staff



Cosponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and
the James A. Baker III Institute For Public Policy of Rice University

APRIL 12, 2001











DJEREJIAN: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Thank you very much
for coming to this forum on the role of the national security advisor.
I'm Ed Djerejian, the director of the Baker Institute of Rice
University. And this is really a distinct pleasure for me. This is our
second major collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Center. We put on a
forum for the White House chiefs of staff to analyze the whole subject
of the transition from campaigning to governance and the role of the
White House chief of staff. And so this is a very natural follow-on
through our collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Center on the role of
the national security advisor.  And as you can see, we have a very
distinguished panel of former national security advisors.  And it's
especially a pleasure for me to work with Lee Hamilton. When I was in
government service, I was subjected to Lee's questioning through the
House International Relations Committee. And it's wonderful to be able
to work with him in this context and not have to answer his very
disturbing questions.


The next collaboration we're going to have with the Woodrow Wilson
Center -- this time it will be at the Baker Institute at Rice
University in the fall -- is a forum of secretaries of treasury and the
role of the secretary of treasury and their assessment of major
economic and fiscal issues. And that will be tentatively on or about
October 5, 2001.  What we're going to do today is go into our panel
format and with our very distinguished moderator, who I'll introduce in
a second, our rapporteur for this session is Ivo Daalder of the
Brookings Institution. He's a senior fellow at Brookings and perhaps
the top expert on the National Security Council. And so we're delighted
that he has taken this on.

We will have questions in the second period. We'll go on from this hour
until 3:30, where we'll take a short 15-minute break. And then in the
second session, we'll take questions from the audience during that
period. In the first period, our moderator will be working with the

BERGER: Well, first of all, I want to thank you, Wolf, for
congratulating me on my distinguished career, since I left my job two
months ago.


I think if I had to say it in a phrase, I would say, to paraphrase the
phrase from the Clinton campaign, "It's the president, stupid." I think
the national security advisor's principal role, focus, is in assuring
that the president is well-served in his decision-making, that his
decisions are executed by the government in some kind of coherent way.
It is one of the only jobs I know of that is both a line job and a
staff job. You're both a principal, you're both an advisor, but you're
also, in a sense, the foreign policy chief of staff. You have to make
sure the speech is ready.  But I suspect for most of us, the unique
focus is to, in a way that the other Cabinet secretaries can't, look at
how the president would be best served in his decision-making, what he
needs to know in addition to what he wants to know and how to keep the
process moving in a direction that he wants it to move.

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski?

BRZEZINSKI: I would agree with what Sandy said, but I would add to it
the following: The role of the national security advisor to the
president is not defined by the national security advisor to the
president; it is defined by the president. That is to say, if you have
a president who comes to office intent on making foreign policy
himself, in the literal and even kind of on a daily basis, you have a
different role than if the president comes to office, let's say, more
interested in domestic affairs and more inclined to delegate authority
to his principal advisors, in which case the role is also different.
In the first instance, the national security advisor is the inevitable
bureaucratic beneficiary of deep presidential involvement. In the
second case, the secretary of state, who has a constitutional
responsibility, tends to be more important.  And I would say that
historically, since President Truman, we have had these two kinds of
systems. I call one the presidential, the other one the secretarial.
Some have worked well. Some have worked badly. But neither system is
superior to the other. Some of each have worked well, and some of each
have worked badly.

BLITZER: Frank Carlucci?

CARLUCCI: Well, I would agree with my two colleagues here. Essentially,
they're to serve the president, and president's styles vary from
president to president. As Zbig said, some want to focus the foreign
policy decision-making process in the White House, and others prefer to
delegate it, and the national security advisor has to play it by ear.
I think it's important to note that the national security advisor job,
while it does have line aspects, Sandy, is essentially a staff job.  A
lot of Americans get the National Security Council confused with the
national security advisor. The national security advisor serves the
National Security Council, and he has to serve many masters as he or
she does that.

BLITZER: General Goodpaster?

GOODPASTER: In Eisenhower's time, you have to think of this in two
parts. He set up a well-structured National Security Council with a
planning board at the assistant secretary level which really carried
out the preparation that he wanted of carefully thought through plans,
long-range plans and policies.  In addition, he had, in my service, not
a national security advisor, but a national security assistant. And
this was to differentiate, as he wished to do, between policies and
long-range plans on the one hand and action decisions on the other. He
quoted to us often Von Multke's dictum that, at the time of decision,
plans are nothing, but plans are everything. The preparatory work that
went into that preparation pays off, because people understand the
issues thoroughly but can adapt to the particular circumstances on
which decisions are needed.  I would add, just to the euphemisms that
you've heard, what we came to call "empirical rule number one" during
Eisenhower's presidency, very simple: The president is right.


BLITZER: Bud McFarlane?

MCFARLANE: The reference to serving the president is foremost, I think,
in determining the role of the advisor. The president is a steward of
our national interest, and he or she will face different circumstances
and, therefore, different limits to what he or she can accomplish. So
when President Reagan came to office, the body politic of our country
was willing once more, with enough distance from Vietnam, to play a
more activist role.

BLITZER: Can you give us one specific example when you said to
President Clinton, "You're wrong."


BERGER: Don't you know about executive privilege, Wolf?


No, I don't think I said, "You're wrong," I think I said, "I disagree,"
many times. Some of my former colleagues are in this audience and have
been there when I've done that.  But I think, you know, your advice
obviously is an important input. But I think, to go back to the
original question, I think if your colleagues do not believe that you
are fairly representing their point of view when they're not there --
often they will be there -- in the decision-making process, you've

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, you were well-known and still are, of course,
as a strategic thinker. As a national security advisor, you had to
balance all the other positions, but you obviously came to the table
with strongly held views. How did you do that? How did you accurately,
fairly, represent the views of various Cabinet members on key
international issues while at the same time aggressively putting
forward your view?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I hope not aggressively, I hope persuasively.  I
think that one would have to be awfully stupid to misrepresent the
views of your colleagues to the president, because you know that if the
issue is important, there will be a discussion. The president will go
back and discuss it, in your presence or even the absence of your
presence, with his principal advisers, be they secretary of state or
secretary of defense. And it would very quickly be evident that you
distorted their views if you did. So you have to be absolutely precise
and use as persuasive as you can the arguments that they have mustered
in favor of their position.  But it is true, as it has already been
said, that the president usually wants also his national security
advisor's opinion. And then you state your own, and you give the
reasons for it. And if you do both, then you may have disagreement with
your colleagues, but the president then has the options clearly stated.
And over time, your colleagues, even if they disagree with you, learn
as to how reliable is your transmission of their views.  And I repeat,
if the issue is important, it's likely to be discussed. And at some
point, the president may pull out the paper and read from it. So you
would have to be awfully dumb to distort your colleagues' point of
view.  But I think the presidents do want advice. And there is a
relationship, a synergistic relationship, between the president and the
national security advisor. You wouldn't be in that job, fundamentally,
if you didn't get along with the president and if you didn't see him a
few times a day. So you do have a relationship.  And while I do agree
that the president's always right in public -- whenever there's a
group, he's right, because the national security advisor is helping him
-- in private, you have the obligation to tell him that he's wrong. And
I did that repeatedly, and the president wanted me to. There was only
one time that he finally sent me a little note saying, "Zbig, don't you
know when to stop?" when I went back several times, trying to argue
that this was not right.


BLITZER: Even after that note?

BRZEZINSKI: I think I waited a day.


BLITZER: You want to tell us what that issue was?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, yes, it involved the question of the shah and Iran
and the question of what kind of an obligation did we have to admit him
to the United States, given the previous relationship that we had.

BLITZER: And your position was?

BRZEZINSKI: That we had an obligation.  To quote from him, he said,
speaking of a president, he said, "He will always need the vital
studies, advice and counsel that only a capable and well-developed
staff organization can give him." Now, many times, things came up that
had not been anticipated. And you were likely to receive the ire of
Dwight D. Eisenhower if he thought they should have been anticipated.
But he wanted these things thought through. He wanted them analyzed.
And then, he wanted to deal directly with what he called his principal
lieutenants, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the director of Central Intelligence,
bring them around a table. And if a recommendation had not been worked
out and agreed upon, he wanted to hear what each one said.  There was
not as much, I think, of conveying the thinking of his lieutenants. On
occasion, he would tell us, "Now wait a minute, boys. That's not a
staff matter, that's a policy matter. I want the secretary of state in
here." And that's what happened.  So we had there the practice, the
conviction on his part, that these things needed to be anticipated.
They needed to be thought through. They needed to be worked through in
the planning board of the National Security Council. And then he wanted
to meet eyeball-to-eyeball with his principal associates. They would
not always agree.  He required that every policy study have a financial
annex. Well, the financial annex meant he wanted to hear from George
Humphrey. And what George Humphrey had to say was often not what other
senior members of the administration had to say.  But he would hear
that out and resolve it and then make his own decision. He made the
point, also, "Organization cannot make a

genius out of a dunce, neither can it make decisions for its head." But
that was the modus operandi that he had: careful preparation and then
direct discussion with his principal subordinates.

BLITZER: Bud McFarlane, did you see yourself when you were President
Reagan's national security advisor more as the honest broker or as a
policy adviser?

MCFARLANE: You can't escape being both. I think your role as a staff
person and to present fairly the views of the Cabinet officers is
helped by having the opportunity that Andy just described for frequent
discussion with the Cabinet officers and the president.  I don't know,
I've never tabulated it, but I imagine we had more National Security
Council meetings in which the secretary of state and defense and their
colleagues could present their own point of view than, say, at Dr.
Kissinger's NSC, when NSC meetings were very rarely held at all.  At
the end of the day, it's what the president prefers, as to where the
center, the locus, of decision-making and discourse ought to be.  I
think that the time in which you may find yourself as a counselor or an
adviser being more important is when you're trying to take the country
in a fundamentally new direction, where you may have concerns or the
president may have concerns about a very novel idea being undermined if
it is bureaucratized to the point of pre-emptive destruction.  Here, I
suppose, I would cite -- Henry's not here to defend himself -- but the
very timely reopening to China, an idea whose time really had come
might well have been undermined and criticized. After all, this is a
time where China was supplying weapons that were killing Americans in
Vietnam. It was a time when, from a human rights point of view, China
was going through a cultural revolution, killing literally hundreds of
thousands of its own people, in short, a lot of reasons to criticize
China from the right or the left had that been put out for popular
discussion. And so the national security advisor and the president
conceived an idea which I think most would say today has served the
national interest well, but it was not heavily bureaucratized.
Similarly, moving away from offensive deterrents and toward strategic
defense, Star Wars, here was an idea that President Reagan believed
would have been pre-emptively destroyed, or strangled in the crib, as
Cap used to say, had it been bureaucratized and open to the criticism
of a very well-informed Congress and body politic.

BLITZER: Professor Rostow, how visible should the national security
advisor be to the American public?

ROSTOW: I think it's important that he be the president's own property,
as it were. But I think it does this group, who's assembled and knows a
great deal about these things, a disservice not to dramatize and make
clear that a national security advisor can differ markedly on a major
issue with the president and still function and still have his
confidence.  On the question of Vietnam, I happen to have taken a view
different from the general view, which is that we ought to cut the Ho
Chi Minh trail thoroughly on the ground and break their supply system.
The president knew I held this view, and I stated it in the presence of
the Cabinet and Joint Chiefs on a day in the spring of 1967.  The fact
that I took this position, and the fact that it was turned down by
President Johnson and Secretary Rusk, didn't for one moment keep me
from doing my job or keep the president from knowing that I would
continue to hold my view and see him through to the end as his man, if
he wanted it.

BLITZER: For example, the senior official at the NSC on the Middle
East, let's say. There would be senior officials on the Middle East at
the State Department who are doing almost exactly the same thing that
your adviser on the Middle East was doing at the NSC.

BERGER: No, I don't think so. I mean, every issue is different. Let's
take the Middle East. The Middle East, obviously the senior
working-level diplomat was Dennis Ross, just as in Russia it was Strobe
Talbott at the State Department. Dennis was our principal negotiator
below the secretary, but someone had to do the briefing memo for the
president when King Hussein was coming, when he was going into a
meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu or Prime Minister Rabin or Prime
Minister Barak.  So I think there was a complementarity and a team that
worked very well together.  The Middle East actually is a very good
example -- Ed Djerejian is quite familiar with it -- where there has
been a very good blending of tasks between the State Department and the
NSC and often the Defense Department.  So it depends very much on the
area and the personalities. That is, there will be a particular area
where clearly the dominant working-level personality is at the State
Department or at the Defense Department and will naturally -- the
decision-making will cluster around that person. But generally, I don't
see what the NSC does as duplicative; I see it as trying to have a
coherent decision-making process.

BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, was it your experience that there would be
rivalries, jealousies, between officials at the NSC and the State
Department who were fundamentally working in the same areas?



BERGER: I was at the State Department at a lower level when Dr.
Brzezinski was at the National Security Council.

BRZEZINSKI: Let me say this. First of all, you know, everyone thinks

BLITZER: Very subtle question.

BRZEZINSKI: ... when they were in charge the system was just great. I
mean, let's take that as a given, OK?  It's also a fact that the NSC
system has changed over the years. It started with a very small cluster
of people. It grew over time, a great deal.  Where I might perhaps
differ from Sandy is in defining where NSC coordination should take
place. It may be simply a question of terminology, but it may be a
little more substantive than that.  Sandy said that the NSC provides
coordination at the working level. I would put it differently, and I
think it has implications for the size of the staff and what it does. I
would say, coordination has to take place at the presidential level.
That is to say, when the decisions are of a presidential-level type
decisions, then NSC coordination is necessary.  I don't think it should
be at the working level, because at the working level, there are a
great many decisions which are really not of presidential type. And if
you try to make decisions more or less at the desk-officer level, you
will end up with a staff on the NSC which, in my view, is too large. It
becomes a mini-foreign ministry, and it shouldn't be.  Now, I don't
know what the happy medium is. I would suspect it's probably somewhere
around, I don't know, 50, 60 or so, given the role the United States
plays in the world today.  But I would say, in general, the staff
should coordinate only those decisions which really have what might be
called a presidential-level character to them.

BERGER: I don't entirely agree with that.

BLITZER: How big was your staff when you were there?

BERGER: Well, in terms of policy people, it was similar, 60, 70 policy
people. There were a lot of administrative people and people who run
the Situation Room and do other tasks. We're talking here about people
who are policy-makers.  Take an example. During the run-up to a period
involving Bosnia, our engagement in Bosnia, there were day-to-day
decisions that needed to be made, that were not at the presidential
level, but were critically important, that are generally made at the
assistant secretary level or above, sometimes at the deputy level. And
the Deputies Committee has become an extremely important part of the
engine of decision-making.

ROSTOW: Before responding to your question, I should introduce from
outside this room some testimony which arrived to me as e-mail.  This
is my wife's diagram out of a book she's using to teach American
foreign policy. And what you're listening to is one of the eternal
fights of this group. This group very largely takes from the
sociological point of view.  This, from George Marshall's move to the
State Department to Henry Kissinger's moving back from the White House,
all of these moves, up to the present day, when Colin Powell and Donald
Rumsfeld and the vice president have moved, are among a group who have
wrestled with this problem over the years. And Al Smith wanted this
group to be reminded of it, that's why I got this e-mail this morning.
But the point about it is that this is a problem which can be solved,
as Frank says, between the secretary of defense and the secretary of
state. And my own view and my own experience with Secretary Rusk over
the years has been that, with the right characters in place and a
mutual deference and mutual trust, it can be solved.  But it is not
always solved. I mean, the relations between State and Defense are one
thing when Mr. Truman's friend from Missouri was in Department of
Defense; quite different when his successor was -- what was his name
again? -- moved over to Defense, who was close to Acheson. And a lot
does depend upon the relations between these two parties.  The truth

GOODPASTER: You're thinking of Louis Johnson and Dean Acheson?

ROSTOW: Yes, Acheson. Then there was, in secretary of defense, there
was another man involved who was Acheson's contemporary at Yale.

GOODPASTER: Art Clifford?

ROSTOW: Well, it doesn't matter. The question of personality does
matter.  As for the issue involved, my own preference has been to have
the State take the role of coordinator as far as possible and leave the
National Security Council to concentrate on the issues which the
president ought to concern himself with.  The truth about General
Eisenhower was that he found the endless meetings of the NSC a great
burden to him when he couldn't get out of them exactly what he hoped to
get out of them. And as he himself once said to his national security
advisor, that he was getting at these meetings what you could get from
the New York Times if you read it carefully.


It's very easy to overload the president. He should be able to find the
time, like any executive of a big organization, to concentrate on a
major issue and not be diverted. And a lot of those issues should be
settled beneath him.  And the Eisenhower administration had a very
successful committee of undersecretaries. It really saved the president
a great deal of work, and it was congenial. We had trouble convincing
the successors of the Eisenhower administration that at the
undersecretary level, this committee worked well. And the committees
that worked well also were headed by strong assistant secretaries, the
so-called "aries" worked well.  And we did something at that time which
I am very proud of and I had a hand in, which was to reduce the size of
the NSC. As you all know from your own experience, the good Lord only
produces a certain number of first-rate people.


And it's much better to have a small, first-rate staff than to load it
up with a big bureaucracy. I don't know when that took place. It took
place after the Kennedy-Johnson period.  But it's wonderfully
clarifying if a man has a responsibility for a certain field and the
only person working for him is a secretary.  And everyone who works for
somebody else takes some of his time, takes some of his energy. And we
could have an interdepartment meeting at the NSC level, staff level,
very easily by calling three or four people into the room who knew all
about the cables which came from Europe and the UN and from Africa and
so on, whatever the issue might be.  So I would opt for a small staff.
And I would opt for a concentration of effort in the White House on the
major issues. And I would opt for putting a great deal of
responsibility on the undersecretaries and the assistant secretaries to
take the issues off the neck of the president.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, to put it in its more defensible light, it can be
driven -- the decision as to who goes -- by what is the perception of
the foreign government about the authenticity, the president's
commitment to a given decision. That is, especially for authoritarian
governments, the Soviet Union, for China. Because they don't put much
credence in their own bureaucracy, they assume that they shouldn't
attach much to that of the United States. And so, they attach more
legitimacy to something that comes from the White House directly.  But
George Schultz had a very, I think, sensible understanding of that. And
specifically because he wanted it always to be clear that he was
speaking for the president, he would usually take me on a trip. And I
was in a subordinate role, and I saw it that way. But I saw that I was
there as kind of a prop to make it very clear to the Soviet Union and
to China that the secretary of state was speaking clearly for the
president here.

ROSTOW: The president, from time to time, will choose a special
representative to go and engage in a more intimate and a form of
dialogue which is recognized as quite authentic in terms of the
interests of our country. Normally, in my observation, these have been
people that have been even nominated to the president, suggested to the
president, but it's people in whom the president has special
confidence. And that's known at the receiving end and can be very

BERGER: I think there is one other dimension here. And that is that,
you know, the secretary of state, when she or he travels, cuts a
broader public swath than perhaps the national security advisor. They
travel with the press corps from the State Department. They are there
in an official capacity. There are certain protocol and ceremonial
circumstances that surround it.  And there are times when you want to
engage at the highest levels less obtrusively. And the national
security advisor can get on a plane with one or two people and fly into
Beijing and meet with leadership and fly out, maybe drawing some
attention from the local media, but not a lot from the national media
here. And that sometimes is useful for trying to make progress on a
particularly delicate issue.

BLITZER: Did you want to say something, Bud McFarlane?

MCFARLANE: Well, if you'll indulge a moment of humor that's related to
this. In December of '84, President Reagan was promoting a concept, the
Star Wars concept, as kind of the centerpiece of a larger policy for
engaging the Soviet Union. And Prime Minister Thatcher was being
critical, and persuasively critical. And it was undermining the
president's case here in the Congress and elsewhere.  And she came to
Camp David in December of '84. And in the privacy of that setting said,
"Now look here, Ron, this is expensive.  It's technologically risky. It
is presenting the appearance that you are trying to achieve a first
strike capability. It's going to de-couple you from Europe." A very,
very penetrating analysis which had some merit to it.  And the
president was chagrined. We papered over it in the press conference.
But afterward he said, "Bud, would you go to London please and try to
talk to the prime minister and at least ask her to be a little bit more
subdued." And so I went to London the following month.  And about two
paragraphs into the talking points, I could see I was getting nowhere.
And before going, Cap Weinberger, to his credit, had said, "Bud, you
know there is going to be a need to subcontract a lot of this work, and
the UK ought to get some of that." And well, I could see I was getting
nowhere. And the prime minister paused for a moment. And I said, "Prime
Minister, the president believes that up to $300 million, on occasions,
ought to be subcontracted to British firms." Long pause.


And a couple of weeks later -- I've forgotten the circumstance -- but
the president and she met again. And she took me aside and she said,
"You know, there may be something to this after all."

BLITZER: Professor Rostow, years ago I wrote a book on U.S.-Israeli
relations. And I remember the chapter on the Six Day War in 1967. You
were intimately involved. Dean Rusk was the secretary of State. And
President Johnson had to make some major decisions, obviously, during
that war.  And I remember a lot of the Israelis I interviewed during my
research saying that they would often find it a lot better from their
standpoint to go to the NSC, meaning you and your aides, who they felt
had a direct pipeline to President Johnson, than to work through the
State Department and Dean Rusk where they found that there was a lot of
resistance to what they wanted. Do you remember those days? I'm sure
you probably do.

ROSTOW: I don't remember them in those terms.


BLITZER: Is it wise, General Goodpaster, for the national security
advisor from time to time to be, in effect, the principal foreign
policy spokesperson for the president?

GOODPASTER: Well, times have changed so drastically since Eisenhower's
time that I don't know that his example would have much relevance
today. And he himself recognized there will be differences, personal
differences, in the characters of the successive presidents.  But his
conviction was that the secretary of state should have a major role as
the spokesperson for foreign policy. He stayed in very close touch with
Eisenhower directly on this. But that system worked out very well.  And
whereas Jim Hagerty, who was Eisenhower's press secretary, played a
very major role, he really stayed out of foreign policy and security
policy to a large extent. So when you heard these issues discussed,
they would be discussed in an authoritative way by the secretary of
state, or by Eisenhower himself, who felt that he had an obligation on
the major issues to take a public stance.  I don't think that can be
done today. But to the extent, as much as possible can be pushed out of
the White House, I think that the Executive Branch performance will
benefit from that.

BLITZER: Frank Carlucci, do you want to...

CARLUCCI: Yes. In my judgment, the national security advisor should not
be out front, but should be part of a coordinated public relations
strategy. I thought the administration last Sunday worked it very well,
where you had Colin Powell on there as the principal spokesman. You had
Dick Cheney commenting, and you had Condi Rice on, I think, your show.

BLITZER: That's right.

CARLUCCI: And they all were saying the same thing, and that's

BLITZER: But invisible was Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.

CARLUCCI: Well, that's appropriate. It's part of the strategy.

BLITZER: What was the strategy?

CARLUCCI: The strategy was to make sure this was handled in diplomatic
channels, not military channels. And that message came through loud and
clear. I thought it was very well handled.

BERGER: I agree with Frank on that. I think that it is important for
the secretary of state to be the definitive and principal spokesperson
below the president.  But one of the things, if you look at the
trajectory of time represented on this panel, the media playing field
has gotten much larger.  And you need a lot of players on the field
very often.  There was no CNN when most of these gentlemen served as
national security advisor. And the world was, of course, much worse for
it, Wolf.


But now, in both the pace of media scrutiny, the pace of the news cycle
is now almost continuous, and the breadth of the media tends to pull
the national security advisor out more as part of a team of people who
goes out, but always with the secretary of state at the lead.

BLITZER: That's a point, Dr. Brzezinski, that's well made, because
there is such an appetite out there now in television. There's all the
cable channels and five Sunday morning shows that the White House
somehow has to service. You can't just expect the secretary of state to
appear on five shows if there's a major foreign policy issue that

BRZEZINSKI: Well, that's already been said, and I completely agree with

I would merely add the following: Precisely because of these pressures,
these competitive pressures, the skills, the communicative skills of a
secretary of state have become very different.  Let's say in the '50s,
the secretary of state primarily made speeches, formal speeches. Or he
would write a ghost-written article for the foreign affairs magazine,
and it would be kind of authoritative.  Now, you not only are pulled in
many different directions, but you have to be quick on the uptake. You
have to be, to some extent, photogenic. You have to be able to
communicate in -- what are they called, those...  There were also very
useful meetings which involved a great many people before the meetings
of the UN, which were occasions for a lot of bilateral. There were also
occasions in which the ambassador came home to say country X was having
a visit to Washington.  And the prime minister was interested in
getting A, B and C accomplished from his point of view. "Good," said
the president.  "Now let me tell you what I'm interested in. Now go
away and produce a paper on that." There were a set of meetings which
were worthy of bringing together the whole Cabinet and bringing
together a president's instruction for the next operational decisions.

BRZEZINSKI: Can I comment on this for a second?

BLITZER: Go ahead, because you're satisfied with the way the structure
was done?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I want to make a distinction, which I don't think was
made here which needs to be made. One should not confuse Cabinet status
with Senate confirmation. They're not the same thing.


BRZEZINSKI: Now in my case, I didn't have Senate confirmation, but I
had Cabinet status. But it was totally irrelevant. You know, I had to
attend the Cabinet meetings. And I think the only difference between me
with Cabinet status as a national security advisor and my colleagues
who weren't is that I sat at the table instead of sitting against the
wall. But most Cabinet meetings are routine, nonsignificant events,
especially when it comes to foreign policy.


Now confirmation is a different issue. Now the national security could
be confirmed. And there have been ideas to that effect, just as the
head of the Bureau of the Budget is confirmed. I personally preferred
that it not be so, because if you get confirmed you also have to
testify a lot, you have to go down to the Hill a lot.  The schedule
demands on you are so enormous already that that would be an additional
burden and would greatly complicate the issue we talked about earlier,
namely, who speaks for foreign policy in the government besides the
president? And it should be the secretary of state. And if you are
confirmed, that would become fuzzed and confused.

BLITZER: You were a member of the Cabinet. But, Sandy Berger, you were
not a member of the Cabinet.

BERGER: Well, I sat at the table. I don't know if I was a member of the
Cabinet or not.

BRZEZINSKI: You were a semi-member.

BERGER: No one ever told me whether I was or not.


I just, I guess, took the chair there.  But I think the point that Zbig
just made is a key point here. With confirmation comes an almost legal
obligation of accountability to the Congress. The secretary of state,
secretary of defense spend enormous amounts of time on the Hill.  The
secretary of state, secretary of defense may have to testify six or
eight times on the budget of their agency. And each of those
testimonies, of course, is an occasion to answer the question of every
member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, which may or may not be related to the budget.  I
actually think that this has become too burdensome on the secretary of
state, secretary of defense. But perhaps a third of their time is
engaged in this.  And so the one benefit of not having confirmation is
that you can say no to a congressional committee. In fact, most
presidents have taken the view that under executive privilege that the
their national security advisor, just like their chief of staff, can't
be compelled to go up on the Hill.

GOODPASTER: I'd like to reinforce that. Going back, particularly to the
Eisenhower time when he really established in modern years the idea of
executive privilege and the idea of confidential advice that the
president is entitled to receive that need not be reported in any other
place.  Now, so long as it's advice, that works, and there is no
confirmation. There is a risk any -- moving over into the area of
operations, then under the Constitution there is an obligation to
report, and a necessity, I think, would come from that for a
confirmation.  When you come to the Congress, it's a little different.
There is such a thing as accountability in our government, and the
national security advisor is either the top advisor to the president or
among the top two or three advisor to the president on foreign policy.
Why should not a national security advisor, who holds this position,
not be directly accountable to the American people through the
Congress?  Now, one answer you suggested a moment ago was that it would
impede your advice to the president. That was not true in the case of
Bob Rubin, who was the secretary of the treasury, and was repeatedly
called before the Congress.  So let's take another crack at this
question. Why should you not be accountable to the American people
through the Congress?

CARLUCCI: Well, would you make the chief of staff accountable in the
same way, or virtually every White House staff member?

HAMILTON: Frank, I think the national security advisor occupies a very
special place. He is, if not the principal advisor, he's among the two
or three principal advisors to the president on foreign policy. You're
perfectly willing to go before all of the TV networks anytime they give
you a ring, if you want to go. Why should you discriminate against the


BERGER: Lee, I think any national security...

HAMILTON: I told you it was going to be argumentative.

BERGER: ... I think any national security advisor...



BERGER: ... any national security advisor who got a call from the
chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee or the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee to come on up and talk in their office would be out
of their mind not to go up. In fact, during my period, I regularly met
with the House and Senate majority and minority leaders and many
others, as Bud was saying, is important informally.  But there's not
only a chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There's a
chairman of Foreign Operations. There's a chairman of the House Defense
Committee. And it's hard, of course, once you've submitted to the
proposition that you can be summoned up to the Hill, it's hard to say,
well, the Foreign Relations Committee is more important than the
Defense Committee, or the appropriators are more important than the
authorizers. And I think you really have changed the nature of the
job.  I think the national security advisor is accountable. I can't
imagine not responding to a request to come up. My frustration was
often that I couldn't get enough people in the House of Representatives
to come down to the White House to talk about foreign policy. I think
best left informally.

HAMILTON: Let me make two comments. One is the point several of you
have made, and you just made, Sandy, is right, that secretaries spend
an awful lot of time on Capitol Hill. And to me, that says Capitol Hill
has to reorganize the way they make inquiries of secretaries.  But it
is not the same thing for a national security advisor to come into the
private office and meet behind closed doors with members of Congress.
That's not the same thing as going into a public body and answering
questions, in my judgment. They're two different things.  And every one
of you -- every one of you -- responded to congressional questions and
went up to the Hill, and Bud McFarlane was particularly sensitive to
the Congress because, as I recall, your father was a congressman. But I
draw a distinction there.  I know how you feel about it. I guess it's a
kind of a different perspective, one from the executive branch, one
from the congressional branch.

CARLUCCI: Can I come at it from a slightly different perspective, that
the person who is accountable is the president.

GOODPASTER: That's my point. Yes.

CARLUCCI: And these are staff people to the president. And we had a
case where the president was almost brought down because of the actions
of National Security Council staff -- Ronald Reagan. So there is an
accountability system, and the president should be free to pick
whomever he wants to give him advice. And in fact, if you, as I said
earlier, make the national security advisor subject to confirmation,
the president's going to pick somebody else to operate his foreign
policy.  I think it was a big mistake that Kennedy, in reducing the
staff even more than was the case already, when he came to office,
abolished the planning board that Eisenhower had on the NSC. The only
place in the government where there can be long-range planning of a
coherent strategic type is, in some fashion, the White House,
presumably related to the NSC. It doesn't even have to be the NSC
itself, but it could be something related to it.  For example, the
president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board could be used for
long-range anticipation, and for drawing strategic conclusions from it,
and then from reporting to the NSC, to the NSC advisor, and letting him
know that certain long-range issues have more immediate policy
implications.  The point here, of course, is one of balance. You can't
turn this exercise into some sort of an academic think-house. It has to
be related to policy. But having such a body, and then some mechanisms
on transmission to the NSC, I think would fill a need that truly exists
today. We just don't have coherent strategic planning in the national
security area, broadly understood, in the U.S.  government.

HAMILTON: Sandy, do you want to comment on how you...

BERGER: Yes. First of all, I agree with what Zbig has said, and I think
his proposal is very appropriate.

BRZEZINSKI: It's actually not my idea. I don't want to claim credit for
it, but it's something I back.

BERGER: His now cited proposal...


BERGER: ... but I want to go back to the organizational issue. The role
of the NSC, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the
global economy, obviously needs to change. And there needs to be, I
believe, a kind of protean quality to the NSC, which enables it to
configure itself differently depending on the issue.  I've said before,
there are issues of terrorism in which you need to have the Justice
Department and the FBI on the table. There are issues of -- among the
most important issues we dealt with was the Asian financial crisis, and
the Mexican financial crisis, where Treasury obviously plays an
indispensable role. So I think, first of all, while there are some core
agencies on the NSC, there has to be kind of a situational definition
of participation.  The NSC and EC, I think, was a useful device. And
understand that the NSC principally deals with coordinating domestic
economic policy, for which there had been no similar mechanism. But
where economic policy and foreign policy intersect -- on trade, on
international economics -- I think it's a useful device, and we shared
a staff between the NEC and the NSC. And it was uneven, but generally,
I think, was positive.

HAMILTON: We'll take one last comment, then we'll go to questions from
our audience.  Andy?

GOODPASTER: I think you've identified a real challenge. And as Frank
says, trying to put the economic together with the classical strategic
and security is a stretch. And it becomes very hard to operate. But
some new thinking about a National Policy Council that would look to
the kinds of issues that Walt has talked about here.  I go back, again,
to the early Eisenhower days -- and this goes to Lee Hamilton's point
about "what is the policy." After Stalin died, there were all kinds of
suggestions, "Let's do this, let's do that." Eisenhower, after thinking
this over, set up a group called the "Solarium Group." And that group
defined three main lines of policy that would have an endurance for
quite a number of years. One was, at the time, containment. One was,
drawing a line with a threat of massive retaliation. And one was
rollback, which had figured in Eisenhower's first election.  And he
charged a small group of eight or nine individuals with making the best
possible case for each of those -- three small groups.  They worked
through a hot summer here in Washington, I might say, and finally gave
the results, taking an hour apiece, on each of these. And at the end of
it, Eisenhower himself jumped up and said he wanted to summarize and
comment on what they had heard.  He talked for 45 minutes without a
note.  George Kennan -- he called him back to head the containment --
said, "In doing so, he showed us intellectual ascendancy over every man
in the room." And I said, "George, that includes you." And he said,
"That's all right, because Eisenhower understood the military and the
strategic aspects of all of it." Out of that came a policy paper which
was crafted by the national security apparatus, the Planning Board in
particular. And that became a center line for policy.  leadership has
to do to achieve this and, I think, to internationalize the issue, to
bring into it not merely Japan and Western Europe and the western
hemisphere, but also China, which is now below 2.1, and they have taken
to their own people the question, not the

answer yet: What will we do when we have 350 million people on the
safety net, when we don't have a safety net now -- 350 million people?
They have posed this question, and they have no answer yet.  So this is
a universal problem, and it ought to end up with the two questions,
which I tried to answer for the two bosses I had in the '60s, one from
John Kennedy, who when an idea was put to him, would fuss with his tie
and so on and say, "What do you want me to do about it today?" And for
once, LBJ was more cryptic. He would put his chin on his fist and push
his eyes toward yours and say, "Therefore?" I think we must face up to
the "therefore" problem, including its political component, a part of
which is to spread the understanding that we've wasted this period of
falling fertility. The gap is now closing. We're about to face a fall
in population. And we better damn well take this seriously.

HAMILTON: All right. Thank you.  Now what I'd like to do to get as many
questions as possible is to request the panel just to have one person
responding. If one of the other panelists would like to add something,
by all means do. But let's see if we can get as many questions as
possible.  We have a question there.

QUESTION: In the national security system, whose job is it, or should
it be, to raise domestic political factors?

CARLUCCI: The chief of staff. I don't think it's the national security
advisor's job. In fact, I had on my watch -- and Bud did too -- the
Iran Contra affair and the Latin American Contras.  And there was a
question of mobilizing public opinion to support the president's
policies, and there was some suggestion that that should be done by the
National Security Council staff.  I went to Howard Baker and said,
"Howard, that's not my business. That should be yours." And he took it

BRZEZINSKI: I would just add to the chief of staff, maybe occasionally
the vice president.

HAMILTON: OK. Next question here.

QUESTION: You gentlemen have talked a great deal about coordinating
documents and positions that come up from the departments. And my
question, perhaps, is related to Dr. Brzezinski and General Goodpaster.
To what extent did you each -- you all -- as national security advisor
send things down to the departments that you thought should be studied,
issues that might have come up, but were not current at the present
time, things that perhaps the president had mentioned, the president
had alluded to or perhaps things that you thought should be looked at
that the departments were not looking at?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, I can only speak for myself. There was frequently
tasking, not only of the departments, but also the agency.  We haven't
talked about the agency at all, and that's a very important element
involved here. The relationship of the agency to the national security
advisor and the president is an important part of this problem.  I
would say, very frequently the White House would task, either because
of the president's stimulation of the national security advisor or
simply because the national security advisor felt the president needed
this. Very frequently tasking memos would go down.

CARLUCCI: I was in the agency when he was national security advisor. He
rained on us all the time.


GOODPASTER: I would just add that it was President Eisenhower's
practice to receive a briefing every morning using the material that
had been submitted from the CIA, from the State Department -- the
exchange of messages -- and from the Defense Department as well.  That
was a prime source of seeing that there was something that needed to be
looked at, and that was the occasion for calling together these ad hoc
meetings -- that was my duty -- to bring in the responsible people to
meet with him in the Oval Office. So the term Bob Bowie reminded me of,
he could look his principal subordinates in the eye and hear from them
their views and digest it with the background of the policy work that
had been done previously.  But that is a very, very important element
in Hamiltonian terms, if I could make the reference, to providing
energy in the executive branch of the government.

HAMILTON: Bud McFarlane and then General Goodpaster.

MCFARLANE: It's a very good point. And I think this really only happens
about every four years, where there is tasking. And right now, I'm sure
Condi Rice with President Bush is tasking the departments to focus on
these very issues, that the memos are going out saying the president is
concerned about the threat to American interests of terrorism or of X
and Y and Z. And he's tasking the Cabinet agencies to study them, to
come back and give him options, together with costs and risks and
trade-offs, for how to engage on these several issues. And six months
from now, those several volumes of national policy will be on the
shelf, but hopefully also in the field, trying to advance the national

GOODPASTER: I'll just add, if I may, that again going back to
Eisenhower's structure, he had something called the Operations
Coordination Board, which operated about one level down. And their role
was coordinating operations, particularly in the execution phase of the
policies that had been considered and approved and directed.  It was
criticized from time to time as being a paper mill, generally by people
whose feet it held to the fire to get action on the decisions that had
been taken. But that kind of a coordinating operation at that level
that pertains to the execution of decisions that had been taken, that
also is one of the services to the president, who ultimately bears that
responsibility himself.

HAMILTON: OK. Question here, then we'll have another question.

QUESTION: I have a question that relates to the session before. We
heard that sometimes loyalty to the president, to the boss, is stronger
than loyalty to the issue. How does this reflect to the hiring, to the
choosing of the advisors to the president, because that may be an
important link?  Thank you, and let me thank the Center and the panel
for excellent insight into what's called the role of advisor in modern
American politics. There are a bunch of books on that, and it's a
pleasure to see you all here. Thank you.

BERGER: I don't believe there's a conflict between your commitment to
your own views and your principles and your commitment to the
president. I think the distinction is one that many of my colleagues
have made between before the decision and after the decision.  I think
before the decision, you owe the president your best judgment of what
the right course is and to design a process that brings other people's
judgments to bear. Once he's made a decision, you execute it or you

CARLUCCI: That's right. Yes, there may come a point where you want to
resign. I know when I was hired by Ronald Reagan, I laid out areas
where I thought I had differences with his existing policy, so he would
know what to expect of me. But you have to act in accordance with your

HAMILTON: OK.  Question here.

QUESTION: As you are aware, the structure in which you operated in your
tenure was established in 1947 by the National Security Act of 1947. In
2007, that act and this structure will have been in force about 60
years. Is it not time to reassess the National Security Act and see if
the framework that it established is applicable to these first decades
of the 21st century, in which we have various threats?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, a number of people and institutions have studied the
national security making process and have made recommendations for
changes. And some changes have taken place anyway, by osmosis. The
style, the staffs have changed. Some component elements have been
changed -- abolished, for example, like the Planning Board.  But by and
large, these have been incremental changes, which perhaps have improved
the system, occasionally perhaps worsened it.  But so far, no one has
come up with a convincing case for a radically different structure,
even though some proposals have been a made.  So there is continuing
discussion on the subject, but as of now, no compelling case has won
the attraction, the support, either of the president or the Congress.

CARLUCCI: The genius of the legislation is that it creates a structure
that's totally flexible. The president can do with it what he wants, so
why change it?

QUESTION: Dr. Brzezinski mentioned the PFIAB board, the Foreign
Intelligence Board, and I'm curious as to the role that plays.  Is it a
resource going on by the National Security Advisor by the president,
and how serious is the board?

CARLUCCI: Well, the president can pick whatever staff he wants. Yes,
the law creates a council and that's why it's totally flexible.  The
president can create the staff.

BERGER: I think it's inevitable that there's going to be a small
foreign policy staff in the White House, whether it's statutorily
directed or not, if, for no other reason, to prepare the president for
the daily tasks that he has to face.

HAMILTON: OK, another question here.

QUESTION: I was just kind of wondering, anything you should regret, you
would have done differently in the past? So, I mean, you might do
differently while you advise the presidents?


ROSTOW: What's the question?

HAMILTON: Is there anything that you would regret, looking back, in the
advice that you gave the presidents.

(UNKNOWN): The answer is yes.


QUESTION: Are you very sorry?


HAMILTON: General Goodpaster?

GOODPASTER: Well, let me say...

HAMILTON: Maybe we should get six "sorrys."


GOODPASTER: ... looking back, I think there were sins of omission.
Well, I'll speak for myself. There were times when I wish I'd been more
alert to the possible implications of conceivable events that did,
indeed, occur. For example, sitting there, the last day that the U2
flight could be flown, being May 1, a day of particular significance in
Russia. If we had not wanted to run too close to the summit that was
planned for mid-May of 1960, but somebody might have thought that May
Day was really not the day to fly over Russia.

HAMILTON: OK. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My question is, what is life after service as national
security advisor? And what do you think national security advisors
after service should focus their attention on?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, it's a quick transition. I went to Andrews Air Force
Base to see the retiring president off. I had my motorcade with me. I
had my Secret Service guys with me. The president left and I kind of
looked around and there were no cars.


Finally, the Secret Service guy came up and said, "Can I give you a
lift," which I gladly accepted. I think after service of this kind --
but it's important during that service always to remember that this is
a very brief transitional phase in your life. And I kept saying that to
myself almost every week, you know, "Don't let yourself feel that this
is real." After that, I think the most you can do is try to apply the
experience you have gained in some meaningful fashion to the continuing
very pluralistic dialogue in this country, about national strategy and
the role of the United States in the world. I think that's what we can
all do and I think, in different ways, we are, in effect, all doing.

HAMILTON: I think we'll have the final question back here.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about this standoff with China that recently
ended, and what it might say about the workings and decision-making and
structure of the foreign policy of the current administration, and how
that might differ from some of the administrations in which you all

CARLUCCI: Well, I think they've handled it well. One can argue, as some
people in the press have, that they should have been tougher right at
the outset, but as Condi Rice said it on Wolf Blitzer's program on
Sunday, at that point in time, they didn't know where the American
service people were -- under what conditions they were being held -- so
they felt it necessary to be very firm.  They have achieved what they
set out to achieve. The service people have been released. We have not
apologized, nor should we. I think we ought to move on now and try to
restore our full relationship with the People's Republic of China.

HAMILTON: OK.  Thank you very much.  I think one of the more memorable
sentences we've had this afternoon from the panel came from Professor
Rostow who said, "The good Lord produces only a small number of
first-rate people." You would all agree that these six fit into that
group of first-rate people. We owe them our thanks, not just for this
afternoon's session, but for their service to the country, to their
presidents over a period of time. They really are remarkable people.
We're delighted to have had them here.  Ed Djerejian, it's been a great
pleasure to work with you and the James Baker Institute.  The Wilson
Center has been pleased to join with the Baker Institute to put on this
program this afternoon.  The text of the comments of these national
security advisors will be widely distributed, as will the tapes that
have been made here.  So we've had a marvelous afternoon.  Our thanks
-- our deep thanks -- to the panel for a tremendously informative and
stimulating session.  Thank you all for attending.



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Rice Webcast Team (webcast@rice.edu), 2000.07.24
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