Meet the Press | January 27, 2013
>>> with all due respect, the fact is we had four dead americans. was it because of a protest or guys out for a walk one night who decided to go kill some americans? what difference at this point does it make? it is our job to figure out what happened, and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.
>> a combative section of the hearing on benghazi on capitol hill this week. we're back with more of the roundtable. ted koppel , wider than just the benghazi investigation and the questions are about a region that's in ferment, in revolution in certain parts, where there are a lot of threats facing the united states . and it's not getting a lot of attention thus far from the administration. certainly from the president's inaugural address . and there are real fears in the region that iran particularly is going to be on the edge of causing problems for the u.s.
>> i think, david, as i suggested before, that we're entering one of the most dangerous periods this country has ever known. a, it's not over in afghanistan . b, to the degree that al qaeda has moved over into pakistan , that's a country that has over 100 nuclear weapons. syria, which is an ongoing problem. the suggestion constantly seems to be that we need to come in on the side of the rebels. there are at least 1,000 al qaeda members in syria today fighting on the side of the rebels. if the chemical weapons fall into their hands, big problems. you mentioned iran . remember now, and it may even have been on this program, i think that netanyahu suggested that come spring, come early summer, if the iranians still have not pulled back from building a nuclear weapon , the israelis may attack. the iranians would respond against the united states . and they have the capacity to do it with cyber war .
>> i think it's even bigger and more troubling than that. it isn't just the middle east and that region. look at north korea . announcing that they are going to target the united states . they have nuclear weapons , unlike iran at this point. you look at what happened in algeria and mali. the egypt problem is not solved. i actually had one of the experts tell me recently that the next book i ought to do is this whole sweep of foreign policy , and the working title of the book would be "meltdown."
>> andrea, i want you to respond to something. hillary clinton when she was not talking about benghazi issued a warning for her successor, which i gather she also wanted to make sure was heard inside the white house , when she talked about the region. in this case, north africa , the al qaeda presence bigger than benghazi . this is what she said.
>> let me underscore the importance of the united states continuing to lead in the middle east , in north africa , and around the world. when america is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. extremism takes root. our interests suffer. our security at home is threatened.
>> i think she is trying to warn the administration and the world that we cannot retreat from this engagement here. and right now, overnight, we've seen that the u.s. is doing refueling of french fighters in mali, which is very troublesome to some. it is a much more aggressive posture. but the uk has taken all of their nationals out of somalia overnight. this area of north africa as bob and ted were just saying is the most dangerous perhaps in the world, aside from pakistan and afghanistan which are nuclear armed against each other. and pakistan and india nuclear armed against each other and what's happening in afghanistan as we retreat and the effect on that and north korea . so they have to really not just look at immigration and guns and the budget as the next challenges here.
>> have we figured out, senator, what the balance is between invasions, nation building , a huge commitment on the part of the united states in this part of the world, and turning our eye away from governments that could be illegitimate or failed states that invite either, you know, terrorists or authoritarian regimes to take root?
>> well, there's not a lot of patience for the requirements of understanding here in washington. what secretary clinton said reflected a deep problem, not just in foreign policy but domestic policy , when she said what difference does it make? it's the same type of thing we see on all policies. it's an unwillingness to really bore down and understand the root causes of failures and successes. and that's why i think we see our foreign policy going in a lot of directions. it doesn't seem to be coherent. it sends signals of weakness. we don't understand what north korea really is doing right now. it is not just to provoke us, but it's a product demonstration for iran and other countries that want to see if these things work. we know north korea wants to sell them. so i think there is a perception of american weakness. but our problem here is the failure to really understand what is motivating these other countries and how we can affect --
>> but the conversation hasn't really been about that. at least not that we as the voters see. what we see is people in washington kind of picking on each other, focusing on personalities, who know what when. voters really want to know what's happening out there and what are you going to do.
>> ted, that's my point. do we have a real policy approach that is somewhere in between a projection of american power and just leaving the region?
>> the answer is yes. i don't think, ben, that it means that we necessarily have a strategy, but we have new tactics. we have moved away from the big unit operations, divisions, tanks, and are moving more in the direction of special operations , cia, drones, civilian contractors, cyber warfare . this is what you're going to see happening. but we're also playing whack-a-mole with al qaeda . and i think one of the greatest mistakes that the president has made is in leaving america with a sense that somehow al qaeda has been dealt with, the war in afghanistan is over, the war in iraq is over. the fact of the matter is we've got major problems,