Rock Center | January 24, 2013
>>> today at the pentagon when two men sat down press corps and announced a policy change that will change while this has been happening by itself and over the course of the last decade in our two wars, this officially opens up a ton of jobs and new pathways to leadership for women. about those two men, one of those was the outgoing defense secretary leon panetta . the other was a decorated veteran, bronze star recipient, four-star army general , chairman of the joint chiefs of staff . he is general martin dempsey , and days before the big announcement at the pentagon, ted koppel sat down with him for our broadcast tonight.
>> we all wear the same uniform and we all fire the same weapons. most importantly, we all take the same oath.
>> reporter: and with that the chairman of the joint chiefs and the outgoing secretary of defense signed an order rescinding a 1994 rule that bars women from direct ground combat. tonight we're going to tell you a little about this low-key, low-profile four- star general . today he made history. but when the occasion calls for it, he's not above poking a little fun at himself.
>> you will pick up the chorus and i will point to you and you, you better deliver, because i'm the chairman.
>> reporter: they used to call sinatra chairman of the board. you're my kind of team
>> this guy is know sinatra, but he is chairman of the joint chiefs of staff . right there at the front of the war novel " billy lynn 's long halftime walk" and it is a terrific book, a plug from the chairman of the joint chiefs . worth reading, general william dempsey . except his name is martin dempsey , not william. and until i brought it to the publisher's attention, no one had noticed. that probably wouldn't have happened to omar bradley or colin powell . but general dempsey is little known outside the military. married, one son, two daughters, all of whom have served in the army, general martin dempsey is the highest ranking officer in the armed forces and principal military adviser to the president.
>> this is a card.
>> reporter: on his desk at the pentagon is a small wooden box with what looks like a collection of baseball cards .
>> and so i'll just pull a handful out of this box and cycle them into my money clip.
>> reporter: these are young soldiers who died while general dempsey was demacommanding u.s. forces in baghdad.
>> but from time to time if i forget why we're doing what we do, then i just reach in. some people don't even know i'm doing it. i just reach in my pocket and make sure i've still got my cards.
>> which part of the world do you worry about the most right now?
>> you know there's kind of a near term, long term --
>> near term.
>> -- aspect to that. i think near term it continues to be the threat of global terrorism. you know, we track a global terrorist network that is not uniquely al qaeda , but is affiliated at some level with al qaeda . what we've had to do in response is we have become a network. to defeat a network, we've had to become a network.
>> what does that mean?
>> what it means is you're not going to see these broad sweeping movements across the desert of eastern iraq in a hail mary , you know, right- hand cross , whatever it was called in 1991 . you're going to see smaller groups of military formations confronting these distributed enemy across a much wider scope.
>> that's a major change. no more massive troop deployments, lots of small covert insertions. think joint special operations , rangers, green berets , s.e.a.l.s. think paramilitary cia operatives and civilian contractors with military backgrounds. think unarmed surveillance drones and their killer cousin, the predator with its missiles. above all, think of doing more with less visibility and dispersed over a far wider battlefield. on numerous occasions in the past and again in his inaugural address , the president chose a different emphasis.
>> this generation of americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. a decade of war is now ending.
>> you're telling me we're not going to be done?
>> well, i tell you what -- the language that i've actually taken to heart, which is by the end of 2014 , our war in afghanistan will be complete, but no one has ever suggested that that will end the war.
>> is it a mistake to give the american public the sense that afghanistan is essentially over? we can stop worrying about afghanistan ?
>> i think it would be a mistake to give the american people the sense that al qaeda is defeated. wherever we happen to find them. and i think that it's fair to say that there will be a part of the al qaeda threat emanating from both western pakistan and potentially afghanistan for the foreseeable future.
>> we have capabilities today that make us sort of comfortable with the use of drones, but imagine if some other entity had the capability of using drones against the united states . are we prepared for that?
>> well, i think --
>> as a nation, i mean.
>> yeah, i think we are prepared for that. i think it's maybe an inevitability.
>> there's another kind of warfare already being waged. remember what hurricane sandy did to the power grid in lower manhattan ? a cyber attack would be even more devastating.
>> there have been instances of our using cyber warfare , i'm going to say our using it, the united states , israel, against iran. there are also examples of the iranians using it against us.
>> there are reports that destructive cyber tools have been used against iran. i'm not either confirming or denying any part in that. but what it should tell you is that capability exists. and if it exists, it doesn't -- you know, whoever is using those, can't assume that they're the only smart people in the world.
>> so if we, hypothetically speaking, are using it against the iranians , we have to assume the iranians would use it against us?
>> that's a valid assumption. let me confirm that there is disruption -- this was a phrase that may not be common knowledge, but disruptive denial of services, where you overwhelm a website in order to impede people who would normally use it from using it. it is literally disruption. that happens.
>> what happens when that occurs?
>> well, literally it shuts the network down.
>> what kind of networks have been shut down?
>> there have been financial networks shut down, there have been industry networks shut down.
>> if i were to say to you that the assumption is that both the chinese and the iranians are engaged in that kind of behavior, can you confirm that?
>> i would answer that the assumption is that both nation states , which is to say governments, and individuals and groups, organizations, are engaged in trying to take advantage of vulnerabilities in cyber. that's what makes cyber so worrisome.
>> what is it you worry about?
>> well, what i worry about is that that same capability could be used to implant a destructive device that could cause significant harm to the industrial base, whether it's critical infrastructure or the financial network.
>> reporter: all of which makes the recent press frenzy over david petraeus and marital i didn't -- infidelity seem like less of an issue. to my surprise, general dempsey didn't dismiss it that easily.
>> what is it the commander would not have known before haenld or any man or woman serving under you would not have known beforehand from this situation.
>> we had a conversation about competence and character. i think over the last ten years when you're at war, you tend to value competence above all else. naturally, the nation's well-being is hanging in the balance . so the first lesson i think would be not that we've neglected the character side of this equation, but we probably are at a point where we ought to reemphasize it. maybe we can't see character from the top down. maybe you can see part of it. maybe we need the impression, maybe we need the view of those that are looking from the bottom up. i'm actually more interested in what are the colonels, lieutenant colonels saying about the colonels? what are the colonels saying about the brigadiers? competence will always be the most important thing. you can't have a man of -- or woman of incredible character who can't deliver on the battlefield because at the end of the day that's what we're accountable for. but character counts, and it counts mightily.
>> fascinating look at that character in the pentagon. our thanks to ted koppel for joining us with that tonight.