Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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U.S. Foreign Policy: Top Twenty Quotes by the Government in 2011

by Micah Zenko
December 19, 2011

 U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Rhodes and Senior Advisor Axelrod in the Oval Office (July 6, 2010).

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Rhodes and Senior Advisor Axelrod in the Oval Office (July 6, 2010).

In researching national security and foreign policy issues, I run across a range of quotes, reports, and other bits of information from U.S. government officials or agencies. The majority of these are intended to convey the clear and consistent message that the current U.S. strategy, on whatever issue area, is either succeeding or on the verge of doing so.  Despite the best efforts to stay on message, however, statements from U.S. officials or agencies occasionally emerge that are perplexing, shocking, or both.  Read below for the top twenty such quotes from the past year. If I missed any, please let me know.

Statement by the President, December 8, 2011.

“Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22-out-of-30 top al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement.” – President Barack Obama

Fact check: Hyperbole on terror interrogations,” Yahoo News, November 23, 2011.

“When you put the no-fly zone above Syria, it obviously gives those dissidents and gives the military the opportunity to maybe disband.” – Rick Perry, governor of Texas and Republican presidential candidate

(3PA: For my thoughts on what a no-fly zone in Syria might accomplish, see here and here.)

Marine commandant discusses challenges he’s faced,” NPR, October 20, 2011.

“Well, first of all, I want to be clear that we’re not a bunch of cavemen. And we’re actually a pretty wonderful organization.” – General James Amos, U.S. Marine Corps

Panetta makes cracks about not-so-secret CIA drone program,” Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2011.

“Having moved from the CIA to the Pentagon, obviously I have a hell of a lot more weapons available to me in this job than I had in the CIA, although the Predators weren’t bad,” – Leon Panetta, U.S. secretary of defense

(3PA: The CIA use of Predator drones inexplicably remains covert.)

Perry open to military intervention in Mexico’s drug war,” New York Times, October 1, 2011.

“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off of our border and to destroy their network,” – Rick Perry

Donald Rumsfeld warns US attack is unavoidable if defense cuts proceed,” Business Insider, September 10, 2011.

“The Department of Defense is not what’s causing the debt and the deficit.  It’s the entitlement programs.  If we make that mistake, we’re doomed to suffer another attack of some kind, and our intelligence will be less strong and less effective.” – Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Nuclear Nonproliferation: U.S. Agencies Have Limited Ability to Account for, Monitor, and Evaluate the Security of U.S. Nuclear Material Overseas, September 8, 2011.

“DOE, NRC, and State are not able to fully account for U.S. nuclear material overseas that is subject to nuclear cooperation agreement terms because the agreements do not stipulate systematic reporting of such information, and there is no U.S. policy to pursue or obtain such information.”

(3PA: Yikes.)

Dana Priest and William Arkin, Top Secret America, September 2011.

“Sometimes our actions were counterproductive,” “We would say, ‘We need to go in and kill this guy,’ but just the effects of our kinetic action did something negative, and they [the conventional forces in much of the country] were left to clean up the mess.” – General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of ISAF

Dick Cheney, In My Time, August 30, 2011 (471-472).

“I again made the case for U.S. military action against the reactor, but I was a lone voice. After I finished, the president asked, ‘Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.” – Dick Cheney, former vice president

Joby Warrick and Scott Wilson, “U.S. presses Libyan rebels to preserve order,” Washington Post, August 22, 2011.

“This is precisely the way that we had been saying the strategy was supposed to work…we were more than able to sustain the pressure for six months, and frankly, would have been able to for many more months to come.” – Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications

Gates puts cost of Libya mission at $750 million,” New York Times, August 11, 2011

“If you’d asked me four months ago if we’d be in Libya today, I would have asked, ‘What were you smoking?’” – Robert Gates, former U.S. secretary of defense

Ed O’Keefe, “Iraq’s decision on troops encouraging, U.S. officials say,” Washington Post, August 4, 2011.

“There seems to be broad partnerships and political coalitions emerging that take tough decisions,” said a senior U.S. Embassy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the issue frankly. “This is very good, because we don’t want to be the security partner to a dictatorship or to a one-party regime, but rather, we believe we should have acceptance by a broad range of political forces in this country.”

(3PA: The United States has formal military alliances with NATO members [comprising twenty-eight countries, including the United States], Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand.)

Remarks to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, June 28, 2011.

“Counterinsurgency is a mathematical formula.” – Senator Lindsey Graham

Peter Spiegel, “Defence: NATO’s troubled terrain,” Financial Times, June 27, 2011

“Where the hell would we have been if we’d actually had to deal with the Soviets? For God’s sake this is Gaddafi.” – Robert Gates

Christopher Dickey, “How the Arab Spring has weakened U.S. intelligence,” Daily Beast, June 12, 2011.

“All this celebration of democracy is just bullshit,” says one senior U.S. intelligence officer.

Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes, “Cyber combat: Act of war,” Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2011.

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

Face the Nation” (PDF), CBS News, April 3, 2011.

“When we called for a no-fly zone, we didn’t mean our planes.” – Senator Lindsey Graham

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, March 28, 2011.

“So we don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent. What we do — because we don’t make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent. We make them based on how we can best advance our interests in the region.” – Denis McDonough

Rumsfeld: There’s a ‘reasonable possibility’ Qaddafi could last out reluctant coalition in Libya,” Fox News, March 22, 2011.

“There’s a reason Gadhafi isn’t contemplating using a nuclear/radiological weapon today: He saw what happened to Saddam.” – Donald Rumsfeld

Speech to United States Military Academy, February 25, 2011.

“But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined.’” – Robert Gates

The World from The Hill: U.N. funding an early target for House Republicans,” The Hill, January 23, 2011.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill that oversight would be a key function of the panel, particularly funding to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) that is “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“I’d like to make sure that we once and for all kill all U.S. funding for that beast,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Because I don’t think that it advances U.S. interests, I don’t think that that’s a pro-democracy group, it’s a rogue’s gallery, pariah states, they belong there because they don’t want to be sanctioned.”

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Angelina Clarke

    Interesting to see that Cheney was actually as hawkish on these issues as we assumed he was. Glad we dodged that bullet!

  • Posted by tica

    Interesting that the man who made closing Gitmo a key point in his election rhetoric in 2008 …. has doubled down on killing and detaining …… terrorist…. even if they might be Americans. He seems to have more trouble with TEA Party Patriots than he has with the Taliban.

    Are We, the People of the United States safe from our dear leader?

  • Posted by Saeed U. Din

    Every body in the free society is worthy of his/her own opinion.Its truth and meaning in just ends is in eyes of the beholders.It is a character and true believes that counts in true real world that we all believe and cherish in practical and judicious disciplines as Americans, intelecually and morally in values and choice to our ends.

  • Posted by 44Europe

    All the internationale institution for example WHO need joint flat of agreement in a strategy for next stage for next generation. I think, we will we can after all keep this possibility, but next chance is so distant in a timeline perspective….

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