Retired Airforce General Michael Hayden, who also served as Director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence during the Bush administration, expanded on his 'casual sex' remark over the weekend. After whipping Twitter into a frenzy with the initial comment, Hayden appeared on CNN's The Lead to further flesh out his meaning behind the much shared sound bite.
Hayden summed up his meaning by elaborating on his view that the Obama administration's firm line against sending in troops on the ground in Iraq shows a lack of commitment on the part of the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. Hayden believes any perceived lack of will to follow through in the destruction of ISIS, undermines any actions taken against the group.
Click above to watch the full interview or read the transcript below for more.
Joining me now is retired Air Force General Michael Hayden, the former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. He's now principal at the Chertoff Group, a global security and risk management advisory firm.
General, let's get right to the quote of the day. You were quoted as saying that "The reliance on airpower in this fight has all of the attraction of casual sex." You went on from there.
So, why don't you go on and explain to our viewers what you mean by that.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Yes. first of all, I'm really in favor of using airpower in this problem.
And we're in a much better place strategically today than we were 96 hours ago before the president made his speech and made his commitment. Actually, the use of airpower, for want of a better term, was very gratifying.
But the president limited his commitment. He said an awful lot about the things we will not do, including American ground forces. An audience for that is the United States, the American people. It's almost a necessary mantra, no boots on the ground, although we have 1,500 pair there right now. But no boots on the ground, it may have been useful for the president domestically. But there are other audiences.
Our allies and our enemies view that as our limiting our commitment to this enterprise. And you're reporting today limited enthusiasm on the part of our allies to take up the role we said we would refuse to do.
TAPPER: And that's the point about comparing it to casual sex, is you're saying limiting it to airpower is all the gratification, none of the commitment.
HAYDEN: And other people read the lack of commitment.
Look, people don't question American power. What people need to be convinced of is American will.
TAPPER: And so what do you think should be done? It sounds to me like you're saying we should be sending U.S. ground troops.
HAYDEN: I don't think we should have arbitrary limits on how we use the forces we send there.
Look, no one is picturing U.S. brigade combat teams maneuvering in the western Iraqi desert. But we do need to have a presence on the ground. Right now, based upon official government statements, we will not have any Americans below the brigade headquarters level inside the Iraqi army.
I actually think we need to embed inside the Iraqi and the Kurdish forces. We will need tactical control parties forward. When we make these kind of arbitrary distinctions, we get in the way of our own success.
TAPPER: Let me ask you a philosophical question. There are Americans are out there who hear from people like you, people like Bill Kristol, people like Michael Chertoff and others from the Bush administration, who I have own my show all the time, and say, why are we listening to these guys? They messed up the last Iraq war.
What is your response to that?
HAYDEN: Well, look, I can talk about what we did or didn't do right while I was in government. And lord knows, there's a lot of debatable points.
But when we left Iraq, when I left government, rather, in 2009, Iraq was a fairly stable place. And I frankly think that we're all in agreement now that perhaps the right number of residual American forces in Iraq wasn't zero. We actually contributed to stability there.
We may have a bad situation had we left them, but I don't think it would be as bad as the one we currently find ourselves in. But all that said, right now, this is either a real problem or it's not.
TAPPER: And if it's a real problem -- yes.
HAYDEN: If it's a real problem, then you have got to be committed to dealing with the problem.
The good news, Jake, the president did not put a time limit on what it was we were going to do. He did put a limit, however, on some of our tools. And that's the part that I'm concerned about.
TAPPER: You have been critical of President Obama, you just were, saying no boots on the ground.
Let me read from an op-ed you had in "The Washington Times" regarding this "no boots on the ground" mantra, as you put it -- quote -- "That's not a strategy. That's a bumper sticker. The president has already directed more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel," now almost 2,000, "back to Iraq, they're armed, have body armor and are most certainly wearing boots."
Are you saying President Obama is being misleading with his language when he says that?
HAYDEN: Look, there's military talk and there's political talk. No boots on the ground is a codeword for no large American combat units maneuvering in combat.
But we have taken that no boots on the ground and in this case, I think we're self-limiting. I'm not calling for large combat units either. But the language we're using is politically limiting the options our military commanders have.
"The Washington Post" had a story a couple of days ago that the CENTCOM commander, General Austin, wanted to embed American forces down low into the Iraqi forces to advise, to make sure airstrikes when they were called in were accurate and appropriate. And he was refused permission to do that, according to the "Post" story. That's the kind of self-limiting I'm talking about.
TAPPER: With all due respect to the general and with all due respect to you, General, you know that a general's answer to everything is, more troops, more equipment, more military might. President Obama doesn't want to have another major ground war effort
in Iraq. And the American people agree with that. Now, they also want airstrikes. They also want something done about ISIS. But they don't want a ground war.
HAYDEN: Well, again, it either is or isn't a serious problem. We have got to deal with the problem in the best way that we can. And I fear that drawing this kind of line, which even by your own words, Jake, is drawn because of domestic political concerns...
TAPPER: Oh, of course.
HAYDEN: ... is going to make it more difficult for our armed forces to achieve the task the president's given them.
TAPPER: Well, except there's also the fact that there are, as you know better than I, unpredictable outcomes for sending in U.S. force.
You have -- for instance, there was no al Qaeda in Iraq until there was a war in Iraq. Then there was an al Qaeda in Iraq. Of course, you can argue that it grew in strength after the withdrawal. That's another issue. And then there's also the idea of are, we not inflaming the Muslim world when we send more U.S. troops abroad into Muslim countries?
HAYDEN: Well, from that point of view, in terms of inflaming the Muslim world, I don't think we're buying any advantage by stopping at airstrikes. I think they will provide all the cell phone video the Muslim world will need for some elements to try to inflame it.
Look, life's full of choices. Life is full of risks. One risk is that if you overstep, you put yourself on a slippery slope and you may put yourself in a position to make bad decisions in the future about how much you limit this. The other risk, though, Jake -- and I'm very concerned about this -- is, you don't give the forces the tools needed to do the job.
TAPPER: All right, General Michael Hayden, as always, thank you so much for coming here and answering our questions. Appreciate it.
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