In an exclusive interview that aired Sunday on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke about a new generation of veterans heading home; what is at stake for the U.S. in Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan; talks with the Taliban; sexual assault in the military; and the damage Edward Snowden has caused to the U.S. Highlights are below and a full transcript is after the jump.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY:
On veterans: "They don't need a handout. They need a handshake… All they need to be given is an opportunity.”
On Egypt: "as a student of that part of the world… what we're seeing is that democracy takes a while to stick."
On Syria: "the underlying causes of the conflict, as I've just described them to you, will persist for 10 years.”
On Afghanistan: "I think that we will get the Afghan security forces to appoint where they will be able to provide security generally across the country, but there'll be pockets of resistance. The problem is I can't speak with much optimism at this point about the other factors of governance, be they economic or be they political. They have to keep pace.”
On sexual assault in the military: “We've solved a lot of problems over the years that people thought were unsolvable: early in my career, race; middle of the career, drugs. And we didn't do it with the exclusion of the commander. We did it by making the commander take responsibility. And I still believe that's the right way to do this."
On Edward Snowden: "There has been damage. I don't think we actually have been able to determine the depth of that damage... We'll work our way back. But it has set us back temporarily."
MANDATORY CREDIT: CNN’s “State of the Union”
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: The American people have been pretty extraordinary in their appreciation for what the military has done over the past decade. Butafter every conflict, there's a period of time when the nation kind of decides what it will think of the veterans of that conflict.
It happened after World War II, the greatest generation. I think you agree after Vietnam there was - the military was held in far less esteem after Desert Storm, you know, 96-hour conflict, it was - we were embraced as conquering heroes of a sort.
And I think now is the time for us to begin thinking and discussing what is it that we - what images that we want to have of this generation, men and women who serve. So I think about it a lot.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: Do you worry at all about what that imagery will be in a decade or so?
DEMPSEY: Well, for one thing, I - if I do have a worry, you're - you keep trying to talk me into worrying.
CROWLEY: I'm sorry. I don't mean to make you worry -
DEMPSEY: But it's that this generation of veterans may be seen as somehow victims, because there is a great many things that have manifested themselves, post-traumatic stress syndrome, rising rates of suicide, rising divorce rate, all of which we have to address, sexual assault, all of which we have to address, some of which are related to the experiences in 10 years of conflict and some of which are - we just find ourselves in one of those cycles of history when we've become a little bit less disciplined, I think, that we need to be.
So I don't want to have this generation's young men and women, the warriors seen as victims somehow. This conflict has been a source of strength as well for many, many veterans. And I like the American people to give veterans opportunities not as a handout, but rather to recognize what they might bring to the workplace, what they might to their communities.
So I want it to be a positive image, but there's moments when it feels as though it'sslipping to a negative image.
CROWLEY: You do have - I can't remember - like for a couple of years now we've been reporting that same sentence. There were more suicides among veteransthan there were deaths in war last year.
So how do you find that balance? Because there is help needed.
DEMPSEY: Well, there's any number of things we're doing. We can - we do outreach. We look for public-private partnerships. There's any number of organizations helping us. We're working closer than we've ever worked with the Veterans Administration so that transition from active service to the roles of the Veterans Administration is done much more seamlessly than it is today.
And it's some combination of that, I think.
CROWLEY: But you're worried about the imagery, because you think then that it makes people think, oh, this is - these damaged goods here?
DEMPSEY: Well, either damaged goods or someone who needs, you know, a handout.
They don't need a handout. They need a handshake. And they need - they don't need to be given something. All they need to be given is an opportunity. And then, you know, we'll all see how powerful they are.
CROWLEY: When you look at what's going on the streets of Egypt and has been for the past several days, what is the U.S. thinking that?
DEMPSEY: Well, at one level, our stake is we probably have 60,000 or so dual-American-Egyptian citizens in Egypt. And we have several hundredofficial American citizens serving in Egypt.
But more broadly, look, Egypt is a great country. It's a cornerstone of the Middle East. It's got an incredible history and culture and the world needs Egypt to be stable.
CROWLEY: But they don't want their government in anymore.
DEMPSEY: Well, you know, I - again, that's for them to decide. And I really mean that sincerely. And incidentally, I mean, as a student of that part of the world, as someone who lived there for most of the last 10 years, not in Egypt but in the region, I mean, what we're seeing is that democracy takes a while to stick.
CROWLEY: I wanted to ask you about Syria because there's been talk about what about a no-fly zone as we had inLibya.
DEMPSEY: Well, first, I'd like to start with what we are doing, not what we're not doing. Because we tend to focus on what we're not doing. I mean, we're contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in non-lethal and humanitarian assistance. We're working a great deal with our partners in the region.
And I would - I'd highlight for you, Candy, that you know, when we talk about Syria, I try not to focus in and view that issue through a soda straw. This is a issue that's - extends from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad. And in fact, over the last six months, the levels of violence in both Lebanon and Baghdad have been alarmingly high.
So there's a regional issue here. It is related, not exclusively, but related to a competition at best and a conflict at worst between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. And it's been hijacked at some level on both sides by extremists, Al Qaeda on one side and Lebanese-Hezbollah and others on the other side.
So this is not a simple matter of, you know, stepping the fight by the introduction of any particular U.S. capability. And the other point I'd make is this is about a 10-year issue and if we fail to think about it as a 10-year regional issue, we could make some mistakes.
CROWLEY: What does that mean? You think that Bashar al-Assad will be in power for 10 years?
DEMPSEY: No, no; I'm not making any predictions of how long he'll be there or not there. I'm suggesting to you that the underlying causes of the conflict, as I've just described them to you, will persist for 10 years.
CROWLEY: So would you rule out more? I know that now we're - we are - the president has said, yes, or his aides have said yes. We'll help with military assistance. Would you rule out no-fly zones? Would yourule out setting up a sort of a refugee - a refuge place in the north for rebels? Do you rule - or - ?
DEMPSEY: Well, you know, my role is neither to rule in nor rule out. And I've very -
CROWLEY: But to do?
DEMPSEY: - Yeah, but to do - to provide options. I did three things . I provide options. I articulate the risk in achieving them and I articulate the opportunity cost, that is to say if you're - if you want us to do something in Syria, here is the issues that may get less fulfilled in the Gulf or in the Pacific or elsewhere around the world.
It seems to me that we need to understand what the peace will look like before we start the war.
DEMPSEY: I have to - I have to tell you I've thought about that a lot. I mean, the - we're working and have about another year and a half to fundamentally get the Afghan security forces where we think they need to be in order to maintain a stable security platform inside of Afghanistan.
And I think we'll achieve that, meaning I think that we will get the Afghan security forces to appoint where they will be able to provide security generally across the country, but there'll be pockets of resistance.
The problem is I can't speak with much optimism at this point about the other factors of governance, be they economic or be they political. They have to keep pace. And we'll know because, as you know, there's elections scheduled for early '14.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you just personally over about - over 3,200 or a little over 3,200 the military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan, we know that the U.S. has spoken in some way, shape or form to Taliban officials trying to sort of bring them into the process.
We know that Karzai probably will have or is about to do this thing.
On a personal basis, knowing that these are the folks responsible for killing 3,200 of your folk, is that hard for you?
DEMPSEY: It's - it is always difficult to think about the losses that we've suffered and the idea that, at some point, we would find reconciliation with the Taliban. But I'm mindful of the fact that all wars end with some level of political reconciliation. That's just the way they eventually end.
I had my counterpart last week here for a visit from Vietnam. And I had him to my quarters for dinner and outside we flew their flag next to our flag. And I was almost unnerved by it, because I came in the military, into West Point during the Vietnam War, preparing to go fight in Vietnam.
And you know, here we are now, some years later and they are seeking to become muchcloser partners with us.
I think the Taliban, first of all, I think there's several flavors of Taliban. I think there are some who are reconciled and undoubtedly some that are not. And so long as we can have enough precision in the way we reach out to them, then I won't have the kind of concerns you're talking about about whether the sacrifices would somehow be undermined.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you, up on the Hill, as you know, there are a lot of people who believe that the reporting and the whole issue of sexual assault with the units should be taken out of the chain of command and that the person who has been assaulted should be able to take it to a military prosecutor somewhereelse.
I know the military opposes that. But it is to me the equivalent of going toyour boss at a company when the vice president has assaulted you and knowing where that alliance is.
Can you see your way clear to why people would want to do that?
DEMPSEY: Yeah. First, let me assure you, we're not in opposition to anything. That's not my role. It's not the role of the Chiefs to oppose. It's rather our role to recommend. And it is my strong recommendation as it is with the other Chiefs that we keep the commander responsible for the climate that might lead to -
CROWLEY: Do you know how difficult that is for someone to report it?
DEMPSEY: I do. I do, but you know, how unique we are. And, again, this is - by the way, if this all passes in Congress, you know, you know what are responsibility to salute and execute. But you asked me for my recommendation. And we've solved a lot of problems over the years that people thought were unsolvable: early in my career, race; middle of the career, drugs.
And we didn't do it with the exclusion of the commander. We did it by making the commander take responsibility. And I still believe that's the right way to do this. But and - but it's a recommendation and I understand that well-meaning people have a different opinion about that.
CROWLEY: I need to ask you about the damage you believe Edward Snowden has done.
DEMPSEY: There has been damage. I don't think we actually have been able to determine the depth of that damage.
CROWLEY: Because honestly, you know, people look at it and you think, I figured people were monitoring phone calls of terrorists.
CROWLEY: So how - why is it damaging to now kind of know that?
DEMPSEY: Well, I think it's always, you know, you always have our adversaries always believe more of us than - often believe more of us than we might actually be able to accomplish. This actually puts a degree of granularity on it that allows them now to change their tactics.
And it's also - you've heard me speak often about the basis of relationships and the importance of trust. And it's - you know it has undermined a bit of that. What we're -
CROWLEY: With other nations you mean?
DEMPSEY: Yes, yes, of course. We'll work our way back. But it has set us back temporarily.