1. Ifill: So what should be the US do and what shouldn’t it do? We have two views. Former US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, served in the Army Infantry and is now distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute. And John Mearsheimer . Welcome to you both, gentlemen.
2. Jeffrey: Thank you.
3. Ifill: Jim Jeffrey, let’s break this up into two parts, Military options and Diplomacy options. We hear a lot about boots on the ground, commitment of US Forces, is that the only thing we should be thinking about, is that where the Debate is right now?
4. Jeffrey: In terms of taking down ISIS as a State and as an Army, we have to go on the offensive. That requires ground Troops. We’ve tried for 15 months to create a set of ground Troops from the Units and Entities and Forces on the ground that we have. It isn’t working all that well. We don’t have the Time to keep trying to do this. Some insertion of US Forces both as advisers, Special Forces and some ground manœuver Units are absolutely necessary to move this forward.
5. Ifill: What would you mean by “some”?
6. Jeffrey: General Jack Keane in Congressional testimony on the 18th talked about two Brigades to be deployed, and that would be about 10,000 Combat Troops to stand by to move forward if needed as we try this expanded incremental approach the President is suggesting.
7. Ifill: John Mearsheimer, this is called having skin in the Game, theoretically. What are the opportunities for that, and what are the risks?
8. Mearsheimer: I think there’s virtually no chance that we’re going to put large-scale ground Forces in Syria, and President Obama made clear that he’s not going to do that. And the principle reason is you’d have to put a lot of ground Forces to defeat ISIS. And there is no question that if you put a 100-150,000 Troops in Syria, you could defeat ISIS. But then you run into the What Next Question. What are we going to do, Stay there and occupy the place? The end result would be we will be dealing with Insurgence and won’t know how to get out, and just make a bad situation worse. So it’s quite clear to me that there’s no way we can defeat ISIS from the Air or with ground Forces, and therefore we have to find some diplomatic solution.
9. Ifill: Before we get to the diplomatic, what are the options? Are we talking about Occupation, is that inevitable?
10. Mearsheimer: No, Occupation is not inevitable, and I don’t believe we will end up occupying Syria, because we’ve tried this before in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and it did not turn out very well, and we would be remarkably foolish to try to duplicate that task. And there’s no way we can win this one with Air Power alone. The only hope is that Assad Forces can be rebuilt to the point where they can deal with ISIS, and we can get out of the Region militarily.
11. Ifill: Let me ask you both this question. You know François Hollande is coming to Washington tomorrow, he’s going to meet with the President. What should he be asking for?
12. Jeffrey: What he will be asking for a far more aggressive American Campaign against ISIS, because if he doesn’t get a Yes, an affirmative answer to that, he’s going to in any case go after Moscow and ask the same thing to Putin. Putin has perhaps one-tenth of our military capabilities, but Putin will give him an affirmative on a very aggressive Campaign against ISIS, so we’re going to have that one way or the other.
13. Ifill: John Mearsheimer, what do you think about what Hollande will or should be asking for?
14. Mearsheimer: First of all, I think that what he should ask for is a Coalition that includes the United States, the Russians, the Iranians, and a number of other Actors in the Region for the purposes of propping up the Assad Government. The only hope we have here is to prop up Assad and make him powerful enough so that he can deal with the ISIS. That way we don’t have to put in ground Forces, and the Russians of course are not going to put in ground Forces themselves. So the only hope is Assad. But the principle problem we face is the United States is incapable of working with the Russians. We still continue to pursue this policy where we’re trying to topple Assad, and the Russians are trying to support Assad. This is crazy, because we’re working at cross-purposes, and if anything, we’re just going to make the War worse, that’s going to play into ISIS’s advantage. I think Hollande understands this.
15. Ifill: Let me stay with you, Mr. Mearsheimer, for a moment, because you brought up diplomatic solutions. Do we have Time to pursue that? We’re right in the middle of this now.
16. Mearsheimer: We really have no choice. There is no simple military solution, there’s nothing the Americans or the Russians can do this militarily to win this, because we’re not going to put in ground Forces for good reasons. So what we have to do is we have to work with Assad, and we have to create a situation where he’s powerful enough to push back ISIS, and work to get some sort of Peace settlement in the Region. It’s going to be remarkably difficult to do, because in large part, as I said, the United States is incapable of working with the Russians.
17. Ifill: Ambassador Jeffrey, let’s talk about this Assad question. It’s clear that we’re not on the same side of the Discussion with Russia on Assad, and you just heard what Mr. Mearsheimer said about, Hey listen, let’s forget about this Idea of ousting Assad for now. What do you think?
18. Jeffrey: Gwen, in this Business, we can never be totally sure. But I’m about as sure as I ever can be that if we tried to throw our weigh behind this unholy Coalition of Assad, the Russians, and the Iranians, we would ensure that ISIS will not only survive but prosper, because the entire Arab Sunni World and Turkey will throw their weight against us on this. This is a double-barreled problem we have. The Assad Regime, which helped create ISIS, and is now supported by Russians and Iran, and ISIS itself. The way to do this is to keep Assad out of the Battle and take the fight to ISIS. ISIS has 30,000 Troops, we have about 200-300,000 of our Ally Troops, but they don’t have the capability to take the offensive without America leading.
19. Ifill: Let me ask you, and I want to ask this also to Mr. Mearsheimer, What is our long-term, or even our short-term, strategic objective in Syria? Why should we be more involved?
20. Jeffrey: First of all, I think it’s in the center of the Middle East. Secondly, we have Allies to northern Turkey and south in Israel and Jordan, and we have extraordinary interest. President Obama has acknowledge it time and time again. He acknowledges we are fighting a War against ISIS. His goal is to destroy it, he said that again yesterday. The question is, How to do that? And our long-term goals are to try to bring some kind of resurrection of State System in these very, very fragile Countries, because they can’t stand up to these Movements otherwise.
21. Ifill: John Mearsheimer?
22. Mearsheimer: First of all, I don’t believe the United States has any strategic interest in Syria. I think, from the strategic point of view, Syria is an insignificant Country. It’s not like Iran or Iraq that have lots of Oil. Second, I think the principle two reasons that we should want to shut down this conflict as soon as possible is, number one, for humanitarian reasons; this is Human Rights disaster. And secondly, if we don’t stem the flow of Refugees into Europe, it’s going to cause all sorts of problems in Europe. It’s going to cause all sorts of problems in Europe. You can already see that happening. So we have deep-seated interest, not just for strategic reasons, but for Human Rights reasons and because of Europe, do we what we can to end this one as quickly as possible. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, because I think the Ambassador’s view of dealing with the Russians is correct, and in the minds of most Americans. Most People disagree with what I say, and therefore we don’t work with the Russians, we won’t solve this problem, more Syrians will die, and more Refugees will go into the Europe.
23. Ifill: It’s interesting listening to you argue against your own argument there, Professor Mearsheimer of University of Chicago. Thank you very much.