May 10, 2011 — ONLY ON THE BLOG: Answer today’s five OFF-SET questions is Thomas Ricks, Senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a bipartisan think tank that studies national security issues, and a contributing editor, Foreign Policy magazine, for which he writes the “Best Defense” blog.
Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. Until the end of 1999 he had the same beat at the Wall Street Journal, where he was a reporter for 17 years. He reported on U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He was part of a Wall Street Journal team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2000 for a series of articles on how the U.S. military might change to meet the new demands of the 21st century.
Ricks also was part of a Washington Post team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for reporting about the beginning of the U.S. counteroffensive against terrorism. He is the author of "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq," which was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. His second book on that war is entitled "The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008."
Ricks is scheduled to appear In The Arena on Tuesday, May, 10, 2011.
Pakistan has been an important U.S. ally. President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the operation to kill Osama bid Laden arose out of "a decade of co-operation and partnership between Pakistan and the United States." In your view, what is the state of that partnership and how long should it continue?
I think that the American people won’t stand for continuing to pay billions of dollars a year to a country that harbored our no. 1 enemy, and also has helped hostile nations with nuclear weapons. So I think it is time to radically alter the relationship.
What impact might the death of bin Laden have on our strategy in Afghanistan?
I think quite a lot. For many Americans, it is “mission accomplished” moment. So I think pressure will increase on the Obama Administration to accelerate its planned withdrawal.
Under a US-Iraq agreement, all U.S. troops must pull out by the end of 2011. What kind of U.S. ally will Iraq likely become?
I’d be surprised if it was particularly helpful to us. I suspect it will be closer to Iran than to the United States. But that assumes the country will hold together. I actually am more optimistic in the long run about Afghanistan–which I think will hold together as a nation as long as Pakistan does–than I am about Iraq, which I fear may fall apart or be pulled apart by its neighbors.
If confirmed by the Senate, Gen. David Petraeus will succeed Leon Panetta as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Do you think Petraeus is the right leader for that job?
I don’t know. I admire Petraeus, but it is unclear to me why the president thinks he is particularly the person for this job.
If you had the General’s ear for a few minutes, what would you tell him the CIA needs to pay the most attention to?
Our values. You can’t win a war for American values by undermining them with torture.