Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) criticized President Barack Obama’s administration’s reticence in foreign policy during Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service’s national security “Exit Interview” counterpoint event Sept. 23 in the Intercultural Center Auditorium.
GU Politics, a subset of the McCourt School of Public Policy, presents the counterpoint sessions to supplement the perspectives of speakers hosted in the newly launched six-part “Exit Interview” series, which examines the legacy of the Obama administration. Moderated by the School of Foreign Service Senior Associate Dean for Graduate and Faculty Affairs Tony Arend, Roger’s counterpoint session followed a Sept. 14 event that featured National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
Rogers was introduced by GU Politics Fellow and former senior advisor to Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign Michael Steele and GU Politics Student Advisory Board Co-chair Kelly Schneider (GRD ’18.) The pair described his achievements as a leader in cybersecurity and national security policy, as a CNN commentator and as the host of syndicated radio program “Something to Think About.”
“This will be a robust discussion about the Obama administration’s foreign policy from the point of view of someone who has watched it very carefully and closely, not always with a positive view,” Steele said.
The discussion, which around 35 people attended, centered on Rogers’ lamentation of Obama’s refusal to engage in new military conflicts.
In particular, Rogers chastised Obama for failing to intervene in Syria when President Bashar al-Assad crossed the “red line” by employing chemical weapons.
“The Syrians had violated the red line, multiple times,” Rogers said. “The world saw that, our allies in the Middle East saw that and they saw the United States take no action whatsoever. In a dangerous game like diplomacy, that works against you in a hurry.”
Rogers also held up the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia as an example of the administration’s failure. Rogers argued the administration wanted a quick win to showcase success on the global stage, so it engaged in a short-sighted treaty with Russia. He also accused Russia of cheating and not sticking to the treaty, while indicting the Obama administration for accepting Russian noncompliance.
“They gave away too much, including our ability to counter any reductions in missile defense technology,” Roger said. “Remember, Russians aren’t the only threat when it comes to nuclear weapons.”
Nevertheless, Rogers praised the administration’s continuation of National Security Agency programs.
“They understood the value of that program. That was another pretty tough decision for them,” Rogers said. “It seems kind of small and tactical, but it had huge outsized impact on our ability to track terrorist overseas.”
Rogers acknowledged the philosophical differences between his interventionist American policy and Obama’s more reserved approach, but argued the partisan divide is detrimental to national security.
“Unfortunately, in the last few years foreign policy and national security have seen that partisan divide,” Rogers said. “And that, I argue, is very, very unfortunate.”
Rogers also contemplated the future, remarking that he views all outcomes of this election with a sense of foreboding.
“Whoever is elected is going to get a slap in the face about our real challenges in so many different places around the world,” Rogers said. “I think we’re going to be farther apart after this election then I’ve certainly ever seen.”
Javon Price (SFS ’20) said he wished Rogers had further elaborated on certain issues.
“I wish it was paired with more context and knowledge,” Price said. “For example, he declined to go into more detail in the Iran deal.”
However, Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) noted the intimate nature of the conversation due to the small audience size, and contended it broached many policy details.
“There’s a certain implication that the audience will have a base of knowledge and skipping over that lets the speaker get into deeper conversations,” Estes said. “He touched a lot on personal experiences that we are always looking for, not general conservative party line responses, but actual personal stories, like bringing personal relationships that he had with foreign leaders into the conversation.”
Correction: The print issue of this article misidentified a photograph as Mike Rogers.