On June 22, The World Affairs Council hosted David E. Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times for a Guggenhime Speaker Series event titled “From Wikileaks to bin Laden’s Demise: Six Months That Changed America’s Global Challenges.” Jane Wales, President and CEO of the Council, interviewed Mr. Sanger and moderated questions from the audience.
Sanger’s visit came just hours after President Obama’s speech on the reduction of American troops in Afghanistan. When asked his views on the speech, Sanger described how the original goals of the war have changed over the past few years. Sanger noted that Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan once included stabilizing the country, training Afghan troops, opening schools, and implementing a “civilian surge.” Obama’s plan to draw down more rapidly indicates a return to the narrower goal of dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda.
Sanger also marked a distinct change in policy with regard to Pakistan. At the inception of the war, the logic was that Pakistan was a necessary partner to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now, says Sanger, Afghanistan acts as a base from which the US can target militants in Pakistan. The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was an embarrassment to the Pakistani government, particularly as bin Laden’s presence had gone unnoticed by Pakistan’s military base, which Sanger described as the “Pakistani West Point”.
Asked whether it was possible that the popular movements in the Middle East would return to Iran, Sanger thought that that it was unlikely due to the Iranian government’s brutality in crushing dissident groups. Sanger also brought attention to the Stuxnet worm that temporarily shut down Iranian nuclear facilities. He was impressed by the skill used in the attack and noted it as the first cyber weapon to successfully attack the infrastructure of a foreign state.
As always, Sanger proved to be a riveting speaker, illuminating a host of global issues faced by the United Sates and the world.
The video of Sanger’s visit can be found here: http://vimeo.com/25692679