Part 2 of our Interview with General Tommy Franks
Posted by Joshua Price on October 3, 2007
The following is our final part of our interview with General Tommy Franks. You can find part 1 of the interview, along with all of our interviews, in the “Interviews” sections located on the left side of the blog.
We would really like to thank General Franks for visiting The Conservative Beacon.
Price: Do you believe that American citizens are fully engaged in this war?
Gen. Franks: No.
Price: I agree. What do you think it’s going to take to get people engaged in this war? I was not around during World War II, but in my amateur studies of that war it seems like people had more of a stake in the outcome—maybe that’s due to the draft, etc.—but it just seems like people back then had an us-against-them mentality that was required to when the war and we don’t have that right now.
Gen. Franks: I wasn’t around for World War II either but my readings and my understanding of events of World War II sort of parallel with your own.
Early in that war, just as we saw immediately following 9/11/01, there was an incredible week in this country, and the further we get from the event the less attention, the less tolerance Americans are willing to pay to activities that are not related to paying the bills and taking summer vacations and caring for the kids, and all of that. The same thing, by the way, happened in World War II. Immediately following Pearl Harbor there was this incredible rally that was followed by the largest sign-up in our history—irrespective of the draft—you know, my dad and many, many other people walked down to the recruiter and said, “Sign me up! I want to go protect America!” The same thing happened immediately following 9/11, but the further we get from the event, the Americans want to return normalcy. I’m okay with that, actually. The thing I’m not okay with is this vitriol, this hatred, this bipolar conduct, this political cannibalism that we see in our country right now where in order for one side to be right in an argument they have to prove that other side is a bunch of idiots—that’s not America. That may be east coast America and west coast America, but out here where I live in Oklahoma, people are smarter than that. So thanks for listening to my little speech on that because I feel pretty strongly on that.
Price: Well it’s the same down here in the southeast, for the most part.
Gen. Franks: It absolutely amazes me Josh that so many politics, and beyond politics, so many in mainstream American media, just deal with the hyperbolic . Look, down here at the 7-11 store, or out here on the farm, or driving a truck, or going to work every day in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, we don’t have people who are wrapped themselves like a watch spring—going off in all directions and interested in only hearing the bad news. Now it may be like that some places, but it’s not like that out here where I live—and I’m thankful for that.
Price: You and me both. It’s the heartland that is going to save this country.
Gen. Franks: Yes sir. And heartland does not necessarily refer to geography. You know, what I tell politicians all the time—and I really do—is that you underestimate the intellect and wisdom of America at your own peril. Because you may feel good when you stand up and point your finger and make comments and take out full-page ads that relate to General Petraeus, I mean you may feel good and it may sell well on television, but you are not creating fans or friends from either political persuasion in the heartland of the country.
Price: We have written extensively on The Conservative Beacon about the situation with Dubai Ports World last year, and now the purchasing of another UAE-owned company of a 20% stake in the NASDAQ, to those of us that say those types of actions compromise our national security on some level—we can debate how much—but do think we’re overreacting? Is that a concern of yours? I know we have laws that govern that, but it seems counter to what we ought to be doing. I’m not saying that we should isolationists, but it just seems like we’re fighting a war on one hand and leaving our borders open and doing things like this on the other.
Gen. Franks: In a real practical way I would agree with everything you just said, but I think caution is necessary. But Josh, at the same time that I say that–I have to give you another little story. We, as Americans, need to pull out our playbook and figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. And in far too many cases we lump the “Middle East and Southwest Asia” into a group, and we intellectually label them, “the bad guys.”
Price: I have to admit that I’m probably one of those people.
Gen. Franks: Well sure, and I am guilty too. I mean we do that. But the reason we’re talking about it is because of the “not-friends” that we have on this planet. Specifically, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, are not in that bunch—in the playbook.
I’ll tell you a real short story. I remember in the days right after 9/11, we were getting ready to go into Afghanistan and I got a call from one of the royals—the leader of the United Arab Emirates—which includes both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I got a call from this guy saying, “I know you’re working hard to work with Pakistan on this deal, and I have something that may help you stage troops in order to get into Afghanistan,” and I said, “Well, your Highness, what would that be, good buddy?” And he said, “We have a hunting camp where we go in and hunt with birds.” That’s a big sport over there. He said, “We have one that we built at huge cost in Afghanistan over several years.” And it’s a big ‘ole airport kind of thing—big runways, buildings, and all that sort of stuff. “But we (UAE) kind of keep it secret. If you’d like to have it, you may have it.” And I said, “Well your Highness, how about sending me a map?” He said, “I just faxed it to you. Take a look at it and see if you can use it.”
Well the end of the story is that that particular area of Afghanistan is the place where we staged our Marines. The UAE—Dubai and Abu Dhabi—had no—there was nothing in that for them. They became, for me, on that day, friends. And I have looked at them and I have watched their behavior over the years and I believe the thing that they have that stirs us up more than anything else, is not their politics, it’s the incredible amount of money that they have. And it goes all the way back to the [inaudible] purchase that you mentioned. It certainly has to do with the potential NASDAQ interest, but let me close it out by saying it a different way: if you were to tell me that some other countries in the Middle East were about to buy into the NASDAQ or wanted to own an interest in port operation in this country, then my eyebrows would come up just like yours. I’d say, “I don’t think so.” But I’m what I’m trying to do now is draw the distinction between those guys and these people in the UAE because they’re (UAE) much closer to being our best friends than they are to being our worst enemies. Lots and lots of classified things that we won’t, and shouldn’t, talk about, but way they facilitate and supports us as we try to deal with other Arab countries that really are not our friends has a long history. Maybe that’s too long an answer to that question. I agree with you in principle. I just think we need to be very careful what we label who the good guys are and the bad guys.
Price: Well General Frank, I really can’t thank you enough for being with us, and maybe we can do it again sometime.
Gen. Franks: Yes indeed. Maybe we can. One thing for sure: we share something: and that is a care, a concern, and love for this country and I’m proud to talk to you on that basis. I wish you guys the very best of luck, and keep telling America how it really is.Subscribe in a reader