Senator Pat Roberts has been tirelessly serving Kansas and his country as a Congressman and Senator for 3 decades now... winning between 60% to 83% of the votes in re-elections throughout this time, I will let these impressive numbers speak for themselves in how he is revered in Kansas.
It is my honor to welcome Senator Roberts to The Global Townhall to discuss energy, reconstruction blue prints, Iraq, Afghanistan, foreign aid, his favourite achievements and his intentions on running for President. Or not.
Gabrielle Reilly: After living in Australia, Papua New Guinea and America and collectively spending years on the ground with locals in Indonesia, Egypt, Croatia, China and 20 odd other countries, there is one thing that astounds me; how little the world knows of all of the aid that America gives around the world. Winning hearts and minds is critical to global stability. To fully leverage our aid tax dollars and assist with national security, could we perhaps include a new requirement that the USA receives some prime time TV/radio air time in the country we are assisting to place touching ads stating we are giving the country aid? People I have mentioned this to have been excited about this concept. Although I recognize this is complicated, what is your read on the viability of putting a concept like this in place?
Senator Pat Roberts: I believe this is being done, but is perhaps not a requirement. With social media spurring revolution in Egypt, Libya and other places around the world, the U.S. must harness all means of communication to reach out to a global audience. Twitter and Facebook have allowed the U.S. to bypass some foreign government censorship, but it still happens, especially in China where they recently deleted a tweet from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Our military is especially effective at communicating with locals in Iraq and Afghanistan and have made this a priority in their efforts to fight and win the wars there. You must also keep in mind, that many of these countries receiving aid from the U.S. are third world countries, where media is not easily accessible.
Gabrielle Reilly: At a roundtable meeting with Ambassador Herbst who serves as the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization with the U.S. Department of State, we considered a blue print for future operations. In the spirit of improving our next results, I would like to evaluate the Iraq reconstruction. If people compare and contrast a more successful reconstruction in Sierra Leone (which is not perfect, but as good as you could realistically hope for) they will find the most fundamental difference was reinstating the lower level workers. In Sierra Leone 300,000 people were put back to work to assist with reconstruction and civic service. In Iraq 600,000 Baathists, who knew how to run the country, were left unemployed and had less than zero incentive to assist in rebuilding the country. In the end the Baathists had to be reinstated (much to the chagrin of the different fractions of course.) What would be your advice for a future reconstruction blue print? Reinstate the lower level workers, meaning not the leaders, or not?
Senator Pat Roberts: In recent years, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) has produced several reports addressing lessons learned on reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Iraq. Our efforts in Iraq were certainly made more difficult due to the fact that we were simultaneously carrying out military operations while addressing infrastructure needs.
Additionally, multiple agencies were charged with reconstruction efforts and in some instances lacked a central source of authority. While there have been some setbacks, we have also witnessed success. The Kansas National Guard recently completed a successful mission to Afghanistan with special Agriculture Development Teams. These teams partnered with local authorities to help train and better equip individuals with tools for economic growth and stability in agribusiness. This mission in Afghanistan is an application of lessons learned in Iraq. I believe our partnership with the local government and civilian workforce has helped reinforce confidence in America's commitment to a successful, independent region.
Gabrielle Reilly: When the oil prices were sitting at $20 to $30 a barrel in 2004, I wrote several articles warning that the 70's oil crisis prices were imminent; by 2008 they hit a record breaking high of $147 a barrel. The same conditions that caused me so much alarm then, still lurk in this new world order. The emergence of China and India's oil demand removes OPEC's dependence on America as a consumer and an unprecedented cooperation agreement quietly signed by Saudi Arabia and Russia in Sept 2003 to CO-OPERATE ON OIL PRICES drastically changes the paradigm. Consider, Russia is the largest supplier of oil outside of OPEC causing both a conflict of interest with an OPEC member having a subcontract, and creates a near oil monopoly when they want to play that card. Energy politics are drastically different from previous decades. The oil countries have new customers to buy their oil, a new contract to regulate oil prices, and of course the political will to destabilize the United States. How do you think we should address our future energy policy given the seriousness of the situation?
Senator Pat Roberts: In order to stabilize energy prices, we need to find new energy resources at home to increase our supply. With this in mind, I support the exploration and production of our oil and natural gas resources in both Alaska and the lower 48 states, expanded access to crude from Canadian oil sands, and greater development of our vast offshore energy supplies.
In addition to finding new sources of fossil fuels, we need to look to renewable resources to help meet our energy needs. As these examples show, Kansas plays a vital role in the renewable energy industry in this regard. Kansas is home to 11 operating ethanol plants with many more in development. Currently ranked 7th in the nation, Kansas produces 440 million gallons of ethanol per year. Additionally, as most Kansans know, the Great Plains and prairies provide a plentiful amount of wind. Several utility companies have come to realize this and have invested in wind energy in Kansas.
I will continue to support policies that reduce our nation's dependence upon foreign sources of energy. As our nation grows, so too must our vision for supplying our energy needs.
Gabrielle Reilly: What top three achievements are you most proud of implementing as Senator?
Senator Pat Roberts:
1. My work on behalf of American farmers and ranchers. I am proud of the 1996 Farm Bill, the work we have done to improve the crop insurance program, and the work we have done in bio security to protect our nation, agriculture and our economy.
2. Intelligence reform. I am proud to have helped improve our intelligence analysis and collection capabilities post 9/11 so that our country can be better protected from the many threats we face.
3. I am also proud of work we have done to shore up Kansas' military installations and the work we have done on behalf of men and women in uniform and their families. As a former Marine, I take this very seriously.
Gabrielle Reilly: Politics can be nasty, what advice can you offer people in any industry on how to handle critics?
Senator Pat Roberts: I always say politics is not bean bag. You can't take yourself seriously, but you must take the job seriously. I am always respectful of those that disagree with my positions on behalf of Kansas and the nation, but I make an effort to listen to all Kansas and just agree to disagree with some of my critics.
Gabrielle Reilly: What's next for you? Do you plan on running again? Have you considered running for President?
Senator Pat Roberts: I am running again, but serving the people of Kansas is enough for me. I have no interest in running for President.
Gabrielle Reilly: Thank you so much for your time Senator Roberts. I look forward to watching you being honoured for your lifelong service to our nation, as you receive your Business Executives For National Security of Kansas City, "National Security Award."