Inside the Ring: Summit shortcomings

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Last weekend’s summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping fell short on three key outcomes, according to U.S. officials familiar with organizational efforts behind the meeting.

The White House and State Department originally hoped to produce a joint statement or communique, but the Chinese said no.

Additionally, White House officials wanted a joint press conference for both leaders to showcase progress toward what is being billed as a new model of relations between the two powerful countries.

Also, officials wanted Mr. Obama to host a farewell luncheon for Mr. Xi on Saturday at the luxurious Sunnylands estate near Rancho Mirage, Calif.

“Instead, Xi got on his plane and flew back to China,” said one official. “The president then went golfing with friends from high school.”

The reasons why the Chinese did not accept U.S. officials’ calls for the statement, press conference and final meal are not known. A dinner was held Saturday night, but there was no lunch, no statement and no joint press conference.

Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, disputed the officials’ account. “That is not what we wanted, nor what we requested, of the Chinese government,” she said, and referred to a post-summit briefing by White House National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon.

Mr. Donilon told reporters Saturday that the White House wanted a meeting with Mr. Xi before a September summit of Group of 20 nations because it would be “too long of time — the vacuum would be too great.” The meeting had “a specific goal to build a personal relationship between the president and President Xi,” he added.

However, Mr. Donilon compared the informal “shirtsleeves” summit to the October 2002 meeting in Texas between President George W. Bush and President Jiang Zemin. That summit included a joint press conference by the two leaders.

Mr. Obama discussed Chinese cyberattacks during the last session Saturday morning. The contentious issue “we believe needs to be at the center of the economic discussions that the United States and China are having,” Mr. Donilon said.

The Chinese also were said to be upset that first lady Michelle Obama snubbed Mr. Xi’s wife, Maj. Gen. Peng Liyuan, by not taking part in the summit. Mrs. Obama later wrote to Gen. Peng, offering regrets.

A second official said one reason the U.S. side agreed to Chinese demands for the limited summit was to avoid the appearance of a snub by China. They wanted to avoid having the world see Mr. Xi visit the Caribbean and Mexico but not the United States.

This official said Mr. Xi and the current Chinese communist leadership would have been satisfied to avoid the U.S. stop to show that Beijing is less interested in closer U.S. ties now that China’s power has grown significantly in recent years.

REPORT: COMMAND CLIMATE FOR LEAKS

Pentagon and intelligence officials are talking about an internal study on the so-called command climate conducive to leaks of classified information.

The study argues that young military personnel and intelligence officers increasingly are influenced by liberal government officials and liberal media that often denigrate patriotism and foster a lax security environment that is making it difficult to train people on the importance of keeping secrets and protecting U.S. security.

The author of the unclassified report is a clinical psychologist who stated that one key reason for major leaks of classified information — such as the case of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who disclosed more than 200,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks — is a lack of positive role models and an American culture that lacks a focus on personal sense of duty and love of country.

The conclusion: There will be more WikiLeaks-like disclosures.

The Defense Department report was written before Sunday’s disclosure by Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor with a high-level security clearance who exposed sensitive electronic intelligence programs to a newspaper in reaction to what he claimed are government abuses.

Based on interviews, the report’s author found that a major reason for the poor security consciousness among the young results in part from a liberal onslaught against President George W. Bush and the political opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Frequent appearances by retired generals and admirals on CNN attacking Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Republican national security leaders also contributed to the problem, said an official familiar with the report.

“In this atmosphere, young kids develop a mindset that by leaking classified data, they’re heroes and they are doing what the real leaders of our country want them to do,” the official said.

The problem is compounded by a lack of patriotic education in schools and within government. The study found that a large percentage of people in their 20s expressed doubts about whether senior U.S. leaders are on the correct policy path.

“The thrust was that people are being inundated with negative information that reinforces the notion that people can go above the law by providing large amounts of classified information to left-wing media,” the official said.

ARMY MISSION CHANGE?

A senior Army officer who recently underwent command training was surprised during one briefing. The officer was told that “stopping sexual assaults is THE primary mission of the Army.”

The surprised officer said it was his belief that the Army’s mission is based on the Constitution, which says the government shall “provide for the common defense.”

The course instructor told those in attendance that the message is contained in a “mission statement” from Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Army chief of staff.

The military services have been hammered in recent weeks by allegations of sexual assaults and charges that commanders failed to respond properly to the crimes. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called the problem a “crisis” for the military.

Critics in Congress, led by feminist senators and liberal supporters in the news media, are pressing the military for changes in how sexual offenders are prosecuted. They want more restrictions on commanders’ authority and are seeking legislation that would require sexual assaults to be prosecuted outside the military’s chain of command, something the military leadership opposes.

Asked about the mission shift, Army public affairs officials denied that the service’s mission has changed. Army spokeswoman Stephanie Hoehne said she was not at the briefing mentioned by the officer and thus could not comment on it.

“I do know the chief of staff of the Army said stopping sexual assault is his ‘No. 1 priority,’ which would be appropriate for him in his Title X role as the person ultimately responsible for recruiting, training and equipping the force,” she said. “Stopping this problem of sexual assaults in the ranks is certainly within his charter and has his focus.”

Ms. Hoehne added: “The constitutional mandate for the Army to ‘provide for the common defense’ has not changed.”

Spokesman Lt. Col. Justin Platt also said in an email that the Army’s mission remains “to fight and win our nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.”

Col. Platt also quoted Gen. Odierno from his June 4 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Two weeks ago, I told my commanders that combating sexual assault and sexual harassment within the ranks is our No. 1 priority,” the four-star general said. “I said that because as chief my mission is to train and prepare our soldiers for war. These crimes cut to the heart of the Army’s readiness for war. They destroy the fabric of our force, soldier and unit morale. We will fix this problem.”

About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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