April 11, 2022
General Ernest C. Audino serves as District Director for Congressman Michael Walz (Fl. 6). He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1983 and retired from the Army in 2011. He served multiple assignments in armor, cavalry, infantry and Stryker units. Other key assignments include service as an Army Congressional Fellow in the US Senate, duty as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Director of Nuclear Support at the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency. His last assignment was as the Deputy Director of Operations for Headquarters, US Army, in the Pentagon.
On April 7, General Audino began his discussion with AMCD by describing an interesting discussion he had with an Egyptian officer who drew two triangles – one right-side up and the other upside down. He pointed to the one with the point at the top and said, “The president here is on top, ruling the people. This is any Middle Eastern state.” Then he pointed to the other with the point at the bottom. “Here is your president – he works for the people who are above him.” He was confident democracy would be good for the Middle East but would take a great amount of time and effort to achieve.
As von Clausewitz explained in On War, the value of the objective determines the duration and magnitude of the war fought to achieve it.
General Audino believes that US national interests have not been sufficiently defined and/or that our leadership has been dishonest about our objectives during recent conflicts. Americans are confused about what our national interests are and how they are best achieved. For example, he said that one of America’s long-standing foreign policy objectives has been to prevent the rise of an anti-democratic empire in Eurasia. We fought in 1917 and in 1944 to prevent just such a development and kept 4.5 heavy divisions in Europe after World War II to prevent Russia from becoming that power and to deter future war. Diplomacy alone doesn’t prevent war, he explained, forward deployed units and a strategic nuclear posture has prevented war in Europe until now. Today, we have less than one heavy division in Europe.
General Audino explained that rising powers are not as great a threat as are declining powers who see their window of opportunity closing. Russia seized a window of opportunity while the US was distracted after the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan – a self-inflicted black-eye. The administration lost all credibility and thus all diplomatic influence.
Concerning the Middle East, Audina maintains that the US could not bring to bear the fighting power we used in Desert Storm today. Our defense strategy used to be predicated on the possibility of fighting two major wars simultaneously, we cannot do that today.
Russia has been waiting for its opportunity to get back into the Middle East since 1972, when Sadat kicked out his Soviet advisors and signed the Camp David peace agreement with Israel. Russia sees the key to gaining influence in the Middle East as forming an alliance with Iran. Russia has re-established a military base port in Syria from whence missiles can reach Europe. Russia and Iran together intend to control the oil flowing through the Red Sea and enable them to choke of energy supplies to the West.
However, Russia is bogged down in Ukraine despite using the most brutal methods to frighten the population into surrender. General Audino thinks the Russian invasion has been mostly incompetent and has succeeded in uniting the West against them. Russia still has tactical nuclear weapons with which they hope to dominate central Europe. The US destroyed its tactical nuclear weapons.
General Audino believes the US should return to its strategy which was in place until fall of the Soviet Union: prepare to fight two major wars simultaneously. He also described how we once had a unit that was completely immersed in Soviet weaponry and strategy for training purposes and so that we could better anticipate their moves in any potential conflict.
Question: It seems that we in the West have downplayed and abandoned nationalism as a “bad thing,” but that is the only thing standing between us and global totalitarianism. Nationalism also is the one thing that can counter Islamism and its global aspirations, especially in those areas with a glorious pre-Islamic past like Iran.
Answer: According to a book by Ion Mihai Pacepa, aRomanian two-star general in the Securitate, the secret police of the Socialist Republic of Romania, who defected to the United States in July 1978, Operation Dragon: Inside the Kremlin’s Secret War on America, the Kremlin has used propaganda very effectively. They have sought to label nationalism as “racist” in addition for funding “green” campaigns to hamper American and European energy development.
Question: Along those lines, Iran has been broadcasting a film claiming that the US is partnering with the Taliban to destabilize Iran. After a poll was released in the early 2000s that said 75% of the Iranian people wanted better relations with the US, it immediately disappeared along with the polling company.
Question: Why does our military brass not educate the troops about the Islamic component of the jihadis’ motivation? They are following the dictates of Islam which makes them predictable. We thought we could introduce democracy directly, but they just vote in Sharia which is anti-democratic.
Answer: Jihadi movements have risen and fallen all throughout Islamic history. They can be defeated militarily, for example, the Kurds have held out by defeating them time and again. Defeating the ideology is a different matter.
Question: Because we have not studied the politics of Islam, we cannot read people overseas. For example, the whole mess in Iran was started by the ignorance of the Carter administration. They did not know what they were dealing with. The only answer is a simple one: regime change in Iran.
Answer: Regime change may be the objective of the Iranian people, but it’s not a plan. Before any plan of action were put in place, the American people would have to be convinced of the high value of the objective, which in turn would determine what the American people would sacrifice to obtain it. No President has yet made that case.
Question: The Iranian people just need political support, that’s all. We will do the rest.
Question: Iran is only a proxy for Russia and Russia together with China are planning to strangle the West through control of energy.
Answer: We need to check Iranian influence, not accommodate it as the Biden administration is doing. They seem to pretend hostilities don’t exist and they can make a weak deal with Iran and everything will turn out fine.
The Biden administration’s stance on Iran is incomprehensible both to General Audino and to AMCD members. We look forward to speaking with General Audino again in the future. It was a most illuminating discussion.