June 30th, 2013
07:00 AM ET

Donilon: U.S. safer, more prosperous

"Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

As Tom Donlion ends his tenure as national security advisor, Fareed looks back at his time in the role – and discusses what Donilon believes are his key achievements.

What do you think has been your most significant accomplishment as national security advisor. Understanding it's a team effort, but what do you look back at for four and a half years and you're most proud of?

Well, it's very much a team effort and led by, first and foremost – it's the president's effort here. I think the bottom line assessment is that the country is safer, and the country is more prosperous than it was four and a half years ago.

We’re now in the midst of an economic recovery. The policy decisions, some made at the end of the Bush administration, but many of them made during the beginning of the Obama administration, have resulted in the United States recovering better than other parts of the world in the economic realm. Which, of course, is absolutely essential to our foreign policy and our national security.

We’ve made a lot of progress with allies. Our alliances were under strain when we came in.  We had gone through an exhausting period in the eight years prior to the time we came here, with wars, lots of stresses out of 9/11 and the financial crisis. And I think our alliances are in very good shape. And I am particularly happy with that, frankly, because it's absolutely critical for us to have solid alliances. It's the unique American asset around the world.

We have undertaken a very effective counterterrorism effort. We have also rebalanced our effort geographically, with lots of other aspects to the rebalance. But we’ve rebalanced our efforts geographically toward Asia, where we assessed when we came into office that we were under-invested. We looked around the world in the transition in December of 2008 and asked ourselves the following question – where are we over-invested and where are we under-invested?

We determined that we were over-invested in our military efforts in South Asia and in the Middle East and that given what had been happening during that exact same period in Asia, we were really dramatically under-invested there, given the huge stakes the United States has in Asia, as the most economically dynamic region in the world.

So we undertook to rebalance, which has a lot of elements to it.  And people typically focus just on the security elements to it. That's important and we've taken a number of steps here.

But we have a major economic effort there with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is the most important and biggest trade negotiation going on in the world right now. And we hope to complete that by the end of 2013.

Major diplomatic efforts.  Major efforts to remake, if you will, the architecture, the security and diplomatic architecture of the region, all coming together, I think in a pretty effective strategy. Including, by the way, pursuing a productive and constructive relationship with the Chinese, which is a part of the rebalanced Asia – even a central part.

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Topics: GPS Show

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Ian

    Hey Fareed, I need to write an article and I wanted to plagiarize some of your stuff. Are you cool with that? You understand – right?

    June 30, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  2. Nicole

    USA can become more prosperous and safer with the right partners: France, Italy, Turkey, Great Britain and Netherlands. It is essential that USA does not trust and not rely on Asia, because they do not share the same culture. Not 'pursuing a productive and constructive relationship with the Chinese' – is necessary for USA to become winner.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • toomanycrayons

      "USA can become more prosperous and safer with the right partners: France, Italy, Turkey, Great Britain and Netherlands."-Nicole

      After reading Mark Blyth's "Austerity-The History of a Dangerous Idea" I'm wondering if the people you cite really have all that much goodwill left for America, given that it was America's 2008 Private Sector meltdown that sent them all over the edge.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Heinz

      A few hours after your post it became clear that the US betrayed their partners in Europe by spying on them ( and not only on terrorist threats). So your idea is futile. Tell your politicians ( from both parties ) to end their paranoid behavior
      and behave as partners.
      But it will last very long time until Europeans, who have a long time endured repressive regimes, who spied on them,
      will trust you again.

      July 1, 2013 at 7:46 am |
  3. toomanycrayons

    With all due respect, Fareed, I can't help thinking I'm listening to a fidgety, professional liar of convenience when Donilon is speaking. Snowdon, not so much...

    June 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Donilon is smarter than many of the "professional liars" you know!

      July 2, 2013 at 6:24 am |
      • toomanycrayons

        'Donilon is smarter than many of the "professional liars" you know!'-j. von hettlingen

        You're probably right, nothing I'm connected with attracts the absolute best that money can buy. Your own experiences may be different.

        July 2, 2013 at 7:04 am |
  4. Michael Benjamin

    Of course we're safer according to Donilon. His finger prints are all over the entire intelligence gathering operation. Why didn't the billions of dollars spent prevent the Boston bombings? Russia clued us in these guys were trouble. Phone calls and trips to terrorist controller areas in Russia. Guess they missed that one, but remember we're safer now.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • Tom from Canonsburg

      I heard several analysts over the weekend speaking on this (Your comment). They stated that if in fact the NSA & other security agencies were actually scanning emails for detail they would have been able to stop the Boston bombing. But if you are following that story, you would know that there is the claim of foiling 50 other attempts prior to there initiation. You are never going to catch all, but missing 1 out of 50 is not so terrible. In baseball they would say they are batting .980.

      July 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
      • toomanycrayons

        "...there is the claim of foiling 50 other attempts prior to...initiation. You are never going to catch all, but missing 1 out of 50 is not so terrible. In baseball they would say they are batting .980."-Tom from Canonsburg

        In baseball you actually have to appear at the plate and face a pitcher. You can't just say how many times it might have happened. America is being asked to make a Pascal's Wager that believing the government isn't lying is the better option.

        July 2, 2013 at 7:35 am |
  5. Heinz

    Dear Fareed, your interview with Donilion became worthless for me only hours after transmission.
    I am a European and I think the damage which was done by the NSA ( with agreement and usage of the US governments of the last years ,condoned by both political parties ), to the relations between the US and Europe will need a very long time to be repaired.
    Europeans have endured repressive observation of their government under the Nazis and the communists, so they are not so easy to brainwash as Americans.

    July 1, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • j. von hettlingen

      Heinz, if you believe that all governments in the good old Europe are trustworthy, then good for you. Politics – especially realpolitik – is a dirty business. Be glad that you can live a life you choose and feel safe. Let the idiots run their country, as long as they don't step on your toes.

      July 2, 2013 at 5:09 am |
      • toomanycrayons

        "Heinz, if you believe that all governments in the good old Europe are trustworthy, then good for you."- j. von hettlingen

        If you actually believe he believes that then it works for your argument. He didn't say/imply that, however, but simply gave examples of less than perfect previous European experiences which Americans might benefit from.

        July 2, 2013 at 8:41 am |
  6. Tigas

    Donilon: U.S. safer, more prosperous

    I love CNN's new comedy section. It is much more entertaining than what is really going on with the world.

    July 1, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  7. FedUp

    Safer?! Are you from one of those states where the wacky weed is legal now?

    Between our foreign policy, drone bombing innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan and this new revelation of the extent that NSA has been spying on citizens and allies, we have pretty much p*ssed off everyone across the globe! By their actions, our government is giving {our enemies} more than ample reason to strike back at us.

    July 1, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  8. Jon Chinn

    Safer? Who knows? But what we Do know is that the anti-democratic elements in the US Goverrnment like the NSA and CIA must be fought and destroyed. Donlin is the typical security State Apparachtchik, who cares less that our privacy is shot all to heck in a fake "war" on Terror, designed to keep the NSA budget flowing and the contractors rich with poirk.

    July 1, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  9. PaulG

    test where my other post went.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

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