Zooming In: Does America Lack the Political Will to Defend Itself Against Rogue States?

By Simone Gao

Simone Gao: Australia just signed on to the Belt and Road initiative not too long ago. How is this going to impact the Five Eyes cooperation.

Brian Kennedy: Yeah, that’s a very good question. I think that’s a short term mistake on the Australian’s part. The Belt Road initiative could only co-opt Australia and Australian businesses into what the PRC is trying to do with their Belt and Road initiative, which is to exert political and economic pressure on a country to become part of the, as it were “Chinese block”. And I think the Australians have made a short term mistake in signing onto it and one hopes that they correct that over time and see that such investment by the PRC and such cooperation with the PRC is not in their long-term economic interest because almost everywhere the PRC goes under the leadership of the Chinese communist party, they find ways of corrupting the political and business elites of those nations that they do business with. And so that’s very problematic,

Simone Gao: Right. Huawei. Now…Boris Johnson said he basically vetoed president Trump’s…president Trump doesn’t want Britain to go with Huawei, but they said, “we have our own standards” and it doesn’t look very good for America’s (wish that Britain reject Huawei). Britain may go with Huawei on 5g.

Brian Kennedy: Yes. Again, I think that’s very shortsighted on the part of the British.

Simone Gao: Right. Do you think those things can be corrected or once it’s settled, I mean, how is it going to be corrected later on?

Brian Kennedy: That’s a great point. It’s very difficult to be corrected. After awhile some of these things seem inevitable. China’s big. They have these corporations that are very technologically advanced. They have all these business relationships. Why fight it? Why not just go along with it. And Huawei seems cutting edge and they’re such nice people and it seems like such a good company and everybody’s smiling and happy and there’s so much money to be made, why not just go along? Until you realize that Huawei, given their technological advantage and all this, is going to build a telecom system that will essentially allow the PRC and the Chinese communist party to look at any business within great Britain that is part of that system. And that is not to the advantage of the British people. Yes, they may be big, they may be technologically advanced, but it’s not inevitable.

You could build a different kind of system. You need to build a different kind of system. I mean, we’re living in the age of intellectual property. Like what do we create in the West other than intellectual property? I mean we build things, right? We build homes, we build roads, we build cars. But intellectual property is really the thing that’s being developed in the West. Now, why would you let a country like the PRC, because it’s ruled by the Chinese communist party, let me just say…why would you give them the technological edge to be able to look into all the intellectual property that you are producing when you know for a fact that they steal intellectual property? Why would you give them an open door to do that? That makes no sense. And so there’s a certain disconnect among our political and economic elites. They don’t want to recognize what the Chinese threat really is. And that’s the ongoing theft of intellectual property. Not to mention whatever military and other problems the Chinese communist party may present. The theft of intellectual property alone in the United States, we put that number…the president, secretary of commerce put that number at almost $5 trillion over the last decade, $5 trillion of American wealth. And so you’re going to continue to export your wealth to the PRC or you’re going to stop it. And if our cousins in great Britain wished to do the same, it’s bad for them.

Simone Gao: When things like that happen, when things that just totally don’t make sense happen, it makes people wonder how do politics work? I want to get your opinion on how American politics works. In terms of foreign policy, for example, what does it take to have a foreign policy overhaul such as with China right now? I mean, is it a top down process or is it bottom up process? Who dominates it?

Brian Kennedy: Yeah that’s a very interesting point. It’s very difficult to reform foreign policy. It’s very difficult to see some of these things because when a nation becomes intellectually and morally corrupt, it’s hard to see. You know, people with common sense look at something and they think, well why would we do that? Why would we give money to certain nations who don’t like us? Why would we not crack down on the PRC when it comes to the theft of intellectual property? You know, when you look at it from a top down or bottom up, it’s both in America. Top down in the sense that you had president Trump, he saw the theft of intellectual property, he saw bad trade deals. On the one hand that’s at the top, and then you know, from the bottom up, the American people saw that American’s saw…

Simone Gao: Did Trump make the American people see that?

Brian Kennedy: Well, I think Americans saw it already. They saw their jobs going overseas,

Simone Gao: Trump pointed out though.

Brian Kennedy: He pointed it out. He was one of the few people who pointed it out. But they knew it. They had seen it already. They had seen their jobs get moved overseas. So when Trump said we’re making bad trade deals and we have to hold China to account, they thought there’s a guy speaking common sense. We like that about him and so he ran for office on what? Immigration, right? People saw the effects of illegal immigration and he ran on making better trade deals with China. They saw both those things and so from the top down he is representing really the people of the United States. And that’s something that’s not happened in the last 40 years.

Simone Gao: Exactly. I was thinking about in Nixon’s time, it seems like back then it was more like a top down instead of a bottom up. Kissinger…

Brian Kennedy: Yeah. Well foreign policy is rightly in the purview of the president and so it’s going to be top down quite often. And so Nixon thought strategically it made sense to open up relations with the PRC. He wanted to, in his own mind, play the PRC against the Soviet union, the so called “China card”. And so it made strategic sense at the time. I think Henry Kissinger didn’t quite have all that right and went too far. But what was the hope back then? The hope was that we were going to open relations with the PRC. There was going to be economic freedom and then that would lead to political freedom. Okay. There was a great deal of economic freedom, but we haven’t had the political freedom. Quite the opposite. The Chinese communist party has become more powerful, more sophisticated, more capable of managing, enslaving, tyrannizing…however you want to frame it, 1.4 billion people. They’ve gotten really good at it. Now they’ve done it at a time when they’re also pretty good at developing a modern economy and the Chinese people are hardworking and (although) they have a lot of flaws in their economic system, I believe, they are a capable people, the Chinese. And I think American policymakers have not understood that. They’ve not appreciated that China is a great nation with a hardworking, inventive people who are very determined to become the preeminent power on earth. Americans meet Chinese people and they think, “they’re just like us” because they mostly are, right? I mean Americans meet Chinese people in this country and they think they’re just like us. They’re nice everyday people. They’re smiling, they’re happy, they’re hardworking. They don’t see the Chinese communist party.

Simone Gao: Yeah I think they probably haven’t seen how the Chinese communist party has transformed the Chinese people quite a bit.

Brian Kennedy: Right. We see the Chinese people, not the Chinese communist party and all they’ve done. And Trump, President Trump has understood that it’s the Chinese communist party that is leading a group of people to do everything that we see. Whether it’s bad trade deals or the theft of intellectual property, the default on their sovereign debt, the building of islands in the South China sea, This Belt and Road initiative. An ambition to go around the world in an economic way and to become the preeminent power on earth. That’s an ambition we haven’t seen before. It went from almost nowhere on the public stage to…

Simone Gao: It was hidden.

Brian Kennedy: It was hidden. Right? And now it’s very prominent and president Trump, thankfully, is challenging that and I think (he has) been very effective in doing so.

Simone Gao: You know President Reagan once said, “communism is like a virus”. So when it comes to a virus? I think there are only two ways to deal with it. You either kill it, you or you stay away from it. And George Kennan also said the U S should minimize its engagement with China. Hardly any administration since Nixon’s has done this and now, I mean times are different and people are talking about China threats very often. But still to talk about the decoupling of the two economies. It’s almost a politically incorrect thing. Do you agree? And what do you think is the right way to do it?

Brian Kennedy: It’s very difficult to decouple the economy, our economy from the PRC’s. But as you suggest, it’s very difficult to keep them coupled. If what the United States does is produce intellectual property and goods in a consumer based economy and the Chinese are determined to steal our intellectual property and not allow us access to their markets, how can we keep the economies coupled? As painful as decoupling would be, there’s a certain injustice to keeping them together. There’s a certain injustice and in American politics, there’s still a question of justice always. Is there a right and wrong?

Simone Gao: That’s the center of the politics. Nobody talks about it anymore.

Brian Kennedy: Right. And so it’s unjust to keep the American people coupled with an economy, with the PRC, that is stealing their wealth on a daily basis. And so as painful as decoupling is, it may be the right thing to do. Now how you do that’s a different thing. The president right now is doing his best, I believe, to see whether or not he can create a regime that will enforce the protection of intellectual property that may or may not work. That’s what he’s…in a way, that’s what he’s betting his presidency on. And so we’re in these big trade talks and on the one hand he says they’re going great. On the other hand, we may wait until after the election. And so it’s part of the “art of the deal”. I believe the president is going to make a strong deal and he wouldn’t make a weak deal.

Brian Kennedy: He wouldn’t make it because one, he’s a smart guy and he’s not gonna make a bad deal. But two, if he did make a bad deal, guess who would brag about it? The communists. The communists would brag about making a bad deal because at the end of the day, the president may have good relations with president Xi. At the end of the day, this is a tough business, right? The president said that. This is a tough business and President, Xi’s going to do whatever he can for the good of the CCP and the PRC and President Trump’s going to do everything he can to defend the United States. That may ultimately require decoupling. Just as a practical matter, we would like to be joined with the PRC in free and open trade (with) protection of intellectual property. But that doesn’t look like it’s a likely scenario. And also the PRC, I think they don’t want Trump reelected. I mean, President Trump is the last person President Xi wants reelected.

Simone Gao: Right. Although they talk about friendship all the time. Even Xi Jinping talked about, Oh, (we have a) good friend in President Trump.

Brian Kennedy: Right, right. Well, I think it’s funny, I think the way…I’m sure on a personal level, they probably admire each other… On a personal level. They both got to be the president of a great nation. Now when it comes to real life and real politics, President Trump doesn’t want President Xi ruling over a communist dictatorship. President Xi doesn’t want president Trump and those “America first” foreign policies. President Trump is committed to fixing the problems associated with globalization. He’s promised to fix that. That’s what America First is all about. Well, that’s the last thing president Xi wants. And so for that reason alone, I think it’s very unlikely that we’re going to get a good trade deal here because a good trade deal would mean that president Trump succeeded. And that would be a reason for him to get reelected. President Xi could not want that. And so that’s why these trade negotiations have been so problematic over the last 18 months.

Simone Gao: If you think about these things, if you really think about the trade talk and trade deal, I often ponder whether time is on the American side or on the Chinese side. Many people think that America has a stronger economy. China exports more, that”s one thing. But the other thing is if, in the end, the US and China would not make a trade deal because China wouldn’t do the structural changes that you talked about, would it be better if the two economies decouple right now instead of maybe a year or two years later, because by that time (more) U S capital would be invested in Chinese companies. So the two economies will be intertwined. They will be coupled even more. By that time, even if you wanted to decouple, you may not have an opportunity. What do you think?

Brian Kennedy: I think that’s exactly right. I think we’ve never had this kind of problem either. Have we? We’ve never had this kind of relationship with any other nation. We were not heavily invested economically with Nazi Germany. We were not heavily invested with the Soviet union. Here we have a case where we have a nation who themselves, communist China, see themselves as an enemy of the United States. They believe themselves (to be) in an economic and political war with the United States. They say that in their own writings. President Xi says as much in his speeches. Now he says all that and they write all of that within their military writings and some of their political writings, at a time when they’re also asking US companies and US citizens to be investing in communist China. So it’s a very odd situation we find ourselves in. And Wall Street has done the very odd thing of joining with the PRC to encourage such investment and they’re opposed to President Trump and the trade deal and any kind of restrictions on capital flows.

You saw former secretary of the treasury, Hank Paulson, give a speech saying basically it would be a disaster if we decoupled our economies and he’s very worried, he says, about anything that would cause any kind of restrictions on Americans investing in Chinese corporations. Well, think about that for a moment. So we have a master of Wall Street telling us we ought to be investing our money, the American people, our money in communist China. Well when we invest in communist China, we’re investing and we’re betting on their success. So do we want a communist dictatorship to succeed? And when we invest in their state owned enterprises, that’s what we’re betting on. Now that seems to me only possible when people are intellectually and morally corrupt. Because the good of the American people, their economic security and their physical security requires that they’re investing in things that are to their own benefit and to their own good.

And the success of the communist party in China is not in their interest. And so it’s a very odd situation we find ourselves in today when so many among our elites have this very confused…and as I say, I think there’s only one way to look at it, It’s corrupt. It’s corrupt to think that you can do business with communist China when communist China positions itself as an economic and political enemy of the United States. That’s their words, not ours. And so that’s the odd place we find ourselves.

Simone Gao: Maybe I’m characterizing history wrong, but historically I think capitalism and a market economy have not been very effective in defending its values against communist infiltration. During the Roosevelt time or during Nixon’s…ever since Nixon’s time, you have the whole history of the US-China relations and you see that America has not been able to defend its values.

Brian Kennedy: Well, we’re a very trusting people. We want to see good in people.

It’s part of the American nature. We look at people and we tend not to judge (them) on where you’re from. We think that if you’re doing business with us, that we both want a good deal. We want to make things and sell them to you. You want to make things, sell them to us. We think it’s just a good deal. We tend not…it’s not about our values per se. We defend our values, but we can get fooled all the time by people. And we trust people and we think that…

Simone Gao: I think that’s the average Americans. Those Wall street people, I think they know a lot about China, but they don’t care.

Brian Kennedy: No, I think they don’t care. And they think China can abuse human rights, “it’s not on our back, It’s not our fault that they want to abuse human rights”.

And there’s not a whole lot the United States can do to pressure communist China to try to change their system of government. That’s a very difficult thing to do. But at minimum, we don’t want to be investing in their success. And so when American dollars are going to be invested in communist China, we’re strengthening the Chinese communist party. We’re strengthening their ability to abuse the human rights of the people of China or Hong Kong or elsewhere around the world. At minimum we don’t want to be doing that. At maximum. We want to be an example of freedom and Liberty for the world. It’s often said or remarked that the United States is Prince of freedom everywhere, but Guardian’s only of our . That’s a shorthand of John Quincy Adams in his formulations about American foreign policy. So we’re not going to go invade China and change them, but we can at least be an example of the rule of law and freedom and democracy here.

Because that’s what we do. But we also don’t want to be doing the kind of things economically that would strengthen the communist party. And today Wall street is complicit with them to make sure that we do that. Because I think they believe to the extent that we can get the economies intertwined, that it’ll be good for globalization. Now it may not be good for America, but it’ll be good for communist China and it’ll be good for their bankers on Wall street.

Simone Gao: It’s good for their wallet.

Brian Kennedy: Right. But not good for the freedom of the people of China and not ultimately good for the freedom of the people of the United States. When American investors have 20% of their portfolio invested in communist China or Chinese, both sovereign debt and debt of their state owned enterprises and stocks, and within their state owned enterprises…when they’re invested that way, It’ll be very hard for an American president to put any pressure on the PRC at all.

Simone Gao: It’s impossible I think.

Brian Kennedy: I think you’re right because it would be an immediate hit to the retirement funds of the American citizens. And so that’s not going to happen. And Wall Street knows that and the PRC knows that, which is why they’re pushing so hard for it.

Simone Gao: Right. So I think long term if this decoupling from the American capital market is not done. I think the time is on China’s side. As long as they keep the two economies and keep the Wall street money coming, they’re set.

Brian Kennedy: Oh, I think you’re right. I think you’re right. At the end of the day, however, Americans care a lot about freedom. We care about money. We need money to live, right? We need jobs, we need businesses, what have you. But what the Chinese don’t understand about us is that what matters the most is human freedom. We will fight and die for human freedom. We will fight and die for our freedom. And so we have to make sure that they always understand that the United States is not all about money. We’re about freedom. And I think when president Trump is talking about rebuilding the American military, building the space force and doing the kinds of things economically to check (China”s) ambition, I think they see a different kind of America than they’ve seen in the past 40 years. They see a seriousness that they haven’t seen before.

And that’s not about money. That’s about freedom. Everything president Trump has done is mostly about freedom, right? These trade deals, these tariffs, they cause a hit to the economy at some level. And president Trump has explained to people there’ll be some short term pain. Yes, we’re getting money from tariffs, from some of these agricultural deals, but still there’s some short term pain here and president Trump has said, we’re going to have to go through that in order to get this economic relationship back in balance. And so I think that’s going to happen. Or you will see the kind of decoupling you’re suggesting and it will be at that point, just common sense. It won’t be anything beyond that. But it’s a very interesting time in American history to see that a president’s willing to do that because everybody before him and I fear many presidents after him, all they believe in is globalization and globalism more broadly. And they see a whole bunch of money to be made. But at the end of the day, money is not enough. Money cannot buy you freedom.

Simone Gao: Right. That’s that’s so important. I think that’s where the communist regime has a fundamental misunderstanding of the American people. They think the American people can be bought by money. They fundamentally don’t understand the value of freedom.

Brian Kennedy: It’s funny they don’t understand it. Even in Hong Kong, right? I mean I think the communist Chinese have made a huge mistake in Hong Kong. I think they thought the people of Hong Kong were just going to put their heads down and do whatever they said and they didn’t. They kept on protesting because the communists in Beijing did not understand that once you insert freedom into the hearts of people, it is a powerful thing. And they’re going to keep on protesting. And I don’t know what’s going to happen in Hong Kong, but I do know that the people of Hong Kong having tasted, experienced and lived freedom all these years are, I think going to continue to fight for it. The U S government is going to support the idea of freedom there. And I’m encouraged in a way by the whole, by the whole experience we’ve seen in Hong Kong. Partly because you see that the communist (party and ) Chinese president Xi, they got it wrong. They’re not perfect. They don’t get this right every time. They make mistakes. And they made, I think in Hong Kong a big political mistake because Americans look at that and they think that there’s something wrong there.

Simone Gao: Yeah. The fundamental reason is they just don’t understand freedom.

Brian Kennedy: No, they don’t.

Well in a way you might say either they don’t understand freedom or they understand it completely and they want tyranny instead. They want their communist dictatorship. Because what matters most to the Chinese communist party is the power and control of the Chinese communist party. They understand, I think maybe in a way, to come full circle, they understand that freedom is a dangerous thing. And they need to put that down. They need complete control. And so you saw that (former) Mayor Bloomberg recently talked about president Xi, you know, “President Xi has to appeal to all his constituencies within China”. Who misunderstands freedom there. Right?

Simone Gao: He really said that?

Brian Kennedy: Yeah, It was a certain naivete. But he thinks all politics are just alike. You know, democratic politics, communist politics “Ah it’s all just politics”. When at the end of the day in communist China, they have perfected, unfortunately, or are at least very good at suppressing political dissent and doing whatever it takes to make China into the communist power they want it to be. And I think American policymakers don’t fully appreciate that because they look at China and they see all the wealth, right? And they see all the economic growth, manufacturing, et cetera. So we tend to think of them kind of like us. We think everybody just wants to make money, have a nice life, what have you.

Simone Gao: That’s so natural, I can’t put the blame on the American people.

Brian Kennedy: I can’t either.

Simone Gao: This is what humans should be.

Brian Kennedy: Right. It’s the American elites that I blame for not seeing the dangers imposed or presented to the United States by the Chinese communist party.

And I think the real thing that the president has been pushing on, which has been so important, is this intellectual property piece. Because here you have a president…Where’s our intellectual property produced in this country? You might say it’s produced all over the country, but it’s primarily produced in California, New York, Massachusetts. You know, a few other places, but (mainly) California, New York, and Massachusetts. They didn’t vote for president Trump. Right? But yet he’s willing to stake his entire presidency on defending their intellectual property rights. Because that’s the intellectual property and wealth of the American people. And that’s a remarkable thing. Here’s a president who staked his entire four years, eight years, what have you, on holding China to account when it comes to the theft of intellectual property, even though the states where it’s produced, they didn’t vote for him. He’s going to do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the common sense thing to do.

Simone Gao: Right. Common sense, again. Let’s talk about…you are the president of the American Strategy Group. It’s a think tank exploring the existential threat America faces today. I think for a lot of the American people and for non American people, America is still the most powerful country on the planet and technologically, economically and otherwise. Why do you think America faces an existential threat?

Brian Kennedy: Well, partly because you have countries like communist China and I think we can’t discount Russia. Russia has nuclear weapons and you have the Islamic world and the Muslim brotherhood and where it operates. And we’ve been fighting all of these things. Most of our failings, at least when it comes to the existential threats, are intellectual. We didn’t understand that the Soviet Union was an existential threat until well into the fifties and sixties when we realized, “Oh, they have nuclear weapons too”. And again, we’re a commercial republic. So we think about producing things, selling things around the world. We ask everyday Americans to go raise their families, work hard, go to church on Sunday and be private citizens. We don’t ask them to worry about national security problems. At the American Strategy Group, and before that when I was with the Claremont Institute, we thought that there was a challenge there that if you don’t realize you have a threat, you may not prepare for one. Communist China today, they are building very advanced nuclear weapons.

They have an air force that has become very sophisticated. American policymakers tend to think of China as kind of backwards or still developing when it comes to their military arsenal. Their fourth and fifth generation fighter jets are among the most sophisticated in the world. They have a very large Navy, the largest in the world that is becoming evermore sophisticated. They have space capabilities. And you combine that with an ideology that says they want to be the preeminent power on earth. Well, by by definition, they present an existential threat. When you read these books like “Unrestricted Warfare”, back from 1999 where you had these two colonels describe all the things that could be done against the United States in order to defeat the United States. You see a mindset within communist China that would suggest not today, not tomorrow, but someday we (communist China) may need to do whatever it takes to destroy the United States.

Now I’m not saying they want to, but there may come a time. And to the extent that they think that way and they engage in preparations to do that, then we in the United States have to be prepared. But us policymakers don’t seem to have an adequate understanding of that. Today do we have a national missile defense to stop communist China? And the answer is no. We do not. Now, how is that possible? How is it possible given how technologically advanced the United States is? We do not have a national missile defense to stop either China or Russia, so they could launch a nuclear attack on us today and we’re not going to be able to stop it.

Simone Gao: Because we were in that agreement. The mid range missile…

Brian Kennedy: Well we’ve been in a number of agreements over the years, not with China, but with the Soviet Union, right?

We had the anti ballistic missile treaty. We’ve had various arms treaties dealing with medium range missiles and what have you. But here we are, most Americans think that if someone shoots a nuclear weapon at us, we’re going to be able to shoot it down. Well, no, not the case. We may be able to stop a North Korean attack, but we can’t stop a ship launched attack. We cannot because they have mobile missiles and a large number conceivably, in communist China or in Russia, we can’t stop those attacks now. Why not? Because American policymakers did not think it important enough to do that. President Reagan talked about it. President Bush talked about it. President Obama was pretty much opposed to it. President Trump is for it.

Simone Gao: That’s why president Trump exited out of that treaty right? With the Soviet Union…

Brian Kennedy: Well he thought that’s a treaty that is only confusing Americans. They’re not abiding by it. Russians aren’t abiding by it. We may need to build nuclear weapons. We’re getting out of the treaty. The president does believe in missile defense, but Congress has not appropriated the funds and committed to the kind of program that we need to actually defend the United States. The President has talked about the need for a space force. Now he’s talked about it in part because China’s building one, and the Russians are building one. It’s good that the president has committed to that, but he has either one more year or five more years to get this done because again, he believes in it and I’m fully supportive of him in those beliefs, but it has to get done and it has to get done soon because if we don’t do it now, it’s not going to get done because other U S presidents have again, just talked about it, but not carried through.

There’s something fundamentally immoral about having the United States vulnerable today to a ballistic missile from North Korea, communist China, Russia, Iran, or anyone. We should be able to defend these United States. We have the capability. What we lack is the political will. And so when you have a country that lacks the political will to defend itself, there’s something wrong. And so at the American Strategy Group, our whole idea was: can you explain to Americans this lack of common sense? The common sense thing to do is to build a missile defense to stop enemies who want to destroy you. Even if it was an accidental launch, let’s just say, you’d want to be able to stop that. Today we don’t have that. And so to the extent that you explain that to Americans, if I said what I said to the everyday Americans, they would say, “that’s crazy. That’s outrageous. How do we not have a missile defense? How much does it cost”? And the cost to build a pretty robust system is about $30 billion.

Simone Gao: That’s not very much at all.

Brian Kennedy: That’s not very much. In a way, it’s not enough in a way, here in Washington, when you’re talking about spending billions and trillions on something, Oh, people get interested. It’s only 30 billion. And so the military, we’ll call it the military industrial complex, doesn’t get that excited about it, but in fact you need one. You need all sorts of defenses against all sorts of challenges. We need better cruise missile defense. We need better ships, we need better planes. We need all these things, if we’re going to discourage communist China or Russia or Iran or anyone else from thinking they can destroy the United States. We have a great deal of security now during president Trump because he’s a serious man about this, but after president Trump, I fear that the country, if it’s not led by someone with equal seriousness, will fall back into this intellectual trap of believing that we’ll never have another big war and that we’ll just have these little problems around the globe. When in fact the history of the world is (about) major conflict and nations making gross strategic errors and getting into wars when they didn’t mean to get into wars, and I fear a day will come when some nation like I’ve just described, thinks: “The United States? They need to go. They need to be taken down a peg we are the preeminent power on earth.” That’s the concern that I and my colleagues have. (We’re) Not taking national security seriously enough.

Simone Gao: Right. I understand the material risks you talked about. When we say “The existential threats America faces today”, do you think America also faces an existential threat to, how would you say, the very identity of who she is?

Brian Kennedy: Oh, absolutely. I think that’s even more (so) in a way. That’s (at least) equally important. You see in this country multiculturalism having a very pernicious effect on what it means to be an American. Just the idea of Americanism that you believe in human freedom, that you believe in the rule of law, that you believe all men are created equal. The kind of things our founders talked about in the declaration of independence and in our constitution. That’s being lost. And in our universities we’re told that America was a country by white men, for white men, morally corrupt from the time of the founding. And that it really isn’t a very good place to live. That the things that it means to be an American are inherently bad things. Now that’s what gets taught. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. That gets taught in American schools and universities.

Now most Americans hear that and they think, “I think America is a pretty good place”. They go outside and they work hard and they raise their families and they go to church and you know, they lead pretty good lives. I mean, we’re the freest country on earth and then the richest country on earth. Right? And why are we the richest? Because we’re the freest. The human beings when they’re allowed to be free, can do a whole bunch of things to make themselves wealthy and to work hard. And so that’s the genius of America. And yet we’re teaching our young people that they don’t live in a good country anymore. And the real existential threat they’re told is global warming or homophobia or transgenderphobia or any one of a number of problems. “These Are the real threats”, we’re told, not other countries. “The Real problem is: you Americans who believe in America and believe in a natural morality or traditional morality or a Judeo Christian kind of belief system. That’s the problem”.

And to the extent that Americans hear those kinds of things, I think they think Washington and our university system are out of touch. Because most Americans live by common sense. And they know they live in a good country and they know that our men and women in our armed forces are doing good things and defending our freedom. Go to a football game on a Friday night and you see a whole bunch of good people who have spent all week working and now want to watch a football game and watch their sons play football. I would just at one on the weekend out in California and there’s a whole bunch of happy people who I think loved their families and loved their country and that’s what’s great about our country.

Simone Gao: So you think there’s still hope or a very strong hope that America is going to go back to that tradition.

Brian Kennedy: I do. I do. Because that love of freedom again, once you get that in your heart, people are going to do a lot to keep it. And that’s what president Trump was tapping into when he talked about making America great again. He was tapping into that fundamental belief in American greatness.