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Former NSA Hadley talks Iraq, Bush legacy

Although most conversations on campus focused on basketball Thursday, at least one focused on somethings more controversial- the Iraq War, torture and the impact of former President George W. Bush's legacy.

"A Conversation with Stephen Hadley" was held in the Social Sciences Building Thursday evening. Hadley served as national security adviser from 2005 to 2009 under the Bush administration.

The event, which drew an audience of about 70 students and faculty, was sponsored by the Duke American Grand Strategy program and the Triangle Institute for Security Studies. Peter Feaver, professor of political science and director of TISS, interviewed Hadley during the presentation.

Hadley, whose daughter attends Duke, said his previous position serves as an intermediary between the president and the bureaucracy.

"If you like policy, the national security adviser is the best job in the government," he said.

Feaver, who worked under Hadley from June 2005 to July 2007 as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform on the National Security Council, said his students often told him that NSA was the job they aspired to most.

Students should focus on a specific area of knowledge if they want to pursue a career in government, Hadley said.

"These are very smart people," he added. "Being smart will get you in the door, but having a reputation for character will determine a lot of how far you go."

The NSA is often the last person to see the president before he makes key decisions, Hadley explained. He said there was usually a short time span between when he proposed ideas and when they were implemented.

Feaver also asked Hadley to provide the audience with some insight into the Bush White House by addressing the public's conceptions about the administration.

The former president conveyed humor, intelligence and a sense of enormous strength in person, Hadley said. He noted that much of Bush's personality was distorted by the influence of television and therefore lost on the American public.

Hadley added that many of Bush's policies would be validated by his legacy.

"The War on Terror, which has generated a lot of controversy, is actually something that stands the country in good stead and the president in good stead," he said.

The Bush administration probably underestimated how much it knew about Iraq leading up to the war, Hadley said. But he defended the administration's use of "harsh interrogation techniques" in the War on Terror.

"The proof is in the pudding," Hadley said. "We were able to uncover real plots and save lives."

Only three individuals were subjected to the controversial practice of "waterboarding" under the Bush administration, he added.

When Feaver asked for his views on the current administration, Hadley said President Barack Obama's foreign policy team is off to a good start. He noted that Obama's background makes him a popular figure around the world.

At the end of Feaver's interview, Hadley took questions from the audience. Senior Osagie Ighile, who is writing a thesis on media coverage leading up to the Iraq War, asked Hadley whether the Bush administration's justification for the Iraq War was misleading. Ighile said he disagreed with Hadley's response that the war was justified.

"I already knew coming in that he probably wasn't going to answer my question [completely]," he said. "I was at least happy that he acknowledged some of my points."


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