Atlantic Council managing editor James Joyner asks in The National Interest, "Why Should Congress and the Courts Care About Snooping If Citizens Don't?"
J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, was interviewed by Brian Todd on CNN’s Situation Room in a segment on the discovery of evidence in northern Mali that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) may have acquired surface-to-air missiles.
Atlantic Council Managing Editor James Joyner published an editorial in The National Interest arguing it's better to "trust in those charged with safeguarding our nation's secrets to do so honorably than to make every disgruntled Army private or low-level contractor a de facto national classification authority."
Senior Fellow Frederic C. Hof of the Council's Hariri Middle East Center speaks with host Scott Simon of NPR Weekend Edition about the worsening crisis in Syria and the United States' limited military and political options.
General James L. Jones, Chairman designate of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and former US National Security advisor, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Commandant of the Marine Corps, recently delivered remarks to a private audience offering non-partisan advice for how the winner of November’s US presidential elections can redefine the concept of national security in the 21st century to renew American leadership.
General Jones’ speech is part of the Atlantic Council’s Task Ahead series, which features senior experts and former practitioners offering bipartisan guidance to the winner of the US presidential elections on the most pressing issues on the foreign policy agenda. The ‘Task Ahead’ publication was released in May, which included a memo by General Jones entitled “Economic Competitiveness and US National Security.” To read the entire compendium, which includes memos from Brent Scowcroft, Chuck Hagel, Madeleine Albright, Ellen Tauscher, and others, click here.
You can read the entire text of General Jones’ speech below:
Remarks of General James L. Jones
Delivered September 6, 2012
“Message to the Next Administration: An Unasked for Response"
Thank you for that gracious introduction and such a warm welcome. I’m honored to share this time with you on a topic of extraordinary importance to America and to our world.
The case for redefining 21st century security
I would like to tell you why I believe this upcoming election must center, at least in part, on redefining the very concept of national security in the 21st century. I don’t exaggerate when I say that the quality of our future and America’s position of global leadership depends on getting it right. And, friends, we have a long, long way to go in getting it right.
Before anyone here thinks that they are in for a political statement, nothing could be further from the truth. I am a practicing independent voter and I always stay out of partisan politics. Forty years in the Marines will do that to you! My oath of office, public and private, is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States -- period.
So, it is in the context of bipartisanship and a deep concern for the future of our nation that I am privileged to address you today.
I am surrounded here by people who have been highly successful in all walks of life -- people who love this country and want to see it remain a nation of great consequence and leadership. This includes some very special people here, members of what Tom Brokaw rightly hailed as the “greatest generation” -- to whom we owe our lives, our liberty, and America’s position in the world.
They know better than anyone the secret to America’s success. We have always found the courage to rise to the occasion, to overcome the challenges to our way of life, and to preserve the principles that undergird the freest and most prosperous nation known to man.
In the last century the primary threat to peace was fascism and the twilight ideological contest against communism. Our purpose was defined by these struggles. In the bipolar world in which most of us grew up security was measured, primarily, by military might.
By the power of our faith and sacrifice we prevailed. We proved the concept of freedom and democracy; and the world hasn’t stopped changing since. Many of today’s challenges and events are measured against the backdrop of the last century. Too often our policy approaches remain mired in the past as well.
Today, security is a far deeper and broader concept than it was during the last half of the 20th century. Our chief challenge no longer emanates from a competing military power or discredited communist ideology. Instead, it’s mainly about whether America can or will compete successfully in the multi-polar world that we, in large measure, created. There is great irony here.
It’s about whether we will continue to prosper enough to provide for our security and that of our friends and allies.
It’s about whether we will maintain our global leadership in a dangerous world that still needs us and wants us.
And it’s about whether we can seize the pivotal opportunity of our age to drive human progress and forge a more peaceful world order –the true cornerstones of America’s security.
We should not allow present regional strife and economic malaise at home and abroad to obscure the broader picture. The truth is that the human condition is on the ascent. While this may sound somewhat optimistic, the fact is that with America at the fore, the trade-based global economy has become the greatest boon to international stability ever.
Global poverty has been reduced more in the last 50 years than in the previous 500. Most of the improvement has been achieved in the last two decades alone.
Hundreds of millions of people are rising up and taking their rightful place in the great enterprise of human advancement--creating new markets and new opportunity for themselves and for America; and that’s good news because we need them to succeed if we are to prosper.
The global village is creating new expectations, catalyzed by a transformational communications revolution continuously making it easier for people to learn, participate, organize, and act. We have witnessed the role of social media in galvanizing people power across the arc of the Arab spring. If the 20th was the century of the gun and the nuclear weapon; the 21st is the century of the mobile phone and social media.
Global stability is no longer defined solely by the ability of nations to deploy and defeat; but rather by our capacity to engage and endow -- to meet human needs, sustain economic growth, and turn promise and opportunity into jobs and a higher quality of life. In the long run, this will cause the lasting defeat of radical fundamentalism—but it must be a proactive vice reactive campaign.
In this new era of human development entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators are as fundamental to geopolitical stability as politicians, generals, and diplomats; and trade agreements are as instrumental to world order as defense pacts.
I submit to you – even as one who has proudly served a lifetime in uniform -- that’s a very good thing.
But threats and challenges to “peace in our time” do abound. You know the roll call: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyber-warfare, terror, regional conflict, resource scarcity, resurgent nationalism and isolationism. The list goes on. We must solve them, each of them, by our example, our strength, and our unfailing leadership.
But, friends, that means America is faced with an overarching strategic challenge—one to which we must devote every ounce of our national energies….and that is transforming America’s capacity to lead so that we are able to tackle the full spectrum of threats and opportunities before us.
I hear many at home and abroad define the emerging new world order with fear and trepidation. They see in it the imminence and inevitability of “American decline.”
Frankly, I’ve heard about the so-called “American decline” since the 1950s when the Soviet’s launch of Sputnik shook our confidence, and in every decade since, and it has not happened yet. I submit to you today that it will not happen unless we let it happen! We control our destiny, not China or India or Brazil or Russia. No one does but us!
I’m not entirely sure what defines a nation in decline, but it seems to me that a strong warning is when a country can no longer bring itself to do those things that it knows it must do for its own good. Today, we are facing decisive internal challenges. Our response will determine the shape of our future, and once again, answer the question of “American decline”; or, optimistically, perhaps usher in even a new age of American ascendancy!
If the latter is to be our destiny, it seems to me there are some basic things that the next administration must do, and the next congress must do; and that we as a people “must do.”
What we must do: modernizing global engagement
First, we have to transform U.G. global engagement--get it in step with the evolving nature of “security.” Yes, our armed forces will remain a central pillar of our national security portfolio, but they must be part of a more sophisticated tool kit.
Modernity demands a contemporary “whole of government” global engagement strategy—one that synchronizes economic development, security, and rule of law –the three pillars of peace and prosperity. A big part of the approach must involve “commercial diplomacy” in which the private sector leads the way.
President Barzani, of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, recently expressed the dynamic powerfully when he noted that, “Four American companies (in Kurdistan) are worth two Army divisions” when it comes to building goodwill and sustaining influence. Yet, he remains frustrated at the reluctance and relative absence of the U.S. private sector in his region and at obsolete U.S. policies that impede greater American business engagement and investment in the region which has been defined by many as “the next Dubai”.
The fact is that the private sector is better poised today than government to make significant contributions to our national “presence” abroad.
Here’s the good news for the future -- despite the so-called rise of peer competitors only the United States has the capability to accomplish this new type of global engagement and this will be true for the foreseeable future! The integration of our capabilities towards common, proactive goals where America leads by deed and example, will keep our relevance unchallenged for many years to come. But first we have to fix that which needs fixing in our own back yard!
When I came to the White House in 2009 we were facing a full agenda of national security challenges -- winding down Iraq responsibly, deciphering the way forward on Afghanistan, resetting our relationship with Russia and China, and coming to grips with a growing cyber-threat and a flailing economy, and the list goes on.
So, we flattened the NSC organization, combined the national security council with the homeland security council, and created a four stage, “bottom up” issue development process which reflected the president’s style.
Because no major issue is the sole responsibility of any single agency or department anymore, inclusivity at the decision table became the hallmark. The watch phrase “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” became the humorous, but not altogether untrue maxim.
Subject areas not previously associated with national security, such as cyber-security, economic security, home grown terrorism, and energy security began to appear as routine subjects for analysis and discussion. The National Security Council became the gear that forced the inter-agency wheel to turn and function.
While in many cases we made good progress, in the area of “energy security,” something I remain very passionate about, we made precious little headway.
No administration has ever produced and implemented a comprehensive energy policy, nor are we today organized to produce one; this remains one of the great “must do” challenges for any administration—and given the enormous energy potential we know we have within our borders, it is inexcusable to not place our energy future at the forefront of our national security priorities. And doing it right can make an enormous contribution to job creation and American economic resurgence!
On the whole, had all Americans been witness to how the important issues of national security were approached and dealt with procedurally, they would have been reassured. I leave it to others and to history to evaluate the results.
One major lesson endures -- we must modernize how we decide and govern if we are to meet the evolving challenges of our times, and future administrations must transition from campaigning to governing quickly. Agility, cohesion, coordination, and long-term strategic thinking are the watchwords for success.
What we must do: fixing sequestration
Second, we must come to grips with our budgetary disarray beginning with the wolf closest to the door. As we gather here today, America continues its charge toward the proverbial fiscal cliff—a result of the automatic budget sequestration that will take effect on January 3, 2013. Virtually no one believes that allowing indiscriminate spending cuts and massive tax increases to hit simultaneously is advisable when we are struggling to recover from recession and transform U.S. competitiveness.
If allowed to stand, the effect will do irreparable economic damage felt in every corner of the country. And, it will not solve the plague of fiscal imbalance. It’s tantamount to shooting ourselves in the head to cure our heart disease.
This was a political suicide pact that presumed rationality and national self-interest would prevail. Sadly, that’s no longer a reasonable assumption. Time is running out; yet we hurdle headlong towards the abyss looking toward a lame duck session, hoping to “fix it” then.
I heard somewhere that “hope is not a strategy.” Well, neither is playing a shameful game of partisan chicken at the country’s expense. This is not how a great nation handles its affairs.
What we must do: restoring fiscal sanity
Third, we must rise to the challenge of America’s crushing debt crisis—characterized by irresponsibility and procrastination, and driven by the unsustainable entitlements we refuse to reform. Titanic fiscal imbalance poses a clear threat to our economic system and national security.
A while back I made the mistake of publicly observing that Congress spends money like a drunken sailor. Almost immediately I was deluged by letters and e-mail from hundreds of “drunken sailors” expressing their outrage at being compared to Congress!
But the hard fact is that no nation, I repeat, no nation in history has ever been able to maintain the kind of global impact we have had since 1945 with such a large and growing debt to wealth ratio as ours.
Here again, where is the collaboration necessary to fix something that we all know must be fixed? We have all heard about the Simpson-Bowles plan, a work that has been praised by so many, but to what effect? None so far as we can see, other than partisan finger pointing! Where’s the leadership? Where is the outrage?
What we must do: transforming our competitiveness
Fourth, we must transform America’s competitiveness. We all know that we can’t restore fiscal balance without economic growth. It’s indispensable to our prosperity, security, and leadership.
Both parties agree that in order to grow America must have the world’s best business environment. You will find that objective stated in both party platforms this year just as we did four years ago.
Yet, instead we perpetuate job killers including the highest corporate tax rates in the OECD and an internal revenue code of quantum complexity and gamesmanship. We impose a multi-layered regulatory system that even Europeans criticize as over the top.
We standby as our infrastructure crumbles and our students fail in the technical disciplines when innovation is the key to American security and economic vigor.
Signing free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia was a good start, but much, much more needs to be done. Our chief competitors are all over the world pursuing free trade agreements, while the U.S. is negotiating but one. Meanwhile U.S. business is losing out in strategically vital areas like the Middle East and Africa.
Reform is always on tomorrow’s docket “after the election.” There’s only one problem with that. The day after every election is another election. Everyone is for change as long as it’s imposed on someone else.
All of these “musts” aren’t simply domestic economic and political matters anymore. They are national security problems. We hold hearings. Write reports. And make speeches; but we do very little to turn “must dos” into “dones!”
You will have noticed that my first references to redefining national security issues are economic. Very simply, if we don’t fix the economic piece, the others, however important, can’t be adequately addressed.
What we must do: modernizing defense policy
Fifth, we must recalibrate defense budgets and policies to keep them in tune with modern requirements. Gone are the days when it will suffice to “send in the troops,” though maintaining the capability to do so rapidly if and when required will remain a core requirement. Security, in the traditional sense, will continue to occupy a preeminent position in our portfolio. But it too will have to adapt to the new world order.
Instead of letting sequestration decimate the defense department, and it will if we don’t do something soon; we must tackle the real problems – an outsized and outmoded acquisition system, an unsustainable entitlement and retirement scheme, and a military health care program that is completely out of whack. Experts know that spending more than 50 percent of our defense budget on manpower is a Rubicon that should not be crossed…and we have!
To save money, no matter the strategic consequences, rather than fix what’s truly broken, some are calling for our military to come home from abroad. In terms of strategic utility, the forward basing and forward presence of our military remain one of the greatest long-term gifts of the 20th century world, yet we are at risk of jeopardizing it if we are not extremely careful.
To be sure, the huge and expensive footprints of the past are no longer as necessary as they once were, but American military presence is still the “coin of the realm” for much of the world, especially for the transformation of the world’s greatest alliance, NATO.
Vacuums created by ill-timed or ill-advised withdrawal of American presence could be filled by others who don’t have our best interests in mind. But witness today the eagerness of Vietnam, the Philippines, and other Asian nations seeking renewed American “presence” – military, diplomatic, and commercial. Some of us may be ready to bring the troops home, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be so eager!
What we must do: fostering good governance and rule of law
A central component to our enhanced national security posture must be our ability to export the ethic and methodology of good governance and the rule of law.
I know there’s nothing many Americans would like more than to out-source Congress and whatever party they don’t prefer, but despite all our warts, notwithstanding our need to make some strategic repairs -- our system of government is still the envy of the world!
Twenty months ago a young street vendor and provider for a family of eight, tired of being robbed and bullied by police and deprived of justice, stood in the central square of a small Tunisian town. He poured gasoline over his head and immolated himself in protest. The story and images swept the world at lightning speed sparking revolution across the Middle east and North Africa. Since then: Tunisia’s Ben Ali – gone. Egypt’s Mubarak – gone. Libya’s Qaddafi – gone. And coming soon – Bashar al Assad – gone. It’s a bad time to be a dictator and if we play our cards right there will never again be a good time for oppressive rulers.
Indeed, the phenomenon we call the “Arab spring” is the most transformational event since the fall of the Soviet Union! It will require time before we know its final “shape.” The end-state will likely be different from country to country. What’s certain is that tyrants like Assad no longer have a place to go when they are deposed--except perhaps The Hague where a lengthy, all-expense paid “vacation” awaits them.
But we can’t be passive observers. The United States and our allies must have a plan in place today for what we will do the morning after Assad is deposed. Again, this is a monumental opportunity for the United States to help shape the future for millions of people in a critical part of the world; but doing it right is the strategic urgency. We know that it won’t be done by unilateral action; that’s in the past. But we can provide the leadership required to bring about multilateral agreements and capabilities needed to tackle the most pressing issues of our time.
What we must do: exercising leadership
The common thread to success in this century, and it bears repeating, is leadership -- both at home and abroad. The world expects it from the United States, and Americans deserve it here at home. Earlier I spoke briefly about “the greatest generation.” It seems to me that we need another one for this century. The younger people here today could be the nucleus of just such a generation. Our hope is that it won’t take another world war for it to blossom, but let there be no doubt: we are in a struggle for the future that demands an America at its best and that, as it always has, requires superior leadership!
To conclude, I would like to tell a story that I think captures the currents of our times. Three years ago yesterday a beautiful 18-year old Iranian woman named Neda Agha Soltan -- an aspiring musician and photographer -- was standing on the streets of Tehran. Accompanied by her music teacher she was viewing a massive protest against the regime’s fraudulent presidential elections.
Though guilty of no crime, unarmed, posing no danger except for her ideals she was targeted by a sniper from a nearby rooftop. Moments later a bullet pierced her chest. And Neda bled to death where she fell. The shot was fired by a member of the Iranian militia.
Almost instantaneously video footage and cell phone pictures of the killing cascaded across the internet to every corner of the globe. It has been called the most widely witnessed death in human history. The incident prepared the ground for the Arab spring. It helped galvanize the world in opposition to a repressive regime.
Today, Neda has awards, scholarships, and schools named in her honor. I don’t know what became of her murderer; but I’m betting this: history will show that Neda and the cell phone messages, electronic images, and internet posts which shared her dreams and told her story will prove far more powerful than the assassins and the guns that tried to silence her hopes. That’s the future we are entering. That’s the security landscape of the 21st century.
Failing to grasp the new definition of security doesn’t just imperil the Nedas of the world. It imperils us all. We can’t sit it out. That’s not who we are.
So good luck and Godspeed to us in finding our way to a future in which America continues to lead and inspire people across the world! America can do it! Together we can do it! Thank you.
On June 19, please join the Eurasia Center for a discussion on the IMF’s recent presentation Two Decades of Transition in Caucasus and Central Asia: Taking Stock and the Road Ahead with Dr. Juha Kähkönen, deputy director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, and the Honorable William Courtney, former US ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan and former special assistant to the President and senior director of the National Security Council staff for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. This event will be streamed LIVE from 10:30 a.m.
On June 24, the Brent Scowcroft Center of the Atlantic Council will host a panel discussion on the most recent claims of Chinese cyber espionage and the implications of this threat for the US-China relationship and China's ties with its neighbors in Asia.
On June 27, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force will launch a new issue brief by Ramin Asgard and Barbara Slavin entitled US-Iran Cultural Engagement: A Cost Effective Boon to US National Security, along with a public briefing on people-to-people exchanges with Iran.