Speech delivered to the Richard B. Russell Symposium at the University of Georgia, October 25, 1999
There is a story about playwright George Bernard Shaw, who at one point was introducing a speaker and told him that he had only fifteen minutes to speak. This gentleman said, "Fifteen minutes? How can I tell them what I know in fifteen minutes?" Shaw replied, "I advise you to speak very slowly." I too have fifteen minutes, and while I can speak very fast, I can not begin to tell you what I would like to about national security in the twenty-first century. I would like to try to do three things. One is to talk a little bit about the ways in which we need to think differently about national security. The second is to indoctrinate you a little bit about the conventional wisdom regarding national security, most of which I think is either wrong or unsubstantiated. Third, I'll say a few words about what I do think are the major threats and challenges in thinking about national security right now.
First, I think it is clear that the Cold War was a historical aberration in the sense that the nuclear threat in that time was so imminent, and so enormous, that it really blocked out all the other components of what had been historically a part of thinking about national security. Both economic and environmental components of national security have been a part of the success or failure of nations as far back as you can go in history. You go back to the beginning of written history, and the first great empire - the Sumerian Empire - fell to the Babylonians because its great invention of irrigation was improperly managed and its lands got salinized, destroying the crops on which its army and people depended. And, if you look at the meaning of the word "rival" in Latin, it means someone who shares the same stream. So these components of national security go way, way back, but in the period of the Cold War, they were still there, only they were blotted out by the imminent threat of nuclear war.
Now, we see less new threats and more of a restored vision of the whole picture. On the economic front, however, it is clear that we have new challenges. For example, globalization: the speed of the integration of new markets, the addition of two billion new consumers in India and China to the world marketplace, the integration of a great many new countries as the source of its supply. Another challenge is the phenomenon of rapid economic contagion that we have seen in the last few years. All of this makes the economic component of national security not only more uncertain and difficult to manage, but also of greater importance.
It is important to remember that it was only in the early 1970s that we even began to think about international conditions as affecting the performance of our economy. It was in the early seventies that the State Department first added a Department of International Economics. It was in the mid-seventies that the National Security Council added an office of International Economics, so what we now come to think of as a given has happened very recently.
Even more recent has been the recognition that environmental and resource components can affect security. It was in 1997 that the US either had troops coming back from, or was preparing to send forces to, North Korea, Haiti, Somalia, and Rwanda. In all cases, conflicts there related in some way to the coming together of extreme poverty and rapid population growth and resource degradation - a combination that creates severe economic stress and political instability if it is not addressed. It is also significant that we have recognized the emergence of some global threats, which I think will be the most important issues of the next quarter century. They are issues we will have to address, and ones with clear security implications due to global climate change.
Even more recently, we have seen a phenomenon parallel to economic contagion - political contagion. We saw it first with the Velvet Revolutions in Eastern Europe, which were very much caused by the spread of information across borders. Connections between the human rights community that grew up under the Helsinki Commission, the countries of Eastern Europe, and their Western counterparts added to the spread of information. Two years later, in the 1991 coup in Russia, the first targets of the coup were not military barracks or any other military facility; they were television stations. In the Tianneman Square uprising, the weapon that the Chinese government most feared among the students was the fax machine. Now, a Spanish judge is charging someone being held by the British government for crimes against the Chilean people. We see that the phenomenon of political contagion is one that we will have to come to recognize more clearly as a growing problem.
Probably most importantly, one of the other new factors in what constitutes national security is the information and communications revolution. I cannot say enough about the degree to which the technological revolution will transform our society, and the way we live. For all that has been written and said about the technology itself and about cyber commerce, the implications have only barely begun to be thought about. I find it clear that in this period, the parameters of national sovereignty, for all the reasons that I have just talked about, will change dramatically.
To be a little more specific, what is it that the conventional wisdom says that we think we know about the components of security threats in the next twenty to twenty-five years? What is my text for conventional wisdom? Well, there are about five different major security studies going on now - the Defense Department independent commission created by the government, independent think tanks - a whole number of studies, and the presidential candidates have also begun to lay out their national security positions. However, George Bush is the only one who has given his major speech on it so far. So I have taken as my text some of the publications of these major studies, candidate Bush's speech and others'.
One important issue is that in all conventional wisdom, terrorism will rise. While I do not think that this has been proven yet, I think it is a possibility. The future of terrorism has a lot to do not just with how we behave, but more specifically with the recent assertion that terrorism using weapons of mass destruction will rise. I think this is highly questionable, and in particular, I think the threat from biological warfare is way, way over-hyped. I think that this has been a serious error resulting mostly from what I call a "worry gap." We have an awful lot of people who are basically paid to sit around and worry about security traps. Though this "worry gap" is a serious phenomenon, there was a period in the early nineties where we had a lot less to worry about on the nuclear front, and people left on BW, without looking carefully at it.
Another element of conventional wisdom is that the proliferation will increase. I think this is true, certainly with regards to the possibility of increased access to technology, yes, but whether it will is dependent an awful lot on what we do. It may appear that the U.S. will be less able to count on allied support. There, I think, is evidence far to the contrary. NATO held itself together better than anyone expected in the recent conflict in Bosnia. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea alliance has held together more strongly than it ever has recently in dealing with North Korea, so at least with a major question mark. The question is whether the U.S. will be less able to count on allied support - I wonder why. Again, this is related to the earlier point, but this too relies a lot upon how we behave.
On the newer issues, the assertion is generally made that the income gap between countries will continue to widen. That, I think, is probably a pretty good guess, and the assertion behind that declares that this will bring increasing tension. The question that I have about the income gap is whether globalization has been a driver of the widening income gaps that we see in the world, affecting all aspects of different societies. This still is just a question, so it is hard to know, since we do not know the cause, whether the widening will continue.
In addition, civil conflict will increase. The data from the 1990s do not confirm what we thought at the beginning of the decade; it looked like a decade of just proliferating chaos. We have not seen chaos -- we have seen tensions. The majority of the conflicts since the end of the Cold War have been intrastate conflicts, but whether they will increase is a very open question. Moreover, there is presumably a learning curve regarding how to deal with these conflicts. For example, we should have learned that voter referenda are not good ways to resolve questions about self-determination. This is because referenda are absolute win-lose methods: somebody wins, and somebody loses completely. The losers generally act, as we have seen in East Timor. There are better ways to deal with the existing and significant tensions over self-determination. But whether civil conflict will increase will depend again, tremendously, on how we handle it.
The assertion has also been made that there will be no global changes in energy technology in the next quarter century. This assertion, I think, is wrong. I believe, in this period, that electric cars powered by fuel cells will be introduced on a large scale and will drastically change the consumption and price of petroleum, consequently affecting changes in energy technology and extending global dynamics a great deal.
It is virtually universal in history that when countries become hegemons - global superpowers - they tend to want everything their own way, and it never works. They decide that they no longer want to make realistic choices in keeping with their goals. I see the beginnings of a bad case of this in the United States. I think we have right now an internally contradictory policy towards Russia, and an even more seriously contradictory policy towards Iraq. Also, the Senate has just made a serious error in rejecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I think the thread that ties these three separate problems together is the reluctance to make choices among the competing goals that we have. A great many people think that the U.S. is such a benign force - so different from all hegemons that have come before us, so crucial to global security, so unselfish in its own interests, so pure in its motives - that we ought to be able to make our own rules, and indeed to violate the rules we make for the rest of the world. My own view is that that will fail to assure our security and create some real threats for us.
Of the threats that I do see, I was shocked, for example, to read the first volume of the Government's Commission on National Security in the Twenty-first Century, authored by a great many distinguished individuals. This first publication does not mention the word Russia, which I find shocking and surprising. We do have to figure out and come to some decision in the United States whether what we fear is Russia's strength or its weakness. Right now, our policy is an odd mixture of both.
In avoiding the creation of new threats, we do have to reconsider the decision on the Comprehensive Test Ban, and make two other decisions - on the ABM treaty, and most importantly, on national missile defense - next year. We should have a strong understanding both of Russia's role in international security and the need for a strong nuclear proliferation regime. Proliferation is evidence that we cannot assure our own security by acting alone, and we cannot have a strong nonproliferation regime in the way that we are headed. In 1995, 170 countries decided to make the Nonproliferation Treaty a permanent entity, rather than a temporary one as it was originally negotiated. The basis for that decision was a promise by the weapons powers to enact a Comprehensive Test Ban. The review of that commitment begins next year, and we are in a very uncomfortable place right now. Now, in particular, the potential to replace serious inspections and to continue sanctions on Iraq is deeply threatening.
So, we have to beware of creating problems that do not exist, and remember that we have a large number of competing goals. The world today requires us, if we want to assure our security, to restrain our historic tendency toward unilateral action. I have given you a lot of headlines, and in the discussion, I hope I can back them up, but that seems to be the picture that we are facing. Thank you.