Preventing the Next Wave of Conflict: Understanding Non-Traditional Threats to Global Security
This final working group session of "Preventing the Next Wave of Conflict: Understanding Non-Traditional Threats to Global Society culminated the eight month effort to characterize and assess the seriousness of non-traditional threats to global stability and national security and to understand how foreign and national security policies should be adapted to respond more effectively to emerging and non-traditional threats. The working group analyzed the threats stemming from economic and social disparities, challenges to good governance, demographic trends, threats to human health, and natural resources and environmental degradations. The final session summarized these themes in an effort to draw conclusions, discuss linkages, and determine a future progression for dealing with both the individual and collective non-traditional threats to security.
Facilitating the concluding session's discussion were three very distinguished guests, including James B. Steinberg, the Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program of the Brookings Institution. Prior to joining Brookings, Mr. Steinberg held several senior positions in the Clinton Administration, including Deputy National Security Advisor to the President, Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research. Before joining the State Department, Mr. Steinberg served as a Senior Analyst at RAND and as a Senior Fellow for U.S. Strategic Policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London.
Providing another perspective was Dr. Joseph J. Collins, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Prior to returning to the Pentagon, Dr. Collins was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). A former Colonel in the Army, he holds a doctorate in International Relations from Columbia University and is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
Offering an alternative view was the working group's own Dr. David McIntyre, the Deputy Director of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security. Dr. McIntyre has authored numerous articles on Homeland Security and is a frequent contributor to FOX News, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN's Crossfire, and other international media programs. A thirty year Army veteran, he retired as a Colonel, having served eight years on the faculty of the National War College and National Defense University, to include three years as the Dean of Faculty and Academics Program.
Initiating the discussion, Mr. Steinberg reflected on the work of the project, saying that he would offer comments born of the three points of view on the spectrum of how the policy community is trying to deal these challenges today: as an analyst outside of government, as a former Department of State's Director of Policy Planning Group, and as a past Deputy National Security Advisor. "First, I think what your exercise can help do is help us in priority setting. By looking at these different factors and trying to understand the linkages between these underlying social, economic, demographic, and political trends, it makes it possible to make some judgments about what things are more important than others." Continuing, he said, "The second thing that you have done helps us think about information requirements. By looking at these linkages, by trying to understand the framework within which conflict arises and what contributes to these challenges to foreign policy, you have begun to provide some of the material that would help in that exercise of trying to establish what the information requirements are: what do we already know? What do we need to know?' The third thing that I think that this exercise is important to do is to help develop strategies to deal with it." Confirming the working group's conclusions, he said "a fourth important contribution that you can make is a recognition that by its nature, these problems require a different structure of decision making." Mr. Steinberg concluded, saying, "I think that it is a really a very important effort," and that "in some ways I think that this a natural successor to the National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2015 which was an important step to trying to bring a little more rigor to the whole notion about how these broader social, economic, and demographic trends affect the national security landscape."
Speaking from a Department of Defense viewpoint, Dr. Collins acknowledged that he was impressed with the working group's efforts, particularly in regards to the rigorous thought applied to causation and correlation. He said that it was important to realize that "there are things that go hand-in-hand that are not causing one another. So often on this particular topic, we get the notion that somehow the fact that conditions coexist with one another means that there is some kind of causation going on." He also complimented the group's work in highlighting failed states, offering Afghanistan and Somalia as examples and noting their effect on regional instability. He also agreed with the conclusions rendered by the group's final briefing note, saying that he believed non-traditional threats are not direct threats, but that they are "certainly complicating factors." Finally, he spoke about the role of development, focusing on education while stressing the need for balanced development.
Exploring these challenges from another angle, Dr. McIntyre stated that as a strategist he attempted to look at what has been discussed over the last several months in order to distill common ideas from all of the differing perspectives. He came to the conclusion "that what we want to do in ending conflicts and preventing them is to convince people that continued fighting is a false hope and offer some alternative hope which will bring them to negotiation." In expanding his thoughts, he asked, "What are the implications of this idea for managing hope for conflict prevention? It is that we must move early and that we must move strongly to deny hope that an aggressive party will get what it wants through conflict." Having done that, we must then offer a realistic alternative to hope for in order to address the grounds of aggression.