The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars introduced its new initiative today, The National Conversation at the Woodrow Wilson Center, with a discussion of the need for a national security narrative. Hosted by Wilson Center Director, President, and CEO Jane Harman, and moderated by award-winning columnist and author Thomas Friedman, this inaugural event was based on a white paper written by two active military officers.

The white paper, written by a Navy captain and a Marine colonel, is titled "A National Strategic Narrative" (pdf). The paper contends that the U.S. should move from such Cold War strategies as containment and deterrence toward sustainable prosperity and civic engagement.

At its core, said Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director for policy planning for the U.S. Department of State and current professor at Princeton University, "the Narrative says in an interconnected world, the United States should be the strongest competitor and the greatest source of credible influence—the nation most able to influence what happens in the international sphere—while standing for security, prosperity, and justice at home and abroad. So: competition, influence, domestic strength."

Joining Slaughter in the discussion were Brent Scowcroft, U.S. national security adviser to President Ford and President H.W. Bush; Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim American to be elected to the U.S. Congress; Steve Clemons, founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation; and Robert Kagan, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

Panelists discussed defense and diplomacy issues in an increasingly multi-polar world. A key theme was globalization, particularly the role of information technology—especially social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter—in mobilizing people, from recent revolutions in the Middle East to empowering individuals across the globe. The discussion also touched on such challenges as outdated international institutions and defense spending and other investment priorities.

Watch the recorded webcast of the event.

Watch exclusive interviews with the panelists: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Steve Clemons, and Brent Scowcroft.