Whether or not one agrees with American foreign policy, it is a small miracle that official bodies have evolved their approach enough to maintain their relevance (if not their effectiveness) in this dramatically transforming realm. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta describes a world that includes more viable threats against the US than ever. With each additional threat, the permutations of possible outcomes rise exponentially. Each threat is frightening in its own right and has its own set of policy implications, but modern authorities cannot fixate on how each component might be individually managed. Instead, attention must be paid to the evolving interactions between these potentialities, for these are the sites of truly destabilizing emergent properties.
DateOctober 10, 2014TitleFree Library Podcast: Leon Panetta – Worthy FightsSegment24:28 – 27:44Leon Panetta:
We are living in a world that is as dangerous as I’ve ever seen it in 50 years. There was a time when we were confronting, obviously, the Soviet Union and the threat they represented. Today we are confronting a myriad of threats in a number of different areas. We’re confronting the threat from terrorism; we went to war with al-Qaeda as a result of what happened with 9/11. We declared war on terrorism. We did a pretty good job in going after their leadership and making sure that they would never again have the ability to attack this country.
The problem is terrorism has metastasized into other parts of the world. What we see with ISIS is another version of al-Qaeda and even a more fanatical version of al-Qaeda, and they too threaten this country. We also have Boko Haram in Nigeria. We’ve got Al-Shabaab in Somalia. We’ve got other elements of terrorism out there. And so we are going to have to confront that threat, that very broad threat of terrorism. And the president made the right decision to go to war against ISIS. It is important to confront that danger to our country. Secondly, we have the threat from North Korea. I mean, we don’t even know where their leader is right now! And that’s a nuclear-powered country that has the ability to deploy ICBMs and we don’t know—they’re totally unpredictable and they’re dangerous and represent a threat to not only to our country but to the region. Iran has 19,000 centrifuges that can produce enriched fuel. Now hopefully we can negotiate some kind of deal with the Iranians to make sure they can’t enrich fuel to the level that can go into an atomic weapon. But beyond that, they’re a country that continues to deploy terrorism in five continents across the world. So Iran is another threat that we have to confront.
We’re dealing with a Russia that now has basically begun another chapter in the Cold War with Putin and represents a threat to divide Europe itself. That too is something that we’re going to have to confront with strength. We deal with China, and obviously we’d like to maintain a dialogue with China; they’re important to our economy. But they also challenge international rules: they make territorial claims; they do things that we’ve got to be able to check them on. And add to all of that, cyber attacks, which we’ve seen happen in this country. Cyberwar is the battlefield of the future. We’ve not only seen denial of service attacks on companies; we’ve not only seen intellectual property be stolen by cyber attacks; we have seen destruction of computers by sophisticated viruses. And as a result of that, that threatens our power grid system, it threatens our chemical systems, it threatens our transportation systems; our financial systems could be taken down as a result of these kinds of cyber attacks. All of that represents threats for the future that we have to confront.