WASHINGTON, November 1, 2014 —
The world has always faced challenges, but the difference today is many strategy and policy decisions are made in public, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday at Syracuse University in Central New York.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families that the shift to public decision-making for him has been evolutionary. But, “in your lifetime in public service … you will find increasingly that you are constantly under scrutiny for the decisions you make.”
Because of that scrutiny, decision-makers often find that they change decisions almost as soon as they have made them, he said. Policymakers make decisions under the observation of 330 million fellow citizens.
Complicated v. Complex
Ever the wordsmith, Dempsey also took policy makers to task for confusing the words complicated and complex. “Think of complicated as something you can disaggregate, deal with its component parts, put it back together and the problem is largely solved,” he said.
Complex issues have at the starting point the fact that as soon as they are touched they change things. “It’s the Heisenberg principle – there is no such thing as a pure experiment because when you … touch it, you change it,” he said. “That’s what we’re facing today across the globe.”
The chairman used his favorite mnemonic device – 222 and 1 – to talk about the state of the world.
The device means two heavyweights, two middleweights, two networks and a domain.
China and Russia are the heavyweights and the chairman is acutely aware that whatever the United States does around the world affects the security relationship with those two heavyweights.
North Korea and Iran are the two middleweights: North Korea for the instability it brings to Northeast Asia and potentially the globe. With Iran “we’re on a path to resolve the nuclear issues” that mar that country’s relations with the rest of the world, he said. But the nuclear issues are just the tip of the iceberg with Iran. There are also problems with Iran sponsoring terrorism, launching a cyberwar and much else, he said.
The first of the two networks is the al-Qaida affiliate network. This is the fanatical religious network that runs from Central Asia across the Middle East into North Africa. From Pakistan to Nigeria, the network is a problem, he said.
The other network is transnational organized crime and doesn’t get the notoriety it should, the chairman said. “It makes more money in a year than most countries on the planet … and that money gets turned into weapons and into the hands of the terror networks,” he said.
Danger of Cyber
The domain is cyber. “It’s manmade, and we can understand it, but it’s becoming increasingly dangerous because of the ability of someone with a laptop to do more with that device than many can do with bullets,” he said.
Cyber is an emotional issue, but Americans need to have the conversation about the domain. “We’ve got to … find a way to collaborate on standards and information sharing and what is the role of the government in the cyber domain,” he said. America is most vulnerable to a cyber attack, the chairman said.