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University of Calgary: American Security Policy in the 21st Century: Imperatives and Directions"
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre, Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta Canada, Friday, February 18, 2000

Dr. [Ronald] Bond [Vice-President, Academic] and Dean [Stephen] Randall [Dean, Faculty of Science], thank you so much for your gracious introduction. I have to tell you how shocked I am to see so many people here. This is a Friday afternoon at a university, the start of a beautiful weekend, and I'm told that this is spring break. So that there's anybody here at all is really quite a surprise. I am honored indeed, and quite flattered to see so many people here.

I also must apologize to you. We arrived this morning at the airport at about 6:30. We have a snowstorm going through Washington today. I think it's directly correlated with all the politicians being outside of Washington campaigning, that there was not enough hot air to keep the snows away. [Laughter.] Maybe it was my departure that contributed to the lack of hot air.

So they said we were going to leave at eight o’clock in the morning to get here, and they said, "No, if you want to get out of Washington." I think we got two inches of snow, by the way. It's a frightening snowstorm. [Laughter.] So they said if you want to get out of Washington you have to leave at four o’clock in the morning. Julie and I were at church last night for choir practice and other things, so we didn't get home until late, so I got two hours of sleep.

I thought well, I'll work on the speech on the flight out, but I fell asleep, which was a very bad sign, about the speech. As usually happens, I have an army of people that write these wonderful things for me, and then I pretend they're my own. But when I fell asleep reading my own speech, I thought that is a very bad sign. [Laughter.]

So I thought, "Not a problem," because we're going to be arriving in Calgary at 6:30 and we'll get to the hotel by 7:15, and lots of time to prepare, and then I fell asleep reading the speech again this morning. I thought I'd better try a new tack rather than read to you; it was really fairly good, all things considered.

The problem I had with [the speech] is that the front two-thirds of it is excellent, but it doesn't go anywhere. The back third of it isn't a logical extension from the front of the speech. So I'm going to experiment with you and do some free association, as it were. It's certainly riskier, but it's going to be more spontaneous this way, and I hope, serve as more than anything a jumping off point for questions. I would be much more interested in the questions that you have, that you would put to me, than necessarily just reading a speech that a very capable speechwriter wrote, that would unfortunately I think put all of you to sleep like it did me three times. So here goes.

We're 10 years into a transitional period now in American foreign policy, American security policy, and it's been a foggy time. Where we're going is becoming increasingly clear, but still not explicitly obvious. So I'm afraid that I'm going to reflect some of that in this discussion. Let's first put it in a framework.

We have had, I would argue, in the United States, five distinct epochs of security policy. The first, where they start and where they end, is always a bit fuzzy, but I'd say the first one was from roughly 1775 until roughly 1812. It was the time when the United States transformed itself from a bunch of colonies, broke free in an eight-year war, and became an independent entity, a fragile independent entity. The ending point, 1812, was that nasty little [episode] when the Brits sailed up the Potomac and burned the capitol. We didn't like that at all, but we're getting over it. [Laughter.]

But it was a period when we were, for other reasons, quite peripheral of British politics at the time and the international order and their rising tensions with France. They didn't really want to preoccupy themselves with a quarrelsome set of colonies, so after we broke free, they really left us alone.

So the War of 1812 really brought the end of the first epoch where we became coherent to a certain degree, but insulated from the rest of the world; isolated by a big ocean, protected by the Royal Navy.

The second epoch stretches from 1812, 1818, sometime in there, and then one can argue it could go to 1848 or maybe 1898. From an American perspective it would be 1898, the Spanish-American War. From a European perspective, of course, it would be demarcated by the socialist revolution in 1848, which tried and failed to change the international order.

What it did for the United States, of course, was to give us time to become strong and powerful and inward oriented. So we spent this period extending our reach internal to the North American continent. This is when the United States expanded into the heartland in not entirely benign ways, conquered the infrastructure of what became this large emerging United States, went through a very difficult civil war, which had its international dimensions but not in ways that radically shaped the character of America's security policy at the time. It was our fight. Others came in and participated and watched, but it was really our fight and it didn't really transpose itself into a way that shaped the security policy of the country until the late 1880s and early 1890s.

This [third epoch] is when American imperialism was starting to find its fruition and looking for an outlet. We had pretty much filled up the heartland and had a great deal of energy as it were, and it manifested itself when we went to war with Spain and to capture the Philippines and then Cuba, and saw that period which you would characterize the third epoch, which you'd say was a period of active American imperialism when we actually formally had colonies overseas.

That period ended, I think, with World War I – in 1914, 1918 -- when the United States got involved in a European war in a significant way, but chose not to engage in the security environment that emerged after the war. President Wilson tried very hard to help create the League of Nations and was deeply frustrated when the American Congress refused to allow participation in that international order that was created.

So we went into the inter-war period with an American isolationism that really stood apart from the two major movements that unfolded, really stemming from World War I. The first, of course, was international communism and the vibrancy of the socialist movement. The second was the rise of National Socialism in Germany with echoes in Italy and Spain that sought a different solution to the social dislocations that emerged after the collapse of the old social order in Europe. The United States really stayed apart from that, at least in an explicit way.

You all know that we actively worked behind the scenes with England as the war was starting to emerge. Frankly, we did a lot of it with Canada. Not covertly, but not in any explicit way, we used Canada as the staging ground for most of the airplanes that we flew to England during the Lend Lease period. A lot of Canadians participated in that.

Of course that inter-war period, that fourth epoch, ended sharply, for the United States, at Pearl Harbor when we were brought in unequivocally during the war and then participated to its end.

The fifth epoch in American security policy slowly emerged in '47 and '48 when we saw our world being entirely consumed by trying to confront the Soviet Union and what appeared to be a monolithic socialist Communist bloc. It was crystallized with the Korean War. That's when the Cold War turned into a global contest. That set the path for the next 50 years.

It's hard to say what's precisely the point that [the fifth epoch] ended, but 1989 is probably the closest end point. That was when the Berlin Wall was breached and all of a sudden you started seeing this kind of cascading collapse of the old Soviet empire.

We're now 10 years into what I think is a transition period. The question that I would put before all of us now is what is the nature of this next security epoch that we're looking at?

It's always foggy when you're in the transition itself. It's always hard to discern where you are going. It's easy for us now to look back over 200 years and cleanly talk about demarcated epochs, but how in the world do you think about that when you're looking into something that's still unfolding? That's where we are now.

I think we can see some of the elements of this new security epoch, and it's troubling in many ways. Let's note some of them and then talk about what it may mean, both for American security policy and then U.S. and Canadian relations, and see if that might serve as a jumping off point for our discussions.

What are some of the elements that appear to be emerging in this epoch? It seems to me the first is the startling emergence of tribalism that characterizes the struggle for power in this new epoch. Virtually in every time zone there are nasty battles that are underway, many of which are grounded in antipathies that are hundreds of years. Kosovo, is so obvious an example; the 500-year long struggle between Kosovars and Serbs and Croats. It's kind of a tectonic plate of social history where Christianity and Orthodoxy and Islam rubbed against each other and left hatred that we're still seeing on a daily basis.

Continuing that arc, you find Chechnya, where you continue to have an ongoing, dreadful, dreadful war that's going on in Chechnya. If you were to drop down on that meridian, you'd go down to the 25-year old struggle in Sri Lanka. Go a couple of time zones further to the east you get to Indonesia, where we keep worrying that we're on the edge of another terrible meltdown in the 300 or so ethnic groups that comprise Indonesia. East Timor was just one example. Colonialism reinforced ethnic tensions in a 400-year old problem. The problems, of course exist, in South America where, for example, Colombia is no longer a coherent government, where half of the country is controlled by a rebel group.

Almost in every time zone we seem to have what emerges as a new pattern of warfare that's not contained by this overarching stability that was provided during the Cold War by these big blocs that were managing tension. Instead, we've now seen just an explosion of violence, violence that's seated deeply in ways that are very hard for Americans, and probably Canadians, to understand. So that seems to be the first troubling feature of this new epoch.

A second troubling feature of this new epoch is the spread or proliferation of dangerous ideas and knowledge. When the old Soviet Union broke up there were literally hundreds of scientists who had developed experience in knowing how to build biological weapons, and all of a sudden they didn't have jobs. There were mountains of inventory of chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, nuclear materials that were all of a sudden in a society that was disintegrating and susceptible to bad guys around the world that had cash and were looking to find a way to get access in ways that were not possible before because of a coherent government structure that tried to at least prohibit or control or modulate the distribution of this dangerous knowledge and materials.

So you see a startling phenomena when a religious cult in Tokyo experiments with biological weapons and actually tries to use a chemical weapon. This is a very troubling feature in this new era. It springs off the fact that the Cold War forced the leading states of the world to develop things that now in retrospect we wish we had never invented because we are having to live with the consequences of this knowledge. So that seems to be a second feature of this epoch that's quite troubling.

I think a third feature that to me is worrisome is the collapse of the institutional structures that dominated at least the efforts of the fifth epoch. The United Nations teeters on the brink of irrelevancy every day. It certainly is viewed that way by many, many Americans. We had a near collapse of the financial instruments that were created right after World War II. Remember two years ago when all of the problems in Asia brought a near collapse of the IMF and the World Bank? I'm not sure we're through all that yet, although there are promising signs that the economies are coming back. Yet it is not at all clear that the instruments that have been used to modulate the financial environment will work, because they didn't, almost didn't work this last time [during the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s].

There is also an interesting phenomena in Europe that's underway; a startling shift in the thinking of young people, like many of you, as to the legitimacy of state action in using force. It was interesting. I went over to Europe last summer right after the Kosovo air operation. I heard almost exactly the same thing in every place I went. People talked about Kosovo the same way. "This is the first time that nations went to war for a principle," they said. And I think it reflected a problem that's emerging where because people were apprehensive about taking a military action outside of their borders and outside of the perimeter of NATO. They knew they couldn't get an overarching authority for this through the United Nations, so they sought a transcendent idea to authorize the act because they couldn't get a transcending organization to authorize it.

So all of a sudden, this became a war for humanitarian goals, not for selfish interests. It was not a war to keep refugees from migrating to Germany. It was a war about humanitarian goals, stopping violence. All of the things that really motivated governments to want to act were not things that motivated the population to explain why they acted. It's a very interesting phenomenon.

Finally, it seems to me [that there is] another feature that's emerging in this period, which I don't understand. I see it, and I think it's too complicated to understand, but it's the increasing globalization of activities and enterprises and business activity that really stretches beyond the imagination of governments to be able to understand.

As an example, if you wanted to build a weapon system in the United States 30 years ago you could control all of the components of it and you could put a security structure around it. Today, we don't know where most of the computer chips are made that go into our most secret weapons. They could be made in China, for all we know. We just don't have a system for tracking because American business has gone global, Canadian business has gone global, and in ways that we really don't understand. And if the old structures that make us feel comfortable about security that were created during the Cold War period, for example the COCOM sorts of structures, collapsed because of the international business . . . It wasn't because the Soviet Union collapsed, it's because business became transcontinental in its nature and its processes.

Yet most of the structures of security still revolve around a parochial state-based concept when businesses are now transcontinental. So as I say, it's easy to think about what seem to be some of the dominant features of this new era. What's harder to think about is what do we do about it? So let me start, but this is where my speech is going to peter out because I'm not sure what I'm going to tell you next.

First it seems to me that, at least from the perspective of the United States, we will continue to have to maintain a fairly broad and diverse defense infrastructure because the variety of the problems that we confront are still so problematic and unpredictable that it's hard to know precisely now what you don't want to prepare for, or what you think you don't have to prepare for.

We have a debate going on in the United States now about whether or not we're fixated with the Cold War and whether we can't stop buying the old weapon systems that we designed for the Cold War. But we're not going to be able, in this environment, to set aside the fact that at some point we may have to fight another Desert Storm [against Iraq]. So I see us having to maintain a still fairly broad and diverse defense program.

Also, dealing with some of the new things that are emerging which are so hard, trying to find ways to protect against a terrorist that would use a chemical or biological agent in the United States, is a very tough problem, an enormously difficult problem. And we're only in the front end of thinking our way through how to deal with that. So the first thing it says is we're going to probably have to maintain a fairly broad and diverse defense program in this environment.

Second, I think we have a defense imperative to try to find a way to reinvigorate the international political institutions that try to modulate the security environment that we live in.

I think it's a very dangerous thing to have the UN as weak as it is right now. I don't think that's healthy for us or for the world. Unfortunately, the UN occasionally has a tendency to trivialize itself with getting absorbed with secondary issues that aren't primarily important, and that then tends to erode the consensus in the United States for supporting it. But I do think we have to find a way to reinvigorate and reestablish strength in those entities.

Third, I think the government needs to think about new ways to govern in this new era. The model is the one we just went through in the Year 2000 preparation. This was quite different compared to anything else we have ever done because, unlike previous problems, we would usually define the problem, and then pass a law and put the burden on the private sector to try to fix it. This [Y2K problem] was one that was far too interactive, far too dynamic to have that sort of a solution. So we had to approach this problem as a partnership where we sat down with industry. We told them things we would never have told them in another era. They told us things that in the past they would never have told their regulators. And we had to create a permissive environment for it by removing the legal liabilities of sharing information. People couldn't get sued later on with information they told us as we were trying to prepare.

But it was really demonstrating a pattern of governance that's typified more by partnership than confrontation. I would suspect that we'll have to do something like that much more in the world of security in the future.

For example, we're going to have to totally reengineer the way we approach export controls that's based more on collaboration with our regulated entities, not on fighting them all the time, or putting them through pointless and meaningless bureaucratic exercises.

These are just the markers of what we're going to have to do, and it's coming at a time when the American scene is confused. Never has there been a time when America has been more cosmopolitan in its activities and arguably more parochial in its outlook. We seem to be so terrified of things that are really not a problem, but we've made them a problem in our political scene. So I think it's going to be a real test for the American political scene over the next five years to try to build on these far, far more complicated problems of the 21st Century than the ones that we faced in 1945 and '46 and '47.

[The challenge is] to try to reengineer a government that is vertically oriented -- Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce -- to deal with problems that are inherently horizontal in nature -- crime, pollution, terrorism, migration of people, things of this nature. All of the really serious problems that we're facing are not handled inside the vertical structures that we created in the last 100 years and organized for our government. And it's going to be a hard thing to do at a time when we are choking on our budgetary surpluses.

So let me stop with that. I hope it's given you lots of ideas from which you can start your questions.