The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided
Irish staff officers his worldview yesterday in a speech to members of the
Irish Defense Force at Cathal Brugha Barracks.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the world is enduring
the most unsettled time he has experienced in 41 years of service.
The chairman came to Ireland to express
gratitude for the close working relationship between U.S. and Irish forces around
the world, but especially in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He also thanked
Irish Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Conor O’Boyle for Ireland’s numerous
contributions and commitment to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Chairman Delivers 'Best Military Advice'
O’Boyle invited the chairman to share his
thoughts with the Irish Defense Force staff.
As the man tasked with providing the “best
military advice” to the president and defense secretary, Dempsey deals with
capabilities, not intentions. He still has not given up on the idea that
Russia, for example, might turn away from its current course.
“Threats are the combination, or the aggregate,
of capabilities and intentions,” he said. “Let me set aside for the moment,
intentions, because I don’t know what Russia intends.”
But when he looks at capabilities, Dempsey
said, he notes that Russia has developed capabilities that are quite
threatening in space, in cyber, in ground-based cruise missiles that violate
treaties, in submarines and other activities that seek to sever communications.
“I do think one of the things that Russia does
seem to [want] to do is either discredit, or even more ominously, create the
conditions for the failure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” he said.
The continent is in a period of high risk, the chairman
said, because of the potential for miscalculation. He said he tries to keep in
touch with his Russian counterpart Army Col. Gen. Valery Gerasimov.
“I’ve actually suggested to him that we not end
our careers as we began them,” Dempsey said. As a young armored cavalry officer,
the chairman served in West Germany at the same time Gerasimov was a tank
commander in East Germany.
The chairman pointed to a new offensive by
Russian separatists in Ukraine as an ominous development and said the NATO
alliance is in a “precarious position” vis-à-vis Russia.
The chairman said China is transparent with its
intentions, if not with its military funding. A decade ago, China announced
they would assert territorial claims in the South and East China Seas -- first
by reclamation projects, followed by territorial sea claims and then followed
by air defense identification zones. Since they announced their strategy, the Chinese
have invested the funds, he said, “and they are on a path to do that.”
Many U.S. allies have territorial disputes with
the Chinese, most notably Japan and the Philippines. “To be honest to you,
though, a failed Chinese economy worries me more than a second Chinese aircraft
carrier,” Dempsey said.
He noted the shock felt in stock markets around
the world when the Chinese devalued the yuan recently. “I worry more about
Chinese weakness than Chinese strength, but nevertheless I’m painting a picture
where the conditions for strategic miscalculations could be quite ripe,” he
The recent P5+1 nuclear agreement negotiated by
the leaders of China, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the
United States seeks to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. “The big question on the
table is whether this relief of [economic] sanctions that will flow to Iran
will be used to improve their economy or the lives of their citizens, or
whether they will use it to propagate their revolutionary ideology,” Dempsey
said. “The answer is probably a little bit of both.”
The question is now whether the world can
separate the nuclear issue from Iran’s other malign activities that cause
concern, such as its use of surrogates, proliferating ballistic missile
technology, cyberattacks, weapons trafficking and maritime interdiction.
“The issue with Iran is ‘to be determined’,”
North Korea remains a danger, Dempsey said, and
the country could either explode or implode at any time. Defense against North
Korea draws enormous resources.
Networks and Cyberspace
While combating transnational criminal networks
is primarily in the realm of law enforcement, Dempsey said, the capabilities
these networks have can have national security implications. The networks
smuggle drugs, weapons and people now, but they could smuggle anything for the
right price. Terror groups could smuggle operatives or materials. They could
also enter this shadowy world to fund their operations.
Finally, Dempsey discussed combat in the
cyberworld. “That domain is a genuine threat to our security and yours,” the chairman
He wants legislation that will allow sharing of
information about attacks and defensive measures. In the past year, Dempsey
noted, North Korea launched an attack on the Sony Corporation that ended up
costing $300 million. Another hack cost the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
at least $1 billion. The most recent attack against the Joint Staff’s
unclassified network forced defenders to sever the network from the Internet
and rebuild it.
All of these threats are complex, the chairman
“There is a difference between complicated and
complex,” he said. “A complicated problem you can dissect into its separate parts,
understand them and put it back together and probably understand the problem.
“A complex problem is one where once you touch
it, you change it,” he continued. “It seems to me that’s the way the world is
working now: Issues are just more complex, they are multifaceted. You can take
them apart and try to understand the individual theses, but when you put it
back together, it never comes out the way you though it would.”
Dempsey told the Irish officers that is why the
world needs networks of nations to address the problems of today. Different
nations bring different ideas and viewpoints to the table, and the situations
the world faces deserve everyone’s best efforts, he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)