The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has announced a new initiative launching April 8, 2011: The National Conversation at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The National Conversation will examine overarching themes of U.S. international and domestic policy, drawing on high-profile guests and experts from all sides of the political sphere to provide thoughtful, intelligent explorations of challenging issues with the goal of informing the national public policy debate.
From uprisings in the Arab world to troubled economies around the globe, challenges to America’s role in the global community have seldom been greater or more complex. And with economic woes at home and our military capacity stretched thin through involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, many are left wondering about our ability to respond and adapt to a rapidly changing world. At a time when national unity around a shared vision is lacking, there is a growing belief that a new national security narrative must emerge that defines the role of the U.S. in global affairs for a new century. But can we achieve such a national consensus in this era of hyper-partisanship? A possible answer comes in the form of an anonymous “white paper.” Two US military officers have written an essay describing a vision for the missing narrative under the authorship of “Mr. Y.” Join our panel as it discusses the ideas contained in this provocative paper from an unexpected source. Is this the blueprint for the narrative we seek?
The inaugural National Conversation kicks off April 8 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m., with a discussion on the search for a new national security narrative to guide U.S. policy in the 21st Century. Five panelists will participate in a discussion moderated by award-winning New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman. The panel will feature: Steve Clemons, founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation; Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim American to be elected into the U.S. Congress; Robert Kagan, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution; Brent Scowcroft, U.S. national security adviser to President Ford and President H.W. Bush; and Professor Anne Marie Slaughter, former director for policy planning for the U.S. Department of State and current Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.
Note: Robert Steele invited comment starts at 01:15:12
Trip Report & Selected Links with Graphics Below the Line
Jane Harman, new Director, opened, intent is to create a safe political space for pursuing this narrative.
RS: They don’t realize the rest of us have been having this conversation since 1988, with Washington refusing to listen. What is important about this event is that for the first time, a major Washington player is striving to understand the whole system and how dysfunctional we are within that whole system.
Anne-Marie Slaughter observed that the narrative is not a strategy, it is more an attempt to understand where we are, where we need to go, and how we get there. Read the document, she summarized it, the five elements being:
01 From control in a closed system to credible influence in an open system.
RS: This is Epoch B and bottom up multinational, see the Graphic. Also see:
02 From containment to sustainment.
RS: “True cost” and ecological economics has been around a long time, they are not there yet, but that could and should be the logical outcome of the series once it gets going. This is a very positive development.
03 From deterrence and defense to civilian engagement and competition.
RS: The rest of us call this reality-based Whole of Government constructive engagement.
04 From zero sum to positive sum global politics/economics.
RS: This is the whole point of the first two EIN books, linked below, see the Strategy Graphic.
05 From national security to national prosperity and security.
RS: Actually, the USA is now a sideshow unless the USA develops a strategic analytic model that Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards will accept toward a non-zero world. Nothing less than a prosperous world at peace will preserve the USA–we have to recover our integrity. While the group never discussed the lack of intelligence (decision-support) nor the lack of integrity across government, those are the two core capabilities that must be resurrected if this righteous and ambitious program is to take effect. Recommended readings:
Brent Scowcroft focused on the historical perspective, noting that the Nation-State from the Treaty of Westphalia replaced feudalism, now globalization is undermining the Nation-State, changing the system with the biggest difference being that everyone–at all levels, all individuals–is connected and politicized. He observed that the paper does not explicate beyond identifying the need for a transition and a narrative.
Robert Kagan observed that looking back can suffer from over-simplification, we never had “control” of any sort. Containment worked in Europe, it was a disaster in Asia. While the telegraph, steamship, and other new technologies changed a great deal, there was no real paradigm shift. He is not ready to say that the nation-state is on its way out. His critical comment on the narrative is that is lacks a description of how the world works.
RS: In one word: CORRUPTION. Public intelligence in the public interest, illuminating true costs and embedding transparency in all transactions, is how we eradicate corruption and create a prosperous world at peace.
Tom Friedman (moderator) observes that countries and corporations led the globalization of trade and other endeavors, now individuals are globalized.
Steve Clemens suggested the USA needs to think about how to position itself as the Google of nations rather than the GM of nations. He observed that the US was well-branded, but with sprawling capabilities, not adding up to influence. China has the premium of power at this time. Helpful to read the Strategic Narrative from a Chinese power-player’s point of view. Japan is an example of a deliberate strategy of exporting key individuals to be influencial across the spectrum of international organizations. Have to “surf the wave.” Key question: how do you reorder global structures to have a network of responsible stakeholders?
RS: Easily the most original contributor. However, as with the other participants, either complete myopia or complete unwillingness to address the two sucking chest wounds in the US Government: lack of integrity and lack of intelligence. Spot on with respect to surfing the wave, cannot own or control the wave, the point Harrison Owens makes in Wave Rider.
Books by Harrison Owen:
Keith Ellison, first Muslim Congressman, observed that adjustments are no doubt needed, the real problem is in the realignment in that any major change in defense spending has huge implications for both the economy and for human employment.
Brent Scowcroft: must look forward, our institutions are from the past.
Robert Kagan: old tools still relevant, human nature is not new, not persuaded that we should abandon military as primary tool.
Anne-Marie Slaughter: three things are new–super-empowered individuals, changing nature of power now based on how connected on is, and emergence as well as need for responsible stakeholders. Trying to break open the conversation.
RS: This discussion will clearly benefit from an appreciation of the eight major information-intelligence stakeholder groups, see the Graphic.
Tom Friedman: Speed of change matters, people want justice. Egypt’s problem is poverty and illiteracy, not Israel.
RS: This group is not focused on the fact that changes to the Earth that once took 10,000 years now take three. We need real-time science and honest feed-back loops across political-legal, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, techno-demographic, and natural-geographic.
Steve Clemens: Have to look at the cost of all of the so-called national security. We have kicked down our own hill, and fallen morally, intellectually, in every other possible way.
RS: This guy gets it and comes as close to calling the Emperor naked and immoral as anyone. Would be interesting to build a session around him.
Keith Ellison: Youth bubble will be a major factor.
RS: See Digital Natives Graphic.
Tom Friedman and Robert Kagan: Defense spending is a small fraction of Entitlement spending. Any serious discussion must discuss entitlements.
RS: Entitlement over-runs go away once you remove the corrupt mandate that US Government cannot negotiate prices. Cost of top 75 medications purchased via Medicare is ONE PERCENT of what we pay, once we move to generics and bulk purchase such as Indonesia, South Africa, Thailand, and others are doing. What we do not have is a Strategic Analytic Model or a reality-based government.
Robert Kagan: I am against dumb wars.
RS: this led to a humorous exchange, but it was a hugely important comment that glossed over the reality that dumb wars are not dumb for the military-industrial complex and the banks behind them or the ideologs fronting them.
Question from the audience on strategic communications, Tom Friedman riffed that “bang bang beats tweet tweet.” His most important concluding comments were that the Internet provides a faux sense of activism, and that politics is still analog.
RS: The inside-the-beltway crowd still does not understand that strategic communications that are not based on transparency and truth creating trust, are neither strategic nor effective. Friedman’s comment was silly. He knows the Unconquerable World, A Power Governments Cannot Repress, and Power of the Powerless, among others. The are not enough guns on the planet to over-whelm the five billion poor, nor can guns deal with poverty and disease. Friedman is acutely sensitive to poverty, this was problem just a silly moment.
RS: This event was HISTORIC. They have accomplished what others have not been able to. We pray that Brent Scowcroft, particularly, lives long enough to be part of the resurrection of a Republic Of, By, and For We the People. Admiral Mike Mullen deserves credit–while he was not mentioned, the two officers who drafted and circulated the document could not have done so without the Admiral’s whole-hearted active consent. There are good people in government, they are finally finding their voice.
General Reading Guide for the Larger Context