Don’t Wait for the Next War: A Conversation with General Wesley Clark

The Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security welcomed Gen. Wesley K. Clark (Ret.) to provide remarks promoting his new book Don’t Wait for the Next War: A Strategy for American Growth and Global Leadership. Damon Wilson, the Council’s executive vice president, welcomed the guests to the event. The general was introduced by Karen Tramontano, CEO of Blue Star Strategies. Defense News Editor Vago Muradian moderated the event.

In his remarks, Clark emphasized that the United States needs a national strategy, not a grand strategy, going forward in order to address issues that will arise in the twenty-first century.

Gen. Clark believes that the United States is at an inflection point in its history, comparable to 1945 and 1989, but it does not have a grand strategy while other actors, like China and Russia, are currently implementing theirs. With the rise of major challenges across the planet, the United States needs to put aside internal strife and work towards correcting major issues facing the country. Clark listed five major threats to US security:

  1. The struggle that Islam is going through to modernize and accept democracy.
  2. America’s vulnerability to cyberattacks, and the economic costs it would take to correct the problem. “Anything that is done by software can be undone by software.”
  3. The complexity of the financial system and its overrunning of the economy. The leaders of the financial industry know very little about how the system works, yet the United States is continually putting money into it.
  4. The unprecedented rise of China and its contrasting views of global governance. The United States needs to convince China that it is in its best interest to join the world order that was established following World War II.
  5. The reality and inevitability of climate change. The United States needs to better prepare itself for the difficulties that climate change will bring.

Gen. Clark realizes that none of these problems have easy solutions, and it will take strong leadership and hard work to solve them. A major step, Clark believes, is to strengthen the US economy through investment in the private sector. As an example, Clark believes the United States should invest in its natural gas resources and become a major exporter instead of importer of energy.

Although the issues the country face are serious and the solutions are hard, it is necessary for the government to push through and develop a strategy to confront them head on. In order to do this, the United States must start playing long-term games and stop focusing on short-term consequences and events.