Global Trends 2030: The Atlantic Council’s US Strategy in a Post-Western World

Stephen J. HadleyPrincipal, RiceHadleyGates LLC 
General James L. Jones, Jr., Founder and President, Jones Group International; Chairman, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council 
James B. SteinbergDean and Professor of Social Science, International Affairs, and Law, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University  
Moderated by Barry Pavel, Director, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council 

The final panel of the Global Trends conference centered its discussion on the Atlantic Council’s report, Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World.

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Explore the other panels from the Global Trends Conference

Read the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report

Read the Atlantic Council’s Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World report

All three panelists agreed that the United States must address domestic issues first, such as the looming fiscal cliff and an economic slowdown, which have contributed to a diminished confidence to assert a strong foreign policy and intervene strategically in global conflicts. Equally as important, the United States needs to change its conduct of foreign policy by building a strategy with long-term goals and a new system for measuring the effectiveness of that strategy. Mr. Hadley pointed out that if the United States continues to focus on solving crisis after crisis versus constructing a forward-thinking policy, it will only make it more difficult to implement cohesive and comprehensive goals for the future.  General Jones added that, concurrently, the United States must reform the current structure of government bureaucracy to turn into a flexible system that can operate in a more dynamic world with multiple groups and nations in power. 

Furthermore, panelists built off of each others’ comments to note that stabilizing the Middle East and building stronger alliances with various Asian countries will also help the United States remain a leader in 2030. Mr. Steinberg noted that the United States must also work on managing biological weapons, which are largely ignored when formulating policy today, but will become a more prevalent hazard in the future. Ultimately, the United States must rebuild its confidence and establish a defined role for itself in the international system so it can remain a leader in 2030.


Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

BARRY PAVEL: Last panel – started. This panel is about the U.S. strategy document that the Atlantic Council produced, but I’m calling this the red tie panel. (Laughter.) I am quite humbled to be on this stage with these very distinguished former government officials, at least two of whom I worked directly for.

So first I think I’ll introduce our panelists, then I’ll sort of make sure that I give you my sense of sort of the key insights from the U.S. strategy document that the Atlantic Council produced to deal with this world that Matt Burrows and his team did such a good job of projecting. And then I think we’ll turn to our discussants to hear their views on the strategy and on all of the issues in this space, generally. And then we’d like to really to engage you and ask some of the key questions that you have after sitting through and listening to all of these discussions of all of the issues.

And I think what we’d like to do here is not cover the issues that were exactly covered in the previous panels. We’re going to try to raise it up a level. We’ll certainly address some of the specific issues, certainly technology and China and the Middle East. But I think, really importantly, is how do we take what we’ve heard, and sort of come up and make sure that we have sort of a framework for dealing with all of these challenges and all of the opportunities together?

The council developed this strategy drawing on a lot of the workshops that we convened for the National Intelligence Council, both domestically in Silicon Valley and other places, as well as all around the world, in a number of capitals. And those workshops covered issues such as urbanization, and pandemics, disruptive technologies, migration, the future of the U.S. and the international system. And it really gathered a lot of the best thinkers not just in the U.S., but globally. And so it was a very salutary process.

I’d like to echo, before I dive into the substance, some of Fred’s compliments to, first of all, the principal drafter of this strategy document, Bob Manning, who is a senior fellow of the Scowcroft Center, and just did a superb job of putting together a broad range of very, very complex issues to come up with a framework for how do we deal with this world. So I wanted to thank Bob. I also wanted to thank the team that put this conference together, Carlos Castello-Catchot, Banning Garrett and their whole team. And of course the whole Scowcroft Center team, whom you’ve seen pointing you in the right places, making sure you have the right materials, et cetera. And if we can give them a round of applause, that would be great. (Applause.)

So let me introduce our guests first. And to my immediate right is General James Jones. He is founder and president of Jones Group International. General Jones was the first national security advisor to President Barack Obama. He’s the chairman of the Brent Scowcroft Center, now, at the Atlantic Council. In February 2007, he completed 40 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served as an operational commander at every level, ranging from Vietnam to Okinawa and a range of other assignments, as you might imagine. He served also as the 32nd commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, as the supreme allied commander for Europe, and as the commander of European Command, among many other very important positions.

Next to him is Stephen Hadley. Mr. Hadley is currently a principal in the RiceHadley Group, and he is a senior advisor for international affairs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Mr. Hadley was the national security advisor to President George W. Bush in his second term. He also, before that, was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy in the Pentagon.

And then to my far right is Jim Steinberg. He’s currently dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a professor of social science, international affairs, and law. He was deputy secretary of state for President Obama, serving as the principal deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. From 2005 to 2008, he was dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. And previously, he served at the Brookings Institution. He was deputy national security advisor to President Bill Clinton. And before that, he was director of the State Department’s policy planning staff. So we have some serious strategists who have been there and done that on this panel. We’ll be looking to draw on their practical experience but also on their thinking about how do we deal with this world.

So now, let me turn to sort of my take on the document that you have seen and that you have heard a bit about. I’ll make five key points, and then I think I’d like to turn to my discussants here.

First, and I think very importantly – and President Obama, I think, had this right in his national security strategy – number one, the U.S. has to revitalize the domestic sources of its power in order to do anything serious in the world. We need to invest in our human capital. We need to invest in our physical capital. We need to get our political gridlock fixed. We need to sort of reinvigorate the primary basis of our foundation to do anything in the world. If we don’t, then the strategy will not work.

Number two, and I think my real takeaway from Matt Burrows’s work and the NIC was that the magnitude of the changes that are unfolding over the next decade and a half or so are – but the changes will dwarf those of any generation that has preceded it, and I think the changes are coming more quickly, really, on an accelerated basis. There’s a growing array of global challenges ranging from energy to water, food and other natural resources, to integrating China and other emerging powers into an international system that was essentially born at the end of World War II. There’s a massive shift of power from West to East and South. And we’re dealing with a lot of new, very powerful non-state actors that can act on a strategically significant scale in a way that really has not happened before in history.

In some ways, I’ll boil it down to what I think are four revolutions going on at once. There’s a political revolution in the international system. We’ve heard about the Arab awakening. There’s an energy revolution going on that’s really shaking things up and changing where – changing a lot of the energy flows. There’s a technology revolution – you heard about that yesterday – where there’s a lot of very disruptive new technologies coming online that I think will combine in very different ways and in surprising ways, some for good and some for potentially ill purposes. And then last, you just heard on the panel before this, there’s an urbanization revolution. I mean, it might be more of an evolution, but I think the impact will be revolutionary when we have so much of what’s going on in the world in 2030 and beyond really occurring in cities, in mega-cities, and who themselves, as you heard, will be acting on the international scene. So this is a very different world than I think any world the United States and our allies and partners have dealt with before.

And so that leads me to my third point. And perhaps, in my view, it might be the most important. And that is a status-quo approach by the United States – sort of a maintenance, a stability focus, just sort of a focus that tries to hold things, that type of strategy will fail utterly in this world that’s coming. That approach is no longer viable. I think for many years after the Cold War, we sort of coasted a little bit. We did a few things. We changed a few institutions on the margins. But I think the time for sort of incrementalism really is over. And so the U.S. must lead, and it must do so actively, vigorously and strategically. That’s my main takeaway from a reading of the “Global Trends.”

And if we don’t do so – if we hold back or if we withdraw or if we watch or if we remain status-quo oriented, then I think that the negative outcomes that are portrayed in the “Global Trends” report will come to fruition and the consequences will be very damaging not just for the United States but for the world. So I think we have a strong interest in newly invigorating an activist U.S. approach.

My fourth point – there is a great diffusion of power, and so mobilizing cooperative action tailored to each problem or situation will be key. It’s a much more complicated environment as I think we heard in the panel this morning and also yesterday. So we have to leverage the alliances and partnerships that we inherited from a very different era, and we have to try to work with our allies and partners on some of these new challenges. Those allies and partners are state actors, but we also have to figure out a way to mobilize non-state actors to deal effectively with these very complex challenges. Foremost among those partners will have to be China, as I think we heard in previous discussions. And the role that China chooses to play – the role that the U.S. chooses to play with China I think is perhaps the critical factor in the international system.

And then, last for me, my fifth point: The U.S. certainly has made enormous progress over the last 60 years in integrating Europe and much of Asia into the international security and economic order. This has led to unprecedented prosperity and security. We’re on the cusp of more, as we heard, with a very significant growth of the global middle class. But I think the challenge of the next generation is to continue that effort in Asia, but importantly to really focus on the greater Middle East and how do we integrate the greater Middle East economically, how do we integrate the greater Middle East in terms of security, how do we bring them into the international system? This is a generational challenge. In my mind, it’s – as we heard earlier, this is a dangerous area. Potential nuclear failed states, WMD, potential nuclear-armed regional powers; this could lead – if we don’t do that part right, then, again, we will face some very, very serious dangers that are in some ways unprecedented.

So the challenge to me is how do we redefine U.S. leadership in light of this diffusion of power from states and from West to East and South, how do we take our collaborative approach, which I think a lot of administrations up to this point have felt that they have taken, but how do we really deepen it with traditional allies in relevant ways and how do we work with China to fashion some arrangements where we can deal with some of the major global challenges?

I think with that, I could certainly talk –

GENERAL JAMES JONES: Let’s go right to questions. (Laughter.)

MR. : So we go to questions?

MR. PAVEL: Right. No – are there any questions? No. So I was encouraged by some of my discussants here to make sure I reminded people of the strategy. That’s sort of the essence of it, I think. And now I think it will be great to hear from General Jones, first of all. What are your thoughts on these issues and this strategy?

GEN. JONES: I think you covered it very well, Barry. (Laughter.)

MR. PAVEL: Right.

GEN. JONES: Let’s see. How about those Redskins? (Laughter.) Look, this is – I think first of all, I want to commend the Atlantic Council for taking this on because it’s something that’s very needed in our capital, in our dialogue, on how we deal with a century that is so different from the last one that we all grew up in and how the institutions that grew up in the 20th century can be modified to lean into the 21st century – which announces itself as perhaps not as dangerous in the sense of the threat of a nuclear war in the 20th century with the Soviet Union, but dangerous in other ways, that they make it certainly one of – a century that’s going to be extremely competitive, and I mean that in a broad sense. It’s going to tax our security apparatus. It’s going to tax our economic apparatus. It’s going to tax our – maybe even our cultural apparatus and certainly our political apparatus. And how we adjust to those realities – and largely in a world that we created – I mean, that we helped – we dominated the world for 50 years – actually, most of the century, but certainly the last 50 years – and all those – the creation of key institutions that we’re relied on, institutions like NATO, like the United Nations, and so many others.

And I think that we are entering into a really competitive space where we are – we are in need to do things that bring closer the gap between the public and the private sector, because most of our competitors have that very tight link. And I’m not suggesting that we have to imitate that, but I think that the strategic value that we can bring to the 21st century world – although we’ve used up over a decade already – is the fact that there’s no other country that can bring together the synergy between either whole-of-government or whole-of-society approach to leadership in this changing world.

And you know, I think that applying that concept to tackle security issues, economic development, governance and rule of law, by bringing the public and the private sector together and key NGOs both nationally and internationally, will answer – to the extent that we can do it well – can answer a lot of the challenges that we face. Obviously, you’re not going to have much progress anyway if you don’t have security. But I believe that by acting proactively and in advance of a new Afghanistan or a new Iraq somewhere, we might just be able to help key nations in the developing world bridge that gap.

And it’s not just about military advice, although that might be important in key places. But it’s – to give you a sense of an item that I think is very much a national security concern – energy is a national security concern. And it ought to be dealt much more strategically; I’m honored to participate in a couple of groups that are trying to suggest ways in which we might have some reforms along those areas to bring energy to a strategic – to its proper strategic role. It’s potentially a very good issue for the United States, or for North America really, if we do it right. It’s a way in which the public and the private sector can work together to have the right policy and then the right market forces that kind of determine winners and losers across the whole energy spectrum. But it’s something that could materially change a lot of our economic difficulties, labor difficulties, if we do it right.

And so in my view, what’s changed the most in the last three or four years – and coming from the National Security Council, working with both Steve and Jim – has been how much the spectrum of national security has widened. And we have to deal with that spectrum or we have to do the things we have to do to be able to do that. And I think one of the key – one of the key things is the extent to which people can think more strategically, like an Atlantic Council, and the government is – sees that as a great asset, not as a meddling – not as something that’s an irritant but something that’s a great asset because, you know, very frankly, whether you’re in the State Department or just senior level, or in the National Security Council, even though you’d like to have time to think strategically you really are spending a lot of time reacting to the world that goes on. Every now and then, you’re able to kind of sit back and maybe, you know, think strategically a little bit. But you need something like this to keep us on a proper course, and I think this document is going to be very helpful.

MR. PAVEL: Sir, if I could just return to one issue you raised. It’s on a lot of our minds; it was discussed a lot during the breaks. And that is energy. I mean, looking at the trends, the U.S. much less dependent – particularly on Middle East energy, China, and Asia broadly. I think China becomes the top destination for Middle East oil by 2015. They’ll start to care more about energy flows from the Middle East.

How does this revolution that’s going on in the energy field change geopolitics? What should we be thinking about, and what are the implications?

GEN. JONES: Well, I mean, it’s already having its impact, even though it’s not completely well defined, and we haven’t done some of the internal things that we probably need to do in our own self-interest But I just came back from the Middle East, you know, a couple of weeks ago. And I was really surprised by the conversation that I was hearing among my Arab friends about, you know, what are the implications of this pivot towards Asia for us – us, the Gulf. And they take it a little bit differently than we intended it.

I mean, they take it that a pivot towards Asia means you’re pivoting away from somebody else. So the Middle East thinks they’re pivoting away from the Middle East; the Africans think we’re pivoting away from them; the Europeans think we’re pivoting away from them. The truth is that that wasn’t the intention. And so it was maybe a poor choice of words, but it is a little bit what the impact is in terms of their thinking.

And to that point – your second point, that surprised me, is the degree to which our Arab friends are talking about – talking amongst themselves about the fact that the oil-for-security bond that has existed for these last four decades or more between us and the Arab world is maybe not as important to us anymore, and that because of our yet-to-be developed energy wealth that we’re not attaching the same premium. And that has them very worried because, yes, the market is going to shift towards China very rapidly. But it’s the other bonds that they’re worried about. And of course, they live in a dangerous neighborhood, with Iran, with Syria and the so-called Arab spring and everything else. So already – the energy factor has already factored into their thinking about the future.

As far as we’re concerned – I mean, I really believe the energy future is bright for North America. I think – I don’t particularly like the term “energy independence” because that’s to me an isolationist term, but there’s nothing wrong with pursuing energy sufficiency. And I think if we do that well and we have a strategic rebalancing – I think the president needs a single point of contact in his Cabinet that is the energy czar, if you will, but not the czar, but the – who’s responsible for energy, like the secretary of state is responsible for foreign policy, the secretary of defense for defense. The secretary of energy ought to have the whole – in my view, the whole portfolio of energy and ought to manage the stakeholders that we get to a point where we have a strategic QDR for energy, we have, you know, the analytical work that goes up, we have a strategic policy that allowed the marketplace then to compete and determine, you know, what’s the best – what’s the best way for us.

So it’s a tremendous moment in time, I think – both of historical significant, certainly economic significance, and jobs and new technologies and industry. And we should take advantage of that.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you.

Steve, what are your thoughts broadly on the strategy and on how the U.S. should handle this very complex world that’s coming?

STEPHEN HADLEY: Very much in line with Jim’s comments, I think people rightly appreciated what the NIC has done in trying to describe the world we’ll face in 2030.

I think equally important is that the Atlantic Council didn’t stop there, and they took that – well, if this is the world as it will look in 2030, then what kind of strategy we’ll achieve and maximize U.S. interests between now and then? That’s a question that many times does not get asked. And I applaud the Atlantic Council and Bob Manning and others for trying to write a first draft of what that strategy ought to be.

Now, “strategy” is a term that gets thrown around a lot. And in my first couple of decades in Washington I really didn’t understand what it meant. And I’m not sure – and a lot of people would say – it’s clear that I still don’t understand what it means. But I understand it to be setting out what your objectives are in the – and then what is the way to achieve your objectives, to get from here to there in the complex environment in which you find yourself. So in some sense it’s systematized common sense. But it is a way of thinking. And as I say to people, it’s not a destination, it’s a journey. And it sharpens your insights, will help you make better policy decisions. And I think that that may be the biggest contribution of this latest cycle of the Atlantic Council work.

And I know – I think Fred suggested the other day that there’s an effort to have a dialogue with other countries, not just the Chinese but others, Europeans as well, about “Global Trends 2030:” What will the world look like? I think it would be important to have a parallel dialogue with other centers, countries on what is the strategy for achieving common objectives if the world is going to look like that in 2030. And not just other countries – you know, Singapore, China, Turkey, I think, Brazil – but a dialogue – since we now know that non-state actors are going to play big time in this world in 2030, sitting down with some global corporations and talk about how they view 2030 and how they do their strategic plans for operating in that world, with some of the major NGOs and charitable foundations that now are playing in this global world.

So I think there is enormous potential for the Atlantic Council, working with the NIC, to continue this developing a view of the world of 2030 but also starting a companion process to help provoke creative thinking about how we’re going to develop a strategy to achieve our objectives in this very different world.

Two things to say about that, and then over to Jim. One is – I think you know there’s a tendency to read that document and everybody comes away with a long face. You know, there’s so many challenges, it’s so hard, it’s going to be so difficult. And it is. But you know, what every challenge, there’s an opportunity. A lot of people have talked about the explosion of individual empowerment through social media and the like. Well, that’s a problem and it’s a challenge to many governments, but it’s also a very good thing because it means people have the means now to start taking control of their own future. Chuck Hagel talked about despair in the Middle East and how despair is so disabling. Well, you know, individual empowerment is an antidote to despair if people see a route to take control of the shaping their own future. So this can be very disruptive, but it can also be very positive.

The entry of non-state actors, whether they be NGOs or global corporations or the like, on the world scene – again, does it make it more complicated? Absolutely. But it is a real opportunity of having other actors who can work with us in a coordinated way to solve global problems, which gets me to the last point, which was raised rightly in this – in this forum.

And that is – and Jim hinted to it earlier – we have a 20th century set of institutions and procedures, called the interagency process, to develop policy, make decisions and then implement policies. I think it is not going to be well-suited to the challenges we face in the 21st century: The multiplicity of issues we face, the pace at which things change, the fact that there are new actors that never show up at the interagency meetings in the White House. And so one of the important things that I hope the Atlantic Council will be moving from the world to the strategy is to the institutions: How do we get organized as a government and as a society for succeeding in achieving our strategic objectives in this very different world? And if we can think through some of these things, and demonstrate that you can develop thoughtful strategies to deal with this new world, I think it could be a little bit of a prototype for where the U.S. government needs to go in the decade ahead.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you, Steve. Jim?

JAMES STEINBERG: Thanks, Barry. And like Jim and Steve, I think in addition to all the really very good insights in this document perhaps the single most important part is stimulating the debate about these issues, which I think is really critical. You know, we have our presidential campaigns – they rarely talk about these kinds of challenges, and they talk about a few specific issues on foreign policy and national security, but not grand strategy or the big questions.

And both the NIC and the Atlantic Council have made important contributions in their own way, having been involved with this NIC enterprise for all of its iterations and various forms over the years. I do think this is really important. It’s important internally for these discussions to take place, for the intelligence community and the people involved in analysis in government to go through these questions and to try to think apart from the day-to-day need to meet the needs of operations, to think about these big questions – but then again, if you have that complemented by a study. The other thing that I think is important beyond the specifics and many good ideas in this is something that you stress, Barry, which is the incredibly dynamic nature of the environment that we’re facing.

You know, there’s a tremendous appetite – and I see this especially now that I’m back in the university – for finding kind of fixed-ordered paradigms to deal with international relations. We went from the Concert of Europe to the Pax Britannica to the hopeful League of Nations to, you know, the bipolar competition to the unipolar world, and somehow this notion that we can find the next iteration of a stable order of international relations in which things will be taken care of and it kind of provides a single framework to deal with problems.

And I don’t think that’s going to happen, for all the reasons that both and NIC and you have identified. I think it – we talk about the pace of change, but it really is the multidimensionality of change that makes it very difficult to foresee a situation where you have a long period of stability, even a relatively long period of stability, like the Cold War, that orders us. So we need to find ways to manage dynamically, to – but then, the risk there is when you’re managing dynamically to be only tactical. So how do you manage a dynamic environment where you don’t have a fixed plateau to aim for, but you also have to have some broad concepts about how you meet your basic national security needs.

And I think that’s where there insights here are most useful, to sort of think – what are the lodestars and the fixed poles that you will need to look at as you manage this dynamic environment?

We’re not going to have a G2. We’re not going to have a G5 that settles all these problems. It’s going to be flexible arrangements, different things in both sometimes states, sometimes non-state actors. And that ability to be both strategic and flexible I think is really critical. This goes back to Steve’s point about organization. That means that you need to find ways to deal, not with just a restructuring of government that gives you different set of boxes for the next round but one that doesn’t have boxes anymore, that is able to be dynamic and fluid, and yet have this sense of strategic direction.

And I think that really is – it’s intellectually a very difficult challenge to imagine that world. But I do think that when we bring in different kinds of strategists who think about the world from different perspectives – you know, you’ve been out to Silicon Valley. Nobody there is thinking about, you know, the 2.0 that’s going to be 2.0 forever. There’s always a 3.0 and a 4.0 and a 5.0. How do you innovate? How do you create the ability to be flexible and imaginative but also to see over the horizon? The geniuses come when you can do that. And I think it is a challenge for us, and it’s a great preoccupation of mine – I’ll do my own little pitch here – not only how does government do this, but how do we prepare the next generation of young people to be the thinkers to operate in that system, and how do we adapt our ways of preparing young participants not just in government, although it’s an important part, but in NGOs, in international organizations and the private sector to be able to operate strategically in that very dynamic environment.

So I think this document is really an invitation that we’re all preoccupied with “Lincoln.” But you know, we do need to think anew, right? And that is the challenge here, which is a very different way of thinking about the business of strategy than we’ve seen it in the past.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you very much, Jim and Steve and General Jones, for some very insightful comments. I’m going to ask two questions. The first question I’m not going to ask you to answer right away, but I think it should be something we think about, and that is we’ve just heard from Jim Steinberg there is no one overarching sort of image or framework. This is going to be a messy, unstable, dynamic situation for a long time. But if you were in the Oval Office and you had to tell the president, what do you call this era, I think we should try to come up with some sort of label. Maybe it’s an era of complexity or dynamism. But anyway, I think that’s an interesting – even though I don’t think that’s the strategy, what do you call this era we’re in except for the post-something or the pre-something? We know what it’s not, but what is it? That’s sort of the question that you don’t – I’m not asking to give the answer right away, but if people could think about that.

The question I do have is in light of all of these challenges – some of them extremely complex, some of them less so – are there just some problems out there in the world in any of these areas that we should just try to manage as opposed to solve? And are there others that we really need to get a handle on, or we’re going to be in really bad shape? I mean, we can’t say that all 20 issues we discussed here are at the top of the list. So what are the ones we just have to sort of – my brother’s a dentist, and so when it’s not quite a cavity, he says, I’m going to put a watch on that. I’m not going to drill it right now.

So what are the problems we just want to watch – (laughter) – and what are the real cavities that we have to drill? So what are the – (laughter) – maybe I shouldn’t mix my metaphors. What are the problems that can only be managed? And I have a couple – and what are the problems that we really need to solve, that if they go bad, then we’ll be in trouble?

MR. HADLEY: I think the plate spinner analogy that was attributed to General Jones that Fred Kempe talked about yesterday.

MR. : Don’t forget the burners on the oven.

MR. HADLEY: Yeah. That’s mine. You know, the challenge for the modern post-Cold War national security advisor is, you know, there are a lot of things, and you in some sense don’t have the luxury to choose, because if they blow up they will get your attention. The problem, of course, is there are so many crises to manage, that if all you do is manage crises, all you will have is more crises because you will not have put in place the policies to shape the future to avoid crises. Now, that is not to say that there are priorities.

So one of the ways to ask that question is to say: So what are the big issues that the president of the United States really needs to pay attention to? And I’ll give you my list, and it comes out of some of the work here.

One is the problem of the debt, and the deficit, and getting growth going, which is not just our biggest domestic problem. It’s our biggest national security and foreign policy priority for the reason that we’ve talked about here. So that’s number one.

I would say the second problem is the Middle East, which in my view is about to melt down into sectarian war and – largely coming out of Syria – this is before you get to Iran – destabilizing Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, and making a big mess. And that has implications for all countries. So you know, we’ve got to get engaged in the Middle East.

And then third is managing Asia, which is where the major global economic growth is projected to come over the next decade. We need to participate in that growth. We need to participate in the shaping of Asia and to help manage this problem of the emergence of China. So that would be sort of my three on the top of the list that the president needs to pay attention to.

And then the fourth one I would say – and I really come back to this issue, and Leon Firth, who’s in the audience, has worked on this – you know, we’ve got to renovate how we do business. You know, we just – you know, Don Rumsfeld once said to me, pulled me aside in sort of the middle of Iraq and Afghanistan and everything else and he said, you know, I am worried about our capacity, you know. You know, we have one more crisis; we don’t have the bandwidth to handle it. And I think our interagency process is sort of – has been out of bandwidth for some time. And I think we’ve really got to pay some attention to that and renovate the system.

MR. STEINBERG: I agree with – especially with Steve’s first, because I think – you know, we’ve already forgotten it was only four years ago, three years ago, that near calamity that we were facing with the possible meltdown of the global financial system, and the consequences of this. When we were doing – preparing the transition for President Obama, this was by far the most – because it just ripples through everything. And however difficult all these issues are, the ability to manage them, solve a few is a lot easier in a context where there’s largely global economic growth, where people have optimistic views about the future, who see a future that they want to – but we’ve seen what happened in the ’30s, and we could imagine a situation – and we’ve seen how potentially fragile the global trade and investment system is. And we’ve made some progress on that, but I don’t think anybody can come, and sit here today, and say that we can be confident of this. And I think the NIC quite rightly points out how both important on the positive side that is and the potential benefit of seeing so many people lifted out of poverty and having a stake in the system – and the converse, which is the dangers if that falls apart.

And there are many, many threats to it. We have our own. There are problems in China. There are problems in the global trading system. We have problems in our financial system. So if I had to pick one that has to be worked on and has to not lose that sense of urgency that was felt in 2008-2009, it’s that.

The second – and it’s a familiar one, but I think you can never give it enough emphasis – is this danger of the possibility of highly destructive technologies in the hands of people badly motivated. And there are many of them. And if I could say only one thing that I think doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the studies, it’s bio. And the danger of biological weapons, whatever you want to call it, pathogens, engineered materials, or deliberate spreading, I think we have not begun to think hard enough about this. It is a hugely difficult problem. It’s not as easy as nuclear weapons. You don’t have big stocks of fissile material. But we were still trapped in what do you do with the biological weapons convention, like – this would be something that has to be managed. There is no single silver bullet. But I – whenever you do these simulations in classes and things like that and you really want to get some really very plausible but scary scenarios going, and the government looks at them in terms of managing. And bio is a very, very important issue.

And I do think we need a lot of fresh thinking about what the responsibility is of governments, the private sectors and others to at least put this at the kind of urgency it deserves, because it is the one that I feel we have the least capability of dealing with if we haven’t gotten ahead of it.

GEN. JONES: Well, I don’t disagree with anything that’s been said or the priorities here. I just think that unless and until we get our economic house in order, you know, we really probably shouldn’t worry too about this discussion because you’re not going to be able to do a lot of this stuff.

I mean – you know, we’re – you know, that’s just reality. I mean – and there are a lot of people around the world talking about American decline. And we tend to kind of blow it off because we’ve heard it before.

I remember my first experience with American decline was Sputnik. And I was a teenager. And I remember – even though I was living overseas when I read the International Herald Tribune and realized as a teenager that the Soviet Union had actually beaten us to space. And there were people all over the world saying, that’s it. You know, American decline. And every decade there’s been some other reason to justify that. And this never happened, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And fundamental to our supremacy or our role in the world is our basic internal, you know, stability, economically that drives everything. And so I completely agree with Steve that we are in serious danger of not being able to do the things that Jim and Steve talked about and that I share, that we absolutely need to do to be a consequential nation in 2030 or 2050.

And it’s not going to happen overnight. But – you know, one of my favorite sayings is that when a nation cannot bring itself to do those things that it knows deep down that it must do for its own good and you can’t do it, you’re in decline. You’ve definitely taken that step. And so I worry more about our internal drive, and desire, and organization to be able to do all of the things that I think my two colleagues here highlighted, which I completely agree with. I would add that somewhere in this mix there’s some basic structural reforms that we have to do, but this is a smaller world that’s spinning much more rapidly. Information is flowing, the social networks are flowing.

I mean, just in the time that Steve was national security advisor and I was, my successor is handling much more work than I did in my first two years. I mean, there’s just much more going on. And so you can joke about, well, we need two national security advisors because you have round the clock – you know, round the clock activity so you need two – we need a 24-hour National Security Council or – you know, you need 24-hour focus. The point is that you need some structural reforms to be able to handle the world as it is, not as we wish it were or as it was, because it’s different.

I think that one of the great gifts of the 20th century was these – what I call unified commands, what Don Rumsfeld likes to call combatant commands, which is why we have AFRICOM in Germany for the most part. (Laughter.) But these are gifts. These are gifts. I mean, these – the ability to have a nation to have so many – let’s call them, unified commands in different geographical parts of the world, should give rise to the questions, how can we better use those to apply a whole-of-government regional context that would be able to react in real time?

If they’re in the right place, they’re in the same time zone, they are connected to – you know, several countries, many countries, and they can do an awful lot of the day-to-day activity of managing geographical challenges if they’re properly constructed. We have Mary Yates sitting here in the second row who was the first deputy commander of a unified command called AFRICOM.

And the idea for that was to put a senior State Department official, who has a lot of experience in Africa, you know, as number two – I would say probably co-equal number one because if you take a regional – one of the lessons I learned in life around the world is that if you take a regional approach to solving problems, you’re better off than trying to manage each individual country through a – (inaudible) – from Washington. But you have to empower those things. So there’s going to have to be a lot of empowerment to do the right thing and you’re going to have to enable people to go out there and tackle these serious problems.

And I don’t know what we ignore, to be honest with you. I don’t know. We certainly can’t ignore Europe because that’s our foundational relationship. The trans-Atlantic link is extremely important. Africa, my view is that – certainly China’s dominant economically, but don’t kid yourself. By 2050, China will be an old country in terms of demographics and age. Africa – over half the people in the world will live in Africa, that are young people, that are coming up. And that’s a reality that we have to face. Our own hemisphere that we ignore routinely to our peril needs attention. And I believe that organizations like those remodeled, re-empowered, unified commands that wouldn’t be just military, but would have a security component and economic component and governance, rule of law, and even NGOs, could be those crucibles that properly reformed could address regional problems in a way that you can’t manage it from Washington.

MR. HADLEY: Barry, can I add one thing? It picks up on General Jones’ point about it’s hard to know what to ignore, and that’s Europe. You know, it doesn’t show up on my list. It doesn’t show up on most people’s list. And I thought even in this very good Atlantic Council report that talked about options for Europe – and it was as if, you know, we were in a movie watching it unfold on the screen. And these were three options of which the Europeans are going to sort it out.

You know, it’s very interesting how things have changed. The European project used to be an American project that we were doing with Europe. And there was real U.S. leadership and support for building a Europe out of the post-World War II. Now, Europe is in probably the biggest crisis it’s been in. It’s critical to the reforming and stabilizing the international financial and economic system. And, you know, it hardly shows up in our debate in terms of, you know, how is this going to come out and what can we do to assist and help.

Now, part of that is the rise of the E.U. and European sensitivities and is there a problem, but it is – it deserves more attention because for all the reasons about how it can undermine the international system, but also, first and foremost, we need partners who share our values that help, can deal with this world of global 2030. And they are the prime candidate and they are on the sidelines.

And even Europeans I talked to now don’t talk about, well, we’re having trouble but we’ll return to help you manage the world. They basically say, hey, we’re done. You know, we’re not a global leader. The ones I’ve been talking to, the Europeans say, we don’t have the aspiration to be a global leader. That’s your problem. We’re just working with our problems at home. Well, you know, the problems of the world I think will not be solved without the United States and China. I also don’t think they will be solved without the participation of Europe. And I think we’re losing sight of that.

GEN. JONES: I agree. I think, for example, an organization like NATO could play a significant role in how we manage the future in different parts of pre-conflict, proactive engagement type thing.

MR. STEINBERG: This is – you know, it gets to one of the ultimate conundrums here, which is that it’s all well and good to have strategy, but you also have to – need leaders with vision. And that’s the hardest thing for the Atlantic Council to have a piece of paper to tell you how do it, right? And we lamented without getting into names the sort of sense that part of the problem in Europe today is a feeling that there aren’t leaders with vision who can see beyond the managing the crisis.

And it’s obviously a critical crisis. But you know, to think about the kind of strong vision that during the founding period after World War II that the leaders had, who could see that they were making choices not about dealing just with the immediate aftermath of World War II but really creating a Pax Europa that would both lead to economic recovery and a better, more effective Europe. And that’s I think a challenge. And I don’t know that we know the answer other than to identify it, because this comes out of the whole question about how do political institutions work in Europe, here and in elsewhere, and do they produce the kind of individuals? So you could have a great strategic blueprint, but, in the end, it requires leaders who can articulate that blueprint and motivate publics to follow that.

So it’s a necessary but nonsufficient condition to have the good ideas. You have to have the people who can translate those ideas through leadership into action. And I think that’s the – as much as the fiscal deficit we have now, that is a huge deficit that we’re facing.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you. Steve, as usual, you had the answer before I had the question, but my next question was going to be on Europe. This is the Atlantic Council. Let me sort of make two variations of it and then we’ll turn to the audience, with a particular premium on those whom we haven’t heard from before. This is your chance.

But on Europe, how do we think this is going to come out? It seems like Europe will be different no matter what, or do we think there will be a return to a status quo ante after this crisis is over? The NIC report talks about sort of an even optimistic scenario where Europe recovers after quite a number of years to its former strength. Where do we think this is headed? They’re our critical partner. They’re the ones we share the longest standing values with, the ones who we do all of the work in the world with. Where do we think this is going?

MR. HADLEY: I think the bottom – the answer is, we don’t know. The Europeans – you know, they catch us – there’s a big announcement, they’ve reached agreement on banking reform and then – but it won’t happen until the end of the year, and it won’t happen until these three things happen first. And, you know, we’re always – it’s sort of a real roller-coaster. The European friends I have say, well, if you look over the last five to seven years, we’re making progress. They are, but it is – you know, we talked about how dynamic the world is and how fast things are changing. And, you know, Europe is moving at a snail’s pace. But I think the risks – and probably, you know, you would have to say, if you’re handicapping it, it’s probably better than even that they will sort it out. But there are risks that it’s derailed.

And I was talking just today with the ambassador of a small European country looking – talking, getting his perspective. And, you know, this whole issue of Britain in or out, which is really emerging, and the question of what Europe looks like if a Britain opts out. The increased tension between Germany and France – you know, it was the German-French bond that really drove the European project. That is really frail.

So I think we do not know. I think there are risks that it could fall apart. And that’s why I think we need to be much more active behind the scenes probably in trying to see if we can help get a good result because it affects us.

GEN. JONES: I’m not optimistic. I – you know, I think that – you know, the last French election showed – it was an election where probably most clear-thinking people knew what they should have done and they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. It’s a classic example of I think a country knowing that it needs to do certain things but being unwilling to do it because, you know, the dependence on the government – (inaudible) – philosophy of economic security for its people. And I think that it’s – I think Europe’s still adrift a little bit. The day will come when the Germans are tired of, you know, being the bankroll of the European – different European countries that may show no intent to reform themselves, because they can’t.

And then I think the whole thing could become unraveled. I hope not. And I hope – as Steve says, I hope we stay engaged and we do everything we can because that’s a critical relationship. But they are – I’m not sure that the – it may be – as Steve said, it may be that, you know, they might do that. The betting might be that maybe a little bit more for than against. It’s close to 50-50, I think.

MR. STEINBERG: I think it’s obviously right to be cautious, but I also think a little bit like American decline isn’t – we’ve seen periods of Euro pessimism before, you know, the breakdown of the European Exchange mechanism, and the like.

And, I mean, I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but I also think that there may be more resilience than we think, in part because I do think that there is an awareness in Europe about the consequences of failure. And, you know, it has been halting. And every time – you know, it’s sort of – there’s been a need for something to try to keep it together. It’s come forward – again, there’s a leadership challenge here, but I think we should just be cautious given the past history of crisis within Europe to just assume that this one is insurmountable.

And I hope, because of the stakes, for all the reasons that Jim and Steve said, because we do have a huge stake. There’s a limit to how much we can help sort out the political problems, but I think it’s critically important, first of all, that we’re seen as wishing this project well. I think it’s indisputably in the United States’ interest for Europe to succeed. And to the extent that we can make that clear, I do think that helps those who are trying to make it work.

MR. PAVEL: Great. Thank you. Now let’s turn to questions from the audience, especially those we haven’t heard from yet. I see a hand in the far back. I can’t see the face, so you get the question anyway.

Q: Hi there. Thank you guys for coming out and speaking today. So my question deals with – dealing with the emergence of China. General Jones, you’ve talked a lot about NATO. How do we continue a system like NATO where we make sure everyone pays their fair share, when only five of the member states have contributed their 2 percent of GDP last year? And one of those was Greece.

You know, how do we look at managing China in a world if we look at – you know, something like a NATO of the Pacific, how do we make sure everyone pays their fair share to manage the emergence of China?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think there are some systemic problems in the alliance, and certainly the economic piece is one of them. But, you know, I think there needs to be more reform in the alliance in terms of how it manages the money that it does have.

For example, 50 percent of NATO’s operational budget goes toward managing the AWACS fleet. It’s an aging fleet. It needs to be upgraded. I hope that the alliance comes in, and says, you know what? We don’t need to do this. We can find other – there’s other technologies now that are cheaper and just as useful instead of, you know, flying these Boeing 707s around with, you know, really useful but not terribly important technology for the alliance. Fifty percent of the operational budget goes towards the maintenance of that fleet of airplanes. So you could do some things in NATO that would immediately be impacting in terms of – in terms of the money that it does have.

I think that NATO needs to – at least while I was there, there were a lot of countries around the world that wanted no – didn’t want to be members of NATO, but they wanted to have an operational relationship, countries like Australia, like Japan, Korea, and others, Russia perhaps. And I think that we should take the partnership program and divide it up into two sections.

One is the membership track, and that ought to be separate and distinct, and we ought to raise the bar for membership to NATO to a point where anybody who comes into NATO brings value not problems to NATO. So in that – you can define that.

And the second one is that anybody who wants an interoperability relationship, how do we work together, how do we get common tactics that can make some procedures, that’s a separate group. And that group could be expanded.

I don’t know that I see NATO, you know, in the China role, but I do see NATO very useful in the Middle East, very useful in Africa. And that would be – a good place to start would be kind of that backyard.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you. Boico Noia (ph), from the third row here.

GEN. JONES (?): From Bulgaria.

Q: Thank you. Yeah. I’m one of the few privileged Europeans to be here tonight. And thank you very much for the nice discussion. And, actually, I have a comment.

GEN. JONES: Boico, can you – yeah –

Q: I have a comment and a recommendation. The comment is that the crisis in Europe is deeply structural. It’s fundamental. It will not go away. I think – and it’s not only my opinion that the majority of European leaders are now expecting that things will go by themselves, they will be resolved just like that. It will not. And many people do not believe that something bad can happen. It will happen, whether it will be Europe on two speeds, on three speeds, whether it will be a different European Union, we don’t know. This remains a big variable. And it will affect the alliance. It will affect NATO as well. And I think that – but it’s a different story that – and somebody said that yesterday, that probably we have a future for this idea of coalitions of the willing within the alliance, within NATO – the United States and willing allies taking up not necessarily military operations but those with political ideas. So we have to think about.

And my recommendation for the authors of both reports is that these are both global trends and U.S. leadership – the Atlantic Council paper. These are highly sophisticated intellectual products. And to make them accessible to the public and to make them accessible for the political elites, that has to be a second effort or a different effort. So my recommendation to Fred and to Matt Burrows is to try to convey the messages in Brussels, and elsewhere in Europe, and it could be another opportunity to speak about these important issues also in Europe.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you very much. Yes. In the front, and then I have a line of others that I’ve seen.

Q: Thanks. I’m Garrett Mitchell and I write “The Mitchell Report.” And I want to make two observations. One is responding to your question about how to describe this new place we’re in. And I keep looking at U.S. leadership in the post-Western world, and I think about Annette Heuser’s observation about it shouldn’t be post-Western. It should be Western-plus. The more I listen throughout these two days, and particularly to this panel, I’m struck by the fact that geography is the wrong place to start. So for what it’s worth, I’m going to suggest that it ought to be U.S. leadership in a protean world. And I’m struck by the fact that when Malcolm Gladwell was doing the tipping point, he studied the virus to understand tipping points. And I have the feeling that there are models there. That’s number one.

Number two, whenever I leave a sessions like this, not that there are all that many that are this good, but as Jim Steinberg and others know, my beat is think tanks and places like this. And I leave a session like this where there has been so much phenomenal analogy, and information, and insight that’s being shared, and I think about the fact that it goes so few places.

And I haven’t the slightest idea how to turn this into a question, except to say to the panel, I would hope that with this in particular and subsequent kinds of analyses that bringing people in from the creative side of the equation – I mean, Jim referenced, you know, the movie “Lincoln” – and thinking about ways to mainstream this so that we are informing and educating and enlightening a larger audience than can fit in this room and rooms like it is my plea, comma, don’t you think, question? (Laughter.)

MR. PAVEL: We all agree. I have a question in the second row. Hans-Christian Hagman.

MR. HADLEY: But it’s worth saying one thing about that which is particularly in Washington. We are way behind in exploiting the potential of new technology to distribute knowledge and insight. And, you know, go to some of the folks out in Silicon Valley if you want to see how it’s done. And it really – you know, there is technology available to do a much better job and to be able to have interactions with people that are completely remote and so you don’t have to travel there anymore.

And we’re – nobody is doing a particularly good job about being imaginative and creative about how to do that, but I’m sure that the Atlantic Council will from here forward. Show us all the way.

GEN. JONES: And to another point, to that, is that we’re pretty good at coming up with good ideas. But the other piece of it is: How do you implement that? And the implementation piece is what we really don’t do really well in the follow-up. I mean, it’s – you know, it’s just – whether it’s, you know, national policy in some areas – and you make a decision and, you know, somebody says three years later, how come – I thought we decided to do that, and it didn’t happen? So you need to have some synchronization, limitation strategy to all of these good things.

MR. HADLEY: And jumping on that point, we have spent in the national security system 40 years developing a process by which we form up options, serve them up to the president, and get decisions. I think our options are two dimensional and pretty bad. But the process more or less works. But taking a policy decision, turning it into an implementation plan that assigns responsibilities to agencies with due dates, that is policed so they perform not as business of usual but with a sense of urgency, and then having metrics to see whether the effects of those actions are producing the results that we wanted when we established the policy.

You know, we get a D-minus for that. I mean, that is wholly unexplored territory. I started doing some of that. Jim did a lot more. There’s a huge amount that needs to be done, and that’s part of the renovation of how we do business that is really required if we’re going to just not have great policies in Washington but actually get effects on the ground that advance our objectives. We’re just not where we need to be.

MR. PAVEL: Good points.

Q: Thank you very much. I’m Hans-Christian Hagman, from the Swedish Prime Minister’s Office. It’s not all gloom and doom in Europe. From the panel here, one almost gets the sense that we just might as well just close the shop down and, you know, put the return next week sign. It’s not quite that bad.

When we look at the flows of investments across the Atlantic, they are still quite substantial. We had the discussion about the free trade agreement, which maybe is a way of getting around this, well bundled together within the West. We have the common values. We have a lot of money invested in each other. And there’s a whole lot of creativity and some good finances as well in some parts of Europe. But yes, Europe is a huge challenge.

I thank very much, General Jones, for your idea on the partnership. I think great diversification is one way to go. The Australians are interested, the Japanese, South Koreans, and so forth, very interesting to partner with.

On the issue of the Middle East, with the U.S. pivot – which maybe should be everybody’s pivot to Asia – that is where the growth is, that is where the trade is. But with a pivot, with the perception of U.S. self-reliance on energy, with the challenges in the Middle East, when it comes to the more structural and difficult issues – infrastructure, health, education, non-investments in R&D, the trade trends, which are pretty bleak when it comes to the Middle East – what is your advice to Europe and what is your advice to the U.S. administration? How should we deal with the Middle East with the pivot at the same time? Thank you, sir.

GEN. JONES (?): OK. There goes the break. (Laughter.)

MR. STEINBERG: I just – I – obviously, we could spend – and you probably have spent hours talking about this –

GEN. JONES: Good question.

MR. STEINBERG: – venturing into a short version of it is perilous. But the one thing I would say is that I would not overestimate the impact of our reduced dependence on Middle East energy for our lack of strategic interest in the region. There are many other reasons.

It’s true that historically it’s played a big role. And, by the way, for reasons others have said, even if we’re not dependent on it, as long as the global energy system depends on it – and we know that for all the talk of this stuff, actually, in many ways, the amount of energy coming out of the Middle East for the globe will increase in the next period of time. So you know, we can’t insulate ourselves even if it technically comes from North America. There are global markets – and increasingly not just in oil but in gas, by the way. So energy will still be a factor. But even if it weren’t, the Middle East will come out and bite us if we don’t deal with it.

I do think that, you know, the word – the P-word is a word that we just probably should put aside. I think we need to be able to do both, and to recognize that we have long-term strategic interest in the Middle East, which are extremely important, and that we have a stake in there. And I do think that this is one in which there needs to be greater U.S. and European engagement. I’ve been troubled by the fact – we are working on it some, but even if you look at the way the Syria problem has unfolded, you don’t see a concerted strategic effort by the U.S. and European partners to have a common policy, a common approach, and to use our common leverage in contrast to Iran, which I think is a success story, where we have done that.

So I think this ought to be at the top of the U.S.-European agenda, and I think we have common interests there. Europe will have an energy stake but also a stake in fundamentalism and all the forces that are taking place there. And that ought to be something that we make as a common project.

MR. PAVEL: Very good, yes. The gentlemen here in the blue tie.

Q: Marc Weiss, from Global Urban Development. First of all, thank you for this thoughtful discussion. And thanks to the Atlantic Council for putting together this excellent meeting and report. So I wanted to – I know that your collective list of the high-priority items necessarily very selective, and I’m sure there are many thing, not unless I wanted to ask about one of them, which is the global environment and challenge of sustainable development.

Because, you know, just in the last six months, we had two major U.N. meetings, the Rio plus 20 in June and the COP 18 that just completed. And it would probably fair to say at best both have achieved very minimal progress.

In fact, just taking the issue of climate change as an example, because, obviously, it’s much broader than that, you know, two decades ago, the goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the world by 20 percent from 1990 levels. In fact, we now know that the emissions have gone up by 20 percent since the 1990s so that’s a 40 percent spread in the wrong direction. So the question I wanted to ask all of you is when, if ever, do you think that sustainability will become a top-tier national security concern?

GEN. JONES: Well, you know, I think it should be – it should be already there in how we factor what we do. And I think that you really can’t have a serious discussion about energy without also talking about climate.

And I think one exciting prospect for the future could be that America could use – United States could use its leadership to galvanize the developed part of the world to help the developing part of the world that is now approaching in its development the fossil fuel burning stages and so on and so forth, the pollution stages, and help them with technologies to skip that generation.

To me, you know, that’s a – almost a – morally the right thing to do, and it’s a big – it’s a man on the moon project. But, you know, if we can’t come to grasp an issue of this magnitude and understand that this ever-shrinking world that we live, which is spinning around faster with more crises, that energy and the use of energy – and I include – you know, if I could, I’d include water and food and things like that is really I think one of the bridges that you can – that can most readily bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots and also, at the same time, defeat radicalism.

MR. HADLEY: And I agree. And picking up on that, there is an opportunity for the Atlantic Council. And I’d put it in this way: I don’t know whether in this world of “Global 2030” you can have a single grand strategy. I expect you can’t. But you’ve got to have strategies that are more ambitious, and comprehensive, and more integrative than just, what is our strategy for water, what is our strategy for energy, what is our strategy for environment.

So you know, the way I would say is – I would have a strategy session that starts from the proposition, global population grow – what – from 7 to 8 billion; middle class it going to grow from 1 to 2 to 3billion at least by 2030. That is going to put pressure on energy, water and food. And they interact. You know, fracking takes – to get the energy takes a lot of water. So what do you do about that? What is your strategy between 2030 – and then the environment is a piece of that.

Well, you know, that’s the kind of thing that Jim Jones and I would love to have written, you know, a document saying, let’s do this kind of strategy long term. And, you know, I couldn’t – you know, you just don’t have the time, you don’t have the focus. But that is something that groups outside of the government, if they will look – you know, be ambitious in trying to take on these hard issues that cut across the stovepipes, can do some very interesting work and build some intellectual capital.

The pieces are around. I think it’s the integration and the strategic focus that is missing. And that’s what we need to start doing. And you know, if the Atlantic Council announces three – launches three or four of those kind of big, crosscutting strategies, and develops something for it, that can help animate the intellectual community. And then share them with the government; that would be a good day’s work. (Laughter.)

MR. STEINBERG: I have a slightly different perspective on this issue having been involved with this since Kyoto. And, you know, I do think this is a case where the best has become the enemy of the good, and that in our search for a global solution to develop, you know, a global regime, Kyoto, in the past – I think that’s an illusion. I think it would be nice. It sounds great from a policy point of view, but we just can’t get from here to there. And that there are a portfolio of things that we can do that would have quite a big impact. I mean, take short-term climate forcers like black carbon. You know, if we really took the black carbon problem seriously, it would have a huge impact. It wouldn’t solve the problems. We have serious problems around methane and the various sources of methane, again, really big short-term impact.

There are things that we can do on the technology side. Jim’s point about the technology cooperation is hugely important, not because it’s – you know, a top-down kind of strategy, but the impact of this, where people can see this as, you know, return on investment which has positive changes.

I think we have to have a portfolio-based strategy of this, in which you hope that the pieces adding up, and recognizing we aren’t going to meet this. This is a challenge, which, as a global challenge, I don’t think – you know, we should stop at 350 parts per million. We’re not going to. We should stop at 450. It’s not clear that we’re going to. But if we start taking seriously now the things where we can get action on, I think you being to get some traction. And then the other part is changing public attitudes, because at the end of the day, the biggest thing that will make a difference is when people internalize these issues in terms of the choices that they’re making. You can do some through policy, through tax incentives and the like, but at the end of the day, it’s also part of public consciousness that this makes a difference in your life.

And so it’s unsatisfying from a public policy school analysis you want carbon taxes, and, you know, global enforcement mechanisms, but I just wouldn’t want that to stand in the way of starting to do the kinds of concrete things we could now to begin to at least chip away at the worst versions of this.

MR. HADLEY: And as often is the case, Jim and I actually are in violent agreement. That’s why I would like a new strategy, and people to sit down and look at it, because one of the conclusions may be that this kind of global solution – I’m with Jim – I don’t think it’s going to get us there. And you’ve got to get people to step back, frame the problem in a broad way, and then start looking at what real options are.

The same thing – you know, I’m going to reach out a little bit. Someone was talking about, well, cyber is a problem, so we need to apply arms control approaches to cyber. Maybe, but maybe not. Have we stepped back? Have we sort of evaluated what arms control got for us, what were its strengths, what were its limitations, then looked at the cyber problem, and asked how analogous is it, does it really make sense to go in that approach? That’s the kind of thing – I think we have in Washington lots of programs that are in some sense everybody’s walking in everybody else’s footprints. They’re doing the same things.

And I think the opportunity for a group like the Atlantic Council, and particularly the Scowcroft Center, is to take a step back in a more strategic approach that can begin to change the national debate. For example, on this issue, if the study proves it out, in the direction Jim was talking, which I think – tend to think is right. But, you know, otherwise, I just think we’ll just keep – you know, we’ll just be digging that trench deeper and deeper.

MR. PAVEL: We have 10 minutes left. I’m going to take three questions. The lady in the back has had her hand up for a long time. And then I’m going to go to Harlan Ullman and Leon Firth. If you can keep your questions relatively brief, that would be wonderful.

Q: Sure, I’ll try. I’m Inna Mattei, and I was – I’m U.S. liaison for Deep Futures, which is – was European Command Strategy. So we do have a Deep Future shop at the European Command. I want to address a challenge, Barry, and actually try to name the age. I think a good name for this age would be the systems age. And the reason I say that is because during these two days, it occurred to me that we were actually discussion a lot of systems. We talked about the climate system, the infrastructure system, the financial system, the governance system, and we also talked about some nefarious systems, such as illicit trafficking, crime, corruption, et cetera.

So why systems are relevant? I think we know from experience that this is an age during which the systems become more crystallized. And we also know that inflexible systems, that they collapse or fail, and that more adaptive systems are more resilient. So maybe another name for this age is actually the adaptive age. If we can think maybe in terms of strategy for systems, and how to grow the right systems and how to dismantle the wrong systems, maybe that could be another approach to strategy. And I hope that you could comment on that. Thank you.

MR. PAVEL: Thanks very much. Harlan Ullman, here in the second row.

Q: Thanks. And I want to reassure Jim Jones that my boat is parked in the reflection pool, but don’t ask me how it got there.

My question really goes back to strategy and aims, and objectives. In a much simpler era, General Marshall could say, if you got the objectives right, you get a lieutenant to write the strategy. World War II, our strategy was simple win in Europe and hold in the Pacific. Eisenhower was told, occupy the continent and destroy the Nazi war machine. And during the Cold War, we’re going to contain and deter the Soviet Union. We could disagree on tactics.

I wondered today if we can in fact set objectives and aims that really make sense, for two reasons. One, many of the objectives and aims are really diaphanous – defeat the war on terror, prevent instability, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – and second, the political system has become so pernicious that if the Republicans say, B, the Democrats are likely to say anything but B, and vice versa. So how do we set realistic aims and objectives in order to get the strategy, or are we going to be left with this combination of diaphanous definitions and a pernicious political system that’s going to make all this really not very useful.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you, Harlan. And in the middle, Leon Firth has had his hand up for a while.

Q: Thanks. This will be a two-sentence question. First, the problem of bandwidth that’s been mentioned is really quite important but unlikely actually to be dealt with because most of the people under the White House roof are interested in specific issues or sets of issues, not in the capacity of the system to manage issues.

And so the question is this: How can we get some renovation into the national security system writ large to increase its bandwidth? Would you suggest the creation of a commission or of a skunk works operation within the administration to look at this? Certainly the transition period is the ideal time to start, I would think.

MR. PAVEL: Thank you. And then there’s a couple more we’ll take after we hear some comments. Any thoughts on naming the age or what are clear objectives or how do we renovate our processes?

GEN. JONES: I like the name. I like the name.

MR. PAVEL: Which name?

GEN. JONES: Systems.

MR. PAVEL: Systems age?

MR. STEINBERG: I would just say to Harlan, I think that a part of it is we have a bit of an illusion about the past strategy, I mean, Congress works that have been done about containment. And one of the things that we recognize is that even when we thought we agreed, and the first person who would have acknowledged it about what containment was it was Kennedy who said we got it all wrong. That wasn’t even what he had in mind.

And so I think that – you know, when we think about objectives, it’s very – you know, you can get at the very high order, which people will agree that the goal is to, you know, sustain American prosperity and our system of government and the like. And it can’t be divorced from what you think the specific challenges to that are, which is why I do think that the work that the NIC has done is important, because you need to think about, you know, given those high-order objectives, what might challenge them. I mean, we have a situation now, which is a relatively positive one for the United States, in which we have relatively prosperous, stable – we have some distinct threats to deal with.

And so the question is, one, how do you sustain the capacity to meet threat of known and unknown? And second, how can you anticipate some of the things that might challenge them? And I think that the debates about strategy are often about what is the threat. I mean, it was the debate after World War II. What was the nature of the Soviet Union and what was the threat. And it got resolved by Kennedy persuading people that it was the nature of Soviet conduct that they were going to be an expansionist power.

We’re having that same debate now about China. So trying to understand strategy in part depends on how we understand the ways in which the system is evolving and how do we shape that system in ways that sustain and protect our interest.

GEN. JONES: I think Harlan’s point is a very good one. And I really worry about our ability to come to some sort of common cause on what the objectives are, because it seems to me that in the last 20 years, what’s really changed in this town is that if one says this is what we’re going to do, the other side immediately, whether it has any merit or not, it says, oh, no, you’re not.

And it used to be the foreign policy and our general strategic trends were – we found common cause with both sides. And I think it’s – we have a crisis in leadership that won’t put aside – at least in my opinion, it won’t put aside partisan differences for the sake of the national good. And that’s very serious.

MR. HADLEY: I’d make two comments, one which will wake people up if you’re asleep. It’s a very dangerous ground for me to talk on, but I will do it anyway. And that is, one thing that helps, you know, get attention in Washington is political insurgencies from the outside. And a lot of people say a lot of bad things about the tea party movement. But I will tell you from my vantage point two things. One, it got people’s attention and it changed the agenda in Washington, and suddenly it was about deficits and debts in a way it had not been before. And secondly, as difficult as the tea party challenge poses for John Boehner, who’s got the hardest job in Washington in many ways, it was also an insurgency conducted within the political system – not outside the political system, against the political system, like the ’60s and ’70s which you and I lived through or what’s happening in Europe in terms of Greece and Spain and the like. So one thing is – you know, when it really gets so bad, and Washington seems out of touch, you know, the American people have a way of sort of taking matters into their own hands.

Secondly – and it has to do with this web of think tanks – you know, the United States has a terrific resource that a lot of countries do not have, which is a community of people that care about these policy issues and work them. And they’re on your academic institutions. They’re in their think tanks, which are relatively new innovation over the last two or three decades really. And you know, there is a process by which ideas get discussed, batted back and forth, they percolate from articles into op-eds, into senatorial and congressional speeches on the floor, into questions that are asked by congressmen and senators of administration witnesses in hearings and they go back and they say, you know, they beat me bloody today about issue X.

So you know, it’s not perfect. A divinely inspired leader who suddenly sees it clearly and can take it to the country is sort of easier, but our system is designed not to depend on that. It is a system that works without it, with the mortal men and women. It doesn’t work perfectly. It takes a long time. And that’s part of the problem, events are moving so fast.

But, you know, there are things that can be done and there are things that groups like the Atlantic Council can do. So do not despair. Do not despair. (Laughter.)

MR. PAVEL: Well, we are unfortunately out of time. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. It has been just a pleasure hearing these views.

I wanted to thank all of you for coming on behalf of Senator Hagel and the president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, Fred Kempe. Thank you for participating in this. This will not be over. We’re on Twitter. We’ll be doing more of these. Please keep joining us. These are really important issues. And please thank you panelists for their interventions today. (Applause.)