DANIEL Y. CHIU: I’m going to do two things as we rearrange the stage very quickly to keep things moving here. One is encourage you all to move to the center. We really want this to be a discussion with all of you about what you took from this particular conference that we have. Fred will be joining us in a second here with Mat Burrows, a millennium fellow, Ashlee Godwin, Kirk Radke, one of our big supporters, and Peter, of course, will draw some threads together for you.
While we’re doing that, I just wanted to remind you to take a look in those cool little folders that we’ve put together for you. You’ll see a couple of things in there that I’d like to draw your attention to. One is just a sheet of paper that talks about a strategy initiative. That strategy initiative is the larger initiative is the larger initiative we’re undertaking here at the Atlantic Council that underpins this particular conference and hopefully future ones that you’ll see over time.
This strategy initiative’s intent is really to get strategy and strategic discussions on the forefront of public discourse, particularly as we head into the – actually, we’re not heading into – we are in the midst of the next presidential campaign. It has a number of lines of effort, to include this Global Strategy Forum, to include a strategy lab that will advance the thinking on a lot of the imagining solution pieces that you’ve heard here, and a strategy paper series that will put out a number of papers on different aspects of strategy and strategic thinking.
The first of those we released just last week. It’s called dynamic stability. You heard it referred to at least a couple of times in this session. I think you heard a lot of its themes really reinforced over and over again in many, many of these discussions, and hopefully you’ll hear a little bit more. That paper is also included in your package. Please take a look at it.
We think it’s important because we think it really emphasizes the need to think differently about world affairs, and not really to just look backward for historic analogies in that area. We encourage you to read it. We encourage you to comment on it. We encourage you to keep in touch with us and keep involved with us as we continue this strategy initiative far beyond just this particular Global Strategy Forum. With that, I think we’re set, over to you, Fred.
FREDERICK KEMPE: Great. Thank you, Dan.
So I like the comment in the last panel that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. And I really want to salute the Scowcroft Center staff and everybody who conceived of this Global Strategy Forum because I think it was a shot worth taking and I think we’re, again, going to try to continue this as we try to innovate and prove to David Rothkopf that the Atlantic Council is not a place of refrigerated meat, which I thought was a really interesting comment.
So you’ve heard a lot about change over the last couple of days, how it will continue to unfold, rapid, somewhat unpredictable pace. I think what we want to do in this panel is draw out what we think are the key takeaways from the last two days, also engage all of you. Anyone who’s been sitting through this believes that it’s a unique moment in human history. Sometimes I wonder whether every moment in human history humans have wanted to think that. So maybe this is just unique in a different way, if that’s not redundant.
But yet, the globalization value change, greater financial integration, exponential advancement of technology, rapid urbanization – these are all new. The global interconnectedness of the internet, I thought that was – with David Rothkopf talking about how we’ve gone from 12 million cellphones in 1990 to 20 billion devices hooked up to the internet now, as the biggest change rather than the Cold War or 9/11, unparalleled innovation, empowering societies, individuals across the globe.
But all these developments, I think we can draw that away from these two days as well, come at a cost. Our societies are more vulnerable to external shocks and crises. Policymakers, business leaders, social leaders all have to account for a proliferation of risks. We’re actually doing some work now on whether risks are growing faster than GDP. It’s a very interesting project. And these risks are areas from terrorism to social inequality, from climate change to data breaches. So you name it, there’s just a lot that can go wrong in this cool war, Peter, that you drew out as a pretty nice term.
So we’re seeing disconnects between how international actors traditionally navigate international relations and how the globalized environment actually works and is changing. So that’s a lot of challenge for our work going ahead, with a very tenuous balance between risks and opportunities. And so we hope that you all go away with some new ideas. And we’ll continue the discussion on these things internally as our work as well.
Let me – I’m gong to go through the four sessions really quickly and give my takeaways. And then I’m going to go straight to the panelists after that, and I’ll introduce them after I’ve gone through my takeaways and then we’ll hear their takeaways and go to the Q&A right away.
So in the first panel, where we had Vijay Kumar and Jamie Metzl and, of course, with the inimitable Peter Schwartz in the chair seat, and just three bullets: We’re unprepared in almost every way for the speed, scale and novelty of tech-driven change. Number two – and these don’t – these are no way comprehensive just some thoughts. We’re entering an era where we’re altering our own evolution as a species, the whole idea of genetic design. And I’m really sort of upset it’s coming late because I always wanted to be a major league pitcher, but I guess I’ll have to wait for my grandchildren rather than myself. We’re reducing – number three, we’re reducing the barriers to entry for advanced technological development use, which will have profoundly good and bad implications.
The second session: Preventing Failures with August Cole and Heather Zichal. The power of narrative is fundamental to all major strategic and policy decisions. ISIS has a narrative. Russia has a narrative. China has a narrative. It seems we lack one at the moment. And we’re being out-narrated. We should encourage people who are good at envisioning narratives, even fictional ones, to participate in policymaking and strategy. And then, finally the gap between what is happening to the Earth right now, climate change and our response, is enormous.
The debate on America’s role in the world – a very lively debate, I think people loved it – Xenia Wickett and Christopher Preble. So there was agreement that the U.S. is the indispensable nation and that the global system has rested on U.S. power, in particular U.S. military power. But there was divergence about whether the U.S. ought to remain the indispensable power.
Chris said: The system – because he was against that notion – the system is unsustainable. It rests on a single point of failure, very interesting point, which is the U.S. itself. And number two, the system will not fall apart of the U.S. helps the world transition away from reliance upon the U.S. and get other actors buying into our norms. And then, three, the American people don’t want to be the indispensable power and support U.S. global security footing forever.
Xenia Wickett, who in the end won the vote of the audience, argued: The U.S. remains indispensable because of its incredible assets and drawing power. It’s not a given that others will step up and lead if the U.S. stops. And I think we’re seeing that, the vacuum being filled by less-benevolent actors and disorder. And then, the U.S. should lead in concert with others and be better partnering in coalitions.
And then the last panel – and I won’t go too much into that since most of you – I think all of you were here. But the whole notion of looking at cities – we want to do much more of that here, because that’s where democracy happens, that’s where economy happens, that’s actually where some of the most innovative leaders coming into national leadership are coming from. And we have to think much more about local to global instead of just global.
David Rothkopf, other than offending all of us at think tanks by calling us refrigerated meat, I think added very much to the conversation by talking about a crisis of strategy in D.C., and actually trying to help us think differently about how we have to go at strategy dramatically differently in a different sort of world where, as I said, you have 20 billion devices set to the internet. So I thought it was a very provocative session and arguments in his place.
And the finally, design thinking, which I thought was a really interesting idea, a way to end the way, where it’s not just doing strategy and coming up with strategies. It’s how do you change the process of getting to strategy and then ending with Einstein, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” So instead of saying, well, we have to have the solution and then work backwards, you actually have to have the process to get to the solution. And I actually like that different way of seeing.
So I’m – that’s all I’m going to say at this point. And I want to go to our panelists. And let me introduce all four of them and then we’ll start. And you know, I don’t want to be too structured here, so if you want to jump in on each other as we go down the line, let’s do that. By now, I don’t think we need to introduce Peter Schwartz. He’s introduced himself to you. And, Peter, I want to thank you. And maybe we can give Peter a round of applause for doing such a wonderful job the last two days. (Applause.) Thanks for your intellectual range and your brainpower applied to this.
Mat Burrows, who serves as the director of our Strategic Foresight Initiative in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. No book author wants you to introduce him without selling his book. (Laughter.) You have to buy “The Future, Declassified.” It’s just a terrific book, really drawing from his experience as counselor to the National Intelligence Council and director of analysis and production staff, doing a lot of the national intelligence estimates coming up to the – coming up to the president, and the principal drafter of the NIC’s quadrennial publication on global trends.
Kirk Radke is a member of the Executive Committee of the Atlantic Council’s Board of Directors, and very much has been our leader in New York of our strategy initiative. A partner at Willkie, Farr & Gallagher in New York City, more than 25 years of experience handling nearly every type of private equity, corporate transaction. Also a great art collector and supporter of the arts, including dance. So a real Renaissance man.
And then finally, one of the newest members of our council community, the Atlantic Council’s Millennium Leadership Program fellow. There were about 800-plus people competing for 21 positions, so we really got the best and the brightest here. And that’s certainly what Ashlee Godwin is. Deputy editor of RUSI Journal, flagship periodical of the Royal United Services Institute. And she’s a Fulbright scholar with an M.A. in war studies from King’s College, London, and degree of modern history from Oxford University.
So, Peter, why don’t you kick us off and we’ll see where you take us.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, like you, I was really struck by the notion of the need for a new narrative. You know, and I was thinking – you know, and you mentioned China. China has the peaceful rise, right? You know, if you say, what’s China’s story? It’s the peaceful rise.
MR. KEMPE: And One Belt, One Road now, which is also the new Silk Road, which is also a pretty interesting narrative.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right. So, you know, they’ve been particularly articulate in that respect. We’ve had government is the problem, right? That was a narrative for the last 40 years, since Ronald Reagan was elected. And that has been a kind of overarching political narrative that has shaped much of U.S. domestic policy. The indispensable nation – another bit of narrative. Powerful idea, now, as we saw this morning, a bit debated.
I think I was really struck by Tom Friedman’s column on Wednesday in which, you know, he makes the argument for the TPP not so much about trade but about U.S. leadership, that if having set in motion this initiative globally – or, in Asia, if it fails because we can’t agree domestically, even if all of our partners have now actually played out the game, that it will be another blow to the U.S. as an indispensable nation. It will clearly demonstrate we’re quite dispensable, thank you. And so I think it’s a very important idea.
Interesting enough, last night – as I mentioned we had a CNAS dinner. And somebody asked a very good question at the dinner. They said: What will shape the future agenda that will surprise the next president in this respect? And I gave it some thought. And it seems to me that something which we have only alluded to here, but I think is a part of that narrative that we need to be thinking about, and how we think about ourselves in that context.
And that was that – if you think about that zone from the Afghan-Pakistan border, all the way around to Nigeria, it is now coming apart. First, every nation in that region is coming apart. The power of central authorities is diminished. It has become a zone of conflict and chaos. And what was isolated conflicts is cascading into a variety – a kind of continuous zone of perpetual conflict. And you know, it is – we uncorked the bottle in some places. We took out Saddam. We took out Gadhafi. And the chaos has now begun to spread.
You know, this is the kind of second-order consequence of the end of the Ottoman Empire, the end of colonialism, the establishment of the framework of political systems and order in that part of the world, which is now gone – been swept away. And I don’t see any way to put it back. I don’t – you know, there’s – I don’t see any institution in the world, any political system – the United Nations, regional entities or the United States – that has the power to actually be able to do anything about that.
So I think part of the narrative that we have to think about is how do we actually act in a world where the biggest threats are the kind of bottoms-up chaos that are not driven by ideology, not driven by, in a sense, global aspirations, not driven by something like the Cold War or even the cool war that David Rothkopf talked about. And I don’t know what it can be in that environment. I don’t know what role we can play – or anyone can play. I mean, does it just become a zone that we wall off and say, all right, you know, this is the – inside that wall it’s chaos and outside we’re just not going to deal with it?
Well, we can’t. These things metastasize. They become waves of immigrants into Europe. They become disease sources in Ebola. They become sources of potential weapons, like in Iran and so on. So, you know, we can’t escape the consequences, but we need to think about what’s the narrative for that next president, because that is the world that they are going to have to deal with, that world of perpetual chaos from Afghanistan to Nigeria.
MR. KEMPE: OK, Peter, that’s terrific. Mat, yeah, sorry.
MATHEW J. BURROWS: Well, I mean, I think we do have a narrative.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Oh, good.
MR. BURROWS: But I think – and the narrative is exceptionalism.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Exceptionalism.
MR. BURROWS: But I think it’s a problem both for ourselves and obviously a problem for others, because if you talk to others exceptionalism means U.S. expects special privileges. We expect –
MR. SCHWARTZ: Everybody to follow us.
MR. BURROWS: Yes. We expect to put down the rules, but we don’t necessarily have to play by them. We expect others to play by them. And what blinds us to it is obviously as Americans we do think our country is exceptional. But it means that we don’t really have to really think about it. Our system is going to prevail. Somehow God is going to deliver it for us. We don’t have to work in this. I mean, this is going back to a Puritan idea of the elect, and we are it. So it’s all been determined, including the system and everything else. We don’t really have to change that much. Others really have to change to get like ourselves.
And I think that’s a problem. I mean, first, as you’ve moving to this polycentric world in which we are going to be the minority. And maybe some of our ideas and maybe our values will prevail in some cases, but in other cases maybe not. And the other thing is that we may have to deal with other countries and civilizations that have very different ideas. And they will have the power actually to make it prevail. I mean, we talk about the internet. What David Rothkopf didn’t talk about is that most of the internet users are not going to be Americans. They’re not going to be using English. And they’re not necessarily sharing our values.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah, I think that’s a huge point. And let me come back to that, because I think a lot of the underlying talk here has been how the U.S. is adapting to this world and – whether exceptional or not. But let me go to Ashlee, what’s your major takeaway? And I must say, when you talk about – this is the reason I like our dynamic stability paper – you talk about what we don’t know is going to happen next, at your CNAS diner. And the World Economic Forum annual conference, January of 2014, no one said the words ISIS, Crimea and Ebola. And the next year, that’s all anyone’s talking about.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Right on.
MR. KEMPE: And so it’s a question of resilience. It’s a question of leader – there are different things. You’re not trying – you have to be ready for this – what’s going to be coming at you. But that’s one of my major takeaways here. But, Ashlee.
ASHLEE GODWIN: Well, actually, I think what Mat was just saying comes back to a really fundamental issue that came up this morning – actually a question from the audience and one of the Millennium Leadership Program members – which is the fundamental nature of power versus leadership. And actually, I think that’s a real tension with the exceptionalism narrative that you have. Do you want to be a leader or the world or do you want power?
And I think that – it came off in the debate this morning, with Chris Preble saying, actually, the American people, they expect their leaders to lead on their behalf, to do good by them. That is not the role of a world leader. So I think that is something that really needs exploring. If America is to retain its leadership in the world that is changing very fast, as you say, is involving more and more people of different religions, moralities and worldviews in the conversation, by nature of the internet and interconnectivity. Actually, that’s something you really need to consider.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Kirk, your major takeaways.
KIRK RADKE: Sure. So my – you know, my major takeaways are similar to the messages that I’ve been pounding into Fred and Barry and others at the Atlantic Council for the last three years. We have no strategy. We have no narrative around a strategy. We have enormous power and capabilities. And I am optimistic that the Atlantic Council and others, if there is a way of approaching this work, can create a strategy. So that’s what I come into this session with.
I couldn’t be happier with this session. I mean, for a first session to have the talent on the stage talking about these issues, talking about problems and some solutions, engaging in a dialogue across technology, science, a little bit of economics, power and other things in all the different parts of the world, over two days where, Fred, I think at the end of that I certainly say, well, I didn’t hear anything that would prevent you from creating a strategy. I didn’t hear anything that would prevent us over the next two years from having a narrative which we can have the staff of the next president understand.
Is there a lot of work? Sure, there’s a lot of work. But work is good. Is there the talent in this room to create the outputs necessary, the fundamental foundational work to create the narrative? Absolutely. And so I – you know, I come away with it more optimistic than I walked in. And I – people who know me know I’m an optimist. So, you know, it was – it was more than what I expected. I expected a lot, and it was more than what I expected.
MR. KEMPE: Well, thank you for that. Yeah, I get the feeling that we’re a very – the creation moment, as we were in 1945. But did people actually know that in 1945? They just went and did it. And then we had 50 percent of global GDP. Now we have 18 percent of global GDP. That – and we have a whole set of other factors that we’ve talked about in the last two days. But in some ways I’m coming away – and I’m getting to Mat and Ashlee on this – with a feeling that we actually have to set a narrative that goes beyond exceptionalism.
That’s a basis of the way Americans think about themselves, but the narrative is what are we going to do? And you know, lacking any other idea right now, mine is sort of we’re going to sustain and redesign the liberal international order so we don’t lose it to less benevolent actors and chaos. And I actually think you can put that into a narrative and you can then be the pivotal power that we were talking about as well yesterday.
But let me go to you, Mat, first. Your specialty is strategic foresight. And your work focuses on evaluating the future. You were brilliant in the 2030 report – Global Trends 2030 – and doing game changers. And maybe some in the audience have read it. But you know, if you were doing the 2035 report right now – in other words, the next one for the next president of the United States, how would your game changers – what would be your three game changers for the coming decade? What are the – and game changers is the nice way of saying we don’t how the hell this factor’s going to turn out, but it’s going to change everything.
MR. BURROWS: Well, I think the big one, and the one I worry about the most, is conflict. So obviously we’ve seen, you know, for some time – and even when we were writing the 2030 report – growing conflict in the Middle East.
But I think that’s taken on a whole new dimension that you could see this huge Sunni-Shia war break out. And obviously we now have also potential for conflict in Europe and potential for major state conflict in a way that we didn’t have before. So that would be – I mean, I think we’re far too complacent because, you know, a lot of us read Steven Pinker and believe that we live in the most peaceful age. And compared to, you know, several millennium ago we do live in a much more peaceful age.
But there is this potential that you could actually go back to major state conflict, both I think with Russia and then there are other states as well. So that’s what we really have to worry about, because the one lesson about conflict, and we’re learning it now – and I think Peter is alluding to it – is these, particularly civil war conflicts, go on, we know, for six to nine years. And even when you have ceasefires in there, they’re very tenuous.
So that – and that is a world, you know, that – it’s going to be impossible to really manage. And I think the biggest mistake I would ascribe to the – or one of the biggest mistakes to this administration is letting Syria fall apart, because here you are going to have a safe haven for a lot of things – terrorism being one of those – including humanitarian disaster. So that’s number one.
The second one, real concern about Europe. You know, economically, but also in a political sense you’re seeing real divisions – north-south, east-west. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the British election next week. Does it mean Britain is on its way out of Europe? You know, these are – you know, we haven’t really – we have talked in the global trends a lot. We got criticized by the EU Commission for actually posing some of these questions very early on about economic viability and stability with their present model. I mean, that is – that’s a big issue for the U.S.
MR. KEMPE: Huge, yeah.
MR. BURROWS: And one of our mistakes, I think, has been to, you know, think that we’re going to pivot to Asia. I mean, that’s where the economic things, that’s where everything is happening, forgetting that, you know, Europe also matters very much.
MR. KEMPE: It’s still the biggest economy – collectively, the biggest economy in the world, and the biggest community of common values, yeah.
MR. BURROWS: And the other big game changer, if there are three, would be the U.S. You know, are we going to get our act together domestically? And there’s this huge problem alluded to earlier that you have a middle class that really feels it’s stagnated, really feels it’s a loser in globalization. And unless we really tackle that issue, we’re not going to get the American public really wanting to play in the indispensable nation, even when it has to – when America has to play that role. And that’s a big problem.
And the other thing is in our systems – I mean, how to institutionalize? It’s fine for the NIC, as Peter was saying, to do these every four years, but there’s no institutional mechanism really, which makes sure that you have that strategic foresight right at the decision-making table when the big decisions are being made, and people talking about the possible unintended consequences. We needed, you know, that person there when the Iraq invasion decision was made.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah. Thank you, Mat. And, you know, thank you for that sneak preview. I hope we’ll get Global Trends 2030 of the Atlantic Council.
Ashlee, I want you to share a perspective with the audience from the Millennium Fellows. As you listen to these discussions, do you see that there is a generational divide between how your colleagues are listening to these and absorbing these? And also, is your generation ready for all this? (Laughter.) I mean, if you look at what’s coming at you, you know, I am just – on the one hand it’s a world of excitement, but it really is – it really is going to be a world unlike any that we’ve ever seen before. And so I’d love to hear your experience of this, how your group was interacting and absorbing all this, but also how you’re all look at the future.
MS. GODWIN: Well, I have to say, from a U.K. perspective, we do feel that the Baby Boomer generation has really screwed us over. (Laughter.) I don’t know if that’s – (inaudible) – but that’s how we feel.
MR. KEMPE: Screwed us over is a technical term. (Laughter.)
MS. GODWIN: That is a technical term, yeah. I can’t, obviously, pretend to represent all of the views of the Millennium Fellows here. I am obviously highly privileged to up here on their behalf. But I think from the discussions we’ve been having over the last few days, there is a sense that we need greater diversity of voices. And actually that is one thing perhaps that the greater interconnectivity can help us do. I think there’s concern about how we capture those and put those into the sort of formal decision-making processes. But I guess that’s why we’ve been convened, to sort of work through some of these issues.
I also think that we are well-placed as a generation to deal with some of the technical issues that are coming our way because we are the last generation to remember life before the mobile and internet, but we have enough of an understanding of how that is truly integrated into life. Now, I watch a two-year old with a tablet and they’re doing things I can’t even – how are they doing that? They’re so intuitive. So that is still a step beyond us, but I think we have a better understanding than, as you say, the senior policy makers who aren’t well-versed in science, technology, even the latest social media trends. So I hope we’re – I hope we’re up to that challenge. Looking around the room, I think we’ve got a good bunch.
MR. KEMPE: Great. Thank you very much for that.
Let me go to the audience after one question for Kirk. I mean, you’re in the business world and very often I get the feeling that, you know, handling private equity, corporate transaction – does this – does the business world just do strategy better than government? And you heard the criticism that we just need more people, as David Rothkopf said, who can manage. Is it that simple? I mean, what can the business world bring into our discussions here to make it all work a little bit better?
MR. RADKE: Yeah, so I think that the – one of the things which bringing more people into this discussion has to include bringing business leaders into the discussion – whether it’s from Silicon Valley or Wall Street or Chicago or Boulder, I don’t care. Whether it’s the U.K. or Munich or China, I don’t care. But you can learn something from the way they think and the way they take action. They are – you know, they live and die on their actions. They live and die on motivating people in their organizations to do a better job everyday, OK?
There’s a bottom line. They compete. They love completion. They love chaos. They don’t shy away from chaos. They don’t shy away from dysfunctional things. They don’t shy away from dislocations and risks. They love it because they see the opportunity – they see an opportunity to capture that opportunity. Conversely, they can also learn a lot from you on how to think about risk in a bigger and broader way.
So can you learn something? Yeah. Can you bring them in and have them as part of the discussion? Yes. Do they do things better? Yes, but not what you do. What you do only you can do. And you have to do it. I think that one of the things which, you know, I hope there’s a sense coming out of this conference is a deadline, is an urgency, is a reason to really do the foundational work and then have a deliverable. And I know that people hate the word deliverable, but actually have a deliverable and get it done. Don’t just sit there. Just get it done. And I think that – you know, they bring that to the table, and I think that’s a good thing. And I’d like to see more of that.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Can I add something to that?
MR. KEMPE: Yes, please.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I think that a big thing that business can learn from government – and I share your view and, you know, business is good at getting things done and the clarity of strategy, of purpose and direction, that we do very well. But one of the things that has evolved I think very dramatically is the role of stakeholders in business, that, you know, basically, you know, leadership thought about two big groups – customers and shareholders.
More and more employees, the communities in which we work, the global environment, geopolitics, all that comes to play in the world of business that has become increasingly profound. And real adept politicians are very adept at managing a great variety of constituencies and stakeholders. And I think that’s one of the places where business has something to learn.
I work very closely with Governor Brown in California. And I’ve watched him mature form an immature leader the first time he was governor, where he blew his governorship and almost nothing worked, to a really remarkable adept politician with a wife who’s sitting in the background doing amazing work that the country doesn’t quite appreciate. She’s the secret to the success and growth of the governor.
But, having said that, watching him be much more adept in managing the great variety of stakeholders, and turning around the eighth-largest economy in the world in a very short amount of time. That’s a lesson for business that I think is actually quite profound. And we take – in our company, and I think more and more business leaders – take that role of stakeholder relations as a much more profound challenge.
MS. GODWIN: Can I just respond to that?
MR. KEMPE: Yes, please.
MS. GODWIN: So a couple of weeks ago I was sent on a week-long project management course, which is completely averse to anything I know. I’m an editor. I work with words, not sort of deliverables and products and all of those things. And listening to the conversation today, it really shocked me. People are talking about fixed strategies, how we need to be more adaptable. Well, a strategy by nature, in business and presumably in government, is adaptable – it has to be. What isn’t is the broad strategic vision.
And I think where the tension comes, where the difficulty comes for government is that people confuse a sort of a rigid or a strong robust strategy with a strong narrative. And if you start to change your strategy how does that play out against the narrative you’ve set up? That’s very confusing. Government by nature has to deal in clear messaging, but actually what goes underneath is much more chaotic and confusing. And I think actually we need to sort of somehow address that tension.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you very much for that.
So let’s go to the audience. I’ve got Harlan, Bob and, please, let’s go in this order. Yeah, please, go first. And, Steve, maybe you’ll tell us the business side of this as well. Thank you.
Q: Fred, first, congratulations on a great success. But it seemed to me one thing I would have liked to have heard more about was historical context. I’ll give you three quick points. Go back and read the history of New York City in 1880, the number-one crisis that was going to destroy the city was horse pollution. They didn’t know where to put the stuff. They didn’t know how to feed them. And this was going to destroy New York City. And go back and take a look. That was obviously overtaken by Henry Ford and others.
Second, as we debate what’s happening with Iran, 1919 the Senate rejected Versailles. And the meddling of the Congress, so forth, is something that has been with us a long time. And, third, we talk about innovative thinking in management, in 1961 Bob McNamara, the Whiz Kid, came in to the Pentagon, put in a system of PPBS that was going to revolutionize everything, it extended the arms race and it got us into Vietnam.
So I would hope in these kinds of thinking about the future and strategy we aren’t so arrogant that we ignore history, because for many of the things we’ve been through them before. Yes, the future is going to be different, but history has many lessons that if we fail to heed them we’re going to repeat them, and not necessarily for the better.
MR. KEMPE: I think that’s a great idea, to have one of the panelists with a couple of top historians as it applies to now.
MR. RADKE: And, Fred, can I –
MR. KEMPE: Yeah.
MR. RADKE: Because Peter said this right from the state, that he talked about how different cultures have a different way of looking at the world and different narrative, which is also – if you’re going to do the historical views, you have to have a discussion which is not just a U.S.-centric historical discussion, to pick up on the culture one as well.
MR. KEMPE: That sounds right. Please, Bob.
Q: Thank you. First of all, terrific conference with some really big and very important ideas. I’d like to follow up on a very significant point that Peter made a few moments ago, and that is about this arc of chaos and instability from Af-Pak to Nigeria, which includes much of the Middle East, much of North Africa.
I go back to his question, how do you address this? It seems to me you reach back in history to Cardinal Richelieu. He made a very interesting point. When Europe was in chaos all around France he said: The country that will do the best and whose ideas will prevail is the country that has the strongest internal cohesion, the strongest society, the strongest economy. He focused on that because he realized it was very difficult to deal with the chaos surrounding France, unless France could avoid chaos and divisions internally.
And what I think – there are a lot of areas we’re not going to be able to do very much with, but the thing that would make it a lot worse is if the areas that we rely on, the strong allies we rely on and other countries that are now stable, also deteriorated. So my view of what we need to do if we can’t address some of these very chaotic issues that Peter has well-described, is to make sure that our fundamental alliances, the countries that have interests that are fundamentally the same as ours, are part of a strong network.
If you can build that, if you can emphasize that, if you can be sure that that doesn’t deteriorate – for instance, Europe doesn’t fall apart, to, you know, describe one of the risks that’s going on – and we have good relations with some of the key allies, then at least there are areas of stability that these unstable countries over a period of time can begin to latch onto little by little, as Eastern Europe did when there was a stable Western Europe. The stable Western Europe was sort of a magnet for countries in Eastern Europe just coming off of communism.
So it strikes me that the importance of the core, the importance of strengthening the core is even more important now than ever before. And if we can’t deal with the periphery and it’s unstable, at least make the core stable, and a desirable magnet for other countries if they do, over a period of time, begin to stabilize and want a stronger set of powers to interact with.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah, I think that’s a good point, particularly since your – two of your three game changers had to do with an unstable core.
Q: Yes. If the core is unstable, the rest of the world is going to be even worse.
MR. KEMPE: Yeah. Do any of your want to comment on that, or should I pick up another – yeah.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I completely agree, Bob. You know, and like Mat, I’m very worried about Europe. You know, the – again, I’d be interested to hear what Carl Bildt has to say, although you may not want to comment on what I’m about to say, so I’ll forgive you if you don’t respond.
But we have a – I’m going to say something that is extremely controversial. The EU was created to prevent war, not to assure the shape of sausages and the content of chocolate. It was to keep the French and the Germans from killing the rest of the continent, as they had done for the previous two centuries. Let’s be clear. That’s what it was – to bind them together, to bind everybody else together in such as a way as to avoid the kind of conflict that destroyed Europe several times over several centuries.
The problem with the euro is it puts Germany in charge. It is the strongest, most financially robust economy in Europe. And the net result of the euro was to essentially put Berlin in charge of the rest of the continent. And unfortunately, that’s what World War II was about. They didn’t want Berlin running the continent, and now they are.
And so finding a way to change the governance structures such that in fact you can manage that distribution of power that is necessary, rather than the concentration of power that has resulted from the creation of the euro in the hands of a very few people in Berlin, that undermines the legitimacy of the system throughout the rest of Europe, I think is an extremely urgent challenge, and that the Germans need to take up to redistribute the power that they have collected as a result of the euro.
MR. KEMPE: Carl, do you want to rebut –
Q: I just –
MR. KEMPE: I figured you did. (Laughter.)
Q: No, I just – well, I disagree with that particular point because, I mean, some of us were around before the euro. Germany is strong today. It happens to be the strongest economy and they have been performing rather well. They are 80 million people. So by those things they are bound to be powerful. I would argue they were, in economic policy terms, far more powerful before the euro, because the D-Mark was dominating. And whenever the Bundesbank did something – the slightest, slightest move by the Bundesbank in Frankfurt had turmoil in the rest of Europe.
So what has been happening with the euro is the fact that the Germans have lost part of their monetary and monetary policy superiority over Europe, and agreed to share that with others. They are still powerful within the system, needless to say, but I do remember the time before. It was nightmarish for everyone else because the dependants upon the successful German economy through fluctuating currencies and the interest rate policy of the Bundesbank was horrendous. So I would argue they are less powerful today, but they are the most powerful in Europe.
MR. KEMPE: So let me pass around and pick up some more comments. There you go, please.
Q: Hi. I would like to pose I guess an alternative narrative that I’ve thought about for a long time, but never thought of it before as a narrative. And in posing it, it does sound different from a lot of the ideas that we have heard in this excellent conference. So it’s not meant to be a critique of the conference as much as a thought experiment. And this is in line with the last two speakers and design thinking.
And the narrative is – and I’m saying this about the U.S., because that’s where I’m from – that this is a world of our making and we have succeeded. And for once if we kind of said, geez, this is what we wanted, a world of countries that are economically viable, even economically competitive, an idea – a world in which a thousand ideas bloom – if we started to think a little bit more positively, would that give us some interesting ideas about how to think about the future?
One of the things that troubles me about the Cold War is we took such a negative view about the role of the U.S. versus the Soviet Union that we spent far too much blood and a lot of treasure on a problem that we might have solved differently had we seen just how far ahead we were. Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for that. Steve Nicandros, CEO of Frontera Resources. Let me just say your narrative picks off of mine, because if it’s a world of our nation and we have succeeded, now let’s prevent it from unraveling is not a bad narrative, so.
Q: Thanks, Fred. I want to commend everyone. It’s really been enjoyable to listen to the last two days. My name is Steve Nicandros. I’m the chairman of Frontera Resources and a member of the Atlantic Council.
And you know, it struck me – my whole career has been in international business. And, Kirk, I really agreed with some of your comments. And what I find fascinating is this disjointedness between those that govern and those that run the economic machine of financing those that govern. And there’s a gap. And how to solve that gap I think is one of the noble objectives of a strategic forum like this, and the work here at the Atlantic Council. But I think if we can figure out how to solve that gap and how to close that gap a lot of things are possible.
And I’ll give you a case in point. When we travel around the world and invest in emerging markets, which is what we do, I see today a huge race for us to beat the regulators in all these countries. I go into Ukraine and I’m rushing through the door trying to make investment simultaneously with armies of regulators from the European Union that are bringing thousands of pages of regulation to a nation that is trying to fight a war, is trying to kill corruption, is trying to do all these – and I can name a lot of countries like that. And before you know it, the sunshine of investment is shielded away and nothing can grow in that environment – or, if it does grow, it grows very slowly.
So I would – I would just ask in terms of comments for your comments on all that. And I wonder, as we look to the future if we don’t learn from the past and apply that to the future, I think – I’m not as optimistic maybe as some because of the way the governance machines of many governments tend to squash private enterprise.
MR. KEMPE: Mat, do you want to jump in on that?
MR. BURROWS: I mean, I think that’s a great idea. And Peter already raised it. I mean, I think, you know, in my talks on global trends, you know, when I would give it to a government audience, particularly in Washington, it’s very much a pessimistic – I mean, they see change. And business audiences actually look on the chaos in a totally positive way, as providing opportunities.
And if we could inject some of that more into government then I think then you’ll also get a little bit beyond the status quo, I mean, everybody trying to recreate the status quo or the status quo ante. I mean, in government, as I mentioned in the book, I mean every other day the – you know, a policymaker would say, oh, I’m so nostalgic for the Cold War because it was, you know, a simpler world, in some ways, in a conceptual way. And you didn’t deal with this chaos. And they didn’t have to work really to see the opportunities, to really recreate a world.
MR. KEMPE: So we have a few minutes. Let me – let’s see what questions we have left. We have here, here, here. So why don’t I take – and four and Bob. So let me take these last four comments and then we’ll wrap up. And if you – there we go.
Q: Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: Sure.
Q: I wanted to raise a question – Jill Schuker – I wanted to raise a question to you, Ashlee, your technical comment about the generation being screwed over in terms of the millennial generation.
It seems to me that there’s been at all levels, but in your generation particularly – I’ve done some teaching at AU among other places recently – in terms of a very deep loss in faith about institutions. And when I think back, as one of the earlier baby boomers, there were certain unifying thematics that seemed to coalesce the generations. What is it that the millennial generation – what is the unifying theme that you have? You mentioned this meeting a couple of weeks ago. And I’m curious about that.
I thought at one point it might be the environment in terms of writ large globally, but I haven’t gotten that impression, at least from the younger generation that I have been exposed to, you know, specifically, as I said, in terms of teaching or whatever. So what is the unifying theme that you are looking toward? And in what ways – I’m just curious – do you feel that the generations ahead of you have screwed you over?
MR. KEMPE: So, Ashlee, hold onto that because I’m going to pick up the other three comments and you get to speak for your entire generation across the planet, so. (Laughter.)
MS. GODWIN: All right.
MR. KEMPE: Peter, I hope you’ll speak for the other generation. (Laughter.)
MR. SCHWARTZ: I might be the oldest guy in the room.
MR. KEMPE: Hold on. Here we go.
Q: Peter Biar from South Sudan, one of the Millennium Fellows.
I’m really thankful to be a part of this conference. It’s really been fascinating to listen to what is happening. And just to have reflections on the last two days, there’s a statement that Jamie made yesterday when he was talking about genetics. And he said that science is growing exponentially, thinking is growing linearly and policy is growing glacially. And I think this sort of summarized what I have heard for the last few days because are pointing out different problems and challenges, but at the end of the day it seems there is a breakdown in what technologies and individuals are able to do and our own thinking on how we relate to those technologies, and the system that we have set up that governed and made these actually useful in our lives.
And it makes me think a little bit about the global governance system that exists and why it has not been evolving – what has been preventing it. And then again, if you think at the next tier of the nation-state – this goes back to the point that you made yesterday, Peter, when you said that the global order is breaking down. And if that global order is breaking down, does even the concept of nation-state, is it also breaking down with what we are seeing in the Middle East and in parts of Africa, where you have now 70 years of independence and governments have yet been able to build legitimate social contract with their populations. And if this order that we set up of boundaries being these things, like, you cannot touch, is this the way to move in the future?
And also to bring in the perspective that the young lady that spoke earlier about the cities, and if you take it back to the communities, what is the voice of those cities and communities in these larger things that are happening and affecting them? And then if you break it even more down to individual level with the connectivity we are talking about where you can sit – you can sit in my village in Africa and be tweeting about what is happening at Atlantic Council. But then if you bring in the aspect of technology and the impact it will have in inequality, poverty, and all these sort of things, I begin to wonder – we have not understood, OK, but at the end of the day are we even putting the resources in the right places?
There’s a lot of investment in technology, but it seems maybe in the end where the solution will come from are people – are individuals. And is there enough investment in those individuals? So I just – in the end maybe to reflect a little bit on these sort of things.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. And Mat, Peter, why don’t you file that for a minute? And then, please.
Q: Thank you. Gustav from Sweden, also part of the Millennium Fellows Program.
I’m a bit sad over the past days there’s a lot of talk about America losing its narrative or trying – like, not having a narrative. And when I think of America, I think of one of the strongest narratives in the world, which is sort of the fundamental idea that everybody have equal access to opportunities. And maybe, like, one way of thinking of America’s narrative is to sort of get back to the reason why people flock to America, and also the reason why “American Idol” is the world’s most popular TV show.
And the reason is because anyone anywhere can become a star and anyone can make it. And I just want to sort of give that to the people in this room, that thinking back to that core value and that idea that has empowered America for so long, I think that is a key to also identify America’s place in the world over the next couple years.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you for that comment. Bob, final question or comment?
Q: What jumps out at me from this whole thing is the one salient theme is fragmentation, at every level I can think of, starting with the diffusion of power in the world to the – to fragmentation and re-emergence of nationalism within Europe and even within nation-states. For example, we just had the Scotland vote in the U.K. Within the Islamic world you have this fragmentation.
Within our own system – you know, the difference between – one of the big differences between 1945 and now is at the time not only were we the world’s biggest economy, we were also the world’s largest creditor. Now we’re the world’s largest military power and the world’s largest debtor. And I guess what I’m – what I have trouble getting my arms around is where does the leverage come to reverse these trends, because it’s not obvious to me.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Bob.
So this will – this final round, no longer than two minutes for each, except for, I think, if speaking on behalf of the entire future generation you can have two and a half minutes. (Laughter.) But, Kirk, is there something you want to pick up in these final questions?
MR. RADKE: Oh, I’ll concede my time in Ashlee.
MR. KEMPE: (Laughs.) Thanks, Kirk. Peter, Mat and then Ashlee.
MR. SCHWARTZ: Well, I – and let me apologize I’m going to have to walk off stage right away because I’m due for a speech somewhere else. But I just want to pick up on your observation.
I think some – you know, for me, the most important anti-poverty tool of the last 20 years was Wikipedia. Wikipedia makes all the knowledge of the world available to any kid on the planet with a connection. And that connectivity is now going to be available to every village in the Sudan, every village in Africa. And it will undermine the power of the central governments. It’ll undermine the power of the authoritarian regimes.
I had the privilege of asking Mikhail – I had dinner with Mikhail Gorbachev after the Soviet Union fell. And I asked him, so why now? Why did it fall now? And he said, it was the internet and the satellite dish. When our people could see the world, we could no longer control them. And you know, they might have had the means to contain the revolution before and they didn’t after that. They didn’t have the legitimacy of power that enabled them to survive.
And I think when all those kids on the planet have all – access to all that knowledge and are developing themselves without reference to the needs of the central systems, we’re going to see a transformation that is hard to imagine.
MR. KEMPE: Thanks very much. Mat.
MR. BURROWS: Yeah, I guess I’m like Peter. I don’t think you should get too pessimistic. I mean, as I said, I do worry a lot on the conflict side and areas of the world now becoming so conflict-ridden that it’s going to be very hard to make the progress. But we’ve had an enormous amount of progress in the last two, three decades – stuff that, you know, nobody predicted 30, 40 years ago.
And I think for me one of the big things is on education. I mean, we are really seeing these rates of enrollment really go up, particularly in the developing world. And we’re seeing for the first time too the gender gap close – so access to a primary, secondary, even tertiary education for women going up to the point where many more female Ph.D.s than male Ph.D.s in the Middle East and other places.
So I do think that, you know, we have the – we have the resources there, the human resources, really to solve these issues. And that’s what – but it does mean that we need to avoid that conflict, which could really send us backward.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, Mat. Ashlee.
MS. GODWIN: So I have a couple of points. I did my very technical comment on the U.K. and the baby boomers was just that, it was a U.K. perspective. There is widespread thought in the U.K. amongst my generation in particular that the generation or two above us have had a better life, in a sense that they’ve had NHS, so free health care at point of use, which is looking like it’s going to change.
They have had a much greater opportunity to own their own property. In major cities like London we’re being priced out in quite a major way, and that affects all sorts of aspects, as we’ve heard earlier about communities. You’re hearing about urbanization in London – in cities generally, but actually I would hazard a guess that that is a reverse trend in London, for example. And also a decent pension, you know, old age health care, that sort of thing. That’s something, I think, we won’t enjoy the benefits of when we are at the age of retirement.
Speaking for a generation, I don’t really think I can do that, but one common theme that we’ve heard – and thankfully Peter got to speak before I answered this question – is a loss of voice. And this is something that Alessandra picked up on earlier, but actually I find it quite perverse that we have access to a communication tool like the internet but actually we feel like we’re less engaged. And whether that’s because we feel disenfranchised, disaffected, I think that will depend on where you are in the world. But I think that is an issue. And I think Alessandra made the point earlier than an awareness strategy or an awareness campaign is not enough. We need engagement. And that’s an important point, to my mind.
I do have one final point to add on the note of history – I’m a historian by training. And I’m we’ve heard a lot about how we’re at an inflection point here, comparable to 1945 or 1918. I’d actually offer another date from European history, and that’s 1856. Why do I say that? Well, at that point we’d had sort of 40 years prevailing of the Concert of Europe. So it was a way of managing instability across Europe, which after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, we’re coming up to the 200th anniversary of that so really topical, we had this idea of the five great powers in Europe coming together to manage instability. There were civil wars and there were minor conflicts, but they were roughly managed. Whether that achieved a long-lasting positive effect is another question, but they were managed.
In 1853, for the first time in those 40 years, you saw major conflict state between Russia and on the other side, the Ottoman Empire, France and Great Britain. Where was this conflict played out? Crimea. So what I would say is that at that point, I think that’s slightly more – a better analogy for us now would be at the end of a time where the global system has been working for us, broadly speaking, it will take the role of the Cold War within that, but where do we go next? Unfortunately, that’s where my comforting historical analogy comes to an end, because if you look at the following 80 years of European history you have deep instability caused by changes in nation-states, you have colonial competition and, obviously, ultimately the first World War. Now, I think we have an opportunity to make sure this doesn’t go the same way.
MR. KEMPE: I think you’ve just gained yourself a writing assignment from the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. I actually think that’s a terrific date to have picked out and also a sobering date to have picked out. So we’re going to close now. This should be an ongoing community and an ongoing process. So all of you in the room, also people who are listening to this online, give us your feedback, give us your ideas for next year.
This isn’t just an annual get-together. We’re doing strategy all year long – the Scowcroft Center, the Hariri Center and all 10 programs and centers of the Atlantic Council. So this is – this is an initiative that we started because we thought strategy was lacking. And when strategy’s lacking, a Syria comes up, a Ukraine comes up and you have no larger picture in which to put it and you have no – you have no strategy on the shelf were you say, well, if that happens in Syria that’s where it fits into our overall thing. So we actually think this is absolutely crucial for the future of our country and the world.
I want to thank Peter Schwartz, who has had to leave us, but he was just terrific over the last two days. Kirk Radke, thank you so much for your inspiration and your work all around on this effort. I already thanked earlier Rafic Bizri and the – I want to thank on the staff Rachel Rizzo, we – the whole Scowcroft team. Dan Chiu, thank you so much for leading this initiative, wonderful job. The millennium leaders and Barry Pavel, great leadership in the Scowcroft center, as always.
So keep working with us. Let’s see – let’s go into this future and try to make some order out of it. Then we’ll see you in all our programming going forward and next year. Thank you. (Applause.)