His point in sharing this with us was not to belittle the topic of the conversation but rather to reinforce that we must do less predicting and more preparing. With that in mind, he presented three categories of states which must be on our radar in order to be adequately prepared. Policy makers should think about these three categories and be prepare to respond to each.
- Strong States: This category includes countries such as Russia and China that have incredible land masses, large economies – your traditional great powers that have potential to disrupt the status quo or distribution of power and resources.
- Weak States: Here you will find Libya, Syria, and Iraq. These states are characterized by fragile or poor governance, a lack of monopoly over force, and tend to serve as vehicles for terrorism, civil wars, or other dangerous pathologies.
- Malignant States: The North Korea and Iran of the world – countries whose governments are strong enough to secure their borders and acquire a monopoly of force but lack economic influence. Despite this unbalance, they do have the means to create regional instability through unpredictable behavior.
Kate Weaver then shifted the conversation from your typical associations of global security, (terrorism, war, intelligence) to a topic whose connection to insecurity and conflict is often overlooked – food security. Food security is determined by a person’s access and availability to nutrition. As many as 795 million people across the world suffer from food insecurity. This comes downs to 1 in 9 globally, and heightens to 1 in 4 in Sub-Saharan Africa, disproportionately targeting children. In countries of conflict like the Central African Republic or Syria, food is a weapon on war and starvation is the cruel infliction of pain. And the United States is not immune. We at home face the issue of hunger with 1 in 7 of our citizens qualifying as food insecure. In addition to this direct within-our-own-borders effect, we are impacted by other countries food security as well – especially those which we have geopolitical concerns over such as Ira, Liberia, Afghanistan. If we believe that “hunger anwhere threatens peace everywhere” the state of food security in the world is no doubt concern for global stability in the future.
So learning from Inboden, how do we prepare for this? Food security is an issue that can not be solved by aid alone (Sorry, Jeffery Sachs) While SDG#2 may call for the end of rural hunger by 2030, the issue can not be approached in policy isolation as it exists within a web of social constructions that will help or hinder its eradication. It must be integrated into poverty alleviation approach holistically.
And so, Kate left us with three bits of food for thought.
- Harness the power of bioengineering mechanisms.
- Mobilize political will on the issue of food security as the issue is not a natural disaster but a man-made phenomenon. We need to reach consensuses on trade that will open markets and increase access.
- Take preventative steps that will build resiliency in food insecure countries to combat exogenous shocks when they occur.
Next, the conversation turned to Stephen Slick and cyber-threats. Each year Jim Klapper appears before the defense intelligence community and gives a briefing of what threats are ahead. According to Slick, in our recent technological age, cyber-threats are always at the top of list. For most of us, the internet provides a platform for communication, research, knowledge, amusement (or for most of us students…procrastination) but for the Untied States government, the internet has the potential to be a breeding ground for insecurity. We can define this threat in two ways; strategic and tactical.
- Strategic: Our intellectual property, national security secrets, and business plans need to be protected from state and non-state actors. Russia, Iran, North Korean, and China should continue to be watched closely.
- Tactical: The digital age presents us with great challenges regarding the practices of our CIA agents abroad. Technological advancements such as face recognition, fingerprints, the prospect of DNA passports make recruiting and maintaining aliases increasingly difficult. The “digital dust” we leave behind leaves a trail to follow which may just blow an agent’s cover.
The panel provided us with an hour filled discussion on the the global threats that lie ahead. But fear not, it is not all bad news. While technological advancements may present a threat, they also provide tremendous opportunity. It is our job to continue to harness these changes for use and productivity whether it be for agriculture or counter-terrorism.
Deirdre Appel is Co-Program Manager of IPD and a Masters student in International Development Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.