On March 13th, Launchpad UT at SXSW held a panel discussion entitled “Global Threats: From Terrorism to Hunger” at ACL Live. The panel, moderated by Robert Chesney, included our own co-director, Catherine Weaver along with Stephen Slick and William Inboden. Stephen Slick, former CIA officer, currently leads the U.S Intelligence Studies Project at UT while William Inboden is Executive Director at the Clements Center for National Security. Moderator Robert Chesney is the Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.
The conversation was dynamic and touched upon several threats to our global threats. While the discussion centered upon making predictions of what threatens us in the future, Will Inboden began with a countering caveat – we are typically bad at making predictions. He referenced Professor Norman Angel’s The Great Illusion written in 1910 that argued we have reached an age where war is futile and states therefore won’t fight. Angel was not a lone wolf in believing this; many preached this alongside him. Unfortunately, just five years later the bloodiest and deadliest war that mankind ever witnessed broke out. The moral of the story? Predictions aren’t always right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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