Campus News

“The Future of National Security: a talk by General Barry McCaffrey”

On Nov. 19th, National Security expert and retired four-star General Barry McCaffrey came to Saint Leo University and gave an insightful discussion on National Security and the challenges that the world has to face in the coming years.

General McCaffrey has had an extensive military career. He served as commander of the 24th Infantry Division during the First Gulf War, developing the incredibly effective “Left Hook” attack that brought a swift end to the war with minimal American casualties. He worked at West Point Military Academy as professor of National Security, and served on the Council of Foreign Relations. He has been featured as an expert on National Security and Strategy for a number of news providers including MSNBC and The Huffington Post.

The name of General McCaffery’s talk was “Policy, National Security, and The Road Ahead” and was introduced by President William J. Lennox, Jr., who gave a glowing endorsement of the General’s character and his expertise on matters of National Security. General McCaffrey then came on stage and offered his views on a number of challenges America must deal with, and how those problems should be approached by American Leadership.

General McCaffrey had a list of potential National Security challenges, some threats, others being difficulties with no clear adversary. Before delving into his list, General McCaffrey had some light-hearted banter to share with the audience, including a story of how the greatest introduction he ever had was given by his own son. General McCaffrey also offered words of praise for Saint Leo University, that he was truly encouraged and

impressed by the turnout to the talk and by the humility and intellect he witnessed during his brief stay at the school.

General McCaffrey then swiftly moved into his debrief on possible challenges in the United States’ future. The list included (in no particular order): Chinese naval and air power; North Korea’s rivalry with Japan and South Korea; Iranian threat to the Persian Gulf states; Russian border expansion; civil war and failed states; cyber-threats; the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; international terrorism; international crime and drug cartels; the Syrian Refugee Crisis; and any number of other humanitarian crises that may arise. General McCaffrey made it very clear that these challenges are conjecture on what may be become greater issues in the future.

General McCaffrey then spent the rest of his discussion talking about specific facts of each issue the United States may face in the coming years, all depending on the ever-shifting landscape of international relations. General McCaffrey first addressed a threat clear in the mind of most Americans, the Islamic State a.k.a. Daesh, ISIL, ISIS, etc. He explained ISIL formed as a splinter group from Al-Qaeda, and have been poaching Jihadists from their ranks ever since.

General McCaffrey made it clear, “I do not believe there is a fundamental threat to the U.S. from Islam,” drawing a sharp line between Islam as a religion and ISIL as an ideology.

The General then went on to talk about Afghanistan and Pakistan and said, “It is almost impossible to imagine Afghanistan as a unified nation state.”

He explained that there are so many different languages and ethnic groups that the sectarianism would control any political development, and even then the vast majority of

citizens are so nomadic that there is no way for them to be invested politically. Russia, as explained by McCaffrey, is “collapsing from within,” “drifting toward dictatorship,” and has become a “criminal oligarchy.” General McCaffrey believes that the nationalistic fervor in Russia is a mask for the economic turmoil and corruption that has run rampant through the country. For nuclear weapons he made it clear that the U.S. must have a policy of nonproliferation and disarmament in all situations involving nuclear weapons.

In talking about domestic concerns, General McCaffrey said that “Heavy Hitters talk about money, not strategy.”

He used this strategy when talking about U.S. Military spending (encouraging smart spending of the American military budget), and tied into the U.S.’s place in the global economy. General McCaffrey postulated that the U.S. tends to be hyper self-critical, and often fails to remember that it is the world leader, not only in military power, but also in economic influence. The United States is still the wealthiest country on Earth, and is still far more stable than most other world economies that rival the U.S., such as India or China.

After the event, Ana Di Donato, vice president of Student Affairs, said that she “was impressed by how worldly he was.”

A similar sentiment was also held by Dr. Robert Cabot, professor of Criminal Justice, who said “that his views and lines of thought were very nuanced and subtle.”

Overall, General Barry McCaffrey gave a thoughtful and carefully constructed presentation on the future of National Security in the United States, one that was greatly appreciated and almost certainly left a lasting impression on everyone in attendance.

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