“Reading about other cultures, social networking, and other “smart power” tools can help create security in the 21st century.”
That was the key message from Greek-American Admiral James G. Stavridis, commander of the United States European Command and NATO supreme allied commander, Europe, who spoke to the Kellogg community on May 18. Stavridis was attending the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.
Learning from the past
Stavridis explained that a bridge is a perfect metaphor for 21st century security.
“Bridges connect us,” he said. “When we look back at 20th century security, it was all about separation; it was about building walls.”
Fortunately, a new mindset, one based on connections rather than separation, began emerging as the Cold War ended in the late 20th century, Stavridis added.
Security challenges in this brave new world
Stavridis highlighted a few security challenges facing NATO — and society as a whole, such as:
- Rapid depopulation in Europe
- The transition to Afghan-led security in Afghanistan
- Interreligious and interethnic tensions in the Baltics
- Lack of preparation to defend the rapidly evolving cyberworld
‘Smart power’ strategies to build security
“Smart power” is a combination of “hard power” — exercising military and/or economic coercion — and “soft power” — using tools such as persuasion and diplomacy. Stavridis, a firm believer in smart power, offered some practical ideas for using this approach to foster security, including:
- Read and learn about other cultures. To fully understand modern conflicts, one must understand the cultures involved and the historical events that led to those conflicts.
- Learn other languages. Stavridis pointed out that Americans, in particular, need to improve in this area.
- Connect on social networks. To move a message today, it’s vital to use Facebook and other social networks.
- Connect face-to-face, too. “This kind of personal connection is critical, because even in this world of email and social networks … we all know that personal contact trumps everything,” said Stavridis.
- Reach across borders and sectors. Building security should be a collaborative effort between people in many different countries and agencies, within both the private and public sectors.
- Seek nontraditional partnerships. When NATO entered Libya last year, for example, its jets flew alongside aircraft from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar.
Stavridis concluded by sharing the vision statement from free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia: “A world in which every human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”
“Wikipedia is a perfect example of the fact that no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together — no one person, no one alliance, no one country,” he said. “My hypothesis for you today is that by connecting in this 21st century security world, we can share in the sum of all security.”
Stavridis’ talk was hosted by the Kellogg Innovation Network (KIN) and the Kellogg Veterans Association.