Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed globalization, technology, and the importance of cooperation in the context of recent international events at Mandel Hall on Thursday.
The conversation was moderated by Professor Robert Pape and was organized by the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, a University research center “producing rigorous and data-driven scholarship on pressing questions of national and international security,” founded by Pape in 2004.
The conversation marked the start of a new annual series named after Hagel, who served as the 24th Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration and will henceforth appear at the lectures every year to host discussions on current international crises with a guest speaker. Albright, the 64th Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton and the first woman to hold the position, was the inaugural lecturer of the series. Albright was also a staff member on of the National Security Council from 1978 to 1981 and served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997.
The afternoon began with an introduction by Albright. “The world’s a mess,” Albright told the crowd, prompting a wave of laughter. Albright went on to highlight two “megatrends” that she has seen unfolding in the world: globalization and technology. Albright said that both trends bring good and harm.
According to Albright, while globalization has connected the world extensively, there has been a lack of understanding for individual identities of different races and cultures, creating an environment that breeds dangerous nationalist sentiments in opposition. “Nationalism is a dangerous downside of globalization because it develops into hyper-nationalism”, she said.
Albright said that technology has been able to achieve “incredible” things and better the lives of communities around the globe, but it also presents its own issues. “Everyone gets their news through an echo chamber,” she said. “It is very hard to have political parties because everything is disarticulated.” Albright also raised concerns with the number of jobs technology has quietly displaced, quoting Benito Mussolini: “If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time nobody notices.”
Albright also highlighted the dangers of social media. She said that, although how social media influences society is still not completely understood, government cooperation with the technology industry is essential to using the platform in a positive way.
The need for global alliances and institutions was a major theme of the conversation. Asked about the disruptions caused by the megatrends of technology and globalization, Hagel said, “New challenges happen to every generation.” He argued that the unprecedented global population size and the interconnected nature of the world mean solutions to current issues demand cooperation between nations and international trust “based on common interest.”
Both Albright and Hagel agreed that recent diplomatic disputes have been mishandled by the Trump administration. When discussing the recent conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, Hagel stated that he does not see how the situation can be alleviated without including surrounding countries like South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia in the dialogue. Hagel and Albright drew parallels between Trump’s handling of North Korea and his administration’s withdrawals from the Paris Agreement on climate change and from the Iran nuclear deal. Both affirmed that the U.S.’s own attempts to tackle these issues are simply not feasible in the current global climate.
However, both Hagel and Albright held that it is important for the U.S. to lead efforts in solving global crises, given its vast political and intelligence resources and its history of playing an integral role in the establishment of prominent organizations like the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Pape mentioned the alleged Russian interference with the 2016 elections and asked how the nation should respond to it. Albright said it is essential for the administration to accept that interference did occur. “[President Trump] is the one who has to say, ‘Enough of this, we have to protect ourselves,’” she said.
Hagel emphasized that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies agree that Russian interference in the elections did occur. He said that close collaboration with foreign intelligence agencies and the advancement of technology used at the federal and state level is crucial to preventing additional foreign interference in the upcoming 2020 elections.
Social media’s role in global terrorism was mentioned in the context of recent attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, both of which involved social media. Albright stated that she fully supports New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for social media companies to tighten regulations and prevent the spread of information from terrorist organizations.
Albright ended the event by answering a student’s question on whether civic organization and civil society play a part in the solution to modern problems. Albright replied that she believes civil society is very important in resolving modern issues. Citing the younger generation’s increased interaction with different cultures as a positive, she said, “I think students are very much a part of civil society, which is why I think all the relationships you are creating here make all the difference in the world.”