The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) held its official launch on June 27, 2007 at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. The day-long event, entitled “Toward a New American Security,” included three expert panels based on recently released CNAS reports as well as keynote addresses by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Discussions and debates covered the future of U.S. ground forces, a new strategy for the war in Iraq, and the nature of the national security inheritance the next president will receive from the current administration. With more than five hundred guests and distinguished bipartisan panels, the event helped pave the way for the center’s ongoing work in creating strong, pragmatic, and principled defense and security policies for America.
Session One: The Inheritance and the Way Forward
Moderator Dr. Richard Danzig led the panel discussion of the CNAS report “The Inheritance and the Way Forward,” written by co-founders Kurt Campbell and Michèle Flournoy. Campbell led with an overview of the report, which outlines the daunting challenges in some policy areas and progress in others that the next president will inherit. Understanding the full depth of the nature of this inheritance, he said, is one of the most important things the next president and his or her administration must do. Commentators James B. Steinberg, Dr. Francis Fukuyama, and Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter discussed the report’s ten recommendations for the next president, including reconceptualizing the so-called global war on terror, restoring U.S. dedication to the rule of law in the world, and the relationship between soft power efforts and national security. Questions that the commentators took from the audience included whether the processes in place for policy formulation were adequate, how the United States can restore its influence with world opinion of the country so low, and what positive policies from Bush’s term should be continued into the next administration. The panel’s consensus was that the mixed positive and negative aspects of the next president’s inheritance, as outlined in the CNAS report, will be vital to understand, manage, and, in some cases, build upon.
Session Two: Iraq – What’s Next?
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) moderated a spirited discussion of the CNAS report “Phased Transition: A Responsible Way Forward and Out of Iraq,” which argues that America has three enduring interests in Iraq and the region – preventing al Qaeda safe havens, preventing regional war, and preventing genocide. The report outlines three elements for a new strategy: an ‘outside-in’ regional diplomatic effort, continuation of a ‘top-down’ advisory mission with Iraq’s central government, and a robust ‘bottom-up’ advisory effort to help local and provincial security forces become more effective in their own localities. This proposed Phased Transition plan, authored by Dr. James Miller and Shawn Brimley, would include the drawdown of about 100,000 U.S. troops by the end of the current administration and should be based on pragmatic goals, not unrealistic hopes. Senator Reed argued that it is well past time for the debate over Iraq to shift from rhetoric and partisanship to strategy and America’s national interests, a theme echoed in the report. After Miller gave a brief overview of the report, retired General Anthony Zinni, Dr. Philip Zelikow, and Thomas Ricks discussed the report and offered their own thoughts on the nature of the conflict in Iraq and the way forward. All commentators concluded that there can be no short-term solution to the war in Iraq and that any plan for the way forward needs to be placed in a broader strategic framework that recognizes the importance of continued engagement and robust diplomacy. Questions from the audience included whether a timeline for a limited troop withdrawal increases or decreases U.S. leverage in Iraq, the chances of being able to contain Iraq’s civil war, and the merits of democracy promotion as a core American interest in the region.
Luncheon Keynote Address by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the luncheon address after an introduction by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, with a theme of America’s great responsibility given the profound changes and challenges the world is confronting. She spoke of the need to be both internationalist and realistic, and focused on the need for the United States to take a strong diplomatic position in the world and enhance humanitarian efforts. Senator Clinton discussed ideas such as a no-fly zone over Darfur and her proposed legislation for preventing nuclear terrorism. The United States needs first to restore its position of leadership in the world in order to be successful in taking on the difficult challenges it faces and to repair the damage that the current administration has done, she explained. She outlined many of these regional and transnational challenges, from dealing with Iran and beginning to withdraw from Iraq, to keeping open dialogue with China as its domestic growth and international influence increase, to designating a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Senator Clinton strongly expressed that a new security and foreign policy direction is needed for America.
Session Three: The Future of U.S. Ground Forces
Dr. John J. Hamre moderated the discussion of the CNAS report “Shaping U.S. Ground Forces for the Future: Getting Expansion Right,” written by Michèle Flournoy and Tammy Schultz. Flournoy provided an overview of the report, which is the first in a CNAS series on the Future of the U.S. Military, and commentators retired General Michael Hagee and Dr. Michael O’Hanlon provided an array of examples of considerations for the military’s future operating environment. The report highlights the unprecedented strain on the All-Volunteer Force, and the rare opportunity to shape the force for the future that expanding the ground forces by nearly 100,000 presents. Getting the mix of capabilities (shape) right, said Flournoy, is more important than the end strength number (size). Since future operations will present a wide variety of challenges, the future force must truly become full spectrum, which among other things will mean increasing irregular warfare capabilities. General Hagee discussed things that have not changed on the battlefield, such as confronting a thinking enemy, as well as some things that have changed, like the enemy not wearing a uniform. He also stressed the importance of having a national debate over the role of the National Guard and Reserves. O’Hanlon said that expanding the ground forces somewhat in the short-term made sense even with a drawdown in Iraq due to easily imaginable scenarios that would require U.S. forces, ranging from Darfur to Pakistan. Dr. Hamre concluded the session by observing that issues regarding quality versus quantity, the priority given to equipment and modernization, and the operational versus institutional Army needed further analysis and debate.
Special Dedication: 1LT Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr., USA Fellowship
The family of First Lieutenant Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr., USA, has allowed CNAS to dedicate an annual fellowship in his honor. First Lieutenant Bacevich lost his life on May 13, 2007 from wounds suffered during a combat patrol operation in Iraq, and co-founders Michèle Flournoy and Kurt Campbell had the honor of presenting his father with a personal plaque dedicating the fellowship and unveiled a similar plaque that will hang in the CNAS office. Every year a new fellow who has proven his or her dedication to public service will be chosen and his or her name inscribed on this plaque. The first Bacevich Fellow, Shawn Brimley, joined on stage for a few moments of tribute to the fallen soldier and his father.
Afternoon Keynote Address by Senator Chuck Hagel
After a laudatory introduction by Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Senator Chuck Hagel delivered the afternoon keynote address for the CNAS official launch, covering a wide range of U.S. foreign and security policy. Beginning with an overview of the day’s immigration debate, he stated that U.S. leaders must account for the globalized nature of the world and realize that American actions have implications for people the world over. Senator Hagel emphasized the need for strengthening and working with international institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and NATO, and pointed to President Eisenhower’s use of diplomacy and alliances in working through the nation’s security and defense challenges. He suggested that the next president conduct a global listening tour, emphasized the need to internationalize efforts to find political solutions for Iraq, and recommended continuous diplomatic efforts with adversaries such as Iran. His speech and the audience questions he answered focused on the value of debate and analysis in policy making, and explained that the nation needs good leadership to employ the good scholarship and full strengths of America. Senator Hagel said that the measure of success in security policy is often by attacks prevented, wars averted, and that which never occurs.