At a hearing to discuss irregular warfare, it wasn’t the threat of terrorists, drug cartels or violent global activists that prompted the biggest warning.
Rather, the greatest threat is the hubris of U.S. leaders who believe the whole world loves America and its message of peace, strength and stability, a panel of warfare experts told a House panel on Tuesday.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities panel, Dr. Seth Jones of the Rand Corp., Robert Killebrew of the Center for a New American Security and David Maxwell of Georgetown University’s security studies program were asked what the U.S. military needed to do to prepare for future threats.
This prompted a fairly common discussion of cyber threats, jihadists and the ability of terrorists to rapidly evolve tactics so they seem a step or two ahead of counter-terrorist forces.
Jones, however, then added that one of the biggest threats is a continued feeling that the U.S., because of its military might, is invulnerable to serious harm, which he said is a return to a pre-9/11 feeling.
“Hubris is thinking everybody likes us,” he said, when in reality, the U.S. image overseas “is deeply troubling.”
For Maxwell, the biggest challenge for the nation’s leaders is trying to think far ahead about threats and challenges: “We are focused on threats now and [our enemies] are focused on the future.”
The three experts said it was difficult to predict what form future threats might take or the tactics that U.S. foes might employ, which is why they recommended flexible planning, dual-use equipment and nimble forces that can adapt on the fly.
Jones spoke of the need for better interagency cooperation, especially between the Defense Department, State Department and Agency for International Development. Killebrew said the Treasury Department needed to improve its ability to freeze illegal monetary assets that fuel many insurgencies as they blend with crime syndicates. “Treasury has to be better on cutting off funding streams,” he said.
Maxwell said the military needs stronger cyber defenses in addition to an improved ability to carry out cyber attacks of its own.
“Defense of a computer network is very, very hard,” he said, describing it as being much like defense against terrorist attacks, where a successful defense against hundreds of attacks doesn’t matter if just one attack slips through.