David Kay’s Global View
The Cold War is over, but the institutions in the U.S. intelligence community that evolved to meet the needs of the two-sided faceoff between super powers are still in place.
Meanwhile, the nature of world conflict has changed faster than the nation's intelligence community has been able to respond. In the years to come, the world will be divided between the haves and the have-nots — between stable, thriving countries and a long list of vulnerable societies in failed states that will be the breeding ground for an endless progression of threats against the security of the world.
That was the sobering scenario laid out by David Kay, former special advisor on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) to the Director of Central Intelligence, in a keynote presentation at the GovSec Expo and Conference on July 28 in Washington, D.C. From June 2003 to January 2004, Kay was at the center of current events as he searched for Iraq's WMDs. He reported to Congress early in 2004 that he had found no evidence of chemical or biological weapons.
Kay's speech at GovSec offered a sweeping look at upcoming world events, focusing on social, economic and political trends that portend danger to U.S. national security. “We're at an extraordinary time in our nation's history,” said Kay. “What happens in the rest of the world is crucial to our survival.”
“Things that threaten our national security no longer require the resources of a super power. That means that (since Sept. 11) the threat is here, but not there. Very few of your fellow citizens realize that every day your life is on the line — it's over here, not over there.” There needs to be a transition from intelligence sources that are narrowly focused on a single threat to a broader focus on worldwide challenges — including the increase in terrorism.
“The chant you hear in the hell-holes of the world is ‘I die, therefore I am. My life only gains meaning when I die,’” said Kay. “These are mostly middle-class kids that could have made their way in society, but they were surrounded by desperation.”
The nation's intelligence systems — designed as they were to monitor the Soviet Union's capabilities during the Cold War — are ill-equipped to deal with the new threats, said Kay. There needs to be changes in the “15 dinosaurs in our intelligence systems,” said Kay, and there need to be additional technological capabilities. “I need to know what four of you are discussing in a hotel room tonight — and I need to do that in a global form,” he said.
Investment in intelligence capabilities targeted to the modern age is the only approach that will work, said Kay. “There is not enough money in the U.S. economy to focus on defense,” he said. “We need to invest in intelligence capabilities.”
Kay listed several trends as playing a dominant role in the development of security threats to the nation in the coming decades, including:
A proliferation of vulnerable societies in failed states. Kay said there are 50 to 70 world states that have either failed or are on the verge of failing, including Somalia, Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan, Indonesia and Haiti. Some of these failures are because of economics, what Kay calls a “tremendous and sudden compression of economic wealth.” In many countries, the economy is at a lower point than when colonialism ended in the 1960s.
A resulting social upheaval. There is a widespread failure of social integration and a lack of educational institutions at a time when the population of young people is burgeoning. For example, in Iraq, 62 percent of the population is under 15 years old; in Yemen the number is 50 percent. Over half the population of the Middle East is under 24 years old. Meanwhile, countries such as Pakistan have an army but no education system; Yemen is a country without an economy or an education system. Young people that have grown up in chaos tend to be willing to undertake risks without thoughts of consequences.
Perpetual calls on the United States to intervene in humanitarian crises. “You just can't avoid intervention,” says Kay, who pointed to the Sudan as a recent example. “During the first Bush administration, the U.S. military was intervening in humanitarian crises once every two years,” said Kay. “Now it's twice a year. With 50 to 70 failed states, that becomes a norm.”
Disruption of trade routes. The country is dependent on global trade and flow of resources, and trade often passes through failed states.
A variety of other social and economic crises. The remnants of the Cold War threaten to break into conflict in North Korea and Taiwan. There is a worldwide competition for resources such as water and oil. There are widespread transnational issues such as health and global climate changes. The AIDS crisis has been devastating to sub-Saharan Africa.