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Current and Projected Threats to the National Security of the United States
Chairman Graham, Vice Chairman Shelby, Members of the Committee: I appreciate the opportunity to present INR's view of the current and prospective threats to the United States, its citizens, and its interests. INR sees no challenge to the existence or independence of the United States, strong relations with the major powers, and solid alliances. But significant threats remain, both today and over the next decade.
When INR, CIA, and DIA testified on this subject last year, all emphasized the threat of terrorism. We all pointed to asymmetric attacks, including by non-state actors using terrorism to counter our vastly superior military capabilities. I read last year's testimony for the first time when preparing for this hearing and was struck, as one who had no involvement in its preparation, by both its prescience and continued relevance. Indeed, I am resubmitting the testimony prepared by INR last year because I believe its comprehensive treatment of the threats we face is still useful. Rather than repeat the tour d'horizon approach used last year, much of which would duplicate the judgments articulated in the testimony submitted by other agencies, I wish to focus on underlying problems and common features linking the general and specific threats facing our country.
Terrorism, clearly the greatest current threat to Americans, transcends borders. It incubates inside failing states and feeds on frustrations arising from political repression, lack of economic progress, social inequality, and conviction that others--national leaders, foreign governments, rival ethnic or religious groups, the "West," or the sole superpower--are to blame. We need to remember that while terrorists tend to be fanatical devotees of something, terrorism itself is a collection of tactics, not an ideology. It is a blunt instrument intended to change conditions its practitioners find unacceptable. Despite the undeniable impact of Operation Enduring Freedom thus far, many factors that nurture and inspire terrorism persist.
State sponsorship. The nature and significance of state sponsorship of terrorism has changed over the past few years. State-directed terrorism has not gone away, but it is now less threatening to Americans than are the actions of non-state actors such as al Qaida. Non-state terrorists increasingly seek not sponsorship as much as a weak state in which to operate. Would-be antagonists have doubtless noted lop-sided US victories in the Gulf war, Kosovo, and in the Afghan campaign. Because no nation can prevail in a direct confrontation with the US military, some may be tempted to strike the United States using terrorism as a low-cost, deniable tactic, and some states may try to use terrorist surrogates in lieu of actual combatants to raise the costs to one's opponent in long-running struggles. But the new trend seems to be toward well-financed non-state actors taking the lead.
Economic underdevelopment. Underdevelopment often breeds the foot soldiers for terrorism. People with little to lose are easily swayed to a cause, particularly if that cause carries with it some excitement and promise of rewards for one's self and family. Many who join groups that practice terrorism face a life of joblessness and poverty. Often living under oppressive governments with little prospect of a better life, young people-especially those whose exposure to education has made them even more frustrated and embittered-are prone to seek a way out, perhaps by attempting to migrate, perhaps by joining a movement that promises change through violence, perhaps by immersing themselves in religion. When unemployment hovers around 40% and nearly 45% of the population is under the age of 15 (as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip), people find it difficult to wait for a brighter future. Many of those drawn to Usama bin Laden are in similar circumstances.
Unresolved political issues. Political issues-such as the status of Kashmir, control of Jerusalem, or a homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamils-serve as focal points for the anger of various populations. In each of these instances decades have passed with no political resolution. Similarly, and increasingly, greater awareness of the outside world and the shortcomings of regimes that refuse to change and repress dissent fuels both frustration and willingness to use violence, including terror, to attack an unacceptable status quo.
Convergence of terrorism, narcotics, and crime. One of the most notable features of contemporary terrorism is its growing self-sufficiency. Examples abound, but the most notable are al-Qaida, FARC, and Hizballah. All three have independent means for raising and distributing money, including legitimate as well as criminal means ranging from drug trafficking to misappropriating funds intended for use by NGOs. Such groups also have multiple ways to recruit, train, and arm fighters, and to spread their propaganda. This independence frees groups from the constraints of state sponsors and makes them even more dangerous.
Western scapegoat. The West, particularly the United States, is widely perceived as the guarantor of the status quo. As champions of progress, we find that painfully ironic. But many groups believe they can more easily attack their own country through attacking Americans or our economic interests. If their attacks can end western support for their country, they believe it will make the overthrow of their target regime far easier.
Downside of globalization. States that enter fully into the global economy and have the cultural and economic capacity to find a niche and compete successfully benefit enormously from globalization, as does the United States. Indeed, much of the world incorrectly but understandably sees globalization as Americanization. But the process also has a downside, especially in countries that must make difficult economic, cultural, and political changes before the benefits of globalization outweigh the costs. The process challenges traditional class systems and entrenched economic interests, raising expectations and demands on governments for services and reforms.
Globalization makes it easier to move goods, services, ideas, and people, but it also facilitates the migration of knowledge, technology, money, diseases and much more that can be problematic as well as beneficial. Computerized communications and cell phones have made it possible for radical groups to communicate more easily and securely. Terrorists and traffickers in persons and contraband become more difficult to contain, and those with the education and skills to make weapons of mass destruction can move about more easily. Money and investment move more easily, sometimes fleeing perceived future problems and producing a cycle of losses, unrest, further flight, and less investment. The ease of movement and investment has also encouraged the "off-the-books" economy, making law enforcement and revenue collection more difficult.
Fragile and failing states. Many states have problems resulting from weak national institutions and often weaker economies. Traditional class, tribal, or regional divisions frequently abet corruption, crime, and chaos, which in turn breed disillusionment and further undermine the foundations of government and civil society. Failure to meet the needs of often burgeoning populations of young jobseekers, or to provide clean water or adequate health care, adds powder to an already full keg that any number of incidents can ignite.
Fragile and failing countries often provide terrorists refuge and recruits while producing economic migrants and refugees who add to the problems of neighboring states. Many of the states most at risk are in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East, but no region lacks them. Competent governments and significant international support together can alleviate the full spectrum of problems, including checking terrorism and proliferation. Failing governments cannot help us or escape their own predicaments without help. Indeed, they become "our" problem in a way we did not earlier encounter.
Threats to democracy and the "Washington consensus." The rush to embrace democracy, capitalism, and more open markets during the 1990s entailed numerous changes we regarded as positive, but the demise of a clear alternative in the form of communism does not ensure that these positive changes will endure. Many new democracies remain fragile. Democracy does not guarantee effective or honest government or ensure higher living standards. In parts of East Asia and Latin America, despite steps toward more democracy and market economies, increasing inequities and a growing perception of inequality fed by rapid urbanization and global communications contribute to resentment of "greedy western capitalists." Citizens who have endured the pain of short-term "reform" for the prospect of "gain" in the future grow impatient; incomplete or corrupted reform efforts have left many new democracies vulnerable and many new market economies in a parlous state.
Globalization compounds the problem. Electronic media reveal how much better others are doing and spotlight the failings of local leaders. Many electoral democracies have simply elected the same old corrupt elites to positions they had previously acquired by other means. Corruption, nepotism, and personal enrichment continue. Income gaps widen, the pie does not expand quickly enough, and better-informed publics become impatient.
Local problems with broader implications. Globalization means there is no such thing as a purely local problem. The Palestinian-Israeli dispute was never purely local, but the ripple effects are spreading. Tensions in Korea, the Taiwan Straits, and the South China Sea are generally lower than in the past, but, should tensions significantly increase or hostilities break out, the impact would be felt far beyond the region. The Kashmir dispute, fueled and to some extent controlled by terrorist groups, risks escalation to nuclear war.
Threats within borders. Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The same can be said for successful and unsuccessful states. Whatever their differences, stable and prosperous states have much in common. Every weak or failing state, however, is sick in its own way. These states can be divided into three categories: "Precarious", "muddling through", and "near misses."
In precarious states large segments of society view national political, legal, and administrative structures as illegitimate--either because of their ineffectiveness or their identification with unpopular minority interests. They are often divided societies vulnerable to implosion and collapse. Such states are common in Africa, where colonial powers drew national boundaries and imposed administrative structures on divided societies. Afghanistan and Somalia are extreme examples of this phenomenon, and the dangers it entails, but many other states are also precarious.
Muddling through states have national structures that have acquired a measure of legitimacy through longevity. State and society appear stable, but socioeconomic factors preclude significant economic development or social progress. Long-run trends are strongly negative and crises are common. Innate conservatism limits social progress and massive societal upheaval, but problems are checked rather than solved. Several countries of the muddling through variety have experienced significant economic growth but are finding it very difficult to close the gap between rich and poor.
Near miss states made economic progress and political strides in the past but are now in a downward spiral. The difference between the "near misses" and the more successful developing countries is often a matter of bad policy decisions by the former. A fairly common factor among "near misses" is early economic success based on exploiting natural resources or other transient circumstances that allowed the society to postpone dealing with deeper problems.
Over the last 20 years all of Latin America save Cuba has been labeled "democratic," but the nations of the region occupy varied positions on the continuum between democracy and authoritarianism. Relatively free and fair elections and observance of the most basic democratic and constitutional norms are commonplace. But so, too, are debilitating levels of crime, corruption, and socioeconomic inequities. Fewer than half of Latin Americans surveyed now contend that democracy is always preferable to authoritarianism. Though military government remains discredited, the door is increasingly ajar for populists trading on nostalgia for statist nostrums. Absent a strong economic resurgence, a vicious circle of cynicism looms. Reform enthusiasm has been replaced by fatigue.
Sovereignty and self-determination. Disputes over an international border, long a source of international conflict, have-at least for now-become much less prevalent. Cross-border issues now tend to concern control over populations of ethnic or religious kin, or a sense of national irredentism. But disputes involving sovereignty and/or self-determination include several that could explode with catastrophic regional and, potentially, global consequences.
Menacing handful. The long-simmering confrontation between India and Pakistan over Kashmir could quickly boil over into a major war. That it has not yet done so reflects the strength of the leadership of both nations and effective external diplomacy. Neither India nor Pakistan seeks the destruction of the other as a state or society. Instead, they are divided over the fate of what is, for both, a relatively small area of enormous symbolic-though not strategic-value.
The other two potentially catastrophic disputes are in East Asia: the historical division of the Korean peninsula and tension between China and Taiwan. Though we believe tensions are diminished in both locations, the disruptive effects should hostilities break out have increased because of the lethality of weaponry available, the potential economic impact, and spinoff political effects. These broader implications, while complicating resolution, also may have a limiting effect and contribute to maintaining the status quo.
A category apart. Though fundamentally a struggle over the establishment of national boundaries, the Israeli-Palestinian struggle is in a class by itself. No single dispute touches the emotions of so many other nations as the Israeli-Palestinian issue and, we believe, no other conflict could spark trouble so widely or so quickly. It contains elements of traditional international disputes and regional independence movements, but as a struggle between a recognized nation state and a subject people attempting to create an independent nation it also resembles the anti-colonial struggles that followed World War II.
Transnational threats. Now, Mr. Chairman, I will turn to those threats that are transnational. Beyond the painfully obvious terrorist threat, these include weapons proliferation, narco-trafficking, and emerging threats such as infectious diseases and trafficking in persons.
Proliferation and trafficking of weapons. Many of the components and technologies needed for the development or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles, and advanced conventional weapons (ACW) move relatively easily across international borders. Nuclear weapons remain the most difficult form of WMD to produce or acquire. Though much of the information needed to design a nuclear weapon is now in the public domain, the technical requirements are hard to meet, and national and international export controls and nonproliferation regimes constrain access to the requisite raw materials and technology.
Chemical weapons (CW) and biological weapons (BW) are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They are less cataclysmic but easier to acquire. The inherently dual-use nature of many goods and technologies needed to produce CW and BW increases the likelihood that we will confront such a threat in the future-probably by non-state actors.
The potential for the spread or indigenous development of ballistic missile systems remains real but poses less of a near-term threat to US national security. Indeed, both state and non-state actors are more likely to opt for less expensive, more reliable and accurate delivery systems for nonconventional weapons. Ships, trucks, airplanes, or even the mail are much easier to use covertly and lend themselves to effective dissemination of certain WMD, such as biological weapons.
The United States retains global dominance in advanced conventional weapons but we do not have a monopoly. Most states of immediate concern (such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea) lack the financial resources and technological-organizational sophistication to produce, deploy, and maintain large numbers of cutting-edge weapons systems-hence their quest for WMD to offset their conventional weakness. Nonetheless, widespread and active global trade in advanced conventional technologies could increase the threat to US and allied forces.
Trafficking in conventional arms, whether as a matter of policy by governments or through the actions of "rogue" companies, has had a devastating impact on many regional conflicts. Efforts to stem the flow of arms by imposing arms embargoes and seeking to enhance border control, customs, and police capabilities have been largely ineffective. As I have noted, Mr. Chairman, we can no longer consider such "regional" conflicts to be purely local problems.
Drug threat. The drug trade remains a direct and indirect threat to Americans and American interests. It is well organized, adaptable, ruthless, and has access to wealth on a scale without historical precedent. Years before international crime was recognized as a serious threat to governments, the drug syndicates had already established a sophisticated array of supply and distribution networks, money-laundering mechanisms, and, perhaps most important, influential government contacts in many drug source and transit countries. They developed and perfected many of today's ingenious money-laundering techniques by hiring the best lawyers and accountants and using the most advanced technology available. Successful law enforcement actions have winnowed out the less efficient organizations, leaving the more resourceful ones to dominate the field. Taking advantage of globalization, they have acquired expertise wherever it is available.
Nontraditional threats. The conditions noted above as incubators for terrorism also spawn and facilitate transmission of nontraditional threats. Such threats include infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and especially HIV/AIDS. Persons affected are only a plane ride away from the American public. With public health infrastructures collapsing, easily preventable or curable water-borne diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, claim many lives, reduce productivity, and drain national budgets in already fragile countries.
Dealing with the threats. To deal with an ever-changing, increasingly complex, unpredictable, and interconnected world, the Intelligence Community needs, in my view, greater breadth and flexibility with a new or renewed emphasis on expertise. Money and numbers of personnel will only serve us well if we can recruit, retain, groom, and then fully utilize true experts who can apply their deep understanding to difficult problems and create new knowledge useful to policymakers derived from information of all kinds.
Breadth. The Community already collects more data than it can process or analyze. Collection nonetheless remains of critical national security importance in crucial areas and specific contexts. Terrorism and the spread of WMD and missile systems correctly top the list of collection priorities, but we have learned over the past decade that we need both more information on and better analysis of a very wide range of developments on every continent and in every country. Even the wisest of analysts or the best collection managers will, at times, fail to anticipate the precise nature and timing of some calamitous event, as happened last September. We need to take to heart Richard Betts' recent caution in Foreign Affairs that no one bats 1000-even though batting less than that can have catastrophic outcomes.
Thus, we must maintain awareness and vigilance on a global scale, monitoring all major issues everywhere with a solid base of permanent expertise. We in INR, like the rest of the Community, face a looming wave of retirements that will erode our expertise. We must provide analysts incentives, recognition, and career tracks allowing them to acquire and apply the kind of deep expertise needed to make sense of the contemporary world. What is more, we must develop and maintain such expertise on all regions and issues, not just a select few.
Flexibility. The Community must develop mechanisms that allow for rapid, manageable reallocation of resources and capabilities to problems as they emerge or bear closer scrutiny. Though I stress the need to remain globally alert, that does not imply spreading our capabilities or personnel across all issues like butter. We need the ability to attack new problems as they come up, working all the while to see them coming as far out as possible. Warning remains essential. The concept of "surge" is essentially unthinkable if we are forced-within our existing manpower-to abandon other key concerns and priorities to scrum against the hottest issue and concern of the day. In INR we have no choice but to cover the entire world every day. We do a pretty good job, but we always need help from other parts of the Community.
Building on the global awareness we have outlined in our combined testimony before this committee and on a range of future-oriented assessments, including the INR study Diplomacy 2010 of two years ago, we have the ability to aggregate problems and assemble now the range of resources we will need in coming years. But we need to ensure that the production of valuable intelligence, and the judgments we can draw using it, are not hobbled by a smothering amount of bureaucratic process and artificial boundaries. Just as the military speaks of a tooth to tail ratio, the community must maximize the enhancement of expertise, in both collection and analysis.
Depth. Expertise is our lifeblood. Hiring hundreds of new analysts and throwing money at challenges makes sense only if we can engage the best people and apply expertise quickly and effectively. In INR we have many analysts with 20 to 30 years of experience on a small set of issues or countries. They are a tremendous resource, but they must be replenished. Throughout the Intelligence Community we have a major challenge to make the analytic profession attractive to America's brightest and most energetic, and to offer the stimulation and stature that will persuade many to remain in public service. We must give them the tools, training, and time to build and apply their expertise. Technology without time and training is insufficient and ineffective. Though many agencies use a model where advancement means movement into some management rank, we in INR believe strongly we must reward expertise as such-elevating people for what they know and produce. The best school teacher may make the worst principal. Enabling analysts fully to exploit their deepening expertise, and perhaps assigning to the most senior and valuable of them both understudies and research assistants who can aspire to greater skill and rank-and provide a measure of analytic continuity-deserve serious examination and testing.
The issues we confront have exploded in quantity and complexity since the Cold War ended. But, Mr. Chairman, the greatest nation on earth with the world's most creative and innovative brains can deal successfully with a complex world of interlinked politics, economics, and societies if we can keep them constantly under our intelligence collection and analysis lens.
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