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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, May 24, 2024

Former National Security Council Advisor gives lecture at Fletcher School

–Former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley spoke about ISIS and conflicts in the Middle East in the ASEAN Auditorium on Nov. 30.

Former National Security Council (NSC) Advisor Stephen Hadley gave a talk Monday evening in the ASEAN auditorium titled “A Challenge of the Middle East in Flames” as part of the Dr. Maurice S. Segal Lecture series.

The discussion, which was free for all members of the public, was facilitated by Admiral James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

Hadley served as the National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009. Since leaving the position when Barack Obama took office, Hadley has been a founding member and principal of the strategic consulting firm RiceHadleyGates LLC, according to the RiceHadleyGates website. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs Anja Manuel are also principals and founding members of the firm. 

During the talk on Monday, Hadley discussed strategies to defeat ISIS and the growing power of China, as well as the role of the military in combating climate change.

Hadley argued in his talk for an increase in hard power -- the use of coercive tactics like military force -- from the United States in dealing with ISIS on the ground.

“America needs to assert itself; we need to be present militarily much more than we are," he said. "If we do that, it will give strength to our diplomacy.”

Hadley then spoke about how he would change the discussion to allow the United States “to think about all possibilities in combating ISIS, without considering budget limits or politics.”

The former Bush advisor also argued for letting majority-Muslim countries take the reigns in the fight against ISIS.

“The main victims of ISIS are fellow Muslims,” he said. “We need to stand aside and let the 1.4 billion followers of Islam reclaim their faith from the Islamic State.”

According to a June 7, 2013 article from the Pew Research Center, the global population of Muslims is now closer to 1.6 billion people.

Hadley, who was part of the team responsible for military escalation in Iraq in 2002, admitted that ISIS was caused in part by unforeseen consequences of the Iraqi conflict. U.S. involvement in the region led al-Qaeda to begin a strategy that provoked Shiites to spur a vicious cycle of sectarian conflict, which ISIS relies on to maintain its influence in the region, he said.

Following the discussion, the room was opened up for questions from audience members.

In response to one Fletcher student’s question about many Americans' concerns about the “slippery slope” that ground troops in the Middle East region might lead to, Hadley said the concern was more politically constructed than it was real.

“Slippery slopes are only slippery slopes if you slide down them,” he said. “I’m not concerned about ground troops. You’re right to be skeptical, as always, and putting American sons and daughters in harm's way should never be done lightly. But what’s going on in the Middle East is a real threat to so many people and a big threat to us at home.”

Rockford Weitz, entrepreneurship coach and director of the Maritime Studies Program at the Fletcher School, asked Hadley about the possibility of assembling “the first international military alliance against a non-human threat” in the Arctic to help deal with the consequences of climate change.

Hadley deflected this question to Stavridis, noting that his expertise was strictly in Asia and Europe.

Stavridis said that to limit the response to a military one would not necessarily be productive, citing public stigma around a militarized Arctic that might hinder any possible efforts to combat climate change.

One Fletcher student, who was a member of the United States Army Special Forces, brought up the use of drones as a part of the U.S. solution to dealing with ISIS. Hadley's response was critical of counter-terrorism strategies.

“You can fall in love with the technology because it seems to be lower risk, but it isn’t a strategy,” he said. “We’ve fallen in love with counter-terrorism, but we don’t recognize that if that’s all your strategy is, you’ll just be killing terrorists until the cows come home. At the end of the day, different strategies need to be used to bring insurgency down and make it less appealing, to bring down terrorism in a permanent way over time.”

Hadley also spent a portion of the talk addressing student attendees from the Fletcher School, advising them on how to perform in their jobs if they work for the NSC. He asked the Fletcher students in the audience to minimize their personal ambition to allow for the most effective governance.

“It will be tempting, since you’re working directly for the president, to cut down other agencies and be the savior that claims credit for cleaning up others’ messes,” he said. “Don’t do it … The job requires a real dose of humility. We’re just staff members. We do not run the world.”