EUGENE ZONG FOR THE HOYA Former top defense officials discussed national security in Gaston Hall Wednesday.
Former top defense officials discussed national security in Gaston Hall Wednesday.

Former national security advisers discussed national security in the United States and the Middle East in Gaston Hall Wednesday afternoon.

President and CEO of the Atlantic Council and former Assistant Managing Editor at The Wall Street Journal Fred Kempe moderated the panel, titled “National Security in the 21st Century.” The speakers included three former national security advisers: Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Hadley and James Jones (SFS ’66).

Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, opened the discussion by commenting on how the American government has changed its approach to national security since his retirement at the end of the Cold War.

“Now, the strategy is not a given. As a matter of fact, there is probably not a strategy, just tactics,” he said.

Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, noted the increasing importance of a flexible approach to security issues.

“We need to shape and change our overall national security system,” Hadley said. “You have to have a vision for the future.”

Jones, who retired as President Barack Obama’s national security advisor in October 2010, agreed.

“Great powers decline when they don’t address the problems they have,” Jones said. “The world changed, the environment changed and they tried to hold on to the old model instead of the new one.”

Jones also emphasized the importance of addressing energy use in the United States.

“If you want to make a change in the world, energy is one of the areas where American leadership can be dominant,” Jones said. “We have more of everything within our borders than everybody else in the world.”

The advisers also discussed national security concerns in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.

“This [situation is] extremely complicated, and I think we need to talk more seriously with the Russians. Syria is their last hold in the East,” Scowcroft said.

However, Jones said he does not support a boots-on-the-ground approach in Syria.

“Virtual presence is actual absence,” he said. “You can’t just sit back and hope. Hope is not a strategy.”

Fan Zhao (GRD ’13) said he found the panel educational, though he did not agree with much of the discussion.

“I thought there were some valid points, [but] some … I disagreed with,” he said.

Zhao said he worried that such high-level officials would advocate more involvement overseas. “We’re in more conflicts than we should be,” he said.

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