General George Casey — former chief of staff of the United States Army and a commander in the Iraq War — spoke Tuesday about the evolution of national security in a talk hosted by Cornell’s Political Union.
Casey began his talk by analyzing threats to national security, which he said have changed fundamentally in the past few decades. While the U.S. was primarily concerned with fighting other armies in the 1970s, the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001, according to Casey.
“This struggle that we’re involved with … is with Islamic extremism, it is an ideological struggle,” Casey said. “Because it’s an ideological struggle, it’s not something that can be measured by the length of the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. This is something that’s going to be with us and, unfortunately, with you all for decades.”
Casey said he believes the greatest threat to the U.S., and to other developed countries around the world, is the possibility of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorist organizations.
“I believe that we, or a developed country, will be attacked by a weapon of mass destruction — chemical, radiological, biological, cyborg or nuclear — sometime in the next five years,” Casey said.
However, Casey noted that the severely harmful impact of terrorist organizations are already visible around the world.
“In a 20 day period, right around the end of October or early November of last year, ISIS was responsible for the deaths of 400 people in Egypt, France, Iraq and Lebanon,” Casey said. “That is significant destruction for a terrorist organization.”
He also warned that, unlike in past wars, the U.S. will not emerge victorious from future conflicts by relying on its military power alone.
“So what do we do about it?” Casey asked. “One, the United States of America needs to stay engaged. Two, if we stay engaged we need to lead, but we need to lead collaboratively and three, we need to employ multifaceted, integrated approaches that use all of our national power — military, information, economic and diplomatic.”
However, Casey also emphasized that an outbreak of conventional war is growing less likely in today’s political climate in all parts of the world except the Korean peninsula and Pakistan.
He added that the threat of nuclear annihilation that has been present since the Cold War has almost completely disappeared, as both the U.S. and Russia have downsized their nuclear arsenals.
Before the event came to a close, the Cornell Political Union surveyed the consensus of the students in attendance and determined that most of them either agreed with all or some of Casey’s main points, with only one student in disagreement.