Orem • “Buckle up, it’s going to be a tough century.”
That’s what Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA), told a capacity crowd at Utah Valley University on Wednesday in a speech titled “Hot spots at home and around the world.”
Global dynamics are more complicated than ever, he said, and terrorist groups and individuals now have more capabilities to harm us.
Such threats include cyberattacks. The digital age and the World Wide Web are “the most ungoverned space in human history,” he noted.
“Geopolitical tectonics” — shifts in global security — have changed and we are well past the power balance established in the post-World War II era, Hayden said.
“The old world order is disintegrating, because the world is no longer the place upon which it was based,” he said. “The U.S. is threatened less by conquering states than we are from failing ones.”
The United States has yet to define its role in what Hayden called “the postindustrial” world.
Among the global uncertainties are what he described as “states that are brittle but nuclear,” including Pakistan and Russia.
Russia, he said, has a fraction of the power it once held as the center of the Soviet Union and is intent on disruption to increase its standing in the world.
He cited such things as President Vladimir Putin’s usurpation of Crimea, his efforts to undermine NATO, the disinformation campaign to break up the European Union and his efforts to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.
Russia’s covert influence campaign in the 2016 U.S. election is “an incredibly big deal,” Hayden said. “How can we prevent this from happening again?”
Such campaigns exploit fractures in society, he explained. This country should return to a time when people could agree to disagree.
“We need to heal ourselves,” he said, “and not disparage people who don’t agree with us.”
Beyond that, Hayden said, the Russians appear to be pushing for a new Cold War with new nuclear armaments.
“I thought we were past that,” he said. “But it’s not the case.”
The former chief spy also took time to critique Donald Trump and what he called the president’s “imprecise language,” which could pose a threat to U.S. security from North Korea.
“You could call this the calm before the storm,” Hayden quoted Trump as saying to news media as he was meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such language, the former NSA chief said, provokes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and unsettles China.
Kim is not crazy but rational, Hayden said, and will never give up his nuclear arsenal.
“He’s seen the movie,” Hayden said referring to Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who had surrendered nukes only to pay with their lives.
The North Korean dictator’s activities are leading to a buildup in U.S. presence in the region — a buffer that other countries appreciate.
“Kim is making the whole neighborhood happy,” he said. “The U.S. is coming back.”
The United States must find its place in the new world order, Hayden said. Many nations look to this country and wonder what our role will be in the future.
Trump is made in the mold of President Andrew Jackson — a nationalist, populist who is suspicious of the outside world. At the same time, Hayden said, he has surrounded himself with advisers who are American internationalists: Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Security Dan Coats.
That has led to confusion regarding where the U.S. is headed.
“We are the most powerful nation, but no one knows where we are going,” Hayden said. “That’s why everyone in the world is afraid of us.”