OREM — Buckle up. It's going to be a tough century.
That was the parting advice Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and CIA, gave students at Utah Valley University at the end of his speech Wednesday morning.
"I'm old enough to claim I've lived in a world more dangerous than today," he told students, referring to the Cuban missile crisis. But, he added, "I've never lived in a world more complicated, and I really mean that."
Instead of concentrating on the daily stories on the evening news, Hayden asked students to pay attention to the bedrock of global situations, or the "tectonic plates" behind shifts in society.
"What do we think our role is in the world I just described?" he asked the more than 600 students who turned up to see the retired U.S. Air Force four-star general. "We are the most disruptive force on the planet right now, because we are big, powerful, important and no one knows where we're going."
His lecture, "Hot Spots at Home and Around the World," covered his take on global issues from foreign policy in China to Russian election interference to tweets from President Donald Trump.
Hayden criticized the use of "imprecise language" to discuss national affairs, as Trump often does in impromptu or off-hand comments or tweets.
"The rest of the world is looking at us, wondering what do we Americans think our responsibilities are to both shake and sustain global order,” Hayden told members of the media before his lecture. "The whole world is looking at the words of the president of the United States because they have meaning for the entire world."
We are the most disruptive force on the planet right now, because we are big, powerful, important and no one knows where we're going.
In his talk to students, Hayden suggested five key foundations that are altering the world for better or worse on a global scale:
- The changing meaning of state powers.
- The uncertainty of once-permanent institutions.
- The proliferation of nuclear materials going into unsteady hands.
- The rise of China.
- The reaction of American people
In the past, military power was central in deciding how the world turned, Hayden said. But with instant and global connections, he said, small groups and individuals now have the ability to inflict the kind of change usually only associated with nation-states.
"For the most part, that’s good news," he said. "But for most of my life, I never lost any sleep over a religious fanatic living in a cave in the Hindu Kush. And I do now.”
Hayden also discussed the impact of Russian interference in the U.S. election last year. Known as a "covert influence campaigns," Hayden said the interference exploited fractures in U.S. society, such as voter's distrust in the electoral process.
"It is the high-confident judgment of the American intelligence community that the Russians attempted to influence the results of our election and to help Donald Trump become elected president of the United States," he said.
The way to move forward, he continued, is to determine how it happened and how to stop it from happening again.
"I have great confidence in the American people," he said. "We need to return to a day when political differences did not result in the value judgment of other human beings."
With the lecture hall filled, students lined the walls or sat on the floor for the talk.
"It's wonderful to see so many of you here today. I think this is the largest audience we've had so far with this series," UVU President Matthew S. Holland said.
Regardless of what area of work you're in, I think national security topics will affect you in some degree or another.
–Kyle Manola, UVU student
Hayden visited the campus as part of the university's Presidential Lecture Series, sponsored by the UVU Office of the President and the Office of Engaged Learning.
"It's one thing to read about these kind of things in a textbook. It's another to actually be able to converse with someone who's been there, done that," said Kyle Manola, a UVU senior studying integrated studies and national security.
Colby Oliverson, a senior studying finance, added the lecture was a great way to stay informed on what is happening in the world.
"Regardless of what area of work you're in, I think national security topics will affect you in some degree or another," Manola agreed.
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