Of course, that willingness is mostly a reflection of--and this is the second reason I would say the occasion is auspicious--the brilliance of the essay. I think Bob's argument is--on the ideological challenge from authoritarianism, is original, timely, and hugely important.
Third, it is an auspicious event because of the panelists who have agreed to join us to discuss and perhaps take issue with aspects of Bob's argument. Along with my colleague, David Ignatius, we have three of the smartest people in town who have been both practitioners and thinkers on this subject.
And finally, it is auspicious because all of you have joined us. I really appreciate your being willing to share an hour of your valuable time, and I look forward to hearing thoughts and reactions, afterwards.
Now, balancing all this good news, and this is why I said the occasion is "mostly auspicious," is the actual substance of Bob's argument, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, generally gloomy and utterly terrifying.
But knowing that Bob is not by nature generally gloomy or terrifying I am hoping that part of today's session can at least point us in the direction of what a useful response to the developments described in the essay might look like.
And with that, I would like to invite David Ignatius and General Allen to begin our discussion.
MR. IGNATIUS: So, thanks so much to Fred Hiatt for this innovation in our newspaper.
If you're a writer and you get to write not 750 words but imagine 7,000 words, this is the innovation we like to see.
It is my pleasure to begin our conversation about authoritarianism with General John Allen, retired Marine Four-Star General, who commanded our forces in Afghanistan; who subsequently was the Special Envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS; and who is now President of the Brookings Institution, one of the most distinguished think tanks in the world.
I want to ask you here in the room with me and people watching who--the livestream of this, if they'd like to be in the conversation, ask questions, please send them to #PostLive.
So, Gen. Allen, I want to begin with the question that is at the center of Bob Kagan's essay about authoritarianism and ask you in what way do you see this movement as a threat to the United States and its interests? Why do you think it's on the rise; and what are the basics of what you think we should do about it?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, David, first, it's great to be with you, to see you again. I think it's terrific for The Washington Post to be sponsoring this forum on this topic, but I think on many other topics that will be very important to the readership and to our public.
I think when we--as I grew up in the Cold War era, we had a sense that there was a certain inevitability to what might be considered the liberal democracy--the movement towards liberal democracy in the world, and much of the world in the aftermath of the Cold War would either be governed by democracies or would be trending in that direction. I think we felt that.
The reality, of course, has become different. And Bob, in his excellent piece, has pointed a couple of things out.
One is that there have been trends of global economy, in global economics. There have been unfulfilled expectations among large segments of populations that have, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Cold War and the emergence of what we thought was going to be this community of nations, largely governed by democracy--that left a large segment of populations disenfranchised.
And as a result of that, this has given rise, it has given the potential for the emergence of authoritarianism, for strongmen to emerge, who seek to harvest the populism that is easily stoked at this particular moment.
So, from my perspective, authoritarianism, autocratic governments, are a genuine threat to the United States, but not just to the United States but to the broader liberal democratic order. You know, we champion that order in many respects. We were the author of the many different facets of that order, whether it was the global economic relationship, whether it was our relationships in terms of security alliances, whether it was the United Nations and the idea that all of the community of nations had a stake in each other's futures and a stake in each other's security, the United States was really at the heart of all of that. We fostered a series of relationships which would ultimately create this global order that was based on the tenets and the principles of liberal democracy.
So, as that has begun to recede, as we have begun to see the emergence of a peer competitor in China, a hostile competitor, in my mind, in Russia; as we have seen the conditions in certain countries come together to create a populist base that could be harvested by strongmen, authoritarian figures, this has begun, I think, to push back upon the liberal democratic order.
Let's remember what the liberal democratic order is all about: It is about states that are committed to the rule of law; states that are committed to human rights, and equal rights for its citizens; its states who recognize that, while there is this thing called "sovereignty," the interaction of people is very important for the furtherance of the good of all humankind.
Authoritarian states don't come down on those kinds of issues in the way we would want our democracies to. The rule of law is, in fact, a threat to authoritarians. Human rights, in fact, is an obstacle--commitment to human rights is an obstacle to their capacity to rule their societies.
And we need to remember that, in democracies, our societies are governed by the consent of the masses. In the authoritarian states, they are ruled by the consent of the few at the top who have seized the kinds of authority and power necessary to dominate the society. So, wherever there is an advance of authoritarianism anywhere, there is a retreat of liberal democracy somewhere. And the United States needs to be absolutely committed, ultimately, to preserving as much of the world order that we fostered as we, with our allies, because they were partners with us in this process.
We have to be committed to this, because as these authoritarians, as these autocrats come forward out of the shadows, which is what Bob's point is--they've always been around--it was when they were strong, multilateral organizations of democracies committed to the rule of law, committed to human rights, committed to free trade and the interaction of peoples and the guarantee of equal rights for all--when we were together as a community, then they had little space to maneuver.
MR. IGNATIUS: Let me ask you, General Allen, the skeptical question: We have a president in the White House who, among many things he says, says something that is, I think, widely felt by Americans, which is that we've been through a period of attempted overreach of American foreign policy. And some would argue that we've tended to over-moralize American foreign policy, to put it in values terms rather than strict terms of national interest.
So, again, coming at it from this devil's advocate, skeptical point of view, why does this threaten the national interests of the United States in a way that requires such a strong response as you're describing?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, if we truly believe in our own values, as one of the things I did last night was to reread the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution--and if we truly do believe in our values, which is that they are enshrined in a set of principles that values the rule of law above all other things and, inherent to the rule of law, is an absolute commitment to the human rights and the equal rights of the population. If those are truly our values as a people and as a nation and as a community of nations with whom we are allied very closely, then it is something that threatens, not just the community of nations, not just our allies, but it threatens the very social fabric of the United States and of America, in particular.
So, when we see gains by authoritarians that tramples democratic processes, that tramples democratic institutions, that walks on a free and independent press, that circumscribes freedom of speech, that would seek to identify and marginalize a segment of the society or a faith practiced within that society, that is a threat to us. This is what we stand for, and we should be standing up against that.
MR. IGNATIUS: So, again, to ask what I hope is an impolitic question, how does the United States combat authoritarianism at a time when many people, at home and abroad, believe the United States has a somewhat authoritarian president here in Washington, D.C.? How does that work?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, I think we need to be clear about the difference between about what appears to be U.S. leadership and American leadership. You're an American leader. These are American leaders before me. There are American leaders watching us from the webcast. Institutions like think tanks, universities, these are all measures of American leadership, American commitment to democracy, American commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
And when I see our friends overseas and they're scratching their heads about what they're hearing coming out of Washington or whatever the tweet is that particular morning--
GEN. ALLEN: --I ask them, "Please don't make a long-term structural decision with respect to your relationship with us, because there will come this day--there will come the day when you will not hear that again, and you will see a synchronization of what we would call 'American leadership' with 'U.S. leadership' again, a leadership for whom human rights is perhaps the first measure of relations with nations that we'll be involved with, not an afterthought or completely off the table," which is where we find ourselves frequently as we deal with strongmen overseas.
And so, I think there is a very strong American predisposition, a very strong American bias to all of those things that we've talked about, which has--it's values-based. We live--I believe we live our values. And outside the beltway, you go to a state government or you go to a municipal government or you go to a county government, democracy is strong, there. By and large, people are desperate for reassurance that their democracy means something and it stands for something and their values mean something.
Now, a large segment of the American population feels disenfranchised, and that has caused a dynamic, a populist dynamic, that was harvested by certain people, and that populist dynamic has delivered us into the political environment that we're in today.
It's not the problem of this president. I mean, he has, in fact, found himself in a position where this long sweep of disenfranchisement of segments of our population has delivered the political environment, ultimately, that permits this kind of government to emerge. But I do believe that the American people are committed to these values, that our foreign policy should continue to be committed to these values, and we should, as people around the world believe--that they should be able to look at the United States and see that example of people who are the exemplars of the values that we have espoused for so many years, we live them, and we are an example of them, and we seek to extend them to those who are our friends and those who are not our friends, that they'll pay a price for their authoritarianism and their autocracy.
MR. IGNATIUS: So, just one more question on this somewhat political area: Do you think this period of nationalist populism in the United States, embodied by Donald Trump, with authoritarian characteristics, certainly in attacking the media--do you think this period will be short-lived?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, it didn't start last Tuesday, and it's not going to end next Tuesday. So, I think, again, this president is a symptom. He has harvested the outcome of something that is symptomatic of something deeper in our society.
However, driving the wedge into the society which marginalizes segments of our society, by race or by ethnicity or by gender or by faith, that has exacerbated the issue.
And there will be a day after. This administration, there will be a day after, and for those who would seek to lead our people, seek to help to govern this democracy, need to be thinking about what are the conditions in this country which, in part and in aggregation, created an environment where this kind of government could emerge.
And if you don't like it, then we need to decompose why and begin, systematically, as I know many would like to, to begin to address those issues.
MR. IGNATIUS: You were our commander in Afghanistan. I can remember visiting you in Kabul.
GEN. ALLEN: Mm-hmm.
MR. IGNATIUS: I think a lot of Americans ask themselves, as you must, how much longer do we do this? It's now 18 years that we've been involved in this war, and a lot of Americans think, "What have we gotten out of this?"
We have active negotiations now with Zalmay Khalilzad speaking directly to the Taliban, and it's infuriated the President of Afghanistan--
GEN. ALLEN: Sure.
MR. IGNATIUS: --Ashraf Ghani, who you know well--
GEN. ALLEN: I do.
MR. IGNATIUS: --who feels that we are abandoning him. Are we abandoning him, and do you think the kind of deal that Ambassador Khalilzad is pursuing, keeps faith with the men and women who lost their lives there under your command and the command of your colleagues?
GEN. ALLEN: David, not a day goes by that I don't think about those troops, those who lost their lives, the thousands who were physically wounded, the thousands who have suffered thereafter from PTSD; not a day goes by. So, for me, keeping faith with their sacrifice is very important to me, and the sacrifices of their families, Gold Star families, Blue Star families.
And I can't tell you how long we need to be in Afghanistan. But the advances that have been made in Afghanistan, which is often not depicted, it's often not pointed to, the advances that have been made in the social environment, life expectancy, child mortality, access to health care, improvements in education, the earliest moments of democracy. All of those things were utterly absent on the 10th of September in 2001.
In the aftermath of the attack, the United States and the global community went to Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and to place--put in place a government which could be preserved over the long period of time, over the long term, that would prevent the reemergence of a terrorist platform.
The principal opponent still remains the Taliban. And one of our greatest diplomats of the modern era, Ryan Crocker, and I had the opportunity a couple of times to talk to the Taliban, and that never really went anywhere at that particular moment.
But the truth is all conflict ends with a peace agreement of some form or another. And my sense is, with Zal Khalilzad, who is a great diplomat and well-known to the Region, well-known to all the participants, as well--that he has gotten this started.
And I understand that President Ghani has been very unhappy about this, as was expressed by his national security advisor here in town last week. But that process, started without the Afghan Government necessarily at the table, will not be a process concluded without the Afghan Government being a full and complete participant in that process.
So, I can understand why he's unhappy at this point, but I fully expect that this administration, and certainly as represented by the Special Envoy, Ambassador Khalilzad, I fully expect that, at a particular moment, the Afghan Government will become full and complete participants.
Because in the end, while the conversation has begun about the Taliban committing to become--Afghanistan not becoming a terrorist platform and a conversation about the departure of foreign troops, in the end there are some other really essential things that the Taliban have to agree to. And we have to be skeptical of the Taliban's willingness to commit to this. One of the most important, is that the Taliban will not roll back the rights that Afghan women have achieved--enormous rights that they have achieved--in this period of time of this conflict.
There's been a great American emphasis, our European allies have been in this, the EU has been in this as an entity, in doing everything that we could to try to bolster civil society. And where government sometimes will flounder, where governments will sometimes become quite wobbly, a strong civil society can, in fact, be the safety net for that.
And one commander after another, one ambassador after another, the EU, our European allies, our Asian partners, they've put a lot of effort into civil society. Civil society, as an entity in modern Afghanistan, is a direct threat to the ideology of the Taliban. And we better be able to square that circle before we talk about a permanent outcome where the United States withdraws, with our partners and leaves exposed the Afghans.
MR. IGNATIUS: So, I understand you to be saying that we should not leave until we have some confidence that these human rights that Afghan citizens have gained, rights for women, rights for people, are preserved.
Let me ask the audience, remind you, if you want to join the conversation with General Allen, we are #PostLive, and I will be looking at my little screen here to see your questions.
GEN. ALLEN: Okay.
MR. IGNATIUS: Gen. Allen, another of the things you did in your remarkable career was play a role as an adviser to the six-party talks on Korea, North Korean denuclearization, specifically.
Here we are, dealing with the same basket of issues. And I want to ask you, after the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, first, whether President Trump overreached in this very personal diplomacy; second, what's next? What would you, as a sensible, experienced adviser, tell these folks they ought to be doing next?
And then, I will just tack on one more question: If you were Prime Minister Abe in Japan looking at this situation, wouldn't you think Japan needs a nuclear deterrent of its own?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, let me applaud the President for having the courage to speak directly to Kim Jong-un. Now, there will be those who say he has legitimized this horrendous totalitarian regime.
It is a horrendous totalitarian regime, but having been an observer to the six-party talks, where six countries came together with an earnest desire to try to find our way out of this wilderness, this nuclear wilderness, it did not pan out.
This President was handed a very difficult security environment in northeast Asia and, in particular, as Kim Jong-un, I think, ultimately has demonstrated, that he has actually achieved a strategic nuclear deterrent, in other words, an ICBM that can reach the United States, the continental United States. He appears to have not just been able to miniaturize his nuclear devices into a warhead, he's been able to mate it, which is--the physics associated with that are quite daunting. And our intelligence community has said that he has multiple warheads.
So, no other president prior to this one has been confronted with the reality that this regime could in fact--if this is a suicidal regime, and it's never quite clear what their final outcome might be in a real pinch--this regime can reach the continental United States.
So, to an extent, I applaud the President in doing this. What I think has not been helpful is this rhetoric, first of all the rhetoric that really brought us, I think, to the brink of the potential for conflict in northeast Asia; and then, a rhetoric in the aftermath of the first summit which produced a pretty hollow joint statement, none of which has come to pass, but the rhetoric that in essence said, "I have solved the nuclear deterrent. There is no North Korean nuclear threat any longer."
And what that's done is it in fact--it depressurized those who were engaged in the maximum-pressure strategy with regards to sanctions and North Korea, which had, I think, a substantial reason--was a substantial factor in their coming to the table. So, we depressurized that, and the Chinese, to some extent, walked back.
Then, the rhetoric for the Hanoi summit where we have fallen in love with Kim Jong-un, I think inflated expectations in many respects for an outcome which was quite disappointing.
And you know, again, if the President didn't get what he wanted, not permitting Kim Jong-un to dictate an outcome, I think, was wise.
But the question needs to be, what are we doing behind the scenes with our experts to set the conditions for a summit where we have, as leaders arrive, real expectations for outcomes? Showing up and having meetings with no real expectations for outcomes leaves you at a point where we can't even agree on what "denuclearization" means, and that's an issue.
MR. IGNATIUS: And what about my little insinuation about the Japanese? I think it's really fascinating to think about their dilemma.
GEN. ALLEN: Yeah, well North--
MR. IGNATIUS: Why shouldn't Japan, facing this completely unpredictable, threatening--shooting rockets over Japan every time it feels like it--
GEN. ALLEN: Sure.
MR. IGNATIUS: --why shouldn't Japan move in that direction?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, we've worked with both Korea and Japan to provide enhancements to their missile defense capabilities. We have worked very closely in terms of the networking for command and control for missile defense.
And nothing has really changed, as I understand it, with this administration--nothing has really changed with respect to the extension of the U.S. strategic deterrents of the--for the Region. In other words, the United States extended its nuclear umbrella over South Korea and over Japan.
But at some point, it is a logical question to be asked, both in terms of decisionmaking in the Blue House in Seoul and the decisionmaking in Tokyo as to whether the U.S. nuclear umbrella is credible, whether it can be sustained, or whether it might be sacrificed in some form or another for some kind of agreement--that will not--almost certainly not denuclearize the peninsula. It's almost impossible to imagine that Kim Jong-un will give up all his nuclear deterrents.
So, the Japanese may have to logically explore that. I would not encourage it and I'm not sitting here and encouraging it, but they may have to think in those terms, and my guess would be that they have. And they are technologically sufficiently advanced that this is something they could do.
MR. IGNATIUS: We have about, you know, 30 seconds left. I'm going to ask you a pointed question that comes from one of our followers--
GEN. ALLEN: That will be a difference.
MR. IGNATIUS: --on Twitter. And it's just straight and to the point.
GEN. ALLEN: Sure.
MR. IGNATIUS: How can we address and stop the growing authoritarianism in the United States?
GEN. ALLEN: Well, again, I was--am always renewed--and for those of you who are watching, for those of you who are here, if you've not done it recently, you need to read the Constitution. You need to read the Declaration of Independence.
And I think we're beginning to see--look, democracies don't happen fast. They don't move quickly. That's the difference between an authoritarian and an autocratic state, or a totalitarian state: They can twist quickly, but they've got very little shock absorbency.
Democracies have lots of shock absorbency, and there's no other democracy on the planet with more than we have, as it's enshrined in our Constitution.
You know, Article One is all about our legislature, and we're beginning to see now the legislature is beginning to twist a bit onto the subject of, in fact, addressing these drifts, if you will, towards authoritarianism.
And I think our founders were brilliant in enshrining and embedding these checks and balances and dynamics in our Constitution. So, our judiciary has remained largely intact. Authoritarians start to take that apart pretty early.
Our Fourth Estate has never been more important to America than it is right now, the free and independent media.
The legislature is beginning to find some traction. And I think all of those interlocking dimensions of American democracy in our society, I'm more optimistic than ever.
MR. IGNATIUS: Great answer. It is such a pleasure to have Gen. Allen, the President of the Brooking Institution, here with us.
GEN. ALLEN: Thank you.
MR. IGNATIUS: Thank you, Gen. Allen, and I want to now ask Fred Hiatt, my boss, to come back on stage.
MR. HIATT: All right, I'm back.
Again, I'm Fred Hiatt, the Editorial Page Editor here at The Post.
We're fortunate to have Wendy Sherman, former Undersecretary of State;
And Malcolm is a former Naval Intelligence Officer--Malcolm Nance--and author and expert on the encroachment of authoritarianism into our society;
And Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and Washington Post contributing columnist, Robert Kagan.
Thank you all for coming, really appreciate it.
Let me start with you, Wendy, because you were a senior diplomat during the last administration traveling the world, and so I'm sure you heard frequently the Chinese argument that authoritarianism works better and, you know, they're building high-speed rail. We're giving up after spending a few billion dollars somewhere in Fresno.
MR. HIATT: And how attractive is that in the world and how true is it?
MS. SHERMAN: Well, first of all, it's terrific to be here with you, Fred, and to be here with Malcolm and with Bob.
First of all, I think Bob wrote a brilliant essay. And the reason that it's an important essay is that it helps us understand that what we are experiencing now is not brand new and it's not specific to the United States, that this phenomena of liberal democracies clash with authoritarianism is happening all over the world. It's why we have Brexit, Theresa May just asking for a three-month extension in hopes of getting something done. It's why we have a lot of dissention around the world.
And although the Chinese, as you say, say that, yes, indeed, we can get better transportation, we can reduce poverty in our country--which they have done, as you well know--nonetheless, it is authoritarianism for whom? It certainly isn't the consent of the governed, which is part of our Constitution and part of our Declaration. It is certainly not about human rights, because we know Uighurs are tremendously not only disenfranchised but undergo horrors in China. We know that it may not be a system that is sustainable over time except without big control.
But I think one of the big points in Bob's essay that's very important, is China is now going to be the owner of so much data about its people, so much control through the Internet, so much control through technology, that one of the great, really, challenges we all have is wrapping our arms around technology, because technology has been part of the disenfranchisement of people, of folks feeling like they don't get their fair share of the world, and we need to master that and make sure that technology is used as a democratic tool, not as a totalitarian tool.
MR. HIATT: I think that's a huge point and I want to come back to it, but I want to take a slightly different aspect on technology and ask you a question, Bob.
I think a lot of people assumed--I certainly did--that authoritarians could take their country up to a certain point, to middle-income. Stalin could wrench them out of agriculture into building big steel factories. But at some point, if you wanted to really become a modern, prosperous country, you had to have free--you needed a rule of law, you needed to let your university students express their creativity, you needed--people need to talk to each other and have newspapers.
Was that wrong or is it--was it right, but now it's wrong because somehow technology has changed the equation and allowed China to be both totalitarian and prosperous?
MR. KAGAN: I mean, I think it's--I think it was Ho Chi Minh who said about the French Revolution, "It's too soon to tell." I don't know whether we know yet.
The only thing that we can be confident of is that expectations that, for instance, in China, which we had, I think, ever since the sort of opening that Deng Xiaoping led, we assumed that this opening would--the sort of interaction between politics and economics would gradually open up China. And eventually that may be true, but what we've seen, actually, has not confirmed that--that judgment.
And China has moved up the ladder of production very successfully. They clearly have some of the best minds in the world working. They are competing with us on artificial intelligence very effectively in what is an increasingly closed political system. I mean, Xi Jinping has moved things in the other direction.
So, the only thing I can be confident of is that the faith that we used to have, the sort of iron law that we believed existed in the relationship between liberal politics and liberal economics is something that we can't have any faith in right now. Whether it eventually proves true, we just--we'll just--we'll find out.
MR. HIATT: But don't count on it as an inevitable process?
MR. KAGAN: Well, and the other question, of course, is what happens in the interim. It may be that a hundred years from now it will prove true, but what happens in those hundred years if we have an increasingly powerful, including economically powerful and technologically powerful, China still run by a very rigid kind of autocracy.
MR. HIATT: So, still on the technology piece, then, I mean, I think a lot of us also assumed and had a lot of wrong assumptions, obviously, that the Internet was going to be a force for freedom and would undermine dictators.
Now, as Bob described in this article, it's being used for the perfection of dictatorship, and every authoritarian government has--or may have aspirations to use social media to become a totalitarian government. Is that an inevitable process? How can--is it still possible that technology could be a force for good? And how do you push back against on that.
Of course, I will start with the hard questions.
MS. SHERMAN: Simple question.
MR. NANCE: No, I think that's an excellent question, and the phrase there is "force for good."
When Facebook and social media organizations like Twitter started out, they didn't intend to be evil, right? But then again, you know, gunpowder wasn't intended to be evil, either. It just moved that way until it, you know, perfected itself in dynamite and bullets.
You know, social media, as it was launched in those first waves in the Middle East, in the revolution in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011; and Egypt, where Facebook and Twitter were these organizational and information dissemination tools which allowed, you know, people who wanted democracy, who wanted to spread the word of freedom and collectivize was, really, really powerful.
You know, and as you said, dictators, you know, they're not fools. They pay attention to this, as well. And in these dictatorships, they also saw that they themselves could identify all of their foes, right down to the individual, or their opponents down to the individual. They could manipulate information to the point where, as we saw in the 2016 elections--we saw organizations "marionetting" as we call it in the cyber warfare community, where--were fake entities were actually pulling the puppet strings of individuals and making them organize for a purpose that they didn't intend to. So--
MR. HIATT: And they had no idea who--
MR. NANCE: They had no idea who was pulling the puppet strings. I actually had an assassination--what we call an "assassination both" come after myself and MSNBC's host, Joy Reid, and pretend to be a U.S. citizen in Denver on an Internet forum in San Diego, claiming that they should come to Pasadena to watch us be killed, but it originated in St. Petersburg, Russia, when all was said and done.
Autocrats, as you say, and dictators, they know how to manipulate information. They know how to use intelligence and they know how to break the will of individuals. And though we've taken this technology to express ourselves, the freedom of speech itself is now a weapon system in the cyber war. It is no different than a cruise missile, to a certain extent. And it's the battle damage effects, as we would call it in real warfare, are that it smashes the psyche.
In 2016, you know, it wasn't the Democratic National Committee that was hacked, it was the mindset of the American public, to the point where people who saw these platforms as hammers and anvils managed to forge a new alternate reality for one-third of the population of the United States. And it has proven durable.
So, how can we defend against that? Well, for the most part, I think, you know, organizations like The Washington Post, transparency and awareness is easily the most--the best anesthetic for this and the best way to wipe up this mess.
But then, you have an adaptive enemy, who's going to take that technology and move around. We've seen the Russians, for example, have moved away from bots in this election cycle to humans, to where they have tasked out teams who will take that Internet and actually interact on a real time. So--
MR. HIATT: Let me pick up on that--
MR. NANCE: Sure.
MR. HIATT: --and talk about the response to the cyber war. Our awareness of this started while you were still in office.
MS. SHERMAN: Mm-hmm.
MR. HIATT: Of course, I think the answer that the best defense is to subscribe to The Washington Post is very wise.
MR. HIATT: But beyond that, are we--what would we be doing now if we were responding as actively as we should? Maybe we are. And what defense is there?
MS. SHERMAN: I think there's a whole cast of things that we ought to be doing.
And let me say in full disclosure, I do some work for one of the technology companies that's trying to create cyber norms around the world.
I think that the Obama administration, and certainly the Trump administration, which seems to not be focused on this except by setting up a new command structure, but not really setting the rules of the road for cyber. Those rules of the road are quite critical.
I think we need to start with civic education in our classrooms. We just heard General Allen talk about the importance of the Constitution and the Declaration. There's a reason why Hamilton the Musical was so popular: Because it made real for people the possibility and the optimism and the trajectory of who we are and what we are about. People are hungry for that.
So, I believe in civic education, cyber education, good cyber hygiene, knowing what we do to protect ourselves, what we expect of our governments in terms of creating cyber norms and living by them. Working in alliances, I know that is a strange concept these days to actually work with our friends and partners around the world to tackle these issues, but it does help us get to the right place.
One of the--I now, as I said to you, Fred, teach at Harvard. I'm Director of the Center for Public Leadership. And we're trying to get young people to understand what it means to be an effective, principled public leader, and cyber and technology and the right use of technology is certainly part of that.
One last point: Chris Robichaud who teaches about ethics at Harvard Kennedy School, wrote a piece some time ago about how liberal democracy needs a salesman.
And if you go back to the Declaration, which the General was talking about, it says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," and we need to remember that we believe these truths are self-evident and we need to claim them and fight for them, and make sure that we fight on behalf of all of the people in our country, not just the 1 percent.
MR. HIATT: On the response, I think part of the message of your essay, as I read it, is these liberal values haven't always been self-evident to everybody, and it kind of goes--waxes and wanes, and there have other periods where people have lost confidence in them. And you don't offer much of a, "Well, how are we going to get out of that" or, "How could it turn around?" I guess last time was World War II, but after a couple decades of lack of confidence, how would a more confident country--or confident in its liberal values, be responding now? And do you see any possibility of—or how do you regain that momentum?
MR. KAGAN: Well, you know, I wrote 10,000 words. I could have written another 10,00 words on maybe trying to come up with some answers. But--
MR. HIATT: We'll take a vote on that at the end of the panel.
MR. KAGAN: Yeah, sure. But you know, I think--and I don't think there is one answer. I think restoring some understanding--which I think the younger generation does understand that they are being bombarded with fake news. And I think more young people are looking to The Washington Post and other sort of responsible and careful media and understanding the difference between that and what they're getting.
But I actually think it would be we need to have another real, national discussion about liberalism, the liberal values. I don't mean liberalism, left and right liberalism, I mean, the liberal values that are in the Declaration of Independence.
Because you know, I think on the one hand, we say, "Well, that's just right and we don't have to think about it," or, "I don't like it. You know, I prefer socialism," or whatever people prefer.
But I think we need to have an honest conversation about liberalism, precisely because it isn't, in a way, self-evident, and it hasn't been historically self-evident.
And liberalism is about tradeoffs. You know, there are things lost. You know, it is sort of "two cheers for liberalism."
And then, I think we need to have a sort of honest conversation of what values are we--what are we elevating over other things? So, do we care about individual rights as the primary goal of our government or do we care about other things? Or do we admit what's lost when you only focus on individual rights? I think we have to have that honest conversation again. We've taken a lot for granted.
The Cold War was a very--it wasn't a simple thing, there were a lot of arguments, but communism, democracy, that seemed nice and simple. This is more complicated. There are weaknesses about liberalism. Authoritarians are exploiting those weaknesses and liberalism itself is questioning, you know, whether it is a viable--and so, we need to have that discussion.
MR. NANCE: You know, I know I'm going to get hammered for this, because I spent my entire career as an intelligence war fighter, right? That's in the armed forces and working in the shadows.
You know, we are at a point where I'm afraid to say--and I'm going to sound much like Robert Kagan when I'm done here--that it's time for a second Cold War. I'm afraid to say that democracy must be defended, right now.
We have been under attack and now we have that attack occurring within our own institutions, coming from--I'm sorry to say it--our own White House is now attacking the 243-year tradition that has maintained the balance; is attacking everything that has been built since the end of World War II, the entire Atlantic Alliance, the trade and treaties that we have had established that have established some semblance of stability throughout the world. And it's being done at the behest of a dictator who's an ex-KGB colonel.
Well, I know how that works. That would be like making me president: There would be spy operations every day, all day. And he understands the power of harnessing information and turning that into a weapon system.
Everything that we're seeing, even though it comes from the Russian Federation, is really a product of the Soviet-era KGB.
MR. HIATT: So, are we fighting back? And if not--
MR. NANCE: No.
MR. HIATT: --why not?
MR. NANCE: The Washington Post is further on the frontlines of this battle--this battle area than any U.S. Government institution.
MR. HIATT: Why?
MR. NANCE: Why? Because information is being used as power. The greatest weapon that is being used in this administration is the suppression and manipulation of that information which would empower us to defend ourselves. We are literally putting down our sword.
The next president, whoever it is--and I challenge the Democratic nominees who are coming for president--they are going to have to enunciate their position on the defense of the Constitution, as it exists, as it has always existed, not just going back to the norms. Anyone can go back to the norms. But are we going to confront the threat that's before our eyes?
You know, people say, "Oh, you want to have a nuclear war." No, I want a war where the foundations of democracy and what happened in the 2016 election is punished and shown that the United States and its allies will never allow this to happen again.
MR. HIATT: Let me--
MR. HIATT: --turn to you, Wendy, picking up from that. And I should mention, we did invite John Bolton to be on this panel--
MR. NANCE: I filled it, [unclear] John Bolton.
MS. SHERMAN: That would have been fun.
MR. HIATT: Yeah, next time, I hope. We're always open to full discussion.
But I have a question from a reader, David, who asked: Would you be willing to indicate whether you feel Trump fits the authoritarian mold? And if not, why not?
Let me throw that one to you and I'll append to it, you know, what hopes do you have that 2020--I mean, the campaign, not the result, necessarily, will include a discussion of these issues? Do you see anybody on the Democratic Party side who you think is willing to lead in defense of liberal values?
MS. SHERMAN: I'll start at the other side. I think there are a number of candidates running who will defend democracy in the way that Malcolm just laid it out and that got applause from this audience.
I think that Madeline Albright, who's a dear friend, business partner, my former boss, wrote a book recently called, "Fascism: A Warning." And she has said repeatedly that, although she does not consider Donald Trump a fascist, he is the least democratic president we have ever had, and I certainly endorse that position.
We--I think one of the things we all need to understand--although I agree with what my colleagues have said here, today--is that people in our country, because technology has moved so fast and because there is so much social change, one of the other--one of my colleagues at Harvard, Pippa Norris, has written about the cultural backlash. A lot of what's going on is that people--and I'll say that 55-year-old white guy in the middle of our country--and I've been married to a white guy for 39 years, so I love you all--
MS. SHERMAN: --but he feels that his privilege, his power has been lost. He has lost his manufacturing job to technology more than trade. The people down the street who he liked a lot, now they can get married. He doesn't know what that's about. He never wanted his wife to work, even though I believe women should have whatever choice they want. So, he feels dislocated, unmoored.
That sense of dislocation, of disruption, is what Donald Trump has preyed upon, is what he has grabbed and said, "I understand your rage and I'm going to stand with you."
And even though change, as Bob pointed out in his historical essay, comes with life and comes with history, disruption is necessary. The industrial revolution was critical to our economy and our growth. Destruction is what we are seeing now, the kind of destruction that Malcolm was talking about a moment ago and we cannot stand for that or we will lose the strength of our democracy.
MR. HIATT: So, I mean, you write that authoritarianism has an appeal to people who are feeling that loss that Wendy is talking about of tribe, race, religion, family, and that liberal democracy has no answer to that, or for them.
Is that--does that have to be true? Is there no way that liberal democracy can take those "commune-tarian" needs into account and still respect individual rights?
MR. KAGAN: No, I mean, it's probably too stark to say that liberal democracy has no answer to it, because we've obviously had long periods where, you know, tradition, including religious tradition, and liberal democracy have coexisted, and never in any place better than in the United States.
But there is--there is a tension, and I think the tension is inevitable, because what we're talking about is the expansion of individual rights. We expanded it in the 19th century as a result of the Civil War, and there have been continual expansion ever since. And when there is that expansion there are people that are going to feel that they--that is not what they want, that is not the country they think they want. And this is happening all around the world.
And you know, I think that when--obviously, when times are most stressful, because of an economic crisis or in the case of Europe because of an immigration influx and has happened in the United States, periodically, in the 1920s, for instance, that is the time when people most react against liberalism. In better times, the accommodations get made more easily. So, there's a lot of factors going into this.
In the case of United States, I don't think presidents--I don't think Donald Trump created this world, he benefitted from it. He's playing on it. But a president does set a tone, and a president is the one that can articulate principles and remind Americans what matters. And most of our presidents confronted with these kinds of passions and pressures have worked to tamp them down, not to enflame them.
I think what makes Trump special as a president is that he tries to enflame and he's a beneficiary of them.
And so, I do think that almost any other possible candidate in either party is more likely to try to--to try to control them, because that's the way presidents generally feel their responsibility, is to keep these things under control.
So, I do--I do hope, if we ever get another president, that--
MR. HIATT: Not funny.
MR. KAGAN: Sorry, okay--that we'll get a different tone in the White House.
MR. HIATT: I want to ask about an aspect of the rise of authoritarianism that we feel sort of personally here, which is they're reaching beyond their borders, not just in cyber, but actual--physically, Putin sending--using poison gas in Salisbury, England; the Chinese kidnapping Gui Minhai from Thailand--he's still missing. He's somewhere in the prison system in China; and of course Jamal Khashoggi, our colleague being lured to a consulate in Istanbul and murdered, and still no accountability for that.
What--what do you think of the West's response to these events, and what should it be?
MR. NANCE: It's pretty simple. The guardrail of democracy, the United States and its alliances around the world, has been removed.
We have--you know, I'll go right at the President, don't worry about it. We have a president who has decided that the United States needs to be part of an axis of autocracies and not part of a democracy. He wants to remove all of the defensive systems, because he thinks that they're antiquated or they don't benefit him personally, okay?
By doing that, he has rung the alarm bell. He has given a permission slip to every totalitarian nation in the world to do as you please, right?
The abduction, murder of Jamal Khashoggi is insane. It would never have occurred under any other president because they know--the Saudis know--and I have lived in that part of the world my entire life. I've been to their Diwans. I hang out with these guys, drink with them. And they know that there--
MR. KAGAN: Drink?
MR. NANCE: Yeah. Yeah, after prayers.
MR. KAGAN: Okay.
MR. NANCE: So, they do know that a President of the United States would put his foot down and bring the entire burden of American power on top of them, would offer sanctions, would do anything to ensure that that human right violation would, (a), never happen; (b), not happen a second time if it does happen; and (c), ensure that there was some sanction related to that, taking away some of their toys.
This president has shown that he is open for sale and that you can, (a), do what you want because we are not going to stop you.
The attack in England, the chemical weapons terrorist attack which was carried out by a--what we call a "Class One Terrorist Group," a state intelligence agency designed to kill two individuals, but sickened over three--you know, two dozen, was literally a terrorist attack carried out in the middle of one of our allies.
We're finding they're using state-level poisons--
MR. KAGAN: Yeah.
MR. NANCE: --radioactive isotopes to kill their allies in our nations. This is why I'm saying it might be beneficial or it may have to happen that we have a second Cold War, where the intelligence community will now start confronting these activities on an international scale the way it was in the 1960s, to put them back on notice that the United States will not be pushed and we will not allow these activities to occur again.
MR. HIATT: To wage a Cold War like that, presumably, you would need a lot of popular support. You worked for a president who, while--I won't go into comparisons, but he talked about, "It's time for nation-building at home."
And so, you know, there was a sense of, "Okay, we won the Cold War. We're tired. Why are we still building fire stations in Afghanistan when I need a fire station here?"
Can you rebuild a popular consensus that, yes, we need to be leaders; yes, we need to be giving foreign aid? Where does that come from?
MS. SHERMAN: I think you can because I think that one of the things that people did understand out of the 2008 recession is that we're connected to the world, that we don't live on an island, even though we are buffeted by two big oceans. And certainly, 9/11 proved that our oceans do not keep us secure. We are connected to the world.
And I think that whoever becomes president next--and I'm hopeful there will be a new president in 2020, because I think there's a lot of talent out there--that that president not only elevates the values that we've been talking about here this morning, but helps people understand that our government is going to support those people who feel left out and left behind, that we are going to create a safety net for those folks, that all boats can rise. That there are ways to move life forward where, yes, there will be tradeoffs, no doubt. Bob is right about that, but we can manage those tradeoffs. We can soften the impact, the negative impacts, of those tradeoffs, and that we are going to be out in the world as we lead.
When I was Undersecretary, I traveled to, I don't know, maybe 60 different countries while--in the four years I was Undersecretary, and I've traveled constantly since. Everywhere I have gone, people have said, "We need the United States to lead. We will do our part, but we need you to lead." And it's because no one, even today, has the economic power that we do; the military power we do; and, most fundamentally, the commitment to freedom and to democracy that we do.
And even when people don't like what we do, they hope for us, anyway, and we need to return to that.
MR. HIATT: That's very well stated, and we are basically out of time.
Let me do a 20-second lightning round. We have one more reader question which I wanted to ask, from Bob--different Bob, I assume.
MR. HIATT: What can we do--what can we do on a daily basis in the lives we lead and the choices we make to strengthen liberalism and oppose the slide to authoritarianism?
MR. KAGAN: Well, that's a terrific question and I--I'm glad that question's raised, because I do think that, you know, there has been a long tendency in the United States to say, for instance, "Our institutions will protect us," you know, the checks and balances, Congress, et cetera; or, "When we get a new president, everything will be fine. The president will fix it."
And I think we need to remember that institutions don't work unless people are demanding that they work.
MS. SHERMAN: Yeah.
MR. KAGAN: There's nothing automatic in our system that saves us from democracy collapsing. It requires our efforts, everybody's efforts.
And I would say, now more than ever, we need every--every individual in this country needs to be an activist and needs to be a demander of their politicians, outspoken in what is now a wide-open media environment. There is a lot of ways for people to express themselves without using nasty words, and in term--also, in terms of talking to their children and in demanding a good educational system.
I really think that it's always been true, but it's more true than ever, that individuals now really matter in--if we're going to sort of save what it is that we've created.
MR. HIATT: Well, thank you.
I'd like to thank Brookings for sharing Bob with us, and General Allen, and you for the great article, and all three of you for what I think we can all agree was really a great panel. So, thank you very much.
Thank you all for coming.
[End sound file: 0320 Opinions Forum.mp3]
[End recorded session]