The 75th anniversary memorial of D-Day marked an important turning point in American history. The youngest draftees who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 are now 90 years old. Soon, the living memory of the invasion will be lost. D-Day will continue to fade in our collective consciousness, growing ever distant from contemporary affairs. In addition to losing this memory, I am also concerned that American global leadership could be in danger of becoming a relic of the past as well, if we don’t continue to adapt to the changing realities of global security.
When the U.S. joined the war effort in 1941 after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, our enemies could be identified on a map and by clear moral lines. In many ways, there was less "gray" in the world. Even after the war ended, Americans were unified against the face of radical communism. Joining with our allies, we rallied in defense of democracy and liberty.
However, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, our enemies have evolved at an alarming rate. “M” from James Bond said it best: “Our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map. They're not nations, they're individuals. And look around you. Who do you fear? Can you see a face, a uniform, a flag? No! Our world is not more transparent now, it's more opaque!”
As a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, I see that warfare and international security are no longer black and white. We have been forced to work into the "gray." This not only makes it harder to anticipate and counter advancing threats, but it makes effective global leadership more complicated.
Many times, our current enemies simply aim to create chaos and confusion. Their motives and objectives are fuzzy. America and our allies were able to defeat the Nazi war machine partly because we were united against a common enemy. By contrast, our enemies today work in the shadows — and it’s not easy to unite people against an enemy they can’t understand or see. Furthermore, we must conduct this fight alongside allies that want and require our leadership but are simultaneously resentful of our role in global security. It’s a Catch-22.
Given these challenges, we need to continue adapting to the changing nature of global security or our leadership is in danger of going the way of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
I believe we are up to the task. In order to rise to the challenge, though, we need to reaffirm our values. We also need to remain dynamic in our approach to future threats. This requires serious work to better understand our enemies, anticipate new security challenges, and be united in our approach to handling those threats.
For this reason, I was honored to host the fifth annual Stewart Security Summit on Friday, Aug. 2, in Salt Lake City. Discussions during the summit engaged these challenging questions and examined the future of American global security leadership.
I was especially honored to host the Principal Deputy of the Director of National Intelligence, Susan Gordon, as well as House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy. Gordon has nearly three decades of experience in intelligence. Prior to serving as the principal deputy, she was the deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and served 27 years at the CIA. We were also joined by my good friend, Kevin McCarthy. He offered invaluable commentary on the role of leadership in protecting our democratic values.
In addition to our two key note guests, we hosted a panel focusing on the Exportation of Democracy. This panel consisted of three impressive guests including Randy Scheunemann, Thomas Sheehy and Amanda Bennett. Scheunemann is the vice chairman of the International Republican Institute, his years of experience in foreign policy and security deepened our discussion on the best practices for securing democracies. Sheehy is a distinguished fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, focusing on conflict resolution and great power competition in Africa. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author and investigative journalist, Bennett serves as the director of Voice of America. Her insight into the complex relationship between media and democracy elevated the panel discussion.
The battle for democratic values is intense, crucial and ongoing. In the past few years, due to internal divisions and a resurgence of international isolationism, many democratizing nations on the path to freedom have begun to backslide on their progress. As the leader of the free world, we have a responsibility to defend democracy in our own country and around the world. Too many depend on us.