David Kilcullen, former senior counter-insurgency adviser to General David Petraeus, held a roundtable discussion at the Buffett Center Monday afternoon. After serving as chief strategist for counterterrorism for the U.S. State Department from 2005-2006, Kilcullen worked on the personal staff of General Petraeus in early 2007 near the end of former President Bush's second term of office.
Speaking in front of about 20 students, Kilcullen emphasized the fact that there isn't a clear set of answers for the future of the world. Instead, he focused on a few current global trends: urbanization, digital connectivity and population growth. Having spent 25 years in the military, and serving in the special forces, Kilcullen's past experiences in scenes of global conflict supplement his academic research.
“It took all of human history up until 1960 before the world had three billion people,” Kilcullen said. “In the next 30 years, three billion more people will be added to the world.”
Despite the fact that the world's people are becoming increasingly concentrated along coastal areas, Kilcullen does not believe that global conflict is an inherent output of population growth. Further, he sees no military solution to solving urbanization in politically unstable parts of the world.
“The military would understand this. Politicians don't,” Kilcullen said.
While Kilcullen remains confident that American foreign policy will continue the pattern of engaging in minor conflicts every five or ten years, he highlighted future international concerns over drone use as a potential issue. Although current U.S. drone policy seems rational because other nations are not utilizing weaponized drones against our domestic interests, technologies will spread.
Tying the mobilization of drones into the international war on drugs, Kilcullen pointed out current drone use by Mexico. Currently, Mexico's drug and national security policy includes sending drones to fly over El Paso, Texas and the state of New Mexico.
“What if one day Mexico weaponizes their drones and strikes El Paso to fight their war on drugs?” Kilcullen said. “We may have provoked a global drone race, and technology isn't politically neutral.”
Kilcullen concluded with a group discussion on the blurring of crime and war.
Pointing to media coverage of the Nairobi mall attacks, he argued that what is a big deal to the international community doesn't matter to the Nairobi masses living in slums around the city. For them, a lack of water and food is the real threat. Yet the issue at hand for Kilcullen is the fact that the difference between what is a crime in a city and what is projected as an act of war on the international stage is becoming nil.
Kilcullen's thoughts on future domestic and international security are discussed in his new book, Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla.