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TEDGlobal 2012

James Stavridis: A Navy Admiral's thoughts on global security

Filmed:

Imagine global security driven by collaboration -- among agencies, government, the private sector and the public. That's not just the distant hope of open-source fans, it's the vision of James Stavridis, a US Navy Admiral. Stavridis shares vivid moments from recent military history to explain why security of the future should be built with bridges rather than walls.

- Navy Admiral
What will 21st-century security look like? Navy Admiral James Stavridis suggests that dialogue and openness will be the game-changers. Full bio

I'm gonna talk a little bit about open-source security,
00:16
because we've got to get better at security
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in this 21st century.
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Let me start by saying, let's look back to the 20th century,
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and kind of get a sense of how that style of security
00:29
worked for us.
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This is Verdun, a battlefield in France
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just north of the NATO headquarters in Belgium.
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At Verdun, in 1916, over a 300-day period,
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700,000 people were killed,
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so about 2,000 a day.
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If you roll it forward -- 20th-century security --
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into the Second World War,
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you see the Battle of Stalingrad,
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300 days, 2 million people killed.
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We go into the Cold War, and we continue
01:06
to try and build walls.
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We go from the trench warfare of the First World War
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to the Maginot Line of the Second World War,
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and then we go into the Cold War,
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the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall.
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Walls don't work.
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My thesis for us today is, instead of building walls
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to create security, we need to build bridges.
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This is a famous bridge in Europe.
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It's in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
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It's the bridge over the Drina River,
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the subject of a novel by Ivo Andrić,
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and it talks about how,
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in that very troubled part of Europe and the Balkans,
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over time there's been enormous building of walls.
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More recently, in the last decade, we begin to see
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these communities start, hesitatingly,
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to come together.
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I would argue, again, open-source security
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is about connecting the international,
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the interagency, the private-public,
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and lashing it together with strategic communication,
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largely in social networks.
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So let me talk a little bit about why we need to do that,
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because our global commons is under attack
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in a variety of ways,
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and none of the sources of threat to the global commons
02:30
will be solved by building walls.
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Now, I'm a sailor, obviously.
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This is a ship, a liner, clipping through the Indian Ocean.
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What's wrong with this picture?
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It's got concertina wire along the sides of it.
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That's to prevent pirates from attacking it.
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Piracy is a very active threat today
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around the world. This is in the Indian Ocean.
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Piracy is also very active in the Strait of Malacca.
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It's active in the Gulf of Guinea.
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We see it in the Caribbean.
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It's a $10-billion-a-year discontinuity
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in the global transport system.
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Last year, at this time, there were 20 vessels,
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500 mariners held hostage.
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This is an attack on the global commons.
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We need to think about how to address it.
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Let's shift to a different kind of sea,
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the cyber sea.
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Here are photographs of two young men.
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At the moment, they're incarcerated.
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They conducted a credit card fraud that netted them
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over 10 billion dollars.
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This is part of cybercrime which is a $2-trillion-a-year
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discontinuity in the global economy.
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Two trillion a year.
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That's just under the GDP of Great Britain.
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So this cyber sea, which we know endlessly
03:57
is the fundamental piece of radical openness,
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is very much under threat as well.
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Another thing I worry about in the global commons
04:09
is the threat posed by trafficking,
04:12
by the movement of narcotics, opium,
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here coming out of Afghanistan through Europe
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over to the United States.
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We worry about cocaine
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coming from the Andean Ridge north.
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We worry about the movement of illegal weapons
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and trafficking. Above all, perhaps,
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we worry about human trafficking, and the awful cost of it.
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Trafficking moves largely at sea
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but in other parts of the global commons.
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This is a photograph, and I wish I could tell you
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that this is a very high-tech piece of US Navy gear
04:48
that we're using to stop the trafficking.
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The bad news is,
04:55
this is a semi-submersible run by drug cartels.
04:57
It was built in the jungles of South America.
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We caught it with that low-tech raft — (Laughter) —
05:07
and it was carrying six tons of cocaine.
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Crew of four. Sophisticated communications sweep.
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This kind of trafficking, in narcotics, in humans, in weapons,
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God forbid, in weapons of mass destruction,
05:25
is part of the threat to the global commons.
05:28
And let's pull it together in Afghanistan today.
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This is a field of poppies in Afghanistan.
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Eighty to 90 percent of the world's poppy,
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opium and heroin, comes out of Afghanistan.
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We also see there, of course, terrorism.
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This is where al Qaeda is staged from.
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We also see a very strong insurgency embedded there.
05:50
So this terrorism concern is also part
05:54
of the global commons, and what we must address.
05:58
So here we are, 21st century.
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We know our 20th-century tools are not going to work.
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What should we do?
06:09
I would argue that we will not deliver security
06:12
solely from the barrel of a gun.
06:16
We will not deliver security solely from the barrel of a gun.
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We will need the application of military force.
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When we do it, we must do it well, and competently.
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But my thesis is, open-source security is about international,
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interagency, private-public connection pulled together
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by this idea of strategic communication on the Internet.
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Let me give you a couple of examples of how this works in a positive way.
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This is Afghanistan. These are Afghan soldiers.
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They are all holding books.
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You should say, "That's odd. I thought I read that
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this demographic, young men and women
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in their 20s and 30s, is largely illiterate in Afghanistan."
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You would be correct.
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Eighty-five percent cannot read
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when they enter the security forces of Afghanistan.
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Why? Because the Taliban withheld education
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during the period of time in which these men and women
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would have learned to read.
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So the question is, so,
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why are they all standing there holding books?
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The answer is, we are teaching them to read
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in literacy courses by NATO
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in partnership with private sector entities,
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in partnership with development agencies.
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We've taught well over 200,000 Afghan Security Forces
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to read and write at a basic level.
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When you can read and write in Afghanistan,
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you will typically put a pen in your pocket.
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At the ceremonies, when these young men and women
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graduate, they take that pen with great pride,
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and put it in their pocket.
08:03
This is bringing together international
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— there are 50 nations involved in this mission —
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interagency — these development agencies —
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and private-public, to take on this kind of security.
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Now, we are also teaching them combat skills, of course,
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but I would argue, open-source security
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means connecting in ways that create
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longer lasting security effect.
08:26
Here's another example.
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This is a US Navy warship.
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It's called the Comfort.
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There's a sister ship called the Mercy.
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They are hospital ships.
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This one, the Comfort, operates throughout
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the Caribbean and the coast of South America
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conducting patient treatments.
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On a typical cruise, they'll do 400,000 patient treatments.
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It is crewed not strictly by military
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but by a combination of humanitarian organizations:
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Operation Hope, Project Smile.
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Other organizations send volunteers.
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Interagency physicians come out.
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They're all part of this.
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To give you one example of the impact this can have,
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this little boy, eight years old,
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walked with his mother two days
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to come to the eye clinic put on by the Comfort.
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When he was fitted, over his extremely myopic eyes,
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he suddenly looked up and said,
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"Mama, veo el mundo."
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"Mom, I see the world."
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Multiply this by 400,000 patient treatments,
09:40
this private-public collaboration with security forces,
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and you begin to see the power
09:48
of creating security in a very different way.
09:50
Here you see baseball players.
09:54
Can you pick out the two US Army soldiers
09:59
in this photograph?
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They are the two young men on either side
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of these young boys. This is part of a series
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of baseball clinics, where we have explored collaboration
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between Major League Baseball,
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the Department of State,
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who sets up the diplomatic piece of this,
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military baseball players, who are real soldiers
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with real skills but participate in this mission,
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and they put on clinics
10:27
throughout Latin America and the Caribbean,
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in Honduras, in Nicaragua,
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in all of the Central American and Caribbean nations
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where baseball is so popular,
10:40
and it creates security.
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It shows role models to young men and women
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about fitness and about life that I would argue
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help create security for us.
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Another aspect of this partnership
10:54
is in disaster relief.
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This is a US Air Force helicopter participating
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after the tsunami in 2004 which killed 250,000 people.
11:02
In each of these major disasters — the tsunami in 2004,
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250,000 dead, the Kashmiri earthquake in Pakistan, 2005,
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85,000 dead,
11:20
the Haitian earthquake, about 300,000 dead,
11:22
more recently the awful earthquake-tsunami combination
11:27
which struck Japan and its nuclear industry —
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in all of these instances, we see partnerships
11:35
between international actors,
11:38
interagency, private-public working with security forces
11:42
to respond to this kind of natural disaster.
11:46
So these are examples of this idea of open-source security.
11:50
We tie it together, increasingly, by doing things like this.
11:54
Now, you're looking at this thinking, "Ah, Admiral,
11:59
these must be sea lanes of communication,
12:01
or these might be fiber optic cables."
12:05
No. This is a graphic of the world according to Twitter.
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Purple are tweets. Green are geolocation.
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White is the synthesis.
12:19
It's a perfect evocation of that great population survey,
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the six largest nations in the world in descending order:
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China, India, Facebook, the United States,
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Twitter and Indonesia. (Laughter)
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Why do we want to get in these nets?
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Why do we want to be involved?
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We talked earlier about the Arab Spring,
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and the power of all this.
12:42
I'll give you another example,
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and it's how you move this message.
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I gave a talk like this in London a while back
12:47
about this point. I said, as I say to all of you,
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I'm on Facebook. Friend me.
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Got a little laugh from the audience.
12:54
There was an article which was run by AP, on the wire.
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Got picked up in two places in the world:
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Finland and Indonesia.
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The headline was: NATO Admiral Needs Friends.
13:07
(Laughter)
13:10
Thank you. (Applause)
13:12
Which I do. (Laughter)
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And the story was a catalyst,
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and the next morning I had hundreds
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of Facebook friend requests
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from Indonesians and Finns,
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mostly saying, "Admiral, we heard you need a friend,
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and oh, by the way, what is NATO?" (Laughter)
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So ... (Laughter)
13:33
Yeah, we laugh, but this is how we move the message,
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and moving that message is how we connect
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international, interagency, private-public,
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and these social nets to help create security.
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Now, let me hit a somber note.
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This is a photograph of a brave British soldier.
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He's in the Scots Guards.
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He's standing the watch in Helmand,
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in southern Afghanistan.
13:59
I put him here to remind us,
14:02
I would not want anyone to leave the room thinking
14:04
that we do not need capable, competent militaries
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who can create real military effect.
14:12
That is the core of who we are and what we do,
14:15
and we do it to protect freedom, freedom of speech,
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all the things we treasure in our societies.
14:22
But, you know, life is not an on-and-off switch.
14:25
You don't have to have a military that is either
14:29
in hard combat or is in the barracks.
14:32
I would argue life is a rheostat.
14:36
You have to dial it in,
14:40
and as I think about how we create security
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in this 21st century, there will be times
14:46
when we will apply hard power in true war and crisis,
14:49
but there will be many instances,
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as we've talked about today,
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where our militaries can be part of creating
14:58
21st-century security, international,
15:01
interagency, private-public,
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connected with competent communication.
15:07
I would close by saying that we heard earlier today
15:12
about Wikipedia. I use Wikipedia all the time
15:16
to look up facts, and as all of you appreciate,
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Wikipedia is not created by 12 brilliant people
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locked in a room writing articles.
15:28
Wikipedia, every day, is tens of thousands of people
15:30
inputting information, and every day millions of people
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withdrawing that information.
15:39
It's a perfect image for the fundamental point
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that no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.
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No one person, no one alliance, no one nation,
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no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.
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The vision statement of Wikipedia is very simple:
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a world in which every human being can freely share
16:02
in the sum of all knowledge.
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My thesis for you is that by combining international,
16:07
interagency, private-public, strategic communication,
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together, in this 21st century,
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we can create the sum of all security.
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Thank you. (Applause)
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Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause)
16:24
Translated by Joseph Geni
Reviewed by Morton Bast

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About the Speaker:

James Stavridis - Navy Admiral
What will 21st-century security look like? Navy Admiral James Stavridis suggests that dialogue and openness will be the game-changers.

Why you should listen

In the world of security, says James Stavridis, "we are generally focused on risk. But I think we should spend a bit of our most precious resource — time — on thinking about and developing opportunities." The first US Navy officer to hold the positions of Commander of the US European Command (USEUCOM) and of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Stavridis has been advocating the opportunities perspective for a long time. He sees dialogue and collaboration — between nations, and between public and private sectors — as key to the future of security. As a Navy officer, he thinks deeply about protecting the value of our "global commons." And he's a rare high-ranking military officer who tweets and blogs.

He has led the recent military effort in Lybia, among other NATO engagements. Previously Stavridis commanded US Southern Command in Miami, focused on Latin America and the Caribbean.

More profile about the speaker
James Stavridis | Speaker | TED.com