General Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency

April 4, 2017

General Michael Hayden joined Dean Vali Nasr and the Johns Hopkins SAIS community for a conversation about national security. The conversation started with the acknowledgment that we may be witnessing a meltdown of the American-led post-WWII liberal order. In this new world, Hayden sees potential existential threats from states he terms “ambitious, brutal, and nuclear.”

On North Korea, Hayden believes there are no simple answers. One approach could be trying to increase the cost of the nuclear program for the Kim regime by applying greater pressure through targeted sanctions.

Hayden argued that in the Middle East, military success in the fight against terrorism is necessary but not sufficient. The state and structure of ISIS will be defeated, but the movement will live on. Hayden highlighted that this is a fight within a civilization, rather than one between civilizations. Those who portray it as such feed into ISIS’ world-view. For example, he noted the Trump administration’s travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim majority countries will feed this narrative. He sees the ban as unnecessary at the tactical level and detrimental at the strategic level.

The General also talked about the evolution of U.S.-Russia relations, and of the Russian interference during the elections. He noted what was unprecedented in the Democratic National Committee’s hacking was not the espionage itself, but the weaponization of the product of espionage by making it public.

Questions from students and the audience touched on the general’s position on waterboarding and the CIA’s interrogation program, the recent history of U.S.-Russia relations and Kurdish autonomy.

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