Kissinger warns senators of 'systemic failure of world order'
WASHINGTON — Three former high-ranking State Department officials warned a Senate panel on Thursday that the United States is facing potential, catastrophic confrontations as global order erodes.
The United States is now in a national security race against time to prepare for the growing global destabilization, said the former secretaries, who have served under generations of presidents.
“The international situation facing the United States is unprecedented,” Henry Kissinger, the iconic former secretary of state, said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. This is “more than a coincidence of individual crisis across various geographies. Rather, it is a systemic failure of world order.”
Kissinger warned the United States is facing an urgent concern with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, a more intermediate threat through entrenched and expanding conflicts in the Middle East and a rising challenge to the current state of world powers.
The testimony’s sobering look into the potential for future, violent U.S. conflicts could influence the development of the next National Defense Authorization Act. The most recent $700 billion NDAA policy plan to help grow the military was signed into law last month, but has yet to get the funding necessary to surpass budget caps.
“Now more than ever, the challenges of today’s world require strategic vision,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who sat in as the committee chairman in lieu of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who is battling brain cancer. “We need to cast aside partisan politics and pass an appropriations bill finding a way to fix the defense spending caps that have (hurt) our military in terms of readiness and modernization.”
Kissinger, 94, who testified alongside former Secretary of State George Shultz, 97, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, 72, all warned the United States is already behind in developing future weapons, such as artificial intelligence, among other concerns.
For example, Shultz said the new National Defense Strategy, which was unveiled by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last week, doesn’t go far enough.
“I am pretty impressed with what they laid out,” Shultz said. “But it doesn’t adequately address the fact of the huge change taking place in de-globalization and a new kind of weaponry that’s coming about. Those things need to be factored in.”
Armitage also warned the depleted ranks at the State Department is another liability facing the United States today, hurting diplomacy efforts around the world. This, as the military is being pushed past its capacity.
“No question we are losing our training edge, our qualitative edge, the equipment is being run into the ground,” Armitage said. “The military leadership, the secretary of defense and you all ought to think through this problem and make sure we are deploying people that we really need to deploy.”
The threatening collapse of world order has been gaining momentum for two decades, Kissinger warned. This, a result of a drive towards sovereignty, rejection of territorial acquisition by force, the expansion of trade and the push for human rights, he said.
“Traditional patterns of great power rivalry are returning,” Kissinger said. “Complicating this dynamic is the pace of technological development, whose extraordinary progress threatens to outstrip our strategic and moral imaginations… This creates new potential for truly catastrophic confrontations between nations.”
A calm tone marked Thursday’s hearing. But when Kissinger and Shultz last testified before the committee, it was a raucous hearing in 2015 that drew a dramatic scene of protestors. The two men, at the time, provided a look into the future, Inhofe said.
“The insights and wisdom you offered then were prescient and have borne out in the years since,” he said.