Last Wednesday, March 23, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, USA Retired, gave a lecture to the students of Trinity University and the public concerning the United States’ place in global affairs in the 21st century.

Dempsey opened his speech by touching on the importance of young people’s involvement in the nation and encouraged the students at Trinity “to consider a life of public service” regardless of how or where they served.

After his call to action, Dempsey began his discussion on the role of the U.S. in global affairs. He first pointed out the specific changes which have affected the way that international politics unfold.

These changes include the onset of loosely-defined conflicts that lack a definite adversary and the “proliferation of technology.” He also pointed out that despite these challenges, there are constant factors that play a major role in international affairs.

Dempsey specifically referred to history, religion and geography as three factors which have continued to affect global affairs in the same ways.                                                                                                                                              Dempsey listed several reasons for why the United States is a world leader, including its roles as the leader in individual freedom and diversity, being strict when it comes to the rule of law and having the authority to bring nations together and collaborate on security.  

“We have enormous convening authority where the ability to convene groups who otherwise would be unlikely to convene together. I call this being the champion of unity,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey went on to state that “it’s not that the U.S. leads in any one of the things I just described to you, it’s that we lead in all of them.”  

Dempsey referred to the United States’ strict adherence to international laws as well as its role as an intermediary and co-collaborator with other nations on global security issues as some of the nation’s most significant traits in regards to global affairs.

Dempsey listed the cyber domain as “the one domain where the United States has peer competitors.”

He noted that we have to be alert to both our allies’ vulnerabilities as well as our own as the United States responds to the onset of technology and the Internet in the 21st century.

Further, he mentioned how important it is to aggressively reduce our vulnerabilities.

Dempsey also discussed how the United States needs to further adapt to leading under intense scrutiny.  

“Leadership under intense scrutiny requires a bias for action. Not dramatic, big actions, but action. Because if you are not acting, you are not accounting for the risk of inaction. My belief, having come out of four years of trying to help our national security apparatus function, is that the next generation of leaders will have to come to grips with the specific issue of leadership under intense scrutiny,” said Dempsey.

The Q&A that followed the lecture included topics which ranged from the nature of peace in global affairs, to the role of women in the United States military and the United States’ political relationship with Assad’s regime in Syria.