Global Power to the People

Power that, in recent decades, only belonged to nation states has now dispersed. That makes it much more difficult for the United States to predict what threats it will face, said retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former National Security Agency director and CIA chief. For instance, Hayden noted that in his lifetime, telephone communication was once so difficult only government-backed monopolies could be trusted to deliver it. Now, he said on Sept. 16 at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., many capabilities—such as communications, intelligence, and security—once reserved for nation states are now available to terrorist organizations, gangs, and even individuals. But America’s military command structures are still configured as if it were 1947, to face large, malevolent state actors. A look at worldwide terror attacks or even the drug trafficking problems along the US-Mexican border shows that states aren’t necessarily the problem; the issue is often a lack of state control that rogue actors exploit with tools they never had before, he said. During the Cold War, Hayden noted, he never would have lost sleep over terrorists hiding in caves in the Hindu Kush. Now, dispersed threats are global and very real.