The State of the Global War on Terrorism

The State of the Global War on Terrorism

General Barry R. McCaffrey speaks at the second HBS Public Speaking Club’s Outstanding Speaker Series for 2007.

On Tuesday, February 13, 2007, retired General Barry R. McCaffrey spoke to an audience of about 150 students at Spangler Auditorium. Barry McCaffrey, president of McCaffrey Associates and chairman of the board of HNTB Federal Services, served in the United States Army for 32 years and retired as a four-star General. At retirement he was the most highly decorated serving General, having been awarded three Purple Heart medals for wounds received in his four combat tours-as well as twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. He also twice was awarded the Silver Star for valor. For five years after leaving the military, Barry McCaffrey served as the nation’s Cabinet Officer in charge of U.S. Drug Policy. He was confirmed for this position by unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate.
The presentation consisted of about thirty minutes during which General McCaffrey gave extremely candid observations on the ongoing U.S. War on Terror. Two of these observations followed pointed questions from Kennedy and HBS students in the audience. One student asked, “Can the War on Terror be won? How long will it take?” The general reached back to his experience as the U.S. drug czar, pointing out how he argued that the “War on Drugs” was an unhelpful metaphor. He said that issues like drugs and terrorism are problems to be managed rather than wars that can be won. He also suggested that in the next ten to fifteen years, the conflict with Islamic extremists would no longer dominate our political agenda. Another student in the audience asked, “Will the U.S. invade Iran?” McCaffrey responded that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, and a diplomatic approach was needed. He told a story about advice he received as a young lieutenant in the Army. Never threaten in public, and if you do so, make sure you can follow through. He said that the current U.S. approach in Iran fails on both counts.
His speech began with “Six Insights on the War on Terror.”

-Terrorist organizations have been intimidated and badly damaged.
-The threat has morphed and remains a huge danger to the U.S. and our allies.
-Global animosity toward U.S. foreign policy and the Administration is universal, intense, and growing.
-Homeland security has improved immeasurably since 9/11 (notwithstanding Katrina).
-Homeland security is grossly under-resourced, lacks congressional support, and remains incoherent.
-The proliferation of WMD nation-states and technology remains the principal threat to the American people and our allies.

He also followed with “Eleven Observations on Iraq,” “Nine Observations on Afghanistan,” a series of notes from Guantanamo, and predictions for the future. He forecasted that the U.S. economy would continue to dominate the global marketplace, that Saudi Arabia would continue to modernize and maintain stability, and that relations with Europe would dramatically improve with the next American presidential Administration. He also felt that security crises would emerge in North Korea, and that another attack on the U.S. homeland would occur.

Several upcoming events remain in the semester’s Outstanding Speaker Series. The next speaker is Ray Semko. A veteran of U.S. counter-espionage, Ray was the most requested speaker on the government payroll during his 35 years of service, and has spoken to hundreds of thousands of people throughout his career. His talk in Spangler Auditorium will be on February 20, 2007 at 4:00pm. Dale Deletis, the only communications and speaking instructor on the HBS campus, will be delivering a presentation on March 7, 2007 in Spangler Auditorium. Finally, world-famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins will be coming to Burden Auditorium on March 29, 2007 at 4:15pm.

Any questions? Email the Public Speaking Club’s Vice President of Operations, Constance Jones, at

February 20, 2007
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