The Future of Warfare: Naval Power, Cyber Force, and the Next World War with Admiral (Ret.) James Stavridis

James G. Stavridis - Wikipedia

On this week’s episode of the Burn Bag, co-hosts A’ndre and Ryan speak with retired 4-Star Admiral James Stavridis, about his new book 2034.  Admiral Stavridis, who served as former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and former Commander of U.S. European and Southern Command,  discusses the importance of cyber warfare and why we must rethink the idea of the typical U.S. soldier. During the episode, he delves into topics such as the SolarWinds hack and the question of cyber espionage, along with Naval Warfare—specifically the influence of maritime powers. Admiral Stavridis ends with discussing the U.S.’s position regarding the South China Sea and the mission of NATO.


On 2034:

“The biggest security concern we outta have in this 21st century is how do we avoid a war with China.”

“The great security challenges require not only intelligence, but they require imagination. We have to think our way through.”

On Cyber Warfare:

“We have an army, a navy, an air force, a marine corps, we just created a space force—good move—we need a cyber force. Doesn’t have to be big—15,000 people would do it. We have 1.5 million people in the armed forces, surely we could carve out 15,000 to focus on this domain of warfare.”

“You think about the U.S. cabinet. It’s perfectly structured for the 19th century. We have a Secretary of Agriculture which made a lot of sense when 65% of Americans worked on farms. Today about 5% do. We have a Secretary of the Interior who manages 380 national parks who above all works on Native American reservations around the country. Those are important jobs, both of them, ag and the idea of the interior. But neither is remotely as important to us as cyber, yet we have nobody at cabinet level who focuses on cyber.”

On Solar Winds Hack:

“It’s the size of this, it is so directed at enormous tranches of our society. I think that it rises to the level of an attack.”

“It does hit the level that would require an actual retaliation. And we have already seen our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan say that ‘Yes, there will be reaction, retaliation.’ You try and keep these things proportional. We’re not going to go and attack Russian forces in response to this in the physical domain, but I think a proportional response would be something very similar that happens in Russia: a big campaign. You want to be careful and not want it to escalate, but I do think that solar campaigns are big enough to demand a response.”

On Cyber Soldiers and the Typical U.S. Soldiers:

“He’s not going to be the big stereotypical driven soldier warrior that we think of. We’re going to need those guys and gals also, but the cyber soldier is going to be someone who has devoted his or her early years to the deep study of cyber. Not just cyber policy, but most importantly: coding, computer science, understanding how these systems work.”

“The biggest, strongest navy seal to the most effete computer scientist: at the core of all of them, it’s not money, it’s not fame, it’s service. And at their core, they want to be part of something larger than themselves. They are very willing, I think, to take less money, less prestige, can’t be on that new startup, but they get to be part of defending the country. It’s the price you pay for the right to serve.”

On Naval Warfare:

“We’re in another kind of war. We’re in a conflict to reduce the damage that’s being done to the planet on the oceans. If we’re going to do that and take the oceans back from polluters, overfishers, things that are going to change the fundamental chemistry of the ocean, the melting of the icecaps, we’re going to need Navy’s to do that. So, I think the case is very strong for the U.S. Navy.”

“You ask what’s the state of the U.S. Navy: it’s too small for the task at hand. This is something that Trump and the Biden administration agree on.”

On the South China sea:

“We the United States regard the South China Sea as high seas, international waters. To prove that claim, we drive our destroyers right through it. Some might say, the Chinese look at that as though we are driving a car through their neighborhood, driving donut holes in their front lawn. I can see why they’d get agitated about it but they don’t own those waters. Those are international waters. That’s high seas and if we allow China to simply claim that huge body of water, what comes next? Will the United States claim the Gulf of Mexico for being sea? Will Russia claim the entire Black Sea? On and on and on. So, I think there is good, strategic rationale in the way we show our belief of high seas navigation.”

On geopolitical alliances:

“I think NATO remains capable and a force for good globally, but it has some challenges.”

“The answer to your question ‘Does NATO have a mission?’ is: Open up the newspaper. There are plenty of missions out there. NATO is now a venerable organization; it’s been around for decades. I think it’s still highly capable of good value for the U.S.”

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