Cultural Diplomacy News (CDN)
Lt. General Clarence McKnight (Former Director of Command, Control, and Communications, US Joint Chiefs of Staff)

20.05.2011 - Interview conducted by Katie Dickmeyer

Q1. One of the themes discussed during our Symposium series this month has been the digital revolution and social media, and the Internet was originally designed and used by the US military. What challenges has this revolution created for international security?

It created quite a few because it has opened a lot of doors to people who want to do harm to national security. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. It just means that there can be a lot of adverse effects. You have cover up things you didn’t want to go public. If it is misinformation it is even worse.

Q2. In the coming years, do you think we face a greater threat from hard security such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation and intra-state conflict or rather soft security such as migration, climate change, and epidemic disease?

No. I’m very optimistic. I think the good side of telecommunications is going to win. I think we are all inclined to believe the good side is better than the bad side. I say this with a lot of emotion because I’ve lived through a lot of critical times. I am optimistic that the world is not going to end on the 21 of May- it’s just going to roll right on.

Q3. As a man whose service has taken him from the use of hard power in the US military, to soft power when you co-founded the Community Learning and Information Network, which form of power do you think has a more likely future in international relations?

I think that Professor Nye has indicated that it’s going to be a combination of hard power and soft power. We will end up with economics thrown in there and get smart power. I don’t think you can play them off against one other because in some cases soft power is going to be the catalyst. I think that education is going to be the answer to the whole question.

Q4. There are many examples of the transition from hard to soft power in the technological sector. The internet, nuclear power, and civil and transport engineering are a few examples. Does this mean that there is an argument to be believed that hard power is revolutionary and soft power is reactionary?

No I don’t think so. I think that we tend not to look at the logistics of any kind of operation too late. Reaction is natural; it’s more operational than logistical. But I don’t think that you can say that soft power is purely reactionary because if you put in the logistics that is necessary to create an infrastructure for soft power then you have a lasting edifice that is useful to mankind.

Thank you for your time.