IE School of International Relations hosts a lecture on “21St Century Security” by U.S. Navy Admiral James George Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University


On Thursday 12 December, the IE School of International Relations had the honor of hosting former U.S. Navy Admiral James George Stavridis.  Admiral Stavridis served as the 15th Commander,  U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), and NATO‘s 16th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). He is currently Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Dean Stavridis gave a very insightful lecture on 21st Century Security to a captivated audience composed of IE students, Fletcher alumni living in Madrid and officers from the CESEDEN Spanish military academy.  He began by looking back at the 20th century, a century of terrible conflict and suffering caused principally by two devastating world wars. According to Stavridis, in the 20th century, humanity made a crucial mistake by building walls instead of building bridges: the Maginot Line, the Iron Curtain, the Berlin Wall to name a few.  All these real or virtual barriers created strife and conflict.

In the 21st century, his premise is that security will be achieved, or at least strengthened, if we build bridges instead of walls. The challenges today are multiple and varied and include violent extremism, tension with nations that are not governed by international rules or norms such as Iran, North Korea, Syria, piracy, illegal trafficking of narcotics, weapons, arms, environmental disasters, cyber attacks. Today, the nuclear threat that we knew in the 20th century has been replaced by a plethora of threats that can only be addressed if we cooperate, if we build bridges. How does one do so? According to Stavridis, there are many practical ways we can strengthen security in the 21st century. One, by learning a foreign language and understanding the culture of another country or another people. Two, by reading more, not just international relations textbooks or the news, but by reading novels about the cultures we wish to understand. Three, by using social networks such a Facebook and Twitter and transmitting the message we wish to communicate: one of peace, democracy, freedom, equality. Four, by educating those who have not had access to education, perhaps through online courses such as Coursera or EdX.  And five, by building alliances, by working as a coalition of many nations instead of choosing to fight our battles alone.

Dean Stavridis concluded his talk by using the metaphor of the rheostat to describe the future of  21st century security. Security is not an on-and-off switch between hard power and soft power, between combat and peace.  It’s a dial that you can regulate between the two extremes.