Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
July 12, 2020

Former CIA director talks problems of next generation

By ROSS LINKER | November 7, 2007

This past Monday, Nov. 5, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey came to Hopkins to discuss with students the trials that the future will hold for both their generation and America in general.

Woolsey began his discussion light-heartedly with a simple anecdote about how he was mistaken for a prisoner when attempting to go on vacation: A stewardess thought his bodyguards were actually there to make sure that Woolsey could not escape. However, the tone of the lecture immediately took a more somber turn as the former director began to describe the troubles of the future and what we, the next adult generation, will have to deal with.

"We are on the verge of a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf," he said, provocatively.

Unlike previous eras, Woolsey explained, our generation will have to deal with two, rather than one, major problem sets. He classified these two as being either a malignant or a malevolent dilemma.

Woolsey suggested that the "malevolent" dilemma that the nation will face is its weaknesses with regard to energy. According to Woolsey, America's energy infrastructure is incredibly weak.

Our generators, for example, are not well protected and could be easily destroyed by enemy aggressors - specifically, Woolsey pointed out, terrorists. Moreover, he said that the United States depends too much on foreign resources.

This especially frustrated the former director. He was visibly concerned at the potential damage to our country should any sort of large dispute break out in the Middle East.

"We need to break its ability to affect our behavior," he said.

Woolsey went on to discuss the malignant dilemmas that our generation will face, which he defined as any kind of catastrophic, accidental change, analogous to the butterfly effect.

The most significant malignant problem that he sees this generation facing is climate change. Woolsey suggested that this danger is comparable to lily pads left to grow exponentially, unchecked by anyone. Left unheeded, he warned, the world will ultimately reach a critical point of irreversible change.

During his speech Woolsey made sure to emphasize that the challenges ahead are not insurmountable.

Jim Woolsey was the CIA director for the Clinton administration and held his position from 1993 to 1995. Before that, he worked as a lawyer, later becoming Under Secretary of the Navy and then the Ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

He is commonly known as a proponent of environmental protection and has actively pushed to have the country move away from its dependence on fossil fuels.

Woolsey is also known for his strong views on reducing American dependence on resources in the Middle East.

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