Giving the keynote presentation on June 26, 2014, at the State Bar of Texas Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon at the bar’s Annual Meeting in Austin, former director of the National Security Agency Bobby Ray Inman spoke to the audience about numerous security threats around the world. Among the most serious, he noted weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, cyber terrorism—noting, “the worst of all is Edward Snowden”—the international narcotics movements, infectious diseases, global trade agreements, and more.
Inman was director of the NSA during America’s post-Watergate period and also was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former director of Naval Intelligence. He has extensive knowledge on intelligence gathering matters, international relations, and national security (President Bill Clinton tapped Inman to be his secretary of defense, although Inman later withdrew before completing Senate hearings). The four-star admiral is a native Texan from the tiny town of Rhonesboro, which is about 50 miles northwest of Marshall, and is the Lyndon B. Johnson centennial chair in national policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Opting to largely avoid commentary and opinion throughout his speech, Inman focused on giving the audience a broad overview of the world’s most pressing issues and current events. He covered much ground, discussing the Arab Spring, kidnappings in Africa, the “all out civil war” in Syria, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the unstable leadership in North Korea, and more.
Still, Inman made time to provide quick insight into some issues. Speaking on climate change, he said that science clearly establishes human activity as a substantial cause but is yet to determine a clear solution. He noted the potential importance of a global trade agreement between the United States and the European Union as well as a trans-Pacific partnership. “How this all plays out will have a significant impact on our economy,” Inman said.
Perhaps one of the most important matters in terms of its impact on our national security, Inman said there is a real prospect that “within a decade,” North America could be completely energy independent and become a major supplier of natural gas to Europe, replacing Russia. Inman said that recent protests and revolutionary actions in the Middle East are due to economic reasons; the world should ensure that the Syrian refugee situation does not follow the course of Palestinian refugee communities that became a breeding ground for jihad; the U.S. has no attractive options whatsoever in Syria or Iraq; and it remains to be seen if the region will break out into an “all-out” Sunni-Shiite conflict. We should be watching China, Inman said, because its economy will likely bypass ours within the next decade and the current president is going after corruption although it remains to be seen how far into the upper government levels Xi Jinping will go. One thing, Inman said, is clear: “He will make no concessions on single-party control of the country.”