GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany — With an emphasis on crime, migration and extremism, the commander of United States Special Operations Command talked about his business with students and staff of the Marshall Center Feb. 22-23.
Admiral Eric T. Olson, who's served as leader of the command since 2007, offered a lecture and a keynote speech to the students graduating from the Seminar on Transatlantic Civil Security. He also joined a number of sessions as the bi-annual seminar wrapped up.
The first Navy SEAL to reach a four-star rank, Olson detailed areas of concern.
"We find by tracking linkages that there are three dominant human factors affecting global dynamics; crime, migration and violent extremism," he said.
"We don't pretend that a major confrontation isn't still a future threat. It is, and we still prepare for it. However, that threat may be diminishing as nation-states become increasingly interdependent ... and more complex, non-traditional methods of war become more viable."
Currently, he said special operations forces are in 78 locations providing various kinds of support, including training exercises. He cited the success of a recent exercise in Romania as one means to build partnerships and "turn down the heat" on potential conflicts across the globe.
He also told the gathering of about 200 people from better than 60 countries that the United States' need to an outgoing partner while trying to protect the nation.
"The need for the United States to be fully engaged partners in a robust global economic structure requires that we be extroverted. But our need for homeland security puts us on the defensive. This contributes to a measure of internal conflict," he said
Technology, the admiral said, is also playing a role in shaping the world into the 21st Century. "Sovereignty is not what it used to be," he said.
"Territorial, Westphalian sovereignty is still well understood, but cultural sovereignty, informational sovereignty and economic sovereignty are difficult to define in today's world. Technologies like Facebook and others cross borders with few restrictions," he continued. "Social media has become the primary methods of communications for hundreds of millions of people across the globe."
"We look back 10 years and realize just how wrong we were about technology's effects on our lives today," he added.
During the Seminar graduation, Admiral Olson highlighted the Marshall Center's importance in assisting with all of these issues.
"The world is expecting much of you and I'm sure you will rise to the challenge," he said.