America’s status as a global superpower is at a crossroads, Gen. David Petraeus, the ex-CIA director who commanded US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said during a recent trip to Long Island.
Petraeus made the remarks while assessing the array of threats facing the nation Dec. 6 at LIU Post in Brookville during a public discussion moderated by ex-U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who chairs the university’s Global Institute.
“They used to say, ‘what keeps you up at night?’” Petraeus recalled. “I’d say, which night?”
The retired general classified challenges facing the nation into categories. They included “revisionist powers” such as China and Russia that are seeking to challenge America’s global dominance, Islamic extremists such as ISIS, cyber terrorists and domestic populism that has contributed to political unrest both here and abroad.
“That’s an array of challenges… that comes at era of renewed great power rivalries arriving at a time when there is paradoxically great ambivalence here about whether we should continue to lead … the international order or not,” he said. “I think this is a very tricky, a very challenging and a very sensitive period.”
Calling it “the most complex array of challenges the world has seen since the end of the Cold War,” he noted that terrorism is the threat that concerns him the most.
“How do you deter someone who’s willing to commit a suicide attack?” he asked. “We’re seeing progress, but clearly that’s a fight that will be a generation in duration.”
Israel invited the former general to share his insights with the crowd of about 150.
“He educated me and my colleagues about the vital importance of modern conflict,” the former congressman said. “That there are times when you gotta blow things up, but there are times when you have to put things back together. That you have to win hearts and minds.”