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Global Concerns of National Importance for the Next US Administration

10/28/2008 4:30 PM Wong Auditorium
Admiral William Fallon, Former Head of CENTCOM,; Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at MIT Center for International Studies

Description: "I've drunk kava in the South Pacific and rubbed noses with natives," says William Fallon. "I've enjoyed tender baby camel as a delicacy. I've met presidents, kings, prime ministers and many ordinary folks. I've done a lot of things. That was yesterday. What matters is today and tomorrow." Now, says Fallon, is the time for all Americans to get down to business addressing the key crises confronting them. And he does mean ordinary Americans, not just the next president.

As a naval man with 45 years of experience dealing with conflicts all over the world, Fallon figures that the major challenges facing the nation will be at minimum "daunting," but they are not beyond our collective capability. There's the financial crisis; nuclear and other threats from Iran, North Korea and wide"ranging terror organizations; the competition for resources and the issue of climate change; and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. All these issues are global, and increasingly interconnected, notes Fallon, and addressing them will require "close cooperation with other nations."

The problem is that the U.S. has lost much credibility internationally in recent years, says Fallon, and so our leaders will have to reestablish the trust and confidence the rest of the world once had in our country. While top politicians can begin a process of diplomacy and cooperative engagements with other nations, Fallon thinks it's equally or more important for ordinary Americans "to get our domestic house in order." He's of the opinion that the individual behaviors of Americans "have contributed to a general malaise," and only by addressing these on an individual basis will our nation be able "to reestablish its prestige and influence for the betterment of a very interdependent world."

Fallon focuses on the U.S. education system, which apart from world class universities like MIT, "wallows in underperformance releasing millions of alleged graduates who can neither read nor write, understand math beyond elementary levels, find any place on a map." Add to this "mediocrity" the fact that Americans feed their "self"indulgence in personal material goods" while starving such critical infrastructure as bridges and roads, which enable daily activities. Our critics rightly view us as "increasingly self"centered and heedless of the interests of others," notes Fallon. It's time to set our priorities straight. The U.S. has the "human capital, traditional values and the immense resources to take on and fix any of these problems." What remains is the "willingness to do the job. Let's get going," he concludes.

About the Speaker(s): William Fallon led U.S. Central Command(CENTCOM) from March 2007 to March 2008. During that time, he was responsible for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and directed all U.S. military activities in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. Fallon also served as the commander of U.S. Pacific Command (Feb 2005 " March 2007),commander for U.S. Fleet Forces Command and the U.S. Atlantic Fleet (Sept 2003 " Feb 2005) and was the 31st Vice Chief of Naval Operations(Oct 2000 " Aug 2003.

His awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, and various unit and campaign decorations.

Fallon joined the MIT Center for International Studies as its 2008"09 Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow upon retiring from the military after 41 years of distinguished service. He is a graduate of the Naval War College, Newport, R.I., the National War College in Washington, D.C., and has a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Old Dominion University.

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, Center for International Studies

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MIT World — special events and lectures

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