Award-winning OU alumnus discusses Afghanistan and cybersecurity at Presidential Lecture Series dinner | New


In a conversation led by former AT&T CEO and OU alumnus Randall Stephenson, award-winning journalist David Sanger discussed Afghanistan and cybersecurity during the Presidential Speakers Series dinner on Thursday night at the ‘Oklahoma Memorial Union.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Sanger served as a national security correspondent for the New York Times for nearly four decades. The Harvard College graduate is the author of two books relating to US foreign policy, including: “The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power,” which revolves around the conflicts in Iran and Korea. North Parallel to the Rise of China, and “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and the Surprising Use of American Power”, which focuses on cyber weapons that emerged under the administration of the former president Barack Obama.

The conversation began with Stephenson citing Sanger’s background in Afghanistan as he began reporting on the country following the September 11, 2001 terrorist act under the administration of former President George W. Bush. . Sanger underlined the great American interest in the country and said he remembers the reasoning behind the entry of the United States and why they stayed there.

“It started with the best of intentions, of course,” Sanger said. “Then we wanted to enter to establish democracy. … Democracy is a wonderful national product, but it’s a really lousy export because you can’t impose it on people, and we started to export.

Sanger said that once the United States decided to try to build the Afghan nation, it became more difficult for them to leave the country. Intelligence agencies overestimated how the Afghans would fight for their country and underestimated the strength of the Taliban, which led to their recent takeover of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

“I’m not saying for a minute that we shouldn’t have gone after Al Qaeda, but one of the long term costs has been that we have lost our focus on the existential issues that are the keys to our today. foreign policy, “Sanger said.” We lost our focus on China. We only understood too late the key role of staying technologically competitive.

On the subject of cybersecurity, Stephenson drew attention to one of the topics Sanger covered in his book “Confront and Conceal,” which was a series of Obama-ordered covert attacks known as Operation Games. Olympic.

The operation was one of the earliest known uses of cyber weapons. It was a joint effort between the United States and Israel, and their mission was to slip in computer code programmed to explode by slowing or speeding up Iran-built nuclear centrifuges in the city of Natanz.

Sanger said cyber warfare and conflict no longer lives in isolation from traditional war and conflict, comparing the effects of today’s cyber conflicts to the impact of adding warplanes.

“When the plane was new, people wrote books about how there would be air wars and then land wars, but then with WWII we had a combined war, and that’s where we’re heading with cyber, ”Sanger said.

Sanger also referred to China’s influence, citing the country as a military, economic and technological competitor. With a more powerful and faster 5G network, Americans feared that China would eavesdrop on private conversations in the hope of obtaining information. Sanger objected to this, saying the country was not interested in personal conversations, and if they were, they could already do so before a 5G network.

“The reason this is important is that whoever controls your network can not only monitor it in peacetime, but also turn it off in war,” Sanger said. “You don’t want to suddenly find out that the communications network over which you enter the economy, emergency services, and military communications are in fact controlled from Beijing.”

Sanger said the difference in news reach since he started writing for The New York Times is that the newspaper has grown from 1.5 million subscribers for the Sunday issue to 7.5 million. digital subscribers. He praised the ability of great journalism to be on hand, but also pointed out that biased journalism increases with it.

“We had Fox News telling people on the right what they wanted to hear, and we had MSNBC telling people on the left what they wanted to hear,” Sanger said. “Today people really believe they are entitled to their own facts.”

The First Amendment and its uniqueness to American democracy have become more valuable in the present day after the term “fake news” became popular under the administration of former President Donald Trump, Sanger said.

“Over the past four years, we’ve learned the brilliance of the founders in saying that the government of the (United States) cannot impose what appears in a free press,” Sanger said. “We came very close, really, very close to a disaster for our democracy which I think was fundamentally saved by the structure put in place by the founders.”

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