We had the pleasure of inviting General Wesley Clark to Grace Farm’s Sanctuary for a conversation and book signing for his most recent work, Don’t Wait for the Next War. An expert on leadership, investment banker, businessman, commentator and teacher, General Clark answered questions of national interest, and discussed how we can best move forward as a nation. We’ve summarized General Clark’s answers to these questions below.
How did the U.S., a leading global power, end up in such a difficult position economically?
Unfortunately, absent war or cold war, we’ve failed to create a national strategy. We’ve let our states compete for businesses, and don’t hold those businesses accountable to a strategy. We believe the market is the greatest regulator, and let it determine critical decisions of national interest. Public/private partnerships are created because we lack the economic strength to rebuild our aging infrastructure. China, on the other hand, has a national strategy that has businesses as an extension of the state. So while the U.S. struggled through the great recession and increased our debt, China actually grew by applying Keynesian economics and investing in infrastructure.
Where do we go from here?
We need a national strategy to build our economy, agriculture, housing, technology, and infrastructure. Offshore from Eurasia and with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. needs to strategize and strengthen our alliances with other countries. Trade follows the flag. If we don’t help other countries, and invest in those countries, other nations will invest in them and gain influence where we will not. Economic power leads to global power.
Why is climate change one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S.?
With greenhouse gasses pouring into the atmosphere, climate change is occurring more quickly than ever. The last time this level of carbon was in the atmosphere, the sea level was 60 feet higher than it is today. If this continues we could lose south Florida, The Outer Banks, Cape Cod, and most of the Gulf Coast. Climate change is causing unpredictable weather, resulting in human migration and billions of dollars of property damage. Flood insurance is one of the biggest issues facing Congress right now. We need to encourage change by driving innovation through market-based incentives. Put a price on carbon and people will respond with new construction and new battery technology, both of which will work toward reversing our carbon footprint.
Should America take a leadership role in fighting human trafficking?
Absolutely. Our values are our greatest power. We can use them to call on other nations to control and ultimately eradicate human trafficking by communicating the gravity of the situation—that 40.3 million are enslaved. Social media can raise awareness globally; it exposed the crisis in Iran in 2009, and brought down the president of Egypt in 2012. It could be as simple as creating an app that broadcasts human trafficking. Just like an Amber Alert. Grace Farms is already calling upon technology by using Shazam to launch Unchain, a global campaign against human trafficking. It’s our responsibility as a nation to lead this charge however we can—to inform, to raise funds, to inspire political action. President Clinton taught us “when you can make a difference you should,” and this is a perfect opportunity to live by those words.
How do we engage corporations to lead us to clean supply chains?
If the steps above were taken, and corporate leadership knew where the human trafficking was occurring, it could be stopped. It’s a similar situation to South Africa in the 1980s. Then, we put pressure on companies participating in apartheid, and we could put pressure on companies and consumers today to stop engaging with organizations who don’t have clean supply chains. We need to get into corporate board rooms and provide them with enough notice to adjust working conditions and put fair wages in place, We need to give them a chance to do it right.
How do you cultivate leadership in this country?
There’s no magic solution, but I think that we should have national service in this country to pull young people together as mentors for other children who are struggling. National service should build leadership and develop character, not just put people to work. Our country can rally together in times of peace as it has in times of conflict, and encourage the healthy development of our youth in the process. We don’t need to wait for another war to cultivate leadership or create positive change.