Defense Analysis Chair Dr. John Arquilla served as guest speaker for the ceremony. Arquilla is a prolific author and a much sought after subject matter expert in the areas of irregular warfare and military affairs. He spoke at length to the graduating class about the “big ideas” that come out of NPS and their ability to combat what he described as a “world war” against international terrorist and criminal networks.
Attendees of NPS' 2014 Spring Quarter Graduation Ceremony stand while the Color Guard parades the colors. NPS honored some 313 graduates earning 318 advanced degrees at the ceremony, including representatives from every branch of the U.S. military as well as Department of Defense civilians and students from 16 partnered and allied nations.
“Something has gone awry in the world, a very hard won victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq now hangs by a thread … the Taliban watches as the clock runs down in Afghanistan. The list goes on and on and extends to more than 30 armed conflicts around the world,” said Arquilla.
Quoting the poet Charles Churchill Arquilla described a world where “half-starved spiders feed on half starved flies,” and asked the graduating class, “Why is the world on fire?”
In response to his question, he suggested that there is a great, challenging battle being fought against dark networks, but he also spoke of the students’ role in combating those organizations.
“Most of us grew up in a cold war world characterized by an arms race to build new weapons. The world we are in today is characterized by a race to create new networks,” said Arquilla. “Networks have been changing the world over the last decade … They are flat, decentralized, with not much of what we would call leadership. They consist of small pieces loosely joined.”
But, he emphasized, “The education that you have received here has provided you with the tools you will need to face those networks.”
Arquilla then pointed to the example of Adm. William McRaven who while at NPS called for the U.S. military to build networks of its own, calling the effort to do so “one of the truly big ideas that have advanced out of the Naval Postgraduate School.”
Finally, Arquilla noted China’s role as a rising world power and Russia’s recent covert and overt military actions around the world. Despite these challenges, he remains optimistic in part because of the work done by the students at the university.
“There is hope, despite all of this, even hope for peace one day,” Arquilla said. “Across campus, our students and faculty are proposing big, game-changing ideas.” He would describe research into, amongst other things, alternative energies to power the fleet, nano-satellite based networks, and swarming technologies with the potential to counter Chinese, Russian and Iranian advances in unmanned technologies.
“What kid of place is NPS?” asked Arquilla. “It's a place where we redefine the possible … Where top tier faculty come together deeply with security professionals from all over the world."
Read the entire address here