USSOCOM Office of Communication
United States Special Operations Command hosted a three-day Sovereign Challenge 15 conference entitled "Challenges to Westphalian Sovereignty: Irregular Warfare Past, Present and Future," in Raleigh, North Carolina, March 7-9.
More than 100 participants from 52 countries and the European Union, including 26 flag officers three ambassadors, North Carolina's Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs and Assistant Secretary for Military Affairs, North Carolina's former Chief Justice, and a CEO of a major Washington Think Tank actively participated in the conference.
"We have … an extraordinary critical mass representation from around our globe," U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander USSOCOM said. "I am here to think, think about our world, make some new acquaintances and listen to your perspectives."
Westphalian sovereignty is the doctrine named after the Peace of Westphalia, signed in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years' War, in which the major continental European states – the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, France, Sweden and the Dutch Republic – agreed to respect one another's territorial integrity. The doctrine's philosophy is each sovereign state has the right to engage in individual, regional and collective efforts to address national security issues.
Keynote speakers, the Honorable Michèle A. Flournoy, Chief Executive Officer, Center for a New American Security and Gen. Thomas addressed the conference in a fireside chat format to analyze strategies for global stability.
"We have all benefited enormously from the stability and economic growth that has come from the rules-based international system that was architected after World War II. All of the institutions that we know and love, the U.N., Bretton Woods System, the World Bank, the NATO, and on and on," Flournoy said. "These are all under enormous pressure as these new structural changes happen and as some powers rise and others are resurgent, and they don't necessarily accept the rules of the road as something that applies to them or that they have bought."
I think the network of U.S. alliances and partnerships around the world is really unique and it's a huge source of strategic advantage for us collectively. When you can approach the pressures and the disorder and the threats with some shared interests and some shared values, you have a much better chance of actually managing them, addressing them effectively," concluded Flourney.
"The intent [of Sovereign Challenge] really was that we would leverage this sort of Rolodex, those of us who have shared interests and that might be inclined to really crush through prohibitions to sharing information and enabling each other, not to just empower us to do more unilaterally but to empower us collectively to do more things," said Gen. Thomas. "This design is playing that out in huge ways that even we didn't envision."
The conference was broken into five panels over the three days. The first two panels were co-sponsored by the German Marshall Fund and discussed "Unconventional and Unknown – Russia's Challenge to the West" and "Deterring an Aggressive Russia in Europe's East." The third panel focused on "Security Challenges in Southeast Asia." The fourth and fifth panels were co-sponsored by the Center for a New American Security and discussed "Mosul and Raqqa Are Not the End Game: the Iranian and Salafi/Jihadi Threats in the Core Middle East" and "Libya's Civil War and the Salafi/Jihadi Threat in North Africa and the Sahel."
"I thought the themes were very interesting and enriching. The conference gave me interesting perspectives on jihadism and the refugee crisis," said Thorsten Eisingerich, director for press and information for the Austrian Embassy. "This conference allows us the opportunity to get out of Washington, D.C. and gives us fresh, honest points of view."
Sovereign Challenge began in 2004 when USSOCOM invited a group of defense attachés from Washington, D.C., to Tampa, Fla. to discuss major issues of concern to their respective nations. Since then, conference participation has focused on accredited military, defense attachés and security-related diplomats from D.C.-based foreign embassies.