Former CIA director to speak on Middle East solutions


R. James Woolsey

Catherine Pomiecko | Staff Writer

Three weeks before President Richard Nixon’s inauguration in 1969, R. James Woolsey attended a friend’s engagement dinner party.

A man well versed in politics, Woolsey unsurprisingly entered into a discussion about the Vietnam War that evening. Somehow, that conversation managed to turn into a loud and rather angry argument with none other than Paul Nitze, the Deputy Secretary of Defense and father of the bride-to-be.

As they were standing in the middle of the reception area and surrounded by a few hundred people at the black-tie event, their dispute did not go unnoticed. But with just three weeks until the new administration came into office, Woolsey wasn’t worried about any lingering consequences.

Two months later, Woolsey’s boss at his ROTC-commissioned position at the Pentagon presented a job referral with arms control. The job was an assistant position drafting statements and researching strategic weapons negotiations. It sounded like the perfect job for Woolsey, save for the fact that the hiring boss was, in fact, Nitze, who had been reappointed by the Nixon administration to head up the department.

“I only met Nitze once, and it didn’t go very well,” Woolsey said to his boss, who replied, “That must have been what he meant — when I mentioned your name to him, he paused for a second, then he grinned and said, ‘Send Woolsey on up. He may not know what the hell he’s talking about, but at least he’ll speak up.’”

The reputation for speaking up not only elevated Woolsey’s job in arms control but has also followed him throughout his career. In the words of Peter Earnest, the founding executive director of the International Spy Museum and Monday’s morning lecturer, “a man who has continued to speak up” will speak out to Chautauquans about the current strategic problems and their relation to energy and oil at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.

Woolsey is chairman of Woolsey Partners LLC and serves on a range of government, corporate and non-profit advisory boards, including the National Commission on Energy Policy and the Clean Fuels Foundation. Woolsey also has served in the U.S. government on five different occasions, most recently as director of Central Intelligence.

Woolsey began work with energy issues after 9/11 as an officer, and later vice president, of Booz Allen Hamilton. He spent about five years there working to make the country’s energy systems and electric grid more resilient and less vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Woolsey also taught an energy course at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs that summarizes his views on energy policies today.

The course, called, “Energy in the 21st century: Could Muir, Patton, and Gandhi Agree on a Program?” begged energy decision makers to satisfy the environmental considerations of John Muir, the security considerations of George S. Patton and the considerations of the third-world countries where energy grids don’t reach, represented by Mahatma Gandhi. Later, the idea was adapted and published in The World Affairs Journal, replacing John Muir with Rachel Carson, the founder of the contemporary environmental movement.

Woolsey’s career experiences epitomize the collaboration of many disciplines and are in some ways an example of the way America must respond to its current problems. In today’s world, many intelligence affairs are interrelated with energy and oil consumption, Woolsey said.

“This 21st-century world we are in requires us to look at intelligence and strategy together, and not just regard intelligence as some sort of a separate category,” he said.

Woolsey ends the week on “American Intelligence: Technology, Espionage and Alliances” to spur discussion about the most current threats the U.S. faces, said Sherra Babcock, director of the Department of Education at Chautauqua Institution.

“Woolsey will talk about weapons of mass disruption, infrastructure, electricity, water, utilities, connectivity, banking systems, etcetera.” Babcock said. “All of those things could really create havoc in our culture if they were disrupted by a cyber enemy.”

In his lecture, Woolsey plans to focus on what the U.S. can do to overcome the problems it faces in the Middle East.

“In terms of intelligence, today’s world is so different than that of the Cold War,” he said. “The enemies that we have to deal with are so very different than what we had to deal with then, and that impacts the way that we need to operate to effectively collect intelligence and deal with them.”

Further viewing:

  1. Conversations with History – R. James Woolsey