CISAC Celebrates 40 Years of Advancing International Security

CISAC Celebrates 40 Years of Advancing International Security

On April 3rd, The Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) marked a significant milestone as it commemorated its 40th anniversary with a celebration that brought together its alumni, faculty, researchers, fellows, and many distinguished guests.

On April 3rd, The Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) marked a significant milestone as it commemorated its 40th anniversary with a celebration that brought together its alumni, faculty, researchers, fellows, and many distinguished guests. Established in 1984, CISAC has been a beacon of academic innovation and excellence, dedicated to producing policy-relevant research on international security problems, teaching, and training the next generation of security specialists, influencing policy making in international security, and fostering meaningful connections in the international security field.

CISAC welcomed over two hundred attendees from across the world to its 40th anniversary celebration at the Arrillaga Alumni Center at Stanford University. The day-long event featured engaging panel discussions with scholars, policy makers and alumni on the future of international security, including topics related to arms control, nuclear proliferation, and emerging technologies. Participants also were able to learn about current research projects at CISAC through a poster session organized by postdoctoral fellows and scholars featuring their own work.

CISAC kicked off its celebration with remarks from Co-Directors Scott Sagan and Rod Ewing, along with two of the first CISAC post-doctoral fellows: former Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) Director Coit “Chip” Blacker and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California Gloria Duffy. The group noted past center milestones and shared cherished memories of CISAC as their intellectual home during the previous decades. The panels that followed then provided a transition to a future-oriented perspective, sharing excitement about the role of CISAC in the development of international security studies in decades to come. “We gathered together a group of advisors to say, ‘how should we celebrate?’ and they said, “you should celebrate, but you should also spend most of your time looking forward,’” said Sagan.

The first panel of the day, “The Future of Arms Control,” featured Gloria Duffy, CISAC Lecturer Rose Gottemoeller, FSI Center Fellow Oriana Skylar Mastro, and Assistant Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University and CISAC alum Jane Vaynman. The panelists deliberated on challenges and new directions in arms control and emphasized the need for renewed discussions on disarmament and proliferation. The exchange of views touched on many topics including conventional arms, China’s changing nuclear posture and the implications of China’s rise complex trilateral arms control efforts in years to come. As Rose Gottemoeller observed, “We have a window of opportunity over the next decade to all get to the table and it is not going to be easy [...] let’s do our utmost.”

The second panel “Emerging Technology: Threats and Opportunities,” consisted of Professor of Medicine and FSI Senior Fellow Steve Luby, former CISAC co-director and President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Associate Professor of Bioengineering and FSI Senior Fellow Drew Endy, and CISAC honors alum and National Security Council official Lauryn Williams. The discussions explored the intersections of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, space, and cyber, as well as effective technology governance both domestically and internationally. Drew Endy offered, “When people put the words ‘emerging technology’ together, oftentimes you target lock on the word ‘technology’ and skip ‘emerging’ [...] the word emerging to me means we don’t know what we’re doing [...] and that’s really important to acknowledge.” The panelists also explored the toolkit necessary for minimizing risk and maximizing benefit in the rapidly evolving landscape of emerging technologies.

Over lunch, the CISAC co-directors were pleased to announce that Rose Gottemoeller, former deputy secretary general of NATO, would serve as the inaugural William J. Perry Lecturer at FSI. This position was made possible by generous donations by CISAC supporters in honor of Dr. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Stanford professor, and CISAC co-director.

The third panel, “Predicting Proliferation,” included CISAC Co-Director Scott Sagan, Executive Director of the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School Francesca Giovannini, Associate Professor and founding director of the “Nuclear Knowledges” program at Sciences Po in Paris Benoît Pelopidas, George Mason University Assistant Professor Luis Rodríguez, and Assistant Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics Lauren Sukin. The topics discussed ranged from outside pressures for “prospective proliferators to cross the threshold,” to the U.S. role in global nonproliferation. Panelists also analyzed the potential impact from the upcoming 2024 U.S. election as well as implications of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As Lauren Sukin aptly remarked, “I have some hope for extended nuclear deterrence, but I think we’re at an axis point where the U.S. in particular needs to think very carefully about what extended deterrence looks like moving forward as we see rising nuclear threats and a changing geopolitical space.”

The final panel of the day, “Imagining 2034: Major National Security Threats,'' consisted of CISAC Co-Director Rod Ewing, FSI Senior Fellow and former Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Vipin Narang, and FSI Bernard and Susan Liautaud Visiting Fellow and former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Beginning with what was described as a “depressing forecast” for the future, panelists’ themes focused on tense relations between the great powers, nuclear proliferation, climate change, artificial general intelligence, and impact of unpredictable events. In the discussion, panelists emphasized that “the same bad guys are better at being bad,” highlighting the strengthening of authoritarian governments and the increase of disinformation in recent years. Susan Rice further underscored the potential challenges ahead, stating, “There are all of these things we have to keep an eye on that I think by 2034 have the potential to be more of the same or worse,” summing up the panel's cautionary views of the future security landscape.

Over the past four decades, CISAC has played a pivotal role in improving knowledge about international peace and security, supporting the research of undergraduate students, training pre- and postdoctoral fellows, and supporting visiting scholars from a multitude of disciplines and background. As Francesca Giovannini from Harvard Kennedy School expressed, “There is nothing more important in our profession than to have a place where we feel comfortable, where we can also laugh, and exchange a little bit of jokes. Where we don't necessarily need to take ourselves so seriously and where we actually respect each other, and for me, CISAC did all this.” This celebration not only commemorated the center’s rich history and lasting impact but also set the stage for continued commitment to rigorous scholarship, openness to innovative ideas, and a lively intellectual exchange to spur the creation and spread of knowledge to help build a safer world.