By K.T. McFarland

When I started out in the national security world at age 18 working for Richard Nixon, when I went to graduate school, and when I worked at the Pentagon, I would frequently be the only woman in the room. I would always get the question, what's a nice girl like you doing dealing with nuclear weapons, or China, or the Soviet Union, or other 'stuff' not perceived to be a woman's business.

That's why it's really terrific to be here at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute because that is what Clare Boothe Luce did. She did 'stuff' that wasn't supposed to be what a nice girl did, and she helped change the world. And that's what you're going to do.

People, particularly the mainstream media and liberals, would say that foreign policy and national security aren't women's issues. Women are supposed to care only about education and health care. I disagree.

Women should care about this for several reasons. First and foremost, foreign policy is all about the economy and jobs. For the last 10 years we've fought wars in the Middle East over oil, which drives our economy. When we fight wars, especially wars that we don't win, it's women's kids who fight them—our sons and now our daughters. Finally, women should care about these issues because, let's face it, the boys aren't doing such a great job.

If we don't fix foreign policy and national security, our generation will pass on to our children's generation a very different America, and an America with a very different place in the world. It doesn't matter Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, the United States is commonly thought of as a country that's on the decline. If we start thinking that way about ourselves and believing it, the rest of the world will start believing it, too. That's not the world we inherited, and that's not the world we should pass on to our children and grandchildren. So women need to care about these things.

There's good news and bad news in foreign policy. I think if you ask any woman, she'll say, give me the bad news first, so I will.


The bad news is the wheels are about to come off the bus. Hillary Clinton is getting out of Washington just in time. She's going to say "I had a great record," but watch as the world begins to collapse around us. There are 5 things to watch for throughout the world.

The Middle East and the Arab Spring haven't gone as advertised. It is, in fact, an area of the world that has gone, in two short years, from being a largely pro-American region with relatively stable economic and political order, to a world – from the Atlantic Ocean through North Africa to the Middle East and Persian Gulf all the way over to Afghanistan – is a world that is in political and economic chaos and is increasingly anti-American.

Egypt—a place where two years ago the Obama administration was very happy to just toss away the pro-American dictator—is now a country on the brink of economic collapse. It is the world's largest importer of wheat, and the country doesn't have enough money to feed its people. It is now pro-Islamic, and it has a Muslim Brotherhood government that is threatening to walk away from Egypt's long-standing Peace Agreement with Israel. The concern here is that as Egypt goes, so goes the rest of the region.

Egypt is the largest, most populated, country in the region, and it is the country that others in the region look to. It also sits astride the Suez Canal. Most of you are familiar with the Strait of Hormuz near Iran and familiar with the world's concern that if conflict with Iran breaks out, the Strait of Hormuz would close and shut down the world's oil supplies.

The world's concern with the Suez Canal is similar, since it is a shipping corridor for a majority of the world's trade to and from Asia. If that shipping corridor is closed, it will have a phenomenal and immediate impact on the world economy. So watch Egypt. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they have another Egyptian revolution within the next 18 months.

Syria is one of the world's major collectors of chemical and biological weapons. The war in Syria has been going on for more than a year, and it may well mean the eventual collapse of Syria. If that happens and those weapons are loosed upon the region, they could find their way to a shopping center near you. That may sound hysterical, but it isn't.

Remember two years ago when we helped topple the dictator Muammar Gaddafi of Libya? Nobody managed to secure any of his stockpiled weapons when he fell, and those weapons went into the hands of very bad guys. Benghazi is a place where the groups are armed with a lot of those weapons. Three weeks ago there was a hostage standoff in Algeria at a natural gas facility, and the weapons used were Gaddafi's weapons. His weapons made their way from Libya to North Mali, a country in Africa with an Al-Qaeda footprint. I'm concerned that we are going to fail in Syria as well, and that we will not get there in time to stop Syria's weapons from finding their way into the hands of some very bad actors who won't necessarily keep them in the Middle East.

Iran is the country that I think poses the greatest threat to world peace today. They want nuclear weapons, and neither the Bush Administration nor the Obama Administration has been very ineffective in trying to stop them.

By the end of Obama's term, Iran will likely be a nuclear state. When that happens, Iran will try to be the dominant power in the Persian Gulf and, because it will be a nuclear weapon state, it will get away with it. Iran will then become the dominant power in the entire Arabian Peninsula, home of 40% of the world's exported oil. If Iran has its hands on control of that, it effectively can control a large part of the world's economy because this world really does run on oil.

It also means that all the other countries in that part of the world will be encouraged to get nuclear weapons of their own, and they will have the money to do it. Saudi Arabia is a really rich country, and it has already said it will get nuclear weapons if Iran does. The United Arab Emirates will probably get them. Egypt, which can't feed its people, will probably find a way to get them. Turkey will certainly want them. So we'll see the single most destabilized, chaotic part of the world—where governments seem to change on the flash of a hat—awash in nuclear weapons. The likelihood of one being used by accident or intentionally, or getting in the hands of the bad guys, goes up exponentially. That's the world we are likely to see in four years.

Finally, on the other side of the world we have China and North Korea. China, because it's economically strong and powerful, perceives the United States as a nation in decline economically, politically, and morally. They've started to become far more aggressive in their foreign policy.

They have a map now that shows the South China Sea—surrounded by Viet Nam, Indonesia, and the Philippines—as an internal Chinese lake rather than as a part of the Pacific Ocean. China has every intention of becoming the dominant power in deciding who sails in that region. I think you'll see China increasingly taking steps to become the dominant power in the western Pacific, if not the entire Pacific.

We have a lot of friends in that part of the world: Japan, Philippines and other countries with whom we have alliances. It is also an area with a lot of the world's seagoing trade. In fact, the Strait of Malacca in the South China Sea has even more shipping than the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. So it's a part of the world that we want to keep free and open for world trade and commerce and relationships and a part of the world that China doesn't necessarily want to have happen.

North Korea is another country that can't feed its people. We laugh at this guy, right? Just recently they released a rock video – "we are the world" – and in it they had a picture of what New York City would look like with a mushroom cloud over it.

We laugh, but it is not a joke. North Korea effectively has nuclear weapons, and it is building missiles that have the capability right now of reaching where we sit on the West Coast of the United States. In four or five years, it will have the ability to send a nuclear weapon on a missile to reach anywhere in the US. Now, I don't think North Korea is going to wake up one morning and nuke Santa Barbara, but I do think they will sell those nuclear missiles and weapons to Iran.

The Good News

That's all the bad news, and it sounds like a horrible world, and it will be a very bad world for the next four years. There is also some really good news, believe it or not. Five years from now we will find that the United States is the world's superpower in terms of energy.

Most of the wars and regional conflicts in the last 100 years were over energy. World War I was, in part, because the Germans wanted to get hold of the coal fields, since coal was the energy of the day in Central Europe. In World War II, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because they wanted oil that the United States was denying them, and they thought if they attacked the United States they would then have the oil they needed. The last ten to fifteen years of wars in the Middle East have been in large part about oil. The world needs the oil that comes out of the Middle East. China needs the oil that comes out of the Middle East, and we need the oil that comes out of the Middle East.

In the last few years, however, American engineers have developed two technologies. The first technology is the ability to look deep underground and under oceans, and it has enabled us to find that we have an abundance of natural gas and oil. In fact, we have so much of the stuff that we will be the Saudi Arabia of the next decade. We have more oil that Saudi Arabia, and we have more natural gas than Russia. Nature has hands us a life preserver.

The second technology is the ability to get those resources out. With fracking, we can safely extract natural gas and oil from previously unreachable areas of the United States. North Dakota is now the Texas of the next decade because it has used the fracking technology to extract the natural gas underneath its feet.

The whole world mindset is going to change in about five years. The United States will be a net exporter of natural gas in about two years. Some predict that if we apply all this new technology, we can be a net exporter of oil by 2020. I think it's going to come much faster than that.

This means that the United States will no longer be dependent on the Middle East. We will have the energy within the United States that is abundant, secure, and cheap. This energy will revitalize the American economy in a way that nothing has been able to do since the industrial revolution. It will change America's position in the world, and it will change our fiscal position. We now have $16 trillion of debt with no way to pay it back. Most states seem to figure out how to balance their checkbooks, but Washington is dysfunctional: It spends more than it takes in. Tax increases will never bridge that gap. What this energy allows the United States to do uniquely in the world is to wipe that debt off the page. You could then see the United States economically solvent, secure in its energy sources with the whole world looking to us once again.

So that's the good news. You've got to live through the bad news, but the good news is coming. The number one national security issue is a solvent and strong economy. If we don't get that part right, everything else is collateral damage. There won't be any money for submarines or tanks or intelligence services or satellites unless we solve the economic problems. We have been given a life preserver to do that, and it's critically important that we develop our natural energy resources.

It's Up to You

I want to take my national security hat off and put on my Reagan Administration hat and tell you, especially the young people here, that you have a unique opportunity that will never come knocking at your door again. The world is a very different place today. As conservatives, you all feel the hostility on your college campuses, and you're supposed to feel ashamed of your positions. Well, within you is the ability to change the country.

The wheels are coming off this bus in foreign policy. Four years from now people are going to be looking around wondering what we did wrong. The fiscal problems in Washington aren't going to be easily solved. We're going to have unemployment. Today, the employment for under 30-year-olds—the Millennials—is only 60%, and of the 60% who have jobs, only half of those are real full-time jobs. Just think: only three people out of 10 have full-time paying jobs. Whether the media want to believe it or not, this system is not working. So it falls upon the young people here who have the energy, who have the vision, who have the optimism, who don't yet have the mortgage, to go out and change the world.

I say this from experience. By the end of the 1970s, nothing was working. The wheels were coming off the bus then like they are today, the economy didn't work, there was stagflation, the United States was expected to be surpassed by the Soviet Union. Yet there was a core group of people who believed in conservative ideas and stuck to them, and they changed the world.

When President Reagan came into office and I went into the Pentagon, we were horrified by what we found. After almost a decade of underinvestment in defense following the Viet Nam ware, we had airplanes that couldn't fly because there weren't enough certified pilots with enough training hours. We had ships that couldn't sail because they didn't have fuel. And for every tank we had that worked, we have one sitting right next to it that was cannibalized for spare parts. That's what had been done to America's defenses. Even worse was what had been done to our men and women in the military. We had not given our Viet Nam veterans adequate mental and physical health benefits or retirement benefits, and many were homeless. That's the world that we saw, and we changed it.

Yet because young men and women believed we could change and worked to achieve it, within a decade the United States won the Cold War without firing a shot. We went from a country with stagflation, 20% interest rates and a dead economy to a country in economic boom by the mid-1980s.

History is repeating itself. All those problems are present today. By the end of the next four years, the United States is going to have a boom and the pendulum with swing, but it will only swing in the right direction if people like you get out and do it.

About the Author: KT McFarland is a Fox New national Security Analyst and the host of’s DEFCON 3, one of the Internet’s most watched national security shows. This piece was adapted from her speech at the Institute’s Western Women’s Summit in 2013.