Dr Sean McFate was in Singapore from 7 to 11 October as part of the Distinguished Visitor Programme hosted by RSIS’ National Security Studies Programme. Dr McFate is an author, novelist, and expert on foreign policy, grand strategy, and war. A professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he has also authored two non-fiction books The New Rules of War, and The Modern Mercenary, as well as a fiction novel series.
Dr McFate has an unconventional background across the public, private, and non-profit sectors. In the 1990s, he served as a paratrooper officer in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He later became an advisor to Amnesty International on human rights and armed conflict, and also a Fellow at the New America Foundation. Dr McFate then went on to become a private military contractor, dealing with warlords in the jungle, training armies, riding with armed groups in the Sahara, transacting arms deals in Eastern Europe, and helping to prevent an impending genocide in Rwanda (2004). In the private sector, he was the Vice President of TD International, a Business Advisor at BearingPoint, and an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.
During the week-long visit to RSIS, Dr McFate gave two public seminars. The first seminar, titled “The Age of ‘Durable Disorder’ and its Geopolitical Implications”, touched upon the emergence of “durable disorder” as a new global order that contains rather than solves problems. He further stressed on how countries that are not prepared to fight in this environment are consequently exploited by those that are.
At the second seminar titled “Future Wars and the Rise of Non-Kinetic Instruments of Power: Implications for Small States”, Dr McFate spoke on how war has moved beyond lethality and battlefield victories. He added that in a future environment, all instruments of national power must be used, not just the ones that shoot. Non-kinetic weapons like influence, economics, lawfare and cunning will eclipse the mere use of raw firepower.
While in Singapore, Dr McFate met Mr K. Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Singapore. During the meeting, he met and exchanged ideas with several senior Singapore government officials from MHA and MINDEF. Dr McFate also had the opportunity to meet researchers and analysts from RSIS and the government sector.