Hello on a sad morning in America. As I type, Virginia Beach's city manager is walking through the bios of each of the 11 city employees who were among yesterday's 12 victims, killed by a veteran public utilities employee armed with a .45-caliber handgun.
For tomorrow's Season 2 premiere of "Axios on HBO," we asked the secret keepers — former top U.S. officials David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, Janet Napolitano, Leon Panetta and Lisa Monaco — about global threats we should pay more attention to.
🎬 Watch "Axios on HBO" tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET/PT for these eye-opening interviews.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Officials who have held America’s top national security positions tell "Axios on HBO" that the nation has never before faced such a tangled web of threats — and they worry about the government's capacity to confront them.
The big picture: The last time the global threat picture was this crowded and combustible was in the lead-up to World War I, Panetta says.
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Photo: Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool/Getty Images
Security officials increasingly view Russia and China — separately and together — as a threat to U.S. security.
Between the lines: “What I consider two of our strongest adversaries are now working together to try to undermine stability in the United States of America,” Panetta says. “This is not like dealing with some kind of rogue nation."
Zoom out: Russia and China aren’t formal allies but they are de facto allies.
Our thought bubble, per future editor Steve LeVine: Smart U.S. policy will attempt to create discord between Russia and China through carrot and stick.
Soldiers from Russia, Iran, China and North Korea in Pyongyang in February. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images
Two of the countries where the threat of direct military conflict with the U.S. is greatest are Iran and North Korea.
Threat level: H.R. McMaster, who until last April was involved in the most sensitive discussions on those countries with President Trump, warns it’s “difficult to overstate the threat from a nuclear North Korea.”
The big picture: McMaster argues North Korea could directly threaten “the United States, China, Japan, the world” with its nuclear arsenal and could also engage in “nuclear blackmail.”
Meanwhile, the administration has focused its ire on Tehran.
A mural in Sana’a, Yemen protesting U.S. drone strikes. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images
A new era where weapons of war are becoming more intelligent and more enabled by data — such as unmanned ships, submarines or drones — raises complex challenges for national and global security.
Driving the news: Experts are grappling with the ethics of developing autonomous weapons, which suggest the possibility of a computer deciding on its own to take human life.
Fully autonomous weapons don't exist today.
Our thought bubble, from Axios AI reporter Kaveh Waddell: The big challenge now is to slow the world’s slide toward an automated weapons race fueled by mutual distrust and a lack of information.
The H1N1 virus, responsible for the deadly Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918. Photo: BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
Between the lines: Influenza is of particular concern for health officials, even though there are more contagious viruses — for example, measles — and more deadly ones, like Ebola.
"The combination of a new deadly strain of flu plus air travel plus the ease with which it can be transmitted to other people. That really is the worst case scenario."— Lisa Monaco, on "Axios on HBO"
Our thought bubble, from Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly: Emerging virulent pathogens are a threat each nation needs to report on a transparent basis to promote possible global coordination to halt their spread.
A memorial for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Mass gun violence is one of the top threats to safety and security in America, Janet Napolitano tells "Axios on HBO."
What's happening: The U.S. has more mass shootings than any other country in the world.
Our thought bubble, per Axios' Stef Kight: There is a generation of young people with little memory of foreign terrorist attacks such as 9/11, but who have grown up witnessing their peers killed by domestic terrorists. These young people will soon be voters.
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