Stratfor was proud and privileged to support the Texas Tribune Festival, a three-day event that ran Sept. 26-28 and brought experts, leaders and politicians to Austin to discuss the domestic and international issues facing Texas, and indeed, the entire United States.
Stratfor was happy to sponsor not one, but two discussion panels: The Gulf with Mexico; a roundtable on the state of current U.S.-Mexico relations; and Trade Off; an intimate discussion on tariffs and U.S. trade policy. Aside from sponsoring, we were excited to attend several panels that we thought were complementary to our mission. Here are some brief thoughts I compiled from our social media team and several Stratfor analysts and researchers.
Day 1: Re-engaging with Live Social Media
The day began with a fittingly early one-on-one interview with Gen. John M. Murray of Army Futures Command on the work the army is doing to innovate the military capabilities of the United States. The general laid out the priorities of the U.S. military over the next decade, factoring in the modernization efforts of U.S. near peers like China and Russia, and stresses the need to develop robotic, AI, sensor, hypersonic and directed energy capabilities.
Another panel on oil and gas in Texas, logically titled Barreling Ahead, was moderated by author (and guest on the Stratfor podcast), Russell Gold. He led a discussion on the global forces that affect oil's pricing and availability that remain outside the control of American energy companies, such as the recent attack that crippled parts of the Saudi oil infrastructure. Panelists were also keenly aware of the developing global transition to alternative, renewable energy sources, and how that could affect current leaders in the oil and gas industry.
We turned to more solemn, security-minded topics in the From Within panel, a discussion held at the equally somber Central Presbyterian Church. The topic was domestic terrorism in the United States, moderated by another friend of Stratfor, author David Priess. Beginning with the mass shooting in El Paso, the panel discussed the many forms of terrorism threatening the country, including anarchists, jihadists and white supremacists.
Stratfor then held its first-ever Facebook Live event at the historic Driskill Hotel. Fred Burton sat down with David Priess to talk about his writing career and which panels he attended. A few learning curves aside, the discussion was a fascinating, free-wheeling talk on security. I even had a brief chat with Fred on what it takes to secure a live event as complex as the festival in a city like Austin.
The day ended with a one-on-one with former U.S. national security adviser and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. While it was largely an intimate and personal interview, the ambassador talked at length about her role in various U.S. foreign policy efforts, such as handling the fallout of the 2012 Benghazi attack.
Day 2: Of Sponsorship and Open Congress
Our team was back early Saturday to chronicle more of the Texas Tribune Festival. We started with the After Harvey panel, a talk on the recovery efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Simultaneously, a panel on the future of U.S. space exploration, titled Up in the Air, delved into the opportunities for scientific development, the importance of satellite security and U.S.-China competition for space.
Stratfor's sponsored panel, The Gulf with Mexico panel, highlighted an energetic and enthusiastic conversation with former ambassadors and a U.S. representative. The topics ranged from border security, immigration and the illegal fentanyl trade, to how U.S.-Mexico ties should be considered in a broader regional and even international context. Several of the panelists voiced concerns about Russia's actions in Venezuela, Hezbollah's movements in the region, and China's outreach in Latin America.
We quickly moved to our second sponsored panel, Trade Off. USMCA trade negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Canada was the initial subject under consideration, followed by the all-encompassing U.S.-China trade war. Former U.S. trade representatives Ron Kirk and Carla Hills stressed the importance of diplomacy in trade talks, noting that harsh words risk ceding U.S. leadership to other countries.
The final panel we caught was an interview with former Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. She discussed her personal experiences as well as the role she played in the U.S. responses to major events including the Arab Spring, conflicts in Syria and Libya, the rise of the Islamic State and even the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. And with that, Stratfor's official coverage of the festival ended.
The common theme that connected almost all of the panels we attended was the rising prominence of global uncertainty. From the military threats Army Futures Command is preparing for to the heavy-handed diplomacy that is straining trade negotiations, a lack of confidence in knowing how things will play out around the world is hindering decision-making of individuals, businesses and governments. The solution? Most of the experts agreed that understanding the context of these global relationships and using that intelligence to act decisively is the key to rejuvenate global certainty.
As surprising, to me at least, was just how much Stratfor was aware of and has written about these vital topics. I've worked at the company five years this September, and I was pleased to find that, with the mention of a keyword, I could recall an article or column that provided foundational context to any panel topic discussed. Even our latest forecast for the fourth quarter of 2019 begins by acknowledging the same global uncertainty that so many former officials at the festival focused on. Being informed made engaging with the panels that much more compelling. That fundamental knowledge of my city, my country and my world, is powerful, and it was on full display at the festival, thanks to Stratfor's extensive catalogue.
With the Texas Tribune Festival 2019 complete, we at Stratfor say thank you to the Texas Tribune for allowing us to sponsor and participate in the event. It was a wonderful gathering of experts from a variety of fields to discuss the vital things facing Texas and the United States. I also want to give a special thanks to my intern, Rachel, and the team of analysts and researchers for assisting me throughout the conference, taking pictures, recording videos and collaborating on posts that allowed us to share much more with our social media audience.
And by all means, check out and follow our accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Soundcloud for even more great content. Furthermore, with the success of our Facebook Live recording, we're planning to cover more newsworthy items with our own experts, as well as participate in more Austin events. Stay tuned!