Forbes magazine just released its ranking of the Forbes 400, the country’s richest citizens. In the same issue, the magazine asked former CIA director Mike Hayden to rank the “World’s 7 Most Powerful Defenders and Offenders”—those “whose wisdom, folly, and obsessions shape global events.” Here is Hayden’s list, which includes some interesting choices:
#7 Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al-Libi, Last Leaders Standing, al Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri carries the mantle of bin Laden as al Qaeda’s number one but al-Libi—telegenic and media smart—may be al Qaeda’s emerging rock star. If either can survive and sustain the AQ brand, they can energize the global movement and regional franchises.
#6 Kim Jong-il and Son, Dear Leader and Comrade General, North Korea. Kim Jong-il is less a head of state than the leader of an Asian criminal syndicate. The Kims have been playing poker with the United States for over a decade with rarely more than a pair of threes in their hand. They are still capable of burning down the neighborhood—and seem willing to do so.
#5 Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Assistant Minister of the Interior, Saudi Arabia. “MBN” is the thoughtful head of Saudi Mabahith (internal security) and the son of the new Crown Prince.
#4 Name redacted, Current Chief, CIA Counter Terrorism Center. Head of the CTC for the last four CIA Directors. Tireless, austere, knowledgeable, irascible, lethal, under cover—and remaking the American way of war.
#3 Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Army Chief of Staff, Pakistan. The most powerful man in a nuclear-armed country ranked 12th (of 177) in the Fund for Peace’s Failed State Index. With civilian institutions feckless, he must navigate a society that is increasingly violent, increasingly extremist, and increasingly anti-American.
#2 Qassem Suleimani, Quds Force Commander, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Dangerous, well resourced, close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Suleimani shares the Supreme Leader’s transcendental faith in the Islamic Revolution and is capable of doing almost anything—like IEDs in Iraq or in a Washington, D.C. restaurant—to further it.
#1 Liang Guanglie, Minister of Defense, People’s Republic of China. Liang commands the most unrestrained cyber force in the world, one that routinely steals terabytes of data not just for national security but for economic advantage as well.
You can see the full slideshow here.