SACEUR: The “battlefields” have dramatically changed

Admiral James Stavridis at National Defense University, August 15, 2011

From James Stavridis, Allied Command Operations:  [T]he "battlefields” have dramatically changed and the world today requires more from us all.

In this world, we must think our way to success in incredibly complex scenarios.

• A Westphalian system under attack with nation-states fighting in unconventional settings with unfamiliar tool sets;
• Attacks by organizations bent on ideological domination;
• Aging demographics throughout Europe and many developed regions;
• A globalizing economy with perceived (and actual) winners and losers…exacerbated by the challenges of austerity;
• Exponential rise of environmental concerns directly linked to globalization;
• Miniaturizing technologies producing powerful effects and dangers to security;
• Transnational and trans-regional criminal organizations, trafficking in weapons, narcotics, people, money and intellectual capital;
• Diffusion of weapons of mass destruction—including biological and chemical;
• The ‘cyber sea’—enabling global communication at potentially everyone’s fingertips—a "speed of thought” dialogue that occurs in a virtual and real 24/7 news cycle
• And finally, all of this taking place within the competitive "marketplace of ideas” which is ultimately at the root of conflicts, requiring sophisticated strategic communication to influence in both directions. . . .

[W]hat matters is testing your ideas on the field of intellectual battle, so to speak.

We need to challenge our staffs, our friends, our shipmates, our allies—the dedicated professionals who work with us every day. And we need to constantly seek new relationships and forge new partnerships.

With all that said, let me give you more food for thought.

We have too many walls in the world of security. We need more bridges.

Our self-imposed legal, political, moral, and conceptual boundaries defining what constitutes combat vs. criminal activity, domestic vs. international jurisdiction, and governmental versus private interest all provide operational space for potentially lethal opponents with no such boundaries to respect.

As we stand here in the shadow of a building that bears his great name, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes of Abraham Lincoln: "The dusty dogmas of the past are insufficient to confront our stormy present. As our world is new, we must think anew.”

Excerpts from convocation speech for the class of 2012 at the National Defense University by James Stavridis, Admiral, USN, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe,Commander, US European Command,"Stronger Together"  (photo: NDU)

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