U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks at Kings College in London, Jan. 18, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks at Kings College in London, Jan. 18, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

SECDEF Panetta was just in London speaking at King’s College. He touched on many significant points for the trans-Atlantic relationship going forward into the rest of the 21st Century. However, in relation to my last blog post, he closed with a significant statement,

As I retire from my own career in public service, I recognize that there is a generational shift underway. There will probably not be another U.S. secretary of defense with direct memories of World War II. Many of those entering military service today — and many of the young students here in this audience — were born years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet across the generations, the transatlantic alliance remains the rock upon which we will build our future security and our future prosperity.

Generations are changing, and the rock upon which Churchill and the next generation built is not the same one that will be recognized tomorrow. It’s there as a foundation, but one that is a few stories below where we are today. It’s becoming abstract, a page in history, not something that was lived. And that is a significant cultural change.

Our decision making cannot take for granted something as significant as the Second World War, or even the Cold War, as living memory. Obviously, at the SECDEF level such a notion is not being taken for granted. But, still, the cultural shifts currently underway amount to a buried lede. A clear-eyed recognition of what is underway is important for decision makers at all levels, in my opinion, as this shift is something we must manage if we are to maintain a leadership role in the World.

History is dead; long live history.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Foreign Policy, History

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  • grandpabluewater


    • What do you mean, “bye”?

      • grandpabluewater

        A response to “as I retire from my own career in public service….”
        See also “Tombstone”.

  • The Navy’s Grade 36 Bureaucrat

    Transatlantic alliance? I recognize Britain for what they’ve done for us, but the other NATO countries are often questionable. We watched a lot of them suck up the easy billets in Afghanistan and Iraq, happy to let US soldiers take the front line and get killed.

    I suggest that the US needs to reevaluate who exactly is our friend and how much they have (or haven’t) shared their load the past few years. Hopefully the new generation of leaders, who aren’t skewed by WW2 thinking, will ask these hard questions. We have many Eastern European and Asian countries that don’t get the attention that Western European countries do from our current leadership, but perhaps some new leaders will change that.

    -The Navy’s Grade 36 Bureaucrat

    • grandpabluewater

      The Army, indeed the National Security Strategy, rated the defense of “the inter-German border from invasion by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact” by means of NATO as the keystone of the National Security strategy for decades.. Then one morning the morning brief was that the Warsaw Pact had crumbled, the Soviet Union had collapsed, and the “interGerman Border” no longer existed.

      Twenty plus years on, perhaps the time has come to pull the US ground combat forces, including much of the Air Force in Europe, and the huge contingents manning the NATO staff structures out of Europe. Some logistic and combat service support will remain, since it is useful in its own right, not to mention for the logistic support of operations in the CentCom AOR, if only to support our impending strategic retreat from the First Counter Jihad – AKA GWOT.

      And by all means, yes, let us evaluate and rank the reliability and effectiveness of the individual regimes that make up NATO. We’ll need to know that in the future, rather than assuming the label “NATO Ally” is the good housekeeping seal of approval.

      Call it early preparations for the strategic management of Counter Jihad II. Coming sooner than we think.

  • RightCowLeftCoast

    Those who have not learned the lessons of the past, are doomed to repeat them.
    Perhaps the present Administration, has learned from the British’s 20th century experience on how to refocus the government from External power projection and influence, to internal domestic program based government growth. This does not bode well for those who support a strong national defense with an internationally effective presence.
    That being said, how nation’s interact with another are shaded heavily by their past interactions. China still remembers the autrocities done by the Empire of Japan, the Philippines in times of trouble still turn to Washington for assistance, Argentina still perpetuate their claims to the Falklands (Malvinas), and the list can go on and on. Although, the present is primary in the decisions made now, the present can only have had happened due to events of the past.

  • Maritime Security Training

    its a good decision and I value it.