This blog was written by Admiral James G. Stavridis, Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s the power of partnership. Whether between individuals or communities, businesses or militaries or nation states, I am absolutely certain that no single one of us is as strong as all of us together.
In the military, we have learned of the power of partnership in the joint world. But now we need to focus on partnership in the worlds of international, interagency, and private-public activity.
I have been privileged to lead two combatant commands – U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM ) and, currently, U.S. European Command (EUCOM), as well as NATO’s Allied Command Operations. In all three places, the concept of “partnership” has been central to our approach. Our mottos at SOUTHCOM and EUCOM reflect this in a simple and tangible way. At SOUTHCOM, “Partnership for the Americas” epitomized our organizational ethos and our strategy towards achieving security and stability in the Americas by working by and with our Latin American and Caribbean partners. Similarly at EUCOM, “Stronger Together” became our watch words and every day serve to remind us that none of us are in the business of security on our own. This applies to international, interagency, and even private public-partners.
Anyone who has ever served in the Navy will instinctively understand this focus on partnership. It is fundamental to who we are and what we do. From the time we enter the service, we learn that we cannot succeed alone, that we must rely on our collective wits and strength to succeed at sea, and to keep our community whole and strong. Whether a young midshipman striving to climb Herndon Monument, a new sailor simply trying to get his hospital corners right on his ‘rack’, or a marine recruit learning to march across the parade field, we learn that only together can we achieve our goals. This lesson is further cemented in our culture as we go to sea as a Navy / Marine Corps team, and as we partner with the U.S. Coast Guard in operations as diverse as search and rescue and the interdiction of narcotics flowing to our shores. In the Maritime Services, partnering is at the very core of who we are; a notion skillfully captured in “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”
I believe in partnership as both a means to an end, and an end in and of itself. Put another way, I believe that through creating and sustaining partnerships, we best position ourselves to achieve our strategic objectives and assure a long-lasting climate of security and cooperation. But sometimes the partnership itself is the goal. Take NATO, for example. Certainly NATO’s current involvement in Afghanistan supports our national objectives. But its mere existence has contributed positively and importantly to European, North American and, more recently, to global security over the past 60 years.
We are constantly presented with opportunities through which we might not merely communicate more about ourselves, but also listen and better comprehend our counterparts. The aim is to create a shared understanding – or sometimes a better appreciation for our differences.
Each of us must do our part. I have travelled 232,000 miles and visited 37 countries in the past year in order to cultivate international relationships with my counterparts that will enable the active partnerships between our militaries. At European Command we are actively reaching out to interagency partners every day. And we have a Director of Private-Public Partnerships who is working this exciting set of opportunities with private sector entities.
But it’s not only the formal, high-level interactions that count; the smaller, more personal exchanges matter, too. I blog and am on Facebook daily to update the online community on our latest news and respond to questions and comments. Every drop in the bucket contributes to a culture of communication and dialogue that is the bedrock of any good partnership.
As you go about your lives and your careers, be open to all sorts of partnerships, no matter how unlikely they may seem at the time – joint of course, but also international, interagency, and private-public. You never know how they might pay off in the future.