I watched retired Marine General James N. Mattis’ speech given in November 2013 during an awards ceremony at the Foreign Policy Research Institute last night and of course I find that his rational approach to everything engenders my trust and true hope for a better world. Even as the selfish behavior of our politicians and aggressive acts by our foreign enemies try to destroy us, people like General Mattis and members of our military too numerous to list, provide the steadying hands that guide our country and the world toward civility and justice.
The whole speech is enlightening, you should watch the video too. Here’s my two paragraph take away.
Regardless of how our economy and energy infrastructure continue to develop, we must remain engaged in the Middle East. We have steadfast allies in the region that deserve our reciprocity, economies around the world will always be impacted by the pricing of Middle East oil, and there are plenty of terrorists and bad guys in the region that will attack us. Even if we should become energy independent, we cannot isolate ourselves against terrorists and acts of war initiated abroad.
We have a serious problem here at home. Our politicians are doing a poor job of running our country. Events like the shutdown of the government for two weeks sends the signals to everyone in the world that we are in turmoil. Our allies believe we cannot support them and our enemies see us as weakened.
Summary of his points:
♦ We must look at the Arab Spring for what it is.
We should not lose confidence that good things will evolve from it. This uprising is not necessarily a rush to democracy in the way we think of it. It is a response to the breakdown of the social contract between the governments and the people.
Many Arabs are fed up with unresponsive and unjust governments and in dealing with this “they do not have the tradition of democracy, and they do not have many of the things you and I associate with the rule of law.”1 They are building new foundations in an uncertain environment, thus there will be setbacks and problems along what is sure to be a tough road.
We must be patient and not blow things out of proportion. “Each country will manifest it’s future along the way.”2 General Mattis cited the events in Yemen over the last three years as proof that progress toward a fair and just government can be made in the face of the worst conditions.
♦ Our enduring interests in the Middle East3.
Even if we become primarily energy independent, as it appears will happen by 2017 or 2020, we will remain tied to the global economy. Oil prices set in the Middle East will effect the price we pay to do business in the world, even if it doesn’t set our internal prices for energy.
Our allies who have stood by us, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and others can only be committed to supporting us if we firmly stand by them as a friend, and we must do this during the bad times as well as the good.
Violent extremists can hit us from any place in the world, they managed to make spectacular hits on New York City and Washington D.C. from a half a world away. We cannot isolate ourselves and not be vigilant for such strikes against us.
♦ Our policy regarding the Middle East.
Many countries in the Middle East are undergoing political reform and our policy is to support it at their own pace without imposing our will upon them.
We also support economic reform in these countries so that the average citizen can feel as if they have a stake in their future.
We support our allies against bellicosity and terrorism. The Big Bad Wolf on the block is Iran and even though we must continue pursuing a diplomatic solution, we must also be prepared in the event of it’s failure. Even though yesterday it was reported that “the size of Iran’s most contested uranium stockpile has declined significantly for the first time in four years,” they are deceitful and we cannot allow them to obtain a nuclear weapon for they will certainly use it. If you nuke one part of the world you nuke the whole world. (Can we say “On the Beach” by Nevile Shute?)
However, our military can be used to further the diplomatic solutions by buying time. For example when Iran declared it’s intent to mine the Persian Gulf thus threatening to halt petroleum shipments to the world, CENTCOM, under Mattis’ command, initiated a mine sweeping exercise in the area that was joined by 29 countries across the globe the first year and 35 the second year. The exercise stopped Iran’s threats and diplomacy continued.
One major challenge for the U.S. is that our allies in the Middle East doubt our reliability. This is based in part by the fact that we have an unsustainable economy that’s getting worse, and our government has been unwilling to to deal with this. Without a strong economy we cannot support a strong military to protect us, let alone help our allies. Our global position is in decline.
Our government, for nearly a decade now, has done nothing to help our economy and has proactively done things to damage it. How can America be strong when our own politicians refuse to come to the table and negotiate with each other? They have spent the decade aggressively dividing the American people – both parties, and they have damaged our credibility with our allies and weakened our stance against our enemies.
I had the opportunity to attend another Mattis event this afternoon at Rudder on the campus of my goddaughter’s alma mater, unfortunately business got in the way. For me, one of the best parts of his presentations at educational institutions is watching how he engages the students and spreads his rational character.
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1 FPRIVideo, (2013, Nov 18). Reflections of a Combatant Commander in a Turbulent World – Keynote Address by General James Mattis, 11 minutes 28 seconds in.
2 Ibid, 12 minutes 46 seconds in.
3 Ibid, 14 minutes 50 seconds in.