Stavridis sees the big picture: ‘Sea power,’ service

Retired Adm. James Stavridis told NPR’s Steve Inskeep last month, “You know what you see when you look out the bridge of a ship? You see eternity.”

He spoke about being a young ship handler coming into Pearl Harbor for the first time, and seeing the experience as a lesson in not being “overly impulsive,” not acting unilaterally, and instead relying on the power of teamwork.

In a talk to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Policy on June 5, Stavridis says, “Sea Power is at the heart of American Power.” We are a maritime nation in an ocean-reliant world.

Stavridis, a surface warfare officer and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, takes readers on a personal journey at sea and on the world stage, reflecting how the seas shaped who we are today.

The author of “Sea Power” (Penguin Press, 2017) has a wide and long vision. His book is subtitled, “The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans.”

He calls the oceans the “lungs” of the earth, critical to climate and the environment. He notes that 95 percent of the world’s trade is by sea. And, he shows that today’s potential conflict flashpoints are tied to the waters: western Pacific (North Korea), Arctic (as climate change creates new sea routes), Indian Ocean (“a space of geopolitical criticality), South China Sea (with key sea lanes), eastern Mediterranean Sea (which “has seen more war than any other sea space on earth”).

He looks at the Caribbean as a region shared by many people “of the America’s” and a zone of partnership. He is an advocate of humanitarian missions as good investments for a more peaceful world.

Earlier this year Stavridis served as a keynote speaker at West 2017, where he spoke about what we need for interconnected global and national security.

In April 2017, he presented the commencement address at Dickinson College and spoke about education, political diplomacy, humanitarian medical care, freedom of the press, and volunteerism. His address is available on YouTube.

In “Sea Power,” Adm. Stavridis brings the legacy and insights of Mahan into the 21st century, expanding Mahan’s critical thinking to include not only history, but also literature, environment and future-focused thinking including the role and threat of cyber warfare. We look forward to reading and learning more.

(A version of this article appeared on Doughty’s Navy Reads, a blog devoted to books, critical thinking and the Navy Professional Reading Program:

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