By Harry SarlesMarch 8, 2019
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan.--Gen. Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, KCB, CBE, ADC, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, delivered the 73rd annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College here Mar. 7.
Carleton-Smith said the Kermit Roosevelt Lecture is an opportunity for two intimate allies to explore the nature of that friendship. He said the lecture series was a legacy from Belle Roosevelt for her husband and served to remind us that complacency is the death knell of a relationship. "The Kermit Roosevelt Lecture is about brothers in arms and why that's important," said Carleton-Smith.
Thomas Jefferson said old Europe would have to lean on America, said Carleton-Smith. "But it wasn't until 1940 that a strong and durable identity of international interest in Europe and beyond emerged between Washington and London," he said.
That identity was cemented in 1942 "after FDR's astonishing act of strategic vision," said Carleton-Smith. "Just think about it, he responded to an attack on America's Pacific Front at Pearl Harbor by declaring a strategy of 'Germany First' making the Atlantic and the European front his principle strategic priority."
Since that time, genuine friendships have spanned political generations, said Smith. "Think FDR and Winston Churchill, JFK and McMillian, Regan and Thatcher, and more recently George W. Bush and Tony Blair. The relationship at Army level is even deeper still," he said.
"The return of great power relevance reminds us of its importance today," Carleton-Smith said. "Transnational terrorism isn't going to go away, but we might recognize it as a minor cause in comparison to the rising threats of the nation state."
"The challenge is to ensure that our military relationship, underwritten by security forces of successive generations, and that we've paid for in blood and sacrifice, doesn't come to seem like the final chapter in a fading affair, rather than the backbone of our future in a more competitive world in which history is far from finished with us," said Carleton-Smith.
He said we should take confidence in NATO's durability of as it celebrates its 70th anniversary next month. Balance of power concerns are once more part of international dialogue as great power rivalry reasserts itself. "We're reminded that the rules-based international system that has regulated international discourse all our lives isn't self-sustaining. It's actually underpinned by power. Hard power. Predominately albeit not exclusively American power," Carleton-Smith said.
The balance of power is currently under pressure from three primary avenues; the erosion of European power, the unravelling of the political settlement across the Middle East, China and the unravelling of the Nixon-Kissinger strategy that broke China from the Soviet orbit.
Given the changes in the world and the increased pace of technology and innovation, Carleton-Smith said "my message to the British Army is to think big, start small but be prepared to scale rapidly." The challenges for the British Army, that he says resonate in America as well, are four-fold. He said we must continue to make the case and argue the relevance and importance of land power as opposed to those who flaunt the challenge and utility of cyber. The Army also needs to work out how to create and sustain a credible asymmetric advantage, he said. "We've got to be doing this together," he added. "This is, in every sense, a team sport," he said, "and, we're going to have to go farther together."
The most important, innovative, and resilient capability of all is our people, said Carleton-Smith. "People are not just in the Army, people are the Army," he said. "I'm talking about a winning Army. A winning Army founded on comradeship, on self-respect, and on self-discipline. A winning Army imbued with initiative and daring, with originality and self-confidence, and with professional knowledge and infectious energy in all its commanders at every level. I'm talking about an inextinguishable will to win, a relentless pursuit of professional excellence, and a determination not to be thwarted by those inevitable setbacks," concluded Carleton-Smith.
The Kermit Roosevelt Lecture Series began in 1947. Kermit Roosevelt was an American businessman, soldier, explorer and writer. The second son of President Theodore Roosevelt, he served in both world wars and for both the American and British Armies.
As of 1997, the Kermit Roosevelt lecturer from the United Kingdom speaks at the United States Military Academy, the U.S. Army War College, and the Armed Forces Staff College in addition to the Command and General Staff College. The Kermit Roosevelt Fund was sustained through 1957 by Mrs. Roosevelt, and through 1969 by grants from the Rockefeller and McCormick Foundations. In 1970, it was mutually agreed that the Kermit Roosevelt Lecture Series would be officially supported by the United Kingdom and the United States as a continuation of the program formerly sponsored by the Kermit Roosevelt Fund.