From pandemics to natural disasters to strained resources from a growing global population, there are a multitude of challenges for our nation that threaten global stability and go beyond the scope of a military solution.
Last week, retired Vice Admiral Frank C. Pandolfe, one of 200 flag and general officers who comprise USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council, touched on these challenges in conversation with a diverse group of veterans in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania at the USGLC event America’s Role in the World: How Investments in Development and Diplomacy Advance Our National Security. The discussion highlighted solutions to threats around the world that cannot be solved by uniformed personnel alone— and aimed to get the veterans in the room thinking about how their own military experience connects with the international affairs conversation.
“Defense can do wonderful things, and we have the best military machine in the world, but it can’t do it alone. To secure the peace after winning the war, we have to build societal cohesion, we have to provide some stability for the people and give them some hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday,” said Pandolfe. “If we fail to do that, there will be tens of millions of people on the road as these pressures build… if you think we have problems now, it’s going to be worse.”
During his 37-year career, Pandolfe commanded a destroyer squadron in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a carrier strike group in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He also served as assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, representing the Chairman in interagency matters with a focus toward international relations. Throughout his military tenure, he regularly worked alongside civilian colleagues from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department to support national security interests.
Pandolfe cited recent global events, like the exodus of migrants from the Middle East into Europe and the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, as examples of security challenges that will require robust resources for our diplomats and development workers.
“Military people are great at what they do. We’re great at driving tanks, driving ships, flying airplanes, and building and executing military campaigns… But we shouldn’t kid ourselves, we are not developmental experts,” he said. “Our best diplomats, and I’ve been privileged to work with many of them over the years, are really amazing national assets.”
Michael Noonan, a former Army officer who served on a military transition team in Iraq, heard Pandolfe’s message and connected it with his own experience in the Middle East.
“If we put more shoes, hiking boots and sandals out there first, it will mean less combat boots on the ground later,” explained Noonan. “Trying to find local solutions to local problems at the lowest possible level through things like development and diplomacy, will mean using military tools less.”
Last week’s discussion in Pennsylvania was part of a nationwide initiative aiming to engage prominent members of the veteran community in a conversation about America’s role in the world. The Veterans for Smart Power Roundtable series is an opportunity for veterans of all backgrounds to network and learn how their service and their story fit into the international affairs conversation.
Veterans for Smart Power is a group of veterans of all ages and ranks who share a commitment to elevating and strengthening our non-military tools of global engagement. Launched in 2010, there are nearly 30,000 supporters of Veterans for Smart Power with active groups in 30 states across the country.