Learning from the Experience of our Nation’s Finest

March 13, 2014 By Joy Lammie

There’s no substitute for experience, particularly when it comes to our national security. So when nine retired three and four-star generals and admirals who have a lifetime of experience on the battlefield go to Capitol Hill, people listen.

Senator John McCain is no stranger to combat, and before heading to Ukraine with seven of his colleagues tonight, he sat down to talk smart power.

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McCain listened as military leaders like General Anthony Zinni and General Chuck Wald shared stories from their time overseeing hotspots from the Middle East to North Africa. These generals saw first-hand how it takes more than just a strong defense to protect our national interests. They know we need strong civilian tools of development and diplomacy to keep our nation safe in the 21st century.

Veterans talking to veterans is powerful, and these heroes from the USGLC’s 150-member National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) met with veterans in Congress like Senator Dan Coats and Representatives Adam Kinzinger, Duncan Hunter, and Hal Rogers.

Kinzinger is a major in the Air National Guard and served in Iraq, and saw how essential civilian tools are to bringing stability and achieving lasting peace.

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Budgets are tight this year, but as Congress begins debate over next year’s International Affairs Budget, they should heed the advice of our nation’s finest. Our tools of development and diplomacy are cost-effective and can even prevent conflicts before they occur.

As fellow NSAC member General James Mattis told a Senate Committee last year, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

And as more and more crises emerge – from Ukraine to Syria – we need to be smart about national security. There’s too much at stake in the world for us to disengage now.