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Mission of Leaders: Prevent Great Power Wars, Says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

June 24, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

A year ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went to Normandy, France, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. While there, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said during his keynote address today at the Naval War College's virtual graduation ceremony, he met a veteran of that landing and asked him what his lesson from World War II would be for those in uniform today.

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"He looked up at me and tears came to his eyes and he said, 'General, never let it happen again. Never let it happen again,'" Milley said.

The Naval War College, located in Newport, Rhode Island, develops strategic and operational leaders. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, today's graduation ceremony was held virtually.

Today, your mission, my mission, is to prevent another great power war and maintain the great power peace."
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

The international order, which includes processes, policies, laws and organizations, is designed to prevent another great power war, such as World Wars I and II, where about 150 million were killed, Milley told the graduating class. Although wars have taken place since World War II, none approach that magnitude of death and destruction, he added.

Today, however, the international order is under tremendous stress, the chairman said, as China and Russia seek to weaken it, North Korea threatens the U.S. homeland and Iran promotes and supports terrorism throughout the region.

"Today, your mission, my mission, is to prevent another great power war and maintain the great power peace," he said, laying out three ways to achieve this.

First, be vigilant, he said, and identify signs of aggression, especially during periods when America is weary from conflict or is otherwise preoccupied. These are times aggressors sense opportunities, he said. Rapid military expansion, aggressive foreign policy, economic intimidation, violations of international norms, growing nationalism and bellicose rhetoric are among those signs of aggression, and many of these indicators in the international environment, Milley added.

You are duty-bound to take your enhanced intellect, your improved analytical skills and your expanded perspective and to lead."
Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, president, Naval War College
"Hone your ability to understand the context of what you read day to day by being an avid consumer of multiple forms of media, daily review of current intelligence, study international politics and geostrategy, and have a deep understanding of military history," he advised the graduating officers.

The second lesson, he said, is to maintain a high degree of readiness for the joint force so as to preserve the peace by deterring adversary aggression.

Third, he said, is to appreciate the importance of allies and partners. "We're most successful when we collaborate to achieve common security goals," he said.

Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, the Naval War College president, also offered some advice, telling the graduates to continue to invest in personal and professional development outside their area of expertise.

A woman wearing a Navy uniform stands at a lectern and speaks.
Graduation Ceremony
Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, president of the Naval War College, confers degrees during a virtual graduation ceremony, June 24, 2020. The Naval War College is in Newport, R.I.
Photo By: Screen capture
VIRIN: 200624-O-ZZ999-001

"Be informed by others who have different ways of thinking," she said. "You are duty-bound to take your enhanced intellect, your improved analytical skills and your expanded perspective and to lead."