By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 17, 2008 - Young officers can provide added service to the nation by exercising their minds and sharing their good ideas through writing, a senior U.S. military officer said here today. "The most important reason that you should read and think and write and publish ... is that the people who want to do this country harm are doing so; they are thinkers," Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, told attendees at the 2008 Joint Warfighting Conference.
The terrorists who planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America "are the ones who thought up taking an airplane and flying it into the World Trade Center," Stavridis pointed out. Now, he said, terrorists envision using semi-submersible watercraft against America. Such craft constructed in the jungles of Colombia are being used by criminal to transport illegal drugs, he noted.
Some submersibles used by today's drug cartels can carry up to 5 tons of cocaine, the admiral pointed out.
"That, my friends, is innovation," Stavridis emphasized. "Someone out there is reading and thinking and writing ... and executing innovation."
Navy Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan, a forward thinker and noted writer, envisioned more than a century ago the importance of having a fleet of ships that could dominate the world's sea lanes in time of war, Stavridis told the conferees. Mahan's books, "The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783" and "The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812" published in 1890 and 1892 respectively, are examples of superb historical research, he said.
A noted military author in his own right, Stavridis urged officers, contractors and military retirees to put pen to their thoughts. Military journals, such as individual service and joint publications, are good places to submit articles, he said.
It's important to first read and research broadly and think about possible writing topics, he said. Reading material should encompass fiction works as well as nonfiction, he advised.
Budding authors shouldn't be discouraged if their initial literary efforts don't meet expectations, Stavridis said. The key to literary improvement, he said, is to try and try again.
The United States achieved world prominence through the innovation of its people, Stavridis said, noting that America needs a new crop of visionaries to step forward.
The United States "will continue to be the nation it has always been, the leader it is, not because we are bigger or have more people or have more money. We will do it the old-fashioned way, which is to say we will out-think them," Stavridis said.
"So, I ask you: read, think, write, publish," he said.