THE BLOG

NATO's Warrior Scholars: The Critical Backbone of Our Atlantic Alliance

When I was an Army ROTC cadet at Georgetown University, we were taught the importance of being "warrior scholars." Indeed, according to the Department of the Army's Institute of Heraldry, "the Greek helmet on the ROTC insignia is symbolic of the ancient civilization concept of the warrior scholar." Thus, as I attended the NATO Summit in Chicago, I thought it interesting that the world's press focused chiefly on the civilian heads of state, rather than the impressive collection of warrior scholars that are central to the success of what has been coined "the most successful military alliance the world has ever seen."

To be fair, we now have a proud tradition of civilian control over the military, so it is understandable that we look to our civilian leaders at such global functions. But this Memorial Day, considering the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made on behalf of our Atlantic alliance -- and its current operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya and the Horn of Africa -- it seems fitting to consider the raw brainpower that complements our civilian leadership at NATO -- and the current generation of warrior scholars that serve as the backbone of the Atlantic alliance.

Let's start with Admiral James "Jim" Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe -- the first U.S. Navy officer to serve as commander of our European Command.

A distinguished graduate of both the U.S. Naval Academy and the National War College, Admiral Stavridis went on to earn a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he was awarded the Gullion Prize for academic excellence as an outstanding student.

And while Admiral Stavridis has managed to land some of the most important military posts in our armed forces, since his initial command of the USS Barry, including serving as Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense and commanding U.S. Southern Command, his impressive command responsibilities have not hindered him from his life as a scholar. The South Florida native served as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, and is the author of five books, including Command at Sea (now in its sixth edition) and the Watch Officer's Guide (now in its twelfth edition), as well as countless journal articles ranging from Americas Quarterly, to the Australian Defence Force Journal and Turkish Policy Quarterly.

Also present in Chicago was General John Allen, a U.S. Marine Corps four-star general and commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, who succeeded U.S. Army general (and now Central Intelligence Agency Director) David Petraeus, himself a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, who subsequently earned an M.P.A. and a Ph.D. from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and held a fellowship at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Like his two NATO colleagues, General Allan also graduated university with honors -- from the U.S. Naval Academy. He went to become a distinguished graduate of the National War College -- and managed to pick-up not one, but three masters degrees: a Master of Arts in National Security Studies from Georgetown University, a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College, and a Master of Science in National Security Strategy from the National War College.

And also like Admiral Stavridis and General Petraeus, General Allan has balanced critical military command responsibilities with scholarly achievements, including serving as a Marine Corps Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent Washington think-tank, and becoming the first Marine Corps officer inducted as a term member at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations. (Not surprisingly, all three officers are now life members at the Council.)

With all this brainpower in uniform, one must wonder why we live in a society where terms like "jarheads," "grunts," and "knuckle-draggers" are sometimes used to describe those in our warrior class. Decades after the G.I. Bill sent thousands of service members to universities, and at a time where Ph.D's are common attributes of our combatant commanders, it is time to shed these stereotypes. By doing so, we honor the commitment of our warrior scholars to excellence in all that they do -- and we open ourselves to their sage advice at all levels. For if we do, we will find it totally unsurprising that the NATO website was recently updated to include a list of "Twenty Great Novels for Summer Reading," authored by none other than its Greek-American commander, Admiral Stavridis. The Greek warrior scholar tradition continues.

Mark V. Vlasic, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University and senior fellow at Georgetown's Institute for Law, Science & Global Security, leads the international practice at Madison Law & Strategy Group PLLC. Commissioned a U.S. Army officer from Georgetown ROTC, he served on the Slobodan Milosevic and Srebrenica genocide prosecution trial teams at the U.N. war crimes tribunal and participated in NATO meetings while serving as a special assistant/White House Fellow to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.