At the start of the year, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft shared his reading list on All Hands. As part of a continued discussion on leadership, the Commandant has invited members from across the fleet to review the selections and share insights on how they are applying what they’ve read to mission execution. This is the fifth blog in the series and was authored by Michael P. Smith, a 20-year Coast Guard civilian employee currently assigned to CG-MSR-2 at Coast Guard Headquarters.
World Order by Henry Kissinger is largely about world history and how order does or does not occur in global society. The concepts of freedom, peace and leadership are explored while looking at Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Asia. Specific countries considered include the United States, Russia, China, India, Iran, Israel, France, Germany, England, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea and Canada, as well as non-states. The significant and growing impact of technology on our lives today and into the future is also discussed. Specifically, how the impacts of our global business environment, instantaneous and continuous global communication and social media are all changing the way we live and interact. In all of this, the emphasis on face-to-face communication is still so very important and understanding each other improves when we consider the things we have in common. We can more easily agree to rules and how and when to enforce them when we are friends rather than enemies. World Order shows us that over millennia, some things do stay the same.
In several places, World Order discusses the concepts of morals and values. For Americans, what exactly are our morals and values today? Are they changing? Where do we get our morals and values? What influence do they really have on the way we live? We need to dig deep and answer these questions in each generation if we are to be a positive force in developing and sustaining international order. When we do, we’ll know better when to intervene, or not, in events occurring inside and outside our borders.
Leadership is fundamental to all we do, and this book addresses many aspects of leadership. As we can see by studying world history, who the leader is makes a big difference. A leader must have vision, determination and education in order to succeed. To lead effectively, one must be courageous and resolute and must be involved. If we don’t lead, someone else will. Notably, communication is a major part of leadership. Having one global language helps us understand each other, and today that language is English. We can travel the world and almost everywhere we can find someone who speaks English – it has become the common baseline. Nevertheless, in order to really know our neighbor, we must also understand their language and culture. The best way to achieve this is to travel and live in different parts of the world.
Creating and maintaining international order on a constantly changing, shrinking and interdependent planet will require us to employ Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty. Fortunately, these just happen to be the Core Values of the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. We are all playing important roles in the development of global order.
Reading World Order gives us perspective on our past, food for thought about today and hope for the future. The world looks to the United States to see what we do and how we do it, so we must set a good example for others to follow. I believe that by working together, we’ll be able to continue to show the world a shining example of peaceful order as we lead by example and say: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”