Our generation is still scared by
Meeting in the majestic chambers of the U.S. Library of Congress, the WMF and Chief Executive reassembled the organization and CEOs who served in the military during the Vietnam War to continue the dialogue begun when CE first brought Vietnam Vet CEOs together in our pages (CE: Dec. ’97, “No Trumpets, No Drums”). In this and subsequent gatherings, CEOs who served in the military found a forum in which to share leadership lessons learned.
Business leaders who served in the military during this divisive conflict are quick to point out that the value of the memorial and the organization which seeks to educate the public is not in the glorification of war but in the reminder not to neglect the lessons that follow from it.
Chief among these lessons is teamwork born out of a development of mutual trust. “I saw that over and over again,” says New York Life’s Mike Nocera. “The team leader, by developing trust, builds a team of leaders, making it possible for everyone to succeed.” Held in partnership with Universal Express, whose CEO, Richard Altomare, is a former Marine Vietnam vet, this year’s gathering called upon another Vietnam veteran, Sen. John McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent five and a half years as a POW, to discuss current leadership challenges in foreign policy, including the conflict arising over the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Sen. John McCain: Last week the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The President and the Vice President and other Administration officials have subjected the American people to an extraordinary barrage of propaganda. But the most serious and most dishonest of their charges is that the defeat of the treaty is the most recent example of the extreme partisanship of the Republicans.
I, along with many of my Republican colleagues, have on dozens of occasions proved that the old adage that politics should stop at the water’s edge still holds some relevance in the Clinton era. On
Let’s be clear. This treaty was bad for the
Most absurd is the President’s argument that countries like
Indeed, none of these countries had joined the CTBT nor are they likely to. But even if they had, their word is worth virtually nothing.
Equally absurd is the suggestion that the most recent military coup in
We should, as we have only in recent months, encourage a relaxation of tensions, especially with regard to the
Let’s not repeat the mistake of imposing the same kind of counterproductive sanctions we did after
The CTBT would not have done a thing to protect our interests or advance our values. Indeed, it would have placed them at greatest risk. That’s the reason that committed Republican internationalists from Henry Kissinger to Jean Kirkpatrick to Richard Luger opposed it. Faced with the choice of rejecting or accepting it, Senate Republicans chose a politically difficult course of rejecting it and by so doing put the national interest over our immediate political interest. I am proud we did. I admit I would have preferred that we spare the President the international embarrassment of rejecting the centerpiece of his second-term foreign policy. I would have preferred that we not vote at all on the treaty.
If the Vice President sincerely wants to enhance the treaty’s prospects in the future he should think about debating its merits rather than disparaging the modus of its opponents. That’s why I challenged him to debate me on the subject. Only through fair and open discourse and not through 30-second attack ads will the American public learn if their security would have been enhanced or endangered by ratification of the treaty. Only then would they learn the importance of the
John Woods (Woods Peacock Engineering Consultants): Could you address briefly the circumstances in which the
McCain: That’s the No. 1 question and challenge that faces us in the next century. Obviously, if we were any other nation in the world, realpolitik would rule and therefore it would be incredibly easy for us to make our decisions based on
But we are also driven, as we should be, by Wilsonian principles, so the answer has to be, where our interest and our values are at risk. But there also has to be an important corollary to that, which is where we can beneficially affect the outcome of the situation.
I think all of us in this room grieved when we heard of hundreds of thousands of people being slaughtered in
Now, what about Kosovo? We stumbled into Kosovo; there’s no way that Milosevic could have signed a Rambouillet agreement because it called for U.N. and NATO presence in his country. Politically, he couldn’t have stood. Then, on the night that the bombing began, our Secretary of State said on the “Lehrer News Hour,” “We’ll only be there for a few days,” misinterpreting the results of the Bosnia experience, which was not just because of U.S. bombing but because the Croatians had just beaten the daylights out of the Serbs on the ground.
So we stumbled into a conflict where, because the decisions were driven by polls rather than principles, we ended up flying our pilots around at 15,000 feet so we could be absolutely assured that none would be shot down, because the pollsters told the President that we couldn’t take American casualties, thereby causing the pilots to drop bombs inaccurately, killing innocent civilians. I don’t get that morality. I soundly reject the morality or standard that says we’re willing to sacrifice innocent civilian lives, no matter whose they may be, in return for the protection of American lives.
A lot of us in this room served professionally. We know our job is, from time to time, to put it on the line. That’s the nature of the profession. So in Kosovo, once the conflict began, our values and our interests were at risk. I don’t think that you can make a case-by-case basis but you certainly can have a concept of what you want the world to look like, where the threats are, where our interests and our values lie, and have a proactive foreign policy and national security policy so that you’re not constantly surprised by events that take place in various parts of the world.
I would also add, those of us in this room know what happens when you neglect, when you don’t pay attention, when you have misguided policies. God knows, those of us in this room can’t allow that experience to be repeated. That’s our obligation. It is the challenge for the next century to try to determine this framework, and how we can act within it and make sure we are proactive rather than reactive when the crises which are inevitable spring up all around the world.
Phillip P. Rooney (ServiceMaster): lf we’re going to have national leadership and we’re going to have vested ownership in this country, I think we’re going to have to have some method to get everybody to buy in, and ownership is a big discussion today. I think national service is certainly something that addresses the moral aspect of it. Also, recruiting is key to how the military is going to survive in the future, and so is the idea of volunteerism with in the military. I was in for three years, and it changed my life dramatically and certainly can changes other peoples’ lives
Marshall N. Carter (State Street Bank and Trust): We increasingly are being asked to fund programs in the inner city. We, like a lot of corporations, put one and a half percent of our profits into our foundation. But increasingly now, that foundation is directed away from fine arts, cultural items like the Boston Symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts, and into programs in the high schools and students. The focus is on youth and what we can do for the youth so they grow up to be a meaningful part of society.
Richard B. Lieb (SEI Investments): We have a real aggressive program of recruiting junior officers who are getting out of the service. I think it’s incumbent upon us, and myself in particular-l spent four years in the Marines and a tour in Vietnam as a platoon commander-to really send a message about the value, about how critical it is, what it does to a person’s character, how valuable it makes them as a citizen, how valuable it makes them as a business person. I don’t think that’s clearly understood. I don’t think that’s articulated anymore. I think once upon a time that was perceived as a real advantage in terms of going into business, as helping you develop as a leader with what’s going on with the internet and the companies I think that’s getting a little obscured and we’ve got to go back to that and make it a real emphasis. So it’s a plus and a minus in terms of what it does for retention. On the other hand it’s critical and really crucial that we send a strong message to the country that that is an important factor in getting business leader