L’année 1942 aura toujours une signification particulière pour moi. Mon défunt père est né cette année-là, pendant la bataille de Stalingrad. Il m’a initié à la Seconde Guerre mondiale par une belle collection de livres à l’intérieur de laquelle je me suis plongé le nez très jeune. Dans leur magnifique livre 1942 (Passés / Composés), Cyril Azouvi et Julien Peltier m’ont permis de découvrir toute l’envergure et la signification de cette année « bissectrice de la guerre » pour reprendre l’expression citée et empruntée à l’historien français Henri Michel.
Pour revenir à Stalingrad, il ne devait suffire que « […] d’une seule journée pour réduire en cendres cette cité moderne et pluricentenaire » selon les plans établis par les hautes sphères allemandes. À la tête de troupes mal équipées par sa faute pour un combat hivernal, Hitler avait pourtant mal évalué le coriace adversaire qui revêtait l’uniforme du soldat soviétique et qui allait payer avec son sang les erreurs stratégiques commises par Staline au début de la guerre. Quant aux soldats portant le feldgrau, ils sortiront de la ville éponyme du dirigeant soviétique la gueule cassée et promis à une rude captivité après 6 mois et 22 jours d’une bataille dont la Wehrmacht ne parviendra pas à se relever.
Retired Four-Star Admiral James Stavridis served as the 16th NATO Supreme Allied Commander – a function once occupied by the legendary General Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 2016, it was reported that he was vetted as a potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He recently published an excellent book Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Characterwhich I recently had the privilege – and tremendous pleasure – to review here on this blog.
Having always been attached to the Fourth of July celebrations because of my deep admiration for the United States, it was my intention of publishing a special interview for the occasion. Admiral Stavridis generously accepted to answer my questions and I’m profoundly grateful.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this book would be an excellent holiday read. Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends!
Here is the content of this insightful interview.
We are headed into a new Cold War with China. That seems inevitable now, but we need a strategy to avoid it turning into a shooting war.
In Sailing True North, one of my favorite chapter (with the one devoted to Nelson) is the one about Zheng He. What do you think of the current tense situation with China and how do you think we should deal with that?
We are headed into a new Cold War with China. That seems inevitable now, but we need a strategy to avoid it turning into a shooting war. That will require a mix of diplomacy, military deterrence, tech savvy, economic tools (both in competition with China and in encouraging other nations to avoid Chinese “debt traps”). In essence, we should confront China where we must (cyber, trade, tariffs, their claims of “owning” the South China Sea) but cooperate where we can (environment, pandemics, arctic trade routes). It will be a difficult and at times a dangerous passage. My next book, In Face, out in March 2021, is a novel about … a war with China! It is a cautionary tale, and let’s hope we don’t find it turning from fiction to fact before our eyes. Here’s a link to the Amazon page.
In the book, there are several references to religion, one to the Conclave, the other to John XXIII and Thomas Aquinas. I might be wrong, but I assume you are a Catholic and that faith seems to have had a significant impact on your journey. Am I wrong? Would you say that faith might also be an important buoy on the voyage of character?
Sea Power has always fascinated me. I will forever cherish the memories of walking in the footsteps of Admiral Chester Nimitz in Pearl Harbor and Admiral Horatio Nelson at Gibraltar. Back in 2011, I spent a night on the Rock and had trouble sleeping. Heat certainly had something to do with it, but I was also pondering how the British legend spent his days here, defending the interests of King and Country at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea. I like to think that I might have crossed his spirit while walking in the beautiful streets of this British Overseas Territory.
These men and women who ruled the waves were gifted with exceptional and inspirational values. And I’m very grateful to retired Admiral James Stavridis for writing Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character, where he details how these larger than life figures not only mastered what are certainly some of the most demanding jobs in the world, but also their character in front of adversity, whether it is the threat of invasion, war, bureaucracy, sexism or racism just to quote these examples. The best lessons are seldom learnt in easy circumstances.
Naturally, I will not talk about each of the fascinating personas that are presented between the covers, but I will write a few words about my Top 3.