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Leighton W. Smith


Former four-star admiral in the United States Navy.
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Leighton W. Smith
There were a lot of people who were willing to write a letter for me. Not because I was academically inclined, but because I worked hard.
Smith quotes
Our meeting with Admiral Leighton Smith, on the other hand, did not go well. He had been in charge of the NATO air strikes in August and September, and this gave him enormous credibility, especially with the Bosnian Serbs. Smith was also the beneficiary of a skillful public relations effort that cast him as the savior of Bosnia. In a long profile, Newsweek had called him "a complex warrior and civilizer, a latter-day George C. Marshall." This was quite a journalistic stretch, given the fact that Smith considered the civilian aspects of the task beneath him and not his job quite the opposite of what General Marshall stood for.
After a distinguished thirty-three-year Navy career, including almost three hundred combat missions in Vietnam, Smith was well qualified for his original post as commander of NATO's southern forces and Commander in Chief of all U.S. naval forces in Europe. But he was the wrong man for his additional assignment as IFOR commander, which was the result of two bureaucratic compromises, one with the French, the other with the American military. General Joulwan rightly wanted the sixty thousand IFOR soldiers to have as their commanding officer an Army general trained in the use of ground forces. But Paris insisted that if Joulwan named a separate Bosnia commander, it would have to be a Frenchman. This was politically impossible for the United States; thus, the Franh objections left only one way to preserve an American chain of command to give the job to Admiral Smith, who joked that he was now known as "General" Smith. ...
On the military goals of Dayton, he was fine; his plans for separating the forces along the line we had drawn in Dayton and protecting his forces were first-rate. But he was hostile to any suggestions that IFOR help implement any nonmilitary portion of the agreement. This, he said repeatedly, was not his job.
Based on Shalikashvili's statement at White House meetings, Christopher and I had assumed that the IFOR commander would use his authority to do substantially more than he was obligated to do. The meeting with Smith shattered that hope. Smith and his British deputy, General Michael Walker, made clear that they intended to take a minimalist approach to all aspects of implementation other than force protection. Smith signaled this in his first extensive public statement to the Bosnian people, during a live call-in program on Pale Television an odd choice for his first local media appearance. During the program, he answered a question in a manner that dangerously narrowed his own authority. He later told Newsweek about it with a curious pride: "One of the questions I was asked was, "Admiral, is it true that IFOR is going to arrest Serbs in the Serb suburbs of Sarajevo?" I said, "Absolutely not, I don't have the authority to arrest anybody"."
This was an inaccurate way to describe IFOR's mandate. It was true IFOR was not supposed to make routine arrests of ordinary citizens. But IFOR had the authority to arrest indicted war criminals, and could also detain anyone who posed a threat to its forces. Knowing what the question meant, Smith had sent an unfortunate signal of reassurance to Karadzic over his own network.
Smith
The Naval Academy is a very prestigious place, and I choose to try it. I got there and darn near didn't pass, just about flunked out the first year, but a commandant by the name of Bush Bringle managed to call me in one day and taught me more about leadership in about 15 minutes than I have learned in the rest of my life. And because of Bush Bringle I regained some faith and confidence in myself, learning I had a little bit more in me than I thought, and I went back to work and finished.




Smith Leighton W. Jr. quotes
When we went to Bosnia the people in Bosnia welcomed us with open arms, and I would go down the street and people would come up and say, "Admiral, thank you for bringing peace to Bosnia." And my standard answer was this, "I cannot bring peace to this country. Only you can bring peace to this country. I can bring the conditions in which peace can be established, but I cannot bring peace to this country." So the mistake we have made in our country, if we have made a mistake, is that we believe that we can influence or that we can enforce a peace, and we cannot. You can stop the fighting, and we did. And you can put money into a country and you can try to build it up so that the momentum you get from a visible economic engine creates a condition where peace will take hold. But that requires a political will that is not today evident in Bosnia. It was certainly not evident when I was there.
I think we are doing the right thing to put our military into these kinds of operations. No one is better able to do it. Peacekeeping is not a soldier function, but only soldiers can do it, because we've got the organization. We can make things happen in a hurry.
Smith Leighton W. Jr.
I remember a picture I saw in a paper not long before the wall came down. There was a man standing holding a very young daughter, my guess was that she was only about one or two years old. She had on a rather plain dress, he had on a coat and a tie and he was carrying probably a cardboard suitcase. And my guess is that everything he owned in the world was in that suitcase. And he was weeping. He wasn't weeping because he left his car and the rest of his family back on the other side of that Iron Curtain; he was weeping because he was free. He was weeping because now he had opportunity, he had the chance to choose for the first time in his life, and his daughter whom he was holding in his hands had a future, whereas before she would not have had one. That struck me as a very, very vivid picture of what this all meant.
Leighton W. Smith quotes
I had a role in developing the doctrine From the Sea, which was later modified to Forward From the Sea. But the way we looked at the situation was that the world we live in is a dangerous place. There's a violent peace out there, there are going to be problems over the horizon, and certainly that proved to be true.
Leighton W. Smith
With Leighton Smith in charge, we've got a Navy admiral running a predominantly land campaign the first ever in NATO's 47-year history. ... As the U.S. continues to withdraw from overseas bases, Naval Forces will become even more relevant in meeting American forward presence requirements.
Smith Leighton W. Jr. quotes
We went out on a very cloudy day, in an area we probably should not have been operating in, and the two of us did a maneuver that was not authorized, and I made it and he didn't. ... We pulled up over some overcast to dive bomb the target. I had practice with this maneuver in the Med, but Bill was less familiar with it. I made it, but Bill just disappeared. I went back and looked for hims. I saw no race of any wreckage. I tried to tank and go back but was ordered to return to the ship.
Smith
I didn't realize it at the time, but it became apparent to me later, that I had just experienced the most incredible lesson in leadership that I would ever experience: a Navy captain, who was in charge of the entire day-to-day operations of the Naval Academy, took the time to reach down deep into that organization and drag an individual up who was having trouble and try to instill in that individual a little bit of self-discipline and self-confidence. He knew my uncle, obviously, but I felt he would have done this for anyone in my predicament regardless of who his relatives were.
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