To Beat China in the Gray Zone, You Have to Be There

During Desert Shield and Desert Storm my skipper took delight in regaling ship riders with the wonders of battleships, ours in particular. This old sea-dog had a standard talking point to the effect that “we got to the Gulf fast—and we’re going to stay here!” We dissolute youth mocked the Old Man for his banal words at the time, but over the years I’ve come to realize there was sublime wisdom in them. If you want to control something you have to be there to control it. Showing up intermittently and going away will not cut it if your opponent is there, in force, all the time, to impose its will.

That’s the basic point I want to get across today. Judging by what I’ve heard from eavesdropping on you the past couple of days, I am preaching to the choir here. But it’s worth repeating. It is incumbent on all of us to champion that basic yet profound idea with senior leaders to assure it’s put into practice in gray-zone competition.

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