Thursday, November 17, 2016

Remembering Melvin Laird

We’ve been away for a handful of weeks, but don’t worry…

Melvin Laird died this week after quite a long life in service. Have you heard of Melvin Laird? If not, here is a nice little piece to introduce you to the subtly influential Secretary of Defense in the 1970s. If you were to ask yourself, who was an influential leader in the defense institution, you might think of someone like Donald Rumsfeld, Robert McNamara, or George Marshall. I think there is a reasonable case to be made that the obscure Melvin Laird has had more of a lasting impact on today’s defense architecture than any of the others mentioned.

Part of the question of today’s national defense rests on answering the question, what is the proper role of the U.S. security apparatus in international system? Laird attempted to shape that question by offering a restructuring framework to reset defense by leaning on partner capacities while shoring up the fundamental basis of military power.  Coming out of the throes of Vietnam, and an economy under a lot pressure from the consequence of national security strategies, Laird was forced to juggle fiscal retraction with a looming existential threat: USSR. What is fascinating to me is the notion of context. We are familiar with today’s context because we are experiencing it first-hand. I think there is real utility going back to previous periods and thinking…for a moment…what was that context?