Roosevelt lecturer talks partnership, history of U.S., Britain

By Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

March 21st, 2019 | In Focus, News
 Gen. Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith, British Army Chief of the General Staff, speaks to members of the U.S. Military Academy Class of 2020 during the annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture March 5.                               Photos by Michael Lopez/PAO
 Gen. Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith learns some U.S. Military Academy at West Point history from USMA Historian Sherman Fleek March 5 during Carleton-Smith’s visit for the Kermit Roosevelt Lecture.

The U.S. Military Academy Class of 2020 had the chance to listen to and learn from Gen. Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith, British Army chief of the General Staff, during the annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture March 5.
This year’s talk marked the 73rd year the lecture series has been held. The series brings a British Army senior leader to speak to cadets and Army Soldiers about the partnership between the United States and Britain at locations including West Point and the Army War College.
Carleton-Smith has served as the British Army Chief of the General Staff since June 2018. Serving as the speaker during this year’s lecture series was a special honor for him, he said, because he is a descendant of Gen. Sir Guy Carleton, the last commander-in-chief of the British Army in North America who surrendered New York City to George Washington on Nov. 25, 1783 ending the British military presence in North America.
“To find myself 236 years later back, lecturing as the Kermit Roosevelt lecturer would have amused him,” Carleton-Smith said. “It has been an immense privilege to stand before you as the 73rd lecturer not only representing the British Army, but more importantly to celebrate our unique shared heritage.”
Carleton-Smith focused much of his talk on how important the partnership between Britain and the United States has become despite it being a relatively new partnership.
He traced the history of the partnership from the World Wars through the Cold War, the creation of NATO and the importance of the relationship during the global war on terror following the attacks on 9/11.
“The circumstances of the Cold War, NATO and now the 9/11 wars have served to institutionalize the partnership bestowing it with a seemingly permeant quality,” Carleton-Smith said. “It is our duty to preserve (the partnership) in a volatile, uncertain and increasingly competitive world seemingly perfectly designed to test our unity and our cohesion.”
The relationship between Washington and London is critical, he said, in a rapidly changing world facing threats from state-based adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran.
It is hard-power, and specifically American hard power, that will keep the world order as the rules-based international system that has governed international relations for the past generation breaks down, he said.
He added that as the world changes and technology becomes more permeated through every interaction, it is still people who will continue to play the most pivotal role in armies finding success and winning on the battlefield.
“Countries like mine … we haven’t got the  economic or political clout independently to change the geopolitical facts of life in a world no longer organized around the rule of law or in a world that will never be slower than it is right now today,” Carleton-Smith said. “It is not only the reassertion of the state-based threats, but it is also the pace of change associated with the permanent and escalating technical revolution.”
The annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture gives cadets in the Cow class the chance to hear from a senior leader from the British Army and learn more about the partnership between America and one of its most important allies on the global stage.
“I enjoyed the lecture from Gen. Sir Mark Alexander Carleton-Smith, I think it was very interesting to hear his perspective and experiences,” Class of 2020 Cadet Amy Ziccarello said. “Here at West Point, we are often cut off from the outside world and get wrapped up in our training and academics. Lectures such as this help us to gain a better understanding of what other countries and other militaries are dealing with and making important decisions about, because one day we may have to do the same and can look at their experiences and fall on their expertise for guidance.”
Following his prepared remarks about British and American relations, Carleton-Smith took questions from the Class of 2020. The cadets’ questions ranged from a discussion on Brexit’s impact on the British Army and its role in Europe to a discussion on the war on terror and the threats posed by Russia and China in the coming years.
“You have made a very bold choice and that is the choice of service and duty on behalf of your nation. You are going to live with the consequences of that choice for the rest of your lives,” Carleton-Smith said. “As we move through this volatile, uncertain and increasingly dangerous century, your country is going to need your leadership and my country is going to need the leadership you, and young men and women like you across this country, are going to deliver on behalf of the free world.
“So good luck, because we are all going to need it,” he concluded.