Sailors have always mentored new hands and helped them "learn the ropes." This tradition stretches back to the earliest days of sail, when each new Sailor meant a ready pair of hands to haul a sheet, work a halyard, and reef a sail. To learn the ropes was to memorize a ship from stem to stern. It meant learning the language of the sea.
This ancient tradition still works, both at sea and on shore. In today's turbulent security environment, we must consider how the old hands who know the ropes can apply their experience to foster stability in the coming decades.
American novelist and sailor Herman Melville wrote, "We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects."
For decades, the United States military has sought to strengthen those tough threads connecting our nation with the rest of the world. Frankly, these efforts have yielded, at best, mixed results. At present, two of our most important relationships are with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Our three countries are now inextricably linked.