The New Navy Secretary: An Internationalist With Heart

DSCF0388.JPG
Donald Winter

This is the new secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, sworn in a few months ago. He opened up the Naval War College’s conference on strategy that I attended Tuesday in Rhode Island, and when I heard that he was a former VP at Northrop Grumman, I was prepared to write him off.

Then he spoke. Winter is charming, fast on his feet and extremely impressive. He would seem to represent a new spirit in the Bush Administration, of do-good internationalism. For he stressed that a central function of the Navy is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Bringing a white ship even into a Muslim area, it is recognized as a peaceful mission. And bringing in NGOs only heightens that understanding…Public opinion about the US in particular but also about the western world in general is materially affected as these people see us for what we really are….There’s a natural shaping of hearts and minds in favor of the U.S….

At a subsequent press conference, a reporter asked why we should be using the Navy “for the new Peace Corps and new Red Cross around the world.”

Winter responded with ease and vigor. “I would not tend to characterize it that way. We have a new set of responsibilities around the world. And this is a win/win. We’re helping, and I think the sailors love doing this.”

Navy people, he said, get a lot more satisfaction from bailing people out after the tsunami than from more traditional functions. Aye-aye, sir.