Seasoned admiral brings expertise to the Hilltop
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Local Jesuit product Admiral Patrick Walsh (Ret.) served the nation for more than 34 years. From commanding the U.S. Pacific Fleet during Japan’s 2011 tsunami to leading the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the critical Persian Gulf, Walsh has impacted U.S. foreign and military policy across the globe.
Walsh, who now calls SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center home, serves as a senior fellow and the director of the national security program at the center.
“It’s great to be part of the SMU family,” Walsh said. “National security and defense have always interested me.”
The admiral isn’t out of place at a university. After graduating first in his class in his master’s program at Tufts University, he went on to receive a PhD. His academic specialty is in law and diplomacy — skills he has put to work.
When the Tohoku tsunami and earthquake struck Japan in 2011, the U.S. Pacific Fleet provided critical assistance to the Japanese people. The tsunami, caused by an earthquake off the coast of Japan, resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and $235 billion in damage.
Walsh, 90 navy servicemen, Japan’s Self Defense Forces, USAID and nongovernmental organizations created a Joint Support Force that provided critical aid to an ailing Japan.
“We were in a position to respond to humanitarian need — a tradition of ours since the 19th century,” Walsh said.
When it comes to disaster preparation, Walsh stresses the importance of the U.S. military network and military networks around the world.
“The military comes very well prepared for disaster and humanitarian operations,” he said.
Because of a combination of communication and supply chain capacity, the military can respond to humanitarian disasters rapidly.
U.S. military aid has also helped America’s image abroad, Walsh said.
“It’s a way to operationalize relations that we have with our allies,” he said.
But, after Japan’s earthquake, Walsh wasn’t worried about the U.S.’ diplomatic power.
“I wasn’t thinking about soft power when the tsunami struck. I was thinking about friends in need,” he said.
Many political scientists call the U.S.-Japanese relationship one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world.
“I think the relationship is fundamental to the region. Other countries see the relationship as stabilizing for the entire region,” Walsh said.
With the rise of China, Walsh said that the U.S.-Japanese relationship has to be adaptable.
“We must work closely with Japan as times change. We must do everything we can to understand China and to understand its trajectory,” he said. “Everyone wants China’s rise to be constructive for the region.”
Walsh stressed the importance for mutual understanding between the U.S. and China.
U.S. interests include continued access to market and freedom of navigation in East Asia.
In recent years, islands in the South China Sea that have precious minerals, natural gas and oil reserves have been a point of contention between Japan and China — along with other nations like Vietnam and the Philippines.
Walsh said that historical disputes prove the current points of conflicts can be resolved.
“Countries have found a pragmatic way to work around differences that they have,” he said. “But, it is very concerning that a local problem can quickly turn into a regional problem.”
The East Asian region is not the only area where he holds expertise and experience. Walsh also served from Sept. 2009 to Dec. 2012 as commander of the Pacific Fleet.
Adm. Walsh, the recipient of two Distinguished Service medals, will be the keynote speaker Wednesday night at the Tower Center’s annual two day National Security Conference.
He will also be one of five panelists on a military perspective roundtable Thursday morning. Other panelists on the military roundtable will include representatives from the Air Force, Army and the Marine Corps.
“With the coming fiscal cliff and proposed military budget cuts, I’m very excited to see what a former admiral and other experts have to say about our military, present and future,” junior Tyler Anderson said.