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Admiral James Stavridis collapsed in his chair, exhausted. The four-star Navy admiral had just finished a six-month whirlwind tour of over thirty nations, flying on a state-of-the-art military aircraft surrounded by an enormous staff. He met with leaders from every member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the heads of Russia and Israel, and several prospective U.S. and NATO allies. Not surprisingly, he met with each nation’s senior military leaders and ministers of defense in an effort to strengthen military-to-military relations and reinforce the bonds of the Atlantic Alliance that date back to General Eisenhower and the end of the Second World War. Perhaps surprisingly, Admiral Stavridis also met with the presidents of each nation, their foreign ministers, and a host of diplomats. It was easy for his staff to set up meetings with just about anyone in Europe. Indeed, everyone was clamoring to meet Admiral Stavridis, the senior U.S. military officer in Europe who possessed enormous operational authorities central to their own nation’s defense. He also brought with him the promise of foreign military sales, future military funding, and easy access to the vast Washington national security apparatus. To many, he was the most important American on the continent, a man worth knowing, and someone possessing not just a military role but also an expanding foreign relations role. When he called, presidents and prime ministers picked up the phone and made time.1 What position in the vast military bureaucracy did Admiral Stavridis hold? He had just been appointed by the President and confirmed by Congress as the leader of the U.S. European Command, one of five extraterritorial U.S. geographic combatant commanders.2 These positions play an increasingly important but not well-understood role in the largest military (and bureaucracy) in the world.