Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen delivered the inaugural talk in the Lee Hamilton Lecture Series on Civil Discourse and Democracy at the Wilson Center yesterday
where he spoke on the importance of “taking the long-view” on U.S. engagement with the world and the changing field of 21st century geopolitics.
Mullen, whose aides, Captain Wayne Porter and Colonel “Puck” Mykleby, wrote the recently launched Mr. Y paper on a new national strategic narrative, echoed many of the same sentiments.
“[The Mr. paper] has some interesting things to say about how we are seeing a shift away from 20th century concepts of power and control to that of promoting strength and influence,” Mullen said. “Frankly, in this small, flatter, and faster world, I think any nation that believes it can, in a very clinical way, control events does so at their own peril.”
“The narrative also happens to share my long-held belief that we must remain engaged internationally if we wish to pursue the world that our children [and] our grandchildren deserve,” he continued:
As challenging as engaging others with different views may be, the alternative of abandoning these partners in these regions is far worse. We’ve gone down that road before, and it is one that leads to isolation and resentment, ultimately making our nation less secure as we deceive ourselves into believing that ignoring these challenges will somehow make them go away.Mullen also agreed with the Mr. Y authors’ view on adopting a more holistic view of national security:
Until we restore a sense of hope in these challenged regions, we will see again and again that security without prosperity is ultimately unsustainable.
Wayne and Puck put it well when they said we must recognize that security means more than defense. And sustaining security requires adaptation and evolution, the leverage of converging interests, and interdependencies. We must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries and that a winner does not demand a loser.The military’s energy initiatives are an important focus as well, Mullen said. “We’re the biggest consumer of energy in the U.S. government…and I don’t think we’ll ever get to a position where that’s not the case, but we certainly ought to recognize that and figure out a way to do it more effectively, efficiently, and at a much reduced cost.”
What we learned in Iraq is “there were too many people getting killed in long convoys,” Mullen said. The Marines were able to adapt to that threat by developing self-contained green cooling kits, and “that’s where we’re headed,” he said. “Our focus on and investments in the green world has taken off.”
“Now it is really mainstream: The service chiefs, combatant commanders, [they] talk about it,” Mullen continued. “There are investments being made, both from an S&T; standpoint – science and technology – as well as research and development.”
Read the transcript in its entirety here for the Chairman’s remarks on the continued importance of the UN, G-20, and NATO; the short-term intractability of challenges in Iran and North Korea; the rise of China; continued American military dominance; the defense budget; and the Arab Spring, which he called the “most significant change afoot in the world today.”
Photo Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, courtesy of David Hawxhurst/Wilson Center.