13 January 2009

Someone owes me royalties

Seems Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also been preaching about the convergence of American military and diplomatic policy recently--with the miltiary taking up the role of enacting most of America's foreign policy, to include diplomatic, economic and social endeavors.  It's almost as if he stole a line from a great article posted in Small Wars Journal back in October.  (Gotta love shameless self-promotion.  Of course, I also stole many of those ideas from a few other sources, but just overlook that)

Here are some quotes from Admiral Mullen in today's New York Times:

The military is engaged in deep soul-searching over the proper role of the armed forces in foreign policy. The debate has been inspired by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have forced the military to take on responsibilities far beyond combat, including tasks like economic reconstruction and political development that are often described as “nation building.”

“Our military is flexible, well funded, designed to take risk,” Admiral Mullen said in a speech at an evening ceremony of the Nixon Center, a Washington policy institute. “We respond well to orders from civilian authorities.”

Because of those traits, Admiral Mullen said, the military receives vast resources — and then is asked to do even more.

“I believe we should be more willing to break this cycle, and say when armed forces may not always be the best choice to take the lead,” he said. “We must be just as bold in providing options when they don’t involve our participation or our leadership, or even when those options aren’t popular.

Additonally, from the Los Angeles Times:  

Mullen's views are in line with the thinking of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has spoken out many times about the need for the military to work more closely with civilian agencies. 

In a series of speeches, Gates called on Congress to provide more funding for the State Department's foreign service and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

To offset the shift in U.S. approaches, the Pentagon has transferred funding to help the State Department send civilian officials to trouble spots. Pentagon officials also have encouraged military assistance for stabilization efforts.

But Mullen said efforts to shift resources to other agencies were insufficient. He argued that Congress should provide greater flexibility for the military to transfer funding during a crisis.

"As an equal partner in government, I want to be able to transfer resources to my other partners when they need them," Mullen said...

..Mullen said that changes in federal policy would encourage greater civilian risk-taking. Among needed improvements are safeguards such as life insurance and medical care for people serving in volatile regions, he said. 

Mullen said the military has much to learn about how the State Department and other agencies use such power effectively. 

"If we are truly to cut oxygen from the fire of violent extremism," Mullen said, "we must leverage every single aspect of national power -- soft and hard."

With that said, a few focus questions:

1.) To what extent should the military engage in nation-building activities?  

2.) With nation-building being placed on par with traditional warfighting functions (as per the new operations manual), what sorts of training do you see being implemented in our junior soldiers?

3.) How should the military structure itself for these types of conflicts?  Should there be a "small war" force and a "big war" force?  

The question of placing stability and support operations on par with offensive and defensive operations actually leads me to my next article for SWJ, in which I will discuss our military educational system's attempts (or sometimes, lack thereof) to keep up with the latest in military thinking.  


Anonymous said...

These are indeed crucial questions. I find it interesting that the same hawkish conservatives who chided Pres. Clinton back in the 90s over "nation building" in Bosnia and Haiti have been the biggest proponents of the Bush administration version of the same.

I blogged on this back in the summer of '07 - "The Bipolar U.S. Military: Leviathan Force and System Administrators"


Greg in Mexico

SJ said...

Weren't many of these ideas laid out by Gates in the 2008 National Defense Strategy (NDS) back in July of last year?

Starbuck said...

Just leave me with my gratuitous self-promotion, guys...