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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Adm. Mullen: Beware the Militarization of Foreign Policy

I don’t want to write too much that steps on the toes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s forthcoming confirmation hearing to head the State Department, but take a

Adaline Fritz
News
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jan 13, 2009

I don’t want to write too much that steps on the toes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s forthcoming confirmation hearing to head the State Department, but take a look at The New York Times’ write-up of a speech given last night by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen used an appearance at the Nixon Center to urge a reduced role for the military in U.S. foreign policy — basically, a place among equals in the policymaker toolbox, instead of being the primary instrument of the U.S. role abroad. That would reorient a 20-year — arguably 60-year — drift toward American militarization.

It’s not quite Ike’s military-industrial complex speech, but this is impressive nevertheless:

“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.”

American national security and foreign policy requires “a whole-of-government approach to solving modern problems,” Admiral Mullen said. “And we need to reallocate roles and resources in a way that places our military as an equal among many in government — as an enabler, a true partner.”

A couple points here. First, Mullen’s predecessor, Gen. Pete Pace, would say stuff like this every now and again as well. But this time, as The Times points out, Mullen has a defense secretary who has sounded the same notes — and an administration that has placed the reallocation of foreign-policy resources as a leitmotif. So there might be something to this.

But there’s another aspect here, one that speaks to Clinton’s prospective tenure as secretary of state. For the Pentagon to take a reduced role, civilian agencies of government have got to stand up. That doesn’t just mean larger budgets. It means a more expeditionary State Department/Justice Department/CIA/U.S. Agency for International Development/yes-even-Agriculture Department culture as well. If the military is the only part of the government capable of operating competently in the middle of nowhere, administrations of both parties will inevitably look to it as their primary tool of policy.

Let’s see if Clinton has anything to say about this today.

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