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Adm. Mullen on U.S. Mideast Policy, Pt. II (featuring Defense Policy)

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the National Press Club, is asked about drone strikes and civilian casualties in Afghanistan. “Don’t think in the history of counterinsurgency you can win by killing civilians who live there.” Specifically endorses Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s metric of “the number of Afghan citizens we protect … civilian casualties, when they occur, set us back.” Hopes commanders embrace it, so they avoid the mindset that leads to “a tactical victory [becoming] a strategic defeat.” The drone strikes, then? “I won’t talk about any operational details.”

What about Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ reversal of the Pentagon’s doctrinal focus of winning what’s called ‘two major theater wars?’: “Absolutely critical,” Mullen says. “For me it’s all about balance. It’s not about moving the pendulum all the way from one side to the other.

Is there a fighter jet shortfall? “Probably depends on who’s plans you’re talking about … I’m comfortable in the investment.” Specifically endorses “closing out the F-22 and investing in the Joint Strike Fighter” which can, of course, be used by the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. “I’m not unaware” of the concerns about a fighter-jet shortfall, “I don’t think it’s extreme as some of the numbers I’ve seen. … I really believe the future is in the Joint Strike Fighter.”

What other major weapons platforms and systems are going to be cut? Lots of nervous laughter. Mullen just endorses Gates’ “extraordinary” defense budget for 2010 instead. “I can’t be predictive about the future … but we did a very thorough review … that will continue,” he says, including looking at tactical-lift capability and amphibious-warfare capability for the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. But the “large majority” of cuts have probably been made for the foreseeable future.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? “I’m not a policy guy.” He says Obama’s “strategic intent is to change this policy and this will take a change in the law.” Not really saying much. “We have a force that’s under extraordinary stress … Should this occur, it needs to be done in a way that recognizes that stress.” What? The stress on the force militates for eliminating DADT so, you know, more people can serve. Mullen seems to be saying that gays are ooky and the military will be careful in implementing any repeal of the gay-servicemember ban. Someone should forward him this Abu Muqawama post so he sees that this isn’t an issue that today’s enlisted personnel and junior-mid-career officers care about.

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