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Monday, March 2, 2009

Passing the Lead

Like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael G Mullen believes that now is the time the US Government to better fund non-military instruments of national security and for the military to take a step back.  In an article, "Brave Enough Not to Lead:  The Proper role of The Military in Foreign Policy," in Joint Forces Quarterly, the Admiral lays out his case.

Here is the heart of his argument:
There is no question that we need a whole-of-government approach to solving modern problems, 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.  On those points, I think most people already agree.  But I think it’s worth thinking about what we can do about it.  First, when asking why our instruments of national power may be unbalanced, we, the ones wearing uniforms, need to look in the mirror.

Yes, our military is flexible.  Well funded.  Designed to take risk.  We respond well to orders from civilian authorities.  It’s what we do. It’s in our DNA.  And so, when we are willing to pitch in, as we usually are, we tend to receive more resources.  And then get asked to do more.  And so on.

I believe we should be more willing to break this cycle, and say when our Armed Forces may not always be the best choice to take the lead. 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—especially when they are not popular.
There is no doubt the Uniformed Services can respond quickly.  And, there is no doubt they have a lot of equipment that can be brought to bear on any problem. But, we should not forget that such capabilities are also available elsewhere, such as WalMart.  The problem is, the Department of State doesn't have the resources and flexibility of Walmart and neither does USAID.

If you bump into Congresswoman Niki Tsongas around town, please encourage her to support legislation and hearings that empower the Department of State and US Foreign Service Officers.  It is going to be a long war and we need as many team players as we can find, and a broader leadership.

Regards  --  Cliff

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