By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 6, 2009 - All portions of the U.S. government have a role in dealing with any instability that results from the world's financial crisis, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen gave a public talk sponsored by Princeton University and the Woodrow Wilson School, visited with the college's ROTC detachment and participated in a roundtable discussion with the faculty.
In his remarks, the chairman expressed concern about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
"What is overarching is the global financial crisis," Mullen said. "I worry a great deal as we work our way through this – and I think it's going to take longer rather than shorter to do that. I worry about the effect that will have on instability throughout the world."
The chairman noted that throughout history, the United States hasn't been good about predicting where instability will occur. "As this crisis really takes hold, there will be places that become unstable that we haven't anticipated," he said. "We need a whole-of-government approach."
The United States military is a force for freedom and good in the world, Mullen said, but it's not the solution to every problem. "The United States military is necessary, but it is not sufficient alone," Mullen said. He pointed out that the American military is stretched and is doing missions that servicemembers have not been trained to do.
"They are an incredible group of young people who are incredibly adaptive and creative and innovative, and they do this unbelievably well," he said. "But we need to back off of that over time."
Other Cabinet-level departments – State, Treasury, Commerce, Justice – have the proper expertise for "soft-power" missions and need to have personnel able to deploy to address these problems, Mullen said. "But in my opinion," he added, "we are a good decade away from creating a capability in our other departments."
For example, he said, employees in the Agriculture Department do not expect to deploy to Afghanistan. "So I've got soldiers in the [National] Guard who are farmers in Texas and Missouri and Iowa, and they are going to Afghanistan to work on agriculture because it is what we need, because that's the economic base of the country," he said.
In a later interview, the chairman used Iraq as an example. One of the lessons of that conflict, he said, has been the multiplying effect that State Department officials serving at joint security stations have had on the situation. State officials are experts in governance and negotiation in a way that military personnel are not, the admiral said, yet in the first call for civilian volunteers to serve in Iraq, "half of them were from the Department of Defense, which is another extension of the military, and these are people who are available and accept orders and go do it."
Mullen said the government must work to generate the necessary capacity to bring soft-power expertise into implementation of U.S. foreign policy. "And we're going to need it right now," he said. "The president, the leaders of agencies, everybody has to be committed to generating this capacity down through the agencies."
Mullen told the Princeton audience that there are plenty of places to serve, and that the world needs the expertise and commitment of Americans.
"In my view, it is at the base of who we are -- when we are in trouble, to be able to rise up and serve and make a difference," he said. "You can serve in our own country or globally, but you are needed."