Mullen Calls Military Neutrality ‘Bedrock’ of U.S. Democracy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
JAKARTA, Indonesia, May 29, 2008 As the presidential race heats up in the United States, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is reminding members of the military that their neutrality is part of the fabric of democracy.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen discussed an article he wrote for the Joint Force Quarterly journal about what is appropriate for military personnel during an election year. The chairman talked to reporters traveling with him today during his flight here.
“It’s an exciting time, and it is also a time that will be one of transition for us,” Mullen said. “What really moved me on this is in a number of all-hands calls I’ve had around the world, I’ve had young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in public forums ask me who I was voting for, who I thought should win, [or] what would happen if this candidate or that candidate won.”
The JFQ article puts in writing what he has told those servicemembers: that as serving U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, they must remain neutral. “That’s bedrock to us as a country and a democracy,” he said. “It is in that neutrality that we generate great strength for this democracy.”
The overtly political questions from servicemembers concerned him, Mullen said, so he decided it was important for him as the nation’s highest-ranking military officer to make sure servicemembers understand what they can and can’t do.
“It is because of these questions and because of the time that we’re in that I thought I would publicly make a statement, so it is clear what my expectations are as a senior military leader,” he said.
Mullen said he has remained politically neutral for his almost 40 years in uniform.
“Like any other American, I have my own personal views, but the point is they are my personal views,” he said. “I have to be able to detach those personal views from my professional responsibility. I work pretty hard at it. I learned it, and that’s why I think it is so important that we talk about it now.”
Mullen is here on the first leg of a trip for meetings with representatives of Pacific nations.