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Mullen Urges Emphasis on ‘Soft Power’ in Foreign Policy

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2009 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advocated a “whole-of-government approach” to foreign policy in a speech here last night, urging more funding for nonmilitary departments’ roles overseas. Video

“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,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told a Nixon Center audience.

Mullen said civilian agencies representing American “soft power” -- the Departments of State, Justice, Commerce and Agriculture -- deserve more money and support than they currently receive, and should play an enlarged role internationally.

The chairman’s remarks align with those made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has warned against a “creeping militarization” of U.S. foreign policy. In a speech in June, the secretary said diplomacy and development should lead American efforts abroad.

“Broadly speaking, when it comes to America’s engagement with the rest of the world, it is important that the military is -- and is clearly seen to be -- in a supporting role to civilian agencies,” Gates said.

Mullen echoed Gates, saying that the U.S. military should be “just as bold in providing options when they don’t involve our participation or our leadership.” He added that this notion should apply even when alternative options are unpopular, or when they demand resources be transferred from the military.

The Defense Department’s fiscal 2009 budget was about $650 billion, compared to the State Department’s reported budget of about $11.5 billion.

“As an equal partner in government, I want to be able to transfer resources to my other partners when they need them,” 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.”

During his international travels, Mullen said, the message is clear that there is a strong desire to work with the United States.

“Most of the world wants a stronger relationship, and a deeper mutual understanding with the United States," he said. "We have a great opportunity right now to seize this moment in history, by enabling all aspects of our power and influence, as a force for peace."

The chairman said the military has effectively served the role of ambassador when called upon to do so.

"But our most effective ambassadors of peace in the future will not be those who wear uniforms, or bear arms,” he said. “They will be our civilians."

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Biographies:
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen


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