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01 May 2008


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The country's foreign affairs have been dominated by a military mindset for years. Now Mullen seems to want to have the military actually drive foreign policy.

It's a prescription for more war and unrestrained military spending, regardless of the cost to the economy.

Question is, with the military mindset firmly entrenched inside the beltway, is there anyone powerful enough to resist Mullen's schemes?


This contrasts unfavorably with that scene in "Mister Roberts" (1955) where an announcement is read over the ships's address system:
"Attention! Our Commander In Chief Franklin Roosevelt has died. That is all." None of the sailors worried very much about who was going to take over the leadership because it was none of their business. It had absolutely no effect upon their situation beyond whatever personal reflections each man might have on FDR's passing.


My take on these unusual comments is that the brass are trying to warn Obama/Hillary about the consequences of making any rash decisions i.e. withdrawing significant numbers of troops any time soon. Mullen and his comrades are undoubtedly aware that Bush's departure means that U.S. foreign policy could be significantly altered because the Bush administration's policies have by and large "kicked the can down the road" - the surge helped hold Iraq together and put off any painful decisions about significant troop withdrawals until after Bush left office.

Another possibility is that he fears Iran might take advantage in the changing of the guard to do something. I find that scenario highly unlikely, given Iran's strong desire to engage in negotiations with the U.S. and avoid war at all costs.


Mullen, would be the first to go. But the career bloodletting would not stop, if I had anything to say about. Based on media reports, actions that are alleged to his, and the few interviews I have heard from him, (all of that being, admittedly, thin gruel, but that noted) I do not find him to be an honorable person.


What is scary about the article is the implication that there will be a clash of ideology in the new administration. No matter, the military will continue killing evil doers.

The need to keep the money flowing to the military industrial complex and avoid being labeled a loser will force the new Administration keep the troops in the Middle East way longer than anyone would predict. Only a catastrophe such as a Depression, loss of an Army or a veto proof Congress will end the Afghanistan and Iraq Misadventures.


I suspect that the civilian leaders in the current administration, from the president on down, are also "continually thinking about how [military] decisions taken today will play out under a new administration." Specifically, I suspect they are trying to devise actions today which will lock in the leaders of the next administration to their ruinous policies.

frank durkee

Let me suggest that the one thing our military does not want is another 'failed mission' hung on its collective neck. i would suggest that the institutional inertia oppossing that outcome would be formidable. "Not again and not on my watch" might well be the mottoe.
There are vey few who have Gen Marshal's sense of discipline, honor and duty [ he is by the way one of my heroes both militarily and personally ].

Neil Richardson

Dear COL Lang,

I think it was David Hackworth who once said a flag officer above O-8 by definition is a politician. I find Mullen's comments somewhat disturbing as I just don't believe a serving officer ought to publicly weigh in politically during an election year. If he wants to do it, it's his prerogative to resign and make his concerns known about potential commanders-in-chief. When candidate Jimmy Carter was fixated on the idea of withdrawing the 2ID from the ROK, GEN Richard Stilwell and MG Singlaub strongly opposed it, but kept their thoughts to themselves. Whether one approved of MG Singlaub's decision to speak out or not, he knew what the consequences would be once Carter heard the comments after the inauguration. And GEN Vessey knew that his opposition would've been the end of his career if not for GEN Meyer tabbing him to be the Vice Chief.

BTW I noticed that SecDef Gates has been importuning future flag officers from the service academies to act according to their "conscience." I also found it rather amusing that he brought up John Boyd as a shining example in front of the Air Force. Well, I'm not that optimistic about the future given another Captain Crisis in the current Army. It seems the Army is eating its young again as McMaster, Yingling and Nagl are probably leaving. Contrary to the popular idea of McMaster being targeted by anti-COIN traditionalists on the promotion boards, I wonder if it had been his moderate view toward the transformation that might've been the reason for him being passed over twice



John H,
as for

The country's foreign affairs have been dominated by a military mindset for years. Now Mullen seems to want to have the military actually drive foreign policy.
There are other options that I consider more realistic:

(a) Mullen is a partisan hack, and tries to spread fear about a D takeover.
(b) Mullen is just saying what he is told and a loyal and obedient service to the powers that be.
(c) Mullen thinks of what Bush is planning to order the Pentagon to do to lock in the next administration. This reading suggests Mullen likes it, or considers it his duty to execute it.

Duncan Kinder

"I think it's important for us to get as many principals in positions as rapidly as possible in a time of war," he said. " Tyson

A precise historical parallel would be the transition between the Johnson and Nixon administration's during the Vietnam War. Both with respect to what sort of conduct would be appropriate for the brass and what sort speed be given to various appointments.

But I'm not sure that there's apt to be anything beyond the usual fare of IED explosions and such - assuming that we're not going to be in a hot war with Iran or anything like that, of course.

On the other hand, while I'm unfamiliar with Admiral Mullen and hence am missing out on any subtext, his quoted comments don't sound all that remarkable to me. But then I am not accustomed to how these things are usually handled.

Serving Patriot


You note,

" Perhaps the new president should consider the suitability of present leadership in the Pentagon."

To which I say,


@jonst, having watched the CJCS for several years, I think your option (a) rings most true of the three you give.


Paul in NC

Democratic Administration.

Neil Richardson

To Duncan Kinder:

Presumably the next president-elect will nominate the principals (by this I took it to mean SecDef, NSA, SecState) in short order well before the inauguration. These individuals would be given regular briefings by their administration counterparts during the transition. If Mullen is expecting McCain to win the election, I suspect he believes the nominees would face a grueling confirmation process. However, the other suggestion I read was that since Mullen (and he also tried to use other combatant commanders and chiefs of services as supposed cover) is certain that Iran will test the next president, perhaps two out of the three remaining choices would drop the ball when that dreaded phone rings at 3 o'clock. Either way I found his comments inappropriate.

Buzz Meeks

"A precise historical parallel would be the transition between the Johnson and Nixon administration's during the Vietnam War."

Tough to figure considering Kissinger was betraying the Johnson plans to Nixon from the beginning while he was advising LBJ.

I have lost any remaining respect for the US military I had. I can just hear what my late father, a 8AF B17 pilot, would have to say about the current crop of scum running the military. What ever happened to the Arnolds, Marshalls, Eakers,Lockwoods and Mitschers the academies produced at one time? The Navy Cmdr at Annapolis that was busted for prostitution should be promoted to the Joint Chiefs. She'd be right at home.

William R. Cumming

Presidential transitions have become increasingly problematic because the bench is so short for both parties. What is now clear is that the bench is really short for the military. Who is producing the doctrine for the wars of the 21st Century as there will surely be. How much has the Pentagon paid civilian speakers to its flag ranks and on what subjects? What is becoming clear is that an unprepared military failed to document the reasons why even a hit and run strategy, in and out, was not within their capability. Reinforcing by 10 divisions when the Soviets crossed the Fulda gap was always the paradigm and no one knew how to do that. Then the notion of two major regional wars came about and no one knew how to do that. Let's face it, with manufacturing base struggling to produce armored HUMVEES and protective gear as it drops down to a realistic 7-10% of the totat GDP the service schools should be arguing about how to use a WAL-MART to help mobilize and of course that means fullest utiliziation of the 16% of Chinese GDP devoted to WAL-MART! Where do we get such men should be the question to ask of MULLEN! The real likelihood is that the Pentagon will be left to go its own way as during Clinton I & II, whether Clinton III or OBAMA I! As for McCain supervising the flag ranks how about having his entire service record released? What is most likely is that the policy of benign neglect most likely to be adopted for civilian supervision of the military will drive the final nail in the coffin of a military that has not a clue as to what has happened domestically or internationally to the US in the last 30 years. Why no analysis of President's involvement except perhaps Eliot Cohen's excellent work documenting that hands off is not the policy that really helps the military in the short or long run. Another hands off President and we may be back to to the John Von Neuman Sci-fi story of the advanced nation unable to produce quantity of weaponary needed for survival when it focused solely on quality. What is the threat? Risk management seems completely unknown in military circles. Why?

Clifford Kiracofe

Chalmers Johnson has an interesting review of a new book telling the RAND story.

"Soon enough, however, RAND became a key institutional building block of the Cold War American empire. As the premier think tank for the U.S.'s role as hegemon of the Western world, RAND was instrumental in giving that empire the militaristic cast it retains to this day and in hugely enlarging official demands for atomic bombs, nuclear submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers. Without RAND, our military-industrial complex, as well as our democracy, would look quite different....

"Much of RAND's work was always ideological, designed to support the American values of individualism and personal gratification as well as to counter Marxism, but its ideological bent was disguised in statistics and equations, which allegedly made its analyses "rational" and "scientific." Abella writes:

"If a subject could not be measured, ranged, or classified, it was of little consequence in systems analysis, for it was not rational. Numbers were all - the human factor was a mere adjunct to the empirical."

"In my opinion, Abella here confuses numerical with empirical. Most RAND analyses were formal, deductive, and mathematical but rarely based on concrete research into actually functioning societies. RAND never devoted itself to the ethnographic and linguistic knowledge necessary to do truly empirical research on societies that its administrators and researchers, in any case, thought they already understood."

different clue

A "next Administration" can't possibly make any real
changes in foreign policy and the military application
of that policy unless it is overtly elected on a platform of making precisely
those changes. And it can't
be elected on a platform of making those changes if its candidates won't even run explicitly on a platform of what those changes are to be.

The political field is wide open for Kucinich/Paul or Paul/Kucinich to run on a
Stop The War independent ticket. They might not win,
but if they did win, everybody would know what they had won on. If they were to run on a platform of
evacuating Iraq at whatever political and economic cost,
and they were brutally honest about just how heavy those costs could be, and they got elected on that basis; they (Kucinich/Paul) would not have to worry about being accused of Losing Iraq. For they would
have won on a basis of a National Admission that Iraq
had already "been lost" long
long ago.


what I found also telling in this context was this passage in the article:

... the broad range of ideas RAND has espoused -- from "rational choice theory" (explaining all human behavior in terms of self-interest)
... reads as if Ayn Rand's Ghost stalked the corridors of RAND, or the minds of some analysts.

The idea about 'rational self-interest' being the only thing that motivates mankind falls way short of reality, and this borg-ish lack of understanding easily explains for the repeated utter failure of RAND brainiacs to comprehend cultural factors - culminating in disasters like Vietnam or Iraq.

These ingrates! How can they be so irrational to refuse what's best for them? The view certainly allows to consider dissent as an affliction - who doesn't agree or falls in line is irrational, and can thus be discounted. That applies for the domestic opposition as much as to the 'enemies abroad'.

While I don't blame RAND for Iraq, I see their hand in the thinking behind the ideas leading towards it.


With $120-150B cost, the war budget is the size of medium country budget. It's major party time for military contractor.

I bet most general think: Only 50 troops die this month. We are winning, let's keep going!

Nevermind the country is going bankrupt, piling up debt at half a trillion a year (yes, that would be this year deficit)

The nightmare of neocon junta continuous.

Pale Rider

I view his comments as being rather helpful--

If we need to "get as many principals in positions as rapidly as possible" then that means that the Republicans cannot be serious about defending this country if they decide they don't like a particular nominee and wish to contest someone's confirmation.

Kudos to the admiral. He just tied the hands of his benefactors in the US Senate.

--Blue Girl

I heard from a couple of people who read his comments as a trial balloon for not having elections this fall. I choose to look at it that he just opened his mouth and, unintentionally, hobbled the senate. How obstructionist can they be when a Democratic president sends their nominees up the hill if they embrace this stance taken by Mullen now? That damned "Law of Unintended Consequences" being so immutable and all...

And it is not like we haven't transitioned before. My father was aboard a ship at sea when Truman took over after Roosevelt's death. Did not affect him in the least. When Truman turned the reins over to Eisenhower, he was in Korea. He was in Vietnam when I was born in 1962, and back there in an advisory role when Kennedy was assassinated. He was back there again when power passed from Johnson to Nixon.

I hung on every word he ever said, knowing from the time I was a tot that I would serve myself; and while he cursed politicians in general, he never once complained about any transition period.

Now as far as congress and the flag-ranks go, wouldn't it go a long damn ways if a couple of these feckless thugs - perhaps the O-9 who told Taguba that he would not look at the pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib so he could continue pleasing ignorance - ended up having their retirements reviewed by the Congress and their ranks reduced? How many flags would have to be retired at O-3 or in the case of the LG I mentioned above as an E-1 before the rest of them got their collective act together and stopped with the current jackassery we are treated to daily?

Clifford Kiracofe


Rumsfeld was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Rand Corporation, 1981-1986 and 1995-1996.

RAND-oid methodology and orientation have wreaked havoc on traditional American political science, particularly in the area of international relations/international politics. This began in the 1950s and got up a head of steam in the 1960s. Since, the quantitative "model" makers are an ivory tower fixture.

One organized reaction to this in academics was the "English School" concerned with the theory of International Politics and so on. This emerged in the 1960s with Hedley Bull, Herbert Butterfield, Adam Watson, Martin Wight, etal. I teach a course on this school at Washington and Lee periodically. There are a few who teach international politics in the US this way, but we are a minority for sure.

In actual fact, the English School of the 1960s was not unlike pre-World War II international relations/international poliltics as taught in the US. The quantitative nonsense permeating/dominant the US academic scene today in IR came in with the Rand-oids.

Is it any wonder we are in the Iraq and Afghanistan quagmires? Will we remain so? Probably. Will we get into more? Probably.

Why? The dominant mindset of the American political elite is imperial and generally has been since 1898 and the Spanish-American War.

Walrus mentioned "oligarchy." IMO, is is more a question of the plutocracy pulling the oligarchy's strings. The public is essentially irrelevant in this game. For "mass democracy" one simply has to massage mass public opinion for each election cycle. Just use the mass media machinery to lie to the public...the hewers of wood and cannon fodder.

Clifford Kiracofe

The new 4th Fleet, as noticed by Le Figaro (Paris) in translation:

"It's now official: The Pentagon is going to resuscitate its Fourth Fleet, with the mission of patrolling Latin American and Caribbean waters. Created during the Second World War to protect traffic in the South Atlantic, the structure was dissolved in 1950. "By reestablishing the Fourth Fleet, we acknowledge the immense importance of maritime security in this region," declared Adm. Gary Roughead, head of the Pentagon's naval operations...

According to Alejandro Sanchez, an analyst at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a research center on Latin America based in Washington, "the reestablishment of the Fourth Fleet is more of a political than a military gesture, designed to confront the rise in power of left-leaning governments in the region." The Pentagon does not trouble to camouflage its intentions: "the message is clear: whether local governments like it or not, the United States is back after the war in Iraq," Sanchez explains.


So, the Africa Command followed by the 4th Fleet and meanwhile Iraq and Afghanistan and maybe Iran...financed by China, Japan, Saudi etal.

Per Michael Klare:
"While the day-to-day focus of US military planning remains Iraq and Afghanistan, American strategists are increasingly looking beyond these two conflicts to envision the global combat environment of the emerging period - and the world they see is one where the struggle over vital resources, rather than ideology or balance-of-power politics, dominates the martial landscape. Believing that the United States must reconfigure its doctrines and forces in order to prevail in such an environment, senior officials have taken steps to enhance strategic planning and combat capabilities. Although little of this has reached the public domain, there have been a number of key indicators...."

Reminds one of HG Wells and his science fiction world...


I tend to be of two minds about Admiral Mullen's comments. First, I don't like that they were public because they offer advice on political policy matters and overstep what I view as the proper boundary between implementation and execution of national policy.

On the other hand, however, I think I can see his concern. He's obviously aware of the political split on Iraq policy and ISTM that his call "to get as many principals in positions as rapidly as possible" is meant to prevent or shorten any period of transition as well as the political battle over Iraq policy that is sure to come no matter who is elected. What I don't think Adm. Mullen wants - nor anyone in military service for that matter - is a period of political paralysis (through blocked or contentious confirmations) in which the US military is in a state of purgatory regarding what policy it's supposed to execute while still suffering casualties. IOW, I see Adm. Mullen's comments as partly a call to get an Iraq policy - along with leadership to provide guidance on that policy - in place quickly no matter what that policy might be. The military, understandably in my view, does not want its ship to be rudderless while the political elites battle over which direction to go, particularly since those in military service are almost solely bearing the costs of the current conflicts.

Cloned Poster

Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 02 May 2008 at 03:01 PM

What you say and more, witness Bernake trying to give money away at 2%, banks aint biting because they have a shitload of loans made sub-prime and are trying to recover losses. It paralells Iraq so much that we should be shitscared of an Iran attack.

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