by Charles Lemos, Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 05:11:26 PM EDT
Somehow I missed this story earlier in the month but in a review this morning of global security news, I discovered that Admiral Mike Mullen, the chair of US Joint Chief of Staff, had issued new guidelines for the conduct of war superseding those issued by General Colin Powell nearly two decades ago. The Powell Doctrine held that the American military should be sent to war only when a vital national interest was at stake, when support from the public was assured, and when “overwhelming force” was committed to the effort. The Powell Doctrine was first articulated in 1992 in an article by then Chairman of Joint Chief in the quarterly journal Foreign Affairs.
The new Mullen Doctrine, based on the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, calls for a more restrained use of force so as to minimize civilian loss of life. Admiral Mullen also called for increased and open-ended discussion between politicians, the military, and the public on how best to use American hard and soft power.
Admiral Mullen laid out his vision for US warfare at a speech at Kansas State University on March 3, 2010 in which he outlined three new principles. The first is that military power should not – maybe cannot – be the last resort of the state. The second is that force should, to the maximum extent possible, be applied in a precise and principled way. The third principle is creating an environment where policy and strategy are constantly evolving.
The underlying assumption of the Mullen Doctrine is that for the foreseeable future, the US will be involved in wars somewhere in the world and likely in multiple locations at the same time. Indeed, while the American public is hopefully fully aware - frankly I'm not convinced that they are aware of the costs - we are waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but that we also have on-going military operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, and Colombia not to mention garrisons scattered across the planet in support of US foreign policy objectives. For such an important subject, the story was largely buried in the press. Here's a link to the story in the Washington Post. The reality is that Admiral Mullen is right, we don't engage in an open-ended discussion about how the US military is used and we need to do so.
The text of Admiral Mullen's speech is beneath the fold.