Clinton's State Department

The New York Times is reporting that Senator Clinton if confirmed as the nation's 67th Secretary of State will seek "to build a more powerful State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with global economic issues at a time of crisis." A more robust State Department is certainly a welcomed change and the idea of special envoys is also a good one because it engages dialogue above normal channels but it is concerning that Clinton's State Department may be expanding into a domain traditionally held by the US Treasury Secretary. To a degree, some clarification of the role Mrs. Clinton is hoping to carve out is required.

Mrs. Clinton's push for a more vigorous economic team, one of her advisers said, stems from her conviction that the State Department needs to play a part in the recovery from the global financial crisis. Economic issues also underpin some of the most important diplomatic relationships, notably with China.

In recent years, the Treasury Department, led by Henry M. Paulson Jr., has dominated policy toward China. Mr. Paulson leads a "strategic economic dialogue" with China that involves several agencies. It is not yet clear who will pick up that role in the Obama administration, although Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is frequently mentioned as a possibility.

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The Mullen Doctrine

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.

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