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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An Ultimatum to Islamabad

The New York Times informs us that according to officials in both the US and Pakistan that the Obama Administration "is turning up the pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban inside its borders, warning that if it does not act more aggressively the United States will use considerably more force on the Pakistani side of the border to shut down Taliban attacks on American forces in Afghanistan." According to the Times, the rather blunt message was delivered in a tense encounter in Pakistan last month during a high level visit by Gen. James L. Jones, the National Security Adviser, and John O. Brennan, the White House Counterterrorism Chief, to Islamabad. Then and there in a meeting with the heads of Pakistan's military and its intelligence service, the ISI, we again repeated what we have so often told the Pakistani leadership. Get on with it if you would please. Now would be good.

According to US officials with knowledge of the "blunt talks" amongst friends, this oft-repeated warning did not amount to an ultimatum, but rather it was intended to prod a reluctant Pakistani military to go after Taliban insurgents in Pakistan who are directing attacks in Afghanistan. Oh and by the way, here is $2.3 billion in military aid this year for your efforts another $2.3 billion next year. Certainly, that is a bit of a mixed message.

Our economic aid package takes a more direct approach. The recently passed bipartisan Kerry-Lugar Pakistan Assistance Act authorizes a grant of $1.5 billion in economic aid annually over the next five years. Mind you since the Kerry-Lugar package does come with conditions, this has not pleased many quarters in Pakistan.

Shayan Khan of the Pakistan Spectator is typical. Back in October he wrote:

Pakistan's concerns over Kerry-Lugar bill are there for sure, but they are not that important. The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed a bill that would triple economic assistance for Pakistan, a key US ally in the fight against terrorism, to 7.5 billion dollars over five years. But it perhaps come as a surprise for the Kerry that Pakistanis don't really think much of any aid or such things. They want US to take them as humans like themselves and to understand that the people dying from the drone attacks are 99% Pakistanis, and only perhaps 1% are anything to do with militancy. (The) war on terror has given Pakistan the gory gifts of suicide attacks and bomb blasts and the economic life in Pakistan has come to a grinding halt.

While the ratio of non-combatants to militants killed in the stepped up drone attacks is more likely 1:3, the perception in Pakistan is that it is 99:1. That's certainly a problem but even more of a problem is the view that Pakistan's problems stem from the US-led war against the radical Islam and not from radical Islam itself. Never mind that Pakistan has outsourced its education system to Saudi-funded madrassas that teach particular virulent strains of Islam. The Pakistanis are seemingly oblivious to this problem.

Instead of funding an educational system, Pakistan prefers to invest in tanks. Pakistan spends only 2.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education - the lowest level of any country in South Asia - as compared to 3.6 percent on average for other nations in Asia and 3.4 percent in low-income countries overall. This puts Pakistan in the bottom quarter of countries world-wide. Military spending, meanwhile, accounts for 3.5 percent of GDP, an amount that places Pakistan in the top quarter of countries world-wide. The result of inadequate funding for education is that only about half of Pakistani adults can read and write, compared to 92 percent in Sri Lanka and 60 percent in India.

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Obama's Overture to Myanmar

The New York Times is reporting that the Obama Administration is sending Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, and his deputy Scot Marciel to to meet senior Myanmar junta officials in Naypyitaw, the administrative capital built by the junta. It is also expected that they will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained democracy advocate who has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years.

The trip is part of a new Obama Administration policy that reverses the Bush administration's isolation of Myanmar in favor of direct, high-level talks with a country that has been ruled by the military since 1962. It is the highest level delegation to visit Myanmar since a 1996 trip by then Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

The United States has traditionally relied heavily on sanctions meant to force Myanmar's generals to respect human rights, release imprisoned political activists and make democratic reforms.

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David Rohde's riveting account of his captivity provides immense detail on the nature of life under the Taliban and the de facto Taliban state that stretches across southern Afghanistan and into northwestern Pakistan.

The trip confirmed suspicions I had harbored for years as a reporter. The Haqqanis oversaw a sprawling Taliban mini-state in the tribal areas with the de facto acquiescence of the Pakistani military. The Haqqanis were so confident of their control of the area that they took me -- a person they considered to be an extraordinarily valuable hostage -- on a three-hour drive in broad daylight to shoot a scene for a video outdoors.

Throughout North Waziristan, Taliban policemen patrolled the streets, and Taliban road crews carried out construction projects. The Haqqani network's commanders and foreign militants freely strolled the bazaars of Miram Shah and other towns. Young Afghan and Pakistani Taliban members revered the foreign fighters, who taught them how to make bombs.

Also the glimpses into the background and the world view of the Taliban are simply extraordinary.

Most of the guards were Afghan men in their late 20s and early 30s. Some had grown up as refugees in Pakistan. All had limited educations from government schools or religious institutions, known as madrasas. Some did not make it past junior high school. None had seen the world beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They all had relatives or friends who had been killed by Soviet or American troops. They grew up in a culture where teenage boys reached manhood and made a name for themselves by showing their bravery.

I tried to get to know one of the guards, who was preparing to be a suicide bomber. A young man in his 20s with a slim build and brown eyes, he said he had studied engineering in high school. He never attended college but was relatively well educated compared with the other fighters.

When I asked him why he wanted to die, he replied that living in this world was a burden for any true Muslim. Heaven was his goal, he said. Earthly relationships with his parents and siblings did not matter.

How does one combat the view that the Earth does not matter?  Or that Earthly relationships do not matter? Changing this world view is a project timed in decades.

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The Clinton-Gates Axis

Mark Landler and Thom Shanker have an article in the New York Times on the emerging alliance between Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates casting them as "two moderate pragmatists" who are likely to advocate a middle ground between the "minimalist" Biden approach that focuses on counter-terrorism and the full-on counter-insurgency approach advocated by General McChrystal among others. The article suggests that the two secretaries are expected to carry great weight as they begin to express specific advice.

The problem is that the Vice President is right in his view that a larger military presence in Afghanistan will breed resentment among Afghans especially the Pashtuns and is likely politically untenable at home. As I've noted before, a growing Pashtun nationalism is fueling the growing Taliban insurgency. A "Pashtunistan" is now a part of the Taliban platform. Recent Taliban communiques all make appeals to driving out the foreign occupiers.

Beyond this stark reality is the economic cost of the Afghan war. Since the invasion of Afghanistan eight years ago, the United States has spent $223 billion on the Afghan war-related funding, according to the Congressional Research Service. Aid expenditures, excluding the cost of combat operations, have also grown exponentially, from $982 million in 2003 to $9.3 billion in 2008. The cost of fighting the war in Afghanistan will overtake that of the Iraq conflict for the first time in 2010. Even before General McChrystal's troop increase request, the Pentagon had requested $65 billion for Afghanistan on top of the basic defense budget of $533.7 billion. An escalation of any size will only add to the financial burden.

The economic cost of an escalation in Afghanistan needs to be a part of this discussion even if the seemingly influentially ascendant Clinton-Gates axis seems to ignore it.

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