Chad J. McNeeley/U.S. Navy/AP
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, shown in a June file photo, says the U.S. should mount a massive diplomatic and foreign aid mission.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Tuesday that the U.S. should mount a massive diplomatic and foreign aid offensive.
Mullen told a group of officers that although security is important, the military cannot do everything.
He made the remarks at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where career officers attend what is the equivalent of a military graduate school.
On Tuesday, the auditorium was mostly full of soldiers, but there were also airmen, sailors and Marines waiting for Mullen's address.
In his talk, Mullen thanked the officers and their families for their dedication. He talked about the morale-draining stress of rapid-fire deployments and the need to re-equip and revitalize the Army.
Then, he raised a specter that, until recently, top military leaders would not have touched — Vietnam.
"I started in Vietnam," he said. "It was the first war I went to and fought in. I was here when long deployments and lots of other factors put so much pressure on the military that we became detached from the American people. The military broke, and I am not interested in revisiting that space, whatsoever."
Mullen said that can only be avoided by building up the Army and Marine Corps, while easing the mission requirements. But adding divisions will take years, and Mullen said there is no shortage of potential threats around the world.
He said one way to relieve the pressure would be to put more resources into diplomatic and foreign aid offensives.
"The military just can't do it all. Security is a necessary — but not sufficient — part of solving the kinds of problems that we're in right now, as well as the problems I think will be out there in the future," Mullen said.
Shortly after the speech, one class discussed Mullen's address.
Army Maj. Decker Haines said the public is more willing to fund military operations than State Department diplomatic missions.
He reiterated Mullen's point that the military cannot go it alone, and he said a public relations effort may be needed to get the American people on board.
Haines and others hope that letting the public in on discussions traditionally hashed out by military leaders will help voters and politicians understand the changing mission.
Frank Morris reports from member station KCUR.