By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 4, 2008 - The entire U.S. government needs to adopt the military's expeditionary strategy, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said Friday during the Vince Davis Memorial Lecture at the University of Kentucky. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the more than 700 people at the lecture in Lexington, Ky., that the U.S. military is the best in the world, but it still can't do it alone.
"We have become what we call an expeditionary force, and I believe the United States government has to adapt and change to be much more expeditionary than it is," said Mullen, who serves as the senior military advisor to the president.
The effort against terrorism requires specialists from the departments of Commerce, Justice, Treasury, as well as from allied nations, to capitalize on the security and stability that military forces can bring to a country.
The chairman pointed out the effectiveness of provincial reconstruction teams, which contain civilians, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Depending on the area, between 70 and 150 experts from a variety of U.S. and coalition civilian departments are helping the Afghans and Iraqis build provincial governments, encourage economic development and establish the rule of law.
"These people understand how to build institutions that know how to move forward," Mullen said.
In other areas more civilian help is needed. For example, Mullen said specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be invaluable in getting the rural economy started in Afghanistan. They could also help in replacing opium poppies as the main cash crop in the nation.
"My biggest shortfall right now in Afghanistan is agriculture, because that is the baseline economy in the country," he said. "Until we get it going economically ... in Afghanistan we're going to be challenged there."
Mullen said the greatest danger the world faces is the spreading of extremist ideologies, and that is another area in which other government agencies will have help.
"It's an area that I think we need to considerably improve on," the chairman said. "Many different parts of our government and other governments around the world need to be much more agile, more flexible and both persistent and insistent in our messaging."
Mullen said "violent extremists movements of just about every flavor occupy a lot of my time. My father was a journalist, and I grew up in the movie business. So I understood even as a young boy the power of communications, the power of messages and the ability of messages to influence people."
He said the extremists are very adept at using Internet technology to disseminate their messages and know how to use the 24-hour a day news cycle, "to really have strategic impact."
The epicenter of extremism in the world today is the Middle East and Central Asia, the chairman said.
"An unstable Middle East is what we're going to have for awhile," he said. "From Beirut to Tehran and south central Asia is an area that will dominate global attention for about as far as I can see in the future, but not limited in that regard."
The world has to deal with the immediate challenges of instability and extremism in the region, but it also has to deal with the root causes that generate that level of extremism, he said. The challenges will be decades in meeting, the chairman said.
While the United States is rightly concentrating on the Middle East/Central Asia, in other parts of the world, "the risks are building where we can't be engaged," Mullen said.
The chairman said he has great concerns about Africa.
"Africa is a rich mix of great potential and a great downside – resources, governments, famines, disease, dictators," he said. "I believe Africa is arriving to the rest of the world, and the rest of the world can wait until it shows up or we can engage and assist where we are asked to do so and make a difference."
Americans monitor the situations to the east and west often, but don't look north and south very well, Mullen said. The United States needs to pay far more attention to Central and South America and to Canada and the issues of the Arctic.
Resources are another challenge to which Americans need to pay attention. The chairman said he was "stunned" reading about food riots in many areas of the world. Availability of food and energy and access to clean water are going to be issues that the world must confront in the not too distant future.
"For years we will be dealing with this; it's not a 2008 problem alone," he said.
And although pundits have said the food shortage will be over in four years, "I don't see what happens in three or four years to end it," the chairman said.
Leadership will be crucial in the coming years to overcome the challenges we can see now, Mullen said.
"I commanded the operational forces in Kosovo," he said. "One of the messages I learned was after sitting down with a mother who had been living in a trailer for five years with her 31-year-old disabled son. All she wanted to do was get back to her home. The politicians and leaders hadn't figured out how to move ahead in Kosovo. She was desperate, and I've seen cases like that all over the world."
Mullen told the audience that "it is a responsibility of leaders throughout the world to see a clear way ahead, and to courageously lead us there."