WASHINGTON – The top US military officer cautioned against ever growing militarization of US foreign policy, urging greater support for civilian approaches to the world's problems.
"I believe we should be more willing to break this cycle, and say when armed forces may not always be the best choice to take the lead," Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said late Monday.
Mullen's comments, in a speech prepared for delivery at the Nixon Center, echoed US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' views that US neglect of diplomacy and other civilian instruments of power has hurt Washington's standing in the world.
It comes at the end of an administration that is fighting two wars and a global campaign against terrorism that has stretched the US military to the breaking point.
Mullen explained that the military, whose budget has grown to around 650 billion dollars in 2009 compared to some 11.5 billion dollars for the State Department, has been used so much because it is "flexible, well-funded, designed to take risk."
"And so, when we are willing to pitch in, as we usually are, we tend to receive more resources," he said.
"It's not that others aren't willing to lead. I know for a fact that they are. But in many cases, they are just not able," he said.
He argued that the US military should be able to transfer resources to other governmental departments to support non-military options.
"We must be just as bold in providing options when they don't involve our participation or our leadership, or, even when those options aren't popular -- especially when they are not popular," he said.
"And although there are many situations where we should not take the lead -- in most cases, we could be one great supporting partner," he said.
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