AIF Blog

Youth Report: Mike Mullen

Aug 22, 2014

Mike Mullen

As part of an initiative to broaden our audience and share ideas across several generations, we invited a range of high school students and recent graduates to join us at this year's Festival. The Youth Report blog series was born out of interviews these enterprising students did with several AIF speakers. We’re thrilled to share their voices here.

By Austin Corona, Middlesex School, Class of 2015

I think it’s interesting to look at the interview with David Petraeus and then the interview with Mike Mullen. While Petraeus talks extensively about weighing options and gauging the situation, Mullen makes it clear that we should constantly be engaged in areas where our interests require it especially in current times. Mullen makes a good point when he says that to be out and involved in areas of the world helps to create a preventative environment in which it becomes more difficult for situations to spiral out of control. However, I don’t know if I entirely agree with it. I don’t think that history has proven that involvement and engagement militarily by countries in foreign lands has acted as a good preventative measure in every situation. I tend to lean more towards Patraeus’ approach of more calculated and evaluation-based action rather than constant engagement in hopes of prevention because if prevention doesn’t work, or our presence creates more agitation and issues, then we will have wasted resources on a fruitless preventative venture. In my opinion, one of the inherent flaws in the practice of heavy involvement — in hope of securing and safeguarding a region and preventing problems — is that often the problems that arise in these areas arise from social grassroots organizations that don’t often become visible and aggressive until they’re already causing problems, creating the issues we hoped to avoid. So to try to use military engagement or presence to prevent the rise of entities or conflicts that threaten our interests would require infringing on the right to assemble and the right of free speech for people in those areas. I think that to try to prevent social problems with military measures often ends unfavorably and that military is an option when already faced with a potent and visible combative threat like ISIS could be.

Q: Do you think that military involvement in far flung reaches of the globe usually opens the door to more involvement in the future or less?

Mullen: “I think that if we do it in a preventative way, engage early, we can be very effective in terms of preventing conflict from breaking out. I think if we aren’t engaged, aren’t out and about, and part of this is my background as a Naval Officer, that we actually set the conditions for a much more intense and difficult conflict. We need to think about that in terms of how we use our military especially in this post war environment that we’re entering.”

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