Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace, the highest-ranking U.S. military official, is being replaced by Navy Adm. Mike Mullen.
Pace is the first Joint Chiefs Chairman not to be renominated for a second term since the military was centralized under the joint chiefs position 21 years ago. The selection of Mullen also marks the first time in 21 years that both the head of the Joint Chiefs and the CentCom Commander, Adm. William Fallon, have been Navy officers.
Some insight on Mullen can be gained from a speech he gave to sailors in Pearl Harbor in Feb. 2007:
In his opening remarks, Mullen, a Vietnam War veteran, told Pearl Harbor sailors: “I honestly believe this is the most dangerous time in my life.
“The enemy now is basically evil and fundamentally hates everything we are — the democratic principles for which we stand … This war is going to go on for a long time. It’s a generational war.”
From a Feb. 2006 interview with Mullen:
You use the term ‘Long War’, and it’s important to understand that and really grab this issue because it is going to be around for a significant amount of time. I call it generational. That said, there are still traditional capabilities that are very much required.
When Fallon was appointed in January to lead CentCom, analysts noted the choice of a Navy officer reflected “a greater emphasis on countering Iranian power, a mission that relies heavily on naval forces and combat airpower to project American influence in the Persian Gulf.” In announcing the nomination of Mullen this afternoon, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said that Mullen “watches Iran closely.”
UPDATE: Mullen has indicated he is against a permanent presence in Iraq. “I’ve tried to couch the future discussion, and I’ve looked at it over many months now, is what are we going to do after Iraq? What are we going to do after Afghanistan? And I truly believe we will bring those forces home. I’m not standing here today to predict exactly when that will occur.”
UPDATE II: Cernig has much more:
It seems plain to me that Mullen is being brought forward, in part, to clean house for Gates and consolidate his position at Defense by sweeping out all the old Rumsfield hangovers. That won’t please Cheney, who was always the closest to Rummie in White house circles as the two of them headed the neocon cabal.
UPDATE III: A strong statement out from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT):
While I have deep respect for Admiral Mullen’s distinguished service, his view that this is a ‘generational war’ will not do anything to change course in Iraq. If we want to bring an end to our involvement in this civil war, we must do more than simply replace personnel — we must replace President Bush’s failed policy. Today’s move underscores the need for Congress to speak with clarity and adopt a firm, enforceable deadline for the redeployment of combat troops out of Iraq.
UPDATE IV: Here’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):
Senators will be looking very closely at Admiral Mullen and General Cartwright’s views to make sure they are committed to changing course in Iraq. Both men must be advocates for our troops, not for a failed policy. It will require strong leadership to transition the U.S. mission in Iraq so our troops are not policing an Iraqi civil war. They must also refocus on the resurgence of Al Qaeda, rebuild the readiness of the United States military, and fix major problems with the delivery of health care to our troops and veterans.