Prepared remarks by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen at the 2008 Atlantic Council Awards Dinner.
Good evening. And I certainly recognize where I am in the order tonight. (Laughter.) I want to thank Fred Kempe for his leadership and support of such an important council and such an important alliance. It is also very special to be introduced by General Jim Jones. I have admired him from afar for many years. I have had the good fortune of working for him and with him. And I can’t think of anybody that I have been around in my military career who sets a better example, a higher standard of service, a dedication to a more peaceful and stable world, and in particular, a dedication to this alliance than Jim Jones. And Jim, and I am grateful.
As we are here this evening enjoying this celebration — and it is indeed that — I am mindful of all the men and women who are serving in all of our countries around the world, and many of them in harm’s way this evening, so that we might enjoy the freedom, the privileges, the opportunity that they, in fact — their service, in fact, provides. And I would just keep them in mind.
Keep them in mind as we enjoy this evening. And they are the best I have ever served with. I have been doing this almost four decades, and clearly they perform at a level that is extraordinary every single day.
We live, as has been stated very eloquently this evening, in an extraordinary time, a time of change and a time of great challenge, in a time of great uncertainty. But in that time of change and uncertainty, I believe there is also great opportunity. And we should work hard to seize that opportunity to ensure that stability becomes the norm in many parts of the world. And this alliance — and I agree with previous comments tonight — it has served us greatly from its inception.
But I also believe that its future needs to be as bright as it possibly can be for it has lots of work left given the world that we are living in. And the opportunities that are out there include the challenges that we all have in Iraq, where security is much better. My recent visits there confirm that, yet it is fragile. And as was stated earlier tonight, security is a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. And the opportunities that have been created because security has gotten better must be taken advantage of. That is diplomatic, that is political, that is economic.
We also live in a time where Iran routinely pushes its way into more and more realms of instability. And I, for one, think it is important that we deal with that instability that they create, whether it is Hezbollah, Hamas. Recent operations in Southern Iraq, recent combat operations in Southern Iraq in Basra highlighted yet again Iran’s activities in ways that very specifically pointed to activities which, in fact, resulted in the deaths of coalition soldiers. And I think for the ability to create stability in that part of the world that not just this alliance, but those who are allied, will have to deal with Iran in the very near future.
Afghanistan is certainly front and center for all of us, this alliance, in particular. And I believe in many ways as goes Afghanistan, so goes NATO. I think that taking on this mission a couple of years ago, which may have been seen as a stabilization mission, in fact, is represented in much more combat than some have anticipated, and that we must address that, and address it throughout the alliance in ways that ensure that stability can be created there. And from the United States’ perspective, Iraq is a place where we are doing what we must. And right now Afghanistan is a place where we are not doing everything we should. That is why this alliance and our partnerships are so important. And that is why Afghanistan, I believe, is such an important test for NATO.
As NATO is actually changing for the future and we talk about the kinds of combat, in particular, counterinsurgency, which is ongoing in Afghanistan, I believe more and more nations have to address this change and face the specifics of the irregular warfare we are in now and I think we will be in for the foreseeable future. We also must work hard, I think, to build non-NATO relationships. And there are those countries, those allies, who have joined us in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And they represent the best of those relationships, countries who are responsible and who recognize in that responsibility that we can meet these challenges head-on together much better than any of us can meet them individually.
When I talk about Afghanistan, it is hard to not also focus on its next-door neighbor, Pakistan, and that we have challenges coming out of Pakistan that al Qaeda has, in fact, built a resurgent base there and is still threatening the United States. And in that base and in that leadership, we must figure out a way to address that threat, and at the same time, recognize that Pakistan is a sovereign country with a new government. She has been a strong ally in this war on terror. And we need to figure out a way to balance those very, very stressing requirements.
Lastly, I would like to just say a few words about partnership. This event tonight, those of you who are here and represent so many countries, underscores a simple truth that building relationships are rooted on the shared ideals of freedom and equality, ideals that bind us together to face common challenges, particularly the threats looming on the horizon that we all see, and that it is — partnerships are the very foundation of global security and stability in the future.
And again, I am very grateful to receive this honor tonight, not just because I was chosen, but because of what it represents, what it celebrates, which is leadership. Yes, the world is challenging. Yes, there is conflict seemingly at every turn. Yes, as a community of nations, we must all sacrifice for our collective well-being and lead in that effort. And yes, as a community of nations, we have elected to lead and we have chosen to work together to create a future where parents can raise their children without fear, with dignity, and with hope. Thank you again for honoring me this evening.
April 21, 2008