Admiral Michael Mullen declared today that the military stands ready to attack Iran at the president’s order, and insisted that it was critical to negotiations that the ever-present threats to attack Iran remain “on the table.”
Perplexingly, Adm. Mullen added that he believed that such an attack would achieve “limited results” in an attempt to stop the nation’s civilian nuclear program. Mullen and other military officials have previously indicated their belief that the military option would at best “buy time” to the US while cementing Iran’s determination not to negotiate.
US determination to keep the military option “on the table” against Iran, despite its lack of tactical value, has been the centerpiece of what passes for America’s policy toward the nation since very early in the Bush Administration. In that sense Admiral Mullen is just reiterating well established policy.
Yet as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is unclear why he should have an official opinion at all on how best to advance diplomacy through veiled military threats. That is supposed to be the job of the State Department, and if there is one person always comfortable with threatening to attack Iran, it is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Having a top military official pressing the value of the military in diplomacy may seem at best a tad self-serving, and at worst another challenge to the chain of command, with the military once again poking its nose in where it doesn’t belong.
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