Graduates of the National Defense University were given a few words of advice during their graduation commencement speech delivered by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen.
A theme of precision, power and the understanding of how to combine the two elements were a key points in Mullen’s address.
He told the 603 graduates that when their chance to fight comes, “You need a light touch here, not a heavy hand. You need to be less intrusive and more insightful; less in control and more in support.” This, he reiterated, requires precision and discipline.
His speech prepped the graduating class of the NDU for the new and more restrictive rules Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, established to strengthen the military’s counterinsurgency strategy. Mullen used the commencement exercises to prepare them for the future meticulous approach toward the elimination of extremist groups in the Middle East.
In explaining the possibilities of irregular warfare, Mullen said, “Such is the nature of the diverse threat we face – a complex, adaptive network of radical and violent ideologies that bind together disparate individuals, movements, organizations and even states.”
“Not all extremist groups share the same goals. Not all extremists themselves share the same ideology. We must differentiate and distinguish between them, divide them and turn them one against the other.”
He explained that restraint is necessary because the line between conventional and irregular warfare has become indefinite.
Mullen also addressed the upcoming strategies in Afghanistan.
“Future conflict will likely be even more complex and our array of engagement will continue to evolve,” he said. “I believe our investments should be allocated in a manner that recognizes this complexity and focuses on capabilities that allow maximum flexibility. It’s not about doing more with less. It’s about doing the right things with the right capabilities.”
Mullen’s discourse on leadership called the graduates to use the fundamentals they learned in their education for their now “great and immediate purpose.” The NDU class of this year is the largest in the university’s history.