Mullen: Gates, Clinton Exemplify New Era of Military-civilian Cooperation

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Photo: DoD/Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

In today’s world — full of national security pitfalls and diplomatic snares — a contentious relationship between the head of the defense apparatus and the nation’s chief diplomat would be anathema.

So, it’s a good thing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appear to get along so swimmingly.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen touted the new age of military-civilian partnership at a State Department global mission chiefs conference yesterday.

Speaking before a room full of more than a hundred Foreign Service officers, Mullen said Gates and Clinton are setting the example of cooperation, breaking with history with their close, personal relationship.

“My capstone view is to be fortunate enough to literally watch two masters in Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates,” he said. “Many of you have grown up in this business where the secretaries of state and defense did not have each other over for dinner very often.”

And, while, it’s amusing to hear stories of the bad old days, when military and civilian leaders didn’t communicate that well or that often, those are days of the past, he said.

“We cannot, in this world we are living in right now, live without the kind of relationship we have between these two secretaries,” Mullen added. “The difference that they make in terms of setting the example . . . resonates in both organizations.”

A Politico article in May touted the two’s national security alliance calling it the “Robert Gates-Hillary Clinton axis.”

“Gates . . . is unquestionably the most powerful member of the Obama Cabinet — the only one with the muscle to push back,” the article conjectured. “Clinton, meanwhile, is the most popular.”

In remarks yesterday introducing Mullen to the State Department crowd, Clinton appeared willing to widen the circle even further.

Mullen “grasps in a very deep and profound way a vision of an integrated American power,” she said. “Time and time again, he has brought sensitivity and insight into causes of dilemmas we are watching unfold and the forces at work.”

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