When Admiral Mike Mullen reentered Room G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building this afternoon, he was no doubt exhausted from number-crunching and being berated over issues outside his purview before the Senate Armed Services Committee most of the morning. He could have assumed any number of tactics for the controversial hearing that would follow.
When questioned about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" he could have deferred to the civilian Pentagon leadership who are concerned with such policies. He could have noted that he serves at the behest of the Commander-in-Chief and would accomplish any mission given to him by the President. He could have said that military commanders will follow whatever statutory guidance is given to them by the Congress. He could have stated that more study is needed on the ramifications of the repeal.
But that's not what Admiral Mike Mullen did, because Mike Mullen did not put on his uniform this morning to be indecisive.
Admiral Mike Mullen put on his uniform, affixed his rank, awards and accouterments, and walked into that hearing room this morning for the same reason he has worn the uniform nearly every day since he first entered military service as a junior officer in the United States Navy in 1968.
Admiral Mullen wears his uniform, because he is a leader, and that's what Admiral Mullen decided to be in that hearing today.
Admiral Mike Mullen had to know that those who, during debates on war policy, exalted the opinion of military commanders as gospel not to be challenged, would suddenly find it their charge to tear down the highest ranking military officer in our armed forces. Likewise, he must have known that there would be a faction within the ranks that would not support such a decision.
But Admiral Mullen also had to know a couple of other things.
First, that the United States is defended by the most professional and most disciplined men and women in the world, and that a force of such character is what allows the military to function everyday with little incident, regardless of the prejudices of those within.
Second, Admiral Mike Mullen knows that servicemembers will follow a commander who is willing to lead. Each day, there are troops in our force who have internal disagreements with the decisions of their superiors. Those same individuals, are willing to follow leaders who exude confidence and candor, in a way they would not follow someone who they might agree with, yet displays shaky determination. Admiral Mullen had to know that given a proper leader, a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine will follow to the gates of Hell on nothing more than that very commanders leadership.
In all likelihood, Admiral Mike Mullen didn't have a choice when he took his seat before the committee this morning. After 41 years of military service, Mike Mullen doesn't chose to be a leader. Mike Mullen is a leader. Consequently, Mike Mullen did the only thing he knows how to do. Mike Mullen led. There is no doubt, that those under his command will follow him. The only question is whether the politicians who oppose him-- who showed nothing but weakness and a lack of faith in the professionalism of the men and women who ensure their peaceful sleep each night, possess the intestinal fortitude to follow.