The Joint Chiefs of Staff and OWS… Who Knew?

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting Colonel Mark (“Puck”) Mykleby, recently retired from the US Marine Corps.  Puck was a “Top Gun” pilot, and finished his military career working in the Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a senior advisor on strategy reporting to Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Puck has been working on a fascinating initiative.  In 2009, he and Navy Captain Wayne Porter wrote “A National Strategic Narrative” under the pen name “Mr. Y” to draw a parallel to “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” an influential article written in 1947 by George Kennan under the pseudonym “X” to protect Kennan’s identity as a US Foreign Service Officer.  Keenan’s paper provided the intellectual foundation for the policy of “Containment,” which became the central narrative of US foreign policy, and has yet to be replaced.

What Mykleby and Porter’s paper intends to do is begin to define the narrative that will replace “Containment.”  The project was authorized in 2009 by the Joint Chiefs to develop a new “Grand Strategic Narrative” and complements the related Congressionally mandated initiative entitled Project on National Security Reform.

The paper is very high level and sweeping, but at its core is a recommendation that our national security is dependent upon a switch from “containment to sustainment” a play on the word “sustainability.”  What impressed me was how the most senior members of our military seemed to grasp the sustainability imperative as a national security priority, more so than many of our political leaders, and more so than many in the private sector.  Puck spoke knowledgably about the ecological crisis, our unsustainable industrial food production system that depletes soil and water, our unsustainable financial system and debt burden, unsustainable inequality, and a broken public education system.  He called for a mind shift toward “influence rather than dominance in an interdependent world”, and a need to invest in “sustainable prosperity” for our national security rather than just in defense.  He talked about holistic decision-making rather than a reductionist approach to problem solving.

We will be exploring collaboration with this initiative and the New America Foundation where a project is underway to transform the narrative into actionable policy recommendations.  Like OWS, the intent of this project is to spark a national conversation.  OWS and the Joint Chiefs…Who knew?