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A World United by the Power of the Sea

A World United by the Power of the Sea

Remarks as delivered by Admiral Michael G. Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations, for the 17th International Seapower Symposium, Naval War College, Newport, RI, September 21, 2005. Source: US Navy.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen. U.S. Navy photo by Ken Mierzejewski  taken in Annapolis, Md. (July 22, 2005).

Adm. Mike Mullen. U.S. Navy photo by Ken Mierzejewski

Thank you. It is a real pleasure to be here.
Thank you Admiral Shuford for your introduction and for the Naval War College once again hosting this seminal event.

I know that the staff here has devoted a great deal of time and energy to make this a success. We're off to a great start.

Newport is the intellectual capital of our Navy, and I am proud to say that we in America have no finer venue to host a such a discussion on international sea power, enlightened by the participation of world leaders like each of you.

To my peers and colleagues: Welcome to this important symposium – the 17th of its kind and spanning a history that coincides with many of our personal careers.

For some of you, welcome to Newport for the first time, hopefully not your last. For others of you who participated in this symposium two years ago, welcome back! It's great to have you here again to build upon that event. And for those of you who lived here as students in your younger days -- at one of our war or staff colleges -- welcome "home."

For all of you -- thank you for being here. I know that you have taken considerable time out of your busy schedules and hectic lives and that most of you have traveled thousands of miles to be here this week – and haven't slept much -- and I truly thank you for that level of commitment.

No matter your service, your language, or your flag this week, we all serve under the banner of maritime security.

Your decision to be here today is significant. If you think about it, I don't know of any other international body, organization or conference that brings together this many different nations -- all working together -- short of the United Nations itself.

It was a real pleasure meeting many of you last night, and reconnecting with others. You represent personal friendships and the human dimension of building security -- the human dimension of building security -- the strongest dimension, in my opinion -- often stronger than security built on treaties or technology.

I want to take a few minutes to discuss with you the theme of this year's symposium -- to set the stage by assessing the maritime environment today and figuring out how we can best increase the level of maritime security for all.

For me, it's a timely theme, and this shared objective has been chosen carefully.

Our theme, a global network of maritime nations for a free and secure maritime domain, is about voluntarily harnessing the power of the international community, in ways that are in the interest of individual nations, in order to effectively and efficiently confront the challenges we all face today.

I mentioned that the International Seapower Symposium started at roughly the same time as many of our own careers. When we were junior officers, the world was truly a different place. From our perspective then, maritime security generally began and ended with our national borders. Threats were well defined, and I would go so far as to say that maritime security was relatively simple.

Those days are long gone. I think we all realize that these are times of great change.

  • I am fond of saying -- and truly believe, in fact, -- that the only constant in our future is change. And change is hard, make no mistake.

But for leaders like us, change often means opportunity – and new visions for where we are headed.

When our careers began, nobody spoke of the threats from transnational networks, environmental attack, human trafficking, and failed states. Yet these are just a few of today's challenges – shared by all of us – that now flow almost seamlessly from the sea over, around, and through our borders, challenging our governments, our national prosperity, and most importantly our children's future.

And what noticeable effects are these threats having?

One consequence of today's security challenges is the realization that the ungoverned and under-governed parts of the maritime domain can no longer be ignored. Whether on the high seas or in coastal regions, today's threats reverberate throughout the global maritime commons.

The most serious threat I think all nations share is the threat of irregular and Unrestricted Warfare – warfare with no rules, with nothing forbidden.

Irregular and Unrestricted war is fought primarily to send a message and is viewed by proponents as particularly useful against open, transparent democracies – to prevail against the public will to convince citizens that the cause of freedom is not worth the pain it will cost.

They are wrong. They will not prevail. They will not succeed. Their message of despair and fear and hatred will -- in the end -- sway no one.

Theirs is a small world of small-minded ideas. They offer nothing in return for the sacrifices they seek -- not even the hope of hope itself.

  • The chief problem, of course, is that their goals are global.

Piracy, for example, can no longer be viewed as someone else's problem. It is a global threat to security because of its deepening ties to international criminal networks, smuggling of hazardous cargoes, and disruption of vital commerce.

Imagine a major seaport or international strait that handles the flow of hundreds of ships and thousands of containers each day -- imagine that critical "node" of the world's economy crippled or disrupted for days or weeks or months.

We in the United States don't have to imagine this. This is, in fact, what we've seen this month with the Ports of Southern Louisiana and New Orleans -- the United States' largest ports by tonnage, and the 5th largest port in the world.

Today, navies need tools that are not only instruments of war, but also implements of peace in order to improve maritime security. And, as you'll see shortly, during our U.S. Navy strategy discussions, the U.S. Navy is being reshaped to accommodate this new era we find ourselves in.

Perhaps the most profound effect of today's challenges is the increased value of cooperation between friends, allies, coalition partners, and like-minded nations. Despite differences in size or structure of our navies, cooperation today is more necessary than ever before.

And cooperation is growing, but we need more -- much more.

Because today's challenges are global in nature, we must be collective in our response. We are bound together in our dependence on the seas and in our need for security of this vast commons. This is a requisite for national security, global stability, and economic prosperity.

Today's reality is that the security arrangements and paradigms of the past are no longer enough for the future. And today's challenges are too diverse to tackle alone and require more capability and resources than any single nation can deliver.

Compounding the complexity of addressing these challenges is that no matter how large or small your navy or coast guard may be, we all face similar internal constraints like shrinking budgets, aging equipment, and populations that may not be attracted to military service. All this results in incentives for additional cooperation, not isolation.

Our level of cooperation and coordination must intensify in order to adapt to our shared challenges and constraints. We have no choice in this matter because I am convinced that nobody -- no nation today -- can go it alone, especially in the maritime domain.

One lesson I still revere today lies in the worth of naval engagement. Many here in America extol Theodore Roosevelt for his advocacy of a strong Navy: yet few remember his strenuous diplomacy in helping to resolve the Russo-Japanese War, exactly 100 years ago this month, for which he earned the Nobel Peace Prize – the first ever for an American citizen.

We have learned that the proactive cost of security is far more affordable than the reactive cost of war. I believe navies can help prevent war, an effect that I'm sure we all share.

  • The question becomes: how do we prevent war by extending the peace? How do we secure the maritime domain together?

First, it's important to recognize that -- unlike the past -- in today's interconnected world acting in the global interest is likely to mean acting in one's national interest as well. In other words, exercising sovereignty and contributing to global security are no longer mutually exclusive events.

There is no inherent conflict between a country's national interests in maritime security and the greater security of the global commons. They are mutually reinforcing and inextricably linked -- they are two sides of the same coin in today's globalized world.

But acting in national and thereby global interests is more than just words. It requires both a maritime capability and the political will -- something that not all countries share equally. Sometimes a nation has one, but not the other; sometimes it has neither. But I believe there is a solution.

I'm thinking about a global network that focuses on making the maritime domain safer for everyone's use … in most every nation's self interest … by leveraging the unique capabilities that all your organizations bring – no matter how large or small.

Maritime forces can shore up the underpinnings of stability; undermining the factors that lead to conflict, increasing cultural awareness, improving community relations, protecting sea lines of communications that bring economic aid, and fostering enduring relationships.

And let's not forget that cooperation must exist not only in a region, but also within a nation, integrating military, coast guard, and law enforcement. That's why I'm pleased to see so many of our coast guard, war college, and other maritime organizations represented here.

  • I think that a model for the future of maritime relationships and security can also be seen today in programs like the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI.

What makes PSI different and unique from arrangements in the past is that it is characterized as having – and needing – no formal support structure, no secretariat, no headquarters, no chairperson.

Rather, it consists of a simple agreement between participating states to take concerted action against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These nations agree to work together by employing cooperation among a network of law enforcement agencies, militaries, and foreign ministries.

Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan applauded the work of all countries active in PSI and has pointed to this initiative as an example of the type of cooperation necessary to counter today's threats – nations acting in their own interest, but also for the common good.

I couldn't agree more.

Ultimately, the decision to participate in maritime operations, security assistance, or other initiatives remains sovereign for each state. But each state has a place to participate and contribute if it so desires. In other words, there is a lot of water and a lot of coastline to cover, a lot of moving parts, and a lot of seams to close.

Consequently, the United States Navy cannot, by itself, preserve the freedom and security of the entire maritime domain. It must count on assistance from like-minded nations interested in using the sea for lawful purposes and precluding its use for others that threaten national, regional, or global security.

In this regard, the changed strategic landscape offers new opportunities for maritime forces to work together, sometimes with the U.S. Navy, but often times, without.

In fact, a greater number of today's emerging missions won't involve the U.S. Navy and that's fine with me.

There are times to lead and there are times to listen and times to learn. I've come to Newport this week to listen and learn.

How or whether nations chose to participate alongside U.S. forces is up to their leadership. What is important is that nations choose to participate at some level alongside partners they choose, even if that activity is limited to their own territorial waters.

As I said in the outset, our theme is about voluntarily harnessing the power of the international community, in ways that are in the interests of individual nations, in order to effectively and efficiently confront the common challenges and threats in the maritime domain.

I'm truly looking forward to the days ahead, to hearing your opinions and talking with you about how we can best increase cooperation and understanding.

No one has all the answers -- least of all me -- but collectively, we can chart a course that is beneficial to most everyone – and that is our goal here at the 17th International Seapower Symposium.

Humbly, I would offer these shared challenges for us to consider over the coming days, over the coming months back in our headquarters, and over the next year or so until we meet in regional seapower symposia in different parts of the world:

First, that over the course of the next few days, we explore how to increase security in the maritime domain – and develop concrete recommendations to take back to our headquarters and begin to implement where they make sense.

Second, that each navy and coast guard participating in this symposium ask itself, "how can we participate in this global network of maritime nations"? Are we in a position to recommend to our governments that we provide security and security assistance, or is it in our interest to seek assistance from a trusted partner to increase our own maritime security?

Third, what can be done regionally, either by strengthening existing forum's efforts to address increasing security in the maritime domain or by beginning to build new regional security initiatives? And for new regional security initiatives, who is willing to take the first step towards sponsorship?

Lastly, I would solicit your support in including as an agenda item in your regional seapower symposia how we're doing at improving security in the maritime domain, what we're learning from this effort, and where we need to change how we collectively support this initiative – with another global assessment of our efforts as part of ISS 18 here in Newport two years hence.

As I said earlier, no nation can go it alone – it is through the synergy of us collectively acting in our own national interests that we can leave our mark on the world, our nations, and our families futures.

Before turning the podium over, I want to comment about this group, our profession, and what it means to me.

I mentioned that we are a unique body here -- not just because of the size or shared interest, but also because of our calling.

At sea, we all share the largest, global commons and as such, we all share a long history of cooperation and mutual respect -- no matter the country, flag, or political differences.

Our profession relies upon customs and traditions such as diplomacy, sovereignty, and assistance-at-sea, norms that are older than any nation here today.

I think about how navies and coast guards cooperated in responding to the recent tsunami disaster. Countries sent money and assistance, but they also sent their navies … trained, ready, responsive.

I think about the cooperation shown last month when seven Russian sailors were in peril, trapped in their submarine at the bottom of the sea. Every nation with resource responded without hesitation or formal arrangements.

And of course, in response to Hurricane Katrina, the United States has felt the same with maritime assistance from Canada, Mexico, and the Netherlands, in addition to the millions of dollars and aid offered for assistance and support from all over the world.

And we greatly appreciate that support.

As navies, we have successfully learned how to leverage the advantages of the sea … advantages such as mobility, access, and sovereignty … to win wars and defend borders. We must now leverage these same advantages of our profession to close seams, reduce vulnerabilities, and ensure the security of the domain we, collectively, are responsible for.

Because of the importance of the seas our global dependence on the seas --our navies -- are in increasing demand. I think a profession such as ours, inherently global, cooperative, and connected, can be a large part of the answer to today's security challenges.

As we combine our advantages, I envision a 1,000-ship Navy – a fleet-in-being, if you will, made up of the best capabilities of all freedom-loving navies of the world.

Can you imagine the possibilities if we worked toward increased interoperability through more standardized training, procedures, and command and control protocols?

This 1,000-ship Navy would integrate the capabilities of the maritime services to create a fully interoperable force – an international city at sea.

So this calls for a new -- or maybe a not so new but very different -- image of sea power.

An image something like this:

Multinational medical teams, sent from the sea, healing the sick … pipe fitters and mechanics and electricians of every culture, working together to repair a damaged infrastructure … construction workers literally and figuratively mending fences and building bridges.

Or this?

Small, fast watercraft of many nations, racing down rivers … containing the flow of illegal drugs, hunting down terrorists and pirates at their front door … keeping our ports and harbors safe.

Or how about this?

A fleet of ships, fully netted and connected, integrated with the international joint force, as well as the multi-talented civilian agencies of many nations.

  • A world fleet spanning the full spectrum of operations.

Just imagine the power that would reside in that kind of fleet. Imagine the depth and the breadth of skills it would bring to the world.

A world united by the power of the sea.

I am extremely proud to count myself among you.

Thank you for being here and thank you for your commitment to our calling.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).