A Conversation with General Martin Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

2011 Ambassador Dave and Kay Phillips Family International Lecture


Photo by Les Todd.

Chairman of Join Chiefs Praises New Defense Strategy

By David Jarmul

The national defense strategy announced by President Obama earlier this month will position the United States to respond effectively to military challenges while reshaping the Pentagon budget to better reflect fiscal constraints, the nation’s highest ranking military officer told a packed audience at Duke University Thursday evening.

“We the military are not being victimized by this budget issue,” said Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The new strategy has provided an opportunity to rethink how the nation can best advance its interests, he said. “This is something the joint chiefs have embraced as what’s best for America. We’ll figure it out.”

Dempsey, who received a master’s degree in English from Duke in 1984, delivered the 2011 Ambassador S. Davis Phillips Family International Lecture in Page Auditorium. The speech capped a day-long campus visit during which he toured research laboratories and interacted with faculty and students.  He also met in the Bryan Center with approximately 400 ROTC students from Duke and other local universities.

Gen. Dempsey explains how his Duke degree in English has made him a better military leader.

“We still aspire to be and need to be a global power,” Dempsey told his audience in Page Auditorium and watching on C-SPAN. The new strategy provides a balance between “principle and pragmatism,” building on traditional American values and strengths while responding to events such as the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and regime change in North Korea. “We’ve made some real choices,” he said.

A four-star general, Dempsey has served for nearly four decades in the U.S. Army, including commands in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was introduced by Duke President Richard Brodhead and political science professor Peter Feaver, who served on the National Security Council and heads the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. Earlier in the day, Feaver discussed Dempsey’s visit and American military policy in a live discussion on “Office Hours,” Duke’s weekly online talk show.

Dempsey referred frequently in his remarks to Feaver’s research on military strategy and to his own experience as a Duke student. He described his time at the university as “incredibly broadening,” noting how he was “confronted with viewpoints I’d never had to confront in the past.”

View the original article in Duke Today here.