How We Got Here
This book begins in the Pentagon.
In July 2009, two United States military officers, a Marine colonel and a Navy captain, were sequestered in Room 2E928, on the second floor of the building’s E-ring, the outermost of five concentric corridors, where the highest-profile work is done. There, just a few months into President Barack Obama’s first term, Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby and Captain Wayne Porter were given an assignment by Admiral Mike Mullen: to create a grand strategy for America.
Not a military strategy. We already had one of those—several, in fact. Mullen was seeking a strategy for the next chapter of America’s future.
At the time, Mullen was the seventeenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking officer in the United States Armed Forces, nominated to the post in 2007 by President George W. Bush. He was no stranger to Washington or the Pentagon: in his previous role as Chief of Naval Operations, he already was a member of the Joint Chiefs. It was the culmination of a distinguished 40-year career, which also included assignments as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe; Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples; and Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
As chairman, Mullen found himself frustrated. “I caught the Bush administration in the last 15 months, and they were beat to death,” he recalled when we spoke with him in 2015. “Iraq hadn’t gone well, and I wanted to know what Obama was going to do when he came in. What’s the strategic approach?”