TOPICS > Politics

Congress Reacts to Troop Deployments and Extensions

November 15, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: We get a Senate and the House response to today’s White House announcement. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican from Kansas, is a member of the Armed Services Committee, she joins us from Austin. Congressman Lee Hamilton from Indiana is the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. Thank you both for joining us. And starting with you, Senator, your general reaction to the administration’s decision to extend a U.S. military presence in Bosnia.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) Texas: Well, I’m very concerned that the President is announcing that he is going to extend the mission without announcing what the parameters of the mission are. I think it is most important that we just admit right up front that the mission has not been accomplished in one year, as was promised, that we haven’t done one of the major things that would, I think, bring a better, more stabilized peace, which is arm and train the Muslims so that there will be some parity among the three parties, and the President has not consulted with Congress about this, as he said he would. And so I think that the President needs to lay out what the parameters of the mission are before committing the troops.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And by the way, it’s Texas–not Kansas.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sorry. I don’t know how I got that wrong. Congressman, what is your reaction to her grave concerns and the concerns that she specified?

REP. LEE HAMILTON, (D) Indiana: Well, I think all of us have deep concerns anytime any president announces the deployment of American forces, whether it’s in Bosnia or Zaire, so those concerns are well justified. It does seem to me that in this instance–the Bosnian case–it’s been clear for a long time that we simply could not achieve all of our goals in a year’s time. Indeed, I thought that a year ago we would not be able to achieve them in a year’s time. We can’t walk out now. The mission is half accomplished. The civilian side–as Sec. Perry and the President said has simply not gone as quickly as we had hoped, and so I think it’s necessary for us to have a follow-on force. I think the mission of that force is quite clear. And I think Sec. Perry made it even more clear in his statements a few minutes ago–to deter, to stop fighting breaking out again, and to secure the environment. Without that military force, I think it’s quite apparent these parties are going to break out and start fighting again, and we would be right back where we were. We’ve accomplished a lot in a year’s time, but not all that we had hoped.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Senator, the congressman said the mission is quite clear.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well, I think there’s one more option that didn’t appear to be considered and that is since this is, as Sec. Perry described, a different mission, um, and I think it’s not totally clear what they will be doing but I do think that Sec. Perry said that it’s going to be more along the lines of trying to help them get economically viable, uh, I think the other option would be to let the European forces take it now and let us provide other types of services. I think that we have gotten into a trap here where we have let our allies define what our involvement should be to show that we are supportive of a unified Bosnia. I think we can show a lot of support to the people that are going to make up Bosnia, without having American troops on the ground.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Into a trap, Congressman?

REP. LEE HAMILTON: If you’re going to lead, I think you have to be on the ground. It was true earlier on in Bosnia. It’s true today. If the United States is not present when we went into Bosnia as part of IFOR, the Europeans would not have participated. The same is true today. If the United States does not participate, the Europeans will not either. We’re the key; we’re the essential factor. Now, Sen. Hutchison is right; we want them to pick up more of the burden. We’d like them to do much more than they perhaps have done, but it is nonetheless true, I think, that without U.S. participation here, without U.S. leadership, this mission won’t work.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: He’s right, isn’t he?

REP. LEE HAMILTON: It can’t be done.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sorry. Senator–without U.S. participation on the ground, the mission can’t be done?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well, I think because we have not been forthcoming with what the parameters of our involvement will be, the void has been filled with others who have set the expectations. I think that if we are going to remain the superpower that can bring powers together, we’ve got to be very careful not to get mired in every small detail but to provide other kinds of services, the service of coming in to provide a forum for peace–

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is that an option?


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sorry. Is that an option?

REP. LEE HAMILTON: I just don’t think you can lead from the sidelines. If you’re going to be the leaders, and we are the leader of NATO, we have to be fully participants.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Senator, what do you think about the point that Defense Sec. Perry made about the fact that if you’re not–if there isn’t a credible force on the ground, war is likely to erupt by the next spring, doesn’t that compel the involvement that the congressman was describing?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well once again, I think the other option is–I think that Congressman Hamilton is saying we would be on the sidelines. I don’t think we would have to be on the sidelines. I think that we could have a position of leadership by being there as a leader but not necessarily troops on the ground. I think that many of these things could be done by other allies, but we have allowed ourselves to be pushed continually toward the front, and–I would like to see provide other kinds of support. We’re spending 3 to 5 billion dollars right now before we go into this second mission of taxpayer dollars. A lot of that could have gone into helping with the economic rebuilding and the infrastructure rebuilding of Bosnia, which I think is going to make for a lot better chance for peace and also would encourage other investment into Bosnia, but, instead, we’re paying for troops on the ground when I don’t think that that has to be the case, and I don’t think it’s the correct use of our military.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Not a correct use of the military?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: I think we should–

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: No, no. Congressman.

REP. LEE HAMILTON: She raises a very important point here. I think we’re not accustomed to seeing the American military used in this fashion. It’s a kind of a new intervention. The Zairean case also–we usually think of military intervention as U.S. forces going in to fight, to throw back Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait. That’s the traditional sense of the use of the military. Now we’re confronted with two very different kinds of interventions–a humanitarian intervention in Zaire and a intervention to secure the environment in Bosnia. It is a different use of the military. It’s not the traditional role for the military, and, and we have to become accustomed to that. And Sen. Hutchison is raising some very valid questions about that. Nonetheless, I believe that if the United States is going to be the leader, we have to participate and we have to be on the ground in both Bosnia and Zaire, and I also believe that neither of those efforts would succeed without U.S. participation.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What do you think about Zaire, Sen. Hutchison, is that a good thing to do for the U.S. troops?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well, I certainly think that when there is an emergency humanitarian need, that, that we should, uh, exercise all of the prerogatives of the President and let him move, but I will say that having seen what’s happened today, that I would be certainly supportive of the President to an extent, but I would be cautious if the President of Rwanda has said that we really don’t need the international troops, but what we need is the humanitarian aid. I think there is a chance if we will be cautious to provide the humanitarian aid without putting troops on the ground. It appears that the refugees are coming in peacefully back to Rwanda; they are going to need food, and I think perhaps this might be something that we would work very closely with the President of Rwanda and make sure that we don’t jump in there if we aren’t absolutely needed with military force but, instead, focus on the humanitarian aspects.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But, in principle, you’re not opposed to us going if there is approval by the President of Rwanda?


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Let me just get–let me just get a reaction from the congressman here. How much support do you think there is for this mission?

REP. LEE HAMILTON: Well, that’s very difficult to judge. The Congress is not in session. There will be more support if the conditions of our intervention are very clear. Sen. Hutchison has mentioned some of those. We want a limited duration. We want American command. We want cost sharing, burden sharing by others. We want risks of injury to our combat forces reduced to an absolute minimum. We want a clear entry strategy. We want a clear exit strategy. We want a very carefully defined mission. So every member of Congress is going to be asking a lot of questions about what are the conditions of our intervention here, and if those questions are asked and answered appropriately by the administration, I think we will have in the Congress support for these missions, but these–

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: For both missions?

REP. LEE HAMILTON: For both missions, but these questions have to be asked; they have to be answered by the administration.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Sen. Hutchison, are you that optimistic?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON: Well, I think that the situation of Rwanda and Zaire may just solve itself before Congress gets back into session, and I think that all of us would want to weigh in to help people who are starving. We did it in Somalia. The problem is of course mission creep in Somalia, and we would have to be very careful, as Congressman Hamilton said, to set the parameters so that there would not be mission creep in Rwanda, but I am optimistic about that. I think the issue of Bosnia, however, is a different one, and I think it goes back to the original commitments that were not met and then Congress not having the feel that there is a parameter around this mission that the rules of engagement are clear, and that we are necessary to be on the ground, as opposed to doing other things that might be more productive.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Well, I have a feeling we’ll be coming back to this. Thank you both for joining us.