NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW WITH GENERAL GEORGE JOULWAN
DECEMBER 6, 1995
MR. LEHRER: General, welcome.
GENERAL GEORGE JOULWAN, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe: (Brussels) It's good to be here.
MR. LEHRER: First, what kind of reception are your troops receiving so far in Bosnia, the first groups that have gone in?
GEN. JOULWAN: For the NATO enabling forces, the advance parties that have arrived in Bosnia, the support has been absolutely superb. We couldn't have asked for a better reception by both the people and the UN forces that are there in Bosnia.
MR. LEHRER: Now, when the larger force comes in, what are your expectations about how the troops will be received by the people and the varying forces there?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, again, we have high expectations. After all, the--all the parties have signed a peace agreement wanting NATO to deploy, wanting the implementation force to deploy. We think that the people deserve a chance for peace, so we think that the reception of the main body, when it deploys, will be a very good one, and we're hoping on that. And we're doing all we can in the preparation to create those conditions.
MR. LEHRER: And your troops are not being told to expect hostility, is that right? They're being told to expect a kind of a welcoming atmosphere?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, first of all, I think what we've told them is that they're not going in there to fight their way into Bosnia. Now, let me be very clear on that. There's a peace agreement, and they're going in there to implement that peace agreement; however, we have also told them that they will take action to protect themselves. They're not out there looking for a fight, they're not out there trying to find one, but they will be so organized in their task organization and have robust rules of engagement that they can protect themselves. So it's a balance. We're going in there to implement a peace agreement. We expect and hope that the people and the parties involved will welcome the implementation force when it arrives, but on the other hand, I've given very clear instructions that the troops are to protect themselves at all times.
MR. LEHRER: There's been some concern back here, General, that the rules of engagement are so robust, to use your term, that they might encourage fire fights. In other words, if a NATO soldier sees somebody who might look like they're hostile, he or she might fire first and ask questions later. Can you explain that? Can you clarify that?
GEN. JOULWAN: There is judgment that is used in all of this. But let me be clear. The soldier and his small unit leader on the ground will have to make some key decisions of when they are threatened and when they are under fire, they have the authority to return that fire. Again, we've spent a lot of time in training--and let me put my U.S. hat on in particular--
MR. LEHRER: Sure.
GEN. JOULWAN: --a lot of time training in trying to build these different situations where the soldier has to make those decisions. I don't think you'll see random firing. We've talked about the use of force in a way to protect themselves, but, if threatened, they do have the authority to return fire and return it immediately.
MR. LEHRER: Are you prepared to be lenient with people who might make the wrong judgment?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, I'm not sure what you mean by that. I think if you try to tell a soldier if, if a--if a tank is pointed at him, or he gets machine gun fire, his instincts are to protect himself and to return that fire, and if he sees a tank ready to threaten him or turn his turret toward him, he is going--he has the authority, if threatened, to return that fire immediately. There is much judgment involved here, and there's much training in the leadership. And there is talk about using well-aimed shot and staying away from religious places of worship unless, of course, you're taking fire from those areas. So we've tried in our training program. They've tried to build all these different situations, but in the end, it's the judgment of our soldiers and our small leaders, and I must tell you I trust them--I trust that judgment. They'll make the right decision.
MR. LEHRER: There's another concern been raised by some members of Congress, General, that the NATO forces, particularly the American forces, will not be seen as neutral forces, because of the NATO bombing before Serb positions, because of the decision in the peace treaty to eventually rearm the Muslims. What have you told your soldiers about that?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, first of all, let me take that last part.
MR. LEHRER: All right.
GEN. JOULWAN: The implementation force has nothing to do with arming or training any of the warring factions, and so we're not going to be involved in that. The other thing, we have told all NATO forces to include the American force, is that we will be even-handed. There is freedom of movement throughout all of Bosnia. I've made this very clear. And we will be moving in, in Bosnian Serb territory, as well as in Federation territory. And we expect that freedom of movement, and we are not going to take sides with any one party or the other. We're there to implement as a NATO force, implement a, a peace agreement, and that's what we're going to try to do, and try to give these warring factions who are banging away at each other for so many years some breathing room, and to separate them. And hopefully, that separation will be done voluntarily. And, and if that happens, then we have a chance for peace. And if we train the force, we've given it rules of engagement to protect itself, the mission is clear and limited, and we intend to keep it that way. But I will tell you that even-handedness is also part of their mission.
MR. LEHRER: And part of the training, is that right?
GEN. JOULWAN: And part of the training, exactly right. In fact, you must know we set up for the American force a Serb village in one of our training areas in Germany, and we took them through the paces of, of how they need to act both in the Federation territory and also in the Bosnian Serb territory. And I made this very clear to, to Serb leadership as well when I was asked, that we are there and as the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, as well as the U.S. commander for U.S. forces, I had made it very clear that we're there to be even-handed. And, therefore, you know, don't threaten our forces, don't, don't shoot at our forces, we are not there to engage in, in any sort of firing unless we get threatened or fired upon.
MR. LEHRER: What about the, the additional concern that at least has been voiced here, again, by members of Congress that your force might get sucked in to non-military functions, that you might end up being the police force and having to run things and all that sort of business?GEN. JOULWAN: I've been working very hard on that. I have had a little bit of experience in some of that, and I'm telling you that we have tried to make it very clear both in the op plan, the operations plan that I published, and in my dealings this past week and the week before to get the political guidance right. We have to understand the political objectives of all of this, and that's what the North Atlantic Council has been working on. I met last week and this week with all the chiefs of defense of the 16 nations, the ministers of defense, the foreign ministers are here now, and, and so what we--what at least I have been emphasizing is that there are military aspects of the implementation plan, and then there are civilian aspects of it. There's high representative. There are many different civilian agencies that will be in, in Bosnia, from the High Commissioner for Refugees, for arms control, for police, and, and over a hundred to a hundred and fifty non-governmental organizations. Those organizations need to be organized, disciplined, and coordinated in a way that they do the civilian task. We do not want mission creep in this. And I am resisting, and I will resist every attempt to try to say that the implementation force ought to do some of these tasks. They will be meeting in London the end of this week--I believe it's the 8th--where all of this will be, will be discussed. And I think it's very important that we get this part of it right, the civilian aspects of it right, because in the end, I really think that's going to determine true success in Bosnia. How the civilian reconstruction, economic initiatives, the handling of refugees, all of aid will be done by civilian agencies, and I'm going to resist any attempt to have that cross over into the implementation force.
MR. LEHRER: Is it correct to read the Dayton Treaty, though, that your force will have some role in resettling refugees?
GEN. JOULWAN: I don't read that at all in the Dayton--in the Dayton Agreement. I could see creating, if we do it right, if we deploy in a highly professional way, if we can have these joint military commissions, with all the warring parties and--or the former warring parties--and the IFOR and organize it in a way I think it will create a climate where these civilian relief agencies can operate, and I think that is going to be very important.
MR. LEHRER: But what if--just let me be specific. Let's say a situation occurs where a, a Bosnian Muslim wants to return and has been authorized to return to his or her home in an area that is now occupied by the Serbs and the Serbs say, "No, I'm sorry, we--this is my house now, you can't have your house back," they come to your force and say, "Hey, get these people out of there," is that a legitimate function of your force?
GEN. JOULWAN: Well, let me tell you how, how the Dayton Agreement, at least as we put into our, into the operations plan, that what happens at the 30-day mark, the signing plus 30 days, is that, that the military forces have to withdraw from this area of separation, which is about two to four kilometers. Then at the 45-day mark, areas that will be transferred--and that includes what you're talking about, I believe, houses, et cetera, that of one area or another--the agreed-upon areas to be transferred that the one party has to vacate at Day 45 and at Day 90, the other faction should come in. In that 45-day lapse, the IFOR will provide security for that transferred area. And, and I think that provides the frame work for that area to be secured until the other force comes in.
MR. LEHRER: General, are you concerned at all about public opinion polls back here in the United States, just a couple of them in the last few days that say that the majority of the American people believe there is no vital U.S. interest in Bosnia worth giving an American life for?
GEN. JOULWAN: I have seen some of that, Jim, and I think any time we commit American forces, I think it's very important that the country is behind those forces when they're committed. This debate has gone on. A decision will be made. It will be a political decision. And when that decision is made, I hope that the, the American people will support their troops. I have been a soldier now for 35 years. We have fought two world wars in this--in Europe, this country, and in this last decade of the 20th century, we have the opportunity now to do something to help the cause of peace, to prevent a crisis from developing into a wider conflict. I think that is in our interest. I think it's important that we do it right with our NATO allies. I've just left a meeting where there are over 40 nations in what they call the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the NACC, all those nations, we have nearly 20 nations now that are joining us. Many of these ambassadors and foreign ministers are handing me papers saying, "We want to join. Here's a battalion from Poland, here are some trucks from Austria, here's transit rights through our country." There's an opportunity here to create, I think, in Europe a security climate well into the 21st century. That is in our interest. Bosnia has to be solved, and Russia has joined us. I have a three-star Russian general at my headquarters in Moens, who are working them into the implementation force. I'll meet with him as soon as I return this evening, so there is a lot riding both on Bosnia and the future for Europe, but I think it's in NATO's interest, and I think it's directly in the United States' interest.
MR. LEHRER: And have you said that to the American troops and the other NATO troops who are going to be risking their lives?
GEN. JOULWAN: Yes. And we're trying to create the best conditions for success. I visited the troops with the President on Saturday in Baumholder. I've been talking to the allied troops within the ACE Rapid Reaction Corps. This is a multinational force that's deploying. The United States has about 20,000 of the 60,000. It's a vital contribution, but there's a unified chain of command. There is evidence of commitment by all these nations, NATO and non-NATO and Russia. And so we have a very real opportunity, but support of the nations involved is very important, support by the American people is very important, and as one that has served in war and peace, I'm absolutely convinced that support will be there for the troops when they deploy.
MR. LEHRER: Do you feel that confident about Congress as well?
GEN. JOULWAN: I do. I think the Congress understands the soldiers that are about ready to deploy, they understand troops, and I think when the decision is made, the support of Congress will be there.
MR. LEHRER: All right. General, thank you very much.
GEN. JOULWAN: Thank you, Jim. Thank you very much.