April 6, 1999
Is NATO pursing the right policy in Yugoslavia? Jim Lehrer talks with three former secretaries of defense: Frank Carlucci of the Reagan administration; Harold Brown of the Carter administration; and James Schlesinger of the Nixon and Ford administrations.
JIM LEHRER: We get the views now of three Former Secretaries of Defense:
Frank Carlucci, who held that job under President Reagan; Harold Brown,
who served under President Carter; and James Schlesinger, who was Defense
Secretary to Presidents Nixon and Ford.
Mr. Carlucci, are NATO ground troops going to be required to bring this to a conclusion in your opinion?
|The ground troop issue.|
FRANK CARLUCCI: Well, if the goal, the most recent goal seems to be to expel the Serbian troops from Kosovo and allow the refugees to come back in -- by the way, standard formula in warfare is that have you clear goals and obscure the means so the adversary is kept guessing. We seem to have turned that on its head. But if we want to expel the Serbian troops, that may well require ground troops. We don't know at this point. We certainly should not have ruled the option out. And if we put ground troops in, we ought to go in and do the job right.
JIM LEHRER: But as we just saw, the secretary of state is saying again today that ground troops are not anticipated. Based on what you know of the situation, do you think it can be accomplished without ground troops?
FRANK CARLUCCI: I think we would have to be very fortunate indeed to have air power change Milosevic's mind at this point, particularly-- it's one thing to degrade his military capability. You can call a halt to that any time you want.
JIM LEHRER: Just declare it.
FRANK CARLUCCI: You just declare it. But if, as I understand it, is to allow the refugees to go back in, they are certainly going to want some security. And it's very difficult to see how you're going to get a permissive environment unless you really fight your way back in.
JIM LEHRER: Secretary Brown, do you agree, we'll have to fight our way in, in order to accomplish this?
HAROLD BROWN: It depends what this is. If we are trying to make Milosevic uncomfortable, you can do that with air power. Can you get refugees back with air power alone? I don't think so. But there are other ways besides ground invasion of trying to do that. The combination of air power to degrade Milosevic's capabilities to hurt him and diplomacy and negotiation may be a way to do it. My own view is that refugees are unlikely to go back to where they were. They have not, by and large, in Bosnia, whether they're Serb refugees, Croat refugees or Bosnian Muslim refugees, and there you have a relatively permissive environment. So we should step back and think again about what it is we're trying to accomplish here.
JIM LEHRER: Do you not -- in other words, you don't buy into the idea that that should be our policy, to let these refugees back -- or insist or make it possible for the refugees to go back?
HAROLD BROWN: No, if they want to go back, we should try to help that happen. But I think for that to be "the" policy or "the" goal, it seems to me, is to be to me both too narrow in our goal and perhaps make it have too difficult a goal. I think we need some sort of comprehensive reexamination of the whole Balkans. That would take, it seems to me, an international conference. It would have to include the Russians who are more believable to the Serbs than we are and might involve redrawing of boundaries.
|The refugee issue.|
JIM LEHRER: Secretary Schlesinger, where do you come down on this? First of all let's go just on the refugee issue alone. Do you believe that that should be -- I mean obviously that wasn't a stated policy to begin with because nobody knew there were going to be 400,000 refugees.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: Well, we should have known. We should have known that there were going to be refugees. We -- at Rambouillet we developed an option that we tried to press on Milosevic. It was a proposal that was not acceptable to him, so we turned to giving him an offer that he couldn't refuse. And we decided that we were prepared to bomb. And the consequence of that was inevitably, almost inevitably that he would use the time available to drive out the Kosovars.
JIM LEHRER: Okay, but that aside, where we are today -- we are where we are today. Now, what do we do about those refugees?
JAMES SCHLESINGER: Well, I would think about what Harold Brown has just said and that is an international conference. I don't think that the administration is prepared for that type of negotiation at this time. Without ground forces or the threat of ground forces, I think that the probability of our being able to bomb the Serbs into submission is modest to zero.
JIM LEHRER: So you would agree with Frank Carlucci then that at least it ought to be on the table. We should be planning for it?
JAMES SCHLESINGER: We should never tell an opponent what we are not going to do. That should remain something that he worries about.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Where do you come down on this question that Secretary Brown raised that maybe this is the wrong objective anyhow to try to guarantee the return of refugees to Kosovo?
FRANK CARLUCCI: Well, it's a little late to start revisiting objectives. The president and NATO have said that the objective is to allow the refugees back in. And they are certainly not going to go in under current conditions or under the cease-fire Milosevic has just announced. They are only going to go back in if there is some kind of protection. If after that you want to have a conference to determine what the make-up of the Balkans should be, then fine, but right now we're locked into an objective, as I understand it, as best as I can understand it. And they keep changing. But if we're locked into that objective, we've got to see it through.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: We may be locked into the objective, but we do not have the means of achieving that objective.
HAROLD BROWN: Not now.
JIM LEHRER: You mean we don't have enough troops on the ground to do it if we wanted to do it.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: It would require, I believe, the threat of a ground invasion, and at the moment, we do not have that capacity and it would probably take us six weeks to develop it.
JIM LEHRER: All right. I want to come back to the specifications of that in a moment, but Secretary Brown, what about this point? It's all well and good to have a conference and talk about the Balkans - in the meanwhile, what do we do about the 400,000 refugees, what do we do about the continuing ethnic cleansing; what do we do about the bombing?
HAROLD BROWN: Well, we try to take care of those who have fled Kosovo as best we can. It seems to me that that humanitarian objective is shared by everybody -- by all of us. With respect to getting --stopping more from coming out, it seems to me that the bombing campaign has shown, so far, that it's not going to be able to do that. And if we say the bombing campaign is going to continue for a month -- and I anticipate -- or months -- and I anticipate it will continue, I would expect that will you have a continuing flow of refugees from Kosovo. As to ground troops, I tend to agree that we should not limit our means in our rhetoric, at any rate, beforehand. And starting to move ground troops in as an additional threat, without being clear as to whether we'll use them or not, might make sense. It's also, it seems to me, rather dangerous because once you have them there, there will be strong pressure to use them and move them in. And it's not clear to me how that would play out either.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. Well, let's take these things one at a time. Mr. Carlucci, you said last week it would take a minimum of 200,000 ground troops to accomplish this. Why would it take that many?
FRANK CARLUCCI: Well, what I said was that that was a figure that had come out of the Pentagon or NATO. My own judgment is that it would take somewhat less. And you've got about 40,000 Serb troops and their paramilitary forces in country. As a rule of thumb, you need three times that number to deal with them. So you're talking in the neighborhood of a hundred and maybe slightly over a hundred thousand troops. And you probably have to bring in some heavy divisions. The 82nd Airborne couldn't do it alone, it's quite clear. It's difficult terrain; the access roads are difficult; it's not an easy struggle. We shouldn't go in expecting that it be done overnight. I'm certain we could prevail, but we should have no illusions on the difficulty.
JIM LEHRER: Now, do you agree with - you said six weeks it would take - do you agree it would take over a hundred thousand -
JAMES SCHLESINGER: A minimum of six weeks, and I think it's probably well over two months, but -
FRANK CARLUCCI: At least.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: -- there have been estimates as low as six weeks.
HAROLD BROWN: Remember, you'd be dealing in other countries, not NATO countries, except for Hungary, which is not contiguous for the rest of NATO.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. Let me see if I can get a point of agreement here just for discussion purposes. Do you agree with Harold Brown, Dr. Schlesinger, that whether we're going to use them or not, we ought to get ready to use them, that that, in fact, could be a tool that might lead to something good?
JAMES SCHLESINGER: I think that that could be helpful. I add to his caveat that if you have the forces there, there will be strong political pressures in this country and at least in the UK to use those forces. And until we have forces that can do the job, we ought not to start ground action.
JIM LEHRER: How do you feel about that, Mr. Carlucci?
FRANK CARLUCCI: I believe we ought to start to prepare. And in fact the Apaches and MLRS are a step in the right direction.
JIM LEHRER: These are the Apache attack helicopters - 24 of them - that are going in there to Albania.
FRANK CARLUCCI: That's right.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: And rocket artillery.
JIM LEHRER: Rocket artillery. And that's kind of -- explain that, for those of us who don't understand this very much, what that -- why is that a step toward ground warfare, Mr. Carlucci?
FRANK CARLUCCI: Well, what we're doing -- what NATO tried to do at the outset was to achieve its goals through strategic bombing, B-52's, B-2's, F-117's.
JIM LEHRER: That's way high up.
|A change of strategy.|
| FRANK CARLUCCI: Way high up. They weren't prepared for
tactical air operations. Now they're moving to tactical air operations
which can deal with the armor on the ground in Kosovo. And that will have
much more effect on the ethnic cleansing and on the troops in the field
themselves. The Apache can fly low, it could hit tanks from a good distance.
MLRS is a very accurate weapon. So that ought to begin to change the character
of the engagement.
HAROLD BROWN: We have to remember -
JAMES SCHLESINGER: They won't be there for ten days.
JIM LEHRER: That's true. The Apaches.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: The Apaches will not be -- presumably the MLRS will go in at the same time. That means that much of this ethnic cleansing will be a dead issue by that time.
HAROLD BROWN: And it's not being done by tanks. It's being done by paramilitary forces and military-style police. Air power is not terribly effective against that sort of formation. And even your rocket artillery and your helicopters, I think, will have limited capability, although more.
JIM LEHRER: Let me start with you, Mr. Brown, and go back on this issue. There was a story in the Washington Post today that said American public opinion, as well as Washington opinion, has been moving in the last few days toward ground troops, which was something that nobody supported as of before the bombing began, and it's been attributed to those kinds of pictures that we ran again here tonight and have been running every night, as has everybody else. All three of you have been in the cockpit seat before in these kinds of operations, give us cause and effect on that.
HAROLD BROWN: Well, It seems to me that the humanitarian catastrophe does drive public opinion. It makes public opinion, and journalistic opinion want to get it over with. I think there's a mistaken belief, perhaps a mistaken faith as to what various kinds of military action can do to get it over with. But the more such a humanitarian catastrophe and -- is portrayed, the more people are going to want to do that. Now, of course, it's been portrayed elsewhere as well, although not recently, perhaps. And the argument that we hear there is, well, this is the heart of Europe, which it seems to me is either a geographical or anatomical mistake. But that intensifies the public concern. I think we need to think through what we're going to do before we react with escalation to such pictures.
JAMES SCHLESINGER: Harold is absolutely right. In the first place, there have been lots of these humanitarian tragedies, some -- one in particular, in the Balkans which we supported, to wit, the expulsion of the Krajina Serbs three years ago. Those pictures did not appear on television and as a consequence, they had no impact on public opinion in the United States. These pictures appear on television and they have had a considerable impact. But thing ahead two months from now when you have ground forces in place. It is not clear after some months of bombing, possibly the loss of some helicopters, some search and rescue operations of the helicopter pilots, whether the taste for ground warfare will still be there.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Carlucci, talking about policy decisions, et cetera, whatever anybody else thinks -- about anything else anybody else thinks about Milosevic, did he not make a classic miscalculation to continue the ethnic cleansing to make these pictures possible while the bombing was going on?
FRANK CARLUCCI: Well, only time will tell the answer to that one, Jim. If his goal is to forcibly expel the Kosovar Albanians, he's very close to reaching that goal. He's within a couple of weeks of reaching that goal. He may not view it as a mistake. As somebody said, he'd rather preside over a rubble of a country than give in on this issue. So hopefully he will recognize that he has made a mistake. But it's not clear, at least to me, that he sees it that way at this point.
JIM LEHRER: Now, do you see it the same way though, on the way it's been rousing public opinion, not only here but also in Europe as well? Public opinion in Europe is very much supporting the bombing and all of that right now.
FRANK CARLUCCI: I thoroughly agree with my colleagues. It's a very serious matter to put in ground troops. You have to look ahead. You have to recognize that there will be casualties, and that American public opinion could swing once again. That's where presidential leadership has to come in. And it's good that some of our congress people are going over there now. They're stepping in to a leadership role.
JIM LEHRER: They are going over there today in fact with Secretary Cohen on an inspection trip to -- they are going to Brussels and then possibly into the area. Well, thank you all three very much for being with us.