|GEN. WESLEY CLARK|
July 1, 1999
Gen. Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander of NATO, discusses the recent war in Yugoslavia and the KFOR peacekeepers' progress in Kosovo.
MARGARET WARNER: Welcome, General.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, Supreme Allied Commander: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: I want to talk to you first about the KFOR mission in Kosovo. Secretary of State Albright said yesterday when she was up at the U.N., the people of Kosovo are not safe. Is that true?
|Imposing order amidst chaos.|
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think that this is a period of sorting out that's going on. There are hundreds of thousands of people coming back. There have been some terrible things done in that country. There are all kinds of emotions running rampant. And there are Serbs still there, some of whom may have participated in that, others who are just afraid they're going to be taken for guilty because of their ethnicity. There are gypsies who are also being discriminated against. And so there's some legitimate efforts to get property back, there's some revenge-taking, there's some score-settling. One doesn't really know, but it's a very difficult time. Our troops are there. We're doing everything we can, but of course we're not police.
MARGARET WARNER: Why can't the KFOR troops control that more? I mean there are reports that as many as half the Serbs have already left.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think that that's probably an accurate figure, that about half have left, perhaps some will return. We certainly hope so. But no matter how well-trained, organized, equipped and led our troops are, there's simply not a substitute for local police in terms of knowing the neighborhoods, knowing the patterns of activity, knowing the people, knowing how to stop individual events. And so they're doing the best they can, going to where the intelligence-tippers indicate there might be trouble. We've put curfews in place in some cities. We're stopping people that are armed, we're enforcing the demilitarization of the KLA, for example, and this afternoon we picked up some Serb soldiers who had wandered into the area without an invitation to do so. And so we're out there. There's probably an awful lot that we're preventing happening that you'll never know about, but it's a big place, despite the fact that it's only the size of Connecticut. And you're dealing with a million and a half people.
MARGARET WARNER: If you had the full KFOR strength, could you do more to control the violence?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, of course we could. But even with the full strength, we're not going to be able to prevent individual acts of violence, any more than a police force in an American city can prevent all acts of violence by being on duty.
MARGARET WARNER: It does raise the question, though it's been nearly three weeks since... it has been three weeks since the agreement was signed, but only half the KFOR force is there. Why has it taken so long?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, it normally takes anywhere between 45 and 90 days to deploy forces, and even though that we had hoped that Milosevic would give in much sooner, the end still came rather suddenly in terms of the processes. I think some countries are simply having trouble getting their forces ready. Others need time to organize the transportation. Normally a force has to be assembled from volunteers, it has to be organized and it takes a period of three to four weeks to train it. In some countries they're given home leave before they're deployed, and then there's a time for the equipment to be shipped. So 60 days is not an unusual period of time for some of the forces to be there.
|A penitent Serbia?|
MARGARET WARNER: You said you hope some of the Serbs who've left would come back. Does the fact that so many Serbs have left, though, does it make your job harder or in some ways easier?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think it cuts both ways, honestly. But we do believe that this should be a multiethnic society. We believe that people who are there and who are not war criminals should stay there, and we believe that all of these people should get along together as best we can. We know that's an idealistic hope. It's an expression of hope. In reality, there are all kinds of feelings on the ground, and we know there has to be a period of genuine acceptance by the Serb people of what they did. They have to accept it. They have to ask for forgiveness. They have to be repentant to this.
MARGARET WARNER: That's a tall...
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: They can't deny it.
MARGARET WARNER: That's a tall order.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, it is a very tall order. We're seeing the first signs of this out of the Serb Orthodox Church, by the way. There's been some very courageous Serb Orthodox Church leadership already asserted, and maybe that will help. It's going to be a very, very difficult thing for the people of Serbia, as well as for those who left Kosovo, to recognize and accept what their own leadership caused to happen.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, if Serbs continue to leave and they don't come back, do you think that in any way undercuts the credibility of what NATO went to war for, this multiethnic ideal, as you put it?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think we have to temper the ideal with reality, and we don't know how widespread Serb popular participation in the atrocities really were. And so maybe a lot of these people helped themselves to their neighbors' property, participated in some mass banditry and worse mischief while the ethnic cleansing was going on. We just don't know. And so some of the people that are leaving may well consider themselves as real targets for international justice, as well as for Albanian revenge. So it's a little hard to generalize. But as I said, the ideal is we'd like to promote a multiethnic society. And by the way, the KLA leadership has called for the same thing.
MARGARET WARNER: And do you think they're genuine?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I think they are.
|Lessons of war.|
WARNER: Let's talk about a few lessons of war. First of all, the fact
you had to fight a war with 19 political bosses from 19 NATO countries.
Now, General Naumann, the head of the NATO military committee, as he retired,
said, "Look, it automatically leads to the lowest common denominator
decision." How severely did it constrict you in your ability to wage
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Clearly we had to have political consensus at the outset. But NATO is a very adaptive institution, and member nations found ways to give me greater freedom and flexibility in striking targets. And so along with the intensification of the air campaign, as we ratcheted up the number of aircraft, we also got a lot more freedom in the target selection process.
MARGARET WARNER: But if you were to design how should the Alliance fight a war in the future, would you suggest some changes in that in the sort of the way political control was exercised?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I think we need to look at this very carefully. There's a great deal of virtue in the principle of consensus. It kept all of the allied nations on board and committed. They were just as committed as we were to the success and to the final outcome, and that's really the strength of NATO. It's... the Alliance cohesion was a greater impact on Milosevic, I think, than any single target that we attacked.
MARGARET WARNER: Another very controversial point was the emphasis on no American casualties. Now as a military man, does it bother you, do you think there's something sort of ignoble about the United States being the most powerful country on the planet and using that technological superiority to wage a war at low risk to our own soldiers even if it means higher risk of civilians on the ground?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Margaret, all of this talk about avoiding American casualties, most of it came from the press. I never got any guidance in that respect. In fact, Secretary Cohen and many others were very clear that this was a high-risk operation, or at least there were high risks involved in parts of it, and that we would likely have losses. In my setup of the air campaign, I set up four measures of merit that were designed to make sure we had an effective air campaign: one of these was to avoid the losses of aircraft. And the reason is very simple, because if you start losing aircraft at the start of an air campaign, you're going to have the clock ticking against you and people are going to say, "Well, how long can this go on?", and so it was a military imperative to... I mean think of the converse: What air campaign, what military operation do you ever know where we've sought casualties?
|A war without casualties?|
|MARGARET WARNER: But what you're saying, then, is, in a
way, it was to avoid having the political pressure to maybe end it prematurely
that led you and your civilian masters, I guess we'd say, to want to minimize
casualties as much?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I look at it more in the impact on the adversary. As you may recall at the beginning of the campaign, President Milosevic was trumpeting how many NATO aircraft had been shot down. "We shot down 13 today, there have been 73 shot..." They didn't. And it was their inability to reach out and affect us while we were able, each time, to strike them. And it was this succession of blows which created the inevitability of NATO's success in the minds of the Serbs and no doubt in the minds of president Milosevic. So this was not a political factor primarily; it was primarily a war-fighting factor. It's the way we sold the success of the campaign to our adversary.
MARGARET WARNER: So for better or worse, are you saying this is the war of the future?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Not necessarily. Every war is different. It's of its own kind. You have to set your objectives for that particular time and place, for that mission, you have to operate within the political constraints that are given you with the forces that are available. Every situation's going to be unique. But I think one thing is clear, that our air power, our precision weaponry, our ability to strike in the darkness and even in adverse weather conditions with brave and well-trained airmen from all the services, we've added a new dimension to warfare here, and that's very clear. I also want to be clear, though, that Task Force Hawk, with our 5,000 American soldiers that were deployed on the ground in Albania, was a significant factor in contributing to the ultimate outcome, as well it sent a long and strong message throughout the region that the United States and NATO were there, we were there to stay, we were there to win, we really meant it. We stiffened the resistance in Albania to Serb incursions across the border. We gave them the opportunity to put their army forward to defend their own frontiers, and we sealed in President Milosevic's mind the idea that he could somehow intimidate and destabilize neighboring states. We weren't going to permit it.
MARGARET WARNER: There was a sort of assumption throughout the war that the American public and the European public couldn't stand either a long way or a bloody war. Now... I mean you're not a pollster, but you're an American. Do you think that's true? Do you think that the American public is that squeamish, that unwilling to sacrifice?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think the American public has tremendous common sense about these things, and as the horrors in Kosovo begin to unfold, I think there was a surge in resolution and determination in both Europe and the United States. I'm convinced that NATO would have done whatever it took ultimately to prevail in this conflict.
MARGARET WARNER: And would you say, in fighting future wars, that the political leadership shouldn't assume that Americans are unwilling to take casualties?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I think that will depend very much on the circumstances, the objectives and the whole nature of the conflict itself.
|Looking to the 2000 elections.|
MARGARET WARNER: Finally, and this is something we're doing with a lot of our guests on the show-- are there issues coming out, all these issues we talked about tonight or others out of the conflict that you think should be publicly aired and debated in the next presidential campaign?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I hope we'll talk about in the next presidential campaign: foreign affairs. I think America's role in the world is vital, and I think there are some wonderful opportunities coming up for Americans in terms of business relationships, of education, of development through our exchanges and our interchange with other nations. There are great dreams afoot of Atlantic free trade areas of what we can do with technology-sharing and Internets world wide. And all of this depends on international understanding, cooperation and really a growth in interdependence. That has some particular responsibilities for the United States. We are the world's superpower whether we like it or not. And people around the world look for us to assure them of their security and to assure the international system of its stability. I think that's an issue that needs to be worked and there are many more.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you, General, very much.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Thank you, Margaret.