Isolation Wrong for America, Shalikashvili Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 2, 1996 Isolation is wrong for America, the nation's ranking military officer said recently.
Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said if the United States doesn't lead the world, then some other nation with possibly dire consequences for the world will lead.
The chairman, speaking to the Electronic Industries Association, said involvement in world affairs means the United States must keep a strong and capable military. This means no more cuts, he said.
Calls for the United States to disengage from world affairs are growing more strident, the chairman said. "Are we still the nation where the world's downtrodden can come to create new lives or should we hang out a 'not welcome' sign and insulate ourselves, husbanding our resources for our own citizens?" he asked.
He said many critics contend the United States is too exhausted from the Cold War to continue to lead. He contrasted the load today's Americans bear with the one shouldered by the generation that came of age during World War II. Americans then had seen the death of more than 300,000 fellow citizens. More than 600,000 Americans suffered wounds during the war. The United States spent over half its gross national product on defense.
"[Americans of 50 years ago] didn't feel so exhausted and depleted that they would have withdrawn from Europe and Asia or that they would have left the fate of the world to the designs of a man named Stalin," he said.
Even at the height of the President Reagan's defense buildup in the mid-1980s, Shalikashvili said, the United States never spent more than about 7 percent of its gross national product on defense. "And while there were casualties during the Cold War, certainly they were never on a scale with that earlier generation. We hardly have the excuse of exhaustion to fall back on,"he remarked.
Since the United States has chosen to remain involved in world affairs, the military must remain strong now and in the future, the chairman said. "It isn't enough to ensure this force is ready today. We must also ensure it will be ready tomorrow. That means we must replace aging equipment before it becomes too old and unreliable for use. We must have a prudent modernization program."
At the same time, he said, the military must protect the men and women of the armed forces. "They are as well-educated, as proud, as dedicated and as skilled as any force America has ever fielded. If we wish to keep them and continue to recruit more like them, the we must protect their pay and benefits. I know of no wiser investment for this nation."