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Security Adviser Outlines When U.S. Will Use Force

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 7, March 7, 1996 – The United States will always be ready to use military force to defend American interests, said the nation's top security adviser.

During a speech at George Washington University March 6, Anthony Lake, President Clinton's assistant for national security affairs, outlined circumstances that may call for the use of military force:

- To defend against direct attacks on the United States, its citizens and its allies;

- To counter aggression;

- To defend U.S. key economic interests;

- To preserve, promote and defend democracy;

- To prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, international crime and drug trafficking;

- To maintain reliability, because when U.S. partnerships are strong and confidence in American leadership is high, it is easier to get others to follow Americas lead; and

- For humanitarian purposes, to combat famines, natural disasters and gross abuses of human rights.

None of these alone -- except for a direct attack -- should automatically lead to use of force, Lake said. But the greater the number of interests involved, the greater the likelihood force will be used. Lake said force would only be used "once all peaceful means have been tried and failed, and once we have measured a mission's benefits against its costs, in both human and financial terms."

The threat of force can achieve the same results as actually using it, according to Lake. "In Haiti, when the military regime learned the 82nd Airborne literally was on the way, it got out of the way," he said. "In the Persian Gulf, as soon as President Clinton moved American forces into the region, Iraq moved its troops away from Kuwait."

Selective force is sometimes more appropriate than massive force, Lake said. "President Clinton refused to engage our troops in a ground war in Bosnia because he knew that no outside power could force peace on the parties," he said. "To do so would have risked a Vietnam-like quagmire.

"But this summer, the combination of NATO's heavy and continuous air strikes, Bosnian and Croat gains on the ground, and our determined diplomacy convinced the Bosnian Serbs to stop making war and start making peace. Now our troops are in Bosnia not to fight a war, but to secure a peace they produced through the deliberate, calibrated use of force."

When sending American troops into a foreign country, Lake said, knowing how and when they're going to get out must be part of the mission strategy.

"When it comes to deterring external aggression as in the Persian Gulf or the Korean Peninsula or fighting wars in defense of our most vital security interests, a more open-ended commitment is necessary," he said. But when U.S. military serve to keep the peace in the wake of internal conflicts, success requires tightly tailored missions and sharp withdrawal deadlines, he said.

Clearly defining the mission is the first step in establishing an exit strategy, Lake said. In Haiti, U.S. forces returned the elected government to power and restored a secure climate so civilians could train a police force and hold elections, he said.

"In Bosnia, our soldiers are overseeing the implementation of the military side of the Dayton accords -- separating the armies, maintaining the cease-fire, securing transferred territory -- while civilian authorities help the Bosnia people rebuild their lives and their land."

Setting withdrawal based on the mission's goal is the next step, he said. "In Haiti, our military leaders informed the president that our troops could complete their military tasks in a year-and-a-half and in Bosnia in about one year -- and they will."

Carefully defining the mission and clearly setting a deadline serves notice the goal is to give people the breathing room to tackle their own problems, Lake said.

"Given the chance, the Haitian people quickly focused on the ballot, not the bullet; on trade, not terror; on hope, not despair," he said. In just 18 months, the Haitians held presidential, parliamentary and local elections, trained a police force, dramatically improved human rights and began reversing the economic decline of the coup years.

"For the U.S. forces who are leaving when we promised they would," Lake said, "we can say 'mission accomplished.'"

In Bosnia, Lake said, the people understand the military is there to give them an opportunity to rebuild their lives. "At the end of this year, when your troops leave, we can reasonably hope that the people of Bosnia will have developed a greater stake in peace than war," he said.

"The sooner people in conflicted countries recover the blessings of a normal life," Lake said, "the surer the chances our troops will leave behind them a legacy of peace and hope."#END#

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