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I have become increasingly concerned by the degree with which the
current administration contemplates or initiates military operations
without due consideration of all the factors that are involved once we
set the nation’s forces in motion to go in harm’s way. The
constitutional power to declare war is clearly vested in the Congress.
Having won the struggle with an 18th Century “super” power that had
invaded with troops ordered into action by a head of state with
authority unfettered by legislative restraint, the founders recognized
that the Congress, as the representatives of the people, must agree to
such drastic action while being kept fully informed by the
president.

What occurred in the Vietnam conflict, in which I was intimately
involved, showed the wisdom of the Constitution because the Constitution
was not followed. There was no proper contemplation by the Congress of a
“war” and, indeed, the administration went to great pains to see that it
was not viewed as a “war” by the American people. I know because as
commander of the Pacific Fleet I was chastised by Secretary of Defense
McNamara for referring to it as a “war” in statements to the press — a
criticism that I answered by saying that the people in Washington might
not think it a “war,” but to those out here fighting it — IT IS.

Later, when the rules of engagement set by that administration
favored the enemy at the expense of our own forces, the Congress was
finally forced to face up to its responsibilities, but too late to
recover initiatives that would have paved the way for victory at the
outset. Given this background we should have learned from these events
to the point that our senators and representatives should be saying
collectively: “never again, until we have the facts.”

What are some of the items upon which the Congress should be fully
informed with regard to Kosovo now?

First: Within our national strategy what are our goals in intervening
in the Yugoslavian civil war and why and how do we intend to achieve
them? Is Kosovo an independent nation that we would be assisting or is
it part of Serbia? If Kosovo aspires to independence, then who are the
people that would lead it, and would they form a government that would
benefit our national interests? Or, would they follow the model of Iran
where we allowed the shah to be deposed only to see that nation fall
under the influence of thoroughly anti-American leaders?

Second: Does the Congress have adequate knowledge of the Kosovo
Liberation Army? Are the reports true that the virulently anti-American
Saudi of great wealth, Osama bin Laden, has trained large elements of
the KLA? Why did the Department of State until recently classify the KLA
as a “terrorist” organization? What about reports of Iranian
involvement? By choosing sides with the KLA against Serbia would we be
assisting this element of Islamic terrorism and possibly creating a
greater threat to the U.S. from a strategic perspective than that posed
by the former Yugoslavia (which has not demonstrated any interest in
going beyond its pre-dissolution borders)? Only a few days ago the
London Times reported that the KLA was a Marxist-led force funded by
drug money. If this is true, how is this compatible with our interests?

Third: Is it the view of the administration that intervention in this
civil war can be effective in achieving objectives, once those
objectives are defined by the Administration, by the use of air power
alone? If so, are such attacks to be limited to long range missile
strikes and smart bombs or will massive carpet-bombing be required? In
this regard we know that air power has great effect in the support of
ground troops but has serious limitations when used by itself in either
controlling an enemy or enforcing our will on a reluctant government. If
it is used just to send a political message and planes are lost and
airmen taken prisoner, it rebounds to our discredit and the enemy’s
gain.

Most important of all: does NATO have a contingency plan for
intervening with ground troops?
Who will set the “rules of
engagement” for U.S. forces employed in the air, on the sea, or on the
ground?

Fourth: Based on the recent report of the General Accounting Office
(an arm of the Congress) and what the National Security Committee of the
House has reported with regard to the 14 consecutive cuts in the defense
budget which invalidates the long-standing policy of our country to be
able to win two major regional conflicts simultaneously, the Congress
should insist on knowing now whether or not the administration
plans to introduce troops on the ground. If so, for what period of time?
Under whose command will U.S. troops serve? What are the objectives for
these troops? Would they be used just to remove Serbian forces from the
province of Kosovo or would they be expected to go all the way to
Belgrade? In the latter case, would we physically remove Slobodan
Milosevic when we didn’t go all the way to Baghdad and remove Saddam
Hussein?

Fifth: Is there not a danger of overextending ourselves militarily by
this action and leaving ourselves vulnerable elsewhere? With our missile
stocks depleted from recent strikes in Iraq along with cuts in our
divisional strength, should not the Congress know what this action in
the Balkans would mean in terms of the recent expansion by Red China in
the Western Pacific? Also, are not we inviting Russia to become more
active behind the scenes in helping their long time ally Serbia with
military and technical assistance?

In my testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee less than
one year ago, I pointed to the weakness we face in logistic support of
our deployed forces with the reductions already made in the number of
ships immediately available to us in an emergency. With those forces
increasingly tied down in Europe and Korea and in light of the
development of Red China’s rapid advances in missile technology in
addition to their deal with Panama that will give them virtual control
of Panama Canal at the end of the this year, how are we prepared to
ensure logistic support of our troops in what could quickly become the
scenario of two major wars with one in the Atlantic and the other in the
Pacific should we be obliged to support Taiwan to prevent its fall to
Red China by aggressive action?

Finally, when I speak of “rules of engagement” and our failure in
Vietnam I refer to, inter alia, our failure to mine Haiphong
Harbor at the outset, our drawing artificial lines that could not be
crossed by our attack aircraft that provided sanctuary for the enemy
(i.e., denying “hot pursuit”) and allowing the enemy to develop missile
sites until they were activated, forcing our pilots to defend themselves
only on a reactive basis. I appreciate that in the case of Serbia the
rules may have to be quite different to avoid commencing Balkan War
Number III in this century, but they are questions that should be asked
by the “loyal opposition” in Congress, not left unanswered.

If Congress would demonstrate a willingness to take up the role
assigned to it by the Constitution and rein in this out of control
situation, then perhaps the Yugoslavian people could be persuaded to do
something to restrain their executive. The present course of action does
not have much promise of producing positive results.


Admiral Thomas H. Moorer is a former chairman
of the joint chiefs; chief of naval operations; commander-in-chief,
Pacific Fleet; supreme allied commander, Atlantic, and
commander-in-chief, Atlantic Fleet. He is the honorary chairman of U.S.
Defense-American Victory in Washington, D.C. This article is adapted
from a letter delivered to the Republican Senate leadership on March 25,
1999, and discussed with them at that time. It has also been read and
discussed among some members of the House.

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