Ford: Clinton should step up action in Kosovo by David Lias Former President Gerald R. Ford told an audience of 3,300 people Thursday night, April 8, in the DakotaDome at The University of South Dakota that the United States can not and should not be a policeman of the world in every part of the globe.
�We should start out with the areas that affect our security, and then if there is a very important and very obvious humanitarian effort, we can cooperate with others.�
Ford spoke for over an hour at the DakotaDome as part of the Farber Forum program. He said the United States is obligated to undertake whatever military operations are necessary where the country�s national security is definitely involved.
�There should be no hesitancy under those circumstances,� he said. �We must be more cautious when we undertake military action for totally humanitarian purposes. That is a significantly different decision than the one that involves our own national security.�
He admits that he is worried as the White House, in recent weeks, has ordered air attacks on Kosovo in attempt to stop ethnic cleansing by the Serbs.
He noted that the United States currently has approximately 7,000 military personnel in Bosnia, troops in Haiti, and a significant military commitment in the Persian Gulf.
�All of these commitments are taking place at a time when we have significantly reduced our military appropriations,� Ford said. �At the height of the Cold War, we were spending roughly $400 billion a year for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.�
Now that the Cold War is over, those military appropriations were drastically reduced to $250 billion per year, he said.
�We, as a result, cut back airplanes, cut back Army divisions, and cut back the number of men and women on active duty,� Ford said, �and as this progress takes place, we are now engaged in the conflict in Kosovo.
�I wonder if we might be cutting our forces too thinly, and leaving ourselves vulnerable to some problem that might arise and we would have to respond in a massive way,� he added.
The former chief executive called on the Clinton White House to beef up the military.
�I think the administration, if they are going to continue to make this military commitments, has to take drastic action to increase appropriations for the Pentagon and provide for more air wings, more divisions and more ships,� Ford said.
Ford said he publicly supports Clinton and gives his backing to American troops. But he said that the president and his advisors may have not have foreseen that the outcome of the air attacks on Kosovo would turn out to be less than expected and give rise to a huge refugee problem.
�We have three choices: massive military with air and ground troops to defeat (Yugoslav leader Slobodan) Milosevic, withdraw and admit defeat, or continue as we are today,� he said. �I have gone through the tragedy of Vietnam and found it is better to be strong than weak.
�I would advise the president to take the stronger action,� Ford added.
The former president noted that he has witnessed the triumph of democracy over tyranny numerous times since his birth in 1913, including victories involving the Great Depression, two world wars and the Cold War.
To insure that the nation�s winning ways continue, he added, young people must get involved in the business of running of the country.
�I would tell young people today ?Get into the political arena. You can be an effective part of it. The hours are long; the problems are tough, but you get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from feeling that you�ve contributed in trying to make your state or your country a better place. Our country deserves your participation,� � Ford said.