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Gary Hart: Great pleasure for me. It's always a remarkable experience to be part of the era of 21st-century communication.
Gary Hart: Throughout the history of this country, we have had two armies. Up until the cold war, we had a relatively small professional standing army, and when there were problems in the world that challenged our interests, we have also had fairly large citizen reserves. I'm strongly advocating returning to a system where our standing army is about half or a third of its present size and that we increase our dependence on better-trained and better-equipped citizen reserves.
Gary Hart: I had in mind everyone in the country, not only the foreign-policy elite but also concerned citizens who wonder why we are maintaining a very large cold war military establishment seven years after the end of the cold war.
Gary Hart: I indicate in the preface of the book that having come through draft age between the Korean and Vietnam Wars that I sought and obtained student deferments. As a senator I requested and received a commission in the United States Navy as lieutenant, junior grade, the oldest in the services. I wish I had, in retrospect, active-duty service, but in response to the first part of the question, I've always had an interest in military history and served 12 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Gary Hart: It can certainly be done. It would take at least a decade to make the transition, and my philosophy is that we should fix the roof while the sun is shining. We have a very large and very expensive military designed to defeat the former Soviet Union, and therefore one less well prepared to fight the brushfire wars of the future. Once the American people understand this, I believe they will demand this reform.
Gary Hart: What inspired me was something that hasn't happened, and that is the absence of a serious national debate on the future of the U.S. military. We have had two national elections, two presidential elections since the cold war ended, and neither party nor its candidates has discussed the role of the military in the 21st century. The book was written to stimulate a debate.
Gary Hart: Far and away the most likely threat is not a major world war but low-intensity urban conflict between tribes, clans, and gangs. We should be prepared to organize and lead international intervention forces capable of enforcing the peace and protecting the lives of innocent civilians. Our military can be configured as a 911 rapid-response peacemaking capability.
Gary Hart: My headline response to Indian nuclear testing is: "Welcome to the 21st Century." Nuclear technology is now widespread throughout the world, and increasing numbers of nations will be able to produce nuclear materials. Even through tension exists between India and Pakistan, as it did between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union, those weapons will be used only if there is serious miscalculation on one side or the other. Asia as a region is much too large and diverse to render any kind of comprehensive threat evaluation. There will continue to be, as in the Indian subcontinent, old frictions, as in Indonesia, national disintegration, and in some parts of the region, tribal conflicts. In the vast majority of these, our land forces can and should play no role except to help keep the peace once it is restored. That does not mean, however, that our naval and air forces might not also help enforce the peace. The same general principles apply in Latin America as well.
Gary Hart: Absolutely. I recently met with an old and good friend, the secretary of defense, William Cohen, and he said that today's military could not operate without heavy participation by women. The same principle would apply in the reformed military structures that I envision.
Gary Hart: The best way would be for the President to initiate the debate by putting forward his own sweeping military-reform proposal. Then the Congress should hold hearings on that proposal, call in experts to testify, decide which parts of the proposal they agreed with or disagreed with, and perhaps modify and improve it in the process of these deliberations. All of this, while it's going on, will engage the opinion makers, who would write pros and cons, and very quickly the American people will become engaged in the debate. The conclusion would be that the best possible plan would be arrived at.
Gary Hart: I am not proposing either to weaken or diminish the military in its role in our foreign policy. It took us six months to get ready to fight the Persian Gulf War because of the limitations on our ability to move our permanent forces to the Persian Gulf area. Under my proposal, the standing forces would go quickly, and the reserves would be brought up and ready to support the early intervention forces in sufficient time when ships and planes were available to transport them, with the net result that we could intervene if necessary in any part of the world as quickly as we can today. The point is, our ability to deploy large-scale forces is limited by the number of ships and planes available. I am not advocating a smaller military, I am advocating a different kind of military.
Gary Hart: It depends on which service we are discussing. Air Force regular and reserve units are very successfully integrated. The Marine Corps regular and reserves are also increasingly successfully integrated. With regard to most of its reserve units, the Navy is integrating its reserves and regular forces as well, although the Navy is peculiar in that the deployment of its ships is for longer periods of time, and therefore it's difficult to bring the reserves in as fully as the other services. The basic regular reserve conflict is in the army. The regular Army wishes to maintain ten regular divisions. The Army Guard and reserves believe they can provide five of those divisions. But the regular army will not train and equip them sufficiently, preferring instead to keep the political power that the five regular divisions represent.
Gary Hart: Too soon. I have received invitations from at least one of the war colleges to lecture on my proposal, but it will take a month or two for the ideas to circulate.
Gary Hart: It depends on which troubles we are talking about. There are several kinds. Some are important and some are less important. The so-called personal or private issues are less important. The most serious are the fund-raising investigations and now, particularly, the allegations regarding Chinese government money. These are issues that represent a serious challenge to the Clinton administration. I was the first presidential candidate to refuse to take political action committee money. I believe the entire political structure in both parties is corrupted by special-interest money. Therefore the Republicans are not in a position of moral authority to condemn this administration. The entire system must be radically changed.
Gary Hart: Read as much as you can find. I recommend three books: THE TRANSFORMATION OF WAR by Martin Van Creveld, published in 1991, Robert Kaplan's book THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, published in 1996, and Samuel Huntington's book THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS, published also in 1996. Write opinion letters to your newspaper, ask questions of your elected members of Congress, and if you are seriously interested, join a local reserve unit.
Gary Hart: For 2,500 years, advocates of a republican form of government -- government by the people -- have consistently believed that a large professional army in peacetime is a danger to a republic. I strongly concur with that belief. It is very important for political leaders to have to justify the use of the military to the people they represent. This is most required when the commander in chief has to call up reserve units to fight a war abroad. This is the principle of my book.
Gary Hart: I estimate 500,000 to 700,000, with perhaps 1 to 1.5 million in reserve. But I am willing to be persuaded that the active duty numbers should be somewhat higher or somewhat lower.
Gary Hart: When I was in the Senate and since, I have continued to advocate a form of voluntary national service with a military/nonmilitary option. If there were insufficient volunteers for the reserve military I advocate, then it might be required for our country to have universal military training.
Gary Hart: My friend Mr. Beatty was not instrumental in persuading me to run initially. When I chose to withdraw from the race in 1987, he felt very strongly, as did my children and many of my friends, that I should reenter the race in late 1987, which I did for several months. I encourage everyone to go see his new movie, "Bulworth," both as entertainment and as a biting political commentary.
Gary Hart: The best model I can think of is the Israeli defense force, which is almost exactly the kind of military structure I advocate. Even though Israel is smaller than we are, it is constantly under threat, and it has found that its reserve soldiers are as fully capable as its regular forces. Of course there are also Switzerland and several other countries. Keep in mind, we are an island nation with no threatening nation on or near our borders.
Gary Hart: Based on what limited knowledge I have, which is basically the same as everyone else's, I see very little else we could be doing today that we are not doing. I continue to advocate, however, that we substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil to make ourselves more energy-secure and less susceptible to the threat of adverse regional forces in cutting off our oil supplies. This was basically the cause of our involvement in the Persian Gulf War.
Gary Hart: I think anyone adverse to us would wonder whether a military structure designed to fight a nonexistent enemy was capable of responding to some other kind of threat. That adverse leader would also note that it took us six months to deploy fully in the Persian Gulf, and finally, if there were sufficient citizens in this time of prosperity willing to join and participate in our reserve training programs, they would clearly draw the conclusion that we continue to be a nation committed to protecting our long-range interests.
Gary Hart: Buy my book and seriously engage in debate about the role of the military in our 21st century society, and insist that the news media give more attention to military issues. Thanks to barnesandnoble.com.