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General Wesley Clark, Former Nato Commander, Europe
General Wesley Clark, Former Nato Commander, Europe
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: GENERAL WESLEY CLARK FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, EUROPE OCTOBER 28TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
Well the nature of warfare has indeed been one of the things that changed in the wake of September the 11th. The allies are fighting a largely unknown force, terrorism, which is a radical departure from the adversaries of old but can lessons still be learned from the past. One of the key military figures in the latter half of the 20th century was and is now General Wesley Clark, the former Nato Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, he joins me now on the occasion also of the publication of a memoir here which concentrates a lot on, of course on Kosovo, Waging Modern War, welcome General.

WESLEY CLARK:
Thank you David, it's nice to be with you.

DAVID FROST:
Very good to have you with us. I suppose that in fact the current war, there's relatively few comparisons with Kosovo, more almost in some ways with Vietnam?

WESLEY CLARK:
Actually I was surprised as I looked at the current operations how similar they are to Kosovo. It began with a problem in defining the precise objectives, the plan has to be adapted, there is a reliance on air power, there is a reluctance to take casualties, there's difficulty in getting into the ground operations, the media's always present. This is precisely modern war, it's exactly what we fought in Kosovo and one thing to bear in mind here is the key to success in this operation is not just in Afghanistan, but as Michael Rose, one of your guests said earlier, it's in the hearts and minds of the Muslim population all over the world. It's precisely the way we brought down Milosevic in this campaign, we did execute the air campaign on the ground but we threatened a ground campaign against Milosevic and we isolated him. So the military instrument was only a small part of the larger weight of pressure against Milosevic which caused him to fold. Similarly in this campaign it's moving ahead we've got to the see the action, Afghanistan's only a small part of what's really going on and what must go on.

DAVID FROST:
That's a fascinating comparison, one of the, one of the differences though of course is that your operation had a short life and we're getting so many different estimates at the moment about how long this is going to be, four years, 50 years against terrorism, Don Rumsfeld said five years, I mean where do you stand on the timing of all this?

WESLEY CLARK:
Well I think timing in war's very unpredictable, luck plays an enormous factor in Kosovo of course many predicted it would be over right away, I never believed that but I had no idea how long it would last and the way we made it last only 78 days was by having plans to follow up with a ground force and an invasion that would have lasted several more months. It could have lasted several years, I, I assume, although we never, we never said that or ever considered it so I think when one's in the midst of something like this you have to plan for an indefinite duration for the operation.

DAVID FROST:
Indefinite duration?

WESLEY CLARK:
Indefinite duration.

DAVID FROST:
You can't set it out, and if you do promise a definite duration you have another problem there with the hearts and minds of people?

WESLEY CLARK:
Yeah the real problem, you have to keep expectations low and then you have to get a momentum of success behind you, I kept saying during the war we're winning, Milosevic is losing and he knows it, he did and gradually that momentum took hold against him. Here what the United States and Britain have to do is establish the momentum but not just on the ground in Afghanistan with the air strikes and special forces raids, but throughout the world diplomatic community.

DAVID FROST:
And indeed the world Muslim community as you said earlier, not just the diplomats is itżit's getting through tożand some things, do you think some things, are proving to be a mixed blessing or indeed unwise, I mean there seems to be a lot of concern about the cluster bombing, do you think that that fits, fits into what we promised to do as proportionate and exact?

WESLEY CLARK:
I think that the statesmen and the military leaders have to weigh off the benefits to the cluster bombs versus their impact. They're the right weapon by military doctrine for certain types of soft targets, they're actually more precise, less likely to go astray and do less collateral damage through blast, let's say, than a 500 or 200,00lb bomb. But all the cluster munitions don't explode and so some remain behind and are dangerous to those who come afterwards. So I think the military has to weigh the benefits and the cost of this.

DAVID FROST:
Yes and they say that their colour, the yellow colour is the same as that of the food parcels which is an unfortunate confusion. Tell me what did you learn from Kosovo about the problems of running a coalition war?

WESLEY CLARK:
Well the basic rule on a coalition is that people's views and interests are different at the outset and if you're going to hold a coalition together you have to get all of them into the tent with you and hold them there. So I used the analogy of you sort of get the camel's nose under the tent and then you're inside the tent and you pull the camel in and you hold him there. And this is what happened in Nato, at the outset different nations had different interests and some said well maybe this, you know this can only go for a couple of days and so forth. But then they begin to understand the Kosovo campaign wasn't about Kosovo, it was about Nato and for Nato's sake they all had a vital interest in the outcome and so they stayed within the campaign. That's the same way the coalition has to be built here, this isn't about Afghanistan, it's certainly not even about the bombing of the World Trade Centres and the Pentagon, it's really about the struggle for the heart and soul of Islam and how states can meet the needs of their people, what kind of world we want to live in and so I think that's the basis on which a very broad and powerful coalition can be built and has to be built.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of the European Rapid Reaction Force, you are in a unique position to say whether you think that's an understandably good idea for Europe or on the other stand that it will weaken Nato?

WESLEY CLARK:
Well I think it's a good idea if it leads to a stronger European contributions to their defence, I think it's a bad idea if it becomes an excuse for the United States to opt out of Nato, or active participation in European security affairs.

DAVID FROST:
Thank you very much indeed, thank you for being with us and, and those insights on the, it's very interesting how war has changed from, from the previous people who invaded Afghanistan among other things.

WESLEY CLARK:
Exactly right.

DAVID FROST:
General thank you very much.

WESLEY CLARK:
Thank you David.

DAVID FROST:
Our thanks to General Wesley Clark.

END


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