General Defends U.S. Intervention Abroad

Hundreds of people braved the cold weather Wednesday to hear a public address on national security by General Henry H. Shelton, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The speech dealt with the competing roles of diplomacy and military action in American foreign policy. Shelton said the armed forces should be deployed to defend "vital or important national interests."

Questions of military intervention become more problematic when the military intervenes to defend humanitarian interests, he said, pointing in NATO's recent campaign to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo as an example.

Shelton defended NATO's actions in Kosovo but added that armed intervention is not always necessary in such cases.

"The military is a great hammer," he said, "but not every problem is a nail."

Shelton explained the extensive tests that policymakers use to avoid or minimize the unintended consequences of military intervention.

One such device is the "Dover Test," in which policymakers ask themselves whether the American public is prepared to see human beings, "America's best resource," returning "in caskets."

Shelton maintained that, despite the risks involved, military action often presents the most efficient way of saving lives. He cited rescue missions after Hurricane Andrew hit the southeastern region of the country in 1992 and the armed intervention to prevent ethnic cleansing in Rwanda as examples of these situations.

The forum on Wednesday afternoon contained relatively few College students and a large number of people formerly or currently affiliated with the military. Several members of the audience asked Shelton to defend controversial national policies.

For example, some audience members criticized current economic sanctions against Iraq that they said have caused millions of deaths without weakening Saddam Hussein's popular support.

Shelton responded that the sanctions had not ousted Hussein from power but had succeeded in weakening his military capabilities.

"We feel for the Iraqi people under a dictator like Saddam," he said. "[The sanctions have] prevented him from rebuilding his armed forces...the military's main interest."

Audience members said they enjoyed the speech and appreciated Shelton's intelligence.

Teresa L. Bechtold '02 thought the general inspired confidence.

"[The address] convinced me that he was a very good leader," she said.

Others felt that while, the general was a good speaker, his answers were a little rote.

"[The address] was nothing truly different from what I expected," said Kevin J. Angle '03.

Shelton ended his address with a call for audience members to contribute to the nation.

"Whether in uniform or in suit...my sincere hope is that all of you dare to serve your country," he said.