Bozak 2008-09-25 10:45:56
The Last Word: Wesley Clark
Marching on Washington?
July 14 issue – For a self-described “nonpolitical” person, Gen. Wesley K.
Clark finds himself in an unusual position: considering a run for the White
House. Earlier this year, a grass-roots organization started a campaign to
persuade the four-star general to run in 2004. Clark recently received more
than a thousand letters from supporters in New Hampshire urging him to run,
and last week draftwesleyclark.com opened its national headquarters in
FOR DEMOCRATS LOOKING to take back the Oval Office, Clark’s resume
is a godsend-he spent 34 years in the military and served as NATO Supreme
Allied Commander and commander in chief of the U.S. European Command from
1997 to May 2000. Clark has not yet decided to take the plunge, but his name
has got America buzzing. NEWSWEEK’s Michael Hastings asked for his views on
how Washington is handling its global role. Excerpts:
HASTINGS: What could you bring to table that the other candidates
CLARK: I’ve never really addressed that issue. I’m considering this
candidacy because a lot of people have confidence in me and have asked me to
consider it. To me, it’s really about the issues. I saw it starting to go
wrong before the  election. I met with Condi Rice. She told me she
believed that American troops shouldn’t be keeping the peace-they were the
only ones who could kill people and conquer countries, and that’s what they
should be focused on doing. What she was telling me [was] that she, as a
potential Republican national-security adviser, didn’t support our
engagement in Europe. So I saw it going wrong from there. Then, as the
administration took office, I saw more and more what I believed were
misunderstandings and missed opportunities.
Where does the United States go from here in Iraq?
You have to define what success is, and then you have to work toward
it. I would define it politically. Put in place some kind of Iraqi
government that [has] some semblance of democracy. The first thing I’d be
doing right now [is] calling provisional, national, regional and local
councils together from all parties before elections are held. I would ask
for their assistance, their ideas and their support in producing security in
the region first and guarding the remaining economic infrastructure. I would
lay out to them the limitations of the United States’ capabilities. I’d try
to get the Iraqis increasingly involved in taking responsibilities. Put an
Iraqi face on all the actions that you can and as much of the decision
making as possible.
Where does the United Nations fit in?
I’ve always felt the United Nations should have been involved. You
need the U.N. for legitimacy, to get nations to cough up forces. They’re
putting the troops in harm’s way; they want some credit for it from their
electorate. And they’re not going to get any credit by saying, “Hey, we’re
really good friends with George W. Bush.” It has to be theUnited Nations.
How is Iraq affecting the war on terror?
If you talk to the people on the inside, they all [say] you can’t do
everything at once. I know the administration says it thinks it can, but the
honest truth is if you’re looking one place, you’re not looking someplace
else. Ultimately, Washington is sort of a one-crisis town.
What do you think of President Bush’s using war imagery as a
political tool, like when he recently flew onto an aircraft carrier?
The world expects something more of an American president than to
prance around on a flight deck dressed up like [a] pilot. He’s expected to
be a leader. That’s my fundamental issue with it. It doesn’t reflect the
gravitas of the office. Furthermore, it’s a little phony.
Where does military strength fit in concerning U.S. power?
It’s [a] question of three or four different things. A strong
America is not strong only because of its military. Our strength comes from
a robust, diverse economy and an engaged citizenry, and values, and a
structure that other nations admire and emulate. The military is just one
component of U.S. power.
What should Washington do to patch things up with its old allies in
In my vision of American national policy, we would seek the
strongest possible linkage with Europe. I see a strong transatlantic
alliance as the key fulcrum for all else America does in the world. I’m not
sure the administration sees it that way.
If you decide to run, will you be looking forward to the political
I love being in the business community. I’m thrilled at the prospect
that someday I might be able to create jobs for other people. On the other
hand, I’ve always liked the battle of ideas. And to me, competing in the
political arena should be first and foremost about the ideas and
perspectives that candidates would bring to the tasks, then following
through on what’s been promised.
By choice, I saw a different war than most Americans. It was a war that I
still believe was illegal, immoral and wrong. It was a war that our leaders
had to justify with lies and crude propaganda. It was a war without glory,
Randolph T. Holhut