Senior U.S. Officials Assail Lone-Superpower Policy

by Patrick E. Tyler
The New York Times
March 11, 1992


Senior White House and State Department officials have harshly criticized a draft Pentagon policy statement that asserts that America's mission in the post-cold-war era will be to prevent any collection of friendly or unfriendly nations from competing with the United States for superpower status.

One Administration official, familiar with the reaction of senior officials at the White House and State Department, characterized the document as a "dumb report" that "in no way or shape represents U.S. policy."

At the Pentagon today, a spokesman, Pete Williams, pointedly disavowed some of the central policy statements in the draft document, which has been circulating among the military chiefs of staff and the civilian secretaries of the four military services since Feb. 18.

A Tactical Withdrawal

Still, he defended parts of the document and said its basic thrust mirrors the public statements and testimony of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

To judge from today's comments by Mr. Williams, reaction in Congress and from senior Administration officials prompted a tactical withdrawal by the Pentagon. Western European and third world diplomats here were sharply critical of some of the language in the document.

In Congress today, Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, called the draft Pentagon document "myopic, shallow and disappointing."

"In the long run, it will be counterproductive to the very goal of world leadership that it cherishes," he said.

Reflects Internal Debate

The final version of the Pentagon's classified "Defense Planning Guidance" may still be weeks away, but it seemed clear today that the draft, disclosed in an article in The New York Times on Sunday, and the reaction to it reflected an internal debate within the Bush Administration over America's military role in the next century.

The draft document disclosed a substantial body of opinion in the Defense Department seeking to justify a large military establishment that would keep much of the peace in a one-superpower world; in this view, any aspirations of allies like Germany, Japan and Russia for regional leadership would be regarded with suspicion.

Opposed to this view are officials arguing for a more diminished American military role, more emphasis on collective action through the United Nations and regional alliances and a strategy to engage the military establishments of former adversaries in new collective security arrangements.

Statement to Indian

Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger was said to have told an Indian delegation to disregard a portion of the document that warns of India's hegemonic intentions in South Asia. Mr. Eagleburger told the visiting Indian officials that the language did not represent American policy, an Administration official said.

One Western official, whose Government works closely with Washington, telephoned from a foreign capital today to express his opinion that the Pentagon text "runs counter to the kind of multilateralism and commitment to the United Nations that we had expected to emerge after the cold war." The official said he believed the document caused alarms to go off in many capitals, with governments asking, "Where do the rest of us fit into the game plan?"

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Mr. Williams said that the Pentagon document, when finished, would not assert as the draft does that American military power should be used in the future to both prevent or deter the emergence of regional "competitors" in Western Europe, Asia and in the former Soviet Union.

"The United States is not looking for a unilateral role in the world," he said."What we are saying is that we want to stay involved with our allies. We want to remain part of the community of nations."

Covering Memorandum

At a Pentagon briefing, Mr. Williams continued to assert that the draft document had not circulated at a high level and had not been read or approved by Mr. Cheney or his undersecretary for policy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, whom other Pentagon officials have said was in charge of its drafting.

A covering memorandum on the draft written by Mr. Wolfowitz's deputy indicates that it was sent on Feb. 18 to Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President's principal military adviser, as well as to all four military chiefs of staff and the civilian service secretaries.

General Powell's Vice Chairman, Adm. David E. Jeremiah, and Mr. Wolfowitz have referred in public recently to the preparation of the policy document, which is meant to guide the preparation and planning of military budgets and forces in a two-year cycle.

Mr. Williams said he could not resolve the conflict between his assertion that the document has been circulating at "the deputy assistant secretary level" and the Feb. 18 covering memorandum that indicates otherwise. The memorandum asks that the senior officials make only substantive comments on the draft and return them to Mr. Wolfowitz's office by the "close of business Feb. 21." This reference indicates, one Pentagon official said, that Mr. Cheney's principal deputies and the military chiefs had fully reviewed and responded to the draft and forwarded their comments on it last month.

In defending the document, Mr. Williams said, "The defense planning guidance does not say, will not say" that "we are abandoning collectivism."

Continuing, he said, "the idea that we are concerned about other nations gaining in prominence is also not correct. We are concerned, and the secretary said over and over in his testimony, that we are concerned about hostile powers dominating any regions of critical interest to us."

Questioned about specific statements in the draft referring to the possibility that "competitors" for global power might arise from Western Europe and East Asia, Mr. Williams said, "What we seek to prevent is the emergence of a hostile power, a hostile superpower."

An Administration official said the document would have to be approved by a National Security Council review, where it would be read by Secretary of State James A. Baker 3d and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. Neither official has seen the draft, the Administration official said. Referring to the draft, the official added, "The issue here is whether this is policy; it definitely is not policy.


Copyright 1992 The New York Times Company

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