- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.
Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander-in-chief of Central Command,
entered a growing debate on Thursday, saying the U.S. military had grown
too small to meet its commitments.
- Zinni, who retires from the Marine Corps on Friday, told
CNN it would be much more difficult now for the United States to launch
Operation Desert Storm, the successful 1991 military campaign to expel
Iraqi occupying forces from Kuwait. Zinni ended his command of U.S. forces
in the Gulf in July.
- ``I believe the military is too small for the current
kinds of commitments that we have,'' Zinni told CNN. ``And you either need
to change the structure of the military and the size and the manning, or
you need to change the strategy.''
- But he said he did not see the United States retreating
from its leadership role worldwide.
- ``We are the world's leader. We fill a void. There is
no one out there that even comes close to fulfilling the leadership role
that we have, and some of the moral responsibilities that we take on,''
- Zinni's comments came as U.S. military officials have
defended themselves against attacks by Republican presidential candidate
George W. Bush, who has charged that President Clinton and his administration
have allowed U.S. military readiness and morale to slip badly.
- Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff,
last week insisted that all U.S. Army divisions were ready for combat duty.
- But he conceded that America's armed forces did have
``some readiness shortfalls'' that could not be fixed overnight.
- A Pentagon spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Zinni's
remarks, but noted that just last week, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon had
said that under Clinton the United States had ``an extremely lethal, fast-moving
military ... a stronger, more supple military.''
- CNN said Zinni believed the U.S. Army should regain the
two divisions that were cut over the past years and expressed frustration
that he had been unable to keep a U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in the
Gulf all year round, CNN said.
- The network quoted Zinni as saying that the U.S. military
had been pared down to such an extent that it could still carry out its
bedrock strategy of winning two major wars at nearly the same time -- but
only at the risk of higher casualties.
- Former Defense Secretary William Perry and former chairman
of the joint chiefs of staff, John Shalikashvili, also weighed in on the
issue in Thursday's Washington Post, saying the United States had ``the
most powerful military force in the world today.''
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