General Kroesen Rebuts Senator Leahy on Landmine Ban

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(Washington, D.C.): On 19 June, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the
prime-mover in Congress
behind efforts to ban anti-personnel landmines (APLs), responded testily to an Open Letter to the
Senate. The Senator’s peevishness was evidence of the problem this letter represents for his
cause: It was signed by sixteen of the Nation’s most distinguished four-star ground combat
commanders — including five former Commandants of the Marine Corps,
a Chief of Staff of
the Army
and a former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (who
happens also to be a
former Secretary of State) — who strongly disagree with the Leahy APL
initiative.(1) Then, on 1
July, one of these highly respected commanders, General Frederick J. Kroesen,
challenged the Senator’s premises and the benign effects he contends such a ban would have on
America’s military forces.

The Leahy Gambits

Gen. Kroesen’s letter (a facsimile of which is attached)
responds broadly to both the sentiments
expressed in Senator Leahy’s correspondence and to the thrust of an amendment he successfully
offered to the Fiscal Year 1999 Defense authorization bill. The former tried to use the Clinton
Administration position — which has recently morphed from opposition to the Ottawa Treaty
banning landmines to a commitment, in principle, for the United States to become a party to that
treaty by 2006 — as political cover for a militarily indefensible position.

The latter would impose a legislative “fence” around $17.2 million of the funds authorized for
Defense Department, allowing these funds to be expended solely for the purpose of exploring
“existing and new tactics, technologies and operational concepts” that a) would provide a combat
capability that is comparable to that provided by APLs, including those in “mixed systems” href=”#N_2_”>(2) and
b) comply with the Ottawa landmine ban treaty. Adoption of this language by a voice vote marks
the first time one of the houses of Congress has explicitly embraced the idea that “new tactics” or
“operational concepts” could be used to offset the effects of the loss of the use of APLs.

Clinton ‘Crosses the Line’

This is, of course, the thrust of the deal struck in May between Sen. Leahy by
National Security
Advisor Sandy Berger
and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen.
(the latter reportedly without consulting the other Chiefs). As
stated in the 15 May letter
Berger sent Sen. Leahy formalizing their deal:

    The United States will search aggressively for alternatives to our
    mixed anti-tank
    by (a) actively exploring the use of APL alternatives in place of the
    self-destructing anti-personnel submunitions
    currently used in our mixed systems and
    (b) exploring the development of other techniques and/or operational
    result in alternatives that would enable us to eliminate our mixed systems entirely.”

The $17.2 million carved out by the Leahy amendment almost surely will not be
sufficient to
identify an alternative to APLs and “mixed systems.” It is absolutely certain, though,
there are no funds — by some estimates $300 million would be required to replace U.S.
mixed systems alone — needed actually to equip U.S. forces with such substitutes for these

This reality reinforces the suspicion that the Clinton Administration will simply
decide to
eliminate these weapons without replacement and rely, instead, upon what it is
euphemistically calling changes in “tactics” and “operational concepts.”
Such changes —
the sixteen four-stars observed in their Open Letter to the Senate — almost certainly will translate
into “accepting more casualties.”

‘What, Me Sacrifice American Troops?’

To be sure, Senator Leahy declares in his letter sent to Gen. Kroesen and other signatories of
Open Letter: “Let me assure you, neither I, nor I am sure General Ralston, have any intention of
jeopardizing the security of our armed forces.” While that may not be the intention, it
surely be the result of his efforts to euchre the U.S. government into signing onto the
Ottawa landmine ban.

The fact that the Administration has agreed to such an approach is all the more appalling in
of the fact that on 17 September 1997, President Clinton declared that he would not agree to sign
the Ottawa landmine ban because:

    “As Commander-in-Chief, I will not send our soldiers to defend the freedom of
    our people and the freedom of others without doing everything we can to make
    them as secure as possible …. There is a line that I simply cannot cross, and that line
    is the safety and security of our men and women in uniform

As the Center for Security Policy noted when the Clinton-Leahy deal was disclosed on
eve of Memorial Day,(3) “President Clinton has
now crossed the line that assures the ‘safety
and security of our men and women in uniform.'”
So have those who are embracing
euphemisms like changed “tactics” and “operational concepts” to put U.S. forces in jeopardy.

Sen. Leahy’s Next Stop — the Foreign Operations Appropriations

No less misleading, if not absolutely disingenuous, is Sen. Leahy’s contention in his missive to
Open Letter’s authors that “my amendment does not legislate a ban on anti-personnel mines.”
The exact language of the amendment he had circulated before the Defense authorization bill was
taken up by the Senate — and the one that he may yet offer on an appropriations bill (Foreign
Operations, for which he will serve as minority floor manager, or Defense appropriations)
expected to be considered in the next few weeks — has a “policy” section that reads as follows:
“It shall be the policy of the United States Government to sign the Ottawa Landmine
Convention by 2006
if suitable alternatives to anti-personnel landmines and mixed mine
are identified and fielded.” It goes on to provide statutory direction concerning “Implementation
of Policy” which reads “The Department of Defense shall urgently take all necessary actions in
order to fully implement the policy [above] as soon as possible.”

On its face, Sen. Leahy’s amendment would appear to leave open the possibility that if
alternatives” are not “identified and fielded” by 2006, this policy would not be implemented. In
fact, as his letter — and, more importantly, the letter from Sandy Berger which commits the
Clinton Administration to sign onto the Ottawa treaty — make clear, the Senator and
now the
Administration are determined to take that step whether there are suitable alternatives or

Specifically, the Berger letter makes the following undertakings without qualification:
United States will destroy by 1999 all of its non-self-destructing APLs, except those
for Korea
” and “The United States will end the use of all APLs
outside Korea by 2003,
including those that self-destruct.
” In other words, irrespective of the
availability of alternatives,
the U.S. military will not be allowed to use landmines outside of Korea after 2003.

Sen. Leahy has also made clear, both in his letter dated 19 June, and elsewhere, his “hope and
belief that we can get [to signature of the Ottawa treaty] sooner [than 2006]….” It is
that, if the Senator can get this Leahy amendment written into law, he and the other
landmine activists will begin pressing to accelerate that date.

The Bottom Line

In a nutshell, this is the state of play: The United States is being inexorably moved down the
slippery slope toward a total cut-off of the use of APLs and “mixed systems.” Sen. Leahy is
working closely with Clinton Administration officials — including an unrepresentative
representative of the JCS — to foreclose such use. As a practical matter, they are willing to
accept more casualties on the part of American troops if necessary to advance the agenda of
banning landmines as soon as possible. And the Leahy-Clinton team is going to some lengths to
obfuscate the true character of their initiatives and the adverse military repercussions they are
likely to have.

For these reasons, the clear, forceful words of General Kroesen are all the more noteworthy.
concluded his letter to Sen. Leahy with the following two paragraphs that every Member of
Congress should take to heart:

    “I understand the desire for alternate means and will be happy to endorse them and
    urge their adoption if they become available. But I object to target dates,
    expressions of clear intentions and promises to conform because they have a way
    of becoming deadlines and self-fulfilling requirements that work to the detriment
    of our forces.

    “I assure you, Senator Leahy, that my compassion for the populations threatened
    by existing mines that are scattered throughout the world is no less than that of
    those wishing to ban them. I understand that the convention wants to prevent
    future occurrences of the same problem. I just do not want U.S. forces, put in
    harm’s way, to be denied tools that they employ responsibly, that contribute
    neither to the world’s current problem nor the resolution thereof.

    (Emphasis added.)

– 30 –

1. For a text of the Open Letter
, see the Center’s Decision
entitled Fourteen of America’s
Most Respected Military Figures Urge Senate to Protect U.S. Troops From Dangerous
Landmine Ban
(No. 98-D 111, 16 June 1998). See
also the Press Release entitled Generals Al
Gray, David Maddox Join Call for Senate to Protect U.S. Troops by Opposing Leahy
Landmine Ban
(No. 98-P 114, 19 June 1998).

2. “Mixed systems” are landmines that combine anti-personnel
weapons with anti-tank weapons
to minimize the chances that mines designed to be set off by vehicles are not easily cleared.

3. See the Center’s Decision Brief entitled
Some Memorial Day: Clinton Forgets the Military
in Embracing Landmine Ban That Will Put Them At Risk
( href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=98-D_89″>No. 98-D 89, 23 May 1998).

Center for Security Policy

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