Hart talks about U.S. military intervention
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE – Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart said the world is likely to see repeated and frequent challenges, such as the political unrest in North Africa, for the foreseeable future.
In order to meet those challenges rationally and with the support of the U.S. electorate, Hart said, President Obama and every successive president must outline “a framework of principles” for U.S. military involvement, and “bring the Department of Defense into the 21st century” in its approach to nontraditional conflicts around the globe.
Hart spoke Saturday evening to a packed house of more than 100 people at the Thunder River Theatre, at the invitation of the Roaring Fork Cultural Council. He served Colorado in the U.S. Senate for two terms, and ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the office of president.
Holding his audience rapt with humor and insight, Hart touched on subjects ranging from his study of Thomas Jefferson, principle author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and former president, to his globetrotting diplomatic work over the years since he retired from public office. His comments and answers to questions largely focused on U.S. foreign policy and military intervention.
“Several times every year, the president, whomever the president is, is going to face this kind of choice,” he said. Presidents must weigh the risks in sending U.S. military forces into action against dictators who are facing popular revolts.
Hart said President Obama’s decision to lead a coalition of allies in establishing a “no-fly” zone over the North African nation of Libya, as a way of preventing Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi from slaughtering rebel forces trying to drive him from power, was “the right thing to do.”
But, he added, “What happens now? That is the real dilemma.”
Hart criticized the U.S. intelligence community for failing to predict uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab nations.
“Conflict of the 21st century is being increasingly carried out by people who do not wear uniforms,” Hart said.
He said the Central Intelligence Agency and other security agencies must get better at foreseeing popular uprisings, so that the United States is prepared to react in an informed way. “We didn’t have a clue in Libya. We’re still trying to sort it out in Egypt. All of this caught us by surprise,” he said.
Hart, author of 19 books and a respected commentator and statesman, has been active in international affairs since his Senate terms in the 1980s.
One of his accomplishments, as a leader of the Hart-Rudman Commission on national security issues in 1998, was to call for broad changes in U.S. security policy to ward off attacks on U.S. soil from small groups of extremists. The findings were not heeded, he said, until after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
He also was among those who loudly questioned the need to attack Iraq in 2003, questioning claims by the Bush administration that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was intent on using them against U.S. interests.
Hart called former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq “a terrible mistake.” He said it was based largely on what he terms this nation’s true foreign policy, which is to preserve U.S. access to and importation of foreign oil at any cost.
“We have an energy policy that’s not moral,” he declared. The U.S. imports 70 percent of its petroleum from foreign sources, a quarter of which comes from unstable regions, all to fuel inefficient vehicles, he argued.
If the flow of oil is cut off, he said, the nation then uses military means to restore that flow and ends up “trading the blood of Americans … to drive the kinds of cars we drive.”
Hart is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an advisory board member for Operation U.S.A., a nonprofit humanitarian organization. He also holds an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado.
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