Friday, October 26, 2001

Military small part of war, general says

Ralston: Other methods crucial to fighting terror

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — Gen. Joseph W. Ralston told an audience of 800 on the campus of Miami University Thursday that military action may be “least important” in the war on terrorism.

        “Those of us who wear the uniform realize that we should be the last resort, not the first resort,” said Gen. Ralston, a Miami University graduate who as supreme allied commander of NATO oversees troops in 91 countries.

[photo] Gen. Joseph Ralston, supreme allied commander of NATO forces, greets ROTC cadets after his speech Friday at his alma mater, Miami University. At right is university President James Garland.
(Michael Snyder photo)
| ZOOM |
        More important in the war being waged by the United States and other democratic nations is what is happening in the United States and other nations that feel threatened by Osama Bin Laden's terrorist network, he explained.

        “The military is the far smaller part,” Gen. Ralston said. “More important is the help we are getting from our allies in disrupting the terrorist financial networks, the law enforcement work, the strong condemnation of mass murder that you are hearing from countries around the world. These things will have a much greater impact.”

        The general commands 65,000 NATO troops, half of which are American and the rest from 18 member nations.

        Gen. Ralston made it clear he does not have a direct role in the U.S. air and ground campaign in Afghanistan, an operation run out of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

        But he is in charge of the humanitarian airlifts of food into Afghanistan. The airlifts are coming out of U.S. bases in Germany, with C-17 crews making 17-hour flights to and from their drop zones.

        The general said the food drop flights would continue despite reports that the Taliban in Afghanistan are stealing much of it, plan to poison it and then blame the United States.

        “We had clear indications this was something the Taliban was going to do,” Gen. Ralston said. “But you have large numbers of people who are starving, people who will die. So we will continue.”

        Gen. Ralston said the American people need to understand that their country, mostly through NATO, is engaged in several military actions around the world simultaneously.

        He is in charge of Operation Northern Watch, the enforcement of the no-fly zone over northern Iraq and is in charge of U.S. troops in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

        About 100 uniformed students from the campus Reserve Officer Training Corps program attended the speech at Hall Auditorium. Gen. Ralston joined ROTC when he arrived on the Oxford campus 40 years ago after graduating from Norwood High School.

        Among the students were Renee Bailey and April Theobald, two freshmen ROTC cadets who graduated last year from Norwood High School.

        “It is really something to see somebody who went to the same high school and the same college and then into ROTC and has gotten this far,” Miss Bailey said. “It really makes you feel like you can make it.”

        For Gen. Ralston, it was a long road from the Miami campus to a top military position first held by Dwight D. Eisenhower 52 years ago. He was a combat fighter pilot in Vietnam and Laos and did a stint as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before being appointed NATO commander 18 months ago.

        One young ROTC cadet in the balcony got up during the question-and-answer period and asked the general what he thought of a university that “gives tenure to professors who are un-American.”

        The young man got an answer he probably didn't expect.

        “What you will realize more and more as you march through life,” the general said, “is what a marvelous opportunity you have here to be at a university where all points of view are expressed.

        “Listen to other viewpoints. You don't have to agree with everything you hear. But listen. I heard a lot of stuff I didn't agree with here 40 years ago, but I turned out OK.”


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