WASHINGTON — The United States must use force against international terrorists, refusing to be paralyzed by moral issues or objections raised by allied nations and members of Congress, Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Wednesday.
"We are right to be reluctant to unsheath our sword," he said in a speech to a conference on "low-intensity" warfare. "But we cannot let the ambiguities of the terrorist threat reduce us to total impotence. A policy filled with so many qualifications and conditions that they all could never be met would amount to a policy of paralysis."
Shultz, the Reagan Administration's leading advocate of tough action against terrorists, said that U.S. counterterrorist strategy must include economic assistance, improved intelligence and covert actions carried out by U.S. military forces. In addition, he said the Administration should try to build national support for this policy.
Drumming Up Support
His remarks came as Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead set out on a 10-day tour of allied capitals seeking support for U.S. sanctions against Libya. So far, only Canada, Norway and Italy have indicated that they would act to some degree in accordance with the sanctions.
Shultz said that Whitehead will present the allies with evidence of Libyan support for terrorism and ask them: "If you don't like what we're doing, then what do you suggest?" He quickly added that "the answer cannot be 'nothing.' "
He acknowledged that the allies have had a "poor history" of support for such sanctions, but he dismissed European fears that backing the sanctions would deprive them of oil supplies from Libya. "The world is awash with oil," he said. "You can get it from other sources."
At the same time, Shultz insisted that the United States cannot be swayed by allied opposition to a retaliatory strike against terrorists.
Although his remarks suggested that the United States is considering military action against Libya, Shultz offered no specifics. In a satellite news conference with European reporters before his speech, he was asked directly whether increased U.S. naval activity in the Mediterranean is a sign of impending military action.
"We always have ships in the Mediterranean," he replied. "We have to be sure we have adequate forces on hand as the situation becomes more tense."
Meanwhile, Defense Department spokesman Robert B. Sims announced that the Soviet Union had moved two warships into the Mediterranean from the Black Sea on Wednesday--bringing its total Mediterranean fleet to 28 ships. He also disclosed that the aircraft carrier Saratoga and its accompanying battle group had joined the the carrier Coral Sea in the Mediterranean.
Working With Weinberger
The conference at which Shultz delivered his speech was sponsored by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, who has expressed caution about using military force against terrorists. Shultz acknowledged Weinberger's differing views by saying that he and the defense secretary "are working together in full agreement on the urgency of the problem."
He asserted that the United States must be prepared to act, even in situations where the morality of such actions is unclear.
Shultz argued against those who assert that using force against a country that harbors terrorists would lower the United States to the same "barbaric level." Under international law, he asserted, a state that supports terrorism is guilty of armed aggression.
Nor can the Administration be hamstrung by faint-hearted members of Congress, Shultz said. He noted that some members of Congress criticized Reagan for failing to consult with them last October before U.S. planes intercepted an airliner carrying the accused hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, who had murdered an American.
"Surely there can be accountability without paralysis," he said.