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Cheney Calls for Exit Strategy for Balkans

Campaign: The GOP vice presidential nominee says deployments in Kosovo, Bosnia and Haiti have been mismanaged. He urges review of all commitments.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Dick Cheney, the Republican vice presidential nominee and former Defense secretary, continued his assault on the White House military policy Thursday by charging that troop deployments have been mishandled in the Balkans and Haiti.

Cheney said America's European allies should assume more of the burden for the peacekeeping effort in Kosovo and Bosnia. He also said the U.S. needs an exit strategy for the mission.

A day after he delivered an unflinching criticism of President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore's military policy, Cheney also called for a "thorough-going review" of American military policy.

"I think it is important that we make sometimes difficult choices about when we use military force, that we need to avoid situations where we commit troops because we can't think of anything else to do," said Cheney, who served as Defense secretary under President Bush.

Cheney, who has criticized Clinton for downsizing the military beyond the significant reductions that began under his own Pentagon watch, stopped short of calling for more troops.

"I'm not ready to say that yet," he said. "We need to do what Gov. [George W.] Bush has suggested once we get there, which is to do a complete scrub on what our commitments are worldwide."

Cheney identified Haiti as one mission ordered by Clinton that he considered a mistake. In 1994, Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti to help restore the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Earlier this year, the administration withdrew the last of those troops.

Gore campaign officials responded Thursday that Cheney should take the advice of retired Gen. Colin L. Powell, an advisor to the Bush campaign and one of the negotiators involved in the U.S. decisions about Haiti.

"He needs to talk to one of his key advisors, Gen. Colin Powell, because Powell helped negotiate the deal to remove the military dictators and bring in American forces," said Kym Spell, a spokeswoman for the Gore campaign.

Spell added that Cheney's comments on military policy Thursday were "irresponsible" and an "oversimplification" of complex foreign affairs.

"This attack shows once again that Bush is not ready to be commander in chief," she said. "He clearly doesn't understand what's going on in the world. America needs an experienced leader who understands the complexities of a dangerous world and puts our national interest before politics."

Cheney, speaking at an elementary school where he also discussed the need for more school construction, cautioned that "not every problem around the world" is worth the commitment of resources and the potential loss of American lives.

"Sometimes I think we get into situations because of the publicity given to a particular event . . . [even when] it doesn't affect vital U.S. interests," he said. In those circumstances, he said, humanitarian aid would be more appropriate than committing American troops to combat.

Cheney said an analysis of America's defenses might lead to a call for more troops. But he said it might also lead to building "a more deployable Army, a lighter, more mobile force." He said advancing technology and equipment may make it possible to fulfill military commitments without expanding the size of the force but rather changing the focus.

Cheney, who visited two Fort Lauderdale-area schools and attended a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser, was on the final day of a three-day campaign swing. In Florida, he endorsed a bipartisan plan that would generate $2.8 billion a year for new school construction.

The plan, which has been introduced in Congress, would allow private contractors access to tax-exempt bonds to fund construction of new schools. Under the proposal, which would cost the government a little less than $200 million in lost tax revenue, school districts would then lease the facilities from the private companies until the bonds were paid off.

Cheney, who was accompanied this week by his wife, Lynne, headed back to his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for the weekend. He is scheduled to meet up with Bush on Monday in Chicago for a Labor Day campaign event.

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