Retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Alexander Haig tells Newsmax that Americans “have reason to be optimistic” about the incoming Barack Obama administration despite the “horrendous problems” he has inherited.
In a wide-ranging exclusive Newsmax interview, Haig also said leaving Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War was “insanity, declared that President Richard Nixon did more to win the Cold War than did Ronald Reagan, and called Nixon’s normalization of relations with China “the most important foreign policy event of the century.”
And he quipped that after Reagan was shot, his health deteriorated and “his wife’s hairdresser” had more to do with running the country than the president.
[Editor's Note: Watch the Alexander Haig video - Go Here Now]
Haig, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, served as White House chief of staff under President Nixon and was largely credited with keeping the government running while Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate. He also served in that post under President Gerald Ford.
After leaving the White House in 1974, Haig was appointed supreme allied commander in Europe and led all NATO forces until 1979. Two years later he was named secretary of state by President Ronald Reagan, and he was instrumental in keeping the White House running after Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981.
Newsmax’s Ashley Martella asked Haig how he feels about president-elect Obama’s appointees so far.
“Look at the diversity he’s imposed already,” Haig answered, “a diversity that includes some very very proven, wise men in the economic field. He’s turned to a secretary of defense who’s been in the job and has been doing a fine job, in my view. He’s just put in [as head of the Veterans Administration] the young fellow who I think is one of America’s hidden heroes, General Shinseki, who was run out by the departing Pentagon because he told the truth” and was “slaughtered by the Bush White House.
“So we have reason to be optimistic. But we also have to be very very cautious and patient and understand that these are horrendous problems the new president has inherited . . .
“Politics is the art of the possible and I think our president-elect is going to learn that the president, in my experience, has just a few months when he can do things. After that the worms crawl out of the mattress, not only in the opposing party but in your own party.”
That honeymoon period is “when they are riding the crest of the popularity that got them elected,” he said. “That unfortunately is a very short time.
Referring to reports that Israel is preparing to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Martella asked whether Haig expects that to happen.
“I wouldn’t discount it happening but I think it’s important to remember that Israel would prefer that the United States or the West will do that job,” he responded.
“After all, they are now covered on all their borders by threatening weapons of mass destruction, whether it be biological or perhaps [nuclear weapons] within a very brief period, much briefer than most of our sophists have been suggesting, than anyone anticipated — in fact almost within a year.”
Asked if the U.S. could be drawn into the hostilities if Israel does attack, Haig said: “I don’t think any use of nuclear weapons has foreseeable consequences. I’m not one who looks for it.”
Referring to an earlier nuclear standoff, Haig told Newsmax: “It might surprise you that as a member of Richard Nixon’s staff, I think it was his presidency that won the Cold War, not the Reagan administration. The Reagan administration could have sent the Providence police force to Grenada.
“I happen to love Ronald Reagan, don’t misunderstand me. He was a sick man. After he got shot, I found him to be suffering a speeding up of the decay associated with Alzheimer’s.
“Ronald Reagan, had he been Ronald Reagan of old, would have been probably our greatest president. There was a good chance of it. I mean his philosophy was sound as a dollar. But he was a sick man after he was shot … And I’m sorry to say he wasn’t running the country. His wife ran it. Her hairdresser ran it. Jim Baker ran it — especially Jim Baker — and George Bush Senior.”
Discussing the factors that led to the West’s victory in the Cold War, Haig observed: “First was the decay in the Soviet Union. It’s a system that simply won’t work. It was corrupt, it was inefficient, and it failed of its own free weight. It was going to happen sooner or later.
“When I met with Ronald Reagan alone, in one of the few meetings I was able to have and get past his staff, he said to me that ‘we can win, from what you say, the Cold War without firing a shot.’ And I said it was inevitable because of the China initiative, because of the decay of the Soviet system.
“I happen to think China and that initiative is the most important foreign policy event of the century, and has proven to be so.
“Now unfortunately the neocons have flipped that on its side … These men were all forced into the administration not by George Bush but by Ronald Reagan, and that was the first very contentious little meeting I had with him. I said these people are not Republicans, they’re Democrats. He said, ‘Well, Al, I was a Republican and a Democrat.’ I said, ‘Yes, but you weren’t a neocon,’ and he said, ‘Don’t be so sure.’
Haig also blamed the neocons for deteriorating U.S. relations with Russia.
“This whole thing is centered around neocon philosophy. The ‘normals’ in the foreign policy framework are not afflicted with what I call ideological fanaticism.
“The neocons believe that you can spread democracy with a bayonet. For example, when we got Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that was the time to start saying we had won the war and to turn him over to the people who would have executed him. Instead we stayed with the hopes of making them a democracy.”
Haig, who served as the CEO of United Technologies, was asked what he thinks will happen regarding the bailout of the Big Three automakers.
“I remain optimistic that the union will recognize that they’re confronted with unemployment for a future,” that “they’ve got to bear at the outset some normalization of their wage rates and their benefit rates.
“And I think the Republicans are absolutely right in holding the line. I think the president-elect is a practical man, and unless politics isn’t what it always used to be, I think some compromise is going to be found that will meet the principles that are right, that the Republicans are fighting for.
“I think GM and Ford have been too soft on the demands of their unions. If you look at the real problem, the differential between the union pay for the UAW and the pay for the foreign cars in this country, it’s like night and day, and if they’re our competition, nothing is going to work until that is flattened out.”
Asked if the UAW will give in to demands for reducing salaries and benefits, Haig said: “The question is, who wants to commit suicide? I don’t think there are a lot of volunteers in that area unless you are a fanatic, which I don’t find union leaders to be in this country.”
Martella asked if a Democratic-controlled Congress and Obama will go on a spending spree and be required to raise taxes.
“I’ve heard some worrisome Rooseveltian pie-in-the-sky ideas,” Haig said. “On the other hand, we need a jump start. We’re in trouble. It wasn’t the Democrats who put us there. It was a 30-year mismanagement of our government by both parties.
Asked what Republicans did wrong leading up to their losses in the election, and what directions they should now go in, Haig declared: “We need to get rid of the neocons, and nobody has had the courage, until recently, to stand up [to them].
“They believe you can create democracy with a bayonet. I think what you create is the exact opposite, real ideological animosity, and I’d say the Gulf Wars experiences confirm that.
“We let Saddam Hussein survive the first Gulf War. What kind of insanity was that?”
[Editor's Note: Watch the Alexander Haig video - Go Here Now]
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