US, Secretary of Defense Schlesinger, News Conference at the Pentagon, Discussion on the Use of Force in the Middle East, January 14, 1974, Defense Department Press Release, Same Date, pp. 2, 7-8, 9, 11


Question. There has been considerable discussion in the last couple of weeks about the possibility, the circumstances under which the United States might use military force in an oil crisis. Under what circumstances that you might foresee would we use military force?

Answer. I would not wish to dwell or speculate on particular sets of circumstances. I think the Secretary of State has indicated very clearly that in the gravest emergency the United States would be prepared to have recourse to force, or would consider recourse to force under those circumstances. The President has reinforced the words of the Secretary of State. I think that it is clear that only in the gravest emergency would the United States consider recourse to force. And I repeat what I indicated to you some months ago, that we do not anticipate the necessity of taking military action. We do not think that the circumstances are likely to arise.

Question. Mr. Secretary, from a pure military point of view, is military intervention in the Middle East practical--in the Persian Gulf area?

Answer. Yes.

Question. There have been descriptions from the academic community where the particular area of the North East part of the Persian Gulf is discussed as a possibility. I am sure you are familiar with that. Is that a practical proposition, to seal those oil fields militarily?

Answer. I would not wish to go into any detail on that. I would confine my observation to the fact that it is indeed feasible to conduct military operations if the necessity should arise. I underscore what I said earlier, that the President and the Secretary of State have indicated that recourse would be had only in the gravest emergency and that we do not anticipate that the necessity will arise for us to conduct such operations.

Question. Mr. Secretary, in response to the opening question you said that in the event of a possible strangulation of western economies you could foresee the possible use of American forces.

In the past week, it was disclosed in Washington and in Saudi Arabia, that the United States had signed contracts for the sale of some $750 million worth of military equipment, to the Saudis. My question is this, do you see any growing inconsistency between American arms sale policy in the Middle East and the possible, even if remote, need to use American military force?

If you do not see any inconsistency, can you explain the rationale for current U.S. policy?

Answer. I think the rationale for the current U.S. policy is quite clear-cut. We desire to have friendly relations with all of the nations of the Middle ]I4ast. The Secretary of State has clearly stated what is simply a condition of fact, that in the gravest emergency, of course, one would have to consider recourse to force. But we do not expect those circumstances to arise. Instead we expect to maintain friendly relations with the nations of that area. In particular we have established with the Saudi's a number of boards examining into economic, technical and military matters. We hope to pursue close, collaborative relationships in the future.

Question. On the Middle East to follow-up, there is some concern in Europe about American Marine Amphibious Exercises in the Mediterranean. Could you say exactly what we are doing in there or have been doing in the last couple of months and whether it is related in any way to the discussion of American intervention in the Middle East?

Answer. We have been doing in the last few months precisely what we have been doing over a great many years, to run annual exercises. And these exercises were set up a long time ago. They have been implemented in accordance with the previous plans. There is nothing unusual about them, save for the fact that the usual circumstances of this sort tends to tip off unusual speculation, generated speculation.

Question. Mr. Secretary, I must say, sir, you sound rather delphic this morning. As far as I'm concerned, I am trying to sort out some of the enigmas you pose. On one hand you say we desire friendly relations with all the nations of the Middle East, but you are not hesitant, nor was Secretary Kissinger, nor was the President, about tossing about the necessity to take military actions should the gravest of circumstances arise. I have trouble putting together these two, if I may use the term, "saber rattling" expressions. If you could elucidate on that, I would appreciate it.

Answer. I think the answer to that is very clear. We would hope that there would be no hostile acts. And we do not anticipate such hostile acts. If hostile acts constitute the "gravest emergency" we would be forced to consider taking counter-measures. That would seem to me to be straight-forward.

Question. Aren't we heading toward economic strangulation in about 2 or 3 years?

Answer. I think that is a question you had better address to the economists.

Question. Mr. Secretary, just one point if you would clear that up for me, please. Prior to World War II, we sold steel to the Japanese at the time when there is very little chance of the Japanese ever returning it to us in any other form, but they did anyway. The possibility now of some kind of combat in the Middle East, even though you say it is minimal, it is still there. If there is the possibility that American troops are going to get involved even though it is remote in the Middle East, why are we selling armaments to the Saudis?

Answer. I think that I dealt with the major outlines of that question earlier. That we wish to maintain good relationships with the Saudis; that our relationships in terms of supplying military equipment, military advice, help foster a closer relationship with the Saudis, not only in the military area, but in many other areas as well. In the extreme and highly unlikely circumstances which you have reiterated, it is not clear that the American forces would prefer that they come face-to-face with equipment supplied by some other power as opposed to the United States. And it would severely cripple our ability to establish the appropriate type of relationships with the Saudis for us to fail to continue what have been our agreed on relationships in the area of military supplies.


Source: U.S., Congress, Committee on International Relations, Special Subcommittee on Investigations, Oil Fields as Military Objectives: A Feasibility Study, Report Prepared by the Congressional Research Service, 94th Cong., 1st sess., August 21, 1975, (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1975), pp. 81-82.


Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to International Energy Page

Return to Cold War Page

Return to Iraq War Page