LEHRER: You said in the Boston debate, Governor, on this issue of nation-building, that the United States military is overextended now. Where is it overextended? Where are there U.S. military that you would bring home if you become president?
BUSH: Well, first, let me just say one comment about what the vice president said. I think one of the lessons in between World War I and World War II is we let our military atrophy, and we can’t do that. We’ve got to rebuild our military.
But one of the problems we have in the military is we’re in a lot of places around the world. And I mentioned one, and that’s the Balkans. I’d very much like to get our troops out of there. I recognize we can’t do it now, nor do I advocate an immediate withdrawal. That would be an abrogation of our agreement with NATO; no one’s suggesting that. But I think it ought to be one of our priorities, to work with our European friends to convince them to put troops on the ground. And there is an example. …
LEHRER: If you’re just going to — you know, the use of the military, there’s — some people are now suggesting that if you don’t want to use the military to maintain the peace, to do the civil thing, is it time to consider a civil force of some kind that comes in after the military that builds nations or all of that? Is that on your radar screen?
BUSH: I don’t think so. I think — I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I’m missing something here. I mean, we’re going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.
Our military’s meant to fight and win war. That’s what it’s meant to do. And when it gets over extended, morale drops….
But I’m going to be judicious as to how to use the military. It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious.