The Navy's highest-ranking admiral said the Latin American drug smuggling network has thousands of boats and planes and is so extensive it is impossible to shut off cocaine shipments arriving in the United States.

Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost said during a speech to the Commonwealth Club on Friday that the only way to stop the drug flow is to cut off demand.Even if the entire resources of the U.S. military and law enforcement could be thrown into the fight against drugs, it could not stop the flow, he said.

In a speech on the strategic value of Latin America, the admiral said Americans do not realize the importance of Latin America to the peace and security of the United States.

His audience probably expected him to talk about the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon procurement scandal "or even the prospects of a certain large gray combatant, well-known in history might possibly make her home on a certain waterfront not far from here," Trost said, referring to the possibility that the battleship Missouri might be based in San Francisco.

He said he was not going to "Monday morning quarterback" the decision of the captain of the cruiser Vincennes to shoot down an approaching Iranian passenger plane that the captain said he mistook for a war plane mounting an attack.