Settling down in the witness stand, the old admiral told the senators that his wife asked him as he was leaving home, "I thought you were retired. When are we going to actually retire around here?"
Crowe told the Senate Armed Services Committee at hearings Wednesday into the crisis in the Persian Gulf - and the possibilities that America will be drawn into war - that one advantage of being retired is that he is free to speak his mind.Born in Kentucky in 1925, Crowe retired in 1989 as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan.
An unusual sailor, he took leave of the Navy to obtain a master's degree in education from Stanford University in 1956 and turned down an invitation from Adm. Hyman Rickover to join his nuclear submarine program so he could earn a Ph.D. in politics at Princeton in 1965.
His view of the Iraqi crisis is one of wariness. "I counsel patience," he told the senators. "War is not neat, it's not tidy, and once you resort to it it's uncertain and it's a mess."
Later, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told the panel sanctions may not have the desired effect and could lead Iraq to offer to negotiate rather than withdraw from Kuwait.
Some other views from Crowe's testimony:
- ON THE EFFECT OF THE EMBARGO: "Given the standard of living Iraq is used to and the increasing sophistication of Iraqi society, it is dead wrong to say that Iraq is not being hurt. It is being damaged severely. It is the most effective peacetime blockade that I have personally witnessed.
"The issue is not whether an embargo will work, but whether we have the patience to let it take effect.
"I personally believe they (sanctions) will bring him to his knees ultimately but I would be the first to admit that is a speculative judgment.
"If, in fact, the sanctions will work in 12 to 18 months instead of six months, the tradeoff of avoiding war with its attendant sacrifices and uncertainties would, in my estimation, be more than worth it."
- ON SADDAM HUSSEIN'S OPENNESS TO COMPROMISE: "I genuinely believe we have already seen some - the first subtle hints that Saddam Hussein is seeking a way out, in other words, a face-saving way to withdraw."
- ON THE PRICE SADDAM IS PAYING: "Saddam has excited the resentment, contempt and suspicion of the nations he historically depended upon. In essence, under no circumstances can he return to the world he left of Aug. 2. The argument that Saddam is winning and being rewarded, I believe is both weird and wrong."
- ON WHAT'S NEXT: "The burning question now confronting the president as well as our public is, what next. This is not a mean question, nor is it any easy one. In its most extreme form, we are talking about deliberately initiating offensive military operations. In other words, war. War is always a grave decision, and one which deserves both deep thought and wide public discussion."
- ON THE MIDEAST AFTER SADDAM: "Put bluntly, Saddam's departure or any other single act, I'm afraid, will not make everything wonderful. Income differences on both national and individual levels are a constant source of tensions and envy throughout the region. Moslem fundamentalism is spreading and the process highlights the cultural, religious and ethnic differences that are bound in the area as well as the widespread distrust of the West. Boundary disputes are legion and they've been a part of the region for many years: Qatar vs. Bahrain; Abu Dhabi vs. Oman and Saudi Arabia; Yemen vs. Saudi Arabia; Kuwait vs. Iraq; and many of the Emirates vs. Iran. U.S. links to Israel and the dominant position of American oil companies have turned large segments of the Arab world against the U.S. in particular."
- ON THE LARGER QUESTION: "The critical foreign policy questions we must ask are not whether Saddam Hussein is a brutal, deceitful - or, as Barbara Bush would put it - a dreadful man; he is all of those things. But whether initiating conflict against Iraq will moderate the larger difficulties in the gulf region and will put Washington in a better position to work with the Arabs - the Arab world in the future is, in my estimation, the more important question.
"I would submit that posturing ourselves to promote stability for the long term is our primary national interest in the Middle East. May I repeat it: that posturing ourselves to promote stability for the long term is our primary national interest in the Middle East. It is not obvious to me that we are currently looking at the crisis in this light.
"Our dislike for Hussein seems to have crowded out many other considerations. In working through the problems myself, I am persuaded that the U.S. initiating hostilities could well exacerbate many of the tensions I have cited and perhaps further polarize the Arab world. Certainly many Arabs would deeply resent a campaign which would necessarily kill large numbers of their Moslem brothers and force them to choose sides between Arab nations and the West."