OTR Interviews

Kissinger: U.S. Already Committed to Libya, Despite Obama's Vow to Get Out

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 22, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama says he's getting us out of Libya in a few days. Is that going to happen? Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger joins us live. Good evening, sir. And if we get out of Libya, to whom do we turn over the Libyan fight to? Who gets it, France, NATO?

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't understand what the phrase "We are getting out of Libya" means. I suppose we are going to turn it over to a -- some kind of a NATO command or a Franco-British command. But we are in Libya. And we are committed in a way. And if Qaddafi now stays in power and if Libya gets partitioned, which would be the result, it will be absolutely incomprehensible why we mounted such a big operation.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think is going to happen? And I realize this is a very fluid situation, very dynamic. But what do you -- what does it look like is going to happen?

KISSINGER: I think what is likely to happen, and what at this point should happen -- I want to make clear, I am not necessarily in agreement with every step that got us to where we are. But now we are in a military operation. We have committed major American forces. And we will be judged by the outcome.

And if the outcome is that Qaddafi stays in office and that therefore, Libya will be either partitioned, or in the worst case, fall under -- increasingly under his rule, then the American actions will be considered incomprehensible by people who judge our international behavior. So I'm assuming that the outcome will be that Gadhafi will be overthrown.

Then we will have the problem of preventing another failed state from emerging and to prevent a situation in which we will be asked to organize a territory that has never really had a regular government because they used to have a king, then Qaddafi came in and ran it as a feudal regime. And we haven't any idea who these rebels are in Benghazi.

But being where we are, the outcome has to be that Qaddafi leaves. And then some international effort is made to create a -- to create some kind of a political structure. We should not put American troops in there. But we cannot just get out and then say, Now we are out, whatever we may argue about whether we should have gotten in the way we did.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you could turn the clock back and it was your decision, what would you have done?

KISSINGER: I don't know what -- I don't know what I would have done. What I think is Libya is -- it's not the main show. The real crisis is in the gulf. The real issue is whether Iran will dominate the gulf, and we've got to keep our eye on that. We've got to keep our military forces available for that. I despise Qaddafi and I'll be delighted when he's overthrown, but we have to understand where we will be when that is accomplished. And we are in a position where we cannot do much else except to accomplish it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying -- and I don't want to put words in your mouth, but that Libya is a most unfortunate distraction from what we should be putting our attention on?

KISSINGER: I think it's a distraction. It's complex situation in which the strategic objective needs to be defined and in which we have to understand better who it is we are supporting. And I repeat, Qaddafi has a lot of American blood on his hands. He is a weird leader. But we have to think also of the consequences of the evolution of this military operation. But I don't see how we can just stop it, once having started it, without some result.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Kissinger, thank you very much for joining us, sir.