Clark: Base Closures Would Isolate Military

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) said Saturday that the Pentagon's plan to close military bases around the country and reorganize troops would isolate the military from the American people and the rest of the world.

Clark said the plan to pull U.S. forces back home from abroad and centralize bases takes jobs away from smaller towns.

"We're losing influence abroad when we bring those troops home, and we lose the interaction with America when we create these super bases," Clark said in a speech to the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors Association (search).

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (search) has proposed closing 33 major military installations in the United States and reorganizing hundreds of others. Tens of thousands of troops in Europe and East Asia are expected to come home.

Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are to testify Monday before a congressionally chartered commission that will review the proposal before sending it to President Bush this fall.

Clark, a former NATO commander who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year, said it worried him to see the military planning to close National Guard armories. He said shuttering bases and moving jobs from smaller cities shatters an important connection between the military and civilians.

"Small communities lose sight of the armed forces," he said. "I like for the Army and the armed forces to be representative of the people they protect, not an elite organization."

Clark also voiced his concerns about Bush's nomination of John Bolton to United Nations ambassador, calling Bolton "somewhat of a bully."

"He's going to have a very tough time in the United Nations," Clark said. "When you come in with that much overhang, with all this reputation against you, it's that much more difficult. And all that's known in the United Nations.

"Personally, I don't like bullies," he added. "Just because you outrank somebody doesn't mean you don't respect them and their judgment."

Bush's nomination of Bolton was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday but is unlikely to come before the full Senate before the end of May.