"I see no way we could involve ourselves in Iran" unless there were an "overt" invasion of that country rather than the current internal strife, Marine Corps Commandant Louis H. Wilson said yesterday.
The nation's top Marine also predicted that the Third World "is going to be in continual turmoil" for the foreseeable future, adding that U.S. military forces will not be able to do much about it.
"We have to accept the world as we find it," said the four-star general, the only member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who served in World War II.
"We simply have no ability, nor indeed do I think we should have, to go around putting down problems with countries throughout the world," said Wilson of uprisings in Iran and Africa.
"The Third World is going to be in continual turmoil as they try to better their lives and want to do it faster" than the have-nations, which achieved their present liberties and high standards of living through a long "evolutionary period," he said.
The World War II Congressional Medal of Honor winner said these internal struggles "are going to be traumatic" for all concerned. But he saw no way U.S. military power could be brought to bear on them effectively.
Rather than getting involved militarily in these internal Third-World struggles, Wilson said the important thing is "to make it unequivocally clear" that the United States and its allies will maintain parity militarily with the Soviet bloc.
Defense Secretary Harold Brown and other Pentagon officials have been talking for a year now about forming a highly mobile, hard-hitting force of two Army divisions and a Marine Amphibious Force, tailor-made for emergencies in the Persian Gulf.
Wilson in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday said the idea evidently has not gone beyond the paper proposal stage. He said the units for such a Persian Gulf force have not been designated. He also said he personally is not pushing for such an outfit because he believes the structure and deployment of Marine forces today are soundly conceived.
Carter administration officials through the U.S. embassy in Tehran had recommended to the shah before the rioting got out of hand that he train his military troops in controlling demonstrations without resorting to violent measures. The U.S. government at one point even offered to send Army personnel to Iran to train Iranian troops in such riot control measures as the use of tear gas.
Asked yesterday if it would be practical at this time to send U.S. riot control troops to Iran, Wilson replied: "No, I don't think so."
The Marine Corps commandant said he could envision no situation short of an overt invasion of Iran that would draw U.S. combat troops there.
In discussing other topics during the interview at Marine Corps headquarters, Wilson said the recent mobilization exercise called "Nifty Nugget" -- a paper drill to help determine how quickly the United States could gear up for war -- spotlighted shortages of ships and planes to carry U.S. troops and equipment to likely battle zones overseas.
The commandant, who is scheduled to retire in July, recommended that draft registration -- but not the draft itself -- be resumed so the government would be able to locate young people if an emergency did arise.