WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Alexander Haig told a congressional hearing Wednesday the United States would use the 'full range of its power' if necessary to defend its vital interests in the Persian Gulf.
And in wide-ranging testimony, Haig said El Salvador is only one of a 'hit list' of Soviet priority targets in Central America.
The secretary, defending the administration's request for $4.27 billion to finance a $6.9 billion security aid program, was asked about almost every aspect of U.S. foreign policy.
Asked if the administration adheres to what has been called the Carter Doctrine, in which the Persian Gulf was defined by the previous administration as a 'vital American interest,' Haig said wryly that he might argue with the name.
But he said, 'The Persian Gulf remains a vital American concern. Any change in the status quo would have to be dealt with by the full range of power-assets available to us.'
'Power-assets' is military jargon for anything that would project American strength, from economic or diplomatic pressures to strategic nuclear weapons.
Haig described the situation around Poland as 'very tense' although his spokesman, 24 hours earlier, said the atmosphere had eased somewhat in the past few days.
The secretary warned the House Foreign Affairs Committee that if the United States does not move to stop the spread of what he regards as Soviet-sponsored terrorism, 'we will find it within our own borders tomorrow.'
'When you get to the bottom line of this question, it is the Soviet Union which bears responsibility today for the proliferation and hemorrhaging of international terrorism as we have come to know it,' he said.
'They maintain training camps in the Soviet Union, in their Eastern European satellites, and in Libya, in which literally thousands of third world embryo-terrorist are being trained.
'I think it's time this issue be addressed publicly and be stated forthrightly no matter how much anguish it may give us.'
Haig told the committee EL Salvador is not the only target in Latin America.
'What we are watching is a four-phased operation of which phase one has already been completed -- the seizure of Nicaragua,' he said. 'Next is El Salvador, to be followed by Honduras and Guatemala.'
Asked whether he was spelling out a new 'domino theory,' Haig replied: 'I wouldn't necessarily call it a domino theory. I would call it priority target list -- a hit list, if you will, for the ultimate takeover of Central America.'
Haig also indicated that Salvadoran military personnel will be trained outside that country eventually, thus hinting -- in response to criticisms from members of the panel -- that American advisers might be withdrawn.
The only time Haig raised his voice to a shout in the hearing was when he defended the administration's decision to enhance the F-15 fighters sold to Saudi Arabia.
He said it should be viewed as part of the attempts to respond to Soviet threats to vital oil supplies, rather than as a part of the Arab-Israeli dispute.
'The Saudis are going to get it (the weapons) anyway,' Haign shouted at a committee member. 'Do we want them to get it from some other source? I think it's awfully important that we be viewed in Saudi Arabia as a reliable partner.'