DOWN BOTH FRONTS
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
"Can we win this war?"
That was the question tossed at me repeatedly over the past two weeks as my wife,
Eilhys, and I traveled around this anxious country talking to citizens ranging
from Starbucks baristas and their clients at New York City's LaGuardia Airport,
to a large crowd in Nashville's Opry Mills Shopping Mall, to folks who stopped
and talked with us on Southern California sidewalks, in restaurants and at TV
and movie studios.
Clearly there's a torrent of concern and confusion coming from worried Americans
facing their first war on their own turf and trying to figure out the score overseas.
All wanted to know the real deal, and most feel close to clueless, perhaps because
much of our media seem to be measuring this war with a World War II ruler.
But if we dial back to Dec. 7, 1941 -- Pearl Harbor -- things were grim and quickly
got worse. Most of our Pacific Fleet was at the bottom of the ocean. Much of our
very small and green Army was still running around the boonies like kids in a
back lot going "bang bang" with wooden sticks for rifles and machine
guns, while those who'd lucked out and had real weapons were toting the worn-out
stuff their dads used in 1918. On maneuvers, our fighter jocks -- with just a
fraction of the combat aircraft of their Nazi and Imperial Japanese foes -- were
dropping flour sacks as simulated bombs against trucks that Gen. George Patton
designated as enemy armored vehicles by having "tank" scrawled in chalk
on their tarpaulins. In 1942, in the Philippines, our forces were totally defeated
-- while the survivors were death-marched into inhumanly brutal POW camps. Then,
at Midway and the Solomon Islands, the Navy and Marine Corps won their first fights
but lost most of our torpedo attack aircraft and about a third of what was left
of our Pacific fleet, and a lot of Marines and soldiers went down by bullets and
bugs. Next, our Army got decked in Africa in its first big battle.
Not only were our
armed forces not ready to fight, our opponent's multimillion-man army had conquered
most of Europe, Asia and Africa with the most formidable military machine the
world had ever seen. Only an unprepared United States and a beleaguered Great
Britain -- which was being blitzed night and day by Nazi bombers -- stood in the
way to stop it from conquering the world.
We picked ourselves up off the mat, rolled up our sleeves and built a 13 million-strong
Citizen's Army from scratch while providing our British, Soviet, Chinese and other
Allies with war materials to stop the jackbooted barbarians blasting away at their
Three years later, the fascists hoisted the white flag, and then our victorious
forces set down their rifles, picked up shovels and picks and helped their former
enemies dig themselves out of the rubble and rebuild into prosperous and decent
Today we've had the good fortune to go into our first fight in the 21st century
with the most powerful military force in the world, including both a world-class
aviation arm and Special Ops troops who -- as their brilliant and brave performance
in Afghanistan testifies -- are as good as those boys get.
In Round One, the only hits we've taken so far have been a couple of helicopter
crashes, and our Taliban opponent in Afghanistan is already coming apart faster
than a wet paper sack filled with rocks. We're so squared away on the military
front that last week the USS Enterprise sailed back to Norfolk, Va., in glory
after successfully bombing the terrorists even deeper into their Afghan caves.
But what the stalwart sailors had on their minds was Main Street USA. It's time
to batten down the domestic hatches, they're saying -- and get serious about defending
our home shores with the same urgency our country's bringing to the battlefield
they just left. These smart swabbies know more terrorist sucker punches are on
the way, and that all the rhetoric aside, security at home is still loose as a
Can we win this war? Bet your sweet patootie! But we'll win it with less civilian
casualties only if Ridge & Co. get real and get moving.
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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.