DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
September 12, 1995

A ZONKED-OUT AMERICA SLEEPS THROUGH THE WAR

America is at war. For two weeks, our countrymen have been following orders and bravely risking their lives in the skies over Bosnia.

Yet, back home, only a few Americans are concerned. Most have other, more compelling interests: O.J.'s sorry, trashy trial; stealth-tongued Sen. Bob Packwood's crash; Colin Powell's White House flirtation; and Cal Ripkin's endurance record.

The war's on the back burner because most Americans don't care. There's no thundering protest like there was when Shannon Faulkner quit the Citadel, no demonstrations like those that occurred when Mark Fuhrman became Los Angeles' latest monster man.

Instead, the war is one big yawn. No one's screaming, 'Why are we there?" or demanding, "Why have we blown almost $1 billion on smart weapons when our national security interests are not threatened?"

No one's asking, "What are the consequences? Why did the United States take sides against the Serbs when all three combatants in that terrible civil war are guilty of genocide?" or, "Will the Serb-loving Russians slam the Iron Curtain down and bring back the Cold War?"

President Bill "John Wayne" Clinton, who ordered the military solution, played golf in Wyoming when the bombs started to rain down. He was conveniently out of the way of a probing press, whose top guns were also on their August holidays.

Had they been on deck doing their duty, perhaps hard questions would have been asked for our citizens, too drugged from too much Court TV to defend their precious freedom.

The Republican presidential "Amway" candidates haven't challenged Clinton's bombing campaign either. They're too busy schmoozing, back-patting and stiffing each other to figure out we're in a war that won't be won by bombs.

Nor has Congress questioned what our national objective is in Bosnia. When we were at this stage of sliding into the Vietnam swamp, a few alert lawmakers didn't "Go All the Way with LBJ." They asked the right questions.

But what can be expected of a Congress that just gave the Pentagon $7 billion more than requested, a Congress into bigger and better bombers and bombings because it's good for pork and the voters back home?

So far, the bombing campaign has failed. Yes, hundreds of $100,000-a- pop, whiz-bang weapons have knocked out bridges, ammo dumps, barracks, command bunkers and other large concrete structures. But our fast-burner aircraft have failed miserably against equally important small, mobile tactical targets: tanks, artillery and armored vehicles.

Too, if smart weapons can't see the target because of fog, clouds or Viet Cong-style camouflage, they can't hit it. A NATO source says, "Serb grunts aren't like the Iraqis; the bombing is hardening their will."

And, as predicted, the Serbs are hiding a lot of their hardware among their people. Kids play 'ring-around-the-rosy' in schoolyards, and the 'rosy' is an SA-7 type missile like those keeping NATO planes so high in the sky that to NATO pilots a tank must look the way an ant does to someone standing on stilts.

Except for NATO's A-10 Warthog, which flies low and slow like a World War II P-40 or Korean War P-51, we have the wrong planes for this close battle war.

Most of our fast-burners, designed for deep strikes around Moscow or Baghdad, simply go too fast and are so thin-skinned that a 9-cent, small- caliber slug can bring down a $40 million flying machine.

And Clinton has ordered a bloodless war. His don't-kill-people rules have so hobbled NATO that it can't use saturation bombing with standard iron bombs. Everything is supposed to be neat and smart-weapon surgical clean.

Similar dumb political rules were applied in Korea (don't bomb north of the Yalu) and in Vietnam (don't bomb Laos, Cambodia or China), and in both these arms-tied-behind- the-back fights, air power failed.

Clinton will soon announce that his Geneva peace talks have brought "light at the end of the tunnel" and that the bombing will stop and the shooting will ease.

But don't be conned. The odds are the war is only closing down for winter break. Come the spring flowers, the killing will start again.