David H. Hackworth
October 13, 1998


In one corner stands NATO, which has a bigger punch than all of the world's bad guys combined. No country nor block of countries could presently whip this 16-nation military heavyweight in a conventional fight. In the other corner stands Serbia, the underdog to be sure, but a dangerous and nasty street-fighter armed with the best the Soviet Union could produce, including a recently updated Russian Air Defense system. They have the advantage, too, of fighting on their own forested and mountainous ground with its many sheltered hiding places from which to strike.

Have no doubt that NATO's air power -- over 500 bombers and fighters preceded by a devastating barrage of Tomahawk and Cruise missiles -- would take out most of the Serb air defenses, their air force and control the skies over Serbia before round one is over.

But NATO air power alone cannot win a war. And don't think Serbia with its formidable army, would cave in like that mother of all blowhards, Saddam Hussein. Especially after NATO missiles and bombs will have provoked and rallied the Serb people, who once angered, are the meanest inmates in the Balkan insane asylum.

After a bombing phase, at least 25,000 NATO ground troops will be needed in Kosovo to stop the killing, restore order and assist the humanitarian outfits helping the savaged Kosovars.

Meanwhile, the Serb's Russian cousins -- now that Russia's top leadership is mostly big time anti-American ex-KGB -- could decide to provide more supplies and perhaps volunteers. And could even spin the attack on "sovereign Yugoslavia" into an excuse to bring back the Cold War.

As far as NATO troops occupying Kosovo, occupation duty won't be as easy as it's been in Bosnia. Bosnia was a recognized state with a legitimate government. Kosovo is a lawful province of Serbia, part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It has exactly the same relationship that California has to the U.S.A.

The Serb track record concerning invaders suggests they'll fight back, as the Nazi Army learned the hard way during World War II, when all the brutality they could muster was returned by the Serbs in kind.

The Serbs never gave in to their Nazi occupiers. Their guerrilla army conducted hit-and-run raids from mountain lairs not unlike the Reds did to us in Vietnam, raids that made Hitler's monsters bleed so badly that the Nazis finally pulled out their half-million-man army. After sustaining several hundred thousand casualties.

The Clinton administration tells us that U.S. ground forces won't be committed to Kosovo's killing grounds, that all we're committing is air power. But many American warriors have told me their U.S. units are set to go in.

Who's telling the truth, our soldiers or the Clinton crowd? Since 1993, Bill Clinton and his key national security aides have done more slight of hand than Houdini -- Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Iraq for openers -- so it's hard to believe much of what they say.

Still, let's assume this time around they're playing it straight and there'll be no U.S. ground troops in Kosovo. Once NATO air's pummeled Serbia, count on Serb terrorists attacking Americans in nearby Bosnia and Hungary and anywhere else in Europe where a grenade can be tossed or a bomb triggered.

I know the Serbs. I spent four years -- 1946 to 1950 -- with my weapon pointed at Serb soldiers and with their weapons pointed at me and my buddies. The first time a bullet sang over my head it was fired by a Serb, and the first dead American soldier I saw was killed by a Serb. Later as a reporter, I saw first-hand from 1991 to 1995 what they and their equally blood-thirsty Croatian and Muslim inmates did to each other during the most recent Balkan slaughter.

Based on my experiences and their 1,000-year track record of death and destruction, I'm convinced that all of ex-Yugoslavia is not worth the life of one American soldier.

Our Constitution clearly says that before Americans are dispatched to fight, Congress must decide if it's in our national interests. Perhaps Congress can forget Monica and Bill for an afternoon and concentrate on matters of national security for a change?

The end