DEFENDING AMERICA
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
August 15, 2000

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Another fun-filled week of balloons and baloney as the Democrats try to outpitch the Republican snow-job-a-thon.

Besides wanting to frag the Bush-Cheney parade, Gore and Lieberman are distancing themselves from President Clinton as if he had fleas.

Smart idea. But this separation shouldn't just be limited to issues of character -- it must also include how, if elected, Gore and Lieberman intend to defend America. We-the-people deserve to know their vision before November, what kind of folks they'll put in the Pentagon's top civilian slots and how they'll excise the rot.

Rot always starts at the head. And for the past eight years, the Pentagon's been headed up by dilettantes, social engineers and racketeers. These so-called leaders have allowed our forces' readiness level -- the ability to get there quickly and whack an enemy with a club before he knows we're standing behind him -- to reach a new post-Cold War low.

But throwing big bucks at the Pentagon, as both major parties plan to do, isn't the answer. How this largesse is wasted -- since there's never been more money per serving person in our county's history -- is another story.

Any solution must start with proper leadership.

The way our system works is that this leadership must come from the civilians who run the Pentagon. But since 1993, no way has Clinton's defense team at the secretariat level been selected for their proven leadership skills. Not one past or present Clinton- appointed Pentagon head could lead a troop of scouts into a barn during a snowstorm. And they certainly weren't picked for their defense expertise -- few would know a Stinger missile from a snack bar. None of Clinton's three SecDefs held a leadership position in our armed forces. Only one wore a soldier suit.

Clinton's selection criteria was simple: an A Team that would push his agenda to make our military politically correct via max sensitivity training and a women in every foxhole. Equality and consideration for others over fighting skill became the password. Meanwhile, the B Team remained the same old Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex (MICC) porkers, still into greasing the greedies who play the defense money game -- like major Clinton contributor, defense contractor and friend of Red China, Loral.

William Cohen would have to be the worst SecDef since Louis Johnson. He runs the bloated Pentagon as if he were still a U.S. senator -- lots of hot air and too many VIP trips at taxpayer expense. Then there's his predecessor, William Perry, who seldom saw a gold-plated, high-tech system he didn't want to buy. And once he took care of the players, he flashed back to his high-paying MICC job like a rocket. Before Perry there was Les Aspin, a bumbling academic who got canned because he refused to send tanks to Mogadishu, Somalia -- a bad decision that caused a lot of good men to die.

And remember Professor Sheila Widnall of MIT, the disastrous Secretary of the Air Force? A smart engineer, maybe, but she didn't have one leadership bone in her body and became a total puppet of the generals. Or try Togo West, a slick Washington insider who as Secretary of the Army spent his time arranging burial plots in Arlington National Cemetery for top contributors -- when he wasn't pushing Clinton's kinder, gentler agenda. Or his assistant Sarah Lester, who referred to our valiant Marines as "extremists" because they're willing to die for our country.

This is just a sampling of the harebrains Clinton put in key Pentagon slots. They and the many house-trained generals and admirals who wouldn't stand tall have driven morale so far down that our warriors are now crawling through it.

An Army sergeant from Fort Stewart, Ga. -- who asked to remain anonymous -- sums it up for many: "I'll be happy when Mr. Clinton and Mr. Cohen and their ilk are excused from their positions. Perhaps then our military will be treated with respect and dignity from the people at the top and given the right missions. For the sake of my fellow soldiers, I pray that quality, caring leaders who can put our military back on the right track will soon take over."

Amen, Sergeant.