David H. Hackworth
November 17, 1998


As the Election 1998 Republican party massacre showed, Clinton can route the GOP in a Gingrich minute. But when it comes to a duel in the sun with Saddam Hussein, Bill always blinks and ends up with his super-power gun super-glued to his holster.

I've lost count of how many times Saddam has brought on a near shoot-out since 1992 only to walk away with his weapons of mass destruction in his pocket and millions of adoring Arabs praising his bravery and brilliance.

Only last year, we went through a two billion dollar drill, deploying ships, planes and fighters to the Gulf just as we did last week. Like now, the end was the same: Once our military's awesome fist was cocked, up went the white flag and Saddam said "Hold on, Bill. Have I got a deal for you."

Then as now Bill bought the full load of horse manure Saddam was selling and put our toys and boys back in their hangers and barracks.

Each time Saddam pulls a start-and-stop, he dulls the edge of our combat sword. Our troops and gear get worn out rushing to their battle positions, deployment and readiness schedules get blown apart and morale -- the most vital ingredient of fighting -- thuds to the bottom of the latrine.

Imagine the let down of a fighting crew -- aircraft, ship or grunt fire team -- all pumped up for the ultimate life-and-death super-bowl experience when they're told "Cool it. The war's been put on hold" just moments before the shooting match is about to kick off.

No doubt that Clinton is one of the smartest and shrewdest politicians ever to occupy the Oval office, but I reckon he'll go down in history as one of the most incompetent commander in chiefs the U.S. military has ever suffered.

2500 years ago, Sun Tzu said "Supreme excellence ( in warfare) consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans."

You can bet your boots that Saddam's been reading Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR. He always finesses Bill's huffing and puffing and in the end makes our nation look like a foolish muscle-bound giant. Saddam knows how to win without fighting.

Two Pentagon colonels told me that our top brass begged Clinton and his civilian security advisors -- Sandy Berger, William Cohen and Madeleine Albright -- to strike Saddam early last week. They foresaw how crazy-like-a-fox Saddam would take us right to the edge, then pull the tarpaulin out from beneath our military machine just as it was set to beat him senseless.

But Clinton and his senior national security advisor Berger decided to play the wait-and-see game, trusting that Saddam would keep his word for the first time in his life. They refuse to understand that Saddam, who invented the game of "cheat and retreat," will be back like bad breath unless permanently disappeared for the same reasons a dentist extracts a rotten tooth.

Berger, Cohen and Albright are clueless when it comes to the use of military power. None would know a gun from a drum. And between the three of these perfumed clowns not one could muster enough common-sense to come in out of the rain. They're just like their boss, slick political wheeler-dealers who give great TV but aren't exactly street-smart when it comes to dealing with bullies.

Warfare requires different skills than politics. Wars are won by boldness, decisiveness, getting there firstest with the mostest and knocking your opponent silly before he realizes what hit him.

What governs warfare are the principles of war. Rules Clinton has diligently ignored since 1992. Had he followed them, there wouldn't have been a Somalia disaster, and we wouldn't be stuck into the ex-Yugoslavia tar pit or dealing with the ramifications of Clinton's dumb August missile attack on Sudan and Afghanistan.

During the Vietnam war, Lyndon B. Johnson also ignored his top brass's advice. And 400,000 U.S. casualties later, our objective of saving South Vietnam predictably failed.

Back then, the generals and admirals caved to presidential politics and put career over country. Then, too, no one stood tall.

I worry that once again we're witnessing another generation of high brass being derelict in their sworn duty.