IT'S TIME TO GIVE THE U.S. ARMY A GOOD SHAKE
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH

It was only two weeks ago that the media armchair commanders and the likes of Sen. John McCain were saying George W. Bush had followed LBJ's dark path into the swamps and that -- as with Vietnam -- huge numbers of conventional ground troops would be needed to nail the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

Thanks to the Big Ranger in the sky, they were all dead-wrong.

But what frightened me to the core was that maybe naysayers like McCain, with access to classified info, might be right. And that our wonderful grunts, sergeants, lieutenants, captains and majors who regularly give me the real skinny were firing blanks.

Another pundit, retired Gen. Robert Johnson, said, "To have any success in Afghanistan ... you need conventional forces to secure territory." Johnson, a former Marine commander of our beleaguered forces in Somalia (who, by no coincidence, resembles an antagonist in my book "The Price of Honor"), suggested that at least 100,000 U.S. fighters would be needed.

This would mean that U.S. Army divisions such as my beloved 101st Air-Assault, the 82d Airborne, the 25th, the 10th Mountain and the once-vaunted 1st Cav would soon find themselves slugging it out in Afghanistan. If so, they'd be instant walking body bags, made dying soft by eight years of presidentially imposed political correctness that's clobbered combat standards and training priorities.

Sure these units still have many good soldiers and leaders, but their fighting starch and skill, warrior ethic and willingness to take the risks that fighting wars are all about are now duller than a plastic spoon. Clinton wanted to build a global village and guard it with kinder, gentler cardboard soldiers who no longer have the right stuff to close with and destroy the enemy. Unfortunately, he, Hillary and other do-gooders like former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder have almost accomplished their mission.
Now that our air and unconventional Special Ops warriors -- who only just escaped a similar gutting because they're all male -- have easily zapped the foe, conventional units will be deployed to Afghanistan. And they'll be OK securing the rear -- they have lots of experience directing traffic in Bosnia and Kosovo and can squat behind a barricade or man roadblocks with the best of U.N. Robo Cops

But Afghanistan is just Round One. Bet your boots that before you take your Christmas tree down, some of the units I mentioned will be significant players in zapping another terrorist state.

And after the next round of this long war against terrorism, there'll be still other swamps to drain and snakes to kill, all requiring the sharp standards, skill, discipline and levels of proficiency that our soldiers' brothers, cousins, fathers and grandfathers displayed so well from Desert Storm to Overlord and now in Afghanistan.

In six months, our Regular Army could be turned around and made combat hard and ready to fight. GWB should appoint a commission of retired warriors -- the Stormin' Normans, Hal Moores and Hank (the Gunfighter) Emersons -- to assess ASAP what needs to be done and report back directly to our no-nonsense defense secretary.

We're at war, and there's no room for social experiments that produced the likes of retired Army Gen. Claudia Kennedy, whose final contribution to the New Army was to take great pride in saying it was no longer "Your father's Army" -- you know, the guys who won so many of our battles because they trained life-or-death hard. Claudia's other infamous parting gift was charging another general with hitting on her two years after the alleged incident because -- as she admitted in a hissy fit -- she didn't want to see him promoted to her three-star grade.

There will be those fans who'll say I'm picking on the poor Army again because I didn't get a star. Hey, I refused attendance at War College and finally quit after six months in grade as a 40-year-old full colonel because I saw so much senior self-serving incompetency in Vietnam, which was directly responsible for the deaths of so many fine young men, that it flat broke my heart.

Fortunately, today's senior leaders, who didn't resign when they saw their forces' fighting ability being emasculated by the Clintonistas, have a chance to set things right before more American boys die needlessly.

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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth - Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.