David H. Hackworth
December 20, 1994
BAILING OUT THE UN AIN'T OUR JOB
The UN's slapstick military arm is like a feisty little kid who always picks fights with bigger, tougher guys, then screams for an older brother to bail him out when he's getting his clock cleaned.
We got sucked into this MO in Somalia in 1992, when George Bush sent troops to beef up the UN for a "few months." Under Bill Clinton, the mission bled on for 16 months while his wobbly security team did on-the-job-training using our warriors as live fire targets.
Clinton is now planning to dispatch 3,000 Marines to evacuate 14,000 UN troopers trapped in that war-ravaged land. Three thousand to save 14,000? This tells the whole story all by itself. Officialdumb says our boys will be on the ground only a few days and won't be involved in combat.
Hey, we've heard all this before! Didn't Clinton or his advisors learn anything from Somalia I, after we pulled out with our tail between our legs and ended up paying the hard price of 44 dead, 177 wounded and $2 billion?
January's planned Somalia II -- hopefully a low risk operation, but count on it, Purple Hearts will be awarded to our Marines -- is just a rehearsal for a much bigger and badder rescue effort in ex-Yugoslavia. Once again, the UN has flunked the peacemaking course and needs Uncle Sam to ride hard and fast to bail them out.
The Bosnia rescue mission won't be Desert Storm easy. It'll be a lot bloodier, last a lot longer than four days -- more like six months to a year, if we're lucky -- and the U.S. will be picking up the multibillion dollar tab.
During WWII, Serb guerrillas whipped a million man German Army. The mountainous terrain favors the grandsons of those Serb warriors. While they would be no match for our army in the desert, the opposite will be the case in the hills where they know every bend and bump in the road. Just before General Colin Powell retired, he said, "We don't do mountains, we do deserts."
If we gallop to the rescue in that three-sided civil war, it could become a second Vietnam. The Muslims would do what they could by hook or crook to keep us there, hoping U.S. forces would shield them from further attacks and join their side in the 900-year war against the Serbs. The Croats would welcome our stay because of the security our forces would provide and the big money that would be pumped into their economy, while the Serbs will pull every sly trick to keep us out. They don't want to engage the U.S. in a WWII-type shooting contest where, with the UN gone, we could unlimber all our firepower.
Meanwhile, U.S. commanders are drawing up contingency plans. The total number of air, sea and ground forces that could initially be sucked into the quagmire could run as high as 50,000. Like a poker game, more troops will be needed as the ante goes up, and before you can say "Westmoreland," the commitment will speed past Secretary of Defense Bill Perry's 200,000 man estimate needed to get the job done.
The UN forces -- piecemealed across the country in 20 different locations -- know the Bosnian Serbs have already won the war and want to get out of that hellhole just as fast as they can. Sources tell me the 22,000 UN troops -- long the Bosnian Serbs' hostages -- whose mandate expires in March, plan to pull out in the spring when the roads are better, the weather kinder to air power, and when, of course, Big Brother is in the trenches to secure their bug out.
I hope that one of Clintons' 1995 New Year's resolutions will be to fire his Lake-Christopher-Shalikashvili security fumblers and replace them with three Colin Powell clones who will have the moxie and guts to give our UN friends a message similar to the one Ike gave the French in 1954 when they tried to pull us into Indo-China: Wash your own dirty laundry in Somalia, Bosnia and wherever. They're not in our backyard and do not affect our national security.