DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
August 23, 1994

CLINTON, GET REAL

Teddy Roosevelt carried a "big stick" and got away with a lot of bluffing. But in our age of satellites and instant communications, the old "White Fleet" show of force no longer does the trick.

After blundering about in Somalia and Bosnia, Clinton and his national security fumblers are still making Tarzan noises, now targeted toward Haiti. Their props this time around are Navy ships loaded with Marines, televised paratroopers making pre-invasion practice jumps, and White House talking heads doing heavy- duty "we're-gonna-get-those-coup-leaders-and-restore-democracy- to- Haiti" flimflam.

Meanwhile, during three years of U.S. pressure to leave, Haiti's Gen. Raoul Cedras hasn't blinked. Instead, he watches CNN, reads poll reports and learns Clinton is a paper tiger: the vast majority of American citizens together with the U.S. Congress are against invading Haiti.

The president's special advisor on Haiti, William H. Gray III. who has never met Cedras, called him and two of his aides the "Three Stooges." Clinton could use a few such stooges with this kind of street smarts, instead of the high intellect bozos on his side of the ring.

There are three victims of this bungling: the Haitian people; U.S. foreign policy; and the warriors who get caught up in all the huffing and puffing.

*The lot of the Haitian people won't improve until the embargo is lifted. Considering Haiti's 500-year history, probably the best person to pull that tormented country up by its boot-straps is the very guy our policy pundits want out, strongman General Raoul Cedras. He has the brains, leadership and ability to be Haiti's FDR. In 1990, he was viewed by the United States as the model general who could turn Haiti around. Now he's portrayed as Saddam Hussein's evil twin.

*U.S. foreign policy won't stop hemorrhaging until Clinton changes the palace guard. Nearly all the president's advisors riding the horses of state and national security have never shoveled up what their horses drop. Few are streetwise. Fewer still have worn the uniform of the U.S. military, and as a result, don't have a clue about war and warriors.

'The Clinton administration must stop screwing the troops. Warriors such as our Marines and sailors, bored and boiling in the sun as part of the big bluff invasion force off Haiti's coast, are not shills. They should not have to pay the price -- as they did in Somalia -- for this administration's miscalculations and failure to understand the information age.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit -- the 2,000 warriors on those cramped ships for almost two months -- had just returned from a six-month mission off Somalia and Europe. They hardly had time to unpack their sea bags, kiss their wives and play with their kids before Clinton rushed them off to Haitian waters as chips in his game with Cedras.

Few of these warriors will bitch to an outsider. But you can bet your old combat boots these good men are red hot and damning the air-conditioned Oxford crowd, Gucciing around the White House in their $1,000 Armani suits.

Warriors, the most important element of war, are surgical instruments to be used skillfully, decisively and judiciously, not as window dressing for an uncertain foreign policy. Sure, they'll rush to the sounds of the guns if there is a real crisis, proud to be the steel backbone of rational foreign policy. That's their job. But they're not fools. They know they've been used and manipulated from the first day of Clinton's administration.

The Pentagon top brass should protect them, but there are few war-fighters left in the senior ranks. Most are politically correct corporate generals who put their own careers over the welfare of the troops. Congress used to sound off over such abuse, but with the dwindling number of war veterans in its ranks, there is little experience among the lawmakers that allows them to tell a war-fighter from a comic-book writer. We can't depend on the press to help, as most defense writers can't tell a tank from a turd.

The bottom line is our warriors have lost their guardian angels. Perhaps they should copy the baseball pros and strike when silly missions come down from Disneyland on the Potomac.