DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
October 24, 1995

BOSNIA: IT'S A SNAKE PIT -- STAY OUT

"Over there. Over there. Say a prayer, for the troops over there," wrote Irving Berlin for the American soldiers who went to Europe in 1917 to fight in a war that was not their country's concern.

Unless we the people wise up and take charge, we can expect to find young Americans soon dying in Europe again. Certainly they won't die by the tens of thousands as their great-grandfathers did, but they will die by the dozens, as did Marines and soldiers in Lebanon and Somalia.

The Serbs now hate us. We took sides against them in a civil war with NATO (read U. S.) bombs. When our warriors dig in behind Bill Clinton's proposed demilitarized zone, they'll be fair game for nasty Serb tricks, just as my regiment was from 1945 to 1947, when it manned another hot DMZ on the Yugoslavia border called the Morgan Line.

The 351st Infantry took dozens of casualties, and back then we didn't have to watch our rear. Our biggest worry from the rear was an assault by eager Italian girls. But in Bosnia, the Muslims will be shooting our warriors in the back and blaming the killings on the "evil Serbs."

Last week, congressional skeptics called Clinton's plan to send troops to Bosnia "dangerous," "disturbing" and "ill-conceived."

"Stupid" would be a better word to capture the madness of putting our warriors on the ground there. We have not one vital interest in Bosnia; all that's at risk is Clinton's international prestige.

Clinton impulsively promised European politicians that if a cease-fire deal was stitched together he would send Americans to keep the peace,

Bill Clinton has a way of sticking his foot in his mouth. During the Vietnam War he not only opted out of wearing our uniform, he compounded that dodge by later writing how much he "loathed" our military.

Somalia was another bad call -- 45 U.S. and about 2,000 Somalia dead -- and when the body bags came home, he dodged again, blaming the United Nations. Clinton recently said. "My mama told me never to answer questions after 7 p.m." I'll bet he made the decision to put American ground troops in the middle of the Bosnian minefield in the wee hours of the morning, after one too many cigars.

Last week, Clinton sent Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of Defense William Perry and Gen. John Shalikashvili to Congress to sell his next foreign policy disaster. Christopher, as usual, did doublespeak; Perry, with a straight face, said U.S. national interests were involved in Bosnia; and Shali said the forces he plans to send will be "robust."

Even my pet rock knows we have no national interests there, and "robust," the Pentagon's newest buzzword, is what our forces won't be.

Shali plans to send a tank division. The hooker is that the 64-ton Abrams tank is too heavy for Bosnian bridges and most roads. A top NATO planner says, "It's all smoke and mirrors. The tanks will go to holding areas and just park there until the engineers do mission impossible -- reinforce the bridges."

The Pentagon plans to send up to four Navy carrier groups and two Army aviation brigades. The NATO source says, "This and the tanks are the 'robust punch' Shali is pitching, but with Bosnia's weather, you frequently can't get through the clouds. If the flyboys can't see the targets, they ain't exactly gonna be robust."

Meanwhile, our grunts, in their DMZ foxholes, would be outgunned just as they were in Lebanon and Somalia, sandwiched by bad guys in front of and behind them.

Canadian Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, who headed up the U.N. peace effort in Bosnia and who well knows the score, said at the hearings, "Don't touch it with a 10-foot pole. It's your soldiers who are going to wear the consequences."

MacKenzie says that NATO should do the job without U.S. ground forces and, "If they can't maintain 50,000 or 60,000 troops on the ground, we'd better go back and rethink NATO."

He's dead on target!

Clinton's promise to help put out a fire in Europe's backyard should not be paid by American firemen. Bosnia is not worth the life or limb of one American warrior.