FLAG-WAVING ISN'T ENOUGH

BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH

A 21st-century storm is gathering force and heading toward the dark shores of international terrorism. States that have been providing sanctuary and support for years to the likes of Osama bin Laden and the fanatic fruitcakes who follow him and his sort will soon feel the winds of a new kind of war -- a global conflict that will be fought on two levels: covertly and unconventionally from the shadows with a trench knife; and overtly with the thunder of our most awesome weapons, clearly foreshadowed by those unmistakable B-52 contrails in the sky.

Even though this hybrid war won't be a quick slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am fix like Desert Storm or as casualty-free as the air war over Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, have no doubt that we'll win. But be prepared for this conflict to take years and cost all the true grit our nation can muster.

After another surprise attack on our country and our way of life -- Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 -- we didn't get in our first major blow until mid-'42 at Midway, and it wasn't until '43 that our war machine was really out there punching. But by '44 we were finally on a roll, stomping the enemy around the globe, and by August of '45 we'd won. It was a tough, bloody war with many terrible reversals, but from each setback we learned and grew stronger -- and ever more determined to fight on.

This time around, we're fortunate that President Bush has already fielded a team capable of crafting and delivering a mighty international fist - leaders like Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Hugh Shelton. These "A" players won't ready, fire, aim a few missiles at a vitamin factory in Sudan or a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and report to the nation "mission accomplished." They'll take the hard road and have the wisdom, patience and endurance to go the distance.

In the meantime, the media should stop speculating about the campaign. Sure, author Tom Clancy is schoolbook smart. Sure, CNN pundit and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark has inside sources. But surprise and stealth must become our secret weapons. We need to tune into the World War II slogan: Loose Lips Sink Ships. Everyone on the planet shouldn't be in the loop about every move our commanders and troops are making. Milosevic, for example, got a lot of his intell from "loose lips" the last time around, and we were the worse for it.

What we do need to focus on is doing whatever we can to defang any future terrorist attacks. Now that we're under siege, every citizen must stay minefield alert. Any activity that appears suspicious should be reported at once. There are hundreds of terrorist sleepers out there just waiting to execute an order or implement a plan to: ram a dynamite-loaded boat, truck or small plane into a nuclear reactor; put germs in the water supply, the subway, a crowded auditorium or a building's air-conditioning system; or drive a gasoline tanker into a power grid, oil refinery or a packed football stadium. The target list and the weapons of choice are limited only by the perps' imaginations.

And we must never underestimate our foes again. The fiends we're up against are dedicated fanatics -- often well educated -- who hate our country and what it stands for with every fiber of their twisted souls. They'll continue to go after us as tenaciously as Japan's World War II suicide soldiers, whom we had to burn and blast one by one out of caves from Guadalcanal to Okinawa.

But there are no Romes, Berlins and Tokyos as final objectives here. Sure there are terrorist heads for the taking, but then there's the slow lifting of countless rocks in order to tear out the terrorist tentacles wrapped around our everyday lives.

President Lincoln said at Gettysburg that our "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Once again our very survival is at stake. And real patriotism won't be about waving a flag or singing a song. It will be having the courage and commitment to stay with this war until dawn's early light, even after we're long weary of the slow-going and the sacrifice.


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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
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