DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
25 June 1996

DUMB STRATEGY AND WASTEFUL WEAPONS SPENDING COST YOU BIG BUCKS

As Whitewater, Filegate and the latest White House-Arkansas scandal assault us, President Clinton's $254 billion defense budget quietly streaks through Congress like a stealth fighter, virtually unchallenged.

Except, of course, by Republican hawks, who haven't yet figured out the Cold War is over. They want to add $12 billion more to the 1997 defense budget.

Two hundred sixty-six billion dollars for the military would keep defense spending near the levels spent when the Russians were coming, a figure nearly 20 times as large as the combined spending of the "dirty half dozen": North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Cuba. A figure that would cost every American citizen $963 next year.

Meanwhile, in Japan -- a country we've spent the last 50 years defending while it was cranking up to wax us on the world market -- the average citizen spends only $429 keeping mythical bogeymen away from his door.

The Center of Defense Information, a Washington-based think tank headed up not by wild-eyed peaceniks but patriotic, conservative, retired military men, reports the 1997 defense budget is nearly seven times that of Germany, five times that of Japan and more than four times that of the world's second largest defense spendthrift, Russia.

Retired Vice Adm. John Shanahan, the director of CDI, hits it on the head when he says, "America is militarily secure. We face no enemies." Shanahan says that the public is misinformed and that many officials responsible for our defenses "deliberately cultivate fear of foreign threats in order to justify their role."

Enter Bob Dole, railing on about Clinton being weak on defense (if $254 billion is weak, what's strong?) at a rally at a California defense plant.

"Where would the world be without America, and where would the world be without you, Lockheed Martin?" he asked a cheering crowd. Their votes were obviously there for the taking for just a few strips of the ol' baconola Dole's such a pro at dispensing in the time-dishonored American politicians' pork barrel way.

Dole doesn't get it. Neither does Clinton. Both are planning to defend America with truckloads of promised pork and a Cold War mind-set. Both are thinking like the French leaders who, between the World Wars, built the Maginot Line to stop the Germans without understanding that they learned during World War I that frontal attacks aren't smart. Back then, the Germans built fleets of tanks, developed new doctrine, went around the concrete bunkers and took Paris in six weeks.

Lockheed Martin, where Dole was schmoozing up the workers and executives last week and greasing the skids for a fat PAC contribution, is one of the companies competing to build the new joint strike fighter, a trillion-dollar bonanza for some lucky defense contractor.

CDI says buying such unneeded gold-plated aircraft is "wasting billions of dollars in an arms race with ourselves. No other nation comes even close to matching existing U.S. air capabilities."

America is broke and can't continue to pour money down a rat hole by buying unneeded gear. We urgently need to overhaul our lavish way of guarding America.

What's needed is some revolutionary thinking on how best to defend this land and its interests. We have to go back to the basics, like a sergeant does before going on an operation. He asks, "What's the mission? How many men am I going to have? What's the enemy situation?" Then he checks out the terrain and weather, organizes his guys and moves out.

The first thing America has to do is identify its real enemies, today, next year and on into the middle of the 21st century. We can no longer afford to inflate our enemy list just to justify our weapons list.

The next step is to deep-six the current wrongheaded strategy of fighting two Desert Storm-size conflicts at the same time. This strategy is mission impossible. It was designed by king of pork former Defense Secretary Les Aspin to keep the military-industrial complex booming and doesn't have one thing to do with military necessity.

To paraphrase Dole, "How much better off would most Americans be without Lockheed Martin?" Changing our politicians' Cold War mind-set should be the battle cry of all Americans during Election '96.