David H. Hackworth
28April 99




On the first day bombs dropped on ex-Yugoslavia, Mrs. Albright said, "I don't see this as a long-term operation."


Pardon me, Madeleine, it's already been a 30-day-plus nightmare, and unless the fumbling NATO bureaucracy manages to drop a bomb directly on Slobodan Milosevic and his inner circle of criminals, we can expect a much longer siege.

The superior firepower and skill of NATO--read USA because we're al- Ready carrying 80 percent of the load--will eventually take out the second-rate Serbian conventional army. But when there's nothing left to bomb but rubble, NATO ground troops will be stuck into the mud of Albright's not-exactly blitzkrieg war.

And it won't be Desert Storm easy, nor as bloodless. The absence of a decent launching pad, the rugged Kosovo terrain, the lousy weather and the Serb fighting spirit and skill are sure to take their toll and slow down our high-tech punch.

The destruction of the Serbian conventional army will not usher in an end to the fighting, either. The Serbs invented the word "hardcore" and aren't big into white flags. The next phase will be a guerrilla effort that could last for years. Hit and run. Much like the tactics Tito's soldiers employed against the Nazis and the Vietnamese used against the French and then us.

The Serb insurgents will have nothing to lose. And they'll be fighting for sacred ground against an opponent they'll now hate as much as they did the Nazis.

Sun Tzu wrote 2,500 years ago "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. Only one who knows the disastrous effects of a long war can realize the supreme importance of rapidity in bringing it to a close."

Clinton, Albright, Cohen and their NATO counterparts know nothing of war or they wouldn't have erred so badly when they called so quickly for the military solution.

This is the second time in my lifetime that a war has made me deeply ashamed of my country's policies. The war in Southeast Asia, where we were ultimately responsible for killing more than 3 million Vietnamese, 1 million Cambodians and a half-million Laotians, was the first. And now this. The Serbian and Kosovor people are not our enemies. Milosovic and his thugs and the KLA terrorists are the bad guys. Both evil camps could have been removed without the death and destruction so far wrought at less than was spent on the first day of the bombing campaign.

Of course, not using the military solution would have taken wisdom, statesmanship and patience. Traits never easily found among world leaders during the 20th Century, where over 160 million human beings have been killed in conflicts because shooting is so much more profitable for the weapon makers than talking.

What surprises me most about this latest mayhem is how little public protest there's been. The nation rightfully weeps and builds yellow-ribboned memorials when buildings are blown up by homegrown terrorists or when kids imitate Hollywood in Colorado. But we seem big into denial when confronted with the mass murder, destruction and chaos being perpetuated by our tax dollars and wreaked on our behalf by our sons and daughters and politicians upon a land that's endured strife for hundreds of years.

While the American people shut their eyes or allow themselves to be brainwashed by a superficial TV news apparatus, driven by ratings and sensationalism, the U.S. Congress is spurred on by the likes of war cheerleader Senator John McCain, who, like Albright, has seen few wars that didn't push his buttons.

Both are driven by early experiences of war. As a child, Albright saw her native Czechoslovakia invaded by the Nazis and again by the Soviets. McCain was shot down on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam and spent the next five years as a prisoner of war--during which, by his own admission, he violated the soldier's sacred Code Of Conduct by providing military information to the enemy. (U.S. News and World Report, May 14,1973).

Both Albright and McCain might find therapy more helpful than playing out earlier traumas at the world's expense. For that matter, maybe the whole country should shut off the tube and get shrunk.

The end