Defending America
David Hackworth
30 Dec 97


The great slurping sound you hear as 1997 ends is U.S. Army combat boots being sucked deeper into the Bosnian swamps.

Our troops have been extended again in Bosnia because Bill Clinton won't tell European leaders to go it alone. Clinton knew that if he kept his promise to the American people to pull our forces out in June, the Europeans would be on the next bus. Then his Bosnian mission would belly up, not unlike his disasters in Somalia and Haiti.

This time around, he finally figured out expiration dates only work on cartons of cottage cheese, not in matters of strategy and left the pull-out date open-ended. Otherwise, the crazies there would do as the Reds did in Vietnam -- wait until we've announced we're splitting and then come out swinging.

No end date also means Clinton's successor can wrestle with the Bosnian problem long after he's left the White House. Another reason they call him Slick Willie.

Now American warriors could be stuck in Bosnia for at least ten more years. So far the cost has been scores of Purple Hearts and over $8 billion. The budget for 1998 alone is almost $4 billion, twice the amount for North Korea's and Cuba's annual defense. And with mission creep increasing, more of our soldiers will be earning their Hazardous Duty pay the hard way.

Only last month, two Dutch SFOR members were wounded by a grenade thrown by locals on the warpath because two of their war-crimes indicted henchmen were arrested. You didn't see this report on the tube - where most of us get our news - because most things negative that go down in Bosnia seldom get on American TV.

It's also true that many Americans don't even know our soldiers are braving their third winter in Bosnia. Other NATO troops have the run of the country while our troops are kept locked up as if they're in prison. The lid is obviously on.

Clinton, once a member of the Vietnam peace choir, well remembers the chant that drove LBJ bonkers -- "Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many did you kill today?" So his guidance to his generals is: Treat the troops as if they were under siege on the front lines with plenty of incoming, wrapped in sandbags, helmets and body armor. Then there will be fewer bodybags coming home and our citizens will never do unto Clinton as they did unto LBJ.

No bad ink means no stink from a public kept in the dark by a press with few reporters qualified to report on military matters. Because most haven't served and don't know the score.

The Bosnia mission is ripping the guts out of the U.S. Army, which is still carrying the main load there. The bucks for doing mainly police work comes out of its maintenance and training budget. The result is the longer our forces stay there, the duller their readiness sword becomes. Also, the longer they stay, the more regulars quit. It's a no brainer -- guard duty earns bigger bucks with less danger at Wells Fargo.

Keeping American troops in Bosnia won't solve that deeply divided country's problems either. Clinton seems to think that time heals all wounds - that somehow with time the multi-ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims who've been blowing each other away for centuries will lay down their hatreds, kiss and make up.

But like Humpty Dumpty, Bosnia will never be put back together again. We can stay there for decades and when we leave, they'll go at it again. It's more likely that Storm'in Norman will take up ballet than Clinton's Dayton Dream that Bosnia will be unified into a single multi-ethnic state will come true.

Clinton and his generals should go back and read H.R. McMaster's DERELICTION OF DUTY to insure they don't repeat the mistakes of the Vietnam-era crew. Then they should do what we should have done in Vietnam in 1964 -- announce victory and bring our troops home. Now.

The Bosnian problem should be given to our European pals, many of whom supplied our enemy during the Vietnam War. They should equip, organize and pay for their own European police force to train Croat, Serb and Muslims security forces to guard their own separate republics formed from what's now the Bosnian quagmire.