IT ONLY TAKES THE RIGHT LEADER
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
In 1950, the U.S. military was kind of like Gary Cooper in "High Noon":
surrounded by bad guys, outgunned and not at all up for a shootout. The Soviet
Union was making ugly noises all along the Iron Curtain; Yugoslavia's Tito was
threatening to take Trieste; Red China scarfed up Tibet. Then North Korea slashed
south with a powerful army, smashing everything that stood in its way.
Our armed forces were at less than quarter strength of what they'd been just four
years before, when we took out Hitler and Tojo. From Harry Truman down, leadership
had bought into a weak secretary of defense's unproved notion that A-bombs, naval
and air power could prevail. But the wonder weapons failed. And by the end of
that year, our forces in Korea had suffered the worst defeat in U.S. history.
Then a miracle happened. In December, the commander in Korea, Walton Walker, was
killed. He was replaced by an extraordinary leader -- Matthew Ridgway -- who took
a beaten, dispirited Army and gave it a steel spine and two iron fists. In 30
days, he turned defeat into victory.
Fifty-one years later, our forces are similarly depressed and depleted, and we
live in an even more dangerous world.
Just check out the news you usually don't get on the tube:
* The Middle East is about to explode with unparalleled violence.
* Iraq is menacing all points on the Gulf/Middle East compass.
* Red China promises Taiwan will go the way of Tibet.
* Ex-Yugoslavia continues to suck our forces deeper into a no-win, ever-expanding
quagmire -- pretty much the same scene that's going down with Colombia and its
* Terrorism and attacks using chemical and biological weapons are no longer an
"if," but a "when."
* Information warfare hacker hits, capable of shutting down America's latest Industrial
Revolution and sending the dot-commers back to making coffee at Starbucks, have
become daily events.
Of course, the world has always been a perilous place, and there have always been
wars and "rumors of wars." Since our country was founded, for instance,
we've seen our capital burned by British troops and our country savaged by a four-year-long
Civil War. There were World Wars I, II and Korea, where we were caught with a
rusty bayonet; Vietnam, with its eight years of pain; then finally our 100-hour
triumph, the Gulf War.
What's new -- and what ratchets up the risk -- is that there are no more George
Washingtons, U.S. Grants, John Pershings, George Marshalls, Matthew Ridgways,
James Hollingsworths or Norman Schwarzkopfs in soldier suits. I can't name a single
serving Army, Navy or Air Force senior officer with even a fraction of the true-grit
leadership of any of the above men. Our senior military leadership, less the Marine
Corps, is bankrupt, kaput, fini. There are no more steel-jawed watchdogs, only
slick, sweet-smelling lapdogs.
Our current crop of star-wearers are mostly corporate CEO types, Perfumed Princes
who got to the top by a sick system that's become increasingly entrenched since
the Korean War. Too many are mirror images of Gen. Wesley Clark, who strutted
his stuff during the recent Serbian disaster. Clark's now keeping busy blaming
that pathetic showing on his former pals in the Pentagon, conveniently forgetting
that as the commander in chief of the NATO forces, he had the option of resigning
if not allowed to run his war his way.
The Perfumed Princes are on a new campaign -- carpet-bombing SecDef Donald Rumsfeld.
They fear that his military revolution designed to prepare our armed forces for
the threats ahead might ruin their sweet deal. But the Pentagon's never had anyone
in charge as smart and as tough as Rumsfeld. If anyone can take on the top brass
and blow them away, it's The Donald.
Soon he'll pick the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I hope his choice
isn't a space-cadet whiz kid or a Russia expert, but a leader cut of the same
cloth as our military giants of the past.
A George Marshall or Matthew Ridgway could turn our very sick military around
before you can say: OUR KINDER, GENTLER MILITARY WILL LOSE THE NEXT WAR.
Http://www.hackworth.com is the address of David Hackworth's home page. Sign in
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(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.