Defending America
David H. Hackworth
March 30, 1999

HO HUM, JUST ANOTHER WAR

For a peace-loving nation, we sure have a lot of wars going on. Let's see, there's the war that never ended with North Korea. And our long-running war with Iraq. Then there's the war against superterrorist Osama bin Laden. And now we've got our new war with Serbia.

Meanwhile, Clinton just keeps playing games with the truth. While he was saying he didn't "intend" to put troops on the ground in Serbia the Pentagon started slipping more troops into Europe and Macedonia, where one of our Army battalions, minus its tanks, is already dug in not far from where the bombs are bursting. The President sure has a way with words - "is" isn't "is", "sex" isn't "sex" and now "intend" really means "Welcome to Yugoslavia."

No question that the folks who make the million-dollar missiles and other war paraphernalia are smiling all the way to the bank. But those who do the dying are stretched to the breaking point. And the President, Congress and our hawkish national security "experts" seem oblivious to the true near-cardiac arrest condition of our armed forces. My bet is that American troops will soon be stuck in the Serbian mud and dodging hostile fire unless a bomb takes out Slobodan Milosevic . The record of America's military involvement shows that boots always follow bombs. Remember Vietnam?

Congress doesn't have a clue about what's going on. Few have served in the armed forces. Nor do any have sons or daughters patrolling the dangerous Korean DMZ. None have loved ones tracking down terrorists or flying through flack over Iraq or Serbia either. All "support our troops all the way" and are right behind them. Yeah, way right behind them. Secretary Madeleine Albright's attitude is: What are the troops grousing about? They're regulars! That's their job! What would they be doing if they were not off on dangerous missions?

Most citizens are either confused about the purpose of our latest war or have swallowed the misinformation put out by Clinton's spin machine or just don't plain care.

Too many folks have disconnected. Few seem aware that America's acting like ancient Rome, locking us into life-and-death military commitments in dozens of places that have nothing to do with our national security. Many citizens also don't seem to be concerned that the sword that was designed to protect them is being blunted in operations that have nothing to do with their defense or, for that matter, our Founding Father's position on foreign entanglements.

The average American doesn't seem to understand that if you fight everywhere you win nowhere and that every military operation must have an end game and an objective.

Veterans, those that are presently serving and all of their families understand this criterion. But the majority of Americans just shrug and seem more interested in finessing the Y2K bug or sweating the stock market as it closes on 10,000.

An Army sergeant, a lifer as they're known in the trade, recently told me: "After 14 years in the Army, I don't have much hope left. We're looked upon as mercenaries. Kind of like the Roman Legion. Clinton screws up and lowlifes like myself and my comrades have to do the unscrewing."

This same attitude existed during the early stages of the Vietnam War. When our troops first deployed they were all regulars, volunteers just like our forces are today. So long as the body bags were filled with only "lowlifes," the nation did not become outraged over LBJ getting us stuck into a civil war that had nothing to do with our national security.

It was only after the draft kicked in big that the protests were heard. Only after the banker, the doctor and the other folks who live on the plush side of the tracks started losing their sons did the question of "What are we doing here?" become a roar that finally brought down an insane misadventure.

If draftees were in the ranks today, I can assure you that Clinton's enthusiasm for the military solution would be much like his attitude was towards that war: "Don't go. It doesn't involve our national security." Bringing back the draft might be the only way to temper Clinton's military adventurism.