David H. Hackworth
May 4, 1999


In the past few weeks, Russian politicians have begun rattling their nuclear warheads in protest against the NATO demolition job on their pals in Yugoslavia.

Since we're the main NATO bomber, we could soon find ourselves in the center of ground zero with the Cold War nuclear clock back to only a few ticks before midnight.

Sure, these Russian threats are probably just venting after too much vodka while watching "The Crisis in Serbia" on cable television. Yet there's always the chance that a couple of silo comrades may get the yen to do things their way.

During the Cold War, my biggest fear was not a world leader pushing the button, but an accident, a miscalculation, a few extremists taking their shot at turning the globe into a radiated golf ball.

The Cold War brass developed safety nets: shrinks to check out the nuke Operators, fail-safe systems, red telephones and the "nuclear football" -- twin briefcases containing nuclear launch codes carried by soldiers virtually handcuffed to the American and Soviet leaders.

Last week, an obviously unfocused President Clinton forgot his "football" dedicated aide. Yep, the soldier was left holding the bag at Washington D.C.'s Trade Center while the president sped off in his motorcade. While the lonesome aide made it to the White House on foot, we're fortunate a terrorist didn't snatch him en route for a little game of nuclear roulette. With all the other major miscalculations going down with the bungled war in Serbia, it makes one wonder what else has slipped through the White House cracks.

Certainly President Clinton forgot to put a muzzle and leash on NATO's Gen. Clark, who last week threatened to attack any Russian ship that tried to bring oil into Serbia. A visiting U.S congressman said Clark should lay off the coffee and get some sleep.

Meanwhile, Clark is so desperate to win against Serbia that he's demanded the Pentagon give him total priority of all our "toys and boys." Currently, combat assets are being pulled out of the Pacific and the Middle East, leaving two serious enemies -- North Korea and Iraq -- without sufficient U.S. combat power to block them if they decide to go on the warpath.

This is kind of like using all the fire trucks in town to put out a fire at the dump while city hall is burning. Both North Korea and Iraq are dangerous, unpredictable foes whose activities very much affect our defense objectives. On the other hand, Kosovo -- a backwater swamp that's been embroiled in civil war since 1389 -- has nothing to do with our national security.

Despite the massive amount of firepower employed in a campaign that's now gone on longer than Desert Storm, NATO is still blowing up more civilian buses than tanks.

Milosevic is out-guerrilling NATO, much like Gen, Giap did to the United States in Vietnam. Serbian air defense -- the best that money can buy (purchased from the good old USA and the former Soviet Union) -- remains strong because like good guerrillas they fire 'em up only when it's to their advantage.

This lesson passed on by Saddam keeps NATO's aircraft above 15,000 feet, unable to knock out the armor and artillery hidden in churches, houses and in the forest except when they're being used to attack the KLA terrorists or drive out refuges. Then the Serbs employ another Giap trick called "hugging the belt" by intermingling their forces among the fleeing civilians.

Our three released POWs were scooped up by a guerrilla tactic as well - one as old as Sparta itself. Their vehicle was blocked by women and children while behind them, well-shielded Serb guerrillas with weapons demanded their surrender. Our boys had two choices: shoot up the non-combatants or reach for the sky. Coming from an Army that puts "Consideration for Others" above battle drill, they quickly waved the white flag.

Clinton must get off the bogus issues of saving face and trying to salvage NATO's shaky credibility. Not only does he need to keep an eye on the "nuclear football," he needs to understand that this latest mess is not on par with his adventure with a 21 year-old intern. It is a serious misadventure where Planet Earth could end up fried.