Defending America
David Hackworth
January 5, 1999

THE HARD RIGHT OVER THE EASY WRONG

It took seven years for the U.S. military to fall from the top of the wall. Yet now, with New Year's resolve, Bill Clinton has whipped out $100 billion worth of super-glue to put our olive-drab Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The $100 billion is the largest no-war increase in defense spending in our history - a lot of dough when there are no Nazis, Soviets or other serious bad guys in sight.

In 1992, when Clinton reported for duty, George Bush turned over the keys of a well-tuned fighting machine. American warriors had shown the world their stuff during Desert Storm, and we had clearly become the sole surviving superpower.

Our troops could go anywhere, anytime, and tangle with anybody to defend America's national security or interests with precision and guaranteed results.

Since then, almost a million of our warriors have swapped their soldier suits for Gap gear, and we now have forty percent fewer planes, ships and tanks. As each day passes, this number decreases, while our stockpile of bombs, spare parts and other critical backup supplies needed for defense gets smaller and smaller.

Thousands of Americans have written to me saying they suspect Clinton, who as a youth was anti-war and anti-military, purposely set out to break the U.S. armed forces. Many of these decent folks believe it's part of some vast New World Order or a United Nations or Communist conspiracy cooked up by Bill and Hillary and other liberal pals from the anti-establishment 1960s, such as Jane Fonda, Steven Spielberg and Barbara Streisand.

And Clinton's seven-year policy push -- to reduce defense spending; select senior officers and top defense leaders who rollover for his hare-brained schemes; put political correctness over warrior values, including attempting to let gays serve openly; place women in combat positions and thus lower standards through gender norming; and commit and wear out our forces in endless peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in almost 200 countries around the world -- as well as non-endgame fights with thugs like Aidid and Saddam would appear to justify their claim that these are all part and parcel of a plot to destroy the ability of our armed forces to defend America.

But I don't believe these conspiracy theorists. Clinton came into office knowing the Cold War was over, and his focus was on how to rebuild America's domestic plumbing and make Planet Earth a warm and fuzzy global village. His priorities clearly were issues such as healthcare and peace in Bosnia, rather than national defense.

Let's face it, being the governor of Arkansas is hardly the place to learn international realities or develop a sense of how to command the most awesome army in world history. His mistake was to put defense exploiters and dilettantes such as Les Aspin, William Perry and William Cohen in charge of the Pentagon when he needed a Gen. George C. Marshall.

So now our military has become hollow and its aging weapons and equipment needs to be quickly replaced. But Clinton must not just throw dollars at the Pentagon to deflect Republican charges that his neglect created the problem in the first place.

For sure, we need a strong and capable military. This year our warriors will see more action in Iraq and Columbia and face serious threats from North Korea and terrorism. And the 21st Century promises to be just as violent as the last hundred years, which bore witness to more than 100 million humans murdered in the name of peacemaking.

The purchase of more Cold War weapons such as ships, fighter-jets, fleets of new helicopters and more $ 2 billion-a-pop Sea Wolf subs to sink the Soviet fleet that rusted out ten years ago should be put on hold.

Instead, Clinton should assemble the best thinkers in the land and task them to employ vision and integrity to draw up a blueprint on reforming and reshaping a defense force that will secure this country into the next millennium.

Not one old admiral, general, defense contractor or retired politician should be on this board creating important policies by cell phone as they chat up their Pentagon and defense contractor pals.

Clinton has the perfect opportunity to select the right people. The question is, will he put country over political expediency?

End