To have peace, we must be strong

By David H. Hackworth
web posted January 22, 2001

During the run-up to the presidential election, George Dubya Bush repeatedly told the nation that the readiness condition of the U.S. military was in sad shape. Defense Secretary William Cohen and most of the serving high brass quickly counterattacked, claiming the Republican candidate got it wrong, that the troops at the forward edge and back behind the cannons were fighting fit. Then Al Gore did Cohen & Clones one better, proclaiming, "America's the most powerful nation in the world." During all the protestations, our media, for the most part, remained rock-silent.

As Dubya straps on his six-shooters and takes over, he had better brace himself for bad news. Because he'll be heading up a military posse -- the people he'll be sending to clean up Dodge if there's a dust-up anywhere around this troubled world -- in far sorrier shape than his or Dick Cheney's worst-case guesstimates.

What Dubya will discover is what the dedicated folks at Soldiers For The Truth -- www.sftt.org -- have been sounding off about: The U.S. armed forces could go belly up within the next 10 years just the way the Soviet Union's army did in 1990.

As its disastrous performance in the Serbian War showed, our forces would have a hard time fighting a serious campaign. If a rebuilt, even-badder Iraqi army, which is giving us and Israel the bird as I write this, becomes Dubya's first real challenge, he'll find our forces aren't up to even half a Desert Storm.

Terrible leadership from President Clinton, Cohen and the top brass, who stuck our soldiers in crummy places like Kosovo and replaced the warrior ethos with sensitivity values, has taken its toll. Eight years of underfunding the actual costs of running and modernizing the force have resulted in worn-out or near-obsolete equipment and warriors so dispirited that far too many have been hanging up their helmets and hiking out the front gate.

Now, suddenly, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton and most of the other top brass are agreeing with their new main man. Funny how that happens among those who've spent their lives making sure they're firmly attached to the right coattails. Of course, if you don't kiss up in today's self-serving military hierarchy, you can kiss your career goodbye.

Our armed forces wouldn't be in such a funk if we had straight shooters in charge. The type who put country over career and don't buy into an agenda. Gutsy leaders who truly live by the code: Duty, Honor, Country. Two-fisted heroes like Matt Ridgway, Curt LeMay and Arleigh Burke, all of whom would've resigned rather than executing the sorry changes and dumb operations of the Clinton years.

I've got two recommendations for our new president:

1. Right now, great leadership is what our military needs to get our forces back on track, not bigger bucks. Leaders who will always tell you the truth instead of going along to get along. There aren't many of these good types in the current crop of generals and admirals, but there's a rich mother lode in the recently retired ranks. You should consider a mass firing of the former and a major recall of the latter. I can think of 50 bull colonels or Navy captains who could immediately put on stars. They'd be politically incorrect, say what they think and might be a bit rough around the edges, even chew, but damn, they can lead.

2. Then get ahold of James Clavell's "The Art of War," read it daily and live by Sun Tzu's golden rule: "The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence under no circumstances can it be neglected." Issue a copy of this brilliant book to every military leader with instructions to memorize it.

As for the mainline media, our nation wouldn't be so endangered if you'd done your work properly. So here's a suggestion for you, too:

Get out there, investigate and start telling the American people the facts about matters of national defense instead of taking political sides. The American people need you to clean up your act and go back to doing an honest, impartial job of bringing them the truth. ESR

One of most decorated soldiers in American history, Col. David Hackworth (Ret.) is the author of the syndicated column Defending America. Sign in for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O. Box 5210, Greenwich, CT 06831. © 2001 David H. Hackworth

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