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Bluster and bombs don't win wars

Posted By David Hackworth On 02/18/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

When Trent Lott was in his early 20s, dying age during the Vietnam War, do you think the man ever led a rifle platoon across a bullet-swept field in southeast Asia? No way. He was too busy leading cheers at Old Miss!

Now the Republican Senate leader foams at the mouth with war talk and wants the United States to bomb Iraq into a sandy waffle. He has become the ultimate cheerleader of death and destruction.

The White House from Clinton to his chief of staff to his national security advisor all are members of the same we-never-served-our-country-in-the-trenches club. In fact, most senior White House advisors belong to the same cozy anti-war elite. But baby, look at them now.

I reckon there’s no one more dangerous than a fiftyish draft dodger turned Hawk. And that applies to Newt Gingrich and most of the congressional baby boomers now chanting bomb, bomb, bomb as well.

Only 9 percent of today’s members of Congress have seen combat duty. Nor does a single one have a son or a daughter on a ship, in an aircraft or in a foxhole in the Gulf. They learned well from the Vietnam War that the ruling class makes the policy, but doesn’t execute it down where the bullets fly and the young die.

The war they evaded has spooky parallels with the war that they want now:

  • Borne of frustration — Ho Chi Minh then, just like Saddam Hussein now, wouldn’t go away, continued to make trouble for all of his neighbors and wouldn’t heel to Uncle Sam’s order.
  • Bombs will do the job — In Vietnam, after a CIA controlled war failed, the Bomb Gang convinced the ignorant civilians in charge that a bombing campaign would do the trick. Even though bombs alone failed to produced a winner in WWII and Korea. The U.S. dropped more bombs on Vietnam than both sides employed during WWII, and we still lost. During Desert Storm I, the Bomb Gang, who said they could win all by themselves and dropped 88,500 tons of bombs trying to prove it, still needed over 500,000 warriors with bayonets at high port. Because at the end of the day, wars are always won by soldiers on the ground.
  • No objective — No general in Vietnam knew what the objective was. Today, there’s no one clear attainable objective. If it’s to neutralize Saddam’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, forget it. Perhaps air power could destroy every Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) plant and storage facility, but what would prevent Saddam from filling up 10,000 gallon tankers with Anthrax, parking them on the Israeli border and blowing them when the wind was right? He still has Scuds that the flyboys couldn’t touch during The Storm and crop dusters that can fly nap of the earth to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
  • Fighting a war with the last war’s tactics — In Vietnam, the U.S. refought WWII and lost. Now our planners are preparing Desert Storm II with the same gear and tactics used during the Gulf War but without grunts on the ground. Saddam isn’t a fool. He’s learned — like the Viet Cong — and will have many nasty new tricks to pull out of his gold braid-trimmed hat.
  • Getting into a fight that you can’t win — War is like poker. You need to be smart, skillful and lucky to win. And anyone with a lick of common sense doesn’t get into a fight that he surely can’t win. Sun Tzu, an ancient master of war, wrote “The good fighters of old put themselves beyond the possibilities of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.” As with Vietnam, Congressional bluster will not cause Saddam to change spots. Neither will airpower destroy all of Iraq’s WMD. We could pummel him from the air for six months, but without the costly seizure of Baghdad, Saddam will still be the world’s number one tormentor.

Lott and his war chorus should chill out and spend an evening reading Sun Tzu to understand his bottom line: “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 ruin.”

Hack Notes

When I was a little boy growing up in Ocean Park, California, I learned, and then relearned the hard way to never get into a fight that I couldn’t win. After a few good lickings, I finally worked out that if the guy hassling me was bigger and badder, I either ran like hell or equalized things by picking up a stick and taking him out.

But after no-winners in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, it still doesn’t seem to me that Clinton’s Pentagon has learned that lesson. They’re about to get us into a fight with Saddam that’s shaping up to be another loser.

From what experienced fighter/bomber jocks and very sharp intel sources tell me, there’s no way that airpower alone will cause Saddam to change his ways. Smart bombs will not blow up all of his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), even if we had thousands of them — which we don’t — because we don’t have a clue where all these insidious weapons are.

He could have barrels of his various recipes of death stowed all over the desert, in hospital basements, in mosques or under the teeters-totters of every orphanage in that ancient land. Finding all of his stash would be as impossible as trying to get a fix on all the cocaine in LA.

Stormin’ Norman and his Desert Storm air commander, General Horner are both saying: PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

I agree.

Sure, Saddam has got to go, but let’s do it the smart way. Call up the reserves, train up and get Desert Storm sharp and ready again, establish the necessary infrastructure in Kuwait and build up the huge supply apparatus to support a 200 – 300,000 man force. It will take at least a year to do all this, but when we’re ready – - on our terms — we attack and complete what we should have finished up in February ’91.

What the hell, Monica’s War can wait. What’s another year if we do the job right this time around and finally fix Saddam so he can’t pull our chain every time he gets a wild hair up his ass?

And besides, what’s the rush? Saddam’s had WMD since the 1980s. Bill may not be around to see the job get done – rumor has it he’s asking Castro for exile status – but whoever’s in charge will know that we did the job following the trusted 5 P’s my platoon sergeant taught me over 50 years ago: PRIOR PLANNING PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE.

Keep five yards and have a good week.

If you have comments for Hack you can write him at: teagles@hackworth.com or by snail mail at P. O. Box 430 Whitefish, MT 59937. Visit his home page at: http://www.hackworth.com.

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