Define the threat

By David Hackworth

Fifty-two years ago, on a cold day on the Korean front, my lieutenant gave me a copy of “The Art of War.” I’ve been a disciple ever since – the book has become my military bible, and I read a passage daily.

Sun Tzu lays it all out: Know your enemy; the art of war cannot be neglected; all warfare is based on deception; the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; make sure the enemy threat is real.

Wise thinking about war and peace that Bush 43 should borrow from to help him counter the counsel of his advisers baying for Saddam’s head. And since nobody has yet come up with sufficient justification for our grunts laying their lives on the line, the war gang would do well to slow down and study this brilliant Chinese general’s words as well.

By the way, none of these hawks – not one of whom ever wore a soldier suit, even though most were of draft age back during the dark days of Vietnam – or their sons or daughters will be accompanying our warriors on their march to Baghdad. As usual, it will be a war fought by mainly blue-collar Americans with no vested interests in the oil business.

Back in 1991, when Stormin’ Norman had the Iraqi army on the ropes, Super-Hawk Dick Cheney knew that Saddam had WMD (weapons of mass destruction) – but he still went along with Bush 41’s decision to let the perps walk. Cheney should have stood in the door when 41 made that bad call and insisted we take out Saddam while we had the world behind us and the forces on the ground to do the job. Or he should have resigned.

Yet 11 years later, Cheney is the main cheerleader for attacking Iraq because – breaking news – Saddam has chemical and bio weapons. And, he keeps telling us, Saddam now also has nukes.

Even though many experts say it isn’t so, let’s buy into Cheney’s pitch and agree that Iraq has a few small nuclear warheads. The question then becomes: “Can he land them in New York City or Los Angeles?” The answer is: “No.” Saddam just doesn’t have the fleets of ICBMs that we and 43’s new best friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin, do. All he can muster at most are a few-dozen wheezing Scud missiles, onto which he could try to screw his alleged nuke warheads. On a good day, these throwbacks to the Vietnam era would have a range of 100 miles and be about as accurate as a blind man firing a shotgun at the sound of a bat in a forest.

During the 50-year Cold War – the good old days through post-9/11 eyes – the Soviets had approximately 50,000 nukes. About half were capable of zipping across our oceans and turning our country into a radiated inferno. But we never took the Sovs out, even when their leader hammered his shoe and warned the United Nations that he was going to bury us. Even when we knew Soviet soldiers had one hand on the nuclear button while the other was holding the bottles of vodka they were slugging down.

The hairiest time during the Cold War was when the Soviets deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba. The 90 miles from launch to target brought us to the brink, because we’d have all been glowing before our missiles could have struck back. Jack Kennedy demanded the Soviets get ’em out, or U.S. Marines and paratroopers would. But first he got on the tube and told us the way it was: That we had documented U-2 shots of Soviet missiles, soldiers and launchers in Cuba. That we had no choice – we had to take them out, and the risk was worth the gain. Because he made his case, the American people said, “Do it, Jack.”

Our president must bring us equally convincing reasons for going to war with Iraq. And it’s going to be a stretch for 43 to prove that Iraq’s WMD are a clear and present danger to our country when they’re apparently not threatening the Middle Eastern states within their range, states whose leaders have so loudly said, “USA, don’t use the military solution.”