Originally created 02/21/99

An old soldier's warning 022199 - The Augusta Chronicle



Col. David Hackworth (U.S. Army, ret.) is a highly-decorated war hero who is one of our nation's leading military analysts. In past years, The Chronicle has published some of his guest columns, and has cited him in national security editorials.

We commend to readers his latest view of what's happening in the former Yugoslavia -- and the alarm bells that he (and others of like mind in and out of the military) are beginning to sound.

Hackworth, in a recent New York Post interview, recalls he was in Trieste, Yugoslavia, 53 years ago when a Serb took a shot at him. "My unit was supposed to be there one year," he remembers. "It ended up staying there nine years, which gives you some idea of the area."

No wonder this distinguished patriot says he's "very suspicious" about President Clinton's announcement that 4,000 U.S. troops must go into Kosovo's multi-ethnic quagmire.

"Kosovo is going to sink us in a swamp. We have spent $20 million in Bosnia, and it is still a tar pit."

This stark warning reminds us of the slow Vietnam meat-grinder that put 58,000 U.S. fighting men to death. And if there was one thing that leading liberals and conservatives tried to tell then-President Lyndon Johnson, it was not to commit a police-type army to a no-win land war.

Kosovo is a no-winner.

Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., is the venerable head of the House of Representatives' National Security Committee. He reminds all who will listen that Clinton has cut almost a million troops from our readiness since 1992. Yet, while cutting our defense posture, the president has dangerously (and unilaterally) increased our troop commitments around the globe.

True, Republicans have begun to restore some of those cuts. But President Clinton still won't listen about the danger of committing troops (even from a wary Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga.).

It's up to Congress to put the skids on troops to Kosovo.

Several congresses and presidents didn't listen to old soldiers like Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who initially alerted the country to the dangers of committing land troops to a no-win war in Asia. Are we now going to ignore old soldiers like David Hackworth, who are warning against committing troops to a similar snake pit in the Balkans?