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Jewish World Review / Sept. 29, 1998 / 9 Tishrei, 5759

Don Feder

Don Feder Letter from ex-soldier highlights defense peril

AFTER STARVING THE MILITARY for five and a half years, the president says defense is now a priority.

"I commit to you that the men and women of our armed forces will have the resources that they need to do their job," the anti-war activist turned commander in chief pledged to a group of Pentagon officials.

Of course, that guarantee depends on the way he defines "resources," "need" and "job" -- and you know how eccentric Clinton's definitions can be.

Following years of level funding adjusted for inflation, and after the joint chiefs told him that they can't defend the country and meet our increasing (and increasingly odd) obligations abroad with what they have, the president is considering a 3.5 percent to 7 percent rise in defense spending in the next budget.

But money is only part of the New Clinton Army's problems. A letter from Pat made that depressingly clear.

I've known Pat (not his real name) for a decade. He's a retired career Army officer who did three tours in Vietnam -- only one of them "official." In his current position with a high-tech security firm, he visits bases around the country and gets off-the-record input from men on active duty.

"The U.S. military, across the board, is in the worst state of combat readiness that has ever existed, at least in modern times," Pat writes. "The ideal poster child for today's Army is not George Patton, but George Armstrong Custer."

What about those can-do troops who won the Gulf War? "The first item of 'wisdom' is that although our military today is smaller, it is smarter and far superior to anything we had in the past. This is just plain not true. I have worked with militarily trained 'computer technicians' who did not know basic terms and concepts, and who really weren't interested in learning."

He's even less impressed by their superiors. "Our alleged military leaders are almost all politicians in uniform, concerned with personal advancement, not with the welfare of their troops or with winning wars."

None of this is to deny the devastation of budget cuts. "Pilots can train for combat only by flying airplanes. But there is no money for fuel and aircraft maintenance. I have been told by more than one Air Force master sergeant that the reason there is so little flying going on is because money is constantly being diverted to Bosnia.

"The Navy may be in the worst shape because ships consume a great deal of fuel. Maneuvering warships in training exercises 'burns up' a great deal of money, as does firing the large weapons that they have."

Funding aside, Pat argues that our combat readiness is being sacrificed to the gods of gender equality. He cites two examples.

Until quite recently, carrying a stretcher was a "two-man" job. Given that two women generally lack the upper body strength for this, it's now a four-person assignment. That means, in future conflicts, every casualty will take not two but four soldiers away from the fighting.

Most women can't throw a standard grenade beyond the bursting range. The Army's ingenious solution -- lighter grenades; lighter because they have less explosives and will be less lethal against an enemy.

Pat's conclusion will not ring sweetly in the ears of the hear-me-roar crowd. "Aggressiveness, willingness to fight, team loyalty, all are different -- if not virtually non-existent -- in women, yet they are absolutely required for an effective fighting unit."

Feminization of the armed forces has contributed to the development of a touchy-feely military more concerned with managing human resources than in turning civilians into soldiers.

"The purpose of Basic Training, which used to be called 'Basic Combat Training,' is to make the civilian trainee just out of high school physically and mentally capable of killing people. ... Not to train people for civilian careers, not to give them opportunities for a college education, not to provide opportunities for women, but to train them to kill people and break things."

This is a harsh reality for those accustomed to thinking of the military as uniformed social workers.

The letter ends as it began, on a pessimistic note: "What bothers me the most is that the majority of the public does not know what the situation is, and they don't want to know. I am increasingly afraid that the time is fast approaching when we will have to pay the price for our foolishness."

But then, why should a public that doesn't want to know what their president did in the "privacy" of the White House be interested in confronting something even scarier -- the abysmal state of national security?


9/28/98: Answering arguments against impeachment
9/18/98: The nation that doesn't exist
9/14/98: Bubba isn't the only one who should be ashamed
9/11/98: Resolution of Clinton crisis will define national character
9/09/98: We're still just wild about Harry
9/07/98: Mexican banditry didn't end with Pancho Villa
9/02/98: Clinton forgives us!
8/31/98: Ashcroft's plain talking touches responsive chord
8/26/98: Public opinion be damned
8/24/98: Why liberals condone Clinton's lies
8/20/98: Time to move on -- to impeachment
8/12/98: With Bubba in the sexual privacy zone
8/10/98: The truth won't set Clinton free
8/06/98: Truth about Hiroshima is incontrovertible
8/04/98: Clinton not the first hollow president
7/30/98: "Small Soldiers" -- a fractured Vietnam allegory
7/27/98: Crime wave hits hometown
7/22/98: Love in an Internet fishbowl
7/20/98: Ads bring ex-gay movement out of closet
7/15/98: Brian and Amy -- the children of Roe
7/13/98: Why are we scared of obnoxious 'activists?'
7/6/98: Fonda still resists reality
7/1/98: New York blesses domestic partnerships
6/29/98: Teddy and Calvin stood for virtue
6/24/98: Will Clinton betray Taiwan?
6/22/98: Big tobacco? What about big casinos?
6/15/98: Religion -- God for what ails you
6/10/98: Planning Clinton's China itinery
6/8/98: Republicans' Custer offers advice
6/4/98: Oh, Dems Christian-bashers!
6/2/98: Goldwater did conservatives more harm than good
5/27/98: A Clinton-hater confesses
5/15/98: Giuliani's assault on marriage
5/13/98: Hillary knows what's best for everyone
5/11/98: To honor her would not be honorable
5/6/98: Conservative chasm: pragmatism vs. worship of marketplace
5/4/98: Anglo-saxon me
4/29/98: Needle exchange programs are assisted-suicide
4/27/98: Chretien's mission of mercy to Fidel
4/22/98: School-choice is a religious freedom issue
4/20/98: Corporate execs deliver body parts to Beijing
4/14/98: National sales tax --- looks better all the time
4/13/98: The U.N. sinister? Hey, where did that idea come from?
4/8/98: Unions fight workers rights in 226 campaign
3/30/98: Africa's leaders should apologize
3/25/98: GOP shouldn't look to media for advice
3/22/98: You should care about Clinton's 'private life'
3/19/98: Color-coded reading, product of obsessive minds
3/16/98: Amendment will end exile of G-d from our public lives
3/9/98: Havana will break your heart
3/2/98: Vouchers Terrify Teachers' Union
2/25/98: Presidential politics starts at a resort hotel
2/23/98: Hillary's support comes at a price
2/18/98: How many times must we say "no" to gay rights?
2/16/98: Enoch Powell spoke the truth on immigration
2/11/98: Bubba behaving badly
2/9/98: A conservative dissent on the flag-burning amendment
2/5/98: We get the leaders we deserve
2/2/98: Send a signal that could penetrate boardroom doors
1/27/98: State of the president: hollow rhetoric
1/25/98: For Monica's playmate, we have no one to blame but ourselves
1/22/98: At Yale, bet on yarmulke over gown
1/19/98: Commission tackles America's fastest-growing addiction, gambling
1/15/98: Capital punishment and the hard case: no exceptions for Karla Faye Tucker
1/12/98: Partial-birth abortion and the GOP's future: the "big tent" meets truth in advertising
1/8/98: IOLTA: the Left's latest scam to crawl into our pockets
1/5/98: Connect the dots to create a terrorist state
1/1/98: The Unacceptables of 1997: Long may they rave
12/28/97: Hypocrisy is a liberal survival mechanism
12/23/97: Chanukah is no laughing matter
12/22/97: No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
12/18/97: Bosnia, Haiti, and how not to conduct a foreign policy

©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.