Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

April 5, 1999

Playing with matches in the powder keg
US in dangerous situation with demoralized, poorly equipped military

A weakened nation left with a dwindling supply of weapons while facing an increasingly tense situation with troops held hostage and military morale at an all-time low, as war-mongering civilian leaders are eager to spill more blood. Not a description of Iraq or Serbia, but of the US as we enter the second quarter of 1999.
While downplayed by the media and the Clinton Administration, anonymous sources have revealed in news leaks that the United States is dangerously low on satellite-guided cruise and the Tomahawk missiles -- two indispensable mainstays of our air power. Yet these weapons are being expended like candy -- with apparently the same effect -- in Serbia.
At the same time, this week, we learned that Russia is moving ships into Balkan Sea. While publicly remaining neutral on the US/NATO attacks on the sovereign nation of Serbia, the Russians have been traditional allies of the Serbs. Massive anti-American demonstrations in Moscow cannot long go unnoticed by the Russian politicians, whose government is, at best, tenuously held together.
Finally, Americans awoke to the troubling news that three American soldiers were captured by Serbian forces and paraded on state television. Their capture reflects the basic problem with our foreign policy. These men were in Macedonia as NATO troops with a UN "peace-keeping" mission that ended in February. The reason they were still in the region -- and specifically near the Serbian border -- is unclear.
What is clear is that no one seems to know what to do with them; they are not -- regardless of the media's sensationalist headlines -- "prisoners of war," for there is simply no declared war. Are they prisoners of peace? Are they trespassers? Under whose legal jurisdiction do they fall? It was not lost on American troops that the Administration and NATO leaders were nonplussed by the capture.
Of course, what is also not lost on our military is that this Administration does not really worry about things like military morale. After all, the Air Force is trying to wage this mission with a record low number of pilots, diminishing weapons and resorting to cannibalizing pilot-less aircraft for spare parts. The other branches are likewise seeing fewer recruits. And it is no wonder! Why would any young person choose military service -- or to stay in the military -- when it may require being captured by hostile forces, in the most untenable of situations, while performing missions that have no relation to our national security under the command of foreign leaders?
The Administration's track record on military engagement is disastrous, even if one accepts their interventionist philosophy. Not a single foreign entanglement of this Administration has achieved a single one of its goals. Yet far be it for this Administration to learn from past mistakes and put a more sensible foreign policy in place.
With our troops spread so thinly and so poorly, one must wonder if this Administration is living in a fantasy world. For it is only in the world of fantasies where a hero can successfully face dozens of foes armed only with a butter knife. Yet the American people are not sure if we can even claim the title of hero in this situation, for rarely does a "hero" pick a fight. And one who picks a gun fight with a butter knife is more aptly described as foolish.
To say the situation facing America is bleak would be optimistic. Dangerous would more correctly reflect reality.
We have been told that this region is a powder keg. Sadly, this Administration is poised with a lit match, inches from the barrel. Save a miracle, it is sure to explode in our faces.