Hazardous Duty

David H. Hackworth, Author, Tom Mathews, Author William Morrow & Company $27 (350p) ISBN 978-0-688-14718-1
Hackworth (About Face) is the most highly decorated living U.S. soldier. He's also a take-no-prisoners critic of America's contemporary defense establishment. Here, he uses his experiences as a Newsweek correspondent in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Haiti, Korea and the Balkans to illustrate and denounce a military-industrial-political system that, he charges, gives rank and power to ""Perfumed Princes"" at the expense of ""warrior studs."" A chapter detailing Hackworth's controversial investigation of Admiral Jeremy Boorda's alleged misappropriation of combat decorations--a scandal that ended in Boorda's suicide--serves as a case study of what Hackworth sees as the armed forces' continued devotion to appearance rather than performance. Hackworth's attacks on log-rolling and careerism seem like justified responses to the bureaucratization endemic to any complex organization. His repeated indictments of ""politics over tactics,"" however, appears to reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the customary role of armed force in national policy. Traditionally, as in Clausewitz's famous dictum, war is the continuation of diplomacy and politics--not their focal point. Hackworth's definition of a warrior is narrow; great captains come in many forms besides outspoken, down-home types happiest in the field with their troops. The author isn't shy about voicing his opinions. Of President Clinton's decision to order paratroopers into Haiti under the dangerous light of a full moon, he writes, ""[Clinton} was so inexperienced he would have us grab a rattlesnake by the tail because that was where the noise was coming from."" In contrast, Hackworth presents himself as one savvy, tough soldier (dressing down an ""arrogant"" Haitian police captain, ""I just tore into his ass backward and forward""). While the author's grit is entertaining (and credible), it also melodramatizes the entire book, undermining the gravity of his more serious points. But this is a feisty, heads-up brief nonetheless, told with spirit by a warrior who now wields a pen instead of a sword. Author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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