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Of all the calculated absurdities of Mr. Clinton's administration to date, none is more ridiculous than his dismantling of the American armed forces.

Cheered on all the way by a feminist bloc that helped him get elected, the president and his minions have done what no enemy has achieved. He has plunged the U.S. military into chaos and sent it reeling in retreat. Something neither Hitler nor Tojo nor the Chinese Communist army nor the Kaiser nor Cornwallis nor Pancho Villa nor even Robert E. Lee could do.

A good ol' boy from Arkansas by way of Yale Law, who never spent an hour in uniform, has our Army, Navy, Air Force and, to an extent, the Marines, stumbling about in shambling confusion. Seven years ago in the Persian Gulf, our forces were the envy of the world. Today, officers both senior and junior, male and female, are being held up to ridicule and drummed out of the corps to the beat of slack drums and the snickering derision of sophisticated people in just about every other mature country. We have become a global laughing stock. There hasn't been such organized foolishness since "McHale's Navy" and these people all ought to be ashamed of themselves and Bill Cohen ought simply to submit a resignation of honor and get the hell out of there. Or he and the Joint Chiefs ought to go up to the White House and talk some sense into the president.

If the nosy parkers running things today had their way in the past, Nelson wouldn't have fought at Trafalgar, Eisenhower would never have ordered the troops in at D-Day, Napoleon would not have met his Waterloo. They all would have been cashiered for naughtiness.

The entire affair has become so ludicrous that Russell Baker, the one and only columnist of The New York Times officially permitted to be funny, turned serious in a June 7 column. Said the headline: "First It's About Killing," and the column ended on this somber note:

"Maybe full sexual integration of the military is a noble idea whose time has not come. This day 53 years ago was D-Day Plus One. If we were in a shooting war now, we could be in real trouble."

For more than half a century there have been women serving, and well, in the Armed Forces. Waves, Wacs, Women Marines, Spars, Wafs.

Then the Clinton bunch began pandering to pressure groups and trying out half-baked ideas of social engineering, not in academia or political debate, but in the hard, real world of soldiering where people get killed.

Someone got the brilliant notion that because women weren't permitted to serve on warships or fly combat planes or actually get into firefights, shooting people and getting shot in return, they were being discriminated against by the old fogies and the male chauvinist pigs who largely run things in the service. Therefore, all barriers to a fully sexually integrated military must come down. The military-by definition a dictatorship-must overnight become a democracy.

So off they went to the Persian Gulf, hundreds of young men and young women together aboard U.S. warships for months at a time. Talk about "love boat." The resultant pregnancies came as something of a shock. Which is itself a shock.*.*.that no one realized such things might happen. It is since the Gulf War the utopian theorizing of the Clintons really kicked in: the forced sharing of barracks by young men and women, the use of hard, male drill instructor authority figures to train teen-aged female recruits, opening the door to the dual problem of the sexually predatory male preying on kids and the clever young woman using her charms to get ahead with the D.I.

Did no one see this one coming? Seems to me locomotive whistles were sounding at the grade crossing from the very first.

Now the witch hunts are under way and the dirty laundry hanged on Capitol Hill.

The stupidity is appalling, the political correctness stultifying, the failure to understand how men and women think and act and relate is stunning. The phony piety, the congressional handwringing. How laughable it was to have a four-star general sitting there being questioned by 50- and 60-year-old senators about whether he ever committed adultery. Has anyone polled the Senate itself? Is there no moratorium on nonsense? Have the morons taken over?

In the current context, Ensign Pulver would have been court-martialed, Lt. Henry and Catherine Barkley arrested, and Sgt. Warden and Mrs. "Dynamite" Holmes hung in effigy on Waikiki Beach. The whole thing would be slapstick comedy if it didn't involve the serious business of war.

The smug ignorance of these fools beggars the imagination. Combat is a primitive affair in which a core of discipline is required for survival; a reliance on the strength and tenacity of the man below and trust and respect for the craft of the man above.

It used to be called the Chain of Command.

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