Jewish World Review May 4, 2001 / 11 Iyar, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AT first, outfitting the U.S. Army in black berets, the symbol of the elite Ranger units, seemed like a dopey idea.
The idea ostensibly was to boost everyone's morale. The Rangers are to start wearing brown berets and soon all the black-beret-wearing schlubs will want to wear brown berets too.
The beret is a French hat, and if you're striving for some kind of martial attitude, the French military, one-for-four in 20th-century wars, might not be the place to go. But then for years the dress hat of reputedly the world's toughest troops, the British Gurkhas, was a little brimless job with a strap of the kind associated with bellhops, so there might not have been a lot of happy headwear choices.
However, the beret turned out to be a military stratagem of artful and subtle complexity. Clearly the Army brass knew that trouble with China was coming.
To meet the June 14 deadline, 2.6 million berets had to be made, an order that couldn't be filled in this country. The Army contracted with a firm that contracted with the Chinese for 600,000 brown berets. The Army, which tracks procurement down to individual congressional districts, claimed it didn't know the Chinese were making them. Right.
Tuesday night, as China's military beret factories were working overtime, the Pentagon issued a terse two-sentence statement under the signature of the deputy secretary of defense: U.S. troops will not wear any berets made in China or with Chinese content (this is tough; even Chinese sheep are in our doghouse) and all those berets will be collected and disposed of.
So the Chinese military fashion industry has been thrown into disarray, a major order yanked away and its own products facing competition from cheap U.S. Army surplus. Their markets will dry up. The Chinese People's Army will have to wear knockoff aloha shirts until the industry recovers. Diabolical, these Americans.
But the beret question was made irrelevant by a new development in warfare. In previous wars, civilians were pretty much restricted to buying war bonds, rolling bandages and collecting scrap. But in future wars civilians will actually be able to fight in the sense of being personally able to inflict damage on the enemy. They already are.
Since the Chinese interned the crew of the U.S. spy plane, an Internet war has broken out between U.S. and Chinese hackers with each side trying to vandalize the other's Web sites. Anybody can enlist; all it takes is a computer with Internet access.
Showing they're still a little shaky about the pecking order of the U.S. government, Chinese hackers broke into the Department of Labor's Web site over the weekend and posted a picture of their dead pilot, whose name is Wang Wei but who is remembered in this country as Hot Dog. Also showing they're a few egg rolls short of a pu-pu platter in the insult department, the hackers left behind these slogans:
"Outside consistent resistance shame! Attack anti-Chinese arrogance!" You can bet ears are burning in the Labor Department. Other U.S. government sites attacked include such nerve centers as the Office of Personnel Management.
The Internet war shows signs of going global with hackers in other countries choosing sides. According to Security News Portal, we seem to have help from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Argentina and Malaysia - thanks, people - with the Chinese getting a hand from hackers in Korea, Japan and Indonesia.
On Monday, the allies, as we like to think of them, hacked 23 sites in China while pro-Chinese hackers hit 18 U.S. sites. Over the month of April, pro-U.S. hackers hold the edge, 350 sites to 37.
Most Web sites now are designed with hacker attacks in mind, so the damage so far seems limited and, like most wars, this one is being fought mostly by the young but the combat injuries will likely be limited to the odd case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
If the Internet war is a sign of events to come, the beret issue is
almost laughably beside the point because the combatants in the
next war can fight in pajamas for all anyone will
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