Misguided Mission
by Charley Reese
December 16, 2003

It's clear that the president's brain is occupied by the neoconservatives who surround him. It's clear from their writings and policy statements that the neoconservatives believe the United States can become the dominant power on Earth.

This is a bad judgment that is dangerous and could become lethal. This is why thoughtful people believe it is imperative to defeat George Bush in the 2004 elections. This wrongheaded policy, cooked up by academics and journalists, is not one that will merely embarrass the United States. It is a wrongheaded policy that could have dire consequences for the American people.

This wrongheaded idea that the United States can now dominate the planet rests on a number of fallacies. Let's look at them.

Fallacy No. 1 is the belief that the rest of the world will acquiesce to American dominance. Russia, China and India, not to mention the Islamic World, are not about to go quietly into the sunset. All three have large populations, large amounts of natural resources, and nuclear teeth. Their nuclear teeth mean that the U.S. attempts to bully them will always fall short of being effective.

Fallacy No. 2 is the false belief that the United States is as strong as it was in 1945. The truth is we are much weaker. The great manufacturing capacity that became the "arsenal of democracy" has been eroded almost beyond recognition. Our agricultural base has been eroded. Iron ore and oil supplies have been seriously depleted. We are in fact dependent on imports not only for energy supplies but for manufactured goods, strategic minerals, parts for our own strategic weapons systems, and increasingly for food. We are running high federal deficits, high trade deficits and high current account deficits. The value of the dollar is eroding rapidly.

Fallacy No. 3 is the false belief that our military is undefeatable. This falsehood has been fed by the fact that since Vietnam, we have used our high-tech forces to attack small, poor, defenseless countries such as Grenada, Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. But even Afghanistan and Iraq, both dilapidated and lacking all modern military technology, have put a great strain on America's military forces. We do not yet have full control of either country.

Our strength is not in our ground forces but in our high-tech air power and the ability to coordinate the two. One breakthrough in air-defense technology could seriously weaken us, and you can be sure both Russia and China are working assiduously to make that breakthrough. Before you dismiss Russia, you should remember that we are now dependent on Russian spacecraft to reach the space station and that Russia, not us, has the world's largest mobile intercontinental ballistic missile force.

If we are so strong, why has the president tread so carefully in his dealings with North Korea? Why not bully them as he did Iraq? Why not issue ultimatums? For the simple reason that we would pay a very high price in American casualties if we got into a war with North Korea. Don't forget, it is their civilian sector that is poor. They have put most of their resources into their military.

In 1945, the United States was the strongest and richest country on Earth. In 2003, we are one of, if not the, most indebted countries on Earth. Foreign holders of that debt could wreck our economy simply by deciding to dump their holdings on the market. Domestically we are a divided people with a decadent culture, if you can even call it a culture.

Far from entering a period of dominance, we are entering a period of great danger. Most empires have lasted about 250 years, and we are approaching that number. What we need are not empty heads controlled by pseudo-intellectual ideologues but the smartest, wisest leaders we can find. Our future depends on it.

© 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column three times a week for King Features, which is carried on Antiwar.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.

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