Mr. Bush, stop the insanity

September 26, 2002|By Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas -- No. This is not acceptable. This is not the country we want to be. This is not the world we want to make.

The United States of America is still run by its citizens. The government works for us. Rank imperialism and warmongering are not American traditions or values. We do not need to dominate the world. We want and need to work with other nations. We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood.

I rarely use the word "we" because it's so arrogant for one citizen to presume to speak for all of us. But on this one, I know we want to find a way so that killing is the last resort, not the first. We would rather put our time, energy, money and even blood into making peace than making war.

"The National Security Strategy of the United States -- 2002" is repellent, unnecessary and, above all, impractical. Americans are famous for pragmatism, and we need a good dose of common sense right now. This Will Not Work.

All of the experts tell us anti-Americanism thrives on the perception that we are arrogant, that we care nothing for what the rest of the world thinks. Even our innocent mistakes are often blamed on obnoxious triumphalism. The announced plan of this administration for world domination reinforces every paranoid, anti-American prejudice on this Earth.

This plan is guaranteed to produce more terrorists. Even if this country were to become some insane, 21st-century version of Sparta -- armed to the teeth, guards on every foot of our borders -- we still wouldn't be safe. Not only would we not be safe, we would not have a nickel left for schools or health care or roads or parks or zoos or gardens or universities or mass transit or senior centers or the arts or anything resembling civilization. This is nuts.

This creepy, un-American document has a pedigree going back to Bush I, when -- surprise! -- Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz were at the Department of Defense. In those days, it was called "Defense Strategy for the 1990s" and was supposed to be a definitive response to the Soviet threat. Then the Soviet threat disappeared, and the same plan re-emerged as a response to the post-Soviet world.

It was roundly criticized at the time, its manifest weaknesses attacked by both right and left. Now it is back yet again as the answer to post-Sept. 11. Sort of like the selling of the Bush tax cut -- needed in surplus, needed in deficit, needed for rain and shine -- the plan exists apart from rationale.

As Frances FitzGerald points out in today's New York Review of Books, its most curious feature is the combination of triumphalism and almost unmitigated pessimism. Until last Friday, when the thing was re-released in its new incarnation, it contained no positive goals for American foreign policy, not one. Now the plan is tricked out with rhetoric like earrings on a pig about extending freedom, democracy and prosperity to the world. But as The New York Times said, "It sounds more like a pronouncement that the Roman Empire or Napoleon might have produced."

In what is indeed a dangerous and uncertain world, we need the cooperation of other nations as never before. Under this doctrine, we claim the right to first-strike use of nuclear weapons and "unannounced pre-emptive strikes." That means surprise attacks. Happy Pearl Harbor Day. We have just proclaimed ourselves Bully of the World.

This reckless, hateful and ineffective approach to the rest of the world has glaring weaknesses. It announces that we intend to go in and take out everybody else's nukes whenever we feel like it. Meanwhile, we're doing virtually nothing to stop their spread.

Last month, Ted Turner's Nuclear Threat Initiative had to pony up $5 million to get poorly secured, weapons-grade uranium out of Belgrade. Privatizing disarmament, why didn't we think of that before?

The final absurdity is that the plan is supposed to Stop Change. Does no one in the administration read history?

Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist.

Columnist Thomas L. Friedman is on vacation.

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