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Unmasking Delinquency

Covering a Century

U.S. hubris could come back to haunt us

Published Friday, February 22, 2002

A dangerous amount of hubris seems to be settling over Washington like fallout from a bomb. Hubris, of course, is the combination of arrogance and unwarranted assumptions.

Recently, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said our "victory" in Afghanistan proves that we are the "most militarily powerful country in the history of the world." Thatís hubris, not to mention ignorance of matters both military and historical.

We didnít fight in Afghanistan. We bribed warlords to do the fighting. We just bombed light infantry troops who had no air defense. The outcome was no surprise and no proof of our military power. Sorry, Lieberman, but youíre going to have to wait until we attack somebody besides tiny and/or impoverished nations before you can properly evaluate our military prowess.

I donít think we could beat Russia or China, certainly not the two of them fighting together. I donít think we could beat North Korea without spilling more American blood than the American people would tolerate. Furthermore, China showed in the first Korean War that it would not let the United States install a puppet government on its border. What makes the wizards in Washington think the Chinese have changed their minds on that point?

As much as we might not wish to admit it, we havenít won a war in anything close to a fair fight since 1945. We were fought to a stalemate in Korea; we were driven out of Vietnam. Since then we have "whupped up on" such major military powers as Panama, Grenada, Yugoslavia - from the air only - Iraq and now the Taliban. That proves only that a lot will beat nothing to speak of.

It is patriotic to love oneís country and oneís people and, in our case, the Constitution. It is not patriotic, however, to jump on the bandwagon every time a politician develops delusions of grandeur from bullying some small country. President George W. Bush seems to be indicating that we donít need the support of Europe or anyone else to do what we please. That is exactly the kind of arrogance that caused the defeat and ultimate destruction of the British Empire.

Our relationship with Russia is far more important to our national security than a dictator in Baghdad, yet Bush is indicating he will jeopardize that to pursue a vendetta against Saddam Hussein. That would be a strategic blunder of immense consequences.

Furthermore, itís not too smart to put countries on notice that you plan to get around to making war against them. For one thing, it surrenders initiative. North Korea might decide not to wait until weíre ready. Iran and Iraq might decide to put aside their enmity while they face a common enemy. Either one could destroy the oil facilities in the Persian Gulf states or lob some missiles at Israel and start a general war. Bush might then discover what itís like to fight a general war without a single ally.

And finally, I wouldnít call our foray into Afghanistan either a success or a victory until the last American soldier is out of the country. Itís always been easier to go into Afghanistan than to get out. Right now, the government we put in power controls only Kabul. In other words, Afghanistan is far from being stabilized. Even the warlords we paid to fight the Taliban donít like us. Nor has Osama bin Laden been found. Lots of loose ends yet remain to be tied up.

Former Orlando Sentinel columnist Charley Reese writes for King Features Syndicate.





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