Molly Ivins

Just Say No War


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–and besides, Americans famously can’t agree on the time of day. 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 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 teeth, guards on every foot of our borders–we would still not be safe. Have the Israelis been able to stop terrorism with their tactics?

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 and both such geniuses that they not only didn’t see the collapse of the Soviet Union coming, they didn’t believe it after they saw it.

In those days, this plan for permanent imperial adventurism 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 the September 26 New York Review of Books, its most curious feature is the combination of triumphalism and almost unmitigated pessimism. Until earlier this month, 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.

There is a better way. Foreign policy experts polled at the end of the 20th century agreed the great triumph of the past 100 years in foreign policy was the Marshall Plan. We can use our strength to promote our interests through diplomacy, economic diplomacy, multilateral institutions (which we dominate anyway), and free trade conditioned to benefit all.

None of this will make Al Qaeda love us, but will make it a lot more likely that whoever finds them will hand them over.

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 (27 countries have them) 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 nationally syndicated columnist. Her book with Louis Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, is out in paperback.