America: A Beacon, Not a Policeman       America: a Beacon, not a Policeman


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  Orlando Sentinel, April 22, 2001

by Charley Reese

Published April 22, 2001

I've been intrigued by the responses to a
column I wrote suggesting that our China
policy ought to be spelled out and submitted to
the American people for approval.

First, some people irately took issue with my
calling the airplane a "spy plane." It is not, they
stoutly contend, because it is overtly
intercepting electronic signals.

Let's suppose a clearly marked police van
parked on the public street in front of your
house. Let's suppose the officers began to
intercept your telephone calls, whatever
information appeared on your computer
screen and even your verbal conversations.
Now, would you feel spied upon or would you
say, "Hey, that's only electronic intercepts, and
they are operating openly on a public street."

Then there is the more logical argument that
we need to spy on the Chinese in case we
have to fight them. My point exactly. Why do
we have to fight them?

We certainly should not fight them over
Taiwan. Our own beloved Jimmy Carter
unilaterally abrogated the mutual-defense
treaty. Our own tough anti-Communist Richard
Nixon publicly agreed that Taiwan is part of
China and, therefore, falls under the category
of China's internal affairs. What's to fight

If Taiwan declares its independence, I would
expect Chinese leaders would emulate
Abraham Lincoln and use force to prevent it.
For all my little old Southern life, I've heard
Yankees say Lincoln was right. What's good
for Honest Abe is good for Honest Jiang,

Then there is the argument that we must not
lose our position as a "Pacific power."
Geographically, since we granted independence to the Philippines,
we are not a Pacific power.

I see no reason why we should wish to be a Pacific power in a
military sense. What's to be gained?

The two natural Pacific powers are Japan and China.

The funniest response has been alarm about China's "military
buildup." I would say that if China did not engage in a military buildup
after watching the United States go bomb and missile crazy during
the past 20 years that it would be derelict in its duty. But let's keep
this in perspective. The Chinese have about 20 ICBMs; we have
hundreds. Their defense expenditures are somewhere around $50
billion; ours, in excess of $268 billion.

Furthermore, Chinese strategy, as discussed in their own military
journals, is to develop the ability to defeat us in their immediate
vicinity. That means clearly that if we keep our nose out of their
affairs, no military clashes are likely to occur.

Civilians, too, need to be reminded that military forces are about
making war. We should never have changed from the honest name,
War Department, to the Newspeak name, Defense Department.
Armed forces are either fighting wars, training to fight wars or
planning to fight wars. That's what they do.

It's also what the military forces of every other country do. Just
because a country's military makes contingency plans to fight some
other country doesn't mean that they intend to initiate a war.

Unfortunately America is full of jingoists, usually pot-bellied
gray-hairs or 4-F journalists and policy wonks. They are always
eager for the teens and twentysomethings to go somewhere and get
killed or maimed. In most cases, within five years of their youthful
deaths, nobody can remember why they had to get killed.

Korea ended up divided exactly the same way after the war as
before the war. Vietnam became communist, which it could have
become without 57,000 Americans dying in it. We went to war
presumably to preserve the oil contracts with Kuwait Inc., and now
Americans are driving around with gasoline refined from Iraqi oil.

As for you "love-it-or-leave-it" blockheads, you leave it and go fight
instead of sending someone else if you are such grand warriors.
What I love are the people and the land, not the government.

The lives of a nation's youth are its most precious treasure, and I'm
damned if I will stay silent while armchair generals propose to risk
that treasure in some stupid, ignorant, corrupt or unnecessary war.

You can reach Charley Reese at 407-420-5315 or

Copyright 2001, Orlando Sentinel