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Fri Jun 28, 9:01 PM ET

By Richard Reeves

WASHINGTON -- The presidency seems to be going to George Bush's head. With each morning's paper or evening's news, depending on your preference, our leader is jumping up and saying truly extraordinary things, some of them preposterous, some stupid, some terrifying.

Ariel Sharon ( news - web sites), he says, is "a man of peace." I must have missed something. If Yasser Arafat ( news - web sites), that other sometimes man of peace, wins an election, the election doesn't count. Nothing counts unless we like it. We are now in the first-strike business, ready to launch pre-emptive or preventive strikes against countries or groups judged hostile to our interests by someone at Central Intelligence or the Republican National Committee ( news - web sites).

Frankly, I prefer what a bit more experienced Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, said on that subject in 1954: "Preventative war ... I don't believe in such a thing, and frankly I wouldn't even listen seriously to anyone that came in and talked about such a thing."

Ah, what did he know? Now, the United States can do anything it wants, right? World's only superpower and all that. We define morality now. We decide who's naughty and who's nice. The Saudi royal family, there's a good bunch, even if they are the greatest exporters of terrorism in the world, getting out of their country and into Afghanistan ( news - web sites), Chechnya ( news - web sites), Kashmir ( news - web sites) and lower Manhattan.

We are, since Sept. 11, a nation without dissent -- and a little weak on common sense, too. If the president says it, it must be true. Whether you agree with his pronouncements or not, you are supposed to keep your mouth shut in the name of patriotism and solidarity. Among other things, you have to pretend we actually have the capability to do what we say we're going to do to the axis of evil or anyone else, including corporate America, who gets bad numbers in Republicans' polls.

Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Foreign Policy magazine, hardly a hotbed of anti-establishment thinking, in its July-August edition has a cover story titled "The Incredible Shrinking Eagle: The End of Pax Americana," a harsh left-wing analysis asserting that the United States' best days are behind us. I would disagree with that, but I am impressed that someone out there has a clear enough head to point out that with all our big talk, the United States has fought three wars since 1950 and has lost one and tied two. The author, Immanuel Wallerstein, a roving intellectual now a senior research scholar at Yale, counts Vietnam as a defeat, and Korea and Iraq as draws.

"One of the most influential scholars of the American left," say the magazine's editors in what appears to be a bit of nervousness. "He argues that the victory over the Taliban is just another milestone in a gradual U.S. decline that began in the 1970s with defeat in Vietnam. ... More damningly, he accuses the most aggressive proponents of U.S. power of actually hastening the collapse of the American empire, thanks to military outreach that has busted the U.S. economy and a global backlash against American arrogance that has left the United States increasingly isolated."

"Unexamined triumphalism" is Foreign Policy's justification for printing the kind of questioning and skepticism that has been lost in larger journals and electronic news -- to say nothing of the president's head. "The Powerless Superpower" is one of the subheads in the Wallerstein article. We look best, he declares, when we attack countries without armies, triumphing in Panama and Grenada. "In the Balkans and the Middle East alike," he argues, "the United States has failed to exert its hegemonic clout effectively, not for want of will or effort, but for want of real power."

President Bush ( news - web sites) does not seem to understand that. He is making threats and promises he cannot deliver on, because the only way to control cantankerous little countries with their own history is by occupation. So it is ridiculous for Bush to say, "The outcome is certain." And the prospects for the future are not helped by threats such as, "You are either for us or against us."

The truth is, most countries, with Israel and Saudi Arabia as examples, are not with us; they are paying lip-service waiting to see whether and where we succeed. They are -- surprise -- for themselves. This is heresy in mobilizing Washington, but in fact, more argument, more dissent would be a great help to Bush. He is talking nonsense a good deal of the time, dangerous nonsense if he means it, and it is past time to talk openly about that.

-- M.A.D.D.E.R. (Mothers Against Dumb and Disorderly @ Egotistical. Republicans), June 29, 2002


"Dissent" = code-word for liberal BS.

-- (truth squad @ your.door), June 29, 2002.


Yeah right, and without any dissent, you eventually get "Nazi Fascism" = code word for Conservative Status Quo

-- (go back to @ burying. your head), June 29, 2002.

(go back to @ burying. your head) = codeword for trollboy = codeword for "mental"

-- (roland@hatemail.com), June 29, 2002.

(roland@hatemail.com)= codeword for "nigga suckin up to conservative whitey"

-- (bwahaha@you.slaveboy), June 29, 2002.

Dumbya driving me batty.

-- (wahha@yahaa.balaza), June 30, 2002.

Would have sworn Reeves announced his retirement several months ago. Anyone else catch that?

-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), July 02, 2002.

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