Stupid Is as Stupid Does

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Most conspiracy buffs underestimate human stupidity. They see people they consider smart and powerful do stupid things, and they think the people must have some hidden ulterior motive. Surely people in such high positions, they think, couldn’t do something that dumb.

They should read more history. In the first place, lots of people are rich, and some end up in positions of power simply because of the luck of their birth or other circumstances. A position of power does not necessarily mean the person holding it is smart. I could cite a contemporary example, but then some people would accuse me of partisan sniping. Trust me, my contempt for most politicians is nonpartisan.

But history really is a long story of mostly human blunders and some short interludes of brilliance. Nobody wanted World War I, but the leaders of Europe’s major powers blundered into it. By the time they had counted the 10 million dead, it took a patient historian a long time to explain how and why it had happened. Then those same brilliant and smart people concocted a vindictive peace treaty that absolutely guaranteed another war, which came in 1939. Most of the 20th century has been consumed with the consequences of those blunders that led to World War I and all that followed it.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Started by Great Britain and France at the end of World War I. The Kurdish conflict? Ditto. In fact, the modern Middle East was created by a Frenchman and an Englishman without the slightest reference to the wishes of the native people or any natural borders.

And while we still struggle to undo mischief begun in the past century, our leaders are creating mischief that might well occupy our posterity. Here again, what they are doing appears plain stupid on its face.

I’m talking about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This war-fighting alliance was created at the end of World War II, when it seemed Josef Stalin might send the Red Army charging across Western Europe. Eventually, the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact as a counter to NATO.

When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, not only did Russia withdraw its armed forces from Europe, but the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. At that point, any reason whatsoever for the continued existence of NATO died on the vine. But did the United States disband NATO? Oh, no, it kept NATO alive and has now expanded it right up to Russia’s borders.

Let us hope that the Russians recognize stupidity when they see it. Why should there be a Western war alliance when there is no country in a position to make war on Europe? Only one country, Russia, has the power to be a potential attacker, and so any Russian official must conclude that the retention and expansion of NATO is directly aimed at Russia.

Just recently the idiots in the West admitted the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — into NATO. As a very disgruntled Russia defense minister just pointed out, the Baltics are a "consumer of security, not a producer." These small countries, which share much bad blood with Russia, would be absolutely useless in a future war. They are too small and too close to Russia. The only possible role they could play would be as a launching point for a U.S. attack against Russia.

You say no such attack is contemplated. Precisely — so why admit three small countries cheek to jowl with Russia to a Western European war-fighting alliance that excludes Russia? And to compound the stupidity, NATO will have warplanes flying patrols along the Russian frontier. For what purpose? Again the irate Russian defense minister has pointed out that four airplanes are not likely to find al-Qaida flying in Russian or Baltic airspace.

What four warplanes do is provide an opportunity for a dangerous accident should they stray into Russian airspace and get shot down. The United States should have disbanded NATO and concentrated its diplomacy on forming a strong relationship with Russia. Instead, it seems to be stupidly intent on playing a dangerous game with a country that is not only justifiably suspicious but still retains very sharp nuclear teeth.

I know I’ve overworked the word "stupidity," but it is precisely this kind of blundering diplomacy that threatens the peace and prosperity of the world and makes it imperative that the present administration be unceremoniously dumped out of office. For God’s sake, let’s make sure some future historian doesn’t have to try to figure out how the United States and Russia blundered into a war after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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