In a Perfect World

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In a perfect world, military power would match the brainpower of the people who wield it. Alas, it’s not a perfect world, and the mismatch between power and smarts is sometimes wider than the Grand Canyon.

Remember when Paul Wolfowitz was in the Defense Department? Why, he told Congress that the Iraqis will greet us as liberators and Iraqi oil will pay for the war and the reconstruction. Can’t beat that deal — getting rid of a dictator the president doesn’t like virtually cost-free.

Well, about a half-trillion dollars and more than 2,500 dead Americans later, it is safe to say that Mr. Wolfowitz was wrong. He was wrong about the greeting, wrong about the oil, wrong about the number of troops needed to occupy Iraq. Fortunately, he’s gone to the World Bank, where the only things he can screw up are economies.

Donald Rumsfeld was wrong, too. He thought a light force could quickly end the war. It did win the first war, against Saddam Hussein’s obsolete, demoralized conventional forces. It’s still fighting the insurrection that followed. A few weeks ago, the U.S. military announced a major crackdown that was going to clean out Baghdad street by street, house by house. Well, weeks later, the U.S. military announced that attacks in Baghdad have increased by 40 percent. Looks like "housecleaning" was a little more difficult than the generals figured.

Last week, the Israelis sent a special-ops force into Lebanon to ambush the Hezbollah fighters. Instead, Hezbollah ambushed the Israelis. Israel is learning for the second time that conventional forces don’t fare well against guerrillas. That’s why Hezbollah is in south Lebanon and the Israelis, who occupied it for 20 years, are not. Don’t blame the Israelis, however. We learned the same lesson in Vietnam and promptly forgot it in time for the Iraq War.

Since it is clearly impossible to keep dunderheads and other less-than- brilliant people out of power, we should concentrate on reducing the power of government. That was the strategy of the Founding Fathers. They wanted government to be difficult, not easy or streamlined. That’s why they put all the checks and balances in the Constitution.

But the checks and balances have all been eroded, starting with Abraham Lincoln, who simply appointed himself dictator. But we the people could put them back if we tried hard enough. Making war impossible without a formal declaration of war by Congress would be a good start. It’s already in the Constitution. Politicians just ignore it. Voters should penalize every politician who ignores the Constitution.

Making sure that nothing in the Defense Department budget lasts more than two years is another brake on power. That, too, is in the Constitution, but, of course, the politicians evade it. Everything connected with the military should sunset every two years. Make defense officials start from scratch and justify every dollar they want to spend. We are already the biggest spender on the military in the solar system, and what has it gotten us? Wars we can’t win, terrorist attacks we can’t deter, diplomacy that has been gutted in favor of force, and a ticket to the bankruptcy court somewhere down the line.

We need to amend the Constitution so that when there is a dim bulb in the White House, he or she will have to get permission from two-thirds of both houses of Congress before he or she can push the nuclear button. Needless to say, a large number of the worst weapons in the world are controlled by one of the worst leaders in the world. Until he learns to handle a hurricane, I don’t think he should be trusted with World War III.

It would also be a good idea to cut off the air conditioning in the Senate and the House and their office buildings, starting every April 30 and lasting until Oct. 1. That would not only save a lot of energy, but it would probably spur Congress to get its work done on time.

Well, a fellow can dream, can’t he?

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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