No Empire

Humans have the capacity to create and to destroy. It seems to me that if we do not rein in our destructive capacity, bugs will one day inherit an otherwise empty and barren planet.

It’s no use assigning blame. The urge to destroy resides in every human heart. Violence is all too often the problem-solving method of choice. The 20th century differed from the preceding ones only in the scale of the violence unleashed. Between wars and dictators, well over 200 million people died before their natural time.

Human history can be reduced to children’s games. Adolf Hitler wanted more living space, so, like a bullying child wanting somebody else’s toys, he took it. The British had spent 300 years trying to make sure no one country dominated the Continent and threatened their commercial dominance. They went to war in 1939 not to liberate the Poles, as they claimed, but to make sure the Continent remained divided. By the time it was over, 55 million people were dead, and the survivors were burdened with billions, now trillions, of dollars of debt.

I recognize there are evil people. Both Hitler and Josef Stalin were paranoid psychopaths. Stalin was by far the more bloodthirsty. In fact, one of the last things Hitler said in his bunker was reportedly, "I should have been more like Stalin." It was Stalin, not Saladin, whom Saddam Hussein most admired and studied. And imagine what worms crawled around in the brain of Pol Pot, who decided that anybody in Cambodia with more than a third-grade education had to die to make way for his new society. Mao Tse-tung, a third-rate poet but a first-rate killer, reportedly had the blood of 60 million Chinese on his hands.

So, Rule No. 1 for the 21st century is to never allow psychopaths and insane people to get their hands on power. Some immature people like a cocky strongman to tell them what to do. We should take their voter-registration cards away from them and send them to a shrink or a priest for lessons in maturation.

Rule No. 2 is to never vote for or support anybody who fails to demonstrate conclusively compassion for human beings. It was said years ago that Sen. Ed Muskie lost his bid for the presidential nomination because he cried in public. It is far better to have a man who can cry than one who can only snarl. That was the year, I believe, we ended up with Richard Nixon.

Rule No. 3 is that most problems or conflicts can be resolved by negotiation and diplomacy, and when one comes along that can’t be, then walk away. It is none of our business what kind of government other people have in their own countries. Communism is an unrealistic ideology that has screwed up every country it’s been tried in, but if the Cuban, Chinese and North Korean people want to put up with it, so be it. It’s their problem, not ours.

It is stupid in the extreme for two nations to go to war, since war produces only death, taxes and debt. However, as long as they don’t shoot at us, that, too, is none of our business. For decades, the proponents of empire have been ridiculing what they call an isolationist foreign policy, but that is the only sane, rational and moral policy to follow.

Imagine what would happen if you ran up and down the streets in your neighborhood telling people what they must eat, how they must raise their children and how they must keep their yards. You’d be in a continuing state of conflict and turmoil. Well, the same is true of nations. Look at us, spending half a trillion dollars a year on defense and $40 billion on intelligence long after the Cold War has ended. No American youth should ever die in uniform except in defense of his own country. We’ve had more than 100,000 deaths in military combat since the end of World War II, and not one of them was in defense of the United States. It’s time to wise up. War, as Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler said, is a racket. Young men die, and old men rake in the profits.

We have a lovely country, and we and our children can live in peace and prosperity, provided we mind our own business, kick the imperialists out of power and get rid of the lobbyists representing foreign governments. Otherwise, we will suffer the fate of every other empire — dissolution and bankruptcy.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969 to 1971, 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.