Strategic Manure


Sen. John McCain is already spreading the old "strategic interests" fertilizer along the presidential campaign trail while pretending to be an expert.

Let’s hope he really can explain what interests require us to maintain troops in Germany and Japan 63 years after the end of the war. What exactly is the purpose of those troops? Are we expecting the Mongols to descend on Japan? Does he expect the Cossacks will ride across the plains to attack Europe? Does he think that two of the greatest economic powers on Earth — Japan and Europe — are too poor to defend themselves? The old boy is living in the past.

When American politicians talk about strategic interests, they are talking about just what I called it, manure. We have no strategic interests in the Middle East whatsoever. We wish to buy oil there. Last time I checked, those countries that produce oil were selling it to any country willing to buy it, whether that country had troops in the area or not. Since oil isn’t edible, there’s not a heck of a lot you can do with it if you don’t sell it.

What are all those Navy ships in the Persian Gulf doing? Do McCain and George Bush seriously believe that Iran would launch an invasion of Saudi Arabia? That’s ridiculous. There might be some aspects of Iran’s government we don’t care for, and that’s OK, because it is not our government and we don’t have to live under it. Nobody in his right mind, however, has ever accused Iran of being an expansionist nation. All McCain has to do is read up on his history and ask the CIA to explain to him Iran’s order of battle. Their forces are not equipped for invasions.

As for the nuclear nonsense, both Iran and our own intelligence agencies say that the Iranians are not interested in developing nuclear weapons. But suppose they were. Who cares? I’m much more concerned about the nuclear weapons in Russia, China, India, Pakistan, France, Great Britain, the U.S. and Israel.

Iran is one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, and its people are smart. They are not crazy. They know that one day their oil will run out, and they want to develop nuclear power. They signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They have called repeatedly for a nuclear-free Middle East. To compete with the nuclear powers, they’d have to produce so many nuclear weapons and delivery systems, it would bankrupt them. They’ve decided that option would be foolish. Now if they can only convince our foolish politicians.

I sometimes think our older politicians fell in love with the British Empire. I think many of them secretly long to sit on a veranda somewhere and be served drinks by humble servants. They love the idea of empire. The admirals and generals like to fly around to our 702 overseas bases, play a little golf, have a few drinks and fly home again.

The reality is that we can no longer afford our overseas empire, no matter what strategic interests McCain and Bush like to fantasize about. We’re about to go busted. It’s pretty hard to maintain an empire on credit when you have borrowed money from the people you claim to be lording it over. The Philippines kicked us out of our bases there. I predict the Japanese will eventually do the same. Get a stable government in North Korea and the South Koreans will be showing us the door. We should leave on our own and devote those billions of dollars to domestic priorities.

Bush is mad to push the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It should be disbanded, not expanded. It has no enemy. By expanding it, however, Bush seems to be trying to convince Russia that NATO is its enemy. That’s not a smart thing to do. It’s dumb. Talk about something that is not in our strategic interests, it’s restarting the Cold War with Russia.

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