Wielding a mighty big stick | AspenTimes.com

Wielding a mighty big stick

At the beginning of the 20th century Teddy Roosevelt advised the nation to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” As a result of major participation in two world conflicts, plus some not-so-worldly conflicts, the stick has grown considerably bigger. So much so that the United States does not speak so softly any more.

In fact, it can now scream while brandishing the mightiest sticks in the world. Consequently we can essentially defy world opinion (if we fail to sway it) and engage in our own war against terrorism and the wielders of weapons of mass destruction. What the hell, if the world refuses to save itself, we’ll save it for them.

How did we get so powerful? There are a multitude of reasons, including natural resources, diversified immigration, geographical isolation, militant government, etc. If I attempted to elaborate all the reasons it would fill tomes, and then, when I finished, some skeptic would say: “No, that’s not it.”

Besides, I never took a course in political science (which I’ve always considered an oxymoron), although I did marry a teacher of one. Whatever the causes, the reality is that we are now the most powerful nation on the planet, and we can threaten damnation from a bully pulpit.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t take on this role. After all, we are the good guys, and when you’re both the strongest and the rightest, you have to take on the leadership of the free world, even of the unfree world. If we don’t, who will?

But a bully, even a beneficent bully, must be careful about throwing his weight around. If he doesn’t, the bullied, or the potential bullied, may unite against him in preemptory self-defense.

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Yes, we know we won’t pick on weaker nations just because we have the clout, but do they know that? Even if we assure them that we don’t do things like that unless they provoke us (and the rest of the civilized world), can they trust our word? After all, our own Native Americans did.

We did listen to world opinion about open inspection for “weapons of mass destruction,” and accept this as a rational approach before one nation sacrifices the lives of its military and the other’s civilian population.

If a nation is producing and stockpiling nuclear weapons, bio-chemical weapons and other life-destroying toys, and has or is developing the techniques to deliver such mayhem on it fellow nations, the United Nations should send in highly trained inspection teams with carte blanc access to identify such threats.

And having done so, the United Nations should have not only the right but the responsibility to see that such weapons are destroyed before they are deployed.

Where are these weapons and delivery systems being developed? We suspect Iraq, definitely North Korea, even Vietnam. But where else? Could Pakistan and India be involved in such nefarious activities? Could such weapons exist in Israel?

Maybe Russia and China have stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction” and laboratories operating to develop new ones. And, is it possible ? no, I dare not suggest it ? that the United States of America has and is engaged in such devious activities?

Well, even if, heaven forbid, we ourselves have “weapons of mass destruction,” it must be recognized that we are the “nice guys.” And rest assured, if we indeed did have them, they would only be used as deterrants. And if they are employed in actual warfare, it is only because the other side, the not-so-nice guys, used, or threatened to use them first.

Maybe, just to be on the safe side, and to reassure the nations of the world that they have no need to be threatened by something they can only guess about … maybe every nation in the world, yes, including us, should be subject to the same highly-trained neutral inspection teams that the world is demanding that Iraq open its doors to.

Not, mind you, that, if indeed we had such weapons, we would allow them to be destroyed. In fact, the knowledge about what we actually have and are developing might scare the bejesus or the be-allah out of anyone planning any aggression against us or our acknowledged allies. I know it would (does) scare the bejehovah out of me.

So let’s open our doors to the world, and ask all nations to follow suit. As another Roosevelt warned the country: “We have nothing to fear but ourselves,” or something like that.

Phil Freedman


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