Four Wars

In the Iraq War, we failed to commit the troops necessary to secure the country, and now we are in a mess. In the Terrorism War, we are creating more terrorism. In the Afghanistan War, we have yet to capture Osama bin Laden. And in the Trade War, our manufacture is so outsourced that an incident with China would cause us to cancel Christmas.

First, Iraq. Immediately after the election in 1966, I was with General William Westmoreland in Vietnam, a country with a population of 16 million. With 535,000 troops, the general wanted still more troops to bring the war to a head. In Iraq, a country of 26 million, we're trying to secure it with 140,000 troops. We lost more than 58,000 GIs trying to “Vietnamize” Vietnam. Are we to lose 58,000 more to “Iraqify” Iraq? There is no education in the second kick of a mule. We should start withdrawing now.

“But you can't cut and run” is the cry. We cut two years ago when we announced “mission accomplished,” leaving looting and the blowing up of facilities, and letting thousands of Republican Guards go free. Now we are hunkered down, responding like emergency medical services as we investigate car bombings.

“But there will be a civil war” is another cry. There already is. We learned in World War II that there is one thing stronger than democracy. That's religion. We liberated Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia 62 years ago, and they have yet to opt for democracy. We liberated Kuwait 14 years ago, and while that regime now allows women to vote, it has yet to opt for real democracy. Democracy can't be force-fed. It must be homegrown. It takes more than an election. Iraq had a partial election because the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani told the Shia to vote. The Sunnis refused to vote for the same reason. The Kurds had the only honest election, demanding autonomy. The best we can hope for is an Islamic democracy.

We were deceived into Iraq. In 1996, incoming Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu commissioned a think tank to propose a solution to the Palestinian problem. Comprising Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, it proposed a “Clean Break” -- i.e., to sever negotiations with Yasir Arafat and democratize the Middle East by bombing Lebanon; next, to invade Syria for having weapons of mass destruction; and finally, to replace Saddam Hussein with a Hashemite ruler favorable to Israel. Rejected by Netanyahu, the group returned to America and organized the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Steve Cambone, et al. In 1998, the PNAC sought a resolution in Congress for regime change in Iraq. Passed by a voice vote in the Senate, the resolution was intended to encourage opposition in Iraq. With the election of George W. Bush in 2000, “Clean Break” hit pay dirt: Cheney became vice president, and the top three positions in the Pentagon went to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith; Perle was appointed chairman of the Defense Policy Board; Libby was made an assistant to the vice president; and Cambone was placed in the Department of Defense, campaigning for “Curveball.”

This explains why, days before becoming president in 2001, Bush sought a briefing on Iraq at the Pentagon. It explains why former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said of the first National Security Council meeting, which had been called to discuss the recession, that all the others in attendance wanted to discuss was Iraq. It explains why on September 12, 2001, the president asked Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for a plan to invade Iraq even though Iraq had nothing to do with September 11. And finally, we know from the “Downing Street Memo” that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

Opposition to U.S. policy in the Mideast has been building. For more than 30 years, youngsters there have been taught in madrassas that the United States is the infidel. By 9-11, 10,000 to 20,000 Islamic youth had graduated from Taliban camps in Afghanistan. Returning to their home countries, they developed and recruited thousands more. Prior to 9-11, Osama bin Laden and others tried to get our attention by blowing up barracks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, bombing one tower of the World Trade Center, blowing up embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and attacking the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf. Bin Laden's 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon finally got our attention. He contended that our support of Israel and our presence in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Gulf constituted another Crusade against the Muslim world.

The invasion of Iraq without cause proved his point to Muslims. Theretofore rejected, bin Laden became a hero. The cry went out: “If you want the infidel, come to Baghdad.” Daily reports of U.S. “atrocities” spread by Al-Jazeera, the Arab broadcasting network, helped the spread of terrorism. President Bush constantly pledges to “hunt them down one by one” and “bring them to justice.” This is war! You don't have to hunt them down. They are now millions, from Morocco to Indonesia. The president misses the important finding of the 9-11 commission: Eliminate bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and many more leaders will take their place. We talk the talk of war but refuse to walk the walk. Thirteen-hundred and 22 days after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, we received the surrender of Japan. Now, in the same number of days after 9-11, we have yet to find bin Laden.

Our trouble in the Terrorism War is that we're trying to win militarily. You can't kill an idea with a sword. Eliminating cells like the Taliban is necessary. But the principal weapon against terrorism now is diplomacy by proven diplomats, not lectures on democracy. Democracy in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan would elect Osama bin Laden president.

As for the Trade War: The United States had just won its independence when Britain suggested that America trade what it produced best, and Britain trade with America what it produced best -- David Ricardo's doctrine of comparative advantage. Alexander Hamilton, in his report on manufacturers, told the Brits to bug off -- we are not going to remain your colony, shipping our iron ore, timber, rice, cotton, indigo, etc.; we're going to develop our own manufacture. The first bill to pass the U.S. Congress on July 4, 1789, was a 50-percent tariff on numerous products. Protectionism! Trade War! Abraham Lincoln followed suit, protecting steel for the transcontinental railroad; Franklin Delano Roosevelt protected America's agriculture; Dwight Eisenhower protected oil; and John F. Kennedy protected textiles. We built this industrial giant with protectionism, and with this industrial power, we won World War II. With the only manufacture after WWII, the United States wisely enacted the Marshall Plan, sending money, equipment, and expertise to Europe and the Pacific Rim. Setting an example for “free trade,” we opened American markets and withheld enforcement of our trade laws. But Japan and Korea stayed closed. Now China follows suit, draining our manufacture.

Today the United States imports 60 percent of what it consumes. More importantly, we had to wait for flat-panel displays from Japan in order to go into Kuwait in 1991. Now, we have a $36 billion deficit in advanced technology trade with China. Those who want to defend Taiwan will have to wait for China to send us the weapons. China is now setting standards and patenting these standards. With her market size she will soon control world production. With foreigners financing our deficits to the tune of $2 billion a day, that money is coming back in the form of the buying up of America -- Chrysler, IBM, steel production, and now Unocal and Maytag. We are at the brink. As former Sony chief Akio Morita once said, “That world power that loses its manufacturing capacity will cease to be a world power.”

There is not now, and there never has been, free trade. Like world peace, it's a wonderful goal, but not obtained by tomorrow -- or by surrender. One has to compete. And competition in the global economy is not for profit but for market share. Japan finances and protects production and dumps below cost its export. Instead of comparative advantage we have a comparative disadvantage -- our standard of living. Before corporate America opens its doors in the United States, it must provide, under law, a minimum wage, clean air, clean water, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, plant-closing notices, parental leave, safe working places, safe machinery, labor rights, etc. This gives rise to a fifth column in the Trade War: corporate America! Hard manufacture, services, and software have all learned to avoid the expense of the American standard of living by producing offshore. All they need is to cry “free trade,” so that the U.S. market will remain open for dumping. Congress not only keeps it open but stupidly finances the outsourcing. In the Trade War, we have met the enemy, and it is not China. It is us!

We must organize for battle. We need to correlate all responsible for trade policy into a Department of Trade and Commerce. Stop financing the offshoring and appoint an assistant attorney general of trade to enforce trade laws. The number of customs agents, burdened with trade, drugs, and homeland security, must be increased. And to remove a barrier we must raise a barrier -- then remove both. Free trade! But trade!

The security of the United States rests as upon a three-legged stool. The first leg, values, has never been questioned. Until now -- with the invasion of Iraq and our treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, America is in doubt. The second leg, the military, is now questioned -- by us. The volunteer army is coming apart. The third leg, the economy, has been fractured in the Trade War. With the United States determined not to have enough troops in Iraq, and the insurgents determined to have enough, we need to get out of the Iraq War and into the Trade War. Finally, we need to go to the front line of the Terrorism War in the Middle East with an experienced diplomat, Dennis Ross. As Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff told a Senate delegation last year, “Settle the conflict of Israel and Palestine, and 85 percent of the terrorism in the world will disappear.”

Ernest C. Hollings is a former Democratic senator from South Carolina.