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We’d Rather Fight

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We’re a peace-loving people — everybody says so. Well, maybe not everybody, but we sure say so. Hardly a week goes by without one of our national leaders referring to Americans as a peace-loving people. What can they be thinking of?

In the past fifty years, we have fought four major wars; that is, wars that fully engaged the national attention. In addition, we have invaded Panama, Grenada, and the Dominican Republic; sent troops to Lebanon (twice); given naval escort in wartime to ships in the Persian Gulf, bombed Libya, provided clandestine military support to various regimes and rebel groups in Central America; conspired in the assassination of at least three foreign heads of state; launched warplanes to help thwart a coup in the Philippines; and nurtured a military assault on Cuba.

None of these wars, invasions, incursions, police actions, and punitive expeditions involved the defense of our soil (although, to be fair, World War II might qualify in that regard since it began for us with the bombing of Hawaii). No other country in the past half-century can match our record for embracing armed conflict as a foreign policy tool.

Nor have we, for the most part gone into these battles reluctantly. American presidents are never more popular than when they take us to war. It’s only when we’re perceived as losing the war that public opinion turns on them.

Ronald Reagan is credited with restoring our good opinion of ourselves largely through the mechanism of waging war on small, weak nations that couldn’t fight back.

George Bush has been president for two years, and he’s gotten us into two wars. Despite a recession, he’s running an

80% approval rating. Already Republicans are aiming their campaign guns at Democrats who counseled delay of the Mideast hostilities.

The fact is, we are a warlike people. I remember being shocked when General George Patton said as much. “Americans love war,” he said in a famous address to his troops on the eve of battle.

He was right.

It’s hard to argue with facts. We have had more than our share of wars, and our presidents who have led us in successful wars were generally the most respected in history.

This is not to say that some of the conflicts were not “just wars,” but merely to point out that we, indeed, are enthusiastic about war and get into more than our portion of them. And politicians, of course, read history, too — they know war is a popular pastime and a means to renown.

Being a world policeman is a taxing task. And the work of a world policeman is never done.

This piece is taken from the Daily News Digest. Reprinted by permission.

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    Mr. Stafford is editor of Daily News Digest, P.O. Box 84900, Phoenix, AZ 85071, a weekly investment newsletter.