Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Letter

Reality trumps rhetoric

I wrote about how utterly irresponsible it would be for the EU to sell arms to China (Letters, June 15, page 8), and the response from Philip Wallbridge drew comments about US history (Letters, June 20, page 8). The comments were interesting, measured, thoughtful and direct. Some were true, but only the first comment was relevant -- the one that agreed with the point of the whole article in the first place, that China should not get arms from the EU under any circumstances. At least we can agree on that much.

As for the history lesson, to be sure, the US has invested in regimes that later proved to be unworthy, including Saddam Hussein's regime. To denounce that without reference to the time and circumstances -- or the results -- does disservice to the realities on the ground, as for instance the fact that Iran at the time was considered far more dangerous to the world than Saddam's Iraq.

Sometimes in this world, one must choose between the lesser of two terrible evils, such as enlisting the aid of the utterly untrustworthy People's Republic of China to help solve the nuclear crisis with the heinous regime in North Korea. Failure to make that choice shirks responsibility and avoids hard decisions. No one can accuse the US of doing that, for sometimes these decisions would challenge King Solomon himself. Tragically, the wisdom of the moment is always picked apart with 20/20 hindsight by the timid.

The European approach, excluding that of the UK, appears to be to stand back and talk about it. The US approach is to jump in and get the job done, and that often rubs consensus seekers and diplomats the wrong way.

So be it. So it was with the Nazis, when Europe simply hoped Adolf Hitler would stop his aggression, instead of nipping it in the bud. He didn't, and 50 million people died.

Wallbridge criticizes the US for supporting the Taliban against the USSR, but as it turns out, the Cold War was in fact won by the West, partly because of the Russian failure in Afghanistan, and the overwhelming destructive power of the US arsenal, which I gladly paid for -- and continue to pay for -- with my tax dollars, since it is the single most effective deterrent to tyrants, such as China.

Who, at the time, could know the Taliban would turn around and become the scourge of the world? In a part of the world where there is little choice, one has to do the best one can, and yes, sometimes make a decision and choose a side without the benefit of a crystal ball. It is most often better than doing nothing.

Throughout history, loyalties change and alliances change. Who could ever have imagined Japan and Germany becoming allies of the US and Europe? We shall see if the expanded EU develops the will to fight in the name of freedom and democracy, to physically protect the downtrodden and the weak, or whether it will continue to hide inside the General Assembly of a weak and ineffective UN, debating for years how many terrorists can dance on the head of a pin, and who is responsible for the latest genocide that could have been stopped if only someone did something about it, instead of just spouting rhetoric.

Finally, Wallbridge closed with a quote from former US president Jimmy Carter. Personally, I would shy away from using a quote from a man who was indisputably the worst US president in the last 30 years to support any argument. Carter has proven himself time and time again to be living proof of the danger of being naive in a world of treachery. He had no clue when he was in the White House, and unfortunately, he still has no clue.

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