'We are rapidly approaching a moment of truth for ourselves as human beings and for the life of our nation. Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing, but it is necessary now to make a choice. To choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless distinguishable, post—war environments.' Thus spoke George C. Scott as Gen. 'Buck' Turgidson in Stanley Kubrik's 1964 dark comedy classic Dr. Strangelove.
However, unknown at the time to all in the cinematic War Room , a third possibility would prove damningly inevitable. The Soviets had deployed a Doomsday Machine as the ultimate deterrent against nuclear attack. If an attack were launched against them, a massive thermonuclear detonation would blast into the atmosphere enough radioactive fallout to envelope the earth, thereby destroying all human life. Keeping up with the Americans had become just too great an economic burden and this approach was decidedly more economical.
But Dr. Strangelove —— Peter Sellers —— asks the Soviet ambassador, who by then had been admitted into the presence of the inner sanctum of the gathered civilian and military leaders, 'Why did you keep it a secret?!' After all, how would this deterrent work if no enemy knew of it? Whereupon the ambassador replies, 'It was to be announced at the party congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.' That may qualify as the understatement of all time.
Now, this film's storyline seems to be foreshadowing this Fall's Presidential election. We may indeed have two admittedly regrettable but nevertheless distinguishable post—election environments. But we must also consider whether there is a doomsday scenario hidden within the fiery, partisan rhetoric. If the election proves as close and rancorous as is nearly universally forecast, there may be no possibility of anything other than a doomsday outcome. For whether a narrowly elected Kerry with at least one house remaining Republican, or whether a badly bruised Bush with one house lost could aggressively fight a war against Islamic nihilists, is a not trivial consideration.
Do we invite a Madrid copycat attack with all the rankling that is extant in our political discourse? And 'discourse' is putting it rather kindly. The only way we would not encourage such an attempt to influence our election is if both candidates clearly and unequivocally extol an aggressive foreign policy against the forces of evil. Yes, EVIL. We might then spare ourselves what the Spanish suffered.
The redoubtable, rotund Mr. Moore, thrilled by the tumultuous standing ovations Fahrenheit 9/11 received, has just captured the Palme d'Or in Cannes for his most recent effort at Bush—bashing. Considering this, Mr. Kerry isn't going to have much luck trying to sweet—talk the French, Germans, or anyone else who isn't currently with us, into honestly and honorably assisting us in Iraq. Why should they? Why would the U.N.? We're in the process of self—destructing and doing a fine job of deflecting attention away from the U.N. Oil—for—Food scandal. And 'scandal', is again, putting it rather mildly.
Abu Ghraib hasn't even exited the stage and we have the Defense Department at loggerheads with the CIA and State over Ahmed Chalabi, a prominent member of the Iraqi Governing Council and one of the longest—standing champions of democracy for Iraq. The whole business seems more like schoolboy squabbling than foreign policy. It was in no small part due to Chalabi's efforts that the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105—338) was passed in 1998, declaring that regime change in Iraq would henceforth be the official policy of the U.S. Now we're raiding and humiliating at gunpoint one of our partners in Iraq on 'rock—solid' evidence that he spied for Iran? If so, why wasn't he arrested? Ambassador Bremer claims he was not informed in advance of the action. If not, who's running the show over there? If we keep shooting like this we're going to run out of feet —— perhaps we already have.
Yes, the doomsday scenario was once neatly summed—up by the 'fifties comic strip character Pogo: 'Yep, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.'
Dennis Sevakis is a former Air Force captain and fighter pilot