George Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning of the threat of totali- tarianism. But when George W. Bush read the CliffsNotes version he must have seen it as a blueprint for good government.

Bush’s continued chipping away at Americans’ rights as part of the war on terrorism is one prominent example of his penchant for a supreme government. The most frightening manifestation of this is the Pentagon’s plan to use computers to monitor hundreds of thousands of civilians in search of terrorists. What makes this idea even more scary is the person Bush has put in charge of it — John M. Poindexter. The former national security adviser was convicted in 1990 on five felony counts for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, but the convictions were overturned because he had been given immunity for his testimony during the congressional investigation of the affair.

Another example of Bush’s push for a supreme empire is his threatened war on Iraq. To our Orwellian president, this war is peace — Pax Americana style.

Bush outlined his policy on global Pax Americana, or “American Peace,” in his much-overlooked National Security Strategy, a foreign-policy statement each administration publishes. Bush’s version, which was released in September, differed remarkably from previous presidents’ in tone and policy. The document makes no bones about the fact that the United States is the planetary policeman and that it will take preemptive action against those it considers a threat. “Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past,” Bush’s policy statement says. “The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today’s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries’ choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first.”

Although Bush didn’t mention it, America’s quest for superiority doesn’t stop at terra firma. The Pentagon is now spending billions of dollars to achieve space supremacy, which helps assure global supremacy below and avoid the “space Pearl Harbor” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned against in January 2001. As part of that effort, the Pentagon is buying up an increasing amount of the finite capacity of commercial satellites. According to The Washington Post, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s budget for commercial capacity has increased from $57 million in fiscal 2000 to an estimated $170 million in 2003. The Pentagon’s National Imagery and Mapping Agency foresees a 13-fold increase in spending on commercial satellite capacity this year, The Post said.

Bush expanded on his September policy statement on December 10, when the administration announced an aggressive policy calling for the preemptive use of military and covert force before a perceived enemy unleashes weapons of mass destruction. The policy also emphasized Bush’s willingness to retaliate with nuclear weapons for chemical or biological attacks on America or its troops overseas.

Ironically, former President Jimmy Carter cautioned against an overemphasis on the military to solve the world’s problems when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the same day the Bush administration made its latest statement on preemptive action.

“For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventative war may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences,” Carter said. “We must remember that today there are at least eight nuclear powers on earth, and three of them are threatening to their neighbors in areas of great international tension.”

But it isn’t just the other nuclear powers the United States has to worry about. America’s growing intervention around the globe may result in more rather than less terrorist attacks against it.

The Pentagon’s own Defense Science Board warned in a 1997 study that U.S. interventionism will merely prompt more terrorist attacks against the United States.

“America’s position in the world invites attack simply because of its presence,” the Science Board’s task force on responses to transnational threats said. “Historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.”

Nor would those attacks be limited to truck bombs and hijacked airliners. Echoing Carter, foreign policy expert Richard Betts says American interventionism around the world could also cause nuclear, chemical and biological attacks on the United States. “American activism to guarantee international stability is, paradoxically, the prime source of American vulnerability,” the Council on Foreign Relations analyst has written. “Today, as the only nation acting to police areas outside its own region, the United States makes itself a target for states or groups whose aspirations are frustrated by U.S. power.”

The cost of Bush’s policy could also bankrupt the nation. The New York Times recently quoted administration sources as saying that a war on Iraq alone could cost as much as $200 billion. William Nordhaus, an economics professor at Yale University argued in a recent New York Review of Books that the Bush administration’s cost projections underestimate the probable high post-victory costs of peacekeeping and reconstruction. Nordhaus estimates that such nonmilitary costs could reach $600 billion if a defeated Iraq remains in turmoil. Even if the war goes smoothly, Nordhaus said, it would probably cost about $120 billion over the next decade. If Bush’s desired regime change goes “horribly wrong,” Nordhaus said, it could cost American taxpayers $1.6 trillion.

A study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences gave an even bleaker estimate. It placed the cost of an occupation of Iraq at almost $2 trillion. The study, which was conducted by the academy’s Committee on International

Security Studies, said U.S. military spending could range from $50 billion in a short war to $140 billion in a long one. It said postwar costs could range from $75 billion to $500 billion. The study estimated reconstruction and nation-building costs between $30 billion to $105 billion. It said humanitarian aid could cost between $1 billion and $10 billion.

The report said that the war might also spur higher oil prices, stifle productivity and potentially cause a recession. That would give Saddam Hussein, wherever he is at that point, the last laugh.

So no matter how you look at it, a war on Iraq would be a pricey venture. And that may prove to be only the beginning. If Bush takes preemptive action against other unfriendly nations the cost would compound the misery. It will also cost a fortune to prepare the armed forces for such ventures. Bush’s budget calls for raising defense spending to $442 billion by 2007, almost 50 percent more than budgeted for 2000.

Harvard geneticist Matthew Meselson, an expert on deadly chemical and biological weapons, seems to have a far cheaper and saner approach for keeping America safe. “The best protection,” he says, “would be if we didn’t have any angry people or countries in the world.”

The best way to minimize anger toward America, at least, is for the United States to stop sticking its nose in every crisis and its troops into almost every country. American intervention breeds resentment in hostile nations. So does supposed peacekeeping in friendly ones like South Korea and Japan, where accidental deaths and rapes by U.S. troops have been wearing out America’s welcome.

It’s time to bring our troops home, not spread them so far that America will be more vulnerable rather than less. But don’t expect Big Brother Bush to realize that. His snooping government may soon be all-knowing, but that will just make it harder for our pugilistic president to see the forest for the trees.

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