- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

It was well-honed, well-delivered, stirring red-white-blue patriotic rhetoric, but, alas, had little to do with the geopolitical price of eggs.

The State of the Union address was crafted in a U.S.-centric vacuum that conveniently avoided any mention of the world's ills that have bred the kind of terrorism the U.S. is fighting. The biggest defense budget increase in two decades the U.S. will now be spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined was inadvertently juxtaposed with a Bush administration refusal to increase foreign aid from 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent of gross domestic product.

To the developing world, the message was loud and clear. The U.S. does not plan to use its jumper cables, as it did after World War II, to kick-start a global development campaign that would be designed to eradicate the breeding grounds of terrorism. There is still little realization inside the Beltway that terrorism is the weapon of the weak against the powerful; that it has been used from time immemorial; and that is what asymmetrical warfare is all about.

President Bush made much of the momentum of freedom in the world, freedom with dignity. That is precisely the problem for the overwhelming majority of humanity the lack of dignity. By 2025 remember how quickly time has passed since 1975? 60 percent of the world's population will be living in urban areas. It was 47 percent last year. Some two dozen mega-cities will each contain more than 10 million people, living in squalid conditions with an infrastructure originally built to sustain an average of 2 million.

Little, if any, thought is given to the fact that half the world's population, or 3 billion people, is less than 25 years old and one third, or 2 billion, less than 14. The only freedom most of them know is the freedom to be jobless in shantytowns.

The world is dividing into the very young poor and the old rich. The much-heralded digital revolution has done squat to alleviate despair. But it has given al Qaeda's successor generation ideas. These are the university-educated, computer-literate who have their hand on a mouse instead of a finger on a trigger. Revenge for perceived societal wrongs is only a few keystrokes away.

Already today, 1.4 billion people lack access to safe water. 25 years hence, half of today's world population will face water shortages.

The only foreign policy departure in the speech was to promote the rogue states of North Korea, Iran and Iraq to the rank of coequal "evil states." To those who know something about the three and the degrees of political separation between them, the idea seems hare-brained. The terrorism practiced by Iran is at the service of the Palestinian cause. North Korea hasn't engaged in terrorism in several years, and the glacier between North and South Korea continues to melt perceptibly. To call Pyongyang evil at this juncture can only jeopardize South Korea's diplomatic efforts.

Which leaves Iraq. The administration and its loyal opposition would dearly love to wave a military wand over the country and see Saddam Hussein vanish in a wisp of smoke.

Unfortunately, the U.S. would be entirely on its own, even bereft of the support of close allies, like the U.K. The U.S. would also need a 100,000-strong intervention force. Kuwait is the obvious point of entry for such an expeditionary corps. But the U.S. would be deprived of base privileges in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the Gulf. Not a happy prospect.

Dual containment of Iraq and Iran, two arch rivals, was tantamount to flunking geopolitics 101. The dual evil status conferred on them this week is dumber than dumb. That's what happens when too many cooks including some who know little about the rest of the world get involved in preparing a State of the Union address.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.


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