- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) — The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of two wrap-ups for Jan. 28.


The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON — Cato Economist comments on weak U.S. dollar and Snow's confirmation:

Bush administration's policies create uncertainty and hurt the dollar's value

Cato Institute senior fellow Steve H. Hanke, a leading economic adviser to many governments, made the following comments today regarding the Bush administration's exchange rate policy:

"By any measure, the state of confidence about the future is 'low.' And what is more important, the dispersion of opinion around that low level is great, signifying a great deal of uncertainty about the future. Why? The Bush administration's war on terrorism has become a set of contradictory policies engulfed in the fog of war. Congress and the administration need to move ahead with pro-growth tax reform policies.

"Thanks to this uncertainty, the U.S. dollar is being hammered and gold prices are soaring. Treasury Secretary-designate John Snow will no doubt be asked about the administration's dollar policy during his Senate confirmation hearings scheduled for Jan. 28. Where can Dr. Snow go for guidance on exchange rate principles? As I pointed out in my May 1, 2002 testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on 'International Economic and Exchange Rate Policy,' Dr. Snow can forget about digging up any coherent statements from the Bush administration concerning its views on exchange rates. They don't exist.

"Instead, Snow should embrace the stance articulated by former Treasury Secretaries Rubin on April 29, 1999, and Summers on Sept. 22, 1999, and amplified on Jan. 6, 2002, by Stanley Fischer, former deputy managing director of the IMF (International Monetary Fund): The U.S. has a floating exchange-rate regime. That's a policy. A 'strong dollar' is not. Rubin's strong dollar rhetoric was little more than a charade. Indeed, with a floating exchange rate the dollar is on autopilot. And, while on autopilot, the dollar weakens when uncertainty increases and strengthens when it decreases."

(Steven H. Hanke is a professor of applied economics at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.)


The Independent Institute

(II is an independent public policy research organization whose goal is to transcend the political and partisan interests that influence debate about public policy. II aims to redefine the debate over public issues, and foster new and effective directions for government reform, by adhering to the highest standards of independent scholarly inquiry, without regard to political or social biases.)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Why the rush to war?

By Robert Higgs

In the face of worldwide opposition and growing domestic condemnation of the Bush administration's rush to war, the president has launched a new public relations offensive to convince the world abroad and the American people that nothing can stop the United States from carrying out its impending military conquest of Iraq.

In public appearances, the commander in chief has displayed ever more impatience not only with the Iraqi regime's actions but also with anyone's even questioning his war policy. Merely repeating tired declarations that Saddam has brutalized his own people and "failed to disarm," President Bush has added nothing of substance to the administration's case for going to war.

Instead, he has become petulant when asked to explain, for example, why he is so angrily intent on military action against Iraq while he is so serenely content to let diplomacy continue indefinitely to resolve the more serious threat posed by North Korea's barbarous regime.

None of the major European countries, save Britain, wants anything to do with a U.S. war against Iraq, and even Tony Blair's government, ordinarily subservient to U.S. wishes, recently has expressed a preference to let the inspections in Iraq continue, perhaps for months, before deciding whether to launch an invasion. The British people remain overwhelmingly opposed to the war, which must give the Labor chieftains pause as they contemplate the repercussions their present bellicosity may have on their candidates at the next election.

In the Middle East, opposition is similarly almost unanimous. Even the Turks, who normally allow themselves to be bought off fairly cheaply, are digging in their heels this time, fearful not only of the harm a war will wreak on their fragile economy but also of the Kurdish thorn in their soft southern underbelly, which a war might sharpen substantially. The Gulf sheikdoms take the U.S. money and run, of course, mindful that in view of the American armada standing offshore, they have no good alternative. The Saudis continue to urge avoidance of a war but, placed in an untenable position by U.S. diplomatic and economic pressures, they have reluctantly conceded a modicum of cooperation. Only Israel wishes the United States godspeed in its attack on Iraq.

This pattern might well give Americans reason to rethink the Bush administration's policy. The president maintains that Iraq's regime poses a grave, imminent threat. Yet, if so, why do the countries that confront the alleged threat at closest range display no fear of Iraqi action against them?

And if Israel alone is cheering for this war, what might that fact suggest? Well might we consider whether the present U.S. war policy constitutes still another case of the American dog being wagged by the tail of its Israeli protectorate. If so, do the American people really want it?

For many months, administration officials have continued to make the same claims about Iraqi programs to produce and deploy so-called weapons of mass destruction, yet they have consistently refused to adduce clear evidence to back up their charges. Even after the U.N. inspectors returned to Iraq, the United States refused to make its intelligence data available to them.

Is it really more important to preserve the details of the government's intelligence sources than to avert war by assisting the inspectors in locating and destroying the alleged Iraqi weapons, raw materials, and production facilities? If the U.S. government truly knows that such things exist in Iraq, what is so complicated about simply telling the inspectors where to find them? Not everything at issue can be hauled away on trucks as inspectors approach.

On closer consideration, one begins to suspect that in fact the U.S. government's spooks do not have the information they claim to possess. Perhaps their knowledge consists of little more than scattered, unreliable reports and questionable inferences, held together by a glue of preconceptions. Maybe their intelligence is just as bad as U.S. intelligence about the Soviet Union is now seen to have been during the Cold War.

In any event, the president's recently displayed impatience and undisguised hostility ill suit a leader who, thanks to congressional abdication, holds the power of war and peace in his own hands. War is too serious a matter to be decided by someone who lacks the keen intelligence and mature judgment to understand the situation fully and to weigh the pros and cons of alternative policies wisely. George Bush is doing nothing to reassure the public that he has what it takes to be a responsible foreign policy maker.

Worse, he appears to be acting under the greatest sway of advisers — (Vice President Dick) Cheney, (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld, (Deputy Defense Secretary Paul) Wolfowitz, (Pentagon adviser Richard) Perle, and their ilk — who have long been obsessed with attacking Iraq no matter what Saddam might do to placate them, and who manifest a megalomania for remaking the Middle East in their preferred image. Their fantasies of transforming Iraq into a liberal democracy abide light years away from any realizable reality: Iraq lacks all the ingredients for baking that cake.

If Americans allow themselves to become lodged in Iraq, ruling it directly or through a puppet regime, they will soon rue the day they plunged into that oil-rich but politically hopeless quagmire. If U.S. occupiers cannot deal successfully even with the rag-tag clans and warlords of Afghanistan, they won't stand a chance in the treacherous ethnic, religious, and political cauldron known as Iraq.

Ultimately, the most troubling aspect of the administration's present rush to war is its failure to treat the question of war and peace as the grave issue that it is. War consists of many horrors, most of them spilling onto wholly innocent parties. It ought never to be entered into lightly. Indeed, it ought always to be undertaken only after every decent alternative has been exhausted. We are far from having exhausted every good alternative. To allow more time for the inspections to proceed promises a far better ratio of benefits to costs than going straight to war.

That the United States already has positioned scores of thousands of troops near Iraq, ready to launch an attack, in no way justifies proceeding with that attack. Acting on a "use 'em or lose 'em" assumption makes no sense. Better to withdraw those forces than to commit them to a war that easily might have been avoided. The men and women in the U.S. armed forces certainly deserve to be kept out of harm's way unless a completely compelling reason exists to place their lives at risk.

Nor do the countless Iraqi civilians who will suffer in any war deserve the harms that a U.S. attack will bring them. The ordinary Iraqi citizen is not the Iraqi regime. No defensible moral calculus can justify killing those hapless people — military conscripts as well as civilians — just because the Bush administration harbors an animus toward Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants.

Despite what President Bush insists, time is on our side, not Saddam's. We hold the upper hand in every way. It is no answer to catalog how under a host of conditions not yet realized and not likely to be realized soon, the Iraqi regime someday might seriously harm the American people here on our own territory. Justification of war requires that we face a definite, immediate, grave threat, and the administration has put forth no evidence that Iraq poses such a threat to us.

In the present circumstances, then, a U.S. attack on Iraq would constitute a clear, utterly unjustified act of aggression. We ought not to tolerate a government that commits such acts in our name.

(Robert Higgs is senior fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and editor of its scholarly quarterly journal, The Independent Review.)


The Reason Foundation

LOS ANGELES — Crank hypocrisy: Government's two-faced message on speed

By Joel Miller

When it comes to the government and its war on drugs, sometimes the right hand doesn't know what the left is peddling. This is especially true regarding the use of amphetamines.

From the Drug Enforcement Agency we hear that speed can lead to "addiction, psychotic behavior, and brain damage … Chronic use can cause violent behavior, anxiety, confusion, insomnia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, and paranoia."

Sounds like terrible stuff, right? Not if you listen to the U.S. Air Force.

As it happens, American flyboys are given dextroamphetamine — a drug the DEA compares to methamphetamine and which military personnel affectionately refer to as "go pills" — to help them fight battle fatigue and stay knife-edge sharp during their long and difficult shifts.

During the war in Afghanistan, "Pilots were allowed to 'self-regulate' their own doses and kept the drugs in their cockpits," reported the unfortunately named Andrew Buncombe for the London Independent. "When they returned, doctors gave them sedatives or 'no-go pills' to help them sleep. Pilots who refused to take the drugs could be banned from taking part in a mission."

All well and good — use was so uneventful that most Americans were probably unaware that our airmen were popping pills more potent than aspirin. But then came the event.

On a routine air-cover flight in April last year, Majs. Harry Schmidt and William Umbach dropped a quarter-ton bomb on a clutch of Canadian soldiers after seeing what they claim was gunfire from the ground. The friendly fire killed four Canucks and wounded eight others.

Now in the middle of an "Article 32" commission hearing — much like a grand jury — the defense is blaming the bombing on the fog of drugs rather than the fog of war, claiming the two were jacked up on speed. If eventually court-martialed, the dope duo could be booted out of the service and spend the next 60-plus years in orange jumpsuits. Of all possible alternatives, one of the best ways to duck responsibility would be to pin the blame on military pill-pushers.

This has painted the government into an interesting corner, as it has now been forced to come out and publicly defend the drug. Last week the Air Force surgeon general sent one if its physicians to do something that no doubt gave people in the drug reform movement more laughs than presidential candidate Clinton's confession to smoking pot but not inhaling: Air Force Dr. Pete Demitry actually praised speed.

"He told a news conference the Air Force has used the stimulant safely for 60 years and that it is better than coffee because it not only keeps users awake, but also increases alertness," reported one news wire service. "There had been no known speed-related mishaps in the Air Force, whereas there had been many fatigue-related accidents, Demitry said."

Because of the danger of drowsy Red Barons at the stick of F-16s and the like, Demitry said that the need for amphetamines "is a life and death issue for our military."

Given such a vital need, how much drug use is going on? Col. Alvina Mitchell, chief of Air Force media operations, has told reporters she doesn't know the current rates, but if previous wars are anything to go by, the numbers are quite substantial.

"A survey of pilots who took part in the 1991 Desert Storm operation suggests 60 percent of them took (dextroamphetamine)," according to Buncombe. "In units most heavily involved in combat missions, the rate was as high as 96 percent. During Desert Storm, the standard dosage of (dextroamphetamine) was 5 mg. In Afghanistan it was 10 mg." This is nothing big; usual doses for adults can range from 5 mg to 60mgs a day, depending on need.

Ironically, the drug, branded Dexedrine, carries the warning that it "may impair judgment or coordination. Do not drive or operate dangerous machinery (like F-16s, for instance) until you know how you react to the medication." Once a user knows how he reacts, however, the presumption is that the drug is relatively safe. After all, the Air Force trusts tired men to zip through the air with extremely lethal, million-dollar equipment.

The obvious follow-up: If it is good and safe enough for pilots, what about the rest of us? With "no known speed-related mishaps" why shouldn't taxicab drivers, swing-shifters at NEC, or bleary-eyed night-school students be able to take advantage? It's not as if only pilots must battle fatigue, and these folks are certainly not in the position to drop 500-pound bombs on innocent Canadians. A government that punishes people for using a substance it praises as vital seems worse than hypocritical.

In Leonard Wibberley's "The Mouse that Roared," the national symbol of the duchy of Grand Fenwick is "a double-headed eagle saying 'Yea' from one beak and 'Nay' from another." When next looking for a spokesperson to discuss amphetamine use, perhaps the U.S. government should lease the bird.

(Joel Miller is managing editor of WND Books, a partnership between WorldNetDaily.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

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