Terrorism gave an aimless presidency purpose; now war promises reelectionIt's about fear, stupid. That is assuredly the motto inside the Reelect George W. Bush campaign. When in doubt, the president will remind us of the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

Before the adrenaline starts flowing too freely, we ought to remember how we got to this point.

President Bush is not the first president to commit American troops abroad under false pretenses. But Bush did one better. He enunciated an entirely new American military doctrine justifying a preemptive attack.

Over the past weekend, we learned what has long been suspected. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The former chief weapons inspector of the Central Intelligence Agency, Dr. David Kay, has offered that revelation. If you listened carefully to President Bush during the State of the Union speech, you also noticed that the reason we are at war in Iraq has changed once again.

This bothers a lot of people, including the Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, because a nation should not commit its armed forces lightly. As Clark said last weekend, military action should be the very last option.

The Bush Doctrine of preemptive attack contains a dangerous assumption. Bush's pronouncement assumes that America will always be the world's top military power, that things will always be as they are now. Anyone who reads history knows that never happens.

Presidents seldom are candid about the cost of war. The Iraq War carries high costs, in manpower and money. Gen. Clark and many other military observers have noted that our military is stretched close to the breaking point. Mr. Bush is using the National Guard and the Ready Reserve for combat on a level beyond what America has seen.

It is easy to go to war. It is much more difficult to end one. Oddly enough, President Bush has a stake in keeping this war going. The cruel, sad truth is that Sept. 11 gave Bush's aimless presidency a purpose that it sorely lacked. Now he needs it for his re-election.


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