Slow learners

By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator

MARCH 30, 2012 -- We never learn - starting with me. After ten years in Vietnam the majority of the Senate Appropriations Committee opposed funding the war but, looking for victory, I pressed for the funding. The lesson of Vietnam is that the military can't change a country's culture. The French told us but we didn't listen. Vietnam was a mistake.


Congressman Charlie Wilson won the only war that the U.S. has won since World War II. I helped with the funding in the Senate and Charlie wanted to thank me. He invited me to lunch and asked: "You know how we won that war?" "How?" I asked. Charlie said "Afghans don't like foreigners…and Russians were foreigners. In fact, Afghans don't like each other. We kept paying to keep the North and South separated." Today we are the foreigners in Afghanistan. We went after Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan and finally killed him in Pakistan. Pakistan doesn't want an Afghan Army. India doesn't want an Afghan Army. The warlords don't want an Afghan Army. We are the only ones that want an Afghan Army. Karzai is corrupt. In 2014, Afghanistan will still be in a drug culture with the warlords in control- the lesson of Vietnam. Afghanistan is a mistake.

After 9/11 the State Department sent me a chart showing that on 9/11 Al Qaeda was in 45 countries including the United States- but not in Iraq. Iraq was a mistake.

Globalization is nothing more than a trade war with production looking for a country cheaper to produce. China sets the competition with its controlled capitalism, and every nation rushes to protect its economy with an industrial policy- except the United States. Replacing the corporate tax with a 6 percent VAT would develop an industrial policy, produce billions to pay down the debt and create millions of jobs. But Wall Street and Corporate America oppose the VAT because they want to keep the China profits flowing. They say it would start a trade war. We are afraid to compete in globalization and cut the corporate tax to get Corporate America investing in America because it would start a trade war that we are already in and losing. Calling for "free trade", Corporate America continues to offshore our research, technology, production, jobs and payrolls to develop China's controlled economy. And we wonder why the recovery is anemic. We are slow learners.

"We need to get back to our Good Neighbor Policy both at home and abroad."

-- Hollings

Nuclear, the suicide weapon, has negated any military superpower. But the United States continues to act like a military superpower. The United States deploys 2,500 Marines to Australia. Australia is not going to war with China. The U.S. is not going to war with China. We demonstrated our sensitivity to casualties and nuclear in the Korean War by retreating from the Yalu River. China is not going to war with the United States. China gets its way using its economic power. After Tiananmen Square in 1989, the U.S. obtained a resolution in the U.N. to investigate human rights in China. China went to its economic friends and there has never been a hearing in the U.N. on human rights in China. When Japan seized the Chinese ship captain, China withheld rare earth supplies from Japan. Japan promptly returned the captain to China.

Lord Palmerston of England said: "We have no permanent allies, we have no permanent enemies, we only have permanent interests." Today, nations have permanent interests that don't conform to the United States' interest. This doesn't mean that countries are terrorists or persons expressing hostile opinions of the United States are terrorists. When Khrushchev said: "We will bury you," we didn't try to assassinate him. We don't try to drone kill Chavez.

The United States is overextended militarily. We have 90,000 troops in Afghanistan and 196,000 more troops deployed in two dozen foreign countries. Now the Pentagon is stationing personnel in countries around the world to determine the coordinates for drone kills. China becomes an economic superpower while the United States assumes a war on terror and drone kills in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. We think democracy is the best form of government but we don't act like a democracy. In globalization "it's the economy stupid." We are slow learners.

We need to get back to our Good Neighbor Policy both at home and abroad.

Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).

© 2012, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives.

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