Three lessons

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


Hollings

SEPT. 19, 2012 -- Three lessons we constantly ignore: Harry Truman's; Charlie Wilson's; Osama Bin Laden's.

In the Korean War President Truman set our nuclear policy: nuclear power could only be used to defend our homeland. When the Chinese spilled over the Yalu River, we could have "nuked" them; could have nuked China. We could have won that war but we withdrew to the 38th parallel.

In Vietnam we were careful not to provoke China. We could easily have "nuked" North Vietnam and won that war. But Harry's policy held. No one questions this policy except John McCain who acts like we won in Vietnam, won in Iraq and could win in Afghanistan.

Winning costs casualties. Two years ago we withdrew from a valley in Afghanistan after five years because it was costing too many casualties. The United States will suffer limited casualties for foreign policy - but not many. Only presidential politics keeps us in Afghanistan. Harry's lesson is pertinent to our policy with China. War with China would probably go nuclear. We could destroy China. China could destroy us. That's why the nuclear bomb is called the suicide weapon.

China uses its economic power in foreign policy. We use our military power. The U.S continues to act like the worlds super power. With nuclear there is no superpower. Acting like one is embarrassing - stationing 2500 Marines in Australia; Secretary Clinton admonishing China to use diplomacy in its dispute over the South China Sea; Secretary of Defense Panetta admonishing China to use diplomacy. It's embarrassing. China doesn't threaten with its military anywhere. The U.S. threatens with its military everywhere - 196,000 GI's in dozens of countries. Australia is not going to war with China. Neither are we. We act like we've never heard of Harry's lesson.

Osama Bin Laden was a successful contractor in Saudi Arabia. He thought our support of Israel was a Second Crusade against the Muslim world. He founded al Qaeda, the jihadist organization, to counter our growing presence in the Mid-East. After each of Osama's strikes, I received intelligence briefings that Osama was warning us to stop our crusade. We didn't listen. Then Osama hit the Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia. Same briefing. We didn't listen. Then Osama hit the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Same briefing. We didn't listen. Then Osama hit the USS Cole. Same briefing. We didn't listen. Then 9/11. We listened and almost got him at Tora Bora.

"Osama Bin Laden is gone but we continue to prove his case. Our military is stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sinai, Kosovo, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt. We threaten Syria and Iran and drone kill in Yemen and Somalia. Yet we debate why Muslims in the Mid-East react with violence against the United States."

-- Hollings

We cleaned out his camp and instead of going against Saudi Arabia where sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists and Osama was from, we went to war against Afghanistan. Afghanistan was our friend. Congressman Charlie Wilson led the fight that freed Afghanistan from the Russians - the only war we've won since World War II. Before I retired from the Senate, Charlie and I were having lunch together and Charlie asked: "Do you know how we won that war?" I answered: "How?" Charlie said: "Afghans don't like foreigners. Russians were foreigners. In fact Afghans don't like each other. Afghanistan is not a country. Warlords run the place." To make Afghanistan the enemy we call Afghans "Taliban" and "al Qaeda". In Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile the words Taliban or al Qaeda never appear. After eleven years of war the Taliban or Afghans carry the battle. Who's training the Taliban? We are. We are the foreigners.

I was moved by the simple but beautiful service at Andrews Air Base welcoming home our four patriots killed in Benghazi. President Obama speaking to nations around the world said: "America is your friend." As he spoke violence was erupting against the United States in seventeen Muslim countries. Was it because of our words or our deeds? As Time Magazine (9/24/12) questioned: "Did the Arab Spring make the Middle East more dangerous? Or the United States?" Osama Bin Laden is gone but we continue to prove his case. Our military is stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Sinai, Kosovo, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt. We threaten Syria and Iran and drone kill in Yemen and Somalia. Yet we debate why Muslims in the Mid-East react with violence against the United States.

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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