To the Editor:

Power is an elusive commodity. But like the dollar, it is essentially the currency of politics. A state must secure it, build it up, whenever possible, but invest it with the greatest possible care.

As a teacher of international relations, I consider myself a student of power politics, a realist with regard to power’s value and uses. It is for this reason that I view our country’s almost emotional crusade against Saddam Hussein as the most flagrantly reckless commitment of our power in recent memory.

Whether we go to Iraq alone or with the support of our allies in Europe and the Middle East, it will be the American prestige and treasure that will be drawn down the most substantially by this exercise. Loss of life, ours and the Iraqis, is a tragic investment of power.

Yet whatever we may gain, our power will nonetheless be crippled by the explosion of bitterness acoss the Middle East (clearly anticipated in opinion polling and news reports). Finally, our occupation of Iraq will be as open-ended and costly as that in Afghanistan, though on a proportionally larger scale.

The outcome, as in Afghanistan, in terms of reconstruction and reeducation, is by no means certain. And, by the way, Al Qaeda will be free to elude us while no doubt enjoying the spectacle of an America stricken with second thoughts and looking for someone to blame for its damaged power base.


Ed Dew Professor of Politics

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