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Bush's Saber-Rattling Fatigue

How many times has President Bush raised the specter (whether veiled or not) of military action? Let me count the times.

First, there was Afghanistan. We went in, succeeded, and pulled forces away too quickly. Now the Taliban is back in control of large parts of the country.

Then there was Iraq, a threat on which he delivered--which has become one of the United States' most disastrous military decisions in our nation's history.

Then there was North Korea. Well, of course, the president didn't actually threaten invasion there. But his bellicose statements caused him to retract a threat that he never made in the first place. He told reporters last fall:

"I'm asked questions around the country, 'Just go ahead and use the military.'...And my answer is that I believe the commander in chief must try all diplomatic measures before we commit our military." Then, without prompting, the president asked an obvious next question. "I'll ask myself a follow-up," Mr. Bush said. "If that's the case, why did you use military action in Iraq? And the reason why is because we tried the diplomacy."

Then there was inexcusably loose use of the term World War III. This past May in a cable TV interview, he likened his own "war on terror" to the "first counterattack to World War III."

Fine language for commentators who don't carry the title of commander in chief, but threatening language when used by those who do.

Now there's Cuba. Bush's talk of democratic regime change after aging dictator Fidel Castro leaves office has once again had the diplomatic effect of handing a loaded weapon to his nemesis. He says Cubans "have the power to change their country," but the administration says that that's not meant as a call for armed rebellion.

Memo to White House press office: Anytime you have to clarify a statement as "not meaning to be a call for armed rebellion," it's too late. The saber rattling has already taken place. And it's getting really old, really fast.

By Bonnie Erbe

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