Warmongers asked to wait their turn

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IMAGINE THE disappointment. There you are, a raging Third World despot, and you invade the next-door country declaring that the 'mother of all battles' with the imperialist United States is about to begin (again). And all Washington has to say on the subject is: 'Sorry, please wait in the queue.'

Such seems to be the implication of a new strategy review that is apparently making its way to the top of the military brass in Washington and is due to reach the President's desk in a few weeks.

Under pressure from the new administration to find new ways to cut military spending faster than ever, the generals on the Potomac, headed by Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have reportedly come up with an approach that will allow the US to commit itself only to one war at a time. It goes under the deceptively innocuous name of 'win- hold-win'.

As described by yesterday's New York Times, the strategy would be simplicity itself. The US would always stand willing to draw a line in the sand, mud, sea or whatever in one, but only one, regional war at any moment.

If, by some misfortune, a second conflict were to break out, the US would try to contain - or 'hold' - it by way of air power alone. Only when the first war was won, would troops be shifted to seek victory in the second.

The budgetary benefits of the strategy would be substantial. With an understanding of that kind, the navy, apparently, could mothball two of its aircraft-carriers at once. There would, of course, always be the slight danger that the future aggressors of the world turn out to be bad at waiting their turn in line.