Thomas Sowell: Cats are supposed to have nine lives but fallacies must have at least ninety. Some notions will be believed, no matter how many times they have been refuted by facts.
One of these seemingly immortal fallacies is the implicit assumption that our enemies have unlimited resources, so that our efforts at strengthening ourselves militarily are doomed to be self-defeating.
At least as far back as the 1930s, the intelligentsia and others have warned against military spending as setting off an “arms race” in which each side escalates its military buildup in response to the other, making the whole thing an expensive exercise in futility. The same notion was repeated throughout the long years of the Cold War.
Today’s version is that, no matter how many Middle East terrorists we kill, new ones will take their place and we will have nothing to show for all our efforts and sacrifices. People who talk this way are completely undaunted by the fact that Ronald Reagan proved them wrong during the Cold War.
President Reagan understood that the Soviets did not have unlimited resources — and in fact their resources were far more limited than ours. Going directly counter to those who wanted a “nuclear freeze” or other weapons limitations agreements, Ronald Reagan began a military buildup that kept upping the ante until the Soviets had to throw in their hand, ending the Cold War.
When Reagan ordered a bombing of Libya in retaliation for Libyan terrorism, the immortal fallacy was immediately voiced by former President Jimmy Carter, who declared that this would only make matters worse and bring on more terrorism. But Libya toned down its terrorist activities.
Years later, when Saddam Hussein was overthrown in Iraq and was then dragged out of his hiding hole, Libyan dictator Kaddafi decided to end his nuclear program and cooperate with monitors. Unlike Jimmy Carter, he knew that he did not have unlimited resources.