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TO ERR IS HUMAN AND TO TALK WAR IS INSANE

Georg Wilhelm Hegel got it right in his last days more than 158 years ago: "What experience and history teach is this -- that people and governments never have learned anything from history. . . ."

Iraq's Saddam Hussein apparently has learned nothing from the fates of previous aggressors.

George Bush thinks he learned more from the appeasement of Adolf Hitler than he did from an American tragedy, the Vietnam War.

Mikhail Gorbachev claims to have learned more from the Soviet Union's eight-year debacle in Afghanistan than Bush learned anywhere. So the Soviets refuse to commit troops to the Persian Gulf area even as the U.S. commits close to one-half million men and women.

Perhaps none of us has learned well enough the historical lesson that the winds of war have a life of their own.

No barometric pressure produces or enrages hurricanes and human tragedies as much as the gusts of rhetoric by political leaders who get caught up in ambition or tests of their manhood.

People here ask who can explain the wild war talk coming out of Baghdad and Washington in the wake of a Bush decision to talk to the Iraqis and Iraq's decision to release hostages who were being held as human shields against a U.S. military assault.

Some people think this ought to lessen chances of a gruesome desert war.

But Bush tells us that the threat of war is not diminished -- that he feels free to use force now that the hostages are home. Bush says the Iraqis will be driven out of Kuwait, no compromise possible, unless Saddam pulls out voluntarily.

Meanwhile, Iraq is beefing up its forces of some one-half million men in Kuwait and on the borders of Saudi Arabia. And Saddam is saying Iraq will "not give up one inch of Kuwait."

Bush is saying that if war comes he will use whatever weapons are needed to blast Iraq into quick defeat.

Iraq is saying that, if attacked, it will send missiles into the heart of Israel and use nerve gases and whatever else is needed to "humiliate" the U.S. forces.

The war of words is so inflamed as to cause Americans to say that only "a miracle" can prevent a dreadful war.

But do not give up on the truism that "tough talk" in the abstract, or for the media, is not the same as the talk that will occur when Secretary of State Baker meets Saddam and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz meets President Bush.

The Soviets say history tells them that a peaceful solution is possible. Let's hope they're right -- that they have indeed learned more from experience and history than the men who are blowing forth the hot air of onrushing war.

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