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Americans suffer from excessive peace. The symptoms are cloudy vision, unreasonable expectations, confusion about the nature of government and a loss of ability to distinguish between wishes and reality.

Except for one bomb that Japan floated over in a balloon, which killed some picnickers on the West Coast, the U.S. mainland has not known war since 1865. Thus, most Americans do not think about the fact that the essence of government is raw power, the ability to apply physical force and violence to humans.Instead, we tend to think of government as a smiling-faced moo cow that provides goodies like education, medical care, old age pensions, fat contracts and endless opportunities for getting rich. There are even books published devoted to cataloging government benefits. There are people who make a living helping others apply for government benefits.

For all that, the essence of government comes out of the barrel of a gun. George Washington expressed that sentiment long before Mao Tse-tung. "Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force," is the way Washington stated it.

Therefore, the key element of government is the army and the police. That's the firepower that is the ultimate decisionmaker. If you understand that, you will not misread what is happening in Eastern Europe, for example. Poland has a non-communist government, but it has a communist army and a communist police force and is occupied by yet another communist army, the Soviets.

There has been no transfer of power in Poland or Hungary or East Germany or Czechoslovakia. Communists still control the power. What has happened is that the Soviet Union has given the East European communists permission to share - not the power - but some of the non-power related functions of government. That should not be confused with freedom.

You will not have a non-Communist Eastern Europe, much less a free one, until the non-communists control the police and the army and until the Red Army has withdrawn across the borders of the Soviet Union. Until those two things happen, you have a new version of a Potemkin village - an elaborately staged false-front.

The Soviets once constructed a false prison camp in which guards were dressed as prisoners. It was all done for the benefit of visiting Americans who came back and made fools out of themselves by praising the humanity of Stalin's enlightened regime.

Don't forget. Not one thing has happened that the Soviet Union has not either ordered to happen or ordered its minions to permit it to happen.

If Americans had not been lulled by excessive peace into misunderstanding the nature of government, they would be worrying about what the Soviet Union is up to rather than celebrating what they wrongly suppose is the end of the Cold War. If anyone seriously thinks that Mikhail Gorbachev is going to preside over the dismantling of the Soviet empire, then they must have gotten their knowledge of Russia from TV sitcom writers.