WASHINGTON, DC–Taking steps to fill the void that has plagued the American military-industrial complex since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced Tuesday that the U.S. will hold enemy tryouts next week.
Slated to begin Oct. 26, the tryouts will take place at the Pentagon. More than 40 nations are expected to vie for the role of U.S. adversary, including India, Afghanistan, China, North Korea and Sudan.
"Over the past seven years, the State Department, working closely with the CIA, Congress and the president, has made efforts to establish a longterm state of hostility with a foreign power of consequence," Albright said. "Unfortunately, these efforts have proven unfruitful. If we are to find a new Evil Empire, we must start taking a more proactive approach."
Though tryouts are not until next week, Albright said the State Department has already received a number of impressive preliminary proposals.
"We met with the Syrian representative yesterday, and he promised that Syria would house terrorist enemies of the U.S. and stockpile chemical weapons near the Israeli border," Albright said. "We've also gotten an unexpectedly strong proposal from the Kazakhstani delegation, which says they have four of Russia's missing nuclear missiles and will use them against the U.S. unless we release 450 Kazakhstani Muslim extremists currently held in Western prisons. That was certainly a pleasant surprise."
The decision to hold enemy auditions was made during an Oct. 16 meeting at the Pentagon attended by a number of top military-industrial-complex officials, including Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and Lockheed Martin CEO Thomas Reuthven.
"Everyone was of the opinion that an enemy was needed–and fast," said Reuthven, whose company has laid off 14,000 employees since the end of the Cold War. "Nobody wins when there's peace."
General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who was also at the meeting, agreed. "Our profits are down 43 percent from 10 years ago. We sold more tritium hydrogen-bomb ICBM/MIRV triggers in 1988 than in the last six years combined," he said. "Something had to be done."
Once the tryouts conclude, Albright said, the State Department will spend a week evaluating the proposals before announcing its choice on Nov. 9. The new U.S. enemy will be formally anointed in a special treaty-breaking ceremony, in which President Clinton and the leader of the rival nation will sever diplomatic ties with the ceremonial burning of 1,000 doves.
Since the end of the Cold War, potential new U.S. enemies have emerged several times, but in each instance, hopes were inevitably dashed by peace. Most promising among the candidates was Iraq, which briefly went to war against the U.S., but a truce was declared before a deep and lasting enmity could take root.
Tuesday's announcement was hailed by leaders of numerous U.S. institutions, including the motion-picture industry, whose action films have suffered from the absence of a global antagonist.
"Hopefully, there will be an enemy soon," Paramount Pictures vice-president of development Mort Glazer said. "During the past few years, in the absence of a Soviet Union or a Nazi Germany, Hollywood has been forced to pit American heroes against uncompelling enemies like the IRA. A $250 million-grossing film like Rambo or Top Gun is simply not possible in today's climate of global détente."
The lack of a clearly identifiable foreign nemesis has taken a toll on the American populace, as well: In the years since the fall of the Soviet Union, Americans have been forced to find other outlets for their deepest insecurities and fears. "Without an outward threat like the USSR, Americans have had to channel their anxieties about life into a wide range of other, less concrete things, including space aliens, drinking water, sexuality and our own government," psychotherapist Dr. Eli Wasserbaum said. "If a new national enemy is not found soon, the trend will only worsen."
Speaking to reporters, McDonnell Douglas CEO Richard Klingbell said the State Department should have foreseen the possibility of peace and taken steps to avoid it years ago.
"For decades, we took Soviet aggression and the arms race for granted," Klingbell said. "We failed to realize that one day it might all come to an end. We failed to sow the seeds of future foreign discord, for our children's sake. Thankfully, though, we're finally setting things straight. We're finally remembering that to make it in this world, you've got to have enemies."