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After six and a quarter years on the job, Dean Rusk, the U.S. secretary of state for eight years in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, said that so far during his term in office, there had been 64 or 65 revolutions, successful or failed, throughout the world.

Rusk mentioned it in reference to reports from Athens at the time about a colonel's coup against the leftist government. He didn't mention his own government's involvement in many of those coups and revolutions, including the one in Greece.

The "State team" - a term used to refer to the local embassy, military attache and the CIA bureau - knew about the plan and asked Washington to welcome the coup when it was over.

That volatile period, with 10 coups a year, often in Arab countries like Syria and Iraq, has passed from the world, but American policy that promotes government restructuring and regime changes remains relatively permanent, whether through threats of violence, or if necessary actual violence, as in the cases of Manuel Noriega of Panama and Raoul Cedras in Haiti. Slobodan Milosevic was toppled from power in Belgrade by domestic pressure that was encouraged by the Americans.

The demand to remove Saddam Hussein is not George Bush's invention. It is based on the law to liberate Iraq, ceremoniously promulgated by Congress in 1998, while Bill Clinton was president.

Within that rubric, which the Bush administration presents as an initiative to liberate Iraq from Saddam, Israel is now trying to liberate Palestine from Yasser Arafat.

The tank and bulldozer assault on the Ramallah compound may not have pleased the Americans but only because of circumstances - coming just as Washington negotiates with the UN Security Council members about a new decision to challenge Saddam. Ariel Sharon was exposed once again as someone who cannot control his burping in decent society.

He understands why he has to control it, and tries to be on his best behavior, to please his hosts, but when someone mentions the trigger-word "Arafat," an uncontrollable burp bursts from the belly of the Israeli prime minister.

But a burp is only just a burp, embarrassing but tolerable.

At the strategic level, which stubbornly contradicts Sharon's tactics, there are no disputes. At the end of last week, while Sharon was besieging Arafat like the federal agents did at David Coresh's Waco, Texas compound, the Bush administration's National Security Strategy paper was published, a fundamental document outlining American policy.

American administrations take the Constitution, and their speeches and written documents seriously, forcing the leaders to boil down to the essence their thinking, and explain their platforms to their people and to themselves.

The Bush doctrine, which justifies preemptive prevention in an era of suicide bombings, seeks to bring the balance of power back to the world, though this time not between the powerful nations - there's only one of those - but between rights and responsibilities.

Every state is required to bear responsibility. Want freedom? Fight terror. Want international aid? Clean up your government. Seek regional stability? Oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The enemy is terror, which is defined as "intentional violence, for political motives, against the innocent." Terror is forbidden, Bush ruled, and hinting at the heritage of Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, among whom he wants to be counted, he draws parallels between terror and piracy, slavery and genocide, which those three great predecessors fought.

Weak states - Afghanistan under the Taliban, Colombia under the threats of the drug lords, Palestine - all threaten American security no less than powerful nations; poverty, corruption and institutional weakness make them vulnerable to terror networks.

A sovereign Palestine is only possible if it is a democratic, non-corrupt entity run by an administration that "counts the voters' ballots." You'll get independence and money and American involvement, Bush promises the Palestinians - without any mention of final borders - but only after you get rid of the cliques led by Arafat, and reach a final settlement of the conflict with Israel.

Bush wants to be rid of Arafat almost as much as he wants Saddam gone. Sharon's bouts of rage could slow down that process instead of accelerate it, but they won't prevent Bush from fulfilling his plan.