Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Let Us Speak Up Now

Events in Abbotabad and the North Arabian Sea to kill and dispose of Osama bin Laden occurred suddenly and seem far removed. Clandestine U.S. groups and forces planned and carried out it all without our knowledge, participation or such operations invariably occur.

Don't feel passive yet though. We progressive sorts may not have another such moment to influence our future, the whole world's future.

Think Now, Speak Soon

Of course, the death of bin Laden was huge, but even bigger can be how our President and Congress act internationally and nationally. That's where you and I come into it all.

This moment is far bigger than the removal of an infamous terrorist. The world is still reeling from economic upheaval, our country faces policy and economy decisions as crucial as any we have ever, and the Arab and related Middle East countries are in flux for better or worse one upon another.

This is not the time to blindly trust and think that a paternal government will do the best they can for us.

On yesterday's Left Ahead podcast, it was just Ryan and I. We come from very different backgrounds, experiences and eras, often disagreeing. Yet we concurred that this is the time to decide where we want to see America headed and to let our leaders know in the clearest terms.

In the near and mid-term future, decisions in Washington will determine how we act as a nation:
  • How we position ourselves with transforming nations
  • How we allocate our financial, military and human resources internationally
  • How we see to the needs of our own citizens
  • How we influence the behavior of other nations' leaders and citizens, by example as well as by direct and indirect means

Momentous Opportunity

This is time to discard what has not worked for decades and that no longer needed. As an early boomer, I grew up with grandparents who navigated the Great Depression and parents who won WWII.

A huge downside we still carry is a postwar set of hopes lived like undeniable fantasies. That older generation set the tone first with a blind, unshakable belief that America would experience a never-ending growth spiral. They staffed up U.S. companies and rewarded themselves with housing, food, gas and other subsidies, and stacked fat pensions on top of Social Security. Life was (too) good.

At the same time, they continued military spending at or near war levels and generally plunging the nation and us in their future into huge debt. They quasi-rationally feared the Soviet Union and other communist nations, deficit spending into repeated versions of Cold Wars, particularly arms races. We compounded this playing cops of the world, even to the point of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of Americans' lives in questionable or unnecessary wars.

Behold the Greatest Generation!

Now that my generation runs Congress, we have maintained the fantasies and spending patterns. With the exception of the last half of President Clinton's administration, we have been delusional in our borrow-and-spend appropriations.

This is the time, now is the moment to discard delusion, destruction and death. We as a nation can not longer pretend that we can take resources from other nations for our own growth needs. We can't pretend that we can control all other nations with our military might and threats.

In this Arab Spring, numerous nations will align with international partners as they reform or revolutionize their governance and philosophy. We should simultaneously be backing out of enervating wars. We have a singular opportunity to help shape both those partnerships and our own country's direction.

For our own economy and government, a rapidly decreasing set of those in Congress hold that that we can set ourselves right by cutting infrastructure and human services costs. Those expenses (investments really) seem big until viewed in the scale of our national budget.

In fact, we need to totally and permanently change our military expenses. We devote a far greater percentage of our GDP to military than all of our potential enemies combined and far more than any other nation. We are fools to do so. (For a taste of waste, start with a report on such spending.)

Moreover, our military adventurism stemming from those post-WWII/Cold War fantasies is not making our world safer. It is not inspiring the love and imitation of other nations. It places us in numerous armed conflicts and make us the target of those who despise oppressive regimes we install or support.

We would get far better results at much lower human and financial costs through diplomacy and alliances with the good guys. Proving through action that we guarantee liberties for our own citizens as well as fostering it in emerging nations will go much further toward world stability than paying dictators here and there billions for the rights to maintain airbases on their soil.

At this great moment, we have a very smart, highly competent Secretary of State in Hilary Clinton and a President in Barack Obama who finally has found some strength in decisiveness. This is the time to doubly reframe America.

I'll be writing and calling the President and my Congressional delegation. For my part, I want to see diplomacy now and ongoing. I want money spent not on firepower but on infrastructure, here and abroad. Longer term, I want far fewer American brains and billions to go to the military and far more to ensuring both commonweal and security.

  • Freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
  • Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
  • Freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.
  • Freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

We somehow lost sight of those in the 70 years since that speech. We may never have a better moment to reclaim those goals.

1 comment:

Uncle said...

When necessary, we could even get better military results at lower cost...if we didn't run the military to support the defence industry. The rest of the developed world laugh at our ludricous excess of everything military, and have done so since WWII. The day when we can push off such sneers as jealousy is past. We should be learning from nations who know how to have defence without bankrupting the rest of the economy. Otherwise, we can learn the hard way, as Russia did.