Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Buddy, Can You Spare a Thousand Billion?

There are scads of ways to define winners and losers, but one way we Americans weigh it out is by money.  Did Madonna outclass Bing Crosby in the currency-adjusted values of their times?  Who is the bigger all-time name by earnings, Sinatra or Elvis?  And so it goes.


If you knew, or sensed, I was coming around to a parallel on terrorism versus our free society, congratulations.  Or maybe I have just become too predictable.  But it’s surely evident to even the most prejudiced members of right-versus-left, conservative-versus-liberal or uninvolved-versus-over-affected that in the numbers game the terrorists are way ahead.


No one dares put a dollar value on what this country has spent since 9/11 that it would not have spent were the towers still standing.  Part of the reason is that it’s almost impossible to sift out each and every number.  Costs in New York City get the press, but the additional expenses in thousands upon thousands of Keokuk, Iowas and Evanston, Illinoises are stirred in to a very murky pot.  Companies that disperse their formerly aggregated employees are a cost to the building they leave and a profit to the many buildings they now occupy, but it’s a number all the same.


I’m calling it a trillion over four years, a thousand billion.  But it may easily be twice that and that’s just the American share.  What’s going on in Europe and Asia is anyone’s guess.  The economic withholdings and offerings for this cooperation or that clandestine intrusion is all on the black, but an expense nonetheless. 


No end in sight for this.  Nothing but further costs, escalating costs, increasing threats to be challenged as only we know how to challenge; by outspending.  A case can be made that terrorism is a new industry and offers profitabilities to a new and heretofore unknown business opportunity.  The ages will from now be known as:


  • Stone

  • Bronze

  • Iron

  • Agricultural

  • Industrial

  • Information

  • Terrorist

By this measure, we are not spending but merely investing in a new technology. To paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur as he left the Phillipines, "We are not retreating, we are advancing in a new direction."


Yet in the face of all evidence to the contrary, we claim to be winning!


George Bush (and it would be the same with an Al Gore or John Kerry) holds forth that we are overwhelming the terrorist element within Islam, when by every logical measure (see Madonna-Crosby and Sinatra-Elvis) the bragging-rights are theirs.  A rag-tag, fanatic constituency within one of the world’s major religions has proven America to be unequal to the task of disproving their radical doctrine. And they knew it would be.


Amazing!  All we seem able to do is bomb and torture and coerce.  A billion against a car-bomb and then another and another and another.


As a nation, we have withdrawn from the field of philosophical argument and admitted that nurturing freedom of thought and promoting individual possibility are no match for misdirected dogma. Rather than argue the benefits of free minds, illustrate the potential of shared economics or demonstrate the power of political compromise, we chose to strike at the heart of radical Islam on a selective basis, madrasas in Afghanistan and Iran, but not Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.


And so, not taking the time to know our enemy, unwilling to change injustices that must be changed (because the demand comes with a bomb) and sheathing our finest weapon (the freedoms within our system), we elected to enter another ‘cold war.’ This one will no doubt pale by comparison the fifty+ years of the last and will levy an even greater tax in terms of withheld benefits to mankind.  One would hope we had learned something, anything, from the mutually destructive idiocy of the American-Russian capitalist-communist argument.  But no.  Social reforms will go unrealized again in America and social-economic progress continue to be ground under the heel of jihad in the Muslim world, all because of each side’s inability to stand down.


Ours more than theirs.  The inequities we supported in order to jab our stick in the Russian eye and that we continue to support for access to oil, have fallen in our lap.  The equity we failed to demand in order to buy $22 oil have cost us $62 oil and destroyed our credibility as well.  We are no longer believable in a major part of the world. Israel and Palestine are worn out with us. The esteem in which our freedoms have been held are tarnished and tattered. Equally, and far more dangerous to our faith in ourselves and our culture, we are essentially weaponless. 


And so, we need to eschew the Dick Cheney headlongness and headstrongness that served us so badly in these recent ‘wars’ and recalibrate a response that is not administration-dependent.  Unresponded to, terrorism will haunt a century of administrations to come, Republican as well as Democrat. It’s time to get over our knee-jerk, guns-drawn response, without necessarily apologizing for it, and begin crafting a bilateral worldwide political and economic program to support the moderate elements within Islam.  That’s going to be a major undertaking and it’s going to have to be fully supportable by future administrations, be they left or right.  That means its genesis must be deeply within the probity of the middle and far-east desks of the State Department and its oversight the corresponding committees of the Senate. Serious work, undertaken seriously.


Support of and cooperation with moderate Islam is the only possible corrective to radical Islam. 
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Read more of my musings on the war in Iraq at my personal web site.