Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Endless war or lawful order

Endless war or Lawful peace:

Within weeks of 9/11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Americans "Forget about 'exit strategies…we're looking at a sustained engagement that carries no deadlines."

Speaking at West Point almost 7 years later Rumsfeld’s successor Robert Gates said "There are no exit strategies." Expect a "generational campaign" with "many years of persistent, engaged combat all around the world."

Woody Allen once said ‘humanity stands at a cross road. One road leads to utter hopelessness and despair. The other…to complete Annihilation. I hope we have the wisdom to chose the right path.” America and the world are at a cross road. Endless war or something else. And time is running out on which path to chose.

But what might some other path be? The path of religion appears dead ended with either the 5th Imam or Armageddon. And the human minds greatest strength, its imagination, is also our greatest flaw. The human mind is capable of believing anything. When it comes to religion…it often does. And now many continue to believe in war. But, our imagination can take us down another path. The path of law…instead of war. Our nation’s founding fathers took this path a little over 200 years ago with the original 13 states on this continent. Now it’s time to proceed with the 192 nation states of the world.

We often think of peace as being the opposite of war. But often what we see as ‘peace’ is just a cease fire. A time for reloading until the next war. If such peace condones lawlessness between nations or such great restrictions in freedom that the human spirit for life and joyous dreams is crippled, even for some small member group within our species, then peace won’t last. And given the extraordinary and accelerating killing capacity of modern technology, the security of all will eventually threatened. The opposite of war is actually the rule of law. Such is the root of lasting peace.

We have had peace in the US since we incorporated the three basic elements of the Rule of Law. Democracy (participation), justice (equality) and maximum freedom and security (A bill of rights). Now the United States is a stable geographic entity and a relatively peaceful gathering of diverse people and religions. But most importantly, America is an ideal. A concept. An ideal concept that differences between people and states are settled by judges and juries -- not armed conflict. We chose and still choose Law not war.

Today, we may not be able to preserve our access to cheap oil, prevent the spread of WMD, or remain the dominant global economic or military power…but we can preserve our ideals. But only if our ideal of law replaces war.
And this ideal is adopted by others globally. This is unlikely if we continue to talk about freedom…and the rule of law…but continue to march down the path of war.

In September 2001, Rumsfeld said: "We have a choice -- either to change the way we live, which is unacceptable, or to change the way that they live; and we chose the latter." And thus we invaded Iraq, a nation of 20 million Muslims and alienated nearly a billion more throughout the world.

US leaders at that time believed that America’s military supremacy was enough and a majority of Americans and our elected officials believed the same. They were wrong. And those who believe our military will eventually defeat terrorism are also wrong. Rumsfeld himself acknowledged that those people who think the US military can win the war against terrorism “just don’t get it”. And, those who think “we can win it alone”, also, “Just don’t get it”.

But the limits of US military power are still not apparent to all. Two relatively small occupations (Iraq and Afghanistan) have bogged down and strained the most powerful and maneuverable military force the world has ever known. And there is no end in sight in either devastated country. And our own nation’s prosperity dwindles as rapidly as our infrastructure and the oil supply we depend on.

While our nation has not been attacked since 9-11 a strong case can be made that our ‘war’ against terrorism has actually made matters worse. We are sacrificing our blood and treasure faster than Al Qaeda could drain it intentionally. And our loss of freedoms are mostly self inflicted. And the longer we depend on oil the more we fund those we war against.

Americans today are more threatened by the drop in the value of our currency, the ripple effects of the self inflicted mortgage crisis, or the potential for bird flu pandemic than another terrorist strike.

But Gates did offer another way. He pointed to the value of development and diplomacy in defeating terrorism. Our nation used these two “d”s to defeat Communism. The Marshall Plan kept the communists out of Europe and other programs of US humanitarian assistance helped in other places.

And there lies the second genius of American influence. Generosity.

Rumsfeld had it backward. We must choose to change the way we live. Abandon oil as an energy source. Ignore the cost of generosity and cherish it’s value to making friends in the world instead of wars that now only make us more enemies.

Bin Ladin had two goals. Breaking America economically and dividing us politically. Nothing would do more to boost our nation’s wealth and political spirits than taking on a constructive mission instead of a destructive one.

Security does not lie in war. It’s found in law and order and a world full of friends. The greatest tool we have for achieving both is the fulfillment of a new Global Marshall Plan. Yes, it will cost money. So does any valuable investment. But the returns on this investment will be profound. The maximization of freedom and security for all. We should pay now… we might not get another chance.

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