Monday, September 26, 2005

The choice between hurricane cleanup and the war on terror is NOT a choice

The liberal media is attempting to portray the natural disasters in the Gulf Coast a perfect opportunity to frame government spending into an either/or type of decision with spending on cleanup from Katrina and Rita or spending the money necessary to support the effort in the war on terror. This is an incorrect presentation of the options in front of the American people. The decision before the American public is not a choice between cleanup or prosecution of the war on terror, but, rather, of how to pay for supporting both efforts.

The reasons that the United States has no choice but to pursue both courses of action simultaneously are clear, if not always understood. Failing to pursue the war on terror, a war in any sense of the term, and not a political engagement, leaves the United States open to asymmetrical opportunities to attack by the terrorists. As the United States cannot defend every potential target that the terrorists might hit without exhausting the Treasury and breaking the economy, it has no choice but to attack suspected terrorists before they have the capability to choose and hit a target. The base of support for terrorists is the disaffected who believe that the United States is wrong and that enough attacks on a populace will cause a callow withdrawal like witnessed in Somalia. However, creating free and open societies in areas where terrorists come from, such as in Wahabist Saudi Arabia, denies the terrorist recruiters the justification they have in bringing in new members to the fold. Furthermore, the enemy, the terrorists, are implicitly acknowledging that the focal point of this war is now Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has repeatedly stated that a successful democracy in Iraq will likely signal the death knell for terrorist activities. Therefore, by not supporting the continuing war in Iraq and other places, we give the terrorists a chance to slip through the noose before it tightens on them and makes the costs of successfully prosecuting a war later exponentially higher.

The reasons for cleanup after the hurricanes’ destruction are equally clear, and certainly more understood. Failing to rebuild one of the largest cities in the United States, New Orleans, would be a failure of the implied agreement between government and people. The people pay taxes, take part in civic duties, and agree to the laws of the land in exchange for protection and provision of necessities for living and for the opportunity to pursue their dreams through hard work. Creating the internal displacement of a half a million people would be on a scale comparable to Africa or Afghanistan. Even though the displaced people would not face the level of hardship that a refugee in, for example, Chad fleeing from Darfur may face, to allow U.S. citizens to undergo needless relocation is unacceptable. While the purely economic argument could posit that people took risks of self-insurance by living in an area such as New Orleans, morally, giving in to the purely economic argument would disregard the inherent human value that all of the displaced, and all of the rest of us have.

Therefore, the question that should be before the public is not what to do, but how to accomplish it. Naysayers of thee war effort claim that the U.S. economy and government cannot afford both. This is true only if the government wishes to continue to spend money in areas that are, on a relative scale, less important. Funding for roads in Alaska that go to nowhere or for subsidization of a public broadcasting service which should be private can be eliminated or reduced to provide the funding to support both cleanup and the war on terror. What is needed is not profligate excess, but, rather, an intentional exercise in the tradeoffs offered. Unfortunately, in times of strife and suffering, we cannot have everything that we want, and we must make some sacrifices. Our government should take a hard look at spending and determine what is truly necessary and what is mere excess. Protecting pet projects in a local congressman’s district rather than freeing up the funds to tackle more important areas of government is inexcusable. Write elected representatives and hold them responsible for spending wisely so that they are not mortgaging the future to curry favorites with the present. No individual’s reelection in the next cycle is as important as the reconstruction of a destroyed city or as important as the successful prosecution of the war on terror.

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