Stop the War(s)! Cut the Budget! Restore our Faith?
After more than eight-and-a-half years of deadly folly (more than 120,000 lives, most of them Iraqi civilians) at costs that may never be fully counted ($806 billion out of our treasury so far; $3 trillion according to Nobel-winning economists), President Obama announced on Friday that he’ll pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. “As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end,” Obama said. “So today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year…After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” he said.
Not exactly. The “war” has been over for around 8 years and 5 months. The ongoing (and disastrously expensive) police action we’ve been conducting there will continue, albeit at reduced numbers. The White House announced that 4,000 to 5,000 “security contractors” would remain in the country to serve in various advisory posts. The administration’s first choice was to leave 5-10,000 US troops behind, but no one could figure out how to sell that idea to the Iraqi and American people. We’re slightly more skeptical since the days of Colin Powell warning the U.N. about “weapons of mass destruction.”
Mr. Obama, desperate to shore up support from the “yes, we can” folks who voted for him on the premise that he would lead us in directions diametrically opposed to those favored by George W. Bush, has finally got one big item to check off his To Do list. On matters of the environment, medical marijuana, and our various “wars,” his compass has too often pointed just as Bush’s did: toward the Money Pole. In this regard, Obama has been a giant disappointment. That he’s had to deal with an intransigent bunch of mean-spirited obstructionists in Congress is a shame and a bummer and a tough break. But it’s not a valid excuse for his failure to deliver on so many of his key campaign promises.
With the 2012 election looming, Obama must know that he’s lost (or is rapidly losing) the protest voters — those of us who normally don’t support either of the major party candidates yet voted for Obama out of utter disgust with what had been done to our beloved country the previous eight years. Now we’re disillusioned. I myself cannot vote for a man who has directed his Department of Justice to raid and prosecute marijuana dispensaries abiding by state law and who has allowed more offshore oil drilling in sensitive coastal areas than his Texan predecessor. But I also recognize that a return to Republicanism would be an express train to disaster, last stop: Peasant Revolt.
If Obama still cares to distinguish his first term, to bring some honor and dignity to an exceptionally undignified miasma of political sabotage and failure, he needs to do more than bring the Iraq troops home. He needs to bring those serving in Afghanistan home, too. Presently around 100,000 of them.
All of them.
In Afghanistan. In Saudi Arabia. In South Korea. In Europe, where we have 80,000 Americans stationed more than 60 years after World War II came to a satisfactory conclusion.
Bring them all home. Our national security in these places is not at stake. Our financial and oil interests are, of course, but that’s not what the lives of our young men and women in uniform are supposed to be sacrificed for. At least not officially.
While Mr. Obama is busy removing US military installations around the globe, he should remember that uniformed American troops in Arab countries are not seen as good Samaritans but as unwelcomed bullies. US troops don’t prevent terrorist attacks on US soil; they incite terrorist attacks on foreign soil. Bring them home.
And then cut the military budget. Drastically. (By half, at least). We Americans spend $700 billion annually on “defense” — just about what the rest of the world combined spends. All sorts of scholars and professional war-makers far smarter than I have presented papers and plans that identify multitudes of unnecessary Pentagon programs. Cutting these costly expenditures won’t, as frightened fabulists suggest, weaken our security. Saving a trillion or two dollars over the next decade will, in fact, make our nation inherently stronger, better educated, and altogether happier.
Granted, our current economic model offers little choice to the under-educated. Wearing a nice uniform and protecting the oil concerns of rich folks doesn’t seem like such a bad deal compared to being a criminal. Because when you’re enlisted you get three square meals, a cot and a roof over your head, and you don’t even have to go to prison to collect. Plus, most criminals don’t receive government pensions and benefits unless they’re officially approved government criminals. Reducing the size of our military will admittedly render unemployed thousands of previously unemployable folks, but, as the TSA has proven, there’s always a useful place for them in our evolving society.
The best “defense” America will ever have is an educated and enlightened populace, one that understands the decisions being made in Washington and remains more concerned about their ramifications than who’s winning whatever singing or athletic competition is on the TV. One wonders more each day if such an electorate is what either major party really wants.
To make a fundamental change in the inequity between Haves and Have Nots, and to further distinguish himself from his predecessor, Barack Obama must repeal Bush-era tax cuts and decisively end the preposterous tax favoritism rich Americans and the corporations they hide behind currently enjoy. If companies hoarding billions of dollars in banks refuse to use the excess money to hire Americans who want to work, what’s the purpose of them holding onto all the money, the money that’s miraculously disobeying the Laws of Physics (and Chicago School economics) and trickling up instead of down?
I can think of about 14 other steps Obama could take that would convince me and other doubters that he’s serious about this nice-sounding change thingie. (Single payer healthcare, anyone?) Whatever initiatives he chooses to enact between now and next November, one thing’s certain: a good number of us former supporters will be watching with acute interest.