August 12, 2004

The Complete and Utter Failure to Get It

So this is actually a better way to spend $144 billion? You're kidding me, right? We spend a ton of dough locking down our entryways, funding agricultural subsidies in Afghanistan--because we don't spend enough on agricultural subsidies in this country--throwing 100,000 more police officers onto our streets, and basically doing far more to restrict domestic freedom than could ever be done by any so-called Patriot Act? This is better?

This is better than deposing a guy who shoved dissidents feet-first through a plastic shredder? This is better than trying to get democracy's foot in the door of a region that produces little but poverty, oppression, fanaticism, and resentment? This is the sane person's alternative? This is supposed to be an improvement?

This is an improvement from the point of view of a man who asserts the photograph of a U.S. Marshal pointing an automatic weapon in the face of a refugee child "warmed [his] heart." This is an improvement from the point of view of a woman who believes the Branch Davidians "blew themselves up" (or did they?) and deserved to die for belonging to a religious cult. This is an improvement for those who think our best hope for national security lies in entrusting more money and more power to the very people who bungled the job in the first place. This is an improvement in the minds of people who hate freedom--not in the minds of people who love it.

My father is very fond of sports analogies. I am not. But even I can grasp that you have two basic strategies in this conflict: You can focus on defense, or you can focus on offense. Ideally, you spruce up both. But you know, it's funny, I'm partial to the offense. I'm partial to the idea of rattling a few cages, shaking things up a bit, making a few dictators feel a little more nervous and a lot less secure.

I'm not nearly as partial to the idea of having more police on the streets. We have a lot of police on the streets now, and I don't know about where you live, but where I live most of them spend their time busting people for driving singly-occupied vehicles in the HOV lane and pulling over drivers for not wearing seat belts. Now you could argue--and I'll bet more than a few police officers would--that it'd help to relax enforcement on dumb laws like that, and leave policemen more time for "real" police work, but the point is, we have enough laws. We have enough rules. We have enough checkpoints. We have enough procedures.

What we don't have is someone with the balls to say, "Hey, there! Yeah, you seven Middle Eastern guys 'bout to get on that plane there . . . you mind coming over here so we can take a better look at you?" We didn't have it on September 11, and we don't have it now, and odds are we aren't ever going to have it, because ultimately no one's willing to stand up and be the asshole, and when on rare occasions someone is willing to risk being the asshole, we waste not one minute crucifying her.

So I'll settle for results like this:

But in the middle of all that wariness I continue to hear the news and hear about IPs arresting hundreds of terrorists who entered the country through Iran and Syria and re arresting thousands of criminals who were set free by Saddam before March 2003 to disturb our peaceful days to come. And also I hear the news of many other countries helping with what ever they can with rebuilding Iraq and that’s not a jock or a lie, because I saw with my own eyes the warehouse where the equipments and tools and materials sent to Iraq for rebuilding it by those countries, an unbelievable stock of every thing, thousands of police cars, hundreds of army vehicles thousands of sealed containers, electricity transformers and many thing I don’t know what is it and it was by a coincidence when I had to visit the warehouse for some business actually to supply them with employees with different qualifications hundreds of them with the condition that they should be Iraqis, because these countries are trying to solve unemployment problem as well. I even told my friend who was with me in that visit “if all Iraqis knew about the things stocked and happening here they will stop complaining and they will have enough patience to wait for the better days to come.

“Yes it’s a matter of patience and hard working no more” that’s what I told my self after all, and before I finish my wards to my self, I found my car in front of my office and look to my watch to find it was a thirty minutes and pull my brief case heading to work charged up to continue building Iraq & Iraqis.

Because it makes more sense to me than trying to turn America into one big panic room, okay? Because if what we did amounts to "pissing away" $144 billion, I'd rather piss it away on people who might yet do something great with it than piss it away buying the Coast Guard new tracking equipment.

You know, I don't recall nearly so much bitching about the costs of this little operation--and last I looked, peace never really did make it to Kosovo. But gosh, at least we had real "international cooperation" for that one, didn't we? So I guess it's cute to piss away money when all the cool kids are begging us to do it. Is that the trick to this line of reasoning? Does the international community operate on roughly the same dynamic as high school? Because if that's how things work in the world, it's no wonder I don't understand any of it.

I hated high school.

Posted by Ilyka at August 12, 2004 07:32 AM in news

$144 billion to the S-Train Love Fund would do much good for the whole world. :p

Seriously, the spending issue with our government (and intepreters of government actions) is confusing. I have no problem with the $144 billion spent so far in Iraq. I have a problem with not spending enough at home on REAL issues (and 100,000 new police ain't one of them). Research into new medicines and mass transportation are real issues to me at home.

Posted by: S-Train at August 12, 2004 09:14 AM

I'll admit that I have a problem talking about spending in Iraq vs. domestic spending; to me it's an apples & oranges issue.

In Iraq, we'll spend what we need to get the job done... and there may be graft involved, but it's hard to skim with armed U.S. Marines looking over your shoulder. (It's also hard to salve your dishonest conscience, while watching dirt-poor Iraqis busting their butts to build their new Iraq and make it work.)

I guess the distinction, for me, is this: in the United States, it's not clear WHAT we should be spending money on. Answers tend to be dependent more on politics than on empirical evidence, and everybody's got an opinion. Me, I tend to mistrust ANYONE who claims to know all the answers.

In Iraq, on the other hand, we KNOW what to do, because it's brutally simple. Houses are crumbling; rebuild them. Schools are in desparate need; repair and equip them. People need to know what voting means; teach them.

I have a feeling that many bureaucrats face our Iraqi problems with relief; it's nice to deal with problems, difficult as they may be, with definite solutions!!

Daniel in Medford

Posted by: Daniel in Medford at August 12, 2004 07:36 PM

"Instead of this war, let's add two divisions to the army, so the strains caused by this war would have had less effect."

Well. That's doubly amusing coming from the Times editorial page, isn't it? (Why would we need those divisions if there wasn't a war on? Would the Times seriously ever support such a thing anyway?)

S-train: Why is it that the Feds should be the ones paying for medicine research? I mean, unless there's some rampaging disease I'm unaware of where the profit-motive is nonexistent, I'd think that the pharmaceutical companies will be handling that one on their own, y'know?

And, likewise, mass transit ain't really any of the Feds' business. (And from recollection, most Fed mass transit funding, apart from paving the Interstates, is a god-damn waste of money. Don't need Fed money to run buses, and while light rail projects are cool lookin' and great pork, they're not generally the best actual transit investment.)

Posted by: Sigivald at August 12, 2004 08:41 PM