In a Facebook group I love, Chevy Volt Owners, people were expressing their horror and anger about an American journalist, James Foley, cruelly murdered in Iraq. Understandably, they were angry and craved justice. Some mentioned military retaliation. Many wanted America to return to isolationism, as we did after World War I. Some mentioned sealing our borders. These are all popular ideas fomented by the talking heads on political talk shows. This is something I’ve been thinking (and writing) about for a while. Here’s my advice to the country I love:
We are entering a new era in warfare. One where an enemy is impossible to separate from the innocent. Now, instead of countries as enemies, we face opponents who wear no uniforms, who have no cities or installations we can attack.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the resulting economic chaos that ensued, there was far better security around buildings that held food than there was around buildings that held plutonium and nuclear weapons. Scientists who had made a good living designing and building nuclear weapons were unable to feed their families, so they (and other, lower-level workers) sold the one valuable thing to which they had access, namely weapons and weapons grade plutonium/uranium. Some of these people were caught. How many were not?
It is only a matter of time before these materials are turned into a weapon that is NOT delivered by an aircraft or on a missile, which could be easily tracked back to its source. We won’t see it coming. We won’t know its origin. When the day comes, and I believe it will, when one of these weapons is detonated in an American city, how will we be able to retaliate? Jack Bauer aside, in the REAL world, we have an incompetent government which cannot protect us. MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction, kept the peace in the era of countries. Russia never launched an attack, because they knew it would begin the end of the world for them as well as us. That no longer works.
Every innocent civilian killed, leaves behind friends and family who will hate America and gladly die to avenge their loved one’s death. Would you do less, if a country was responsible for the agonizing death of your son? Your daughter? Your parents? The actions we take today, create the enemy who will gladly volunteer to carry a weapon of unbelievable destructive force into the heart of America. We are fighting a new type of adversary, using old strategies. There will be a price for this and it will be high. They don’t have to have the advanced scientists we had to have, to make and design these weapons. Plain old dynamite, used to disperse radioactive material could be used to make downtown areas of Chicago, Los Angeles or New York uninhabitable for decades, centuries or millions of years. What if the focus was a port? What would the economic cost be for the loss of the port of Houston, Los Angeles or New York?
Want to bring America to its knees? Fight an economic war. Make us lash out at enemies we cannot find, much less eliminate. Osama bin Laden understood that and it was the basis for his attack on us. In the case of Jim Foley’s murder, that economic war is exactly why they released the video of his murder to the world. They want the U.S. to overextend itself economically. This strategy has worked phenomenally well. Osama bin Laden may have died, but our economy was severely damaged and almost destroyed (with the assistance of greedy Wall Street gamblers). Our middle class has been decimated. Class warfare is tearing us apart. We are a country divided against itself.
The America of our ancestors overthrew the sovereign governments of Iraq, Iran, Panama and many more. We’ve earned our enemies’ ire. We created them. It’s time we owned up to this and showed the world that’s not who we are anymore. We cannot eliminate a foreign government just because we want or need their land or resources. If we really believe in the dream of America, we must renounce the old ways and embrace the America we claim to be. Love your enemy. I know that may sound corny in this modern era, but the wisdom of those words is undeniable. Help other countries develop and rise to the economic prosperity we enjoy. There can no longer be a “third world.” The very idea of the term “third world” should be repugnant to us as human beings. No one life is more valuable or less valuable than another. We should all have respect for others, their struggles and their lives.
As we are starting to see with Ebola, unsanitary conditions and poor medical facilities, half a world away, can endanger the entire human race. We should be building state-of-the-art hospitals and schools in developing nations (and here). We should be building and maintaining roads there (and here) to safely transport our products. We should be building facilities to generate clean water for the citizens of developing countries. We should be building wind farms and solar energy plants there (and here). We should be getting everyone connected via the Internet so that the dialog between our peoples is at the person-to-person level, instead of government-to-government. We would not only be helping these countries develop and their citizens to prosper, WE WOULD BE BUILDING THE CUSTOMERS FOR AMERICAN BUSINESS AND INGENUITY! Think of it as an investment that will pay off in a big way for us.
I’ll rephrase an earlier question: if your son’s, daughter’s, or parent’s life was saved in a hospital built with American assistance, would you resist those that aim to hurt America?
History is at a crossroad and we cannot be the America of the last century. We have to become who we claim to have been for the last 238 years. As we’ve learned in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Iran, and countless other places, we cannot win the hearts and minds of others by killing. This can only be done through love.
It will be a slow process. We’ve got decades of damaged reputation to repair. But if we could put a man on the moon, eliminate deadly diseases, build marvels of engineering, etc, we can do this too. We have to stop listening to extremists at the far ends of the political spectrum and return to the centrist ideals of America. Our media extremists have made themselves rich, turning us against a one another and against other cultures and countries. Their time must end if we are to step into a prosperous, safe and just future.
Part of this change is each of us doing what we can to eliminate the temptation to take from other countries. Drive an EV so we don’t need the oil others have. Put solar panels on your home so we don’t have to destroy the planet to power our homes. Elect leaders who have a plan to build a better world FOR ALL PEOPLES, rather than just naysaying their opponents.
We can’t just fall into isolationism. Whether we like it or not, the sweat and dreams of the Americans that came before us gave us great prosperity and we need to share that with others to lift them out of crippling poverty, rather than just watch from the sidelines and wonder why they hate us. Once someone has nothing for which to live, they will look for something noble for which to give their life. Thus, a suicide bomber is born.
We cannot close our borders completely. The Soviet Union and East Germany tried this and failed spectacularly. We are a world of interdependent relationships. What goes around comes around. A million American soldiers’ lives were probably spared by the dropping of two atomic bombs over Japan. One of the reasons we developed the bomb before our enemies did, was Hitler’s animosity toward Jewish people. Take a look at the names of the people who developed the atomic bomb. Many of them were Jewish. Albert Einstein fled Germany to escape this animosity, and it was his letter to President Roosevelt that brought the idea of an atomic bomb to our nation instead of our enemies. Who knows what child stands at our border today, fleeing from violence, poverty and starvation? Perhaps, properly fed and educated, one of these refugee children will discover the cure for cancer or create a clean and infinite power source. Do we really want to point a gun at the face of the next Einstein and say, “Go back where you came from?” What if that child was born here? Do we want that child to not obtain an education in a quality school?
We are each responsible for what our country does. We elected our leaders. It’s time for us to own that, so we can become the America we can believe in, but more importantly, the America the WORLD can believe in.
Sorry for the long-windedness, but this is something I fervently believe.
Stepping off soap box (for now).