Any decent farmer or gardener knows to maintain the prosperity of their land by balancing two distinct fronts: On one end, whatever they hope to grow must be nurtured with rich soil, good seeds, and fresh water. On the other, it must be protected with high fences and diligent maintenance to keep rodents, weeds, and pests at bay. Invest in crops too heavily without defense, and you invite hungry predators to attack your bounty. Focus on defense too severely, and your harvest suffers from lack of attention.
These are the dual roles of the American government as designed by our Founding Fathers. Congress should be striving to nurture the Republic with legislation aimed at educating the youth, cultivating opportunities, rewarding innovation and maintaining liberty. Meanwhile, the Executive branch safeguards the nation chiefly by commanding a rigorously efficient military, evolving defensive barriers, and keeping a keen eye on national threats.
Our nation’s leaders are failing on both fronts.
Dismal congressional approval ratings indicate a House filled with superficial and spiteful deadlocks. Congressmen are utterly missing the mark on social issues of actual concern to the economically downtrodden populace. They are also displaying an infantile inability to rise over party politics and serve the public trust. Meanwhile, our commander-in-chief’s foreign policy is increasingly being perceived as an emerging tyranny of flying robots, absolute digital surveillance, and evaporating human rights — progressively aimed at American citizens rather than external threats.
With the recent SCOTUS decisions on gay marriage equality, the Supreme Court appears to be the only branch of government still championing the people’s morale — perhaps reclaiming a scarred reputation after the hotly disputed Citizens United decision. It remains the obligation of voters to steer our elected leaders towards better decisions, pushing them to focus on a streamlined, efficient military budget, while investing more of our national wealth in a better-nurtured homeland.
Many neocons still see America’s central role as the sole champion of freedom and justice in the world, carrying a torch we’ve held since World War II. South Korea’s flourishing democracy situated below the imploding tyranny of its northerly neighbor is a testament to American interventionism. The Stuxnet cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear plants displayed technologically cunning victories our modern military is still capable of today. But our resume is marred by far more missteps, blunders, and disasters than we’d like to openly admit. And we’d be far better served leading by prosperous example, rather than solely enforcing our will through strength of arms.
In the internet’s age of information, ignorance is an active choice. Blindly clinging to any ideology, patriotism, political model or economic theory in the face of an emerging global reality, indicates a cognitive dissonance that hinders meaningful progress. We need to be able to candidly discuss which military pursuits actually safeguard American interests, and which are amoral opportunities to snatch sovereign resources or funnel avalanches of cash into the military-industrial complex. Israeli security experts, who have experienced a never-ending global war on terror, are the first to admit the futility of a purely militaristic approach.
Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires for centuries, with constant invasions by foreign interests causing a never-ending chaotic transition of power, civil wars, and overthrows. Despite our vindicated need to avenge the 9/11 attacks, the country remains an unmanageable melting pot of cultures, tribes, religions, languages, and topographies. Although it was hardly reported, the Taliban recently launched an explosive attack on the presidential palace and CIA headquarters in Afghanistan — proving the overwhelming futility of the lives, time and money we sacrificed on those bloody soils.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to finance, train and originate the vast majority of the militant killers who seek to destroy us — while we turn a blind (oil-soaked) eye away from their sins. Our other ongoing conflicts around the world read like a never-ending laundry list of embarrassing failures, while we continue to ignore the fact that the Arab Spring’s democratically elected leadership will offer us no guarantees of American partnerships or diminished theocratic oppression:
- Egypt’s courts continue to be filled with blasphemy cases as the Muslim Brotherhood digs its claws into the nation’s future.
- Pakistan, a nuclear power that unashamedly hid Osama Bin Laden, continues to demonstrate a cultural divide between honor killing fanatics and a youth hungry for democracy.
- Nigeria’s environment is being absolutely ravaged by conflicts between the Shell oil corporation, corrupt government officials, and local pirates.
- Syria’s ongoing bloodbath has become the quintessential “rock and hard place” choice for Obama, to either ignore a savage massacre fueled by foreign interests, or immerse American soldiers in another unpopular conflict.
Most embarrassingly of all, we continue to pretend the posturing hermit state of North Korea is an actual threat, instead of admitting that the world is very unlikely to act against the current status quo and generate an actual war.
China and Russia would both fear the influx of millions of brainwashed, malnourished refugees — while being discouraged by the idea of a unified Korea that displays pro-American sentiments. Japan and America would probably have a lot to gain from a unified Korea, but at the cost of billions of dollars and bloody military conflict. South Korea would undergo a similar process to the German unification, and obligate several generations of its citizens to a never-ending rebuilding process. Last of all, as bat-shit crazy as the Kim regime may be, they are aware of the fate most dictatorships and satellite states suffered post-revolt, and fear the reprisals their brutal tyranny would incite should they ever actually push foreign nations too far. The sad truth is, nothing is likely to change in North Korea anytime soon, and the only people under threat are their hungry citizens and suffering political prisoners.
We need to start having intelligent discussions about our foreign policy — about what we can actually accomplish on a global scale. Which conflicts truly qualify as our responsibility, and which are we generating by ignoring the opportunity for partnerships with emerging powers like China and Russia? Do we really want to revisit the old magnitude of Cold War Era conflicts?
With all our debate about proxy nations throughout the Middle East and Arab conflicts, we might be better served candidly recognizing that Saudi Arabia is the heart of Islam and can influence the entire region. Beyond financing half the terrorism on the planet, the country also has the potential to be a powder keg of fanaticism and anger once the oil runs out, and the corrupt royal family flees to their European mansions. The window of opportunity is closing to support a civil rights movement that will reduce Wahhabi influence and allow the growth of a stable Arab republic.
Meanwhile, no one can deny our military and homeland security spending is a bloated monstrosity in dire need of intelligent, efficient reform. By creating stronger military partnerships with our allies, we can lighten the burden and focus on higher priorities.
Instead, we have congressmen that are trying to force-feed antiquated tanks down the military’s throat, rather than invest in new technologies. Opportunistic politicians like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) admonish the NSA’s invasive technology now that Snowden’s leak has made them public, even though as a congressman he was privy to the information long before anyone else. Our leaders criticize Chinese suppression of citizens’ rights, Middle Eastern religious influence in politics, and South American political corruption — all while ignoring those very same traits in our own Republic.
We are no longer the freest country in the world, or healthiest, most educated or most innovative for that matter. But we could be! If only we remembered to restore a financial balance between defense of external threats, and nurturing of internal potential.
We need to prioritize early education, not only promote the crippling student debt stage of university diplomas. We need to invest in smart energy options for the future, which include long-term Nuclear power prospects, rather than just diversifying our addiction to limited fossil fuels. We need to create the highest standard of living, human rights, freedom of press, and economic opportunity, so that we’ll have an actual authority on which to base our admonishments against other countries we perceive to be driving the ills of the world.
The American standard of living should be raised as high and as proudly as our flags, so that the garden of opportunity so many fought and died to protect, won’t decay into desolation.