Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What if the US stayed home?

This is the first political blog post I've ever made but I need to get this off my chest and like all writers, when I need to get something off my chest, I reach for a pen.

I've been following world events pretty close for the past several years.  I keep reading and watching, hoping to make a little sense out of it all.  I've not had much luck to be perfectly honest.  With the 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center dominating the news for the past few days I've been thinking about that event in some detail.  It certainly was a game changer wasn't it?

I've read that the subsequent "War on Terror", started because of 9/11, has cost in the range of $3.5 trillion dollars and approximately 250,000 lives lost.  God only knows how many have been wounded, maimed and displaced.  I'm not sure if the $3.5 T includes the increased cost of security at airports and government buildings or just for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Regardless, it's a big pile of cash.

After nearly a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, has NATO forces made much progress?  Taking the Taliban out of power has done a great deal for human rights, especially the rights of women, but is it sustainable?  Can the fledgling police and military of Afghanistan keep the Taliban and al Qaeda from taking back over once NATO troops leave?  I don't know but I wouldn't want to bet on it.

Iraq is still a train wreck after the two military invasions, the entire mid-east is still unstable as the Arab Spring becomes Arab Fall.  Can revolutionaries run a country and create democratic political parties where none have existed for a very long time?  They will be finding out in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in the coming months.  Hopefully these people haven't brought down one dictator to have him replaced by another.

Through much of their history, the US has helped police the world.  When the shooting starts, the US is often there with boots on the ground.  Sometimes that why the shooting started in the first place, but that's an entirely different story.  However, when you look behind the headlines you see that their presence isn't always appreciated by the people they are trying to help.  Obviously a country referred to as "the great Satan" isn't loved by the speaker!

Here's the part I was getting to in this long winded ramble.  What do you suppose would happen if the US went home?  Just said,"Look, guys.  Thanks, but no thanks.  We're going to sit a few of these conflicts out."  Imagine the reaction in these countries that seem to enjoy shooting at each other.  No US troops to shoot at instead.  Damn!  What's up with that!

Now to take this a bit further.  I suspect a lot of the $3.5 T that was spent on the War on Terror came from the US Treasury.  What would the world be like today if they had spent that money on something else?  They could have repaired or replaced all the aging infrastructure in the entire country.  I bet that would have put a big hole in their current unemployment situation.  All of the tax dollars generated from all that work could have gone back against the deficit.

Think too of the effect on some of the inner cities if all those young men and women had trades to go to work at instead of getting involved in gangs, drugs and the sex-trade.  Maybe I'm terribly naive, but I would think a job that pays regular wages would be preferable to any of those other things.  Might have quite an impact on the crime rate in the US don't you think?

Or, maybe the money could have been used to find a cure for AIDS, or cancer.  Wouldn't that have been a world game changer?

Or, with that kind of money to work with, the US might have chosen to become self sufficient in green technology so that they wouldn't have to buy as much foreign oil.  The US currently uses 18,690,000 barrels of oil per day.  That's a bit more than the next four (China, Japan, India, and Russia) combined.  What if US consumption was cut in half because of investment in green technology?  At $100 per barrel that would save the US about $900 million per day or about $330 billion per year.  President Obama could put a beating on the deficit with that kind of cash flow couldn't he?  As an extra bonus, many "green" manufacturing jobs would be created and it would significantly reduce the amount of money going into the coffers of some of the oil dictators who then use that money to train terrorists to become pilots. Just saying...

Imagine how all this could play out.  But it's never that simple, is it?  Powerful people in organized crime and the drug cartels wouldn't like to see inner cities getting cleaned up and drug use reduced.  Big oil would really hate to see all those great green technology jobs get developed while oil use dropped.  There would be a lot of pressure put on many politicians.  Even the arms dealers would be unhappy.  Who would buy their toys?

However, I suspect that the US won't stay home so none of this will come to pass.  But it's fun to take a few hours to think about what it would be like if it did.

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