Friday, October 4, 2013

America: Stop Fighting and Fix your Roads, your Schools, Your Cities

I was in Europe when the latest phase of the Syrian crisis broke out. As everyone knows, Assad used chemical weapons which killed nearly 1500 civilians. Thereupon, President Obama announced that a “red line” had been crossed and that this required a new American bombing campaign.

Although I was on the other side of the world and entirely out of touch with American public opinion, my reaction was knee-jerk and immediate: President Obama, please don’t do it!

That the overwhelming majority of Europeans around me were adamantly opposed to bombing, was a predictable no-brainer. More surprising was the fact that the vast majority of Americans were also opposed to another military adventure.

I won’t list the reasons why the US should not become involved in another military campaign. They are too numerous and too obvious. The issue is not just Syria.

The issue is American foreign policy in general. The issue is America, period. Having just returned from countries with superb infrastructure, with little poverty, with excellent public services, I see more clearly than ever how exhausted and impoverished America has become. This country has depleted itself by fighting wars practically non-stop since 1942, by stationing forces in 120 countries, by spending trillions in military assistance to over 100 countries.

And for what?

In return for being the world’s cop, America has earned the hatred of half the world and the contempt of the other half.

The criticism has been largely moral, but my take is more pragmatic. True, America and its proxies have killed untold numbers of people.

However, the tired old “military-industrial-complex-imperialist-merchants-of-death-for-profit” theory is just that - tired, old and at least 65% false. All that fighting by America has often been unprofitable, and motivated by ideology (often ill-conceived ideology) rather than by imperialist greed. The best thing that can be said about it is that there was some sort of world order, and that someone had to step up to the plate to somehow maintain it. Pax Americana.

But this is no longer sustainable. The country has become too weak and too poor. I just spent a month in countries where people live longer, healthier, richer and happier lives. They are the beneficiaries of the world order. China, too, is laughing all the way to the bank while taking potshots and not raising a finger to help.

In Holland, I saw neat newly reclaimed lands, pristine animal reservations, modern wind farms in the middle of the North Sea, impeccable underground and aerial freeway systems, bullet trains, vast clean and busy airports, state-of-the-art hospitals. Their medical, educational, retirement, disability and unemployment benefits remain far more generous than ours. Dutch life expectancy beats ours by nearly three years.

As Bill Maher wrote in RSN on September 28:

American conservatives “can mock ‘European style democracies’ all they want, (but) when Americans come back from a vacation in Europe they all say the same thing: ‘Wow, you can see titties on the beach!’(And) they also remark on the clean air, the modern, first-world infrastructure, the functioning social safety net, and bread that doesn't taste like powdered glue. And they wonder, ‘Why can't we get that here?’ Unless they're Republicans, in which case they wonder, ‘How can people live like that?’ .”

Meanwhile, American pundits continue to editorialize that Obama must bomb Syria, so as to save face and prestige.... Do Dutch and German editorialists worry about losing face? Screw prestige. Screw the “superpower, blah blah.” What if Iran finally gets nukes? Is that worth a war? North Korea has nukes. Pakistan has nukes. Live with it. Should we go to war in Somalia too, and in Sudan, and Yemen, and the Philippines, and the dozens of other places where bad guys do bad things?

In a messy and unpredictable way, this Syrian crisis has turned out very well for Obama so far. Thank you, Mr. Putin. Whatever gyrations the President took, he is okay for now.

So, America: fix your roads, your schools, your cities. Help your millions of poor and unemployed. Eat better and enjoy life more. Re-industrialize. Get a life, a better life. Take care of yourself and stop fighting. leave comment here