Monday, June 20, 2011

Security and Interests: Suggestions

Now I will start conjecturing—which is code for none of what I suggest is binding, right, or absolute—and I think it is imperative to consider the possibilities that these approaches open up.

First, increase our special forces training. JFK emphasized it during his terms as president and many presidents since have seen the benefit in having highly trained units as opposed to raw numbers. Better training is as good a force multiplier as many of our improving technologies.

Second, add more humanitarian components to basic training for all units. Huge amounts of culture are transferred in war zones and natural disaster zones. If we trained our military to be distinguished ambassadors as well as experts in times of natural disaster, we would have a much stronger position on the hearts and minds. It is not just the platitudes, it is the boots that really transfer a culture and we should train our units as such. Further, we should use them for more humanitarian purposes. Imagine having the full force of the American military at any natural disaster zone within 48 hours of a disaster. If we want to spread Democracy and peace, helping nations in a state of disarray and dire need is the best time to do it.

Third, decrease spending on ineffective aid programs. The Westernized development programs that have been in use by many US agencies have had their shortcomings well documented and I will not elaborate here. It is enough to say that unless there is a major change in how our aid programs are implemented we will continue to brew bad blood with foreign nations. American aid should look to some of the successful programs of many NGOs out there and find a model that is scalable and workable. It is possible to gain favor with populations just through that kind of change.

Fourth, work out new national and international policies with foreign nations that target their goals for national security while helping draw down some of the enormous obligations that the US has taken on. I understand that is an expansive suggestion. But I suspect that many governments do not feel good about having the US so heavily present within their borders in much the same way that the US is uncomfortable being there. By working to find policies that fit the needs of both nations, I'm sure at least a little draw down is possible without any sacrifice of security.

Fifth, invest domestic. Some of our heaviest security investments are about maintaining our energy interests. America can find self-sufficient means to power itself. This will not happen overnight, and if we can find ways to start investing in domestic programs instead of subsidizing industries dependent on semi-rogue states (ex: Sudan has huge oil reserves) then we can really start looking to policy that suits the values of the country instead of trying to perpetually loosen the energy noose around our necks.

Sixth, re-evaluate expensive policies like the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs costs $15 billion per year for the state—not counting medical bills from overdose, the overcrowding of our prisons, and the long-term consequences of making felons of small-time holders. It is estimated that the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana could easily surpass that $15 billion and significantly reduce the societal ills involved. Further, it would also drastically change the state of affairs in our unstable neighbor Mexico. A whole war of immense proportions is going on down there. We spend huge amounts on border control, cartel suppression, and failed drug bust programs. America could not only save a boatload, it could ease many societal ills, and make money. Other policies that have been analyzed as lacking should also come under intense scrutiny and new courses of action should be taken as well.

The point of all this is that by opening up thinking on how the nation really secures its ideals and protects its citizens a variety of possible solutions arise that otherwise would not exist. I ask that to really make this country better we start looking toward a long-term approach. Afghanistan will not go away just because the troops disappear. Ditch the platitudes and get to work on some real ideas that take the complexities into account.