The Global Security Act of 2001
A lot of measures are proposed today in the name of security. What we really need, however, is enlightened self-interest that helps both America and the rest of the world.
by Jerome F. Winzig
On the way home from work today, I heard Representative James Oberstar -- who wants to make all baggage inspectors federal employees -- talking about the need for a major new division responsible for transportation security within the federal Department of Transportation. On another front, a new bill called the Farm Security Act proposes spending $170 billion over the next 10 years on farm subsidies and advocates peanut subsidies as a national security measure.
There are numerous other measures now before Congress that would vastly increase the size and role of the federal government, many proposed in the name of national security. No wonder the Wall Street Journal said last week that "Any bill with the word 'security' in it should get double the public scrutiny, and maybe four times the normal wait, lest all kinds of bad legislation become law under the phony guise of fighting terrorism."
But the growth of government isn't the only risk we face in dealing with terrorism throughout the world. The other risk is the mistaken belief that we can solve this problem through military action alone and can safely assume there is nothing else we need to do to curb the appeal that terrorists have in some countries.
Perhaps it is time to propose legislation that will have a real impact on the climate of hostility that nurtures and shelters terrorists in many parts of the world. This legislation should include the following measures:
- Drop the embargo against Cuba immediately. It helps keep Fidel Castro in power by providing him with a convenient scapegoat for his government's problems and it serves to isolate Cuba from influences that would undermine the Castro government.
- Drop long-lasting embargoes against other countries such as Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. These embargoes punish the people of those countries -- particularly children -- far more than they penalize the leaders of these countries.
- Cut back on the excesses of our popular culture. If we're going to drop transistor radios in Afghanistan to provide its people with access to the rest of the world, let's make sure the first thing they hear aren't the sounds of a decadent culture.
- Drop our restrictions against free trade and our absurd tariffs that target the imports of poor countries. Quit accusing other countries of "dumping" their products on U.S. markets. Such actions penalize American consumers by jacking up prices artificially while depriving people in poor countries of the opportunity to raise their standard of living.
- Work for a more equitable agreement on intellectual property rights. When American software firms sell their products at inflated prices, they encourage the illegal sale of pirated software. This merely reduces these companies' world marketplace and gets people in poor countries in trouble.
- Acknowledge the rights of the Palestinians. Policies that keep Palestinians in refugee camps for generations are not conducive to peace. The Israelis are not the only ones entitled to live securely in a free, democratic state.
- Reduce our dependence on foreign oil. As long as we impose restrictions on obtaining oil within the United States while maintaining high levels of energy consumption, we will continue to prop up oil sheikdoms instead of being open to democracy in those countries.
- Crack down on Americans who provide financial aid for terrorists on both sides in Northern Ireland. To do otherwise is not only hypocritical; it ignores the fact that terrorists of any ilk have much in common.
If we refuse to take such measures of enlightened self interest and choose instead to rely on increased government spending and military solutions, we will not have security. Nor will we reduce the climate of hate that provides terrorists with the cover they desperately need. We will instead depress the world's economy, which will hurt both Americans and poor people in other countries. Even worse, we may turn the climate of hate into a seething cauldron that will boil over into a bloody struggle that no one wants -- except the terrorists we seek to stop.