Below is my plan for reorienting American security priorities, which I think are currently misaligned, often conflicting, and outdated. This is not a plan for innovation, or financial reform (which is one of the most pressing national issues), or for progressivism. It’s a plan to increase the long-term durability of homeland security.
Politics, as I’ve learned in my brief 2 years here in DC, is something too complex for me to understand within the realms of my attention span. What may seem like a good (or even easy) idea to implement has to be palatable to the seething mass that is Congress, and must please interest groups, and must come at an opportune time. The horse trading, budget proposals and approvals, and distortions that are involved in any federal level issue are over my head. That alone is part of the reason I’m inclined to start up a small business one day and avoid such bureaucratic nightmares.
Also with regards to politics, President Obama’s style appears to be to go out of his way to allow affected parties to kibbitz and argue and debate an issue until consensus is reached. This is frustratingly evident for the Commander-in-Chief’s wait-and-see attitude towards the Afghanistan run-offs and having Afghanistan as a credible partner before deciding what to do next with troop levels. It should not take a national debate to know that 1) any general in charge will press for continued war in Afghanistan and 2) Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires.
My thoughts on President Obama’s style are that his job as an executive is not to dither (as Cheney would say), but to be a decider (as Bush the Younger would say). (that said, Cheney could have benefited from being more of a ditherer while Bush the Younger could have been more thoughtful in his decidering)
President Obama’s waiting can be seen as weakness, lack of certitude (does he really need to consider whether gays should serve in the military openly?), and lack of leadership. Leaders lead through making tough decisions quickly, firmly, yet cool-headedly. In the military, we were taught as sergeants and even as junior enlisted that making a bad decision is better than making no decision at all. President Obama is coming up on 9 months in office and the people are getting impatient.
After having witnessed how DC works, I’ve noticed that when an Administration puts its weight behind a policy, or puts more funding into a certain area, businesses and non-profits react swiftly and with commitment. If President Obama said tomorrow we are moving to solar power, even energy companies would play ball. Scouts would immediately be hitting the phones and pavement to come up with the best contract proposals to win that money. The argument that the nation has to be “ready” for change seems more obstructionist than realistic to me. America is and always will be an unabashedly capitalist country that passionately desires chasing and obtaining the money.
Complaints that an active executive branch seems like a command economy/government are crying wolf — companies and non-profits have no problem immediately shifting priorities. Why should the government be less adaptive, less competitive? So this gives me hope that an executive who makes forthright decisions would succeed in implementing this plan, regardless of the politicking that would follow it.
With these things in mind, I’ve tried to think of ways in which a current President could push through using executive powers a plan that would be hard for even Congress to stall.
1) Gays in the Military. First, the Commander-in-Chief should dictate that LGBTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) must be allowed to openly serve in the military. This is justified to the Jacksonians by saying that we need all the talent and strength and volunteers we can get to fight today’s wars. Once the word comes down, the heads of each service will find a way to implement the policy. The “problem” of how to integrate LGBTs is not a reason to delay equal treatment of citizens willing to fight. [note: it would be up to states to decide whether to allow gay marriages, correct?]
2) Universal Human Rights. Allowing gay servicemembers provides a well-publicized opening for which President Obama can reaffirm the American Dream for all people by promoting the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, sure to please the Wilsonians (who are concerned with equality) and Jeffersonians (who are concerned with preserving individual freedoms and federalism). Abroad, a nation that pugnaciously defends, once again, taking in your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, as the Statue of Liberty shouts forth, will be a siren call the way it used to be for people all over the world who believe in the idea of freedom and opportunity, of life, liberty, and happiness.
3) Ending “Wars”. The Commander-in-Chief should withdraw all occupation military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, thanking the military publicly for its professional service, but stating that America’s mission has changed and that he bears full responsibility for such a decision and no one else. Programs and celebrations to re-integrate oft-deployed servicemembers back into society will strengthen long-stressed military families.
4) Drug Legalization. The President should legalize all drugs and fund rehab missions for addicts, heavily regulating drugs instead, including imports filtered from Afghanistan and south and central America. This will cut the knees off drug cartels (Sinaloa, Juarez, La Familia) and enforcer organizations (Los Zetas) in Mexico, who are raising havoc for the Mexican government.
5) New Immigration Policy and Improved Border Security. President Obama, with fewer forces deployed, can focus his Department of Homeland Security and border resources towards an immigration policy that encourages highly-skilled immigrants to come to study, research, work, and live, and which allows more poor immigrants in than before, but with improved documentation. The President should divert resources freed from Iraq and Afghanistan into helping secure Mexico both through a relaxed drug policy and through cooperative security to arrest drug cartel members. Mexico is the soft underbelly of American superpower status and its well-being as a successful, secure, happy nation is in our national interest. The Minute Men, who constitute a Jacksonian tradition in the southwest, should be lauded for their efforts in helping to watch the border, but with improved border security and accountability, their services won’t be needed as much and they can return to their normal lives.
6) Naval and Space Dominance. The Commander-in-Chief can re-assert the nation’s priority towards maintaining naval dominance. The Commander-in-Chief and the President can look to the Earth’s orbit to assure future American dominance of outer space satellites and future space command platforms. Much of the reason the US has gained global power is through its taking over full control over the seas from the British. In the future, control of space will be of utmost importance to US commerce, intelligence, and security, as we are and will be heavily reliant on satellite observation and communication. Hamiltonians will enjoy continued open-seas security for free trade, while the defense sector will enjoy moving into outer space for improved national security. The US military will have a lighter footprint in sovereign nations, decreasing the threat of intractable insurgencies.
7) Downgrading Terrorism’s Priority. Terrorism as a long-term priority is not ranked high for the US internally, given the lack of proximity to terrorist-supporting failed nations. However, its threat should be even more reduced once troops are redeployed from Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which are considered backyards for the global insurgency. Lacking a near enemy in the US, insurgents will turn to civil war and/or a problem for Iran, Russia, the Stans, India, and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda will lose much of its rallying cry. Just think: could we return to days before the TSA security theater where we have to remove shoes, belts, and dignity at airports?
8) Energy Independence. American energy independence will further mollify Al-Qaeda’s support base. Pouring money into solar power in particular, which comes to us in an infinite supply, must be our way forward. Reduced reliance on foreign oil weans us off OPEC and in particular Saudi, an apostate kingdom as Al-Qaeda would refer to it. Al-Qaeda sees Saudi as being propped up by America in order to be raped for its oil. US independence from Saudi whim removes the US from the least-braindead of Al-Qaeda anti-American animus.
9) Make New Friends or Strengthen Old Friendships. Returning to being that of a more honest diplomatic broker of peace, the US can step up efforts to ally itself with key regional pivot powers like Iran, Japan, and Turkey, who constitute influential geopolitical power upon large swathes of the globe. Pakistan, where the real terrorist threat is, can be more of a priority for American security and diplomacy, since foreign fighters have been long supported by the Taliban and the Pakistani ISI. It is in the US’s interest to decouple these organizations from Al-Qaeda, while at the same time helping Pakistan to secure its nuclear arsenal from political and physical instability.
The end result of all these moves is that we have a larger, more diverse population base of productive Americans and a fresh stream of immigrants to contribute to the innovation economy. We have safer borders and a stronger base in North America. We have fewer albatrosses around our neck so that walking softly and carrying a big stick, being an arsenal of democracy, will be in line with our modern national security priorities. By downgrading terrorism as a priority, we force other nations to deal with their near-border insecurities, while improving our response to naval superiority, domestic terrorist investigations, immigration policy, and a decreasing drug war threat.
Is this possible politically? The main problem is that these steps above, taken individually, would not make much sense. But under an integrated strategy, these steps would make sense to all the political schools of thought that exist within the US. The only people who would stand to lose from these moves are of course incumbent interests, such as defense contractors who profit from foreign wars, and the Republican party, which has lost its philosophical moorings and which functions right now as nothing more than obstructionists wanting President Obama to fail.
The irony is that the strategy above would actually appeal to fiscal conservatives and to social libertarians, since the wars would end, homeland security would reach less into our private lives, and federal agencies wouldn’t be so stressed for funding from supporting failing drug/terror/border security/diplomacy policies. The conservatives would find their voice backed up by national policy.
And of course the progressives would benefit because they’ve also ended wars, reduced the pressures of the drug war in Mexico on immigration and jailing for drugs, and ensured a rhetoric of equality for all human beings.
As for the companies and Republicans, well, both will do what they’re supposed to do: they will re-form around where the profit, financially and politically, is.
It is the American DNA to be fleet, adaptive, innovative, and competitive. This is the security strategy to encourage that.