Saturday, April 2, 2011

Security, Nationally

John Stewart made me cry

National security is an interesting topic.  Everyone seems to know how we can make this country safer.  From wars abroad to tightening security at our air and sea ports, you hear about it everywhere.  The media continually rams the concepts, ideas, and thoughts that national security is a big deal.  And it is.  But the areas that they say are making the country safer should be only a very small sliver of a much bigger problem.  Let me explain.

Back on September 10th, 2001; the country was happy.  We were just going about our lives without a care in the world, and everything seemed to be right.  The market was strong, the news was all in hustle over what dog the Bush's got, and everyone in the country felt safe (or at least never could have thought that our country could come under attack).  The next day, not so much.  It's easy, almost ten years later, to forget what that event was like.  I remember getting teary-eyed that night at the talk John Stewart gave on the Daily Show.  Let me repeat: the Daily Show got me teary-eyed.  And not from laughing too hard, either.  Americans were still in shock a month later.  We had just witnessed something that would fundamentally change how we thought about the world.  And it scared us.

Now, the media slowly came around to telling us what the government is doing and what we should be doing to keep ourselves safe.  The general consensus seemed to involve a lot of plastic, duct tape, and a multi-colored chart.  At the time, that was a big deal, or that was what we were told.  I don't know anyone today that keeps those things to defend their house.  So, what is the media saying today, and what should we be looking at and focusing on?

Major attack

As near as I can tell, the media is now telling us very little on national security.  They report about the war, sports, celebrities, and a whole host of other things.  We are no longer hounded on it.  Things have returned to normal, on that aspect.  And that is good.  We can't go running around scared the rest of our lives.  We need to move on as a nation.  There are a lot of people out there who would disagree with me on this, but not moving on paralyzes us and we will never move forward.  It's like if you watched your mother get shot in front of you, and then you just stayed in that state of shock, fear, and loss forever.  Nothing could ever get accomplished that way.

So, then why am I talking about national security?  We seem to be pretty safe.  We haven't had a major attack on this country since 9/11.  What could really be the problem now, and how much duct tape am I going to need to stockpile because of it?  Well, you won't need duct tape to solve this problem, but first we need to identify what the problems are.

Dependency Issues

The first problem I would like to identify is how horrible we are as a country at identifying (or at least fixing) long term security risks.  Remember Wikileaks?  Sometime around last December, they dropped a whole host of classified documents on to the internet and caused a huge uproar.  I heard politicians on the TV saying that this was our biggest national security problem today.  Boy, I hope they aren't setting policy for the future.  I am not saying that Wikileaks isn't a national security issue.  It is.  But it pales in comparison to the things I have in mind.

Problem two: Energy dependence.  Now, this one is easy to spot.  That has been said many times by many people and if you think about it, it makes sense.  We are right now spending a lot of time and money dealing with countries that control the flow of oil so that we can have that energy (that is one of the reasons, but that is not the sole reason we are taking the steps we are taking - but that is for another post).  Plus, we living on borrowed time with that oil.  We don't have that much left, and in 20 - 30 years time, we may not have anymore.  That is a huge problem not only for our conveniences, but then who is going to stop a country that did plan for that from coming in here and walking all over us.  We need a plan to get out of oil and into something else.  And we need it soon.

Problem three: Labor dependence.  We are farming out our labor to many countries all over the world, and those countries are reaping the benefits.  We are so obsessed with getting workers at a cheaper price that we don't worry about the bigger picture.  We have become a consumer nation (more to follow on that in a later post).  We don't export much anymore, and we import a lot.  That leads to huge amounts of money shifting to other countries.  This allows our enemies to exploit our financial weaknesses, and that is a national security problem.

Which leads into problem four:  Education.  Farming out labor wouldn't be so bad if we were able to export our skills.  If we ended up trading products for services, then we would be ok.  And we do that to a degree.  But what happens when one of the worst education systems in the developed world churns out workers whose skills are less than desirable?  How would we export our skills if the countries we are trying to export to is already ahead of us?  The answer is we can't and we need to get that fixed.  For more info on how education is America's biggest problem, check here.

Problem five: Professionalism.  The office of the white house used to have class and prestige.  The President was not only respected as a person, but as an office.  I think a lot of that has left the US, and the rest of the world picked up on it.  The Oval Office should not be used to chase interns, drink booze, or whatever other types of debauchery that has happened there.  If those things did happen back in the days of class (and they did), they were kept quiet.  That is not possible today, so the office needs to be used as it was designed to be used.  As a place to write letters, practice speeches (some of our presidents have needed that more than others), and sign bills into law.  So far, our current president seems to be a little better at that than the past couple, but we are really going to need more to get that respect back.  The country that doesn't respect us, isn't going to hesitate to attack us.

Top five

Most of you will recognize that this is not all of the threats that face our nation today, and I will agree with you.  Call this my "top 5".  There is a lot going on out there, and it is all interconnected.  You can't change one policy without causing ripple effects on all of the others.  A lot of changes are made without analyzing those effects.  A lot more still are too intertwined with everything else that it's impossible to foresee the outcomes in everything.  That is why the more eyes on this, the better.

I guess I do have one more to add to this list: open forums for honest debate and discussion.  I am talking real talks on the issues.  Not finger-pointing, name calling, or political jockeying.  Everyone sitting down, and expressing their honest opinions and views on the issues.  I know, that is a completely idealistic world.  However, if we voted for people based on how well they expressed their opinion and how much backbone they have, instead of looking at a vote that at the time was very complex, but simple when you look back at it; we might have leaders that could actually accomplish something real.  I do find it funny how mud-slinging politicians seem to forget that hindsight is 20/20.

If we could get even one of these things right, we might have a chance at moving forward on a positive foot.  If not, well, who knows where we are going?  I certainly don't think the government has a clue and hasn't for a long time.  If they do know, I sure wish they would fill the rest of us in...