Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Cost of a War on Terror

It’s election time again; a time when politicians somehow manage to make fashion statements and political buzzwords turn into gold with a little help of the media. With the upcoming presidential debates, it is guaranteed that the American people will encounter new phrases and promises, along with some old matters of business. For example, the War on Terror will inevitably spark a heated debate between the two candidates. Undoubtedly, one side will argue for success, while another will proclaim that withdrawal of troops is necessary. Perhaps it is not as simple as choosing sides, since both parties will ultimately have to deal with the war regardless of who wields the executive power. Both plans will take time, energy and money. Blame has already been awarded and mistakes have already been made…but the effects of the fight against terrorism will permeate throughout the American society for decades to come. Regardless of who wins or who loses the presidency of the USA, future Americans will have to deal with the aftermath of the War on Terror. How much will this war cost us?

It is not even necessary to discuss home many lives of American soldiers have been lost, not to mention the civilian causualties of Iraq and Afghanistan...we know that the numbers are outrageous. Also, due to the exponential figures, it is unnecessary to mention the cost of the War on Terror in terms of dollars and cents. What often goes without mention, however, is what the War on Terror has cost the United States in terms of opportunities. Focusing so much time and energy on the fight against terrorism has, for years, distracted the United States from progress in other areas, such as Asia, Russia and Latin America. As one reporter in TIME magazine explained, “The longer the U.S bases its foreign policy around the single-minded pursuit of Islamic terrorist, the less influence it is likely to have.” In order to maintain persuasive authority in a nonpolar world, the United States will need to realize that the War on Terror is not the only issue on the foreign policy agenda.
The War on Terror has also helped to mar the image of the United States in the eyes of the world. Through the Bush Administration’s use of “cowboy diplomacy,” the international realm has come to view the United States as a country that is willing to “go-it-alone.” This image can be very damning to a country that considers itself as an international role model of nation building and democracy. Living in an era of globalization, now is not the time to convince allies that we are no longer in need of their help.
It is easy to see that the War on Terror has been extremely expensive in terms of loss of lives, money, opportunities, and reputation. However, one very insidious cost is the forfeit of several civil liberties under the Patriot Act. Giving “sweeping powers of surveillance” to the government leaves civilians arguably more vulnerable than they were in a *gasp* pre-9/11 world. How much should citizens/governments give up in order to be secure? Where do we draw the line? Protecting ourselves from terrorism is a necessity, but when we allow terrorists to instill so much fear and force us to expend so many resources, don't they ultimately win in the end?


Robert Farley said...

So we've gots us a Vonnegut reader here...

rhymenoceros said...

I think this post brings up a very legitimate point. We've spent far too much capital (monetary and political) on the war on terror. We've refused to meet with leaders of entire countries out of fear of legitimizing their rule, yet we've continued giving 'ammunition' to terrorists - vindicating (in their eyes and the eyes of their sympathizers) their opinions of us all along.

Spying on U.S. citizens and creating a culture of fear are too much a price to pay. Kind of like the sci-fi we read at the beginning of the semester - what values do you have to lose in order to have victory - whatever that means in this situation?

Anonymous said...

I don't live my life in fear...in many cases, this is because our government has taken a stand against terrorism. When they slow me down at the airport, I find myself more relaxed, now that the appropriate safeties are in place. If they eavesdrop on my phone calls, I think, how boring for them, do they care how much I miss my mommy. I know for certain that I don't have anything to hide, and I also know that there are others that do, so let's go get 'em.

rhymenoceros said...

Citizen surveillance was used by the murderous Bolsheviks to 'transform' their citizens into the new 'soviet man'. It was a tool of tyranny for most of last century. I think we're better than that.

I'm not objecting to airport intrusions. However, the other stuff is listened to by vulnerable people that sometimes need money, power, and feelings of importance. The mere existence of know all databases is inviting abuse by the low-level people and even the policy makers...in my opinion.

OMARCOMIN! said...

lee adama,

History has shown that when governments are given this sort of surveillance authority, they invariably abuse it.