Monday, July 18, 2011

Department of Defense?

Shortly after the September 11th attacks, the U.S. government decided it was necessary to create a new governmental department, the Department of Homeland Security. The job of this new department is, of course, to provide security for the homeland.

Wait a minute?! Something is not right here. Isn’t that what the Department of Defense is supposed to do? To secure the homeland, repel invaders, etc. That is what defense means right? I mean that’s pretty much how departments of defense work in every other country on earth. So what’s the problem? It’s not as if they don’t have enough resources to provide security for the homeland; the DOD takes up about a fourth of the federal budget. Think about that - a quarter of all government spending on one organization! So isn’t the creation of a Department of Homeland Security a bit redundant? Well…yes and no. If we look at the DOD’s job description, then the answer is yes; but if we look at what they actually do, then the answer is no.

The truth is the vast majority of the DOD’s money and personnel go into foreign projects, not domestic. When I was in the Marines I spent a year on a base in Iwakuni, Japan. Chances are that unless you were stationed there, or had some relative stationed there, you’ve probably never heard of it. Your average American citizen is virtually clueless about what their own government is doing overseas. I’m sure everyone knows that the U.S. is conducting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq right now. But how many foreign bases do you think the U.S. has, not including those in Iraq in Afghanistan? Would you guess 25, 50, 100, 200? Try 865. Now, they don’t have bases in every country, but still, there are only 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, so that means that the U.S. averages about 4.5 times as many foreign bases as there are countries – again, that’s not even counting the bases in actual warzones. If you are American, that’s why a full quarter of the money you pay in taxes is not enough to defend the homeland. Here’s a map showing how the U.S. military divides up their areas of responsibility:

Unified Combatant Commands map.png

Yep, that’s pretty much the whole world. The COM in the titles is the abbreviation for command. Not surprisingly, there are many who believe that this is going to bankrupt us (presidential candidate Ron Paul for example). I can’t see how it could be otherwise. 95% of the world’s military bases belong to the U.S. The DOD spends around 1 trillion dollars a year. There are plenty of places in the world where that would exceed the budget of entire countries!

My point is that if we are going to have a department of Homeland Security, then we should change the title of the Department of Defense to the Department of World Security. That would, at least, be a better description of what they do. And it would explain why we found it necessary to create a Department of Homeland Security. And it would help people see more clearly why we are going broke. Its not just programs like Medicare that are causing us to go broke – it’s the whole system – an unsustainable juggernaut of spending.

Of course there are other issues that could be raised besides just monetary ones. While the U.S. government allows some of our allies to maintain training facilities on certain American bases, there are no foreign bases on U.S. soil. When I talk to non-Americans they are usually surprised to learn that most Americans never even question this arrangement. That’s just the way things are. But to those on the outside looking in, a country that has complete sovereignty over its own territories, but has military bases in other countries all over the globe, looks like an empire. It used to be said that the sun never set on the British empire. And if you are a student of American history you’ll remember that in the Declaration of Independence one of the reasons the Americans sited for rebellion is that the British were “quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.” Now ain’t that some irony…

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Your Primary Identity

Your primary identity is in being known by others. The only ones that really know you are those people that you are in relationship with. Think about it...who really knows you besides your family and friends? I’m not talking about knowing your name. I’m talking about really knowing you - who you are, your personality, your likes and dislikes, your faults and your virtues. Is it possible to be known – to be truly known – by anyone that you don’t have a relationship with?

And yet, so many of us neglect our relationships for other pursuits. It is usually something with status attached - wealth, fame, education, accomplishments, etc. - the so called “keeping up with the Joneses.” Why? What good is it to be successful in your work, but a crappy spouse? Why would you want to be rich, if you didn’t have friends to share it with? That’s madness. When you die, people won’t say, “He was a very successful lawyer,” or, “She was a famous chef,” they’ll say, “He was a great friend,” or, “She was a wonderful mother”…or they won’t say anything at all.