Rethinking Defense

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Not long ago Rock Island Clean Line was threatening Iowa landowners with an eminent domain taking of their property for a power line to supply Iowa wind energy to the East. I have never been a fan of eminent domain. “Just compensation” (cash promised in exchange for property lost to eminent domain) can only be determined by the two parties involved in the deal.

This proposed power line project hit close to home. Those of us who have lived in the city and now live in the country don’t take an uncluttered horizon for granted. Farming around and dealing with compaction caused by construction is pretty hard on which to place a value.

With “just compensation” for the impact of a power line in mind, let’s consider the cash we’ve had seized for national security.

On the radio today a woman was saying that flying is now “not so much” fun anymore. And she blamed “those people… I mean the terrorists.” In the news today it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General did a study on the effectiveness of Transportation Security Administration procedures at airports. They found that 70% of weapons in the test made it through undetected.

It looks like “those people” who make flying miserable are more likely TSA agents than the fabled terrorists that have us shaking in our boots. What if the airlines were responsible for the safety of their customers instead of a tax eating bureaucracy? Wouldn’t you choose the airline with the most effective security rather than the security with which you have no choice?

A new study by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs found that our wars beginning in 2001 have cost $5.6 trillion. The Pentagon’s estimate is $1.5 trillion. The Watson study estimated overall costs compared to if no war had occurred, not just the ammo, fuel, machinery, and so-forth. I tried to find a problem with this, such as Islamic extremists coming over here and covering womens’ faces, banning alcoholic beverages, or stoning adulterers. I couldn’t find any conceivable scenario where Americans would put up with those sorts of things.

I also can’t imagine that Americans would be less safe without having spent that $5.6 trillion. In fact, revenge for U.S. meddling was mentioned as a cause of the attacks on the Twin Towers in the 9/11 Commission Report, indicating that the War on Terror has made us less safe. We have not received “just compensation” for our property that was taken to conduct the War on Terror.

I remember days after that horrific morning when the towers came down, Congressman Ron Paul stood in front of Congress and urged them to grant “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” to capture Bin Laden. Of course, he was ignored because that wouldn’t enrich the legislator’s defense contractor contributors back home. What would it say about our politicians if it were found out that a small band of mercenaries could take out an enemy but our gargantuan Defense Department had failed to protect us. (Letters of Marque are a license for a bounty to be paid for apprehension of criminals in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.)

Eric Prince is the founder of Blackwater, a military contractor. He was asked why the Navy uses 35 people to do the same thing as 8 contracted employees. He said, “When you get a free good, you use a lot more of it.”

In Switzerland every able bodied man serves in the military. They all keep their rifle when they return to civilian life. Switzerland has a neutrality policy with all nations, thus no enemies. Any potential enemy of Switzerland knows that it is a country full of armed citizens trained to defend what is most dear to them.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, let’s consider a new way to honor their service by calling our military to serve when actually necessary to defend our country. The big stick bravado that has maimed and killed so many has caused our military to stray from its mission.

Rock Island Clean Line was sent packing. It is a good start.

Note: I will be a guest DJ on Bob Dorr’s Backtracks rock and roll history show, November 18 at 4pm. That’s next Saturday on Iowa Public Radio (90.9fm, 91.5fm ect.). I hope some of you can tune in.

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