We all know by now that national power and ability to act effectively at home and abroad is related to the amount of resources, talent, educational achievement, health, and social cohesion, as well as scientific and technological prowess, of a society. What has made America great is that we invested in our people through education. And we finally tried to care for their health and well being. Mostly, America also made sure that our science and technology were the best in the world.
Now, sadly, all of these are currently apparently under threat by the Republican House of Representatives and actions by some of the most radical right legislatures in our states.
Let me be clear, this is not a question of how many weapons, planes, or bombs we have, nor even how many people the DOD employs. In history we have seen nation after nation be defeated or diminished which had large armies, supposedly strong defenses, and fine weapons systems. But their societies were crumbling through lack of caring for their people. And we have seen wiser and more able smaller powers prevail over larger and lumbering ones.
The French had their Maginot Line, but they did not see the ability of Germany to simply go around, nor the stupidity of aiming their guns in one direction. Their inter-war diplomacy was atrocious. The French even had more tanks at one point than the Germans, but not as good and did not how to use them. Nor did they keep up with the latest technology and strategy. The Romans were defeated towards the end of their empire, time and time again, by “barbarous” tribes through bad governance, debasement of their civil life, by resources going to corrupt military and too extended logistical lines beyond their capacity to act effectively.
Today we may be repeating the same mistakes in what seems to be a slash and burn strategy by the right-wing Republicans in the Senate but particularly in the House. They wish to cut and undermine our public education system, subvert and weaken our health care, gut our environmental protections and social safety net programs. Not least, they want to enforce economic, fiscal, and budget policies that result in negative growth and income for most Americans. The consequence is a decline in real beneficial productivity and lower worker incomes, and conditions that drives up unemployment.
They seem, in short, not to want America to be either truly prosperous and caring at home nor effective and strong abroad in support of a safe, sustainable globe.
One of the first signs of this effort was to tear down our international ability to cooperate with other nations, which has been our great contribution in the 20th century. These U.S. policies have promoted the well being and security of the international community. Their current attack on the United Nations and other international organizations, if successful, will hinder activities and actions which promote a wide range of American fundamental interests.
These include protecting at risk refugees (UNHCR), caring for the young (UNICEF), dealing with global diseases (World Health Organization), and slowing or stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons (IAEA), and acting to prevent genocide, conflicts, and mass killings or other disasters (UN Security Council and a host of related programs). They especially oppose those global and regional institutions that address climate change, the destruction of ecosystems and organizations that help to reduce global poverty (UNDP).
But they further wish to undermine our own capacity to shape the world in a better direction. They are proposing to cut drastically the Department of State and USAID which are our first line of preventive diplomacy against the worst risks we face before they become wars.
One of the first priorities of engaged citizens would be to carry the word to Congress and their fellow citizens that we need a fairer, healthier, more informed and educated nation. A society that invests in the best cutting edge science and technologies, that creates good paying jobs, and industries that support sustainable and socially useful products and services. We clearly are not doing that when we cut renewable energy technology investments, subsidize unhealthy energy sources, or put productive people out of work and cut educational opportunities especially for those less well off.
More in a latter post on ideas on how we might both promote a more positive legislative agenda, including cut wasteful military expenditures, and how to better organize our diplomacy, so that it is more effective, flexible and response to the great challenges we have before us.