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Going Green Against Terrorism

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The best way to fight terrorism is to "go green."  By freeing the United States from commitments to energy supplies in the Middle East, our government can re-build the American economy, reduce deficit spending, re-establish its legitimacy in the international community, and minimize the value of oil on the international market, the commodity that keeps most of our enemies in business. 

For supporters of limited government, this should be a no-brainer. Right-wing critics have been screaming at President Obama for raising deficits. The U.S. almost spends more than the rest of the world on defense. While supporters of limited government might also (and perhaps, hypocritically) demand a strong national security, they also demand (correctly) a return to fiscal responsibility. Conservatives upset at Obama's fiscal policies should be reminded that President Bush reversed a budget surplus (created by former President Clinton) and posted (along with Pres. Reagan) the largest budget deficits in U.S. history. 

These deficits were the largely the product of massive increases in defense spending without raising taxes. Why does the U.S. government continue to increase defense spending? With the end of the Cold War the U.S. has been considered a "hyperpower"; there are no conventional enemies left for us to fight...

Because the U.S. gained and sustains its wealth and prosperity through the management of a global economic system. At the end of WWII we rebuilt Europe and Japan. We spread democracy and capitalism across the developing world. We outspent the Soviet Union and ran it into the ground. And we have reaped the profits from our vision of a shared world. We have uncontested access to cheap labor, massive flows of capital, cheap information costs, and most importantly, cheap energy. And because we manage this system, we pay the price to protect it from systemic disruptions. In the 21st century, those disruptions have taken the form of global terrorism. 

The advent of a 'global war on terrorism' has demonstrated that (almost 10 years later, trillions of dollars spent, and 5,000 U.S. soldiers dead) the cost to protect the global system from systemic disruptions is very costly. There needs to be a cheaper and easier way to win. 

By supporting a green revolution at home and abroad, the U.S. can gradually release its commitment to the unsustainable protection of global energy markets. Instead of paying the continued cost in blood and treasure that is sapping our moral right to lead, we can make the down payment on a peaceful (and very profitable) future. We can grow wealth that flows through our country, rather than exporting it (in petrodollars) to fund the terrorist organizations and complicit regimes that seek to undermine our authority. 

And by turning off the tap in the Middle East (and in Venezuela and West African kleptocracies) the U.S. can encourage liberalization, middle class growth, and democratization in developing oil-rich countries by refusing to prop up despotic regimes that rely on petrodollars for support. Hostile regimes will be brought down by their own populations instead of expensive and unnecessary wars that "export democracy"  and require massive (and again, expensive) peacekeeping and state-building operations. 

Investing NOW in green technology will allow all of this to be possible. We can re-build our shattered economy with a new model that values local supply chains, local energy production, and investment in the social capital of our communities. We can make our country strong and resilient against the effects of climate change and terrorism by ensuring that every community in the U.S. has the ability to support itself. And by doing this, we will be recycling our dollars back into our communities and ultimately back into our own pockets. The savings for the U.S. tax payer will be great. The benefits for our children will be even greater. 


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