We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.
– Dwight David Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)
Fear of their security, among Americans, has existed since well before the War of Independence. The British so needed income from its colonies to support its huge empire which it maintained largely through military occupation that it hounded its colonists in North America for taxes until they could stand it no more.
The Declaration of Independence gave colonists the right to carry weapons with them in case the British attacked unexpectedly. Though the British never did resort to that kind of military tactic, US citizens have feared an unexpected attack from someone ever since.
Not only are Americans allowed to be prepared for a sneak attack of the type that the British might have launched over two centuries ago, but also special interest groups have acted publicly to continue to have their fellow citizens fear unexpected attacks. Today people attempt to protect themselves from are murderers and terrorists.
Studies have not clearly shown concrete benefits of carrying weapons, though propagandists claim otherwise. No one is certain how many lives have been saved over the past two centuries because people who were attacked or about to be attacked had weapons they used to kill the attacker. Or whether those who carry guns would actually use them in an attack. Canada, which has about the same number of guns per capita as the US, has one-tenth the rate of death from guns.
The media are complicit in the continuance of this fear of attack by broadcasting and printing stories about violence, especially on a personal level. These help people to conclude that they live in a violent and risky environment, one worth great caution and one that produces fear..
At the national level, President George W. Bush used the inbred fear of foreigners, those of a different religion, skin colour, costume and facial hair to parlay his Administration into the leadership of two wars. Few Americans have all of these fears and few will admit to any.
Fought simultaneously, these two wars cost US taxpayers more than two billion dollars per day (some estimates say as high as three billion). To finance these wars, the US has borrowed heavily and will continue to borrow huge amounts of money to support military activity in countries that few believe present any immediate threat to US security. Imminent threat to security is the cause that gives the president the legal right to declare war.
While at-home violence among its own citizens costs far more lives than the foreign wars, these social problems receive little financial support other than the building of more prisons and the hiring of more law enforcement officials. The US has a greater percentage of its citizens behind bars than any other country in the world. Many jurisdictions can’t find enough funds to hire more professionals to handle the immediate problems which steadily get worse.
However, the wars get the money because Americans have been trained to believe that foreign threats (real or imagined) present greater risks than home-grown ones.
President Eisenhower’s caution about spending too much in an unachievable quest for absolute security rates more notice today than ever before.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put life’s tough questions into perspective.
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