Categorized | Security Issues, Terrorism, US, World

The Other Effect of Terrorism

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The destruction wrought, hatred spread, and lives lost on and after 9/11 are travesties. But the War on Terror has created another immediate problem: financial calamity. Two wars—costing U.S. taxpayers well into the trillions of dollars—have surely had an impact on reducing the threat of terrorism around the world. But outside of specific military efforts, our response to terrorist actions and, worse, to terrorist threats, has left the U.S. no safer, but surely in debt.

In an effort to hurt or punish the U.S., terrorists have found a method that costs the country, literally. Beyond the unbudgeted and drawn-out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the amount of money wasted on security, defense, and aid to corrupt governments is mind numbing. Including debt payments, U.S. military spending in 2012 was over one trillion dollars. At our current clip, if terrorists want to hurt the U.S., acts of terrorism, or even the threat of attacks, certainly do the trick.

Let’s look at two representative samples: the Transportation Security Administration and the State Department. The TSA’s whole body scanners have been hammered by the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union and constitutional scholars. Early this year the TSA decided to scrap the scanners altogether due to the inability of Rapiscan, the company that produced the scanners, to meet deadlines for better passenger privacy measures. A less invasive model is to be used in lieu.

Sounds reasonable. But this scanner program has cost nearly 150 million dollars since its inception in 2007 and has caught, stopped, or otherwise led to the arrest of a whopping zero terrorist suspects. In other words, terrorist cells like Al Qaeda are costing the U.S. enormous sums of money and causing the U.S. government to infringe on constitutional rights, and they don’t even have to get out of bed in the morning. Talk about a win for the bad guy.

U.S. foreign aid, according to the State Department, “supports our allies and partners, prevents conflict, promotes democracy, and reflects our core values.” Unfortunately, a huge portion of U.S. aid goes to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, nearly five billion dollars in 2011. They represent three of the top four recipients of aid, the last being Israel. The accepted logic is that these countries, affected by war and potential breeding grounds for terrorist activity, need more aid and more resources to combat terrorist infiltration.

Instead, the leaders of these ultra corrupt countries steal aid dollars for political cronies. For example, Transparency International reports that between 2004 and 2012, Afghanistan saw more than a billion dollars of aid siphoned off. Each country is in economic disarray, aid dollars are rarely put to quality use, and the U.S. doesn’t even trust the governments to curb terrorism within their borders. Instead, the U.S. simply targets suspected terrorists on sovereign soil with drones.

U.S. policy towards fighting terrorism is illogical and damaging to the noble cause of peace and security. There is no reason that a terrorist organization would veer away from their current modus operandi. Each terrorist threat or attack has led to the U.S. hemorrhaging money in an attempt to calm nerves.

So, how can this deleterious dynamic be changed? For starters, by demanding the government curbs defense spending through modernization and cutting back on outdated and wasteful programs. By demanding foreign aid is given to countries worthy of its receipt instead of to countries whose political leaders feign alliance and cooperation, while lining their coffers.

And by curbing fear of another terrorist attack. Admittedly, this is not an easy task. Shifting this global outlook that we have become so accustomed to — where post-attack fear drives carte blanche government spending under the guise of preventing further attacks — takes a lot more than a shift in policy. It takes politicians ready to debate, legislate, and cooperate under the assumption that, though it may be easy, holding the country in a constant state of fear hurts our morale, our society, and even our economy.

All of this continues, while people within the U.S. and around the world go hungry and schools lay off teachers, while infrastructure crumbles and health care costs soar.

How do we shift policy around the world? We demand it. We demand it of those running for office, we demand it of those already in office, and we demand it of ourselves; that during times of great strain or hardship, we will not kowtow to those promising our safety for just a few more dollars and cents.

Feeling safer is not the same as being safer. And until we can internalize the difference, we will languish in a state of affairs where our governments spend trillions of dollars tilting at windmills.

Image courtesy of Truthout.org

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