An Alternative - The Fair and Just Way
I've been lucky enough to spend time on five continents
while carrying-out feasibility studies for clients ranging from
national governments to small farmers. I got to meet many of the
people who would be affected by those studies -- heads-of-state,
other elected officials, bureaucrats, CEOs, employees, union workers,
and the tillers of the land who had no ownership or rights under
their system of governance. While varied, their opinions about "America"
often made distinction between "the American people" and
"the US government". It was not uncommon to hear, "we
like Americans, but not your government". Traveled readers
have undoubtedly experienced the same. "The U.S. government"
to those in other countries often means military and/or economic
hegemony, applied directly or via aid to their own corrupt and too
often brutal governments and corporations.
So, when I hear, "what alternative do we
have", as justification for invasions and occupations to, supposedly,
end "terrorism", I do think of one. It's time we asked
if our government ever considered comparing the cost of waging wars
and relying on its military, to simply paying a fair price for the
resources and a just wage for the labor in developing countries?
That would not only be fair and just, it would begin to address
some significant reasons we are under attack.
Although an economic cost-benefit analysis is
not the only determining factor in a feasibility study, it is the
one which usually prevails. Even when the initial factor may appear
as one of aesthetic, not economic, value. For example, potential
water usage demands elsewhere led to feasibility studies for the
National Park Service which included economic values formulae for
natural wonders in Yellowstone and Yosemite Park. How many visitations
- with their paid entry fees, purchases of ice cream cones, hotdogs
and souvenirs - would not occur if Old Faithful was no longer faithful?
If Yosemite Falls didn't fall.
Since America prides itself on this adherence
to economic rationalism and market capitalism, I have come to wonder
why our government hasn't shown us its cost-benefit analyses on
alternative policies for keeping Americans materially well-off,
and safe from "terrorism". Our government describes September
11th, 2001 as a "wake up call", and the March 19th, 2003
attacks on Afghanistan, and subsequent invasion of Iraq, as a response
to that. But, would these events even have occurred if we'd applied
our supposed economic rationalism before they took place?
It was the Pentagon and The World Trade Towers
attacked, not a football stadium during the Super Bowl, or St. Patrick's
Cathedral at a Christmas Midnight Mass. It was about our foreign
policy and hegemony, not about our way of life, our democracy, our
Of course the economic costs of maintaining hegemony in the developing
world compared to simply paying fair prices for resources and labor
can never account for the human lives lost in war -- military and
civilian on all "sides" - or the human misery suffered
by those not paid fairly. Nor is the euphemistic "collateral
damage" limited to the countries we invade, occupy and/or covertly
subvert. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower observed,
|Every gun that is made, every warship
every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft
from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are
cold and are not clothed. This world at arms is not spending
money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the
genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children
That was said in 1954.
Today, what we spend to invade, and occupy - whether by force or
co-erced "invitation"-is not spent on our schools, our
health care systems, our environment. The lives and human misery
Ike refers to are not like visitations to Old Faithful. Hardcore
economic rationalists, and our courts, pretend they can come up
with a dollar figure for a human life based on a person's earning
power and life expectancy -- I don't. And, I have faith that the
majority of Americans value these beyond any means of economic accounting,
even if our governments and corporations do not.
We could account the costs of the military presences we have in
132 countries, as well as the overt military assistance and aid
doled out to our "friends". Granted, there are substantial
real dollar costs hidden in other budgets, covert operations, and
administered via corporations subsidized by our taxes. But, even
if it proves impossible to get an authentic accounting of all the
military dollars being spent, we'd arrive at a total that could
be compared to what we would need to pay in fair prices and just
wages for the resources, goods, and services. And, we'd never lose
sight of the human lives saved, human misery prevented, the animal
species and ecosystems not wiped-out by the devastation of war and
dollars spent on it instead of spent doing some good.
Until now, countries and indigenous peoples
that have objected and fought the hegemony of the US government
and corporations always did so on their own territories. Now there
are groups using injustice - both real and convoluted -- as the
bases for attacking America. So, we now have to factor in the economic
costs of providing the illusion of Homeland Security via a department
of that name, and the enormous increased budgets of the CIA, NSA,
and FBI, to name a few of the agencies involved. Additionally, the
socio- psychological costs of destroying the civil rights and protections
of the United States Constitution.
Even if the cost-benefit showed that it is a little
cheaper to do it the military way, is there any one of us - because
I believe we can be both patriotic and honest in our relationships
with the rest of the world - who wouldn't be willing to pay a nickel
more for some of our material benefits in exchange for knowing we
are acting with the justice that could bring peace ? If all those
people I met were right in deeming it is the US government, not
Americans, deserving of their distain, then the people of America
would chose the fair and just way.
does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether
the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalatarianism
or the holy name of liberty and democracy."
"In the end, we
will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our
"To sin by silence
when they should protest makes cowards of men."
DO NOT REGRET YOUR SILENCE