China won the competition to host the recently concluded 2008 Olympics on July 13, 2001 – just two months before 9/11. For those wondering whether or not we are more secure today than we were before 9/11, consider a broader metric offered today by Thomas Friedman.
Friedman reflects on how China and America have spent the last seven years:
China has been preparing for the Olympics; we’ve been preparing for al-Qaeda. They’ve been building better stadiums, subways, airports, roads and parks. And we’ve been building better metal detectors, armored Humvees and pilotless drones.
The Olympics are over – and were a triumph. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, remains a threat. Fighting terrorism is harder than putting on a $50 billion international competition. (The latter is the Olympics.) But, Friedman points out that the hidden costs are beginning to show:
Compare arriving at La Guardia’s dumpy terminal in New York City and driving through the crumbling infrastructure into Manhattan with arriving at Shanghai’s sleek airport and taking the 220 mph magnetic levitation train, which uses electromagnetic propulsion instead of steel wheels and tracks to get to town in a blink.
At least he notes that China is not equally blessed. Beyond Beijing, that country is still in worse shape than the U.S. Friedman’s point is different: Consider how much modern infrastructure has been built in China since 2001 and how much infrastructure has been postponed in America since 2001. The next president needs a devoted nation-building program in America.
“The next president,” Friedman explains, “can have all the foreign affairs experience in the world, but it will be useless if we, as a country, are weak.” Homeland Security, in other words, is a critical part of keeping America competitive and investments in securing America can also pay dividends in quality of life. A safe and efficient public transportation system is both more secure and more effective.
The next election is not about who is tough enough on terrorists. Both Obama and McCain are equally committed to combating terrorism. The real metric is who is “strong enough, focused enough, creative enough and unifying enough to get Americans to rebuild America.”