Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 11, 2012

Disillusioned

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,State and Local HLS — by Mark Chubb on January 11, 2012

I have wondered before in my posts exactly what it is we suppose we are protecting. And my mind keeps wandering back to this question, especially as the presidential primaries begin.

The Republican candidates have asserted that President Obama is an apologist or worse, and they claim he sees America as a declining or diminished power. They assert that they see America differently. They would have us believe that Americans are innately different from others and somehow special.

They do not agree so much on what it is that makes us different or special though. To some of them we are freer. Others say we have higher morals. Still others say we have a stronger work ethic. If they agree on anything, it is that their leadership — or that of any Republican for that matter — is the key to making us more of these things.

More than one candidate has gone so far as to suggest he or she is running to save the country. They have asserted strongly that President Obama has made us less free, less moral and weaker. The solution, they tell us, is not just to defeat him but to shrink government.

This blog devotes a lot of time to the discussion of what our national security and homeland security investments protect us from, but not so much about what it is that we are protecting. Is that because it doesn’t matter? Or are we of the belief that we really are different and serve something bigger than any candidate or party?

During the Cold War, it was clear to most of us that we were not only protecting the nation from nuclear annihilation but also from the threat of totalitarianism. Our nuclear deterrent capabilities were arrayed against the threat of tyranny, or so we believed.

If that’s true, we could say that we won the battle but lost the war. As communism collapsed we enslaved ourselves to a corporate military-industrial complex that now dominates us in proportion to the extent to which we have allowed it to define, if not dictate, our productive and political potentials.

As a local public safety official, I spend most of my time focused on the homeland defense frontlines. When I look out at my community, I do not see the same thing the candidates do. The people I meet do not talk in terms of the lofty ideals of liberty and free enterprise. They don’t see themselves as all that different from one another or others they do not know.

Instead, they wonder why traffic is so bad or the bus always runs late. They wonder whether their kids are acquiring the skills they need to compete for jobs in the future. They wonder whether they themselves will earn enough to pay the mortgage or tuition bills. They worry incessantly whether they will have enough resources to retire. And they hope like hell that the problem they called us to help them with will not leave them unable to keep on carrying on.

In one way or another, they know that much of what worries them and others arises from anxiety about the future and frustration with the present. They would like to do right. They know they can do better. But they also wonder whether anyone will recognize and whether it will make any difference. Many if not most of them have concluded it will not.

Most of the work done by our frontline first-responders is now about holding a badly broken system together, keeping it from getting worse rather than making it better. We have no confidence that the market will solve these problems. We have little faith that politicians understand the problems, and much less hope that they will give us the resources and support required to address them properly.

That said, many of our first-responders, like the candidates for our nation’s highest office, have a misplaced, if not exaggerated, faith in their own ability to make a difference. They may not trust politicians, but they do believe they are different and special. They have great confidence that they could do better if only they were allowed the resources and opportunity to do so.

I’m not so sure.

Rather than looking for ways to help people avoid trouble and reduce their dependence on our services, we look for ways of getting more resources to expand our services or make better arguments to defend our budgets from those we deem less worthy of public support. The past decade was a Godsend in that respect. But the days of plenty are gone.

Our brute force approach to solving problems only works well when the threat and the capability to effect consequences are tightly coupled. Our contemporary adversaries surprised us with their ability to level the playing field. We managed to counter their threat, but at a cost far out of proportion to any ability they ever had to make us pay.

When it comes to saving lives at the local level, we know that training more people to perform CPR and encouraging healthier lifestyles by promoting development that favors walking and cycling would save more people than reducing EMS response times, but we won’t support the former unless politicians commit to do the latter. The debate at the national level is no more sensible. We are not only told we have to choose between guns and butter, but also that the economic and political system that provides both of them is more essential and therefore more valuable than the people who provide the resources to procure and produce them.

It is still true that Americans as a whole are wealthier than those of most other nations. We have been better endowed with resources and opportunity than most other nations. And we have had the benefit of many great gifts, often as the result of our openness and accessibility to people and ideas from every corner of the world.

Liberty and free-enterprise have played their parts in the American success story. But so too have access to public education and libraries, enforcement of health and sanitation regulations, and investments in water, sewer, public transit and other essential infrastructure. We will only see America become stronger if we place as much or more emphasis on making these investments as we do in protecting them.

Sadly, that seems less and less likely in the near term at both the national and local levels.

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4 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 11, 2012 @ 7:04 am

Again recommend Professor Eric Foner’s book “The Story of Freedom in American History”!

Mark has posted with some insights and actual brilliance here. I can say with some certainty that American goals and message are not about the top 1% and protecting its wealth. As President Andrew Jackson is reputed to have stated in his fight against the 2nd Bank of the US, “it is not the purpose of government to make men rich”

I would argue that in August 2045 or at least by that date that historians will be documenting American decline led largely by its political elite and other elites. The ironic title of David Halberstam’s wonderful book “The Best and The Brightest” describing how a self elected elite led Americans astray in Viet Nam apparently was not read widely in the schools that develop those elites.

I recently posted on my own blog on the subject of “Protectorates” and exactly why that term should be revived and America should reduce those nation-states in that category. Recommend Wikipedia for discussion of the term.

So where are we left? Will be be a Brazil with over 1M children without parents under age 18 roaming the streets of its two largest cities–Rio and Sao Palo? Also with it private security forces and gated communities?

Sometimes it comes down to that devil in the details! For example I fought and lost the issue and policy for my years in FEMA against disaster outlays for restoration of nonpublic beaches. You can pick your sides but it does seem that we allow the benefits of the commons to be plucked for private purposes. Is that the American tradition?

NOT so hidden in the Internal Revenue Code are provisions that are not Stanley Surrey’s so-called “Tax Expenditures” which are largely those items totally exempt from taxation but represent income, but actual subsidies to various kinds of corporations. Yesterday the WSJ ran an astounding article that now 69% of all US corporations are pass through, often nonprofit, corporations that pay NO corporate income tax.

Well the present government is bought and paid for by the elites. So the question is are those elites returning the favors given to them or bought by them to the public fisc and public at large?

Few politicians as Mark points out describe the vision they have for America and what it should be? What it actually is is not the Shining City on the Hill described by some but instead one that casts a shadow over a world missing its leadership in many ways and trying to figure out exactly why the USA no longer seems able to in reality say “Mission Accomplished”!

I fully expect DHS to suffer a reduction of 1/3 to 1/2 in the next Presidential term. Why? It has largely NOT been a learning organization and has been led by three Secretaries all lacking the vision thing that also the skills to manage a large federal department. So breakup time might will be on the horizon.

Comment by mcb

January 11, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

Mark,

Don’t forget that during the primaries political candidates are playing to their base, the hardcore 10% at the far end of their end of the bell shaped curve. This time around we only have to listen to arch-conservative, jingoistic, reactionary babble from the Republicans. It is unsightly and sounds ugly but these are men who will do whatever it takes to get elected. These politicians don’t speak for us or America, they only aspire to. Do yourself a favor, turn off the TV at home and the radio in the car until November. Be true to yourself, care for your family, and serve your community. Tell the truth, work hard, do your best and what’s best about America will be just fine.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 11, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

AMEN to MCB comment!

Comment by MCB: Not so optimistic....What is the "Psalm 83 Alliance" ?? - Ask The WH, Congressional Elitists And Ask Your Candidates...Scripture Is Indeed Clear...We Are At Great Peril - Fly 'ol Glory Upside Down - We Are In Distress!

January 12, 2012 @ 9:05 am

Dear MCB,

Thank you for your – momentary – uplifting perspective, however here on “Main Street USA” we are very proud of our “ol Glory” who has meant such hope to so, so many oppressed and watching US soldiers urinating on dead bodies on the news this morning sickens us as does the intent of this Chicago community organizer and his wife as well as his “Goldman Sach” riddled administratin and a Coongress for the most part We here refer to the elitists, yet We who are again very proud of the principals of this Judeo-Christian nation and leaders who in fact spoke Hebrew and held the Bible close to thewiur hearts…well, MCB…I remind all that Jesus Christ condemned hypocritical religious leaders who said, “If we lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets” – (Matthew 23:30)

the fact of the matter is that William Cumming is quite correct and these elitists – the Cambridge -Harvard professor pal of the President for instance -and these disgusting bureaucrat elitists on both sides of the aisle have failed and while it is necessary that we vote and oust this failed executive leadership despite the lack of quality found even among the Republican candidates….I remind all of who have failed to repent for their ways here in the US and far younder of (Ezekiel 33:30-32):

“And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for They Hear thy words, but they do them not.”

Lucifer walks among us. For those who make the choice and walk the walk, much unlike these elitists….from the President down to so many we have “entrusted” to serve the people, our Constitution, ‘ol Glory…recall Revelation 7 and for those of yoou who read scripture..pick up your Bible and read: (Revelation 7:9,14 for it is you who heed the words and prophesy and understand the distress so many face….”WHEN this cometh to pass,(Lo it will come,) then shell they know that a prophet hath been among them”! (verse 33)

Read and reread and study Daniel 11 and Psalm 83.

Surely we see Islamic fundamentalism taking over Egypt. We see why the Europeans wanted to intervene in Libya…all these wet behind the ears WH staffers and State department “experts” fail to read and study and understand what is happening right before our eyes and these dastardly deeds by so many in leadership roles from the WH to Europe and the Middle East…

Ask the WH, the EU Ministers and whomever folks see in leadership roles and few if any will know anything of the “Psalm 83 alliance” and I can bet, no US Congressional member will have any idea and what role the Germans supported by the Vatican will have on the calamity which is evolving now….

No, unfortunately MCB, the future is certain and as a result of 6,000 years of mankind’s failed course and listening attentively to God’s words,just as man has suffered so much and even less than 100 years ago – see WWII – our front prch flags fly upside down in distress w/the same ‘ol, same ‘ol politicians being presented and We have n Hope that any good will come forth – who to blame, mankind and its dysfunctional and unloving ways….

God Bless us all!

Brad and Angelina at the WH visiing with Barrry Obama? Elvis and Richard Nixon? Monroe and Kennedy? Give us a break…get a Life and read and reread and study the:

“Psalm 83 Alliance”

We are at the brink and d noot forget the bodies piled high not only in the camps depicting the hatred for Jew and disreepct for felloow man with all God’s children and creation w/only God capable of judgement – the Hebrew with covenant to the Lord, but the precious blood of our American youth on the beaches of Normandy, the fiereca nd terrible death of our troops brutalized by japanese forces when captured, etc., etc, yet be weary as you see a German led EU with the Vatican at its side just in WWII less than eighty uears ago when millions, millions perished and we have seen the Germans who will soon downsizxe the EU to a ten (10) nation state only tell the Greeks what it will do with its elections, impose their restrictions and then turn to Italy in the same weeks and rid Italy of its highest leader and replace with their own with Portugal and Ireland and the others soon to be subjected by the Germans….

Read and reread: (Matthew 24:21-22 and see the the demise of the Anglo-Saxon nations as we see the “crisis” in Europe worsen – there is no optimism and I concur with you MCB, do turn the television and internet off, pick up your Bibles and read and carry them with you close to your heart!

Christopher Tingus
“Bibles With Love”
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA
chris.tingus@gmail.com

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