Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dear American Electoral System,

Yesterday, President Obama approved an expanded policy of drone strikes in Yemen to kill suspected members of Al-Qaeda. Now, U.S. officials are authorized to kill people whose identities are not known at the time the missile is fired. President Obama has continued Bush-era policies of holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay trial, authorized the killings of Al-Qaeda leaders in other sovereign states, and proclaimed the right to kill American citizens who are plotting against the United States without a trial. There isn't much major domestic political opposition to these policies; Democrats in the House and the Senate go along with them, and Republicans don't often mention them.

 In 2007, Obama's presumptive challenger, Mitt Romney, compared "jihadism" to fascism and communism, and said that "Their strategy is the collapse of the economy, the government, and the military of America and our friends". He has since spoken of making the 21st century an "American Century", and stated that members of Al-Qaeda are not entitled to due process. It's unrealistic to think that Romney, if elected, would decline to use the powers that Obama has claimed.

Under Obama, military spending--adjusted for inflation--has risen to the highest levels since 1950. We spend more money now than we did during the Korean War, the Vietnam War or when expanding our nuclear arsenal. And Mr. Romney has repeatedly stated that, if elected, he will "restore America's national defense" by reversing Obama's minimal defense cuts and adding more spending. This contributes to the problem of a country that has not balanced its budget since 2001 and with a national debt that is well over $15 trillion, a number so vast as to defy comprehension.

Osama bin Laden is dead. Most of the leaders of Al-Qaeda are either dead, imprisoned or being detained. By almost any measure, its ability to conduct terror attacks inside the U.S. or in other Western states has been greatly reduced. But by its nature, there can be no definitive end to the fight against global terror. After bin Laden's death, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Americans to "renew our reserve and redouble our efforts". If bin Laden's death didn't end the war, what will?

Both of the presumptive candidates seem inclined to pursue America's current path, that of increasing defense spending, intervening in other countries to kill suspected terrorists and expanding the powers of government to wiretap, detain and to kill U.S. citizens without trial.

I think that this is not the only path available to the United States. I question the decision to spend, expand and kill without any end in sight, in a fight against an enemy that is unlikely to ever be fully eradicated. And I assert that the choice America is facing is not merely one between being tough or soft on terrorism, of spending big or making America weak, of curtailing our rights or letting Al-Qaeda strike us again. I believe there is a middle ground, one of prosecuting terrorists in civilian courts instead of military tribunals, of giving up the "right" to kill American citizens without a trial, and one where it is possible to spend less on defense without being perceived as weak... because the U.S. spends more on defense than the next ten largest spenders combined, and around six times as much as China (the next biggest)*.

I do not support the policies that President Obama has instituted, nor those which Mitt Romney has said he will enact. I feel like the 2012 election is going to be 1964 re-done, when the American people had to choose between one massive hawk (Lyndon Johnson) and another massive hawk (Barry Goldwater). So where do I go to find a candidate, one with a legitimate chance of winning, who supports the idea that there will eventually be an end to the War on Terror, and that we should not continue to spend, expand and kill at our current levels?


Andy Tisdel

*Let's put this in perspective by using just one issue: The Chinese are currently in the process of building their first nuclear-powered aircraft supercarrier. The U.S. has 11, with two more on the way. We have more missile firepower, more nuclear submarines and more naval aircraft than any other state, and in some cases more than the rest of the world combined. Our fleet displaces more tonnage than the next 13 largest navies combined, 11 of which--as the above link says--are our allies. Yet you have Romney saying that China will "[brush] aside an inferior American navy" and criticizing Obama for weakening the fleet, saying that the number of ships is less than at any time since 1917--as if World War I-era battleships were remotely comparable to modern aircraft carriers!

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