Security! Safety! Protection! These are the all-purpose goals that trump everything in America's national debate. Without security we are at risk. Because these words speak to our most primal fears and needs, they often short-circuit our thinking. Rational thought is difficult when you are scared. That explains much of America’s actions in the world today. We are “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” We demand border security and cringe at the sight of human migration in search of opportunity, all the while looking for terrorists and cutthroats under our bed. Billions of dollars flow into never-ending military and para-military operations that purport to strengthen security.
Hindsight is always easy but it can also teach lessons, so I can look back at the past decade of war, occupation and illegal immigration and think about possibilities. Iraq has cost the US immensely in dollars (over $400 billion
so far), casualties
and our international reputation
. At the same time, the US is trying to wall itself off from the economic basket case that is Mexico. The consequent outflow of excess labor from limited opportunity to more opportunity has created a hue and cry over a “brown invasion” of aliens from the south. If you travel in southern Arizona these days, it feels like a war zone.
Illegal immigration poses as much of a threat to America as terrorism. Probably more so. Terrorist cells are limited in number and capability. Millions of people living illegally in the US creates a much larger scale problem. Less dramatic, to be sure–they don’t usually blow things up–but a migration that can have a long term effect on life in the US. When I speak of immigration’s impact, I am thinking more about the creation of an underclass, easily exploited and with few legal protections, living apart from the larger community. I am speaking of economic consequences, such as downward pressure on wages, and the potential for violence as American's nativist passions are aroused.
What if instead of invading Iraq, the United States invested...oh, say $100 billion in Mexico in the form of a Marshall Plan to create a viable economy, one that actually provided an equitable distribution of wealth? It would require an astounding degree of cooperation between nations and would certainly meet resistance from the oligarchy that rules Mexico now but the practical aspects are not the issue here. I want to focus on the idea. A viable Mexican economy would eliminate the incentive for Mexicans to leave their homeland in order to find opportunity. A viable economy in Mexico would contribute to the US economy. A stable Mexico with a semblance of economic justice would be a welcome neighbor.
Had this been American policy for the past decade, we would have no casualties in a war of occupation, appropriately targeted military operations against terrorist groups, a more stable border with Mexico and a workable immigration system.
Instead of crusading the world on behalf of an American-imposed "democracy", American leaders should seek greater economic justice throughout the world. Democracy is an uncertain criterion when viewed through the many cultural prisms in this world. Economic justice is far easier to define. Everyone knows if they have enough to live. I would like to see America not only encourage economic justice throughout the world but also to lead by example, as we have done in the past.
You may say I'm a dreamer...
Labels: common sense, fantasy