Bin Laden’s death and the costs of ‘American empire’

Opinion Zone,Neil Hrab

In a timely article, Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney writes that “[b]in Laden's death makes us safer by weakening al Qaeda, but it could also make the US stronger by weakening the case for American empire.”

Tim’s argument hangs on the idea that the US was able to find bin Laden through solid intelligence work, not because of having tens of thousands of boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ergo, it’s time to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and bring the troops home. The “doves” who opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations have been vindicated, Tim writes.

Tim’s column is relatively short, and if he had more space, he could have developed other aspects of the “dove” argument. The doves in the debate over US military action overseas shouldn’t make their case only in terms of the usual (and important) arguments about needless sacrifice of US blood and treasure. They should also refer to the various pressing domestic economic issues that the US has neglected while the wars in Southwest Asia have raged.

What about the decline of US manufacturing? The US manufacturing sector lost 2.2 million jobs during the 2007-2009 recession and remains hard hit.   

Without a strong manufacturing sector, what sort of standard of living can American workers and their families expect in the future? Restoring the manufacturing sector’s health is an important issue that must receive due attention in the corridors of power.

Hawks don’t want to talk about it much, but doves should hold up the inaction on manufacturing’s decline as an example of how the focus on foreign wars has warped contemporary policy debates.

What about US bank failures? As of last Friday, 39 US banks have failed in 2011. In 2010, 157 US banks failed. In 2009, 140 failed. The vast majority of these failures have resulted in the shuttering of small community banks that, despite their size, play an important role in providing financing to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Like the decline of manufacturing, the bank failure issue has also been pushed to the side of policy discussions – another casualty, doves can argue, of the focus in Washington on foreign wars.

Thanks in part to expensive, exhausting foreign wars in Southwest Asia, the US is neglecting vital domestic economic issues. Remind me again – how does this contribute to US national security?

That’s another question that the doves may want to ask the hawks – especially before the hawks get around to proposing further interventions in Libya, Syria, Pakistan, etc. There may be a faction (or factions) among the hawks that can be won over to the dovish side with an appeal like this. The sooner, the better.

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