The National Security Supply Chain
October 30, 2009 - 2:50pm ET
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Did you know that the Army can no longer purchase domestically produced Howitzer triggers? Yesterday at the Building the New Economy conference, Carolyn Bartholomew, chair of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission explained that she'd seen this news turn on lightbulbs in the minds of Republicans as to why it's important to preserve manufacturing capacity in America.
Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania touched on this theme in his address as well. He asked attendees to "imagine going to war without a steel industry." Rendell also noted the problem outsourcing posed for economic security, saying that should the time come when the US produces nothing, it will be only a second- or third-rate economic power.
At every level, the US manufacturing sector is under threat of extinction. From basic materials fabrication, to machining, to high end electronics production. Combined with increased reliance on a finance sector that's only interested in the size of their bonuses and a political system intellectually handicapped by a cliche horror of interfering with the 'market's ability to pick winners and losers', we are gradually losing the ability as a nation to decide what's in our own best interests and act accordingly.
We used to act in our own interests unapologetically, and in other arenas besides declaring ridiculous pre-emptive wars that anger large majorities of the world's population. Consider our interstate highway system, which since its earliest incarnation as an idea was all about national defense. The interstate system has many economic benefits' as well, but it was mainly security concerns that ruled its creation. As the folks at GlobalSecurity describe the history of our highways:
When President Eisenhower went to Kansas to announce the interstate highway system, he announced it as "the National Defense Highway System." In 1956 President Eisenhower signed legislation establishing the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (about 41,000 miles of roads). Since then, DOD has continued to identify and update defense-important highway routes. The National Defense Highway system was designed to move military equipment and personnel efficiently ...
Politicians used have an easier time saying that we were doing things for national security other than going to war, or violating the Constitution and Geneva Conventions, or provoking people we could be sitting down and negotiating with. Such a narrow interpretation of national security is actually dangerous where it isn't counterproductive.
The US does indisputably have enemies. The nation has taken huge hits in recent years to both moral authority and international goodwill. The US has also recently taken a large financial hit and the refusal of the federal government to rein in the irresponsible finance industry, as well as the potential that the dollar will lose reserve currency status and use as the common denominator of global fossil fuel exchanges, opens the possibility of steady erosions in relative economic power. Losing leverage over the supply chain and intellectual capital needed to maintain it means increased susceptibility to international pressure and retaliation via sanction, as well as a reduced ability to directly ensure the protection of that supply chain from terrorist attack.
We're opening ourselves up to problems that, even if they take a long time to materialize, can significantly restrain our freedom of action and increase our vulnerability to outside leverage.
In short, as someone who routinely disagrees with the hawk position and thinks of open warfare as a monumental failure of human intelligence, I worry that we're not properly defending ourselves from provocations to war. It's just stupid.
Also in other news, I come down strongly in favor of locking front doors and having a criminal justice system. Because pacifism is a different thing than being a masochist or having a death wish.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future