Issue: Before any candidate that runs a campaign on fear and paranoia deceptively calls for increased national security, they should first be asked to clarify specifically what the term means to them. Tragically, the phrase national security has been almost entirely co-opted by an overly militaristic faction of our government and warped until it no longer remotely represents the literal security of our nation, but the strength and size of our military industrial complex.
To be clear, the United States ought to continue to maintain a strong standing military, however we are in desperate need of a massive policy shift aimed at truly improving the security of our nation - which will have to include reigning in our military’s autonomy within government and immunity from the Constitution. Despite what most Republicans and some hawkish Democrats would have us believe, blindly throwing money at our already massive military-surveillance state is not the solution to our nation’s anxieties.
The reason people in this country feel less secure than they did a half century ago isn’t because radical Islam poses a genuine existential threat to our union, nor is it because we have failed to project adequate power on the global stage in the post-Cold War order. In fact, the opposite is true: as a result of a hyper-focus on our military, our politicians have neglected key domestic factors that have greatly diminished the security of our union and create a collective sense of anxiety.
Rather than putting forward practical, innovative solutions to curb the trends of opioid addiction which has killed over half a million Americans since 2000, gun violence which kills almost 12,000 Americans a year, or automobile deaths which kill over 35,000 Americans a year, Republicans came to power scapegoating foreign nationals as an excuse to maintain a state of perpetual war in the Middle East.
It’s time for the Democratic Party to take an uncompromising, progressive position when it comes to protecting the security of our nation. We cannot compromise on our values, and we owe it to the people who employ us to defend their security from all threats based on an accurate analysis of actual risk level. Congress has the power to make the military work for the people, if they have the courage to stand up and refuse to fund wars the American people don’t support and use their Constitutional authority to demand increased transparency.
As the extent of military and surveillance state’s capabilities have expanded exponentially with the rise of the internet and the proliferation of personal digital devices, various leaks and news reports have revealed the gross violations of human and Constitutional rights our tax dollars are funding both abroad and domestically. In an embarrassing chapter of our history, we have been caught spying on allies, citizens, and everyone in between, revealing an astonishing degree of both paranoid insecurity and perceived immunity within our military and surveillance state.
This is not only legally unacceptable, it is an unacceptable precedent to set that grants the President dangerous and unconstitutional authorities. If Congress wants to ensure that these troubling trends don’t continue, they will need to repeal the Patriot Act and pass air-tight whistleblower protections that provide proper channels and protection for individuals who wish to report violations of the Constitution, like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Additionally, they will need to stop approving completely opaque military “black budgets,” which have given intelligence agencies hundreds of billions in blank checks with no accountability since 9/11.
Further, we need to reframe the entire issue and put an appropriate emphasis on the degree to which domestic policy is essential to creating a secure nation. We need to tell people in the clearest terms possible that there are, in fact, numerous threats to their well-being, many of which have been exacerbated by Republican policies.
Only once we are willing to invest in federally guaranteed, locally accessible drug rehabilitation services will we see fewer than 91 people die of an opioid overdose every day. Only when we commit to pursuing creative, effective, common-sense gun safety legislation will we finally see fewer than 93 people shot and killed every day. Only by guaranteeing health care as a right, not a privilege, can we catch up to the rest of the developed world and achieve universal coverage.
Sadly, some of the most well-established common denominators that determine the security of a society have been neglected by our politicians for the better part of a century. It has always been the case that access to education, employment, and transportation are some of the most significant determining factors in assessing a country’s overall health. As Senator Sanders described it, our, “crumbling infrastructure,” is more than just a logistical hassle, it hinders our ability to live happy, secure, free lives.
It’s time to shave a chunk off the top of the money Congress sends overseas, and start spending it here at home to invest in a quality education system and a modern infrastructure. The jobs necessary to build out a 21st century infrastructure of renewable energy sources, high speed railways, and autonomous vehicle networks will employ a significant sector of the American workforce left behind by today’s top-heavy economy. With more money invested in our families, we can increase the financial security of a generation and open up countless opportunities for the next. If our goal is a free, peaceful world, the only way to lead is by example, and it’s up to Congress to take these crucial first steps toward a healthier, more secure nation.
Of course, many of the threats to our security come not from structural flaws or foreign threats, but from an increasingly erratic climate which we’ve irreversibly altered after decades of polluting the planet and spewing emissions into the atmosphere. As an altered atmosphere exacerbates existing weather patterns, we learn the hard way just how unprepared we are. With families uprooted in Houston struggling to rebuild and most in Puerto Rico still without power, we are finally coming to appreciate the scale, and unpredictability of the threat we face. These disasters will continue to catch us off guard and cripple us for years unless we divert large amounts of funding into FEMA and greatly expand our response capabilities.