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Martha Burk

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Missiles and Machismo

Posted: 09/06/2013 12:06 pm

Congress returns on Monday, and Job #1 is figuring out how to bomb Syria.

Republicans have a problem. Most of them believe war is always the answer, but they don't want to validate a president they loathe. Democrats have a problem too. Even if they think he's wrong, they need to stand by their man to prove he's a tough guy who puts his missiles where his mouth is when he draws red lines in shifting sands. Despite these internal conflicts, it's a good bet the parties will unite in the end to prove our national manhood by marching us off to yet another war. The debate will be just window dressing.

Never mind that polls show the people are overwhelmingly against military action in Syria. "War weary" is the way the news media puts it. But there may be something more fundamental. Maybe U.S. citizens are just plain weary. 2012-06-12-yourvoicesmallest2.JPGWeary of a recession that never seems to quite go away, weary of struggling to maintain their families in the face of budget cuts, and weary of continuous wrangling by a congress that never accomplishes anything positive. People are tired of the struggle, and now our government is talking about spending billions to attack a country most of us can't pinpoint on a map.

Without doubt there is convincing evidence that the Syrian government has done its people grave harm, and every nation in the civilized world has an equal obligation to prevent genocide. But President Obama's claim that it constitutes a threat to U.S. security warranting unilateral military action is mighty hard to accept, especially since the missiles won't even be aimed at Syria's chemical plants.

The real threat to our national security is economic, not military. Nobody knows what a "limited strike" would cost, but General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it will run in the billions. Even putting a very low number like $10 billion on it, here's what the money could buy instead: 1,300,000 more kids enrolled in Head Start, Pell grants for almost 2 million college students, over 4 billion school lunches, or 14 million vaccinations against childhood diseases. Not to mention a $5 per hour raise in the minimum wage for a million workers, or a year's food aid for over 6 million of our kids in poverty.

But no matter. Jobs and a social safety net don't project the same machismo image our leaders get from wars.

Those missiles aren't shaped the way they are for nothing.

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