05/22/2013 12:47 pm ET Updated Jul 22, 2013

The Lesson of Moore

Devastation. The loss of homes, memories, pets. Worst of all were the two dozen fatalities, among which were nine children. It was miraculous that more did not die, but it may have been needless for at least some of those children to be lost in the elementary school that they attended. The school had no safe room or underground shelter because the money necessary had not been spent.

Reporters on the scene stated that the lack of funding was not the only reason. A culture of "Stay out of our business" directed toward the federal government affects the way limited, local tax dollars are spent. I don't know what was more important than a storm cellar in a tornado zone, but the $1,000,000 plus price tag for such a structure is serious money in a working class town like Moore. Does this make the tragedy that betook Moore something visited on stubborn Midwesterners who may be Republicans or Tea Party members, or anti-Federalists? Think what you will; that's not the problem.

No one in Moore is going to tell FEMA, or any other federal agency there to help, to get lost just because they've come from Washington. In the same vein, no one would turn down a storm shelter if the federal government showed up with a couple of dozen guys and an engineer ready to build a storm shelter as part of a national infrastructure renewal program.

No amount of money can prevent tornadoes, but the lack of a storm shelter can be seen as a cautionary tale, not different from a collapsed bridge that has not been properly maintained, or a derailed train running on used-up tracks. What gets my panties in a bunch is that the money that the CIA has shoveled to Afghan president Hamid Karzai to feed Karzai's cronies and bank accounts in Dubai could pay for a storm shelter for every school in Oklahoma. The money that payed for just a few weeks of America's presence in Iraq could probably have provided tax rebates for every builder of a home shelter in Oklahoma and the other states prone to this kind of disaster.

The immediacy of Moore will focus our attention on disaster relief, but take a few minutes to look at the international page of your newspaper. Syria is spiraling downward as more international actors get involved. Iraq is suffering from an incipient civil war that is the result of the inability of the Muslim world to find reconciliation among its religious denominations. Afghanistan is still having lethal bombings in its capital. Libya and Egypt are a mess. And yet, members of Congress, particularly some Republican senators in Congress, are adamant about the need to spend more defense dollars, throwing good money after bad, not to mention precious American lives. They are incapable of accepting that the United States cannot fix everybody else's problems. They don't seem to understand that people in other parts of the world are not interested in our values, which are as alien to them as if we had arrived from Jupiter.

The sequestration, now in place for months, is attended more by resignation than hysteria, but there will be attempts to reverse its effect on the Department of Defense (DoD) by restoring budget cuts of half a trillion dollars. Instead, DoD should adjust to its new funding level, our interventionist foreign policy should be reconfigured, and the money, as it is restored, should be channeled to rebuilding this country. That's real national security.

There are some who might think that now is not the appropriate time to play politics with a catastrophe like Moore. But the Moore tornado will soon become yesterday's news just like Hurricane Sandy, maintaining relevance only for the people directly affected. If you doubt it, think of the last time you heard a mention of gun control and Sandy Hook. When we have tragedies such as these, we need to maximize our use of them to derive as much benefit as we can in the hope of mitigating loss in the future. If the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse had led to diversion of funds from failed military operations in the Middle East that saved the lives of the children in Moore, who would care today how it was done?

Nothing is more complicated or expensive than waging war, especially in our current age. However, we can maintain our military strength without being any less capable of defending our citizens. DoD and its budget need to be taken in hand. Hundreds of billions of dollars could be squeezed out of sheer bloat, and by reducing overaggressive prosecution of overseas adventurism.

There is no question that the entire government is shot through with waste and corruption, so why start with DoD? Remember Willie Sutton's response when asked why he robbed banks? "It's where the money is." There are children dead today because of a lack of funds. Let's get those funds from where they're most available and start rebuilding this country.