A key facet of bin Laden's anti-American warfare has always been economic. It's a lesson he drew from the Afghan-Soviet war, in which he first served as a financier of mujahidin efforts and then as a fighter. He watched the Soviet Union withdraw from Afghanistan in defeat and then dissolve altogether in 1991. Bin Laden asserted on multiple occasions that the mujahidin were responsible for destroying the Soviet empire. Whether or not he's right, he clearly believed that the high costs imposed by the Afghan-Soviet war prevented the Soviet Union from adapting to other challenges, such as grain shortages and a collapse in world oil prices.
When you consider the hundreds of billions we spend every year in defense, including a large chunk of money just for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and couple that with our dwindling economy, we can see this is one goal he might achieve, though he didn't live to see it.
Thinking of that makes stories like this all the more infuriating:
Hard-charging Republicans who rallied voters last year with cries of "Stop the spending, ban the earmarks" are quietly offering a more familiar Washington refrain now they're in Congress – not in my backyard.
The massive, $553 billion bill providing a budget for the Pentagon boasts millions of dollars that President Barack Obama didn't request for weapons programs, installations and other projects in districts from Illinois to Mississippi represented by House GOP freshmen. The additions look suspiciously like the pet projects that Republicans prohibited when they took over the House and that the new class of lawmakers, many with tea party backing, swore off in a promise to change Washington's spending habits.
Again, our country spends more on defense than every other country in the world. We keep working to develop more high-tech weapons, which of course cost lots of money, yet we are struggling against an enemy using the more primitive weaponry of modern warfare.
But moving aside from the fact that we are helping make bin Laden's dream become a reality, there's also the big issue of hypocrisy here. For example:
A provision added to Obama's budget request would provide another $2.5 million for weapons and munitions advanced technology, money for the Quad City Manufacturing Lab at the Rock Island Arsenal in freshman Rep. Bobby Schilling's Illinois district. The lab conducts research and development on titanium, lightweight composites and other advanced materials.
"Through this legislation, we were able to pave the way for more public-private partnerships at RIA that will increase the workload, keep skills sharp and promote jobs," Schilling, who was born and raised in Rock Island, said in a statement. "These policies will help protect our war fighters abroad and help us prosper economically at home. I am honored to have the opportunity to represent the hard-working men and women at the Rock Island Arsenal,"
Shilling, who was backed by the Tea Party, is showing that typical beltway state of mind - "spending is bad, unless it's spending in my district". I wonder how the Tea Party will respond to this? Not only is he wasting more of our tax money, but he is also aiding our enemy by helping bankrupt our nation.
The two stories of earmarks and terrorism don't really seem to mix, until you think of it in this way. Our runaway spending will continue and our enemy will continue to evade us, unless we can break the typical beltway thinking. I think this is something that citizens from all parts of the political spectrum can agree on.