The United States has become less secure since the mid 1990s, and these recent wars have not helped. Likely future threats are growing -- including such nightmares as weapons of mass destruction.
We have provoked, and then greatly elevated in prestige, ideological enemies (al Qaeda), effectively strengthening them over years of time -- exactly by treating them as national enemies instead of as criminals of appropriate low status.
We have created, through our wars and collateral civilian casualties, new enemies and more passionately-devoted enemies, instead of defeating these anti-American ideologies as we could with ideals and words. We have tragically empowered a fringe, militant movement up to the level of having world-wide influence.
We are now facing economic decline due to lack of adequate domestic investment, while simultaneously spending vast sums of national wealth on these physical wars against non-physical beliefs.
In short, we are advancing along a path to an insecure future.
How to Correctly Defend the United States:
In Afghanistan, we are making a fundamental error.
We are fighting a fringe religious belief system with physical force.
Religious beliefs cannot be defeated by physical force.
No army can defeat any radical belief system with physical force. Instead, with physical force, we only validate militant world views and raise their credibility by fighting them as if they were powerful enemies.
To improve our security we must end these wars which elevate militants' prestige, and put bin Laden et al into the less prestigious and correctly shameful category of mass murderers.
We should convene grand juries, bring indictments and issue international arrest warrants for murder.
We should then name specific victims.
For example, bin Laden should be indicted for the murder of a specific child in the World Trade Center.
He would be hunted specifically for that one, single murder.
The public version of the arrest warrant would include a picture of the child victim, and be published on the Internet and dropped as a leaflet throughout Afghanistan and neighboring border regions of Pakistan.
Correct rhetoric is rhetoric which states truth -- "bin Laden has strayed far from Islam. Osama bin Laden and his co-criminals are have murdered children and innocents and are only mass murderers, nothing more."
In the longer run, American security depends on our long-term economic health.
To secure our future we must invest in our future.
We should invest aggressively, here in the U.S., in science, technology, education, and in new productive enterprise. The last can best be encouraged through large investment tax credits for business that build new physical facilities and via a large, one-time tax credit for increased net payroll maintained for at least 18 months. (Arguments along the lines of "we're only paying businesses that would have done this new hiring anyway" are disingenuous. Hiring will be increased due to the confidence building effects of the tax credit scheme.)
How to fund the new investment in our future: Close most overseas military bases and end more weapons systems (more than Secretary Gates already has) until the military portion of the Defense Budget is ramped down to 2.5% of GDP over 3 years (from near 4% now), while simultaneously ramping up investment in the United States. We need fewer boots overseas, fewer weapons, and more intelligence and research.
We must do far more than suggested by Secretary of Defense Gates.
One top investment priority for U.S. security: devote 1% of GDP from the military savings to invest in science and technology here in the U.S. Crucially, we should begin an international enforcement of patents and copyrights (such as on software) via trade agreements complimented by setting up unilateral tariffs against violator nations.
We should take unilateral actions on this. Theft and piracy are the mark of rouge states, and do not require negotiations. Instead, we would issue diplomatic and friendly warnings of impending new rules, allowing 6 months for violators to begin to follow standard international rules of conduct.
For example, after a 6 month warning period, the independently-estimated lost revenues due to Chinese forbearance of routine and open piracy of U.S. DVDs and software should be recovered via tariffs on Chinese goods and services equal to the lost revenue, the proceeds reimbursed to the affected businesses, such as software companies, entertainment providers, etc. China, will of course simply begin to enforce its laws against piracy. This would all be diplomatic in tone, and care should be taken to allow saving of face -- of course China intended to improve copyright protection all along.
There is more, as discussed on the blog, we need to do for the U.S. economic future, but these steps would be an excellent start on improving U.S. security.
We could actually create a truly secure future for less money by spending our money where it will create true security.