Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Brewpubs and Atom Bombs

Pick the Real Threat to American Security

By David G. Young 

WASHINGTON, DC, February 24, 1998 --  

If anyone questions the U.S. government's threat to spend billions of taxpayer dollars bombing Iraq, Secretary of State Madeline Albright has a simple answer: "What we are doing is so you all can sleep at night."

That's funny. I hadn't noticed that I'd been losing sleep. Current events suggest that I'm not alone in my restful slumber. Polls show that most Americans believe the country is on the right track. Investor optimism has pushed the stock market to record highs. The public is so content that war in Iraq can't even draw its attention away from the latest presidential sexcapades.

Why should Americans care about Iraq? Iraq poses virtually no threat to people living in the United States, despite the existence of its chemical and biological weapons programs. The equipment needed to produce these arms has been around for over 100 years. The technology is so simple that an educated American with a home brew kit and a college-level biology textbook is arguably as much of a threat as Iraq. (Angry White Males, beware. The U.N. inspectors might want a peek at your garage.)

Is the United States so secure at the end of the millennium that Iraqi brewpubs are the greatest threat to its national security?

Sadly, this is not the case. While U.S. military planners waste billions of taxpayer dollars on preparation for regional wars like one in the Persian Gulf -- wars that pose virtually no threat to those living in the United States -- the lives of more Americans are at risk than at any time in history. The Soviet Union may be dead and buried, but the nuclear weapons it fathered live on. Many thousands of warheads, each capable of destroying an entire city, now decay in remote parts of what used to be a proud empire. Just one of these weapons -- used intentionally, accidentally or after being stolen by terrorist -- could yield more American casualties than in all wars in the country's history. Thousands of these weapons are attached to missiles which still have the coordinates of U.S. cities as their primary targets. Thousands of other bombs and tactical weapons reside in arsenals under the guard of underpaid and demoralized Russian soldiers.

The willingness of President Clinton to weather Russian threats of a "Third World War" in order to maintain his stand against Iraq's impotent forces is almost criminal. The likelihood of a planned Russian attack on the United States is very remote, but even the smallest risk has such horrible consequences that it instantly eclipses every other threat to Americans. This is why Clinton's plan is so terribly wrong. The President is placing American citizens at increased risk of a horrific nuclear war so that he can sustain a position against a weak and pathetic despot who poses virtually no threat to the American people.

It is time for Americans to demand an immediate redesign of defense policy to actually take into account the defense of Americans. No longer should hundreds of billions of dollars be spent to fight regional wars in far-flung parts of the globe while the U.S. population is at risk. The Russian government has failed to meet targets of existing nuclear arms reduction treaties because it does not have the money to destroy its warheads. This is where the U.S. defense budget should go -- not to a pointless war in Iraq.

Admittedly, this would be a radical change in the way to spend the military budget. Defense planners would be outraged. Military leaders and weapons contractors would lose their jobs. But the hard truth is that the United States defense budget is not a jobs program for the veterans of the Cold War. It is intended for the sole purpose of defending the people of the United States.